Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not Niigata.

When in the field this past summer, I went to an art exhibit that centered on Japanese culture. Photographer Andrew Phelps' quote on display continues to inspire me as both an anthropologist and musician.

When traveling in a foreign place, I tend to be fascinated with both the exotic and the mundane. The two are often one and the same, especially in a place where the gap between old and new is astronomical. In most modern societies, tradition, history, and religion have etched a deep set of rituals and codes, which are being tested and expanded as cultural homogenization begins to question established systems and ideologies…

I find it is easy to get caught up in chasing an illusion of what I think a place should look like; preconceptions are powerful and the quest to understand a place often leads to a greater misunderstanding.

Sado Island, Feb 2009

Andrew Phelps, “Not Niigata”

- Posted by Emily Šaras, '10

Friday, March 19, 2010

Imponderabilia: Crossing Borders, Linking up

One great journal already out there kicking ass and taking names is the Imponderabilia international student journal out of Cambridge University, UK. Check them out here

The journal is quickly becoming an amazing forum for students studying all over the world: we share our articles, poetry, videos, essays, interviews, and fieldnotes both in print and online - long before "normal" publishing opportunities arise in graduate school. The layout is artistic, fantastic, and in tune with the anthropology theory we are working with. (Very meta.)

As a well-trained anthropologist, let me (in the self-reflexive tradition) be honest about my own bias: I write, edit, and peer review for this journal!!!

Here is my 2009 article, here is my 2010 article, and here is the Sensory Anthropology section I co-edited with N. Hatfield Allen (Cambridge University, UK)

This year's journal is really inspiring me. (Download the full beautiful PDF version from the mainpage here and give it a gander!) I wanted to share a quote from the editors of the Student Ethnography section of Imponderabilia:

"As we are learning more and more readily, perhaps ethnography is not something necessarily to be saved until after graduation, and just maybe there are gaps in the schemata that undergraduates are readily placed to contribute towards. No longer does it seem that ethnography is exclusively reserved for those who have been successfully initiated to their graduate status: we believe that there can be something to gain from seeing the world with a slightly fresher and perhaps less academically minded pair of eyes. Here we have a range of insightful, clever, and thought-provoking examples of student ethnography, all of which succeed in convincing us that there is no reason not to engage in ethnographic fieldwork as undergraduates."

- Posted By Emily Šaras '10

Let's Link Up! Now is the time.

I argue that there is no better time to get out there, do something, and get published than when you are an undergraduate anthropology major. The world is really your oyster at this point. Theory is just beginning to make its own metaphysical way into your mind, and you are somehow (unlike graduate students) allowed to draw from it as you will without the responsibilities of adhering strictly to the canon. Undergrads are extremely busy individuals, and yet there always seems to be a little extra time to whip together an article for this journal or that blog - and we're used to getting little to no pay for our hard work at this point, haha.

The Anthrophiliacs are currently doing a call for papers (see posts below - deadline for editor/peer review applications and article submissions is April 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm to WRITE FOR US!


- Posted By Emily Šaras, '10

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FML: a glimpse into gender-based power dynamics and the social significance of diet

Although I am not a general follower of FML, in a recent stroke of brilliance (and crazy hilarity), I came up with the idea for the perfect FML:

"Today, I went on my first date with a girl I have been infatuated with for months. At the restaurant, the waiter came while she was in the bathroom. I ordered steaks for both of us. Turns out, she is vegetarian, and doesn't like it when men are "overly aggressive." She called me a cow murderer. FML"

I forgot about it until this evening, and when I saw that it had been posted, I was super excited! Then, I read the comments. All I can say is "WOW." I didn't know whether or not to laugh their absurdity, or to be horrified. In the end, I did both. Many of the comments were simply incredibly lewd remarks, which supported male-dominated power dynamics between genders (they tended to reference both sexual and physical violence). That my post provoked such strong, clearly misogynistic reactions is notable. While I hardly believe the individuals who post comments on FML to be representative of the general population (I find it necessary to point out the inability of the majority of the authors of these offensive remarks to spell "vegetarian"; notable misspellings include "vegitarian" and "vegeitairan"), and I suspect that many of these individuals posted simply to make ridiculous statements they thought were funny without thinking of the consequences (one could certainly argue that the internet is a socially acceptable forum for this behavior), I always find it shocking when such sentiments arise. Because my original post focused on dating, the reactions evidence gender dynamics in modern human mating systems; essentially, the comments expressed the opinion that males are sexually superior, and have a moral right to sexually dominate, females.

