Presentation at the London School of Economics

lakatos-building-for-webHi all,

I’ve just returned from a trip to the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I was invited to present to a workshop entitled Tribe and State in the Middle East, hosted by the LSE’s Middle East Centre. It was a fascinating conference, substantively interdisciplinary, and bursting with contributions and assessments from around the Middle East and North Africa.

The central question guiding this small congregation of scholars concerned how tribe and tribalism — undeniably a social feature integral to the traditions of many peoples around the Middle East — fits with the modern state. Are tribes and states antithetical in nature? Or can (and do) they fit together in new, unforeseen ways?

Papers helped illuminate this issue. Haian Dukhan‘s fascinating paper, for example, explored how tribalism features in the social frictions and conflict that have embroiled Syria. Alice Wilson‘s paper examined how tribal forms of meeting have been a feature of the nascent democracy in Western Sahara, and the basis for political mobilization in some parts of Oman. Alnoud Alsharekh clarified that tribalism was, and remains, a stoutly patriarchal form, and one that remains an oppressive force in women’s lives around Arabia. Numerous other papers in the session explored equally interesting topics.

In my own paper (which I retitled On Tribalism in Arabia), I provided an overview of anthropology’s long concern with the tribal form of social organization. While anthropology’s perspective on tribalism has evolved fairly dramatically over the last century, it remains a meaningful social form to many anthropologists, foremost, I think, because it remains a meaningful social form to the peoples we study. I further suggested that while researchers have pointed to the resurgence of tribalism in places where the state is weak or absent (such as post-war Iraq), the resurgence of tribalism in Qatar and the other Arabian Gulf States — places where the state is neither weak nor absent — suggests other conditions and circumstances also foster the value of this tribal form.

The Middle East Centre at the LSE intends to publish these papers on its blog, and I’ll post a brief follow up here with those links once they’re available.

Andrew

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Andrew’s Presentation at Berkeley

Hi all,

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The ORIAS Migration and Diaspora group

ORIAS, or the Office of Resources for International and Area Studies, is a unit at the University of California Berkeley. ORIAS exists at the juncture of six different areas studies programs at Berkeley, including the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for Southeast Asia Studies, the Institute of East Asian Studies, and several more. Part of ORIAS’ mission is to help k-12 and community college teachers improve their understanding of global issues, and to incorporate those new understandings into their courses. This commitment takes the form of ORIAS Summer Institutes for Teachers.

The first ORIAS workshop of the summer was themed Migration & Diaspora, and I was asked by ORIAS to deliver a lecture about contemporary labor migration in the Middle East. My presentation, entitled Journey to Arabia, was an extrapolation of a paper I recently published, and provides an overview of the migration system that connects transnational labor migrants from around the Indian Ocean world to employment in the wealth states of the Arabian Peninsula. That presentation provided me and a really impressive group of community college professors with an excellent foundation for a wide-ranging conversation about the similarities and differences between migration here in America and elsewhere. We also

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Pre-presentation jitters …

discussed some of the challenges inherent in discussing other migrations and mobilities in the current American climate.
In addition to that stimulating conversation, I was also able to catch a couple other fascinating papers, including Edward Alpers‘ fascinating survey of The Indian Ocean Slave Trade from Africa, and Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky‘s Muslim Refugee Migrations from Russia to the Middle East. Altogether, I learned a lot from these other papers, and from the conversation we had following my presentation.

 

Andrew

 

 

Ana Siegel’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in multiple previous posts, students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Ana Siegel had to say about her new project:

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Ana Siegel perched on the remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River.

