Author Archive for carieaots

Episode 19 The Culture of Teeth with Dr. Julia Boughner

Dr. Julia Boughner (photo by and included with permission from Dr. Boughner)

What do cultural practices have to do with how our teeth and jaws develop? Biological Anthropologist Dr. Julia Boughner works with dentists and oral surgeons to answer the question: why do modern humans in industrialized nations face dental problems that don’t affect primates, modern hunter-gatherers, and previous generations of humans? The key may be in what we eat and how we prepare it.

Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, our jaws have become smaller and weaker as our preferred foods became softer as humans (and our hominid ancestors) used hands, fire, and tools to do the work jaws used to do. Dr. Boughner explores evolution (and its misperceptions), science journalism, and how anthropology can be integral in developing safer and more effective dentistry.
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Episode 18 Language, Time, and the Anthropology of Arrival with Dr. David Sutton

Dr. David Sutton has written about the anthropology of movies before, but the film Arrival, he says, is something special. Arrival debuted in 2016, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who was tasked with making first contact with an alien species. Like an anthropologist in a foreign culture, she has to orient herself to an entirely different way of being and communicating. The film is science fiction, but draws in sociolinguistic theory and cultural concepts of time, all while it illustrates the emotional rushes and pitfalls of trying to understand someone who doesn’t share your perceptions of how the world works

Most successful movies and television shows are popular because they connect with some cultural elements in their audiences, which makes them rich material for anthropologists striving to understand how communities think about everything from family to gift-giving to social class. But Arrival goes further, not only representing cultural elements but also showing what many cultural and linguistic anthropologists actually do.

In this episode, Dr. Sutton breaks down why fictional films and television shows can be important in revealing implicit cultural models, and discusses what Arrival tells us about language, time, and anthropology.

*WARNING: Spoilers abound in this episode, so listeners beware!*

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Episode 17 The Folklore of International Adoption with Dr. Patricia Sawin

Anthropologist, folklorist, and professor of American Studies, Dr. Patricia Sawin pays close attention to the stories we tell. Focusing on international adoption, Dr. Sawin examines how these stories weave together new families while sometimes over-simplifying difficult issues of race, privilege, and the power and limits of love.

Adoption is a culturally and historically complicated process that we like to envision as purely altruistic, yet usually involves moving children from less- to more-advantaged communities. Dr. Sawin discusses how international adoptive parents, who are usually white and financially secure, navigate the complicated emotional and social terrain of integrating children into their families who have been given by less powerful communities of color. Language plays a critical role in refashioning ideas about family, downplaying guilt about possible exploitation and others’ losses, strengthening bonds in the new families, and increasing comfort in a sense of larger purpose and design.

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Episode 16 Free Food in the Corporate World with Jesse Dart

Anthropology Candidate Jesse Dart (Photo Courtesy of Mr. Dart)

Anthropology Candidate Jesse Dart works at the intersection of business anthropology and the anthropology of food. Mr. Dart researches how and why tech companies offer their employees free food. Looking at the same company’s practices in several different countries, he draws out how patterns of eating reflect regional cultural beliefs about labor, land, and tradition, and how corporate practices both reflect and reinscribe these ideas as well.

Just in time for American Thanksgiving, we discuss how food is tied to ritual, emotion, identity, and history. From local wisdom about specific foods like truffles to the deeply embedded symbols and practices of national holidays like American Thanksgiving dinner, food plays a unique role in our lives that extends well beyond simple nutrition. And just like the Thanksgiving parade and Black Friday shopping reinforce the central role business and capitalism have on our lives, so too do our workplaces shift our practices and views.

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Episode 15 Steampunk Archaeology & the Anthropology of Science Fiction with Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger by photographer Vanessa Applegate (Photo courtesy of www.gailcarriger.com)

Gail Carriger is a remarkable example of an anthropologist whose training informed a creative career shift. A former archaeologist (who still occasionally gets called to the field), Carriger’s expertise in ceramic analysis and technological transitions means that she can determine how a piece of pottery was designed and produced, simply by looking at a small fragment of it. From that tiny piece of material culture, she can read how populations were coming together and sharing technological styles, and how knowledge moved across the ancient landscape.

On the cusp of completing her dissertation in archaeology, Carriger’s life took an interesting turn as she was awarded a book contract for her steampunk fantasy novel, Soulless. Now she is a much awarded, best-selling author whose books mix “comedies of manners” with paranormal romance. But this shift into literature is still greatly informed by her training in, and critiques of, anthropology and archaeology. The world of steampunk Victorian England allows her to explore the role material culture plays in everyday life, as well as how and why technologies arise or fade thanks to their unintended consequences. Her careful research into elements of the past, such as the cuisine of each particular time and place, brings to life the material experience of worlds that live in the historical and fantastical past. In addition, Carriger’s multiple series explore the remarkable diversity of past cultures, which, ironically, are often depicted in nonfiction as far more homogenous than they actually were.

