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.
Read More →

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?

Read More →

Episode 6 “Bharat Babies” Books & Business Anthropology with Sailaja Joshi

Bharat Babies C.E.O. Sailaja Ganti Joshi (photo courtesy of Sailaja Joshi)

Sailaja Joshi is the CEO and founder of Bharat Babies, an independent publishing house that “designs and produces developmentally appropriate books for young children that tell stories about India’s Heritage.” She was inspired to launch her business when she struggled to find books for her young daughter that would represent the unique hybrid nature of growing up American with Indian or Pakistani heritage.

Bharat Babies’ books cover Hinduism, Islam, and a myriad of South Asian subcultural identities, and readers have responded with gratitude. For CEO Sailaja Joshi, it has been affirming, not only of the need for multiple voices in literature, but of the need for more anthropology in the business world
Read More →

Episode 5 God, Politics, and Anthropology – with Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett

Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett (photo courtesy of Rev. Hassett)

Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett received her Ph.D. in anthropology before becoming an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. In her book, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies are Reshaping Anglicanism, she explores how political polarization drove a global wedge in the Anglican church, driving some conservative white American Episcopalians to break from the broader American church, instead allying with conservative African congregations. Rev. Hassett continues using anthropological methods today to better understand her congregants at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin, and discusses how anthropology can help people foster more meaning in their lives.
Read More →

Episode 4 A New Kind of Family with “The Guys Next Door” with Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk

The Guys Next Door poster
(photo courtesy of A Squared Films)

The Guys Next Door, an award-winning feature-length documentary film features Erik and Sandro, whose friend Rachel offers to be a surrogate for their two children. Although filmmakers Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk are not anthropologists, their film sparks conversation about core anthropological issues of kinship, social networks and gift giving, gender roles and parenting.

Amy and Allie have created a touching portrait of family life that humanizes the lives of lesser seen same-sex parents. In this episode, they discuss how their film shares in the conversation of what family is, and how, while family structures may change, family life is often surprisingly unsurprising.
Read More →

Episode 3 Digging for Truth on a Cherokee Plantation – with Dr. Lance Greene

Dr. Lance Greene (photo courtesy of Lance Greene)

Looking at a complex moment in American history, when Cherokee were being forced off their land by President Andrew Jackson, Dr. Lance Greene’s research brings to life a nineteenth century plantation in North Carolina, where Cherokees, whites, and enslaved Africans lived and worked together. Dr. Greene pieces together life on a Cherokee/Euro-American plantation through archaeological digs and historical documents, providing insight into both how Cherokee were changing to attempt to fit in to European-American culture and the ways they were resisting it. Dr. Greene walks us through what archaeology on a plantation site can reveal, and how the process of writing fictional stories of everyday life actually helps him fill in the gaps in his research.
Read More →

Episode 2 Breast Milk Sharing and “Good” Mommies with Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster

beatriz-reyes-foster-13-250x324

Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster Assistant Professor, Socio-Cultural Anthropology University of Central Florida

Human breast milk has become a hot commodity in the U.S., and parents have become creative in networking among moms who have milk to spare. Yet health officials, who continue to promote the standard that “breast is best”, are characterizing informal milk sharing as dangerous and risky; a depiction based not in fact but in assumption and a desire to control the circulation of this “liquid gold”.

In this episode, I talk to medical anthropologist Beatriz Reyes-Foster, a professor at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Reyes-Foster explains the new forms milk sharing is taking today, how “peer breast milk sharing” is rooted in a lack of support for new parents, and why we need to pay careful attention to the moralities hidden in how milk, moms, donors, and sharing practices are being discussed by health professionals.
Read More →

Episode 1 Anthropology Beyond Indiana Jones with Dr. Angela Jenks

Dr. Angela Jenks, Asst. Teaching Professor at UC Irvine (photo courtesy of Angela Jenks)

From Indiana Jones to Bones to that graduate student kidnapped by pirates on Archer, there are many different representations of anthropology in pop culture, but what do real anthropologists do?

Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Which means that anthropologists study pretty much everything, including politics, art, medicine, religion, and our relationship with the environment. Some anthropologists take us into communities that are intensely different—ones we may not even know exist—and help us understand them from the inside. Other anthropologists use those same methods to get us to question the familiar—what feels normal to us, and why doesn’t it feel the same way to others?

In this first episode of The Anthropologist on the Street podcast, I have invited Dr. Angela Jenks to explain what anthropology is and why it is important. Dr. Jenks is an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, a recipient of an award for excellence in teaching, and the first Teaching “Scholar-in-Residence” for the prestigious journal Cultural Anthropology. She talks to us about humanity, culture, and the paradox of being an American and an anthropologist, where we collectively share a culture of individuality.
Read More →