Anthropology Department Colloquium Speaker Series


Upcoming Colloquium Events:

Please check back for upcoming Colloquium events!

Past Fall 2017 Colloquium Events:



Monday, October 30 | 3:00 pm | Social Sciences Building, Dean's Conference Room

Speaker: Sara Ayers-Rigsby, MA, RPA Director, Southeast/Southwest Regions, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Florida Atlantic University



On the Front Lines-Sea Level Rise and Archaeology

With 3 feet of sea level rise, over 16,000 cultural sites in Florida will be destroyed. How do we document these sites before they are gone? What are the best steps we can take to engage the local community? In this talk, we will explore the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s citizen science initiative, Heritage Monitoring Scouts (HMS) Florida, as well as practical approaches to engage local leaders in this important issue. A major success story in southeast Florida was the inclusion of archaeological resources in the Southeast Regional Climate Compact, a four county agreement between Palm Beach County, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties that details recommendations to cope with climate change in these counties.Resiliency is also a social justice issue—natural disasters such as hurricanes like Harvey and Irma illustrate how marginalized communities suffer disproportionately. Additionally, too often cultural heritage is overlooked in resiliency discussions, but it is a critical part of helping communities engage with the space around them. Pride in historic sites and local archaeological should be accessible to everyone. Although destructive, natural disasters can also galvanize the local community to protect cemeteries or submerged resources under threat that they may not have been previously aware of. In this discussion we will use examples from various communities throughout Florida, such as the fishing village of Matlacha, and recent events to illustrate the need for people to get involved in protecting coastal heritage.

Past Colloquium Events:

2016 - 2017

"Saving the World's Most Peaceful Primates"

Karen B. Strier Vilas, Research Professor and Irven DeVore Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Monday, May 15, 2017 | 3:00-4:30pm | SSB 107

My main research interests are to understand the behavioral ecology of primates from a comparative perspective, and to contribute to conservation efforts on their behalf. The northern muriqui ( Brachyteles hypoxanthus ), which I have been studying in Brazil’s Atlantic forest since 1982, are a model for comparisons with other primates as well as one of the most critically endangered primates in the world. One of the current priorities of my long-term field study is to understand how stochastic demographic fluctuations and individual life histories affect population viabilities and behavior. I am also interested in understanding population-level variation and its relevance to basic research in biological anthropology.

"Modeling, Combining, Containing: Making meaning in the Aegean Bronze Age"

Carl Knappett, Professor of History of Art, University of Toronto

Monday, April 17, 2017 | 3:00-4:30pm | SSB 107

The Bronze Age societies of the Aegean produced an array of artifacts so striking that they are commonly, if problematically, labeled “artworks”, Yet, these objects are rarely subject to the anthropological approaches that have contributed so much to our understanding of these societies. In this talk I will address some of the reasons for this oversight, and attempt to “rehabilitate” Aegean art from a perspective that combines insights from art history anthropology and archaeology. The focus will fall principally on technologies of modeling, combining, and containing, with an examination of the semiotic resources that these processes offered ancient artisans and consumers in their creative engagement with the material world.

"Discerning the Spirits of South Korean Glossolalia"

Nicholas Harkness, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Monday, March 13, 2017 | 3:30-5:30pm | SSB 107

In Christian traditions of glossolalia ("speaking in tongues"), speech-like behavior without discernible denotation can be an explicitly linguistic form of involvement with the deity. In South Korea, glossolalia is practiced widely across Protestant denominations and congregations, from Pentecostals to Presbyterians. This paper focuses on the problem of spiritual discernment, when South Korean Christians doubt the work of the deity and speculate on the source and character of the forms, forces, and feelings that they confront when they speak in tongues. I link this problem of discernment to the processes through which glossolalia suppresses "normal" linguistic functions while reinforcing ideological commitments to language itself.

