Welcome to our second issue!
Release Date: November 20, 2020
As November comes to a roaring end, here are some anthropological highlights and news that occurred over the past couple of months.
BY ALEX BLAIR
Race, Place, and Latinx Political Choices
This election was truly a nail biter with historic voter turnouts. With an increased focus on getting the “Latinx” vote from both party candidates. The media often describe the Latinx voting group as a group of “nonwhite” voters. Patricia Silver (2020), a member of the Association of Latina/o Anthropologists asks, “How can there be talk of a singular Latinx vote without recognizing the differentiated racial experiences among Latinxs?” Silver explores the push for the Latinx community in Orlando to adopt an entirely new racial-ethnic category, Latinidad, as well as the complexities of having to try to assimilate into a racial binary of “white” and “nonwhite,” how racial politics influence party choice and ideology. Silver concludes, “My research suggests that the intersections of race and place in the lives of Orlando-area Latinx, and especially Puerto Rican, voters are pieces of the puzzle and that it will not be possible to talk about the Latinx vote before there exists a Latinidad that is fully inclusive of all Latinxs” (2020).
Favorite passage: “As I was driving through Orlando with the radio playing a Spanish-language talk-radio station, the host responded to a pro-Trump caller saying, “Voting for Trump isn’t going to make you white, you know.” The radio host rejected the caller’s embrace of a candidate whose rhetoric lays bare the historical intertwining of anti-Blackness and anti-immigrant discourses. He was making a clear statement that the caller’s political choices were not going to change his nonwhite racial assignment in the United States. Was this caller looking for whiteness or trying to get as far from Blackness as possible or both?
Silver, Patricia. 2020. “Race, Place, and Latinx Political Choices.” Anthropology News website, November 9, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1531
Srebrenica’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary from a Distance
COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way shape or form. But for anthropologists, where their work is often conducted out in the field and often becomes their life passion, the pandemic has presented a momentous challenge. Sarah Wagner, an associate professor at George Washington University, describes the ways in which the pandemic has forced anthropologists to adapt to new ways of conducting fieldwork and ethnographies and reframe how they analyze these events, such as in the case with the live-streamed ceremony of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide (2020).
Favorite passage: “So much about the pandemic has altered our work as anthropologists. It’s exposed the contingencies of funding and access built into the ethnographic enterprise.”
Wagner, Sarah. 2020. “Srebrenica’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary from a Distance.” Anthropology News website, October 26, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1522
In honor of Sam Dubal:
Donate to SAR operations in Washington State
Over the last two weeks, Mountain Rescue Association volunteers from across Washington have worked tirelessly to bring our UW Anthropology colleague, Sam Dubal, home to his family. With tremendous gratitude for those who have risked their own safety to find a beloved son, brother, cousin, friend, and colleague, we have made donations to Pierce County Search and Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, and King County Search and Rescue. While Sam hasn’t come home to us, we remain thankful for everything the search and rescue teams working at Mount Rainier National Park have done. Knowing they were out there when we couldn’t be brought us—along with the other friends and family missing their loved ones—much hope. If you, like Sam, love the mountains and would like to support the work of local Mountain rescue teams you can do so by volunteering or donating through the links below."
Pulled from the Dept. of Anthropology’s news feed: https://anthropology.washington.edu/news/2020/10/20/honor-sam-dubal-donate-sar-operations-washington-state
PROFESSOR DONALD K. GRAYSON
BY FRANCISCO CARTER
Donald K. Grayson is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington. His prime interests lie in understanding the interrelationships between people and the biotic landscapes with which they interact. The bulk of his work has involved the latest Pleistocene and Holocene of the Great Basin, as well as the Pleistocene of southwestern France. His most popular courses taught at the University of Washington include Ground Sloths and Sabertooth Cats: The Archaeology of Extinction (ARCHY 369) and Zooarchaeology (ARCHY 481). I sat down with Dr. Grayson — albeit virtually — to ask him some questions.
FRANCISCO: I noticed that in a lot of your books, while archaeologists are your primary audience, you still seem to present information in a way that can be read and followed by anyone remotely interested in archaeology or natural history. Is that deliberate?
DR. GRAYSON: I’ve written six books — all of them have been written in exactly the same way. While they’re written primarily for archaeologists, I’ve also written them for the general public so anyone can access the information that’s in them. I think reaching the general public is really important. What we do is really cool, it’s really interesting, and it’s really fun. I think a lot of it is really important, and the more you reach the general public, the more you’re doing the right thing — the more you’re getting the broad audience interested in what it is we do. I’ve written about the Great Basin and I used to get letters from ranchers in Nevada telling me how much they enjoyed the book. That is really rewarding.
F: In 2016, you were given the honor of doing the UW Faculty Lecture, where you later mentioned that it was one of the scariest things you’ve ever done in your career. How were you able to overcome your nerves and did your tailor that specific talk to your audience?
