Welcome to our first newsletter!
Launch: October 16, 2020
Major News in the Field
Toppling Racist Monuments with Experimental Archaeology
by Amanda Monahan
Archaeology doesn’t typically come to mind when someone calls for social justice reform. However, that changed this past May when Archaeologist and Egyptologist Dr. Sarah Parcak told her followers on Twitter how to properly topple an obelisk, or racist monuments pretending to be traditional obelisks. Dr. Parack is a professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham. The city was littered with relics of the Confederacy and the city officials had decided not to take them down. So, after George Floyd’s death, many protesters went around the city trying to remove these “obelisks” themselves. This led to a lot of hard work without much movement. That’s when Dr. Parcak decided to use her knowledge of both Experimental Archaeology and Egyptology to help the protesters take down these archaic monuments to a country that never came to be.
Dr. Parcak’s tweets show us that archaeology does not have to be a discipline solely relying on unveiling the past, it can also help us shape our futures. As the future anthropologists and archaeologists, it is our duty to show society that our major is not just for studying cultures, it also helps us to change our futures.
For more information on Dr. Sarah Parcak and her work, look her up on twitter, @indyfromspace, and watch her fascinating TED Talks on a new discipline, space archaeology. >
“Here’s a rough schematic. I note this is experimental archaeology in action! Just my professional Hot Take and you may need more people, longer rope, etc. everything depends on monument size”.
Twitter, Sarah Parcak.2020. https://twitter.com/indyfromspace/status/1267273933746774022.
@indyfromspace. “Here’s...size”. Twitter, 31 May 2020, 6:57p.m., https://twitter.com/indyfromspace/status/1267273933746774022.
Morgan Hale, Undergraduate Anthropology Advisor
If you’re new to the department (especially since the start of the pandemic) you may not have gotten to meet me yet. My name is Morgan Hale, and I’m one of the academic advisors for the Anthropology department. Normally, you would be able to find me in Room 310 of Denny Hall, in the office with a bowl of chocolate and more toys than are typically seen in a work environment. For the foreseeable future, you can set up meetings with me via the advising tab on the Anthropology department web page. I’m taking meetings primarily over Zoom, but can also arrange things over Skype, FaceTime, or phone if Zoom isn’t working for you (or most any other service you can think of. I’m tempted to start taking meetings on my Animal Crossing island).
I’ve been advising in the Anthropology department for nearly five years now but, prior to that, I was a graduate of this department.
I earned my BA in Anthropology in 2013, so I have first-hand experience with a number of these classes and instructors, as well as what it’s like to go on a job search with this degree. On top of that, I had a very circuitous undergraduate career. On my way to earning my bachelors, I was a freshman straight out of high school, a college drop out, and a returning “non-traditional” student. I switched majors once and schools twice. As a student I experienced deaths in the family, mistaken diagnoses, and the birth of my son. I lived through tragedies on both a personal and global scale. I tell you all of this so you know that, whatever issue you’re experiencing, you can feel free to come to me and I will do my best to talk you through it. If I don’t have the answer, I can find somebody who does.
We have a number of people and resources available to you in the advising office. Diane Guerra is our Director of Student Services and just recently celebrated 30 years at the University of Washington! She is also the lead advisor in our department, so you know that whatever it is she recommends is going to be right on the mark.
We also have an amazing pair of peer advisors: Laila and Andy. They are current students within the major who help out in our office. If you want to declare the major or any of the options, switch your major, or add another major or minor, they can help you with the paperwork to get that done and answer any questions you may have. Also, since they are current students, they’re one of the best resources to get a student’s eye view on our current faculty and classes.
The peers are available to answer any general questions about the major. If you need help with something more complicated or need to fill out an application for graduation, you’ll want to set up a meeting with either Diane or me. We also have a grad school advisor, Catherine Zeigler. If you’re interested in grad school and have any questions, you can reach out to Catherine at any time and she will help you out.