The comments also revealed the social significance of dietary choice. While I hardly expected people to really "care" that the fictional woman was vegetarian, comments such as "vegetarians are weak because veggies don't have the same proteins and minerals that's stimulate muscle growth. lack of muscle = lack of stength = weak. whereas vegans are Nazi vegetarians who have joined PETA which in itself kills animals," and "vegetarianism is a mental disease witch does not let the diseased get the fact that were omnivores, not carinvore but omnivore." Clearly, vegetarianism is heated topic. Other comments evidence that diet is so powerful a social marker as to affect mating decisions. Many expressed the opinion that "she should mention she's a vegetarian and only date vegetarians." Another individual disclosed the way diet affects his personal choice of who to date with the comment, "she sounds like a real psycho this is exactly why i refuse to date a vegetarian."

I found the following post to give particular insight into possible reasons behind this heightened attention to diet: "If everyone learned to respect each-other's dietary choices, vegetarians wouldn't go around preaching and calling people cow murderers." It seems that diet has been imbued with moral overtones. While there is certainly a historical connection between morality and diet, particularly within religion, the emergence of this debate in a secular environment is striking. I hypothesize that this fusion of diet and morality has been strengthened by growing attention to the effects of food cultivation and consumption on the environment, a prominent political and social issue.

You can skim through the original comments HERE.
- Posted By Shannon Ward, '12

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Museum Review: Harvard's Peabody Museum and the Development of Ethnology

In any anthropology museum, the exhibits can ironically reveal more about the curators and ethnographers than the depicted cultures; the choice of artifacts and the manner in which they are displayed evidence prevailing attitudes towards the exhibit's subjects. By examining museum collections, we therefore come to understand the theoretical foundations on which displays of culture are based. Because its present curators have retained some historical collections in their original forms, the Peabody Museum demonstrates the evolution of anthropology as a discipline.

Most of the pieces making up the exhibit on Australian aboriginal cultures had been added to the collection during the late 19th century. These pieces demonstrate the romanticism of "the other" that often accompanied the evolutionary approach to anthropology, the prevailing school of anthropology at the time. Early anthropologists were fascinated with the "war-like" aspects of "savage" cultures and thus selected artifacts that portrayed their subjects in this light. Evolutionary anthropologist Edward Tylor wrote (1873)

...'one set of savages is like another.' How true a generalization this is, any Ethnological Museum may show. Examine for instance the edged and pointed instruments in such a collection; the inventory includes hatchet, adze, chisel, knife, saw, scraper, awl, needle, spear, and arrow-head and of these most of all belong with only differences of detail to to races the most various (p.31).

It is true that all cultures utilize tools and weapons (including, obviously, modern western cultures). However, Tylor failed to recognize that the exhibits in ethnographic museums are inherently bound to the biases of the ethnographer. For example, the museum's Australian display includes solely weapons and self-defensive objects, such as shields. The evolutionists chose to only exhibit tools and weapons because these artifacts confirmed their hypotheses that small-scale societies are primitive and savage. The museum's early artifacts also have no descriptions, which further demonstrates the evolutionary anthropologists' sensationalist approach. Rather than exploring the complex cultural meanings behind each object, the lack of description allows the viewer to (and the ethnographer) to project his/her own ideas of exoticism onto the culture from which the object came.

The display of Pacific-Oceanic artifacts aquired during the early to mid 20th century differs markedly. These artifacts are shown with descriptions of their users, and of their cultural significance. For example, the plaque next to a Balinese shadow puppet reads, "the shadow plays reflect the life-cycle and present the conflict between good and evil." The narrative attached to this object shows these displays to be more objectively informative than those of the late 19th century. However, although the above statement does not present a moral dichotomy, whereby "western" cultural practices are revered and those of "savages" are sensationalized and condemned, it seems somewhat generalized. To state the meaning of a cultural practice in one sentence does not do justice to the personal meaning that every individual participant internalizes in its execution. As cultural anthropology Franz Boas (1920) wrote,

"'[Ethnographers]...begin to be interested in the question of the way in which the individual reacts to his whole social environment, and to the differences of opinion and of mode of action...we refrain from the attempt to solve the fundamental problem of the general development of civilization until we have been able to unravel the processes that are going on under our eyes" (p. 102).

The Pacific-Oceanic display manifests Boas' idea of cultural relativism in its infancy; although it does not completely abandon the generalizations that characterize the evolutionist approach, the display attempts to share the cultural significance of artifacts and practices from the perspective of the society under observation.

The displays from Meso-America dig one layer deeper in the complexity of their interpretation by providing plaques with statements from the people whom they depict. In the huipil display, a plaque quotes a weaver, Margarita Vasquez Gomez, who said she began to weave because of the Virgin Mary. Gomez stated, "I asked [Mary] to teach me, to put knowledge in my head and heart; because I liked her clothes and wanted to wear the same." Thus, in addition to objective descriptions of the objects and their meanings, the display adds an element of subjective experience. Through this combination of the objective and subjective, the viewer begins to comprehend the greater cultural significance (i.e. its effect on individual members of a group) of the artifact. Later ethnographers such as Ruth Benedict and Edward Sapir exemplify attempts to understand the personal experience of their subjects. Benedict's work on "psychological types" in the southwest Pueblos (1930) and Sapir's studies of Hopi language (1939) capture the essence of ethnographic attempts to understand the culture from an "insider" perspective. In exploring the psychology and language of their subjects, Benedict and Sapir identified a new element of culture: the mindset of the individual. Benedict and Sapir thus established a new frontier in ethnographic exploration, of which the Peabody's Meso-American exhibit is an example.