G: I’ve talked about that topic literally around the world in multiple countries. I tailor my talk to the general audience, so I didn’t change my approach at all. What was scary about that audience was that it included a lot of my colleagues here. Even my neighbors were there… I didn’t invite them. If you were to give a bad talk in, say, France, you would go away and never see these people again. But if you blew it here, it would be disastrous. I’m always nervous before I talk in front of an audience. Always. Bigger audiences are almost easier with the exception of the university lecture, where I knew so many people in that audience. Bigger rooms are almost easier because you don’t focus on any single individual. With smaller venues, you’re making eye contact with a lot of people so that can be scarier. But once you start, it just goes away. And the other nice thing is that the adrenaline you get from being scared comes across as enthusiasm so you have this energy that you might not otherwise have.
F: Do you have any words of encouragement for anthropology students in the era of coronavirus?
G: I have never second-guessed my career. I love what I do. The interesting thing is that I got into it because of the research portion, but the most rewarding thing has been the teaching. That’s what has kept me going for so long. It is an absolutely great career. For times of COVID, it’s going to be hard if you’re interested in graduate school. So many schools are in financially hard times, including us. But stick with it. It is an absolutely great career.
A Bountiful Harvest
The Celebration and Change of Food
BY ALONDRA RODRIGUEZ
From basic nutrition to festivals and feasts, food has played a pivotal role in how we, as humans, have cultivated and expressed politics, status, class, and culture. Harvest festivals and harvest seasons in particular are moments when people from various regions all over the world come together to celebrate not only the harvest but agricultural and cultural practices.
Among these festivals, including the harvest festivals celebrated in the United States and Canada, more commonly known as “Thanksgiving” in which thanks are given for a bountiful harvest. The “traditional” history of “the First Thanksgiving” in the United States is harmful to indigenous peoples and provides misconceptions as to what kind of food was eaten and produced during 17th century America, and thus our modern menu of the harvest season also looks a bit different as well.
Some favorite autumn foods in the U.S. consists of pumpkin pie, ham, turkey, and mashed potatoes, however, this menu is really only 200 years old and has changed significantly. Rayna Green in “Public Histories of Food,” her brief focus on “the First Thanksgiving” looks at how our modern menu is a stretch from the dishes of the past, such as early settlers most likely had “baked pumpkin and squash, but not pumpkin pie.” Additionally, the food harvest season in the Americas was of course cultivated and harvested before settlers arrived, foods such as cranberries, flint corn, turkeys and other fowl, and various types of tubers such as “groundnuts, sweet flag, and waterlily” are a few examples and were abundant. Potatoes, though originating in South America, did not make its way up to North America for some time and thus were not a part of the harvest and diet of both indigenous peoples and settlers until later.
Food and harvest celebrations are very much still present and found in many regions around the world. It is these same foods and celebrations which tell us a history about not only our society though also our relationship with food, documenting how we change practices, such as going from baked pumpkin to pumpkin pie. This upcoming break I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your own experiences with food and think about its history and significance not only in society though also in your own life.
“Partakers of Our Plenty.” Plimoth Patuxet, https://www.plimoth.org/learn/thanksgiving-history/partakers-our-plenty.
Green, Rayna. “Public Histories of Food.” The Oxford Handbook of Food History, Oxford University, 2012. Oxford Handbooks Online, https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199729937.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199729937-e-5#oxfordhb-9780199729937-note-273.
NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH
BY FRANCISCO CARTER
About the Harvest Festival
November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and acknowledge the important contributions of indigenous peoples. While families throughout the United States view Thanksgiving as a time for giving thanks and devouring unsettling amounts of food, not all Native Americans are so eager to celebrate the invasion of European settlers. For many indigenous families, the holiday is a reminder of the countless war crimes committed against their people. Thus, I think it’s important for us to start a dialogue around some of the indigenous harvest festivals and ceremonies — celebrations that predate the European holiday by several centuries.
In 1621, the holiday of Thanksgiving began as a day for celebrating the successful harvest with food and drink. The tradition, however, sits alongside countless other harvest celebrations observed throughout the Americas and the rest of the world. In North America, harvest festivals include, among many others, the Green Corn Festival, the Natchez Month of the Great Corn, and the Cherokee and Creek Great Bush Festival (Ramsey 31). The Green Corn Festival is still to this day, celebrated by Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Yuchi, and Iroquois communities. The Encyclopedia of Native American History explains that the four-day Green Corn Festival “is simultaneously a thanksgiving for harvesting the corn crop, a period of purification and renewal, and a new year’s festival” (286).
Today, very few harvest festivals can be attended by members outside of the indigenous community. I believe this is done, in part, to prevent exploitation of particular indigenous customs. It is common to find non-native people selling classes or charging admission to what they believe are authentic ceremonies and “native ways”.
With the tradition of Thanksgiving alluding to Native American history, it would seem appropriate for indigenous ceremonies and festivities to be discussed in the public school curriculum. Unfortunately, I cannot recall any integration of such topics in my elementary, middle, or high school history classes. It is then up to our generation to ensure that these intangible assets of cultural heritage are regularly taught, protected, and if given permission, respectfully documented for future generations.
“Green Corn Ceremony (Green Corn Festival, Green Corn Feast).” Encyclopedia of Native
American History, vol. 1, 2011, p. 286.
Ramsey, Patricia G. “Beyond ‘Ten Little Indians’ and Turkeys: Alternative Approaches to
Thanksgiving.” Young Children, vol. 34, no. 6, 1979.
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