The phrase we’ve all been hearing constantly, whether it’s from the news or blog posts or fast food commercials, is that we’re living in “unprecedented times”. We’ve heard it so much, that we can actually start to forget that it’s true. You are doing something now that you’ve never done before. Neither you, nor your parents or even your grandparents, have lived through an experience quite like this one. So, it can be easy to try and hold yourself to your old standards. It can be easy to beat yourself up because you’re not doing as much or as well as you did even a year ago. It’s also easy (and this was a problem even before the pandemic) to mentally compare yourself to where others are or where you think you’re “supposed” to be. Almost every student comes into my office thinking that they’re “behind”, and hardly any of them actually are. Typically, they think they’re behind because they’re not where their friends are or where their parents expect them to be.
So, let me say to you what I’ve said to them: everybody is different. Everybody has a different plan. Everybody is dealing with different circumstances. You don’t need to stress yourself out over anybody’s expectations but your own.
You’re doing fine and you’re going to make it.
To contact Morgan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy, Culture, & Costumes
by Alex Blair
This is a serious issue that is often overlooked or ignored. To combat this annual issue, the University of Utah’s Student Affairs Diversity Council published a series of questions for their students in order to get students to think differently about what they wear.
“Think to yourself: Does the actual name on the costume packaging say 'tribal,' or 'traditional'? Does the costume include race-related hair or accessories (dreads/locs, afros, cornrows, a headdress)? Does the costume play into racial stereotypes? Does this costume represent a culture that is not my own? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should rethink the costume and try again” (Matera, 2017).
Many other colleges have also taken steps to inform students about cultural appropriation. The University of Washington, as a part of its Residence Education program in on-campus housing, posts flyers and provides educational materials for students to view. One flyer tries to explain the difference between intent and impact, “Intent vs Impact is a concept that states that it is not your intent that matters, but the impact… While you may not intend to hurt someone’s feelings, accidents occur and it is our responsibility to take ownership of the impact of our actions and words” (The University of Washington, 2017).
These actions, while important in terms of getting students to consider the impact their actions have on others, are incomplete without the work students must put in in order to actively work against cultural appropriation. It is up to the students when they celebrate Halloween to decide whether or not wearing the costume they have will be potentially harmful to someone else.
Cultural appropriation is not confined to Halloween or college costume parties; cultural appropriation is a source of deep hurt for those who see it everyday in the society around them. It is our responsibility as students to work towards dismantling this cultural marginalization and disrespect.
The UW Anthropology Society is committed to educating others about the harmful effects that cultural appropriation has on people and is a space where students can have discussions to dive deeper into this topic. From our computer to yours, the Anthropology Society wishes all a happy Spook-tober and we hope that celebrating Halloween will be creatively executed indoors this year.
Even though 2020 has felt like a never-ending nightmare, we are excited to welcome the spooky season this year-- socially distanced, of course. Many will celebrate with their friends this year over Zoom, dressed up in their finest costumes. Many will also wake up November 1st positive for COVID-19 or with “candy” hangovers.
What you choose to dress up as matters not just for shock and applause, what you wear serves as a representation, often of various groups and cultural dresses. These representations matter; they have deeper implications for broader social phenomena and are harmful to others.
Cultural appropriation is a phenomena that has gained interest from scholars in many different fields. In his article, “Confronting the Specter of Cultural Appropriation”, George Nicholas, professor of archeology at Simon Fraser University, writes,
“Annually [Halloween] prompts debate and anger from those who hate to see their culture turned into a stereotype. So it’s a good time to throw a spotlight on the specter of cultural appropriation—the practice of taking or using an aspect of someone else’s cultural heritage inappropriately or without permission” (2018).
The article later goes into key characteristics that make something “cultural appropriation” and not “cultural borrowing.” Cultural appropriation is “taking or using some aspect of someone else’s heritage without permission or recompense in inappropriate, harmful, or unwelcome ways”, whereas cultural borrowing describes the borrowing of technology across many human societies, where utilizing the same tech does not take anything away from anyone else (2018).
