SOAN Brownbag Today!

atwillHi all,

Historian David Atwill, from Pennsylvania State University, is lecturing tonight about his research, but the SOAN Student Club has arranged an informal brownbag conversation earlier today. He’ll be generally speaking about ethnography, the discipline of history, and research more broadly. It promises to be an illuminating conversation.

Where: Northwest Lounge, Commencement Hall
When: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1:00 – 2:00 PM

We hope to see you there!

Andrew

SSI Classes Take Trip to Swan Creek Food Forest

Eli samples an ant

Eli samples an ant

A few weeks ago, Professor Denise Glover’s two seminar classes (SSI 117 People, Plants, and Animals) took a field trip to the Swan Creek Food Forest (SCFF) here in Tacoma. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about local urban foraging and the connections between land and people in the area. Our guide was Puget Sound alumna Renee Meschi (’15), who now works for the Pierce Conservation District in Tacoma, and is Program Specialist for SCFF activities. She explained to us the layers of social history on the land (which included the land as traditional Puyallup foraging grounds) that was designated as the Swan Creek Food Forest in 2012.

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Erin taking an extracted blackberry plant to the dumping zone

Erin taking an extracted blackberry plant to the dumping zone

In our class, we had just finished up a unit on traditional foraging and were transitioning into a section about contemporary issues involving people, plants, and animals (such as industrial farming, non-human animal legal rights, urban edible landscapes, the centrality of pets in the lives of urban Americans, and related topics), so the field trip was well timed—and offered students the opportunity to see the ideas we had been discussing in action. As one student wrote: “While reading the articles for class, I didn’t fully grasp how examples of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in indigenous communities were relevant to me. Seeing the food forest helped me tie all the readings together, as I drew from the ideas of Agrawal and Turner to put TEK in the perspective of my position—a suburban, western educated white boy.”

In addition to an introduction to the SCFF, we toured the grounds and Renee pointed out important areas of foraging and the natural kinds foraged there, such as bracken fern (Pteridium), hawthorn (Crataegus), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and ground ants (some of the students even sampled ants during our walk through the food forest—see photo). Lastly, students lent their human labor to the task of removing invasive blackberries.

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Blake, Sarah, and Andy (behind Sarah) dig up blackberries while Chloe looks on.  

Talk Tomorrow: Professor David Atwill

Hi all,

Historian David Atwill will be talking tomorrow evening about his research. His lecture, entitled Lhasa 1960: Tibetan Muslims and the Emergence of Modern Tibet, explores the fascinating historical experiences of the often-elided Tibetan muslim minority that has long resided there. Please join us!

Where: Puget Sound, Wyatt 109
When: Wednesday, November 18, 5:00 PM

ATWILL - UPS Lhasa 1960

Food Charity, Food Justice, and Food Sovereignty: A Public Talk by Tacoma’s Dean Jackson

Hi all,

Dean Jackson from Tacoma will be talking on campus tomorrow about their wonderful efforts here in Tacoma. The basic details:

Trimble Forum
Thursday, November 12, 2015
11:00 AM to 12:20 PM

Dean Jackson and community members at work in the gardens

Dean Jackson and community members at work in the gardens

Dean Jackson is a black, genderqueer farmer living in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, WA.  They are founder and director of Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG) – a social justice organization working to develop systems of food sovereignty and create racial and economic justice.  Dean has a long organizing history that ranges from early childhood education, to creating space and voice for queer people of color, to working to build a neighborhood food system.  Qualities Dean strives for: heart led leadership, honesty, compassion, and love. This talk will highlight the work of HUG while examining the concepts of food charity, food justice, and food sovereignty.

Student Presentations at Reed College

Hi all,

Carolynn Hammen (Puget Sound, SOAN) describing aspects of her fieldwork experience in Cairo

Carolynn Hammen (Puget Sound, SOAN) describing aspects of her fieldwork experience in Cairo

Four Puget Sound students, including two SOAN majors, just returned from participation and presentations at a mini-conference concerning research in and about the Middle East. The mini-conference itself was entitled Integrating Middle East and Arabic Studies Across the NW5C. This group of faculty, whose collaborative efforts have been supported by the Northwest five college consortium (including Puget Sound, Reed, Lewis and Clark, Whitman, and Willamette), are seeking to collectively reinforce our universities’ capacities to foster students’ interest and experience with the study of Middle Eastern societies, cultures, and histories.

In addition to attending two lectures (including Tarik Elseewi’s “New Media, New Subjectivities in the Arab World,” and Sohail Hash’s “Islam, Constitutionalism, and the Challenge of Democracy”), Puget Sound students participated in two student-focused roundtable sessions with faculty and students from the other Northwest Five colleges. Those sessions included On the Ground: Research Experiences in and about the Middle East, and Next Projects: Workshop on Ongoing Projects in or about the Middle East. The four Puget Sound students (Carolynn Hammen, David Balgley, Kathryn Stutz, and Peter Atwill) were active contributors and participants in both of these conversations.

Andrew

Elena Becker update from Madagascar

Hi all,

Weeks ago, I asked SOAN junior Elena Becker for an update from her semester studying abroad in Madagascar. In spite of electricity outages and itinerant access to the internet, she punctually replied, and I’m only now getting it posted here. As this post goes up, Elena is headed off again into the countryside for her independent study project (part of the SIT study abroad program). Her project sill explore the impacts of wood and charcoal burning cookstoves in a particular rural village. Perhaps we’ll get to hear about that project later, but for now, here is her slightly outdated update!

