Conversations

The Awe is Shared: Evolution and Public Science with Andrea Eller

Andrea Eller is a biological anthropologist driven by a question of how do our bodies continue to react to things today? In other words, how does evolution continue to impact us and why is this important? To address this, Andrea Eller looks at how bodies respond and adapt to circumstances of chronic stresses. The stresses that Eller looks at, however, are both physiological and social. Not only does Andrea postulate explanations to account for change over time in relation to more visible circumstances like ecology, tool use, and disease. But, Andrea also considers less visible issues like, class, race, and gender as critical factors that also impact our physiology over time.

Evolution Responds, it does not React

One of the compelling predicaments that Eller discusses with Adam has to do with current data on primates. For example, data from captive primates are excluded from wider studies. In part, the problem is that there is a growing population of captive primates. With more an more primates being born into captivity, there is a concern that adaptation is occurring in many primates. As Eller notes, the pressures to adapt in one environmental setting or another (called selective pressures) will be different. That means looking at the same species of primates requires context. Whether coming from different settings, the wild, scientific laboratories, or zoos, data on primate adaptations will differ.

Similarly, humans use clothing as a tool for adapting to different environments. Down or wool coats would seem out of place at Miami beach just as scuba gear would not be an appropriate choice for reaching base camp at Mount Everest even though each of these clothing options reflects different human adaptations.

Mindfulness Training – Outreach and Engagement

One of the most captivating aspects of Eller’s conversation was her genuine passion for public outreach. For Eller, it is an ongoing struggle to help get the public to see evolution in a different light. Too often she sees a perspective of humans being the masters of the planet, rather than one group of participants within it. However, combating this perspective (among others) requires outreach and engagement. For Eller, this begins with engaging kids. “Kids haven’t had all of the primate educated out of them,” she says. They are more open to experience awe and be captivated out of curiosity when seeing examples not only of our evolutionary past but the present as well.

Learn More about Andrea Eller

Andrea Eller did her doctoral research at the University of Oregon, and she continues her research as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. You can also learn more from Eller’s webpage.

Check out these Titles Cited in this Conversation:

Edible Insects and Human Evolution by Julie Lesnik

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @thisanthrolife.

All of our content can be found on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com. Be sure to leave us a review, let us know if you like the show. We love to hear from you.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them out for more thought-provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. It seems small, but Patreon is helping us grow and cover necessary web costs and maintenance fees. So far we’ve brought over 100 episodes over 50,000 subscribers. Imagine what we will do with a little help. Join now and be among the first 10% of our subscriber base to help TAL’s outreach go even further. Read more about TAL + Patreon here

Music on this episode: Drops of H2O ( The Filtered Water Treatment ) by J.Lang (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/djlang59/37792 Ft: Airtone

Its Only an Evil Cactus if Donkeys Chase You: Ethics and Psychedelics with Hamilton Morris

When TAL first interviewed Hamilton Morris, it was shortly after he and his production team had finished season 1 of Hamilton’s Pharmacopoeia. Now, Morris has completed two seasons of his critically acclaimed show on VICE. This time on TAL, Morris has a more reflective tone.

With Adam Gamwell and Ryan Collins, Morris shares his experiences as a filmmaker in traditional and counter-culture environments. These experiences have given Morris a unique window into psychedelics, underground pharmaceutical research, and the ethics of sharing information. The last point hits home for many anthropologists and social researchers, who also must be wary of the unintended consequences of sharing information. Depending on what is at stake, information can endanger informants and friends. Similarly, journalists and ethnographers are confronted with the challenge of presenting multiple sides of a story while safeguarding underrepresented voices.

On this episode, Hamilton Morris opens with an anecdote on Douglass Sharon and San Pedro and Peruvian cactus shamanism. Sharon, an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and shamanism scholar is a figurehead in Peruvian anthropology. However, Morris notes Sharon’s recent reluctance to talk about shamanism. In part, his reluctance results from ethical considerations for the communities Sharon had worked with during his extensive career. From that anecdote, Morris set the tone for the episode: shamanism, healing and ethics. We were in for a journey.