"Ties that Bind: Churches, Youth Gangs, and the Management of Everyday Life in the Urban Latin Amercia"

Brendan Jamal Thorton, Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Monday, October 24, 2016 | 3:00-4:30pm | SSB 107

Pentecostal churches and transnational youth gangs have more in common than simply their increasing popularity in urban neighborhoods across Latin America and the Caribbean.  Indeed, in a remarkably short period of time these emergent institutions have become regular fixtures in the social and cultural life of urban communities throughout the region.  This talk considers these institutions as similar and related with two goals in mind: first, to reflect on the simultaneous popularity of two seemingly irreconcilably different institutions; and second, to probe what this shared popularity might say about contemporary social life in urban barrios today.

2015 - 2016

"Origins of Agriculture and Plant Use in Neolithic North China: Evidence from Stone Tools"

Li Liu, Professor of Archaeology, Stanford University

Monday, May 16, 2016 | 3:00pm | SSB 107

In China, grinding stones first appeared during the Upper Paleolithic period, and were one of the dominant tool types in many early Neolithic sites. Grinding stones were primarily used for processing plant foods and other materials. They gradually disappear in the archaeological record after 5000 BC in the Yellow River region at the time when millet-based agriculture intensified. However, grinding stones were continuously used by people throughout the entire Neolithic period in the Liao River region of Northeast China. The different trajectories in food processing methods (with or without grinding stones) in the two regions are likely related to diverse types of plants exploited; and we need to understand what plants were involved. By employing residue (starch and phytoliths) and usewear analyses, this study investigates the functions of grinding stones recovered at several sites in the Liao River region, dating to ca. 6000-3000 BC. The results suggest that the people utilized a broad-spectrum subsistence strategy throughout the entire Neolithic, using various wild, cultivated, and domesticated plants, including tubers/roots, cereals, beans, and nuts. The earliest domesticates in the Xinglongwa period include millets and Job’s tears. Rice may have been introduced to the region for the first time during the Hongshan period, coinciding with the rise of regional elite and intensified interactions with other Neolithic cultures in the south. This study sheds new light on the plant-use strategies of the grinding-stone users who developed complex societies in the Neolithic Liao River region.

"Geographies of Tolerance: State, Space, and Jewish-Muslim Ligatures in Morocco"

Aomar Boum, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.

Monday, May 9, 2016 | 3:00pm | SSB 107

In the last decades, the Moroccan state has used Andalusian sonic geographies and materialities in aesthetically designed urban festivals to produce an official discourse of Jewish-Muslim understanding. Based on a set of ethnographic interviews with youth and members of the political elite in Morocco and drawing on religious and sound studies, I argue that the urban space is deployed to create a national feeling of a Jewish-Muslim entente channeled through the political and symbolic power of a political and economic Jewish elite in Morocco. In this context, Medieval Islamic Spain is selectively used as a moral past to entertain the possibilities of Jewish-Muslim relations and religious toleration in the modern times of interfaith violence. The Moroccan state deployment of soft Andalusian soundscapes is meant to speak to the hope of Palestinian-Israeli entente. Underlying these musical events of toleration and Andalusian Convivencia is an official and nostalgic re-imagination of a historical Jewish-Muslim symbiosis. This re-imagining is used to market a distinct and unique Moroccan Islam of tolerance in a global market of religious violence.

"Earthquakes and Emergencies in Nepal: Building Sustainable Mental Health Systems amid Political, Structural, and Seismic Violence"

Brandon Kohrt, MD, PhD. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Global Health and Cultural Anthropology
Duke University

