E16 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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Episode15 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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Episode 9 The River is a Goddess: Environmental Anthropology with Dr. Georgina Drew

Dr. Georgina Drew (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

The Ganga River in India is a goddess, who has a long history of protecting and caring for her followers. But as a source of water, how do followers balance their respect for the goddess amid the various ways they are supported by her? The practical needs of the surrounding population, like fresh water, electricity, and industrial development, meet the spiritual needs of absolution through water burial, redemption through bathing in her free flowing waters, and the broader desire to protect the goddess who provides for so many.

Hydroelectric dam redirects flow out of the riverbed in the Garhwal Mountains (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

Environmental Anthropologist Dr. Georgina Drew explains how a river is many things to its surrounding inhabitants—they have religious concerns, economic concerns, and ecological concerns—but different people prioritize them differently. There’s no one perspective on how to use the river. Dr. Drew discusses how our cultural ideas, practices, and beliefs about the earth are central to how we impact it. Taking a humanistic, anthropological approach means viewing the partnership between the environment and ourselves, and how each impacts the other.
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Episode 8 Understanding Transgender Health & Identity with Brett Nava-Coulter

Brett Nava-Coulter (photo courtesy of Mr. Nava-Coulter)

Transgender politics have been everywhere lately, from North Carolina bathrooms to Presidential tweets, yet many are still confused about what exactly it means to be transgender. It’s not surprising there is confusion, as the category of transgender is both diverse and complicated. To help unpack these issues and politics, Brett Nava-Coulter joins the podcast to discuss his research with transgender youth. Mr. Nava-Coulter is a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University in sociology, researching LGBTQ community centers as well as hospitals that reach out to transgender youth and adults. In addition, he is an active member of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, where he helps identify issues and needs specific to the transgender community. Read More →

Episode 7 Ancient Bones & Peaceful Coexistence with Dr. Sara K. Becker

Dr. Sara K. Becker in Moquegua (photo courtesy of Sara Becker)

1000 years before the Inca civilization emerged in Peru and Bolivia, there were the Tiwanaku–a large nation consisting of a complex and ethnically diverse community of people. Today, amid the vestiges of Tiwanaku architecture, pottery, lithics, and other artifacts, Dr. Sara K. Becker’s focus is on the human remains. However, to understand the bones, as Dr. Becker says, you have to understand the culture. To do so, she collaborates with local communities and archaeologists to unlock the lives of this ancient group.

While another contemporaneous society routinely intimidated surrounding groups through physical violence, the Tikanawu managed to control vast regions through nontraditional and mostly nonviolent methods. When we examine the tensions and violence of many contemporary societies, Dr. Becker’s research becomes especially important: what can the ancient Tiwanaku teach us about how we can we live together in unified, diverse, and peaceful communities?

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