Authenticity, Ethics and Psychedelic Experience

Morris’ work rests at the  intersection of cultural perceptions of psychedelic experience, healing, and tourism. As Morris notes, an American tourist going to Peru to experience a healing ceremony probably has an idea of what a psychedelic experience is like. They know how it feels, what to expect, and what they want. Yet, when that outsider experiences traditional healing by way of a shaman in a remote setting they might be surprised. Morris notes one example where a tourist he encountered was shocked by their experience in a Peruvian setting. They exclaimed, “That’s not a psychedelic experience.

Authenticity is a term wrapped up in perception, expectation, and experience that anthropologists love to debate. How one experiences the authentic is through the lens of their own worldview. As a result, what is authentic to one group may not be authentic to another. Authenticity is therefore complicated by tourism. Where individuals venture out to experience the authentic, they are often greeted by an experience they did not anticipate.

Seeing Donkeys with the Evil Cactus

Cactuses are such a fun part of this episode. As Adam notes, Morris once said that if he had a religion it would be this [psychedelic San Pedro] cactus. Listeners, my words cannot do justice to the conversation on cacti in this episode. You’ll need to tune in to learn more. Also watch Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia. But, what we can take away from this is that how we treat (or consume) a plant carries an immense amount of cultural baggage. Whether snorting tobacco (no typos there), parsing out the benevolent from the evil cactus, or fervently debating the taste of cilantro, there may not always be agreement on the proper use of a plant. We need to go out and experiment.

Proper Peyote: Who does it right?

Who does a ritual correctly? Who has the right to do a ritual correctly? What are the legal, religious, and political complexities of doing so? These are but some of the questions anyone might experience when having a cross cultural experience. A catch 22 here comes with the questions of who, if anyone will represent a tradition? Filming, as Morris has done, can call authority into question while also bringing up issues on who has the right to participate? Likewise, legal protections, rites, and even growing peyote become contentious. Tune in to learn more.

Learn More About Morris and his Projects

Hamilton Morris is a journalist for Vice, chemist and plant scientist and an anthropologist who seeks to understand hallucinogenic compounds and human consciousness through a scientific and cultural perspective. He has traveled all around the world studying psychoactive drugs by participating in rituals and consuming the drugs his informants are using. He documents his experiences on Vice’s Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia.  Morris’ adventures are reminiscent of anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis’ own studies. Listen in to hear for yourself and don’t forget to check out these links:

Hamilton Morris Twitter

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia

A Psychonaut’s Adventures in Videoland

Hamilton Gets High For A Living and Invites You to Watch

Lazy Lizard School of Hedonism

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @thisanthrolife.

All of our content can be found on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com. Be sure to leave us a review, let us know if you like the show. We love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Alice Kelikian and the Brandeis Program in Film, Television and Interactive Media for sponsoring the interview. This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them out for more thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 50,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

 

Huge thanks to Photographer Ben Gebo, for permission to use his awesome portrait of Hamilton.

Copyright: Ben Gebo: bengebo.com

 

 

Consulting, Big Data and Social Justice w/ Dr. Tricia Wang

Dr. Tricia Wang sees her work consulting as sitting at the crossroads of data and social justice. As a global tech ethnographer, Dr. Wang is obsessed with how technology and humans shape each other. In her own words, she wants to know, “How do the tools we use enable us to do more of what humans do, like socializing, emoting, and collaborating? And how do human perspectives shape the technology we build and how we use it?”

Said differently, Dr. Tricia Wang’s expertise inhabits a gray space between industry and the academy. A space where many social scientists do not find easy comfort. Yet, Dr. Wang’s very candid enthusiasm is enough to draw in even the most ardent skeptics. In her own words, Dr. Wang has “always been between worlds” seeing the best in both. Though academics tend to value known discovery methods, and excel, they are less likely to engineer new prototypes.

Watch Dr. Tricia Wang’s TED Talk

Dr. Wang is a global technology ethnographer. What this means is that she does deep work inside international corporations. But what is her reason for doing so? Dr. Wang believes that “we don’t truly understand how people make decisions” or actionable insights (to use a buzz word). To have an insight is to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. Making an insight “actionable” means finding a purpose for the new knowledge.

One of the biggest insights Dr. Wang has is recognizing that every company is its own beautiful nation. Traditionally, anthropologists had gone off to faraway lands to study remote peoples. To find insight in culture one needed to experience a group that was different. Sometimes this difference has been referred to as otherness. For a while, it wasn’t accepted that anthropologists could study others if they stayed to close to home or even conducted research in their own country.