The Native American exhibit includes elements of a more current form of anthropological study: the ethnographic examination of one's own culture. The exhibit, "It is Autumn," was created by Bernard Perley, a Native American artist and anthropologist. With this exhibit, Perley uses his anthropological training to study and portray his own culture. Perley's work epitomizes the successful application of cultural relativism to the museum setting; rather than relying on second-hand reports of an ethnographer to understand Native American culture, museum visitors hear the voices of the subjects themselves.

Modern-day anthropologists John Monaghan and Peter Just (2000) wrote, "not only are we constantly engaged in recording 'customs and manners' of people around the world, we are constantly bringing our appreciation of local knowledge to bear on a more general understanding of what it means to be a human being" (p. 21). Monaghan and Just's words articulate the modern ethnographic practice of using the knowledge and experience gained from studying "the other" to explore the common human experience. From examining our shared humanity, we gain a new perspective on our own cultures, and ultimately on ourselves, a pursuit in which museums can aid us. The Peabody Museum gives insight into the progression of trends in anthropology, from a reductionist and biased evaluation of other cultures, to the study of culture from an insider's perspective, to the blending of researcher and subject.

Check out current exhibits at the Peabody!!!

Posted by Shannon Ward, '12


Benedict, R. (1930). Psychological Types in the Cultures of the Southwest. Personality and Culture (pp. 209-219). New York: International Congress of Americanists.

Boas, F. (1920). The Methods of Ethnography. American Anthropologist, 22, 99-105.

Monaghan, J., & Just, P. Social and Cultural Anthropology: a Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford.

Sapir, E. (1939). The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language. In L. Spier (ed.), Language, Culture, and Personality: essays in memory of Edward Sapir (pp. 75-103). Menasha, WI: Sapir Publication Fund.

Tylor, E. (1873). The Science of Culture. In Primitive Culture (pp. 1-26). New York: H. Holt and Co.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Little Snippet About Architectural Ingenuity in Irish Castles

- Posted By: Laura Chilson

There was much to conceive of in planning a castle in Ireland. These buildings were really called tower forts, because with all the cattle raiding, inter-tribal feuding, and attacks by foreign peoples there was a huge need for protection. The whole castle is built up around these necessities. The stairs coil up in a counter clock-wise manner so that (assuming the majority of the population is right handed) the defender going down the steps has the ability to freely wield his sword while the attacker's sword swings into the inner framework of the staircase. Steps were designed unevenly so that those attacking up the stairs would stumble, a feature that is unnerving even to modern visitors. Small holes in the walls allowed muskets to fire out at invaders in the hall, without the fear of return fire. The doors had iron points that didn't allow the attacker to shoulder them down without the loss of an arm. Should these men somehow manage to splinter the door, they would only splinter half of it as there were two doors affixed together, with the boards each going opposite ways (and thus splintering opposite ways). The windows are wide in the inside to provide range of motion in an archer or rifles aim, but thin in the pane so that arrows have a very small mark to hit. Murder holes were sometimes put above doors or windows so that if an attacker should get within the castle they would be shot from seemingly out of nowhere, or have a rock tossed down on them. They even thought through which floors should be wood and which stone to balance not having to much weight bearing down on the castle's frame and not having too much work to rebuild should the castle be burned.

In terms of everyday practices, they also had toilets, with a slot wide enough to fit three people at once. Some of the waste was removed from where it collected at the bottom of the shoot outside the base of the castle, and some was left. The ammonia fumes from this waste would waft back up the shoot and into a special chamber used to hang up clothes so that the ammonia would kills fleas, lice, etc. a surprisingly ingenious answer to pests at such an early period. Not everything was quite so perseptive. Due to the smoke of the candles and fires, the chipping of unhealthy paint, and lead plates- their respiratory systems were horrible. Thus the short beds one sees are not because they were shorter, but rather because they slept sitting up to facilitate breathing. Not so luxurious as one might think.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


not that anthropology...


ANTHROPHILIA, the student anthropology club at Wellesley College, puts out its call for papers for the First-Ever Peer-Reviewed Issue (spring 2010) of The Anthrophilia Journal. We want you to write for us! At the moment, we are planning to publish this first issue both online and in a small printed batch. Information about fundraising for this to follow.

