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Anthropologist On the Street
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Hearing the Relevance of Anthropology in Everyday Life
Hearing the Relevance of Anthropology in Everyday Life

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When tech companies offer free food to their employees, how much do they transform the daily lives and food practices of their employees, and how much do the employees’ work and food practices transform the business?

At the intersection of business anthropology and the anthropology of food, Jesse 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 transform these ideas as well.

Just in time for American Thanksgiving, we discuss in Episode 16 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 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.

http://bit.ly/FFDart

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This week’s episode features the amazing (and very funny) +Gail Carriger, an archaeologist and best-selling author of Soulless, a steampunk romance fantasy set in Victorian England.

Carriger is a remarkable example of an anthropologist whose training informed a creative career shift. Her 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.

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 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. While her British Isles are home to werewolves, vampires, and the occasional preternatural, the fantasy elements allow her to explore historical and contemporary issues of colonialism, gender and sexuality, social class, and technological fads.

Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.
http://bit.ly/SACarriger

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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.


In #podcast episode 14, We discuss Dr. Burnet’s research, which reveals why we should be concerned about the current political moment in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, but it also suggests ways people can come together and take action to unify. Through diverse political representation, adept leadership, and public reinforcement of unity over division, other nations can avoid the catastrophic legacy that Rwandans are still recovering from today.


http://bit.ly/PDBurnet
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What effect does our cultural perspective have on how we scientifically engage the world?

Dr. Katie Kirakosian studies the history of archaeology in New England, focusing particularly on what are called “shell middens”, or human-made deposits of seashells. Rather than looking at the shell middens directly, Dr. Kirakosian examines the archaeologists who have studied them over the last 150 years..


In every generation there are changes in the way archaeologists think about the past, and Dr. Kirakosian’s work is to situate the shifting archaeological understandings of shell middens within the social context of the time, to see what influence social paradigms have on interpretation of data.


Using an array of methods, she critically examines how knowledge itself is created, whose knowledge counts, and why the legacy of colonialism is still critical to pay attention to today.


Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.

http://bit.ly/TSTKirakosian
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What does it mean to be a person? Do we lose ourselves when we age? When we experience dementia?

How we think about personhood, and how rigid or flexible our thinking is, can determine whether we “suffer” from aging, or transform into a new life with new meanings.

In episode 12, I chat with medical anthropologist Dr. Janelle Taylor, a professor at University of Washington, who 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.

Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.

http://bit.ly/FBDTaylor

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The United States has faced an astonishing number of wildfires in the fall of 2017, but who is on the front line combating them? 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 front lines.

In episode 11, I talk with anthropology doctoral candidate Lindsey Raisa Feldman, who works alongside and photographs the complex labor politics of these men and women, whose dangerous job is both exploitative and intensely meaningful.

Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.

http://bit.ly/PLFWCNIFeldman
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From protests over unjust police practices in St. Louis to violence at white supremacist marches in Charlottesville, race politics have been on the minds of many Americans these days. 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 racism and sexism work together? How do we combat racist messages that are woven into the very fabric of our social institutions?

In Episode 10, Educational Anthropologist Dr. Jeanine Staples discusses her work at the intersection of race, gender, identity, and education. Black folks, and black girls in particular, are barraged with what Dr. Staples calls “small-t terrors”: interpersonal microaggressions that affect one’s ability to generate meanings that affirm one’s identity and experience. The end result is that 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, amplify cultural messages, including conscious and subconscious race discrimination. 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.

Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly #podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.

http://bit.ly/REAETStaples
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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 karmic 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.

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 an ethnographic approach means viewing the partnership between the environment and culture, and how each impacts the other.

Visit the Episode #9 post page below to listen to this episode, or subscribe through iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play.

Anthropologist on the Street (AOTS) is a new, weekly #podcast exploring all the ways there are to be human. Each week, Dr. Carie Little Hersh interviews a different cultural expert to illuminate the hidden ideas, practices, and power dynamics that make our lives both familiar and strange.

http://bit.ly/TRIAGDrew
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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, a category that is both diverse and complicated.

In Episode #8, Northeastern University Department of Sociology and Anthropology doctoral candidate Brett Lee Nava-Coulter joins the podcast to discuss his research with #LGBTQ community centers and hospitals that reach out to transgender youth and adults. He is also an active member of the The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, where he helps identify issues and needs specific to the transgender community.

Western cultures tend to think in terms of binaries, and male-female is a fairly fundamental one. But not all cultures and times have been so rigid. Although the word transgender is recent, the experience of people falling between categories of male and female extends back thousands of years, and across thousands of miles. Third and fourth genders have long existed for folks whose social gender doesn’t line up neatly with their biological sex, and there has always been a small but present group of intersexed folks whose physical bodies combine, or fall between, male and female.

Yet you don’t have to be considered transgender or intersex to fall between categories. As Mr. Nava-Coulter discuss, to understand the social category of transgender, you have to understand and differentiate gender, sex, sexuality, identity, behavior, biology, and performance. Once you do that, the idea that we all fit into two neat boxes of male or female becomes increasingly problematic.

http://bit.ly/UTHINavaCoulter
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Bioarchaeologist Dr. Sara Becker examines the complex and ethnically diverse state of ancient Tiwanaku, which governed hundreds of miles across modern-day Bolivia and Peru and predated the Inca by 1000 years. Amid the architecture, pottery, lithics, and other artifacts, Dr. 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 these ancient people.

What is fascinating about the Tiwanaku in particular is that, in contrast to the Wari/Huari, a contemporaneous society that existed a short distance away, the Tiwanaku managed to govern in relative peace, using nonviolent methods to encourage multiethnic groups to come together in the main city. 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?

http://bit.ly/ABPCBecker
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