This fall, we are excited to inaugurate the Brandeis Anthropology Research Seminar (BARS). This year-long seminar will meet most Friday afternoons at 3 pm, and will include our anthropology colloquia presented by invited guests as well as presentations by Brandeis anthropology faculty and graduate students. Moises Lino e Silva, curator of the Anthropology Research Seminar for the coming year, describes the seminar as “a venue for rigorous and creative intellectual engagement with current anthropological research.” Often we will close the Friday afternoon seminar with an opportunity for socializing with the invited speaker and each other, sometimes off campus at a nearby pub or other gathering place.
Professor Janet McIntosh will give the first talk at 3:00 p.m. on September 12th, 2014.
Professor McIntosh, Associate Professor of Anthropology, is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology, language ideology, narrative and discourse, personhood, essentialism, religion, ritual, Islam, ethnic identity, colonialism and postcoloniality, and East Africa. After earning a BA at Harvard University (summa cum laude) and a second BA at Oxford University (first class honors), she undertook graduate training at the University of Michigan, earning her Ph.D in 2002 and winning a Distinguished Dissertation Award. Dr. McIntosh has published in such journals as American Ethnologist, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Africa, Journal of Religion in Africa, and Language and Communication. Her book “The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood, and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast” (Duke University Press, 2009) won the 2010 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is currently in the late stages of a project on the narrated dilemmas of former colonial settlers and their descendants in Kenya.
August 25th, 2014
Anthropology professor Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria just recently published an article, How We Define the Street in the Indian Express, one of India’s major national newspapers. In the article Anjaria discusses the new street vendors’ law in India. See the full article here.
March 12th, 2014
Recent Anthropology Ph.D. graduate, Ieva Jusionyte, recently published her article, For Social Emergencies “We Are 9-1-1”: How Journalists Perform the State in an Argentine Border Town, in the journal Anthropological Quarterly. For access to the article please see Project MUSE
March 3rd, 2014
Andrew Scherer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Brown University, will speak on November 13th from 2:00-3:30 in Brown, 316. Scherer is an anthropological archaeologist and biological anthropologist with a geographic focus in Mesoamerica (Maya). This illustrated lecture will explore Classic Maya understandings of the self and soul from the lens of bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology. Informed by anthropological work on Maya epigraphy, iconography and ethnography Scherer will illustrate how the self and soul are essential for understanding the lived and dead body, but also many other dimensions of ancient society including cosmology, ritual practice, and the organization of Classic Maya kingdoms.
This Event is Free and Open to the Public. For more information, please contact: Laurel Carpenter firstname.lastname@example.org
November 1st, 2013
Friday, November 8th, 11:00-12:20pm, Mandel G03
Jessica Meissner ’05 majored in Anthropology at Brandeis and will be returning to give an open lecture to Prof. Elizabeth Ferry’s class “Consumption, Production, Exchange.” Jessica has a degree in economic anthropology, and she is currently on a fellowship at University of Michigan, studying global corporate structure and practice. She will be speaking about her recent work in Washtenaw County, MI to study the needs of non-venture capital funded entrepreneurs. In particular, Jessica is interested in creating meaningful employment for communities through worker-owned and multi-stakeholder cooperatives as a way to finance startups that would employ under/unemployed workers and transform traditionally low-wage work into viable long-term careers.
October 25th, 2013
The journal Signs and Society connects Brandeis and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies of South Korea.
By Leah Burrows
Oct. 8, 2013
Richard Parmentier, professor of anthropology and director of the graduate program in global studies, has been waiting 30 years for someone to publish a research-oriented journal focused on an interdisciplinary approach to semiosis — the study of meaningful signs in their social and historical contexts. He just never expected to be the one to do it.
But when two young scholars, an anthropologist and a linguist, from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea emailed Parmentier in April 2012 with an idea for a journal (whose a name reflects his seminal 1994 book, “Sign in Society: Studies in Semiotic Anthropology”), he couldn’t think of any reason to refuse.
“I’ve basically been doing this informally for three decades,” Parmentier says. “So I would’ve been crazy to say no.”
The first issue of Signs and Society was published last April and the second issue will go online. It is funded by Hankuk University and published by the journals division of the University of Chicago Press. To assist him in this project, Parmentier recruited Brandeis English professor John Plotz and anthropologist Javier Urcid to join the Board of Editors.
The journal takes an interdisciplinary approach to semiosis, the study of sign production, communication and interpretation. The inaugural issue features papers from anthropologists, archaeologists, a linguist, and a professor of philosophy. Unlike other semiotics journals, Signs and Society focuses on empirical research rather than strictly philosophical or methodological issues, Parmentier says.
“In this journal, semiotics is the common language for researchers across different fields to have a conversation,” Parmentier says. “I want to promote conversations between archaeologists studying past worlds and researchers studying contemporary cultures, and between scholars studying face-to-face interaction and those exploring digital communication.”
The journal is also connecting scholars of different nations. In addition to featuring research from managing editors Kyung-Nan Koh and Hyug Ahn, the first three issues showcase scholars from Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.