Send us a short email NOW to with your bio and submission topics / ideas. Again- as soon as possible! Please let us know if you are interested in peer-reviewing or section editing - no experience necessary! Your bio should include your name, class year, school, major(s) or concentrations, research interests - fun facts always welcome, too.


Submissions due April 5th at 11:59 pm (earlier is better!). Email to Multiple submissions accepted and encouraged. Include a bibliography if necessary, but please don't send an extensive one. As much as we all live and die for theory, we want to hear primarily your voice and experiences instead of a heavily-cited historical narrative.

Please send word .doc (not .docx, .pdf, etc) files. Images in high resolution are preferred. If you are submitting a sound file, use an mp3 please.


Contact with questions, concerns, ideas, rants, or raves.

Please forward this call for papers widely! We would like the journal to be written by students, but (as is the nature of anthropology) very interdisciplinary.

All the best,
Emily Šaras
President and Founder of Anthrophilia

Here are some ideas of what we are looking for - get creative!

Articles: news, interviews with anthropologists / professors / students / etc, papers / essays, notes from the field, poetry, reviews, research materials

photos from the field, cartoons, sketches, prints / photos of your original art

We are also looking to put together a
Podcast series, and would welcome sound files (interviews, recordings, spoken essays, rants and raves, etc) for this project.

- Posted By Emily Šaras, '10

...And we're back!

We've got exciting things planned for this semester:

- Revolutionary new blogging habits from the Anthrophiliacs
- Ethnographic Film Viewings!!!
- Club T-Shirts
- Causing a stir around campus
- Engaging in anthropological tomfoolery

Speaking of tomfoolery, how could I resist: Anthropology played by the Bud Powell Trio, c. 1962

Let's kick off the adventure with some links to ethnographic inspiration:

Photoethnography in Japan:
Food Anthropology:
Technology and Ethnography:

- Posted By
Emily Šaras, Anthrophilia President '10

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shooting Up Together: An Exploration into Boston's Heroin Subculture

This is a long post, I admit, but it's hard to condense a year long project!

My interest in heroin addiction began when I spent a summer working at a recovery program in Boston. Given that users and dealers traffick and shoot up in open drug scenes, I wanted to understand their everyday experiences and know why they put themselves at risk of arrest and contracting disease. Heroin addiction can be related to Bourdieu’s habitus theory as a “durable and transposable disposition that develops in response to internal and external conditions.” By conducting fieldwork, I gained temporary access to communities of heroin users and former heroin users. Their detailed life histories provided a plethora of background information and context necessary to comprehend Boston’s heroin problem. I did not use tapes, camcorders or cameras in an effort not to draw attention to myself or my interviewees. I interviewed people in other peoples’ houses, street corners, abandoned buildings and popular locations such as Starbucks. Perhaps I could uncover (or expand) on a dimension of addiction that only stays behind closed doors. My goal was also to converse with users in their own environments and because my objectives were such, my perceived risks were much lower. I believe that this is also how users make sense of their lives and desire to use heroin. Because their objective is to get high and avoid withdrawal, their perceived danger is much lower than someone who does not use.

Historical criminalization of heroin use has led to public health and social problems that we presently have. In my thesis, I mention that discrepancies in opiate use exist where the terminally ill are medically treated with opiates for their pain and heroin users are disregarded. Foucault would attribute the difference to the link between knowledge and power. The historical medicalization of other opiates both “assumed the authority of truth and has the power to make itself true.” It was not carried out by one central organization, but the connection of government and law enforcement has collectively exercised and facilitated that power. The result is another Foucaultian idea, of bio-power by which “an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques has led to the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations”. This is exactly the site where addiction is demoralized and juxtaposed with an ideal clean and healthy body. An anthropological understanding, unlike others, of heroin addiction enables and fosters broader conversation. Not only can we discuss addiction in American society, but also create cross-cultural communication in order to understand other frameworks and power structures that exist within this topic. We can talk about heroin and its biological elements or its political economy, but it is much harder to live among users and completely understand what motivated their daily existence.

After studying abroad in Switzerland and learning about their health care system in relation heroin addiction, I believe that increased dialogue would only help users. Changing treatment strategies from predominant law enforcement to predominant medical care does not mean legalizing heroin. Instead, it maintains the health and safety of heroin users in a harm reductive realm. I’ve found that not all heroin users (in particular injection drug users) want to stop using and will attempt to procure it by any means when experiencing withdrawal. Therefore, mandatory cessation only increases the chance of relapse and lowers users perceptions of self. Increased understanding and awareness around heroin addiction could potentially decrease incidence and increase safety for society as a whole.

- Posted By Kendall LaSane, '09

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cultures of Secrecy

By recognizing and analyzing the secrets held by individuals and communities, more can be learned about the cultural relevance of secrecy. Studying whether or not secrets are necessary and sufficient indicators of society, anthropologists can also gain more understanding about factors that unite all cultures.