Dr. Wang is not saying work at home. What she recognizes is that the difference between corporations, their cultures, norms, and history are much more distinct than you might imagine on the surface. This is even true of corporations which might share in the same interests, markets, and products. These differences need to be understood, and not taken for granted, for someone to make a difference. Dr. Wang’s goals are about relationship building especially when major corporations don’t realize how different they are from their competitors. Here is where anthropological methods of coming to understand culture can become important in big ways.

Read: Why Big Data Needs Thick Data

The corporations Dr. Wang researches tend to work with big data. Big data is big business, and that makes it political. How corporations use it, what they preference or discard, and who has access are part of how political lines are drawn. Big data can easily be misused and can be hegemonic, holding power over different groups to the point of racism. This is because people’s data is being used with no context and without their permission.

Dr. Wang’s first big insight was that big data is not being misused, it is being abused. She discovered this during her dissertation research, seeing the problems with big data as being so severe that issues stemmed beyond personal infringements upon privacy. Instead, Dr. Wang recognized something more heinous, that even the notion of personhood was impacted.

With this critical insight, Dr. Wang has sought to first translate and promote awareness of abuses. In her own words, “I see my work inside corporations as an act of social justice. I fight hegemony.”

Discover more of Dr. Tricia Wang’s Insights on triciawang.com

Being an anthropologist at the nexus of industry and academic worlds, one must ask: how do you get there? Luckily, Dr. Wang is full of great advice! When you boil it down, Dr. Wang’s outlook is heavily influenced by her strong growth-oriented mentality. If at first you don’t succeed, keep developing your experience and learn to let go of your fear to try the unknown. Because, in Dr. Wang’s opinion, “You have to be a lateral learner, go to talks, enterprise UX; cross functional events.”

This is what Dr. Wang says to the undergrad seeking an industry job but can’t find one specifically called anthropologist. In some ways, as Dr. Wang suggests, an undergrad seeking an industry job needs to be open to unlearning. It feels like the sagely advice Yoda might offer a young Luke Skywalker. Recognizing that knowledge of an industry comes from experience not expectation. Following in this theme, Dr. Wang offered another piece of advice. “You have to ask what the higher order of my mission, what impact do I want to have on society?”

Think through your impact, and when you have a job ask if the company is a fit with your needs. Not everything valuable is measurable. And more than that, find a mentor. For Dr. Wang, this is how she measures her success, by following people who inspire, who are lateral thinkers and doers.

Learn more about Dr. Tricia Wang and Consulting from Women Talk Design

Dr. Tricia Wang’s work with Fortune 500 companies has been featured in Techcrunch, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Slate, Wired, The Guardian and Fast Company. She has dedicated her life’s work to advancing how organizations use technology to serve people. Additionally, Dr. Wang is a co-founder of the consulting practice Sudden Compass and her content and advisory firm on the Chinese consumer, Magpie Kingdom. She’s the proud companion of her internet famous dog #ellethedog.

 

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @thisanthrolife.

All of our content can be found on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com. Be sure to leave us a review, let us know if you like the show. We love to hear from you.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them out for more thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 50,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

EPIC Innovation w/ Dr. Alexandra Mack

Welcome back listeners! Adam and Ryan have taken some time away as of late to finish and defend their dissertations. Now that Ryan is done, and Adam defends in just one week (so close!), TAL is getting back into gear with new content in the development and production stages. Now, another key detail, several episodes recorded earlier this spring are also on their way. Some of these are guest interviews (including a second interview with Hamilton Morris of HBO’s VICE and Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia) as well as the remainder of our Story Slamming Ethnography episodes (we haven’t forgotten about those). All that is to say, there is an extensive repertoire of content coming your way, including an upcoming collaboration with EPIC. Speaking of…

With this episode of This Anthro Life, we are joined by Dr. Alexandra Mack and collaborative guest host Matt Artz. Together we interview Alex and explore her story. What makes our discussion with Alex so distinct is her breadth of research and applications of anthropological thinking that has resulted in a unique narrative and career trajectory. Alex’s story is a good lesson for anyone who studies anthropology or is broadly interested in the social sciences, and the impact this kind of work can have across industries. One of the inspiring moments we explore in our conversation with Alex took place towards the end of her doctorate while at a AAA conference. A software and digital agency called E-lab had an open house and something clicked with her… We will leave you to explore the episode to find out more. But, what is captivating about Alex’s epiphany moment and career transformation was that she began with Near Eastern museum collections, went to archaeology, and explored pilgrimage before developing her current interests.