IMG_7970

Elena (left) and some of the other students studying abroad in Madagascar for the semester

 Madagascar is mostly wonderful. Like any experience – especially any experience abroad – there are a lot of ups and downs, but so far I’ve been recovering well from the down moments. In these first six weeks (it’s already six weeks? Yikes!) mostly what I’ve learned is how much I don’t know. Maybe the most prominent thing I neglected to note before I waltzed onto the plane in August is Madagascar’s positionality in the world. I’m living in a country that is consistently included among the twenty poorest in the world and that often even makes it into the “top” ten. Everything here seems to stem from that. People beg on pretty much every corner and street in Tana (local slang for Antananarivo, the capital city), often in tattered clothes and without shoes; the water isn’t safe to drink; the whole country is extremely dependent on foreign aid and therefore vulnerable to colonial-esque relationships with developed countries; infrastructure is failing; and often the democracies and elections here are façades for the oligarchy that’s really at the wheel.

However, my lived experience is pretty insulated from that. For obvious reasons, the program houses us with middle to upper middle class families and, in my case, my host family in Tana lives in a three bedroom, one bath house and owns a (used) car. They have running water and electricity (except for during the frequent power outages) which already sets them apart from a majority of Malagasy. When we spent a few weeks in the port city of Mahajanga (“Ma-ha-zan-guh”) my host family there also had a car, running water, and electricity. Plus they had wifi, which is an amazing amenity here.

Malagasy hobbit house?

Malagasy hobbit house?

Despite those material differences, I’m still getting a pretty full experience of Malagasy culture. We’re taking Malagasy language classes five days a week, and I’ve evolved from such scintillating conversation starters as “it is very hot” and “this is a banana” to crowd-pleasers like “can I eat one of your French fries?” and “we will speak Malagasy in Betafo!”. I won’t be winning any literature prizes, but I’m getting somewhere. Actually, learning Malagasy has been a super interesting experience because our Malagasy classes are conducted in French, not English. Having only been taught foreign languages in English, it’s weird for my “fallback” language not to be English. When I run into a word that I don’t know in Malagasy I say it in French instead, which is new for me. Usually when I can’t say something in a foreign language I have to express my thoughts in English for translation help. This new approach is making me so proud of my French!

Certainly one of the most regular cultural experiences I’m having here is meals. Rice (“vary” in Malagasy, “riz” in French) is a staple food, and therefore eaten at pretty much every meal. I’ve been having “vary sosoa” or “vary mena” three times a day. In the middle class, this is usually supplemented with some kind of veggie (reliably a stewed green) and a little meat. Meals can also include soup or broth. The colonial influence being what it is, there are also baguettes, croissants and madeleines for sale in pretty much every neighborhood. Higher class or more Westernized families will eat a baguette and jam at breakfast, and most hotels offer that too.

Elena (left) trying her hand at petanque, a popular game in Madagascar

Elena (left) trying her hand at petanque, a popular game in Madagascar

American food is starting to filter into the culture – there’s a popular pizza chain called “GastroPizza” in many major cities, and a lot of restaurants offer spaghetti and other pasta dishes. Despite that, there are no American franchises here, none of the McDonalds or Starbucks that I thought were so globally ubiquitous. Probably the most obvious sign of globalization is the fact that in the last 5-10 years cell phones have proliferated, and now just about any Malagasy person of moderate social status has one (even if they can’t afford the minutes).

Apart from those quotidian experiences, we’re getting to travel to some pretty amazing places in the country. The program is based in Tana, but we do regular excursions. We just returned from our first long one, about two weeks spent in the north of the country. We passed through Ankarafantsika National Park (lemurs galore) and then did about a week and a half of homestay in Mahajanga. After Mahajanga we went further North to Nosy Be, an island just off of mainland Madagascar. There we saw a really cool homegrown cultural tourism operation designed to empower women whose husbands have abandoned them, and then spent a couple days at a strip of beachfront hotels to observe some mass tourism (and sex tourism, which is obvious on the coasts; lots of old “vasaha” (white) men with young Malagasy women).

Of course, the excursion also provided an opportunity for us to relax a little. If you’re wondering if I was buried in the sand and then sculpted into a flounder (“tondro” in Malagasy), you would be correct. Perhaps you’re also wondering if I spent a morning helping dig sea urchin spines out of a classmate’s foot, and translating her medical questions into French? Right again! Our next excursion is in about a week, when we’ll leave for Andsirabe and Betafo in the south. We’ll be doing a one week stay in a rural village in Betafo, which is when I’ll really have to break out the Malagasy – we’ve been reliably informed that not too many people speak French there, which means you can also forget about English.

Elena

What an amazing and immersive experience (so far), Elena! Good luck with the remainder of the semester, and we home that your research project goes as planned. 

Andrew

SOAN Spring Info Mixer

Hi all,

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the SOAN Club are hosting the pre-registration Spring Info Mixer tonight, from 4:00 – 5:30 pm in the Rotunda. This is a great opportunity to explore SOAN as a possible major or minor, to hear about some of the research opportunities in the department, and to hear a bit about the courses that will be offered in the Spring semester. It will also be an opportunity to meet some of the other students in the department and to chat with some of the SOAN professors. There will even be some food provided. We hope to see you there!

SOAN Dept Mixer[1]