Through studying various anthropological, sociological, and psychological literature, I found that secrets are regarded as almost necessary for the function of cultural groups and organizations. In the second of my podcasts, I recorded and analyzed the cultural phenomenon,  known as PostSecret. The organization PostSecret displays secrets that have been submitted to the founder, Frank Warren. In Warren’s own words, “PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.”[1] Since the website for PostSecret is updated on a weekly basis with new secrets and the four books that have been published, I was able to study over three hundred secrets during the course of my study. During this time I found that most secrets were about relationships (14%) or identity (9%). 

In the third of my podcasts, I focused on the cultures of secret societies, primarily those of the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. In the Knights Templar, secrecy is used as a way to determine the hierarchy of the organization. An initiate to the Knights Templar would be brought into a chamber and instructed to spit on the cross. Based on their decision, the initiate’s fate in the organization would be sealed. “On one level if the initiate fails to spit upon the cross as requested, he is rewarded for his true faith with membership and believes he has made it. On the other level, if he does spit upon the cross, then he has shown true discipline and will be led by the masters’ authority wherever that may take him – this initiate will move further up the sale that is hidden to the first who failed to follow the command.”[2] Thus, the Knights Templar used this method to help distinguish certain members from others, and allow those who were most trustworthy to gain power more quickly.

 In both the fourth and fifth podcasts, I compiled a set of reasons for why national and government secrecy clearly impacts personal and group secrecy, and how secrecy is clearly intertwined with human society.  In my fifth podcast I discussed RSA encryption, presidential secrecy, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s novel, Secrecy: the American Experience.

By studying the cultures of secrecy,  I found that secrecy is a unique aspect of humanity, and one that certainly has broadened my own perspective on cross-cultural interactions. I no longer feel as though secrecy is a detrimental aspect of humanity, but rather an important part of determining and forging an identity in the world. So while I have seen that cultures of secrecy are not clearly defined, I have found that secrecy is elemental to humanity.  If you want to learn more about this study, check out this link: Cultures of Secrecy.

[1] “PostSecret” 24 Sept 2008. 21 Sept 2008.

- Posted By Jennifer Pawson, '09

350 Project by Jen Pawson: Cultures of Secrecy

Check out the research of a graduating anthropology major, Jen Pawson '09, here - on her own podcast!  Congratulations, Jen, on your published work.  She presented her work at the Ruhlman Conference this spring.

Jen, we look forward to a post here about your work!!

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Lots of Possibilities: Davis Museum / Anthropology Collaboration, Fall 2009

This past week I met with Jim Olson @ the Davis Museum and we brainstormed several ways we can all get involved in the Davis Museum. This would be a great way to branch out and get other students (and the administration) interested in the work we do.

1. PODCAST SERIES: Anthropology majors / anthrophiliacs who want to participate can select a cultural artifact owned by the museum, and we can do a running podcast series on "Is it art?".

For example, there is a carved tusk used in a cultural ritual on the top floor of the museum. If it is not designed to be art, does it belong in a museum? What are the legal processes involved?

The research can be short and fun, or can comprise a 350 research project in the spring or fall. Perhaps students and professors could work together to put together these mini-research projects as side research projects?  Bonus - students can write on your resume that you are a published podcaster! Awesome!

2. CELL TANGO: Here's how this art exhibit works (and my simple description doesn't do this justice, so bear with me):  

Wellesley students and their friends and family can submit pictures they take to a Flickr page. These people tag the picture with a few words - example: a picture of a dog could be tagged with "happy, friendly, dog, smile, pet". Then, an artist in residence this fall will use these pictures in a computer-generated piece of art, which constantly takes these pictures and links them on a large LCD screen by how they are similarly tagged. The result is a beautiful web of pictures that shows how humans categorize the world around them. In the end, it's anthropological computer art.

Incoming Wellesley first-years are being encouraged to participate on their MyWellesley portal, and we can get involved, too. Jim Olson will forward the links to the FLICKR page to me when the artist is ready to start comprising the project mid summer - i'll forward that when I get it. He is excited for anthropology students to include really interesting photos from home, abroad, or wherever, and wants to work with students.

- A student could do a 350 or 360 research project, working with the data the artist collects
- Students could participate by adding to the online picture bank
- A student could do a podcast discussing their take on the art

The curators at the museum are really interested in putting together lectures about the art in the museum and how it intersects with culture. Also, we are welcome to have our Anthrophilia club meetings in the museum, have class lectures in the museum when curriculum and the museum collection goes together, etc.  

That's my update! Email me ASAP ( if you want to get involved on any of these projects, or if you have other ideas.  I'm really excited to get things going - here is a productive way to branch out, despite funding issues and our department's small size.  

Comment on these ideas!  What do you want to do?  Have any other suggestions?