Today, Alex leads innovative problem solving and strategy development based on a deep understanding of the surrounding culture and activities. She has brought this combination of customer-centered design, innovation, market research, opportunity identification, and business planning to projects including health care, retail, software, and financial services. Additionally, Alex was a Senior Fellow in Pitney Bowes’s Strategic Technology and Innovation Center. Prior to her work with Pitney Bowes, Alex spent several years consulting in marketing, design, and strategic research. From 2011-2017 she served on the Executive Board of EPIC.

Learn More

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com  and be sure to leave us a review.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 40,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

Consulting Podcasters: Prototyping a Democratic Tool for Multiple Voices, Storytelling and Solution Finding

Photo: Gigi Taylor

Thanks to the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) for having Adam Gamwell and Matt Artz of This Anthro Life present at the annual meeting in Philadelphia. We presented as part of the New Methods, Interventions And Approaches session.

Our paper title was Consulting Podcasters: Prototyping a Democratic Tool for Multiple Voices, Storytelling and Solution Finding. You can read it below. Read More

Marching for Science w/Valorie Aquino

On this episode of This Anthro Life, hosts Ryan Collins and Adam Gamwell are joined by TAL correspondent and guest host Astrid Countee and by a very special guest, Valorie Aquino. They joined us to talk about the 2017 March for Science. Valorie is one of the key organizing 30’s something scientists who helped make the 2017 march a reality. As she conveys in this episode, doing so was no easy task. This required countless late nights, missed social occasions, hours of frustration, and unfortunately, the all to occasional naysayers. Yet, Valorie’s story is one complete perseverance, rooted in a deep passion for science that began at an early age (you can check out her TEDx talk where she explains more of her origin story and passion for science here).

Check out This Anthro Life on our new partner player Radio Public Just by listening on Radio Public, you are supporting TAL because the team behind the player believes in helping small podcasts become sustainable. You listen, they pay us a little bit per episode. The player is free and awesome, and all your favorite podcasts are available on there too! Check it out and let us know what you think! Here’s the Link again.

The March for Science

For those of you who may not know, the March for Science is an “organization [which] empowers a global community of science supporters for nonpartisan advocacy in service of equitable and effective science and science policy.” Like other marches in recent years, the March for Science was first held in 2017 and the main event was in Washington DC. However, several other science marches were held in major cities across the US in a nationwide march of social solidarity. Likewise, the March for Science is becoming an annual phenomenon with the 2018 event just days away from the release of this episode (see details below for information on how you can participate).

A take away from our discussion with Valorie in this episode is the need for scientists to be vocal. Many scientists, academic and industry based, end up in fairly insular positions. This is unsurprising. After all, having a PhD means years of strict dedication to a specific field of study and few are lucky enough to have the guidance to step beyond the scope of their fields and engage with different interested audiences. Furthermore, if you have or are on track to reach a tenured position, then you likely understand the stringent requirements necessary to achieve that goal. When every word counts in a publication, its easy to direct your conversation away from public interest.

#scicom

All too often scientists end up speaking with themselves. Movements like the March for Science show exactly how broad science is. Many disciplines share the scientific method and use in for different forms of testing. Science tends to be envisioned as relating to medicine, biology, technological development, and human evolution. But, it also impacts social policies, food security, energy efficiency, climate change, space exploration and much more. If you’re looking for outspoken scientists be sure to check out #scicom (science communication) as well as any public facing science programs like Star Talk. For good daily science news and discoveries check out a public facing blogs like IFL Science or get more raw material from site’s like Science Daily.

Support the March

If you want to participate in the March for Science, its never too late. The March for Science is happening in several cities across the country. To RSVP in a city near you, just type in March for Science + your city to get more details. If your local to Boston (TAL’s home town) RSVP over this link here. If you’re looking to get involved with the main DC event, looking to donate, or interested in getting involved in some other way then follow this link here.