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Episode 14 Political Divisiveness & the Encouragement of Violence with Dr. Jennie Burnet

Dr. Jennie Burnet (Photo courtesy of World Affairs Council of Atlanta, 2016)

When multicultural societies begin dividing into factions based on ethnic identities, assigning blame to the “other” and emphasizing the differences among us rather than the similarities, the stage is set for political violence… or worse.

Dr. Jennie Burnet researches the causes and consequences of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, two ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, lived side-by-side as neighbors and friends, until policies implemented under European colonization redefined the ethnic identities and shifted the power dynamics between them. After independence, the legacy of those changes created bitter divides that widened under political leadership.

Dr. Burnet is a Professor of Global Studies and Anthropology at Georgia State University, and the Associate Director of the Global Studies Institute. In her research she examines the causes of the genocide, how people pieced the country together afterwards, and what lessons can be learned about the role political leadership plays in preventing, or triggering, violence.
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Episode 13 The Shifting Tides and Interpersonal Politics of Archaeology with Dr. Katie Kirakosian

Dr. Katie Kirakosian (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kirakosian)

While most archaeologists dig in the dirt, archaeologist Dr. Katie Kirakosian digs in the library. Dr. Kirakosian studies the history of archaeology in New England, examining American Indian seashell constructions through the eyes of generation after generation of local archaeologists.

By looking at the lives and shifting politics of archaeologists over time, Dr. Kirakosian opens up questions as to the theories and conclusions archaeology produces about the lives of ancient (and not-so-ancient) people’s lives. Critically examining the field of archaeology itself means examining how knowledge itself is created, whose knowledge counts, and why the legacy of colonialism is still critical to pay attention to today.
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Episode 12 Friendship Beyond Dementia – the Anthropology of Aging with Dr. Janelle Taylor

Dr. Janelle Taylor (Photo courtesy of Dr. Taylor)

Dementia changes not only memory but identity and social roles, as well. As the fabric of who we are changes shape, our culturally-inscribed ideas about aging, personhood, and health can influence whether we experience aging as crisis or whether we develop new aspects of ourselves.

Medical Anthropologist Dr. Janelle Taylor, a professor of anthropology at University of Washington, explores aging as a cultural phenomenon, made easier or harder depending on our expectations of friends and families and our beliefs about what makes us a person. In particular, Dr. Taylor researches how successful friendships adapt in the face of dementia and why those relationships are crucial to patients and their family caregivers.
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Episode 11 Prison Labor, Fighting Wildfires, & Crafting New Identities with Lindsey Raisa Feldman

Anthropology Doctoral Candidate Lindsey Raisa Feldman (Photo courtesy of Ms. Feldman)

The United States has faced an astonishing number of wildfires in the fall of 2017, but who is on the front line combating them? It turns out there are a number of state, community, and federal agencies battling the flames, but one group we don’t often hear about is men and women serving time in prison, released temporarily to fight fires on the frontlines.

Lindsey Feldman is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and she has spent the last few years photographing, interviewing, and fighting fires alongside members of the prison wildland firefighters in Arizona. While Feldman, and many others, maintain that the use of prisoners for underpaid and dangerous labor presents deep ethical problems, Feldman’s on-the-ground ethnographic research provides a different, coexisting perspective. For prisoners able to join the firefighting teams, the experience can be extremely meaningful, allowing them to forge new relationships, new identities, and new promises for life after prison.
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Episode 10 Racism, Educational Anthropology, & Everyday Terror with Dr. Jeanine Staples

Dr. Jeanine Staples (photo courtesy of Dr. Staples)

The effects of racism are tangible and physical. They are carried in the bodies of their victims. But how does racism work? Why can it be hard to see? How do we combat racist messages that are woven into the very fabric of our social institutions?

Dr. Jeanine Staples works at the intersection of race, gender, identity, and education. By examining the subtle messages that devalue blackness, Afrocentric styles and fashions, Ebonics, and other cultural elements associated with African Americans, as well as the complex messages all girls receive about their sexuality and social worth, Dr. Staples reveals how African American girls internalize the simple message that they are not, and never will be, good enough.

Equally disconcerting is the way social institutions like schools, often thought of as neutral, act as places where cultural messages of value (and devaluation) are loudest. Far beyond teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, schools are a primary site where cultural values like competition, gender biases, and individualism are taught to the next generation. When those values include subconscious race discrimination, where black folks are coded as lazy or criminal or where black hairstyles are viewed as socially problematic, the broader messages about race affect everyone in society.

Dr. Staples discusses how we can make these messages more visible, why we need to take them seriously, and what we can do about them.
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