Also, check out

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Way to finish off the year!

Thanks to Professor Adam Van Arsdale for putting together the end of the year 

May 15: 3:30-5:30 - Slater International House
This event is intended to give students, faculty and staff associated with the department the chance to relax, celebrate the events of the year, and talk about any exciting plans for the summer. Light food and beverages will be provided. Weather providing we will (in part) be outside - weather prohibiting, indoor facilities will be available. Please join us!

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Professor Greg Ruf's Lecture on Water in China

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Woes Of the Underfunded Anthropology Department

Anthrophiliacs and faithful followers:

Were you aware that the economy is awful?  Were you aware that the administration at Wellesley College has little to no love for the Anthropology department? (Despite its "love of multiculturalism"...)

I kid, but check out the amount of money our club has to its name.  Lizzi Merrill '09 (Resident James Bond) has created a spreadsheet of our Bake Sale earnings.  Lo and behold - $40 we can call our own.  

But what can we do with that?  How can we get our name out there?  How can we put together lectures, film series, and other events?  What can we do to show the administration that the students in the Anthropology department mean business?

I'm not pessimistic, I think we can do great things next semester.  

Comment back on this post:  Let's get together and think of ideas for our next semester!  Email us at

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

From Professor Kohl's Faculty Lecture Presentaiton

Professor Kohl stood by his favorite piece of advice during the faculty lecture:

"Find a project with legs, that you can run with!"  

In his presentation Forays in the Field over Forty Years:Reconstructing the Past, Critiquing the Present (already commented on by Connie, Top Chef, in our blog below) Professor Kohl showed several slides, a few I wanted to share with you... check out the following few slides.  

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Echoes of the Pleistocene: Defining what it means to be human.

Our department's resident Physical Anthropologist gave a wonderful lecture this past spring about his research and experience in anthropology.  Thanks, Anthrophiliacs, for helping to put this together!

From Professor Adam Van Arsdale's abstract:

"As a biological anthropologist, my interests are in exploring the pattern of and explanation for human biological variability. My own research focuses on examining how evolution has shaped the fossil, archaeological and genetic record of humans over the past two million years. Exploring our evolutionary past, however, also requires us to further examination our present. What do the biological processes in contemporary human society tell us about our evolutionary past? How can we use humans and other living species to develop models for interpreting the fossil record?

In this presentation, I will outline some of my own ongoing research, paying special attention to the ways in which understanding our evolutionary past impacts our understanding of what it means to be human today. In my research I argue that while we stopped being an ape about 5 million years ago (when our lineage diverged from our last common ancestor with chimpanzees and bonobos), in many ways we only started becoming human during the Pleistocene, a period stretching from about 1.8 million years ago until about 20,000 years ago. The evolutionary processes from that time period remain as vibrant echoes today both in how biological variation is patterned and in how we understand biological variation in humans."

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Professor Erich Fox Tree's Barbie Talk

Professor Fox Tree offered a lecture this past spring as part of our Faculty Lecture Series - about Barbie as a material representation of culture.  He discussed "ethnic Barbies" and their role of shaping how young children of America view race, and talked about the history of the Barbie industry.  His talk was well attended by Anthropology, Womens Studies, and Economics majors, and many visitors came to enjoy his lecture as well.  The SPAM (our publicity jpgs - see one above) was a buzz all about campus - apparently, the sarcasm wasn't detected by all, and those out-of-the loop on Barbie pop culture references were confused.   Hey, the confused ones still came!  

Speaking of attendance...Lesson learned:  always offer free food.

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Professor Kohl's Archaeology Lecture

So we started April off with our Professor lecture series, and so far we've had some great turn-out and enthusiasm! Our first lecture was from Professor Foxtree on the sexual life of Native American Barbie. It was definitely an intriguing way to start things off. This week we heard Professor Van Arsdale talk about how his research and experience with hominids has shaped theories on human origins. And this coming week, Professor Kohl, the head of the Anthropology Department himself, is going to be talking about his experience as an Archeologist- the real Indiana Jones lifestyle! It's sure to be interesting, and, as in all of our lectures so far, delicious homebaked foodstuffs will be served.
I will be contributing homemade flatbreads, sprinkled with Za'atar- a middle-eastern spice mix that originated from the Assyrians. Flatbread is something very simple and universal, but the Za'atar itself is unique only to North African and middle-eastern cultures.
Also, snickerdoodles, the popular item from this weeks lecture will also make an appearance.

Everyone is invited to the third Professor lecture in this years anthropology faculty lecture series, and I hope to see you there for the fun, the intellectual stimulation and the brain food!