For Parmentier, the journal is a culmination of sorts. He began his academic career at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD. Later, at the Center for Psychosocial Studies, he and Professor Greg Urban, now at the University of Pennsylvania, launched a small pre-print journal dedicated to semiotics. Thirty years later, several of his former teachers and classmates from the University of Chicago have already submitted papers to Signs and Society.
This journal also capitalizes on new technology. It is free and available online, making it accessible to anyone interested in the field.
“Journals today can be both accessible and prestigious,” Parmentier says.
Parmentier hopes to connect established scholars like him with young up-and-comers from around the world.
“There are so many young scholars out there doing interesting work, I want them to submit,” Parmentier says. “I want to see the world vicariously through their eyes.”
October 10th, 2013
September 26th, 2013
The Mandel Humanities Center’s Contemporaneity Working Group wishes to extend an open invitation to join us this semester. We meet for an hour and a half three times a semester, usually in the Mandel Humanities Center, to to eat snacks, share common readings, discuss works in progress, and/or respond to presentations.
We’re an informal interdisciplinary group in conception–in the past we’ve had participants and presentations from the departments of English, History, Anthropology, and Latin American studies–and we try to cover a wide range of topics and readings. Generally the aim of a meeting is to introduce an emerging idea or topic (usually by reading a couple of articles) and spend the bulk of our time discussing its relation or application across a number of disciplines. Past discussion topics have included cultural expressions of neoliberalism, postmodernity and the New Sincerity, the culture of debt, urbanism, continental philosophy and love, and the transnational novel. Our schedule for this semester is as follows:
September: “Television, Time, and Genre” Matthew Schratz (English)
October: “Canon Formation in the Academy” Matthew Linton (History)
November: “Anthropocene, New Materialism” Michaela Henry (English)
Whether you’re an MA student in your first semester of graduate studies, a PhD candidate in the midst of dissertation writing, or a faculty member looking for interdisciplinary perspectives on a new research project, we’d love for you to join us. Regular attendance and vigorous participation, while appreciated, are certainly not required for this to be a productive and stimulating experience.
If you’re interested in joining us or in proposing a topic of discussion, please contact us at kcavende at brandeis dot edu or mschratz at brandeis dot edu. We look forward to meeting many of you in the coming months.
September 13th, 2013
Wednesday, March 6th, 2 pm in Schwartz 106
Anthropology Colloquium Series: Susan Gillespie
“The Entanglement of Jade and the Rise of Mesoamerica”
The rise of complex societies across Mesoamerica in the Middle Formative period (c. 900 -500 BC) coincided with the establishment of fundamental organizing principles for socio-cosmic order that were widely shared and set a trajectory for future developments. This “Formative Revolution” was materially enabled by public architecture, monumental sculptures, and new media of wealth, particularly jade. Jade, understood here as “social jade” to include various minerals (principally jadeite and serpentine), was valued for its utilitarian affordances of hardness and durability, but human-jade interactions revealed other “enchanting” qualities that were caught up in human-jade interdependencies, contributing to ideas of social difference and hierarchy.
How jade became a “shaper of civilizations” has not previously been investigated holistically. Scholarly attention has focused instead on certain shared “symbolic” meanings of jade as these were expressed in pan-Mesoamerican cosmology. A genealogy of jade is required to understand how jade reached a pinnacle of value in Mesoamerican thought and practice that was never superseded, not even by gold. Theories drawn from studies of “materiality”–in particular, the notion of entanglement–provide a comprehensive framework to examine how jade and humans were drawn into interdependent relationships.
This presentation sketches different aspects of the entanglement as they may have developed in the Early and Middle Formative Periods, emphasizing the physical qualities of jade and jade-working, their salient effects in human-jade interdependence, and the innovated temporalities and subjectivities that resulted.
Susan Gillespie is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. Her research interests include archaeology, ethnohistory, iconography, and epigraphy of Mesoamerica (focusing on Aztecs, Mayas, and Olmecs); kinship, kingship, and socio-political organization; cosmology and political ideologies; symbolic, structural, and semiotic anthropology; archaeological and social theory; the anthropology of history; the anthropology of art and technology. Gillespie’s book, The Aztec Kings: The Construction of Rulership in Mexica History (1989), won the 1990 Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize awarded by the American Society for Ethnohistory.
March 4th, 2013
A Brown Bag Seminar with Dr. Aria Nakissa
Monday, February 25, 2013
12:15-1:45pm, Lurias, Hassenfeld Conference Center
In this talk, Dr. Aria Nakissa will examine the political nature of attempts to define “freedom of religion” in the context of current developments in Egypt. It will argue that while on the one hand Islamist conceptions of freedom of religion have specifically been designed to ensure that non-Islamic forms of religiosity are suppressed, on the other, secular liberal conceptions have a similar purpose, operating to outlaw conventional forms of Islam. As such, this talk will illustrate how, contrary to appearances, discourses on the need to protect “freedom of religion” often function as a strategic means to restrict unwelcome forms of religiosity.
Aria Nakissa is a Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 2012. He also holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.A. in Shari’a Law from the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork among religious scholars at Cairo’s al-Azhar University, Nakissa’s research examines how Islamic legal discourses have been transformed by changes in modern educational practice.
February 15th, 2013