Monday, May 2, 2016 | 3:30pm | SSB 107

Two large 7.8 and 7.3 magnitude earthquakes and more than 500 aftershocks greater than 4.0 magnitude struck Nepal in 2015 resulting in 8,600 deaths, displacement of 450,000 people, and 8.5 million people deprived of access to shelter, food, healthcare, and education. The international community donated millions of dollars to health efforts, including $17 million from Facebook, with a substantial investment in mental health services. However, prior international mental health responses to humanitarian emergencies have been criticized widely, including in detailed ethnographic research, for short-term services, lack of sustainable mental healthcare, an exclusive focus on trauma to the neglect of other mental health and psychosocial needs, stigmatizing survivors of disasters, and undermining existing recovery and support structures. Therefore, to minimize risk of these unintended consequences, governmental and non-governmental organizations strove for collaborative, sustainable efforts building upon a decade of mental health systems strengthening and anthropological research following Nepal’s civil war. Approaches to diagnosis and psychological treatment ranging from WHO programs to school counseling integrated Nepali ethnopsychological frameworks to promote effectiveness and reduce stigma. Transculturally adapted instruments revealed that earthquake-related PTSD rates were low (5.2%) whereas chronic mental health problems related to depression, anxiety, and alcohol use problems affected 1 out of 5 adults. This work demonstrates the opportunities and challenges for integrating anthropological theory and methods into global mental health interventions during humanitarian emergencies.

"Adventures in Epigenetics: Investigating the Long Term Effects of Environments in Infancy on the Regulation of Inflammation in the Philippines"

Thomas McDade, Professor. Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University.

Monday, April 18th, 2016 | 3:00pm | SSB 107

Environments in infancy have lasting effects on human physiological systems that influence health and well-being in adulthood.  Chronic inflammation is involved in many diseases of aging, and it is a potentially important mechanism linking environments and health over the life course.  But this understanding is based almost exclusively on research in affluent industrialized populations, which are epidemiologically and ecologically unique in comparison with most populations globally, and historically.  Comparative studies challenge key assumptions of the chronic inflammation paradigm, and point toward early life microbial and nutritional factors as important determinants of inflammatory phenotypes.  A developmental ecological model of inflammation has potentially important implications for understanding the complex associations among ecology, inflammation, and disease.

"The Ethics of Intelligibility: Understanding Deaf-Hearing Interactions in Nepal"

Mara Green. University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD

Monday, April 11th, 2016 | 3:00pm | SSB 107

This talk focuses on deaf Nepalis’ experiences to argue that intelligibility is ultimately an ethical as well as a semiotic phenomenon. Drawing on extensive fieldwork with signers of Nepali Sign Language (a young but conventional language) and “natural sign” (more limited signed repertoires), I explore how understanding others depends not only on shared social and semiotic conventions, but also, and more critically, on the willingness of interlocutors to engage.



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Steps Toward an Anthropology of the Human Subject in Experimental Psychology

Emily Martin, Professor, Department of Anthropology, New York University (NYU)

Monday, June 2nd | 3:30-5:30PM | HSS 3027

Historians of psychology have described how the “introspection” of early Wundtian psychology largely came to be ruled out of experimental settings by the mid 20th century. In this paper I take a fresh look at the years before this process was complete -- from the vantage point of early anthropological and psychological field expeditions. The psychological research conducted during and after the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits Islands (CAETS) in 1898 had a certain impact on Ludwig Wittgenstein, who, among other things, became an important commentator on experimental psychology. In his later writings, Wittgenstein frequently referred to “anthropological facts” and “anthropological phenomena.” He articulated some of the central tenets of cultural anthropological analysis. His efforts to move the ground of analysis from philosophy to anthropology take on greater force in the light of his acquaintance with the early history of anthropology. I will take this opportunity to reconsider the importance of the CAETS in the history of anthropology and to explore some possible ways of approaching experimental psychology ethnographically.

Senior Research Fellow Presentation: Homelessness and Mental Illness in India

Inserm Cermes, University of Paris Descartes-Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales

Monday, March 10th | 3:00PM | SSB 107

"Speaking for the Voiceless: Metaphors of Power and Agency in American Political Discourse".

Elise Kramer, Department of Anthropology, University of California San Diego

Monday, February 24th | 3:00PM | SSB 107