Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Outside the comfort zone

Heading into Day 2 at the International Federation of Placenta Associations meeting in Santiago, Chile. I presented yesterday and engaged in lots of great conversations about this project and the directions I want to take it. As much as I personally love the AAPA and primatology meetings, coming to the placenta meeting is like going to school. I love the challenge (and yes, the trepidation!) of presenting my placenta work and ideas to a bunch of people who are at the forefront of the field. In my anthropological world, what I do feels novel and innovative within my immediate context, but when I go to the IFPA meeting I'm surrounded by people who blow me away with the depth of their knowledge and the cutting edge approach they use to studying the placenta. And who can offer real critