Catching up with Kelly Zeiler, class of ’08

We asked Kelly to tell us a bit about her work. Here’s her reply:

A lot has happened since I graduated three years ago: I got married, moved to Denver, and am now finishing up my Masters Degree in Anthropology at the University of Denver.   My concentration is in Museums and Cultural Heritage and my thesis is an exploration of how museums and cultural institutions can be more inclusive of and responsive to traditionally marginalized groups in their communities.  I partnered with a local refugee resettlement agency and have been conducting fieldwork among newly arrived refugees for the past year and a half.  It’s been a really eye-opening experience.  I am continually amazed at how differently my refugee friends see the city that we both live in.  Last month, I got the opportunity to attend my friend, Hari’s, wedding.  She is a refugee from Bhutan and is ethnically Nepali.  Her wedding lasted three days, and I have never ate so much delicious food in my whole life!

When I was not busy stuffing my face with Nepali food, I curated an experimental exhibit, with the help of my wonderful advisor, Christina Kreps. at the University of Denver’s Museum of Anthropology (DUMA). It was titled,  “Making Home: Civic Dialogues on Where We Live and How We Live Together” and didn’t use any artifacts from the museum’s collection.  Instead it explored processes of place-making among refugee and non-refugee citizens of Denver through a series of discussion-based workshop in which participants created “artifacts” that were left in the gallery space.  My very favorite part of the exhibit was the gigantic chalkboard that invited visitors to share their thoughts and beliefs about home with one another.  Overall, it was a successful experiment; one that we hope will change the way future Master’s students go about curating exhibits at DUMA.

In July of this year, I accepted a full-time position as the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Denver Firefighters Museum.  I am getting tons of practice in oral history interviews with retired Denver Firefighters and have gotten the chance to create several educational programs as well as temporary children’s exhibits that directly address risks and needs in the Denver community.  It’s a pretty sweet gig, and I feel really lucky to have found a job!

 I hope all is well with all of you.  Keep on keeping on!

 Kelly Zeiler Lynch


Visiting an Indonesian Market

Sophomore Annie Ryan was kind enough to share one of her Indonesia journal entries with us. She writes:

In the summer of 2011, I seized the wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Indonesia as a part of CSOC 312, Indonesia and Southeast Asia in Cultural Context. During the academic portion of the trip, we spent each day aiding our classmates in their research on their specific topic in Yogyakarta. This is a journal entry I made about one of our adventures in an Indonesian food market, or pasar.

Yesterday, we went to a traditional food market after class. My classmate Katie’s project is on food and class—and there was definitely A LOT of that there (and by class, I mean poverty). The entire place reeked of dead fish and fresh meat—there was an entire floor (out of four) only selling dried fish. It was definitely difficult for me to stomach the smell, but I certainly didn’t want to be making a scene in the market, so I acted like a trooper. On other floors, we saw things like dead bats, fried and fresh buffalo skin, battered and fried buffalo hearts, fried eels… the list goes on! One of our Indonesian student friends accompanied my group of four, and she helped us bargain with vendors and showed us probably 20+ fruit species that I have never seen or heard of before. There are a lot of lychee-like fruits here, with hard outer shells and sweet white fruit inside. We also saw oranges that looked like limes, melons that looked like wrinkly cucumbers, apples imported from Washington, and, of course, deliciously fresh pineapple, mango, papaya, and guava. Mango season is ending (or over?), but I still managed to find a woman selling some and I bought a kilo (5 mangoes) for 10,000 Rupiah (~$1.00). They’re green on the outside, but so ripe that they melt in my mouth!

After that, Arista and I headed back to Malioboro (a street crowded with vendors close by) and I successfully bargained for two things: a wallet and pants. I even managed to have a small conversation in Indonesian with someone! I didn’t say anything more than yes or no (ya and tidak) but I was able to understand almost everything he said. When I say I’m American, I almost always get a big smile and and some “Obama!” shouts. Obama’s apparently pretty popular here. Other highlights: I had fresh mango and avocado juice from a stand and Arista and I made it back for the second time in our taksi alone!