Though initially overlooked by Euro-American settlers as an arid wasteland, the Four Corners region of the American Southwest has historically been held sacred to countless stakeholders, specifically those with a pro-conservation stance. Many of the region’s indigenous groups—including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Uinta, and the Ouray Ute—attribute immense cultural significance to the land, as many of their traditional territories, reservations, and sources of cultural heritage lie in the region. For outdoor recreants, the region is a haven for climbing and trekking; for locals, the land has been used for generations of cattle grazing. Yet, in the last hundred-or-so years, the Four Corners region has been recognized for its natural resource extraction potential, as it is rich in uranium, vanadium, oil, and coal deposits. As a result of the conflicting cultural and economic interests, this region has often been played as a battlefield between contesting groups, toiled over by those who wish to either capitalize upon, or to protect those assets. Bears Ears National Monument is one such landmark, of which has recently come to the forefront of this familiar quarrel. After years of advocacy and petitioning of the federal government, in 2016, the Obama Administration placed Bears Ears under federal protection, by means of the Antiquities Act. But, on December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump made the executive decision to drastically reduce the land protected by Bears Ears National Monument, by 85%. Paired with the simultaneous reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, this ruling was “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history” (Turkewitz 2017).  

There seems to be a vast disconnect between the understandings and interests of the seemingly-economically-driven decision-makers, and those of the pro-conservation stakeholders; my research will bridge that disconnect by not only drawing attention to, but also making more legible, the narratives of those pro-conservation stakeholders. With this disconnect in mind, the aim of my research is to explore the ways the shifting status, and resulting vulnerability, of Bears Ears has affected the relationship–the sense of place–that connects pro-conservation stakeholders–such as the region’s indigenous groups, environmentalists, outdoor recreants, and locals–to this landmark of the Four Corners region. 

Over the course of the summer, I will be spending time conducting fieldwork in Southeastern Utah; I will be working alongside pro-conservation stakeholders, using varying qualitative ethnographic research methods—conducting semi-structured interviews, engaging in participant observation, as well as organizing transect walks—to explore the ways in which these stakeholders’ relationships are shifting along with the shifting status of the National Monument.The ultimate goal of this research coincides with the fields of public and applied anthropology: I intend to both highlight and amplify these voices by creating a platform, that will be legible to the public and policymakers, through which pro-conservation stakeholders can vocalize their resistance to the reduction, as well as elucidate the reasoning behind their impassioned campaign to protect Bears Ears.​

We’re so excited for you, Ana, and can’t wait to see how your research develops once you get to Moab. We’ll look for an update from you in a few months!

Andrew

Sam Lilly’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in the previous posts, students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Sam Lilly had to say about her new project:

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Sam Lilly found a book

I have always been intrigued and concerned about mental health, illness, and suicidality, as macabre as that sounds. As a philosophy major utilizing the tools of ethnography, this summer I will happily put on the hat of the philosophical anthropologist and hopefully gather stories and qualitative data that push past the empirical and didactic academic literature that is wildly available to the public.

My summer research project will be an extension of the research I am currently working on in SOAN 299: Ethnographic Methods, and is entitled “Mental Health Care Professionals’ Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Suicidality.” The goal of both the current project and my upcoming summer research is to begin a lifelong exploration to ask a fundamental question of philosophy and life, which is:

Is suicide wrong? If so, how do we know?

The research that I will conduct in the summer will turn from my current research (concerned with the institutionalization of mental health care) to focus on individuals who have lost loved ones by suicide. I hope that these interviews will allow me to explore the varied and diverse perspectives and attitudes Americans’ have toward suicide and hopefully help elucidate how these perspectives relate and are shaped the medical model of mental illness and other institutionalized frameworks that permeate our everyday lives that I believe create a societal apprehension to understand suicide both as a social problem and social fact.

Sam, this project sounds fascinating, poignant, and perhaps treacherous — we look forward to hearing about some of the challenges and initial findings you encounter as the project commences.

Andrew

Gigi Garzio’s AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

Students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Gigi Garzio had to say about her new project:

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Gigi Garzio

This summer I will be gathering data and conducting research for my project, titled Values, Justifications, and Perspectives Connected to the Anti-vaccination Movement. A large portion of the anti-vaccination movement is headed by upper to middle class, educated individuals who are able to comprehend professional medical information, yet they continue to adhere to anti-mainstream modes of thought (Geggel 2017). I am curious as to what mechanisms allow these individuals to continually justify their medical decisions and what contributes to making people so immovable in their beliefs, even in the face of accessed medical research and scientific discovery. The goal of my research would be to answer the question: How do people justify anti-vaccination perspectives, especially in the face of scientific research, and through what mechanisms do they accomplish this? I will look at the resources people utilize to spread information, such as online forums, as well as the personal accounts people give to justify their belief systems, and the presented logic behind their truths.