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com  and be sure to leave us a review.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 40,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

 

Brave Community: Teaching Race in the American Classroom w/ Janine de Novais

Welcome listeners to the second installment of our Diversity and Inclusion crossover series, bringing together This Anthro Life with Brandeis University. For those of you who are new to the show, This Anthro Life (TAL) was launched as a scholar-practitioner program designed to bring anthropological and social science research and thinking to interdisciplinary and public audiences. The original idea behind the podcast is to use our skill sets and toolkits  as anthropologists to translate and socialize data, cultural patterns, and research into accessible open format dialogues and conversations that provided solutions for social impact and actionable insight.

On this episode, TAL hosts Adam Gamwell and Ryan Collins are joined by Dr. Janine de Novais of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to expand on the ideas behind “Brave Community” (discussed in episode 1 of the Diversity + Inclusion in Higher Ed series) and to understand the major hurdles she finds with diversity and inclusion in higher education today. With her dissertation Dr. de Novais explored the ways in which classroom experiences in higher education do and do not contribute to deep learning that influences students understandings of race. Dr. de Novais’ scholarship also focuses on a practice-based question: what kind of learning about race do college students need given our racially diverse and deeply unequal society? Her answer: Brave Community–a pedagogy that relies on academic grounding, the distinctive culture of a classroom, to support students. As we learned in our interview, much of Dr. de Novais’ interests today are influenced from life experiences.

Sharing details on her origin story, Dr. de Novais was born in Cape Verde in 1976 and eventually moved to Brockton, MA when she was 15. This transition prompted her to critically try and understand race in the American context. However, seeing race from a critical vantage point isn’t always easy because it is informed through lived experience. In this way de Novias views race as the being either “the special sauce or the fuel that burns the circus down.” As Dr. de Novais made it clear, race is already in the room, why not talk about it? The difficulty is establishing an environment to approach the subject critically.

When de Novais first came to HGSE, she planned to study how to transform a core curriculum like Columbia’s into its more culturally diverse, 21st-century iteration. In the end, de Novais ended up focusing more broadly and exploring the dynamics and possibilities of learning about race in academic spaces. The latter is the subject of her dissertation, where she looked at whether college classrooms can be optimal spaces for meaningful learning — and teaching — about race. Her study compared two academic courses at a liberal arts college: a seminar on slavery and a lecture on black political thought. She found that drawing from the academic grounding in the classroom, students became more intellectually brave, and displayed greater interpersonal empathy. She calls this process that links classroom dynamics to learning about race, “brave community.” The key to brave community, she says, is “academic grounding.”

Academic Grounding is understood as the blending of academic content and academic culture. “Academic content plays a huge role,” Dr. de Novais says, but how an educator sets up the class culture and models academic behavior is essential for meaningful learning about race to occur. More often than not, she says, students felt willing and eager to respond and reflect due to how their professor set the tone of the class. Academic grounding can be envisioned as a process. Early in the semester, academic grounding for the class based on the style and goals of the instructor. Gradually students generate answers to questions they have about their instructor: are they authentic, respectful, engaging, and connected to what the learning requires. Week after week, academic grounding become sustained by the students and this interaction can build an academically grounded community

To becoming brave within this community requires that students are provided with common and solid ground – a feeling that the classroom can be a holding environment for a different way of being,  share more critical insights, be willing to take risks, and gain confidence in engaging with ideas of race. Of course, fear can be a preventative factor to any classroom community. And there is a lot of fear in the classroom, especially for courses on race studies.

One of Dr. de Novais’ findings was that because of outside social conditioning, students come to the classroom very critical of educators and each other. On the beginning of a class one of Dr. de Novais’ students says “I am in with this sort of critical eye on, who’s going to say something that sounds crazy? And I think a lot of the tension was coming from people not knowing what to say and feeling scared to say the wrong thing. And I think throughout the class we’ve sort of landed on this feeling that there isn’t a wrong thing to say. Because a lot of us said things we wouldn’t have said in other spaces. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of.

This form of insight is critical for educators. Higher education has dual goals of being a space for young adults to cultivate critical knowledge for later positions and career trajectories, while also being a care taking space. Care taking, however, is not made through blanket statements that can do more harm than good. Rather, difficult subjects need to be addressed with critical attention at the interpersonal level. A reminder educators can take from Dr. de Novais, as she said at the at the Sankofa Lecture at Leslie University, is that “racism is structural and big, but human life is at human scale. All the horrible things we do to each other happens at the human scale.” Tune in to the episode to find out much more.