Now it’s Wednesday afternoon. After language class, we went to the sultan’s palace on a small tour. The sultan is adored here, and Yogya is one of two “special provinces” of Indonesia that has an alternative political system. Although there have been movements toward establishing a democratically elected leader, many people (most?) like having the sultan. We didn’t get to see much of his palace because some of it was under construction, but our tour guide was very friendly and, after telling us the details of his circumcision, he invited us all over to his house to learn gamelan—he’s a gamelan music teacher. What a nice gesture, to invite 12 people into his house on a Saturday or Sunday night! We think we might take him up on the offer.

This is the first time that we’ve had a free afternoon—we usually have activities or assignments planned, but today’s activity is a nighttime one. My classmate’s project is on backpacking tourism, so we’re going to hit up all the popular backpacking bars and restaurants to try to observe and interview them. Apparently the ubiquitous backing food is banana pancakes—am I the only one who didn’t know that? We’re all looking forward to a break from white rice and cooked vegetables tonight! We might even splurge on some pizza, which apparently often has odd toppings like frozen peas and corn.

Meat Pudding, Calf’s Heart and Anthropology

Students (L to R) Elaine Stamp, Naomi Bravo, Parker Raup and Annaleise Conway watch Professor Gardner slice the calf's heart

On Sunday of the past weekend, students in CSOC 117: The Anthropology of Food and Eating, gathered at my house for dinner. For the past week, we’ve been investigating anthropologist Sidney Mintz’s claim that America has no cuisine. As part of that investigation, we spent some time examining a set of American cookbooks from the first three decades of the 1900s, including Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1918), John Hay and Esther Smith’s Official Cookbook of the Hay System (1934), Sheila Hibben’s The National Cookbook: A Kitchen Americana (1932), and Fruit and Flower Mission Cookbook (1924).

By out estimation, this period in American history was an interesting time on the culinary front. Our nation had some semblance of a national media, and an expanding distribution system ensured that many Americans had access to the same produce and ingredients. Perhaps more importantly, however, the industrialization of our food supply had yet to occur. Without that industry and its advertising budgets to author the meaning(s) of the food we eat, ideas about a national cuisine and its constitution were left to those who cooked it. Those cooks were joined by a host of culinary mavens and pundit/dietitians, many of whom were explicit about their goal of codifying a national cuisine. Perhaps the best known was Eleanor Roosevelt, who reconfigured the White House kitchen to serve as a beacon for America’s emergent national cuisine.

Elaine prepared the floating island as Astrid watches

We thought it would be a good idea to taste this culinary era. Students assembled the menu, and four of them (Elaine Stamp, Nicky Reed, Parker Raup, and Charlotte Myers-Stanhope) cooked under the supervision of Kristin Giordano (my wife). Here’s what we cooked, prepared, and ate, in the order served: banana salad, jellied meat pudding, stuffed peppers, braised calf’s heart, gnocci a la romaine, chop suey, floating island (a dessert of sorts), and sweet potato ice cream.

Meat pudding, top view

Our conclusion? The food was unusual to the contemporary palette, to say the least. Tastes were blander than we expected, and consistencies leaned toward puddings, custards and jellies. We were unable to discern whether some dishes were to be served as deserts, side dishes, or salads. Three species (humans, cats, and backyard chickens) rejected the jellied meat pudding. While our conversations were wide-ranging, we definitely felt that this purported national cuisine functioned more as an ideological assertion — distilling very American notions of efficiency and rejecting any index of taste and pleasure — than as a cuisine, per se.


CSOC Faculty Update: Margi Nowak

An all-too brief but significant portion of my summer involved my coordinating a “heritage family tour” to Poland for three of my Nowak cousins, their husbands, and my older son.  I had been to Poland twice previously, but in very different capacities: once, long ago, as a Jagiellonian University summer-school Polish language student in Kraków; the other time, in 2003, as a faculty advisor for some UPS students who were part of a mainly US and Canadian group of 150 students that studied about and visited three Nazi death camps.

What captivated me in Poland just this past July and August, however, was the music I heard in Kazimierz, the formerly Jewish district located less than a mile from Kraków’s Old Town. Students who have taken my freshman seminar on genocide know why references to Jewish districts in Poland today would likely need to be qualified by the word “former” or “formerly”.  Sadly, very few native Polish Jews or their descendants remain in Poland today out of those millions who had lived there before the Holocaust.