- Posted ByConstance Ohlinger, '12

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brownies: an American Cultural Classic

So, as the Top Chef of the Wellesley Anthropophilia Club, I feel it my duty to provide tidbits and trivia of the food we eat. For my first post, I believe I shall start off with brownies. Brownies are perhaps one of the few truly original, American snack foods. No one's quite sure who exactly created the recipe, but it's believed that brownies were invented when a baker in New England forgot to put leavening into what was supposed to be a chocolate cake. From this humble origin, the first brownie recipe was published in 1896, and since then brownies have come to represent so much in the lives Americans. It is a traditional comfort food, given to those in need of cheering up, a sign of good will and as a classic snack that has been baked with love and care in mind. They can also be used to satiate any cravings women may have in relation to their horomonal cycle. Whatever the reason, brownies bring happiness to all. Chocolate is known to trigger the part of the brain which relieves stress, and the sugar is sure to make anyone happy. For this reason, chocolate brownies, home-made with love, will be present at this weeks Anthrophilia Meeting. Be there Tuesday (tomorrow), March 10th in Pendleton (most likely on the third floor of the east builidng) for a truly classic American comfort food!

- Posted By Constance Ohlinger, '12

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Minutes: 17 February 2009

The second official meeting covered past topics of discussion, such as the GBAC conference (happening next Friday, the 27th, from 8:30 until 4:15), the new blog that is up-and-running, pubbing/spamming this new organization, and our role on campus.

Members will be helping set up our table at 8:00 the morning of the GBAC conference, as well as publicizing presentations that are relevant to specific courses to increase student attendance.

- Posted By Calais Weber, '11, Secretary

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tradition Takeover: The effects of Globalization on the Disney Corporation

A summer job left me interested in the ways multinational corporations like Disney and McDonald's incorporate, replace, and accommodate local traditions. Here's an article for anyone interested in the anthropology of globalization or Disney. 

A Big Wall Falls in China to Make Room for Mickey
Published: February 16, 2009

"Snow White has replaced snow dragons. Children wander through the frozen hallways of Aladdin’s Castle instead of a Qing dynasty palace. “It’s a Small World” plays in one corner of the park. (What better theme music for globalization?)"

read the rest at

- Posted By Ceridwen Hall '09, Treasurer

Monday, February 16, 2009

Anthropologists and War

Paula Loyd (right), Wellesley '95, was an anthropology major conducting research for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Anthropologist's war death reverberates

By Farah Stockman Boston Globe Staff / February 12, 2009

"In a hostile corner of southern Afghanistan, an American platoon fanned out around a market, forming a protective circle around a petite woman with a notebook. Paula Loyd, a Wellesley-educated researcher, began interviewing villagers about the price of cooking fuel - a key indicator of whether insurgents had hijacked supply lines."


Should anthropologists work alongside soldiers?

By Dan Vergano and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

"SAN FRANCISCO — The military for years has enlisted anthropologists, depending on their expertise to write up analyses of distant places and cultures.

But debate is growing among those scientists over whether it is appropriate for them to be involved in actually working alongside soldiers in combat or to contribute to the growing field of counterterrorism research."


- Posted By Christine, '09

Devolve Me: Interactive Fun With Evolution


From the site:  Ready to journey back in time? Use our fun tool to see yourself as you would have looked as an early human. When you've finished, why not share the results with a friend?

Upload your photo and see yourself travel back through the evolutionary timeline... it's not an exact science but it is a lot of fun!

So it's not science, but it's a good time.  Any biological anthropologists want to comment on the results?  

I invite you, fine faithful readers, to share your devolved faces on the blog!  Email a .jpeg or .png file to, and your friendly neighborhood Anthrophiliacs will add it to the blog.

Thanks to Professor Adam van Arsdale for the link!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Thanks to follower Lizzi M for sending us her great "Before" and "After" pics.  Because of the nature of the exercise, I'm not quite sure which should be "before" and which one should be "after"... how about:



and way back then!

- Posted By Emily Šaras '10, President

Minutes: 10 February 2009

During the first (and successful) meeting, the Anthrophiliacs discussed their role as a new organization on the Wellesley campus. A number of problems were brought up, as well as a few ways to address them. There will be a Tuesday night film festival in April, as well as faculty lectures, and an Anthrophilia table set up at GBAC. The issue of being a relatively obscure department was discussed, and it was decided that through not only fundraisers, but hosting campus-wide events will facilitate the process of growing a core community. In a quest to further legitimize the effort, a "location" for meetings was established as the cove above the atrium.

A name for the new organization, which was a stroke of genius, was decided upon, as well as various positions:

Emily Saras - President
Ceridwen Hall - Treasurer
Calais Weber - Secretary
Christine Yang - Publicity Chair
Jessica Chia - Film Coordinator
Laura Chilson - Academic Lecture Coordinator
Teresa Le - Outreach
Constance Ohlinger - Top Chef
Film Festival Coordinator
Kris Arden - ?