The anti-vaccination movement is diverse and is made up of a variety of motives and explanations for justification. This array of reasons for drifting from mainstream medical advice surpasses a lack of comprehension, but rather stems from the propagation of alternative ideologies and the rationalization of these perspectives through different modes of thought. This is extremely important because the distribution of inaccurate information by certain groups in the population can be detrimental for the whole. Vaccinations are a prime example of this because they work under the condition that everyone is getting vaccinated in order to protect the minority of people who are not able to for any number of medical or social reasons. In order to protect the efficiency of herd immunity, and the well being of the general US public, there is a demand for an increased understanding of the conflicting viewpoints, in order to move forward and display effective public health improvement. In a larger sense, we can apply this research to better understand how people justify anti mainstream modes of thought, not just in relation to medicine, but also to society as a whole.

This project is extremely important to the field of public health in the US. Because vaccinations are effective within the context of ‘herd immunity,’ or when 90-95% of the population is vaccinated in order to assure the safety of the whole population, a decrease in vaccination compliance may be detrimental to the immunity of our country. Recently, and specifically in the wake of the most recent presidential election, non-medical immunization exemptions have significantly increased in many states. In the past, this rejection of the advice of modern medical institutions has resulted in outbreaks in vaccine-preventable fatal diseases such as measles or pertussis.

Increasing general understanding of the modes of thought that lead individuals to stray from mainstream, modem medical guidance will aid in the public health field’s ability to reach a wider audience when discussing these issues.

Gigi, your project sounds great! Good luck, and we look forward to touching base a little bit later in the summer.

 

Andrew

Tessa Samuels’ AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

Students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Tessa Samuels had to say about her new project:

The global attention to the refugee crisis and the role of American communities in receiving and welcoming new families escaping trauma has become one of the most contested and glorified topics in the recent years. Within the past two years Montana has resettled one hundred individual refugees per year, making refugee populations a very small and conspicuous minority within Missoula – a town located in Western Montana. Missoula brought International Rescue Committee (IRC) leaders in from Salt Lake City, Utah to establish an IRC locally. As a result, activists in Missoula founded a non-profit organization called Softlanding to help with the transition for the refugees. Missoula is now home to refugees from four different countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the summer of 2017, I was the Childcare Coordinator for the IRC in Missoula where I registered the children from the newly arrived refugee familiesin schools and helped their family acquire childcare services.

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Tessa Samuels

My own experience working with Softlanding showed me, and the literature affirms, how many refugee families struggle with the transition process. In some communities they feel forced assimilation in order to be welcomed (Lazarevic 2006: 218), as well as adjusting to new customs. Refugees are considered semi-non-voluntary immigrants because often times they are forced to flee their home either from an environmental disaster or persecution based on race, religion, political standing, or ethnic identity (Lazarevic 217). The transition and acculturation process is more challenging for these newcomers than for voluntary immigrants, because they do not feel that it was their choice to resettle (McBrien 2005: 330).

Compounding the challenge of relocation is the intergenerational dimension of this transition, defined as dissonant acculturation or segmented assimilation. Dissonant acculturation is when a child acculturates faster than their parents, the parents are often times holding on –with every right to be –to traditions and cultural norms and language from their original country while the child learns the language faster and is more at ease with balancing the culture of the host country and the culture of their original country (Stepick 2006: 394). Although children tend to acculturate faster than parents, they still struggle with the integration and socialization process (McBrien 2005: 360) while sometimes balancing different expectations from home with those set at school in regards to language, beliefs, values and norms and therefore socialization culminating in a feeling of isolation.