And yet klezmer music was vibrantly alive that evening in Kazimierz, pouring out of clubs, playing on stereos in bookstores, and available for sale on CDs.  A little ethnographic digging revealed more:  the musicians (typically, classically-trained and not Jewish) seemed to be genuinely interested in exploring Judaism and their own collective and familial Polish past in respect to Poland’s Jews, and they also seemed very keen on performing this music live and in front of audiences (including dozens of tourists from all over Europe and beyond).

No, this music is not “authentic” 1930s klezmer, but then the idea that an art form should be “frozen” into an unchangeable clone of what had been in the past is probably neither vital nor sustainable anyway.  Furthermore, the music I heard and liked so much was clearly incorporating other new influences: Balkan and Gypsy-jazz in particular.  I bought a CD, brought it home, copied it onto my iPod, and then started looking for more.

I was blown away by the richness of the music of this sort that I found on YouTube and on various MP3 download sites.  In addition to what I call the “neo-klezmer” genre, Polish “ethno” music today also includes music of the Tatra Mountain highlanders (the people, called Góral, have their own distinctive dress, dialect, and musical style). Here again, however, the traditional music has been updated by young musicians, fused with reggae, techno, and other new styles, and even performed collaboratively, most famously by a generations-old Góral family band together with Twinkle Brothers, a Jamaican reggae group.

Given my career-long interest in ethnic identity (a topic I first researched in connection with Tibetan refugees in India at the very beginning of my anthropological career), this summer’s trip to Poland has sparked an enormous interest on my part regarding Polish ethno-music and more.  Stay tuned for future developments.

CSOC Faculty Update: Jennifer Utrata

Jennifer Utrata

Apart from several scattered weekend trips to Mount Rainier and the central Oregon coast, this past summer was a fairly quiet one. Shortly before summer break began, however, I had the chance to spend a few days in Washington, D.C. participating in the 2011 Regional Policy Symposium on Gender Issues in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Title VIII Program. It was a bit strange being sequestered in the new waterfront “development” called National Harbor in Maryland (10 miles outside of downtown D.C.), but overall it was a refreshing change of pace from most conferences! As one of ten junior scholars, I was paired with a senior scholar working on gender issues in the region, allowing me to get valuable substantive feedback. We collectively pondered various gender issues in Russia and the former Soviet bloc from a policy perspective, attempting to bridge the academia vs. policy divide. On the last day we passed through a mind-boggling number of security checkpoints to participate in a networking event at the U.S. Department of State, where we shared our research with gender and policy experts working on the region.

Mostly I spent the summer revising (May) and revising once more (half of July) an article on Russian single mothers and the grandmothers who shore up families in the region. I have long been bothered by the simplistic assumption that grandmothers in Russia help their adult daughters automatically, with scant attention to age and gender power relations. My article uses ethnographic data to theorize instead the more complex negotiations for support occurring between single mothers and grandmothers. In Russia single mothers typically benefit from “youth privilege” in labor and marriage markets, and grandmothers fear for their own future in old age given the retrenchment of the state since the collapse of communism. These factors shape negotiations for support among women, and these negotiations are critical for understanding how families are managing in the transition to market capitalism in Russia. My article will appear in the October 2011 issue of Gender & Society. Besides this article, I also worked on a co-authored book chapter about fatherhood in Russia that will appear sometime in 2012 in a book about fathers around the world, published by Routledge. Russian fathers tend to be on the margins of family life in Russia, at least compared to mothers and grandmothers, but attitudes towards fatherhood are changing (albeit more slowly than many would like).

I am excited about teaching the latest variations of my Sociology of Gender (212A) and Families in Society (202AB) courses this semester. I love discussing new theories and developments in these fields with students and am pleased to find my students as critically reflective and engaged as ever.

Come to the Annual CSOCial (with free, delicious food!)

The CSOC Club and the CSOC Department are happy to announce the annual CSOCial! This event provides an opportunity for students to meet one another, learn more about the department and its faculty, and hear about the activities the CSOC club has been planning for the coming year.

It’s a great event for both prospective and current majors or minors. Faculty will talk briefly about the courses they offer and their current research activities. Arista Gates will describe some of the upcoming activities planned by the CSOC Club. The rest of the time is devoted to eating, drinking, and mingling. We hope to see you there.

When:  Thursday, September 22, 5:00 to 6:30
Where: McIntyre 103