Some tasks of the utmost importance are creating introductory blogs by each member, as well as starting an Anthrophilia FirstClass conference, decorating the atrium cove, and increasing student interest in Anthropology opportunities.

- Posted By Calais Weber '11, Secretary

Friday, February 13, 2009

Calling All Majors / Minors to help with GBAC!

First task of Anthrophiliacs:  

Adriana Mihal (Administrative Assistant for the Department) contacted us through Professor Kohl.  She needs us to help with the GBAC event!

Are you interested in helping out at GBAC?  Us Anthrophiliacs are going to have an information table to welcome students to GBAC.  We hope our student presence will excite other students about our new club and will gain us some attention - and networking contacts!

If you can join the Anthrophiliacs at the table for any time on Friday, please email  Join our club while you're at it!

- Posted By Emily Saras, '10

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Upcoming Departmental Event: PRESENTATIONS ON GEORGIA, March 4, 2009

GEORGIA'S CULTURAL DIVERSITY: a Privilege or a Problem?
Wednesday March 4, 2009 - 7:30 - 9:30 PM - Pendleton East 239 - Wellesley College

First Presentation by Archil Kikodze, Tbilisi, Georgia
Georgia - Diversity and Environment: reflections on the history, political geography, and cultures of a newly independent state.
Archil Kikodze is a prize-winning novelist and photographer from Tbilisi, Georgia and the Georgian Coordinator of the Wellesley Winterterm Program in the Republic of Georgia. He will discuss the environment and cultural diversity of his native land. Mr. Kikodze will give an illustrated lecture depicting the cultural and physical wealth of the Republic of Georgia and will also relate specific examples illustrating the complex history and ethnic tensions that have beset Georgia from Stalinist times to the present, including the deportation of the Meskheti Turks from southern Georgia (Djavakheti) at the end of World War II. His talk will conclude with consideration of the recent tragic events that unfolded last August, which resulted in costly and deadly conflict and led to an intensification of ethnic hostilities in the area. 

Second Presentation by Stephen Jones, Mt. Holyoke College:
Who has the Right to Independence? Lessons from Georgia.
Stephen Jones is an expert on the Caucasus with a focus on Georgia and is Professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies at Mount Holyoke College, as well as Chair of European Studies. He has studied Georgian history and politics for over thirty years and has written extensively on all things Georgian, from history to current issues of democratization, and questions of contemporary Georgian cultural life. His most recent book was entitled Socialism in Georgian Colors: the European Road to Social Democracy 1883-1917. He is currently editing a special issue of Central Asian Survey on the impact of the August 2008 war on Georgian politics and foreign policy. His talk will consider why the August war started, focusing on why secession is seen as the only answer by the Abkhazians and South Ossetians and evaluating to what extent the Georgian government’s own response led to the success of secessionist movements on its territory.

Questions?  email or Professor Philip Kohl, at
**Thanks to Professor Kohl for passing this information along.

- Posted By Emily Šaras '10, President

Upcoming Departmental Event: GBAC at Wellesley! February 27, 2009

Upcoming Event!  Save the Date!

The Greater Boston Anthropology Consortium : Each year, a student anthropology conference is held on one of the GBAC campuses. The Sixth Annual Student Anthropology Conference will be held Friday, February 27, 2009 at Wellesley College.

For more information, click:  ** site still being updated with this year's information.

Our department is represented by ten students:  Kendall D. LaSane, Emily Šaras, Christine Yang, Teresa Le, Samantha Bellach, Jennifer Pawson, Jessica Yoo, Kelsey Hanf, Steph Tung, and Gina Lentine.  Students will be presenting posters and papers on their research both in and out of the classroom.  

I bet some Anthrophiliacs might want to post here on the blog about the topic of their presentations...  

- Posted By Emily Šaras '10, President

Welcome to Anthrophilia!!

This is the new blog run by the "Anthrophiliacs" of Wellesley College's new Student-run Anthropology Club. Our posts will be about the work we are doing in our department, upcoming Anthropology events on Campus, and our interests in the world of anthropology today.

Our club is off to a great start. Stay tuned to our posts for information about our exciting upcoming events: April Ethnographic Film Festival, Watching Bones with the Anthrophiliacs, and the Faculty Research Lecture Series.

Most importantly: GBAC will be hosted by Wellesley College this year! Mark your calendar for Friday, February 27 for an afternoon of undergraduate student research publications. More information to be posted in the upcoming weeks.

All of us will be posting this week about who we are, our interests, and what we think about the work being done today in the future of anthropology. We'll keep checking in with you, posting some of our written work from classes, our ideas about the theories we are learning about, and with reviews of ethnographies and films we have read.

TALK BACK by commenting on our posts! We're all about the dialectic.

For questions about our club, our blog, and the events we are putting together, please contact us at Thanks!

* Image: A Trobriander. Malinowski would be proud.

- Posted By Emily Šaras '10, President