My own research will thus intervene by asking refugee parents what schools can do to meet their children’s needs of socialization and a softer transition. What obstacles do parents perceive their children facing in schools?  How can schools help the children make friends and get involved, as well as aid them in sustaining and thriving academically? In addition to exploring these questions, I also will examine the factors that limit parental and school efforts to facilitate that integration such as transportation and special programming. I will ask about family’s expectations for their children’s academics and what parents want to see for their children’s social life during the transition period. I will then compare these perspectives to what teachers are saying about how they are meeting the needs of families. I will ask teachers if they are always told when a child is a newly arrived refugee. I will also share insights from the refugee parents to see if there is common ground on which they can meet, despite potentially differing expectations. For after school programs, based on parent interests, I will examine if there are flagship programs that could be established and how accessible that would be considering transportation.

This study will consist of both ethnographic methods and analysis of preexisting surveys. For the ethnographic methods part of my research I will conduct semi-structured interviews with seven of the newly arrived refugee families. I will also talk to the childcare facilities, teachers at the three schools, and instructors at the three day-camps to elicit their views on the challenges refugee children face and the strategies they use to help these children socialize or to create a more multicultural environment in their classrooms/schools. I will simply be asking what ways schools and childcare centers could change to help the socialization process for the family, and in what ways could schools support a multitude of cultures while remaining in the bounds of being a public school or institution in the United States. I will also be asking about leisure time activities and how that impacts the socialization in schools, because leisure activities –and in Missoula Montana those activities comprise often times of outdoor recreation or sports –are a large social factor in schools and day camps.

Your project is fascinating, Tessa, and we look forward to hearing an update this summer after your research is underway.

Andrew

Charlotte Parker, SOAN Class of 2018, Fulbright Scholar!

Hi all,

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Charlotte Parker on a previous trip to Taiwan

As noted in our previous post, the Department of Sociology and Anthropologywas pleased to learn that two of our graduating seniors had been awarded Fulbright scholarships for the coming year. The Fulbright program has long endeavored to connect America with the diverse cultures of our world by funding Americans’ time abroad. Indeed, several faculty in the SOAN department began their careers with a Fulbright cultural exchange. We asked Charlotte Parker, one of our two awardees, to tell us a little bit about what the Fulbright award has in store for her. Here’s Charlotte’s response:

大家好!My name is Charlotte and I will be traveling to Taiwan in August of 2018 on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). While in Taiwan I will be living in a city called Changhua (彰化) located in the center of Taiwan. Just an hour away from Taiwan’s two largest cities, I will be living and working in the most densely populated county in Taiwan! I am especially excited to be working in Changhua because this is the first year a Taiwan ETA will be placed there! Although many details are still to come from Fulbright, I will be working alongside a Lead English Teacher (LET) instructing a class of elementary or middle school students. I also plan to maintain a steady diet of bubble tea (which was invented in Taiwan!), spiced tea eggs, and soup dumplings!

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A temple in Changhua

I also really value my experiences in the SOAN department at University of Puget Sound. As a SOAN major with a Chinese minor, I spent the last four years learning about the connections between language, culture, and identity. My interests concern linguistic anthropology, where questions regarding how language shapes our interactions and our perceptions of the world are explored. Taking SOAN classes also helped me think critically about my responsibility as a teacher and as a cultural ambassador. I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to explore how we as anthropologists can work to improve the quality of life for those around us. 

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Charlotte (lower right, center) walking a dachshund through verdant Taiwanese pastures

In addition to my experience in the SOAN department, I have spent the last four years teaching Spanish and Chinese at a number of local Tacoma and Gig Harbor schools. Because language is my passion, I am very excited to continue sharing this passion with young students. During my time in Taiwan, I hope to gain a better understanding of the Taiwanese education system, and to bring this knowledge back home so that the American education system can continue growing and improving. Additionally, I have spent the last few years training as a marathon runner in Tacoma, and I hope to join a local running team while in Taiwan. If all goes well, I will also run in the Wulai Gorge Marathon in January 2019! I am very much looking forward to this upcoming year and all the experiences to be had during my time in Taiwan!

加油!

Charlotte, we’re so very proud of you, and we’ll be in touch again for an update from Taiwan.

Andrew

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Charlotte and friends in Taiwan