Click here for more on Dr. Janine de Novais

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 40,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

Music this episode: Brittle Rille Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

#MeToo: Stories in the Age of Survivorship by Emma Backe

Welcome to Story Slamming Anthropology. This series features both innovative narrative and audio performance drawing on the deep toolkit and methods of anthropology. The goal with Story Slamming Anthropology is to invoke the public facing spirit of Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, Melville Herskovits and many others to speak to 21st century concerns from a comparative perspective in clear language. The narratives here are based on juxtapositions, seemingly counter- or non- intuitive linking’s of subjects, objects, ideas, emotions, practices, or traditions that will intrigue, educate, and delight. In doing so, the goal of these stories is to bring anthropological storytelling to wider audiences and to demonstrate that anthropology matters today more than ever.

This narrative, #MeToo: Stories in the Age of Survivorship, is written and performed by Emma Louise Backe

The reckoning of #MeToo has ushered in a renewed politics of storytelling, one whose capillary reach and discursive power requires critical analysis and reflexive consideration of how we listen to and seek out stories. As an ethnographer of sexual violence, who conducted fieldwork on a rape crisis hotline during the Pussygate controversy and has served as a Peer Advocate in George Washington University’s Anthropology Department to respond to incidents of sexual misconduct, I wanted to situate and historicize the #MeToo movement, with the recognition that the academy must similarly grapple with the perils of harassment and assault. This recognition of violence, particularly in light of the suffering slot, must be accompanied by the acknowledgement that the anthropological community contains survivors as well as perpetrators, experiences of trauma as well as complicity and predation. By offering an ethnopoetic approach to #MeToo, I propose opportunities to explore the gaps between lived experience and knowledge production, one whose theoretical intercession recognizes that a disposition towards care must also leave room for hesitation and creative reconfigurations of listening.

Emma Louise Backe is a social justice sailor scout working in international development and global health on issues related to gender-based violence and women’s health. She has a Master’s in Medical Anthropology and Certificate in Global Gender Policy from George Washington University. When she’s not advocating on behalf of reproductive justice and consent, she manages The Geek Anthropologist, writes for publications like Lady Science, and tweets from @EmmaLouiseBacke.

 

If you enjoy Story Slamming Anthropology, or are would like to share a narrative of your own, let us know!  You can contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on from the TAL episode archives. The biggest compliment you can give us is to leave us a review, this helps improve our visibility and makes This Anthro Life more accessible.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

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Carving a Niche between Software and Social Science: Anthropology in Industry w/ Natalie Hanson

Design and anthropology have been seen together with increasing frequency over the last few years, but how do design and anthropology fit together in relation to industry? And, how does this pairing create insight? Adam and Matt (a guest host at This Anthro Life) are joined by Dr. Natalie Hanson to explore these questions and more.

Dr. Hanson has been working at the intersection of business strategy, technology, social sciences, and design for nearly 20 years. This gives her a relatively unique perspective on the worlds of anthropology and design. Hanson is also the founder of Anthrodesign, which started as a list serve and now has its own Slack channel (you could join too by following the instructions here).

At TAL we often ask our guests to reflect on their origin stories – what drew them in, what ideas shape their own, and how their development brought them to their current positions. With Hanson, reflecting on her professional and critical development couldn’t have been more insightful to the discussion of anthropology, design, and industry. In reflecting on her origin story, Hanson addresses a concern that so many friends and family have when one declares that they are going to study the social sciences and culture: why? Her parents, like so many others, met her choice to study religion and biblical literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with skepticism and perhaps some despair. Hanson saw something in the social sciences though, that they can help you critically understand the way cultural systems drive relationships. This early exploration on Hanson’s part would become a foundation leading her to explore design and systems theory from a macro perspective in Antioch University at Seattle.

But, the macro perspective only covers one side of the story and often doesn’t leave room for thinking on the role of human agency. This intersection between large scale social phenomena and individual action is where anthropology tends to reside. It was working with academic computing at Mills College in Oakland, California where Hanson had her first introduction to anthropology. This prompted her to think on culture and social complexity. But, it was in visual anthropology where she recognized that cultures tend to tell stories in particularly charged ways. Art, being a very charged means of showing narrative and expression, is the product of culture. It’s easy to recognize this fact when walking through a museum and seeing art overtly grouped not only by culture but by time periods. Like art, all cultural products can be thought of as complex forms of insider communication. For Hanson, it was then obvious that software too is a product of the culture which developed it.