Cultural borrowing tends to not cause a group of people harm. Cultural appropriation, however, harms by threatening the objects’ sacredness and authenticity and disrespects core pieces of one’s culture, especially if it becomes a commodity (2018).
Cultural appropriation perpetuates racism in a very visible and normalized way, and on Halloween, can leave people who experience racism surrounded and dismayed by costumes depicting stereotypes. From cheap and inaccurate reproductions of a traditional outfit to everyday styles and fashion associated with another groups culture, cultural appropriation is damaging not only to people who are living today but also can be viewed as insulting to the ancestors of particular cultures.
In an article highlighting the emotional toll Halloween can put on marginalized communities, one woman, Gianna Collier-Pitts, remarks how painful it is to see people wearing “natural hair” as a costume when the Black community has been vilified for doing the same. “Our hair is stigmatized as being untidy and this costume is incredibly insensitive to the real struggles African-Americans have wearing their natural hair.” (Andrews, 2017).
Andrews, J. (2017, October 25). Cultural appropriation at Halloween: my culture is not a costume. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/cultural-appropriation-halloween-costume-video
Matera, A. (2017, October 23). Cultural appropriation on Halloween: how colleges are responding. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/cultural-appropriation-halloween-college-response
Nicholas, G. (2018, October 5). Confronting the specter of appropriation. Sapiens. https://www.sapiens.org/culture/cultural-appropriation-halloween/
The University of Washington. (2017, November 9). Cultural appropriation. Residence Education. https://depts.washington.edu/hfsresed/rep/cultural-appropriation/
El Dia de Los Muertos:
A Celebration of Remembrance
by Alondra Rodriguez
In the middle of September, while walking through Target I ended up in the back corner of the store. Back to school notebooks and pencils were already replaced by costumes and candy, and not too far away stood a small stand in the middle of an aisle. The stand was covered in images of cutesy skulls and papel picado inspired font. “Day of the Dead” was written across the top and below lay colorful, Mexican and Day of the Dead-inspired decorations. From felt papel picado, banners of cut-out patterns and images on colorful tissue paper, to artificial marigolds and sugar skulls, the stand clearly looked out of place surrounded by werewolves, superheroes, and smiling jack-o-lanterns. Whenever Halloween rolls around, no matter how much I enjoy horror movies, candy, and haunted houses, there is always an itching thought in the back of my mind. I am reminded of the unfortunate popular misunderstanding of el Día de los Muertos, as a “Mexican Halloween,” a misrepresentation that has always made me uncomfortable as it’s a very different holiday from Halloween.
Though festivities begin on All Hallows Eve, October 31st and go through November 2nd, Día de los Muertos is a multi-day holiday near and dear to my heart. It has a rich history, with pre-columbian roots, and is a celebration of life. Altars, or ofrendas, are decorated with golden orange flowers, known as marigolds or cempasuchiles, papel picado, pictures of loved ones, pan de muertos, a sweet bread known as “bread of the dead,” and other foods or even objects that were liked or remind one of the deceased. Prayers for and stories of loved ones are shared throughout these days. Other celebrations include eating colorful candy sugar skulls, parades, and getting your face painted to look like a calavera, or skull, an image made iconic by early 20th century Mexican political illustrator José Guadalupe Posada (“The Calaveras of José Guadalupe Posada”).
Growing up, my family and I didn’t really celebrate the holiday simply because we were out of touch with our traditions being in the U.S.. Halloween inevitably became the holiday I looked forward to the most as a kid. However, with time and more exposure to Día de los Muertos I came to learn more about and appreciate my heritage. It became increasingly important to me to distinguish between the two holidays. Halloween is a holiday of tricks and treats and although Día de los Muertos can encompass joviality, honor and dedication to ancestors is the essence of the holiday.
So the next time you see Día de los Muertos decorations in the Halloween section, please take the time to recognize its distinction and individuality.
“The Calaveras of José Guadalupe Posada.” The Public Domain Review, https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/the-calaveras-of-jose-guadalupe-posada
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