Typically, anthropologists tend to view culture on large scales within relatively bounded frameworks as a starting point. From there, the boundaries can blur as smaller scales come into focus. Work spaces, as such, form cultures through the interactions between colleagues and the actions taken to create and maintain bonds. How workspace cultures operate will undoubtedly shape the final product a group seeks to create. Today, anthropologists working in diverse industries apply this thinking to distinct groups within corporations as well as to consumers and the various walks of life they may be coming from.

Reflecting on the insights above, Hanson eventually received a PhD at Temple University for anthropology with a focus on visual communication. Her focus in going to Temple was to maintain a commitment to creativity and expression which she brought to SAP when she started a UX (user experience) team. This experience also helped Hanson understand the use value of learning to speak at different levels within a corporation, to find common ground on ideas and turn them into actions. Believe it or not, anthropology can be of help here.

A philosophy that Hanson was clear to articulate from an industry perspective is, ‘If you’re going to build good software you need to get out of the office and talk with people, walk the shop floor, talk with friends, and family.’ After all, to do ethnography is to ‘hang out’ and get to know people. It may come as a surprise, but for different industries to take on ethnographic thinking is a relatively recent trend.

For anthropologists, the general idea of learning about people’s’ wants and desires through ethnographic methods (i.e. hanging out) is nothing new. But acting on these insights – to help make and tailor a product, optimize a business team, or shape the user experience of software – is. The trade off though, as Matt points out, is that ethnography takes time. Getting the most ideal rich forms of data can come at the cost of valuable production constraints. Likewise, without much time to invest, the ethnographic information collected will run the risk of being thin and less impactful. For an anthropologist, this means their data will be limited in true depth or understanding of a social group, which can lead to lackluster insights. For a designer, the consequence of creating a time saving product could be widely missing the mark on its use value. In this way, there is a sense of a goldilocks zone of thick description and timely production being hinted at in the conversation that can be difficult to find.

With ethnographic research there is always a question of access that can be thought of in some ways as community trust and rapport with the researcher. To build trust, one needs to start small with the basics. This is certainly not the most exciting enterprise. While Hanson recognizes that webpage design and satisfaction surveys are not ethnographies in full, this work lays the foundation for trust in time. Insight comes from long term studies, recognizing trends, patterns, and experiences. This helps translate into shorter term studies with people where the distance between being an insider and an outsider (or an innie and outie) is minimized.

The final insights from the conversation with Hanson have to do with language and the needs of stakeholders. In other words, how to translate information from one group to the next. For Hanson, moving to midwest from the east coast presented yet another lesson in the value of learning to speak with others. Yet, in her professional work, the issue of translation comes in building dialogues between teams of engineers, product managers, UX’ers, designers, and those working through quality assurance. The complexity entailed by mediating language between distinct specialist groups is compounded by the fact that there is no handbook for doing so. Likewise, some words don’t always translate well between groups. Software means one thing for a developer and another for a consultant. This reflects well on jargon terms for anthropologists like ritual, which could mean brushing your teeth, observing a religion at a certain time and place, a complex web of actions, or, as it is so often used by archaeologists, a colorful way of saying, “I have no clue what this is.”

Speaking to the complex dynamics of translation, Hanson reflected on the relatively slow way in in user experience is impacting healthcare. When UX is directly impacting not only health but all the entangled issues surrounding health policies and practices, progress can be very slow. App developers might want to create a blanket product, a one size fits all solution. Yet, the trouble in creating any app in a vacuum, especially a health related one, is that behavioral and cultural distinctions need to be kept in mind. Such issues can easily be compounded by diseases like diabetes, where individual behavior, cultural ways of using apps as well as receiving healthcare, and genetics have important roles in a perspectives app’s success and applicability. It is incredibly complex to navigate these environments and doing so requires a human element.

This reflects on the value of anthropology in recognizing human issues in broad arenas. A researcher may not always have the perfect conditions, questions, or responses. Data is often imperfect as is the research. As Adam points out, recognizing this helps ground the reality of anthropological work in general.

To find out more on the benefits of bringing anthropology and design together to solve the toughest problems in business, check these links out here and here. You can find more information on some of the discussions in this episode here as well:

 

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

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You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on from the TAL episode archives

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. Patreon helps us keep going. We’ve brought you over 95 episodes so far and over 35,000 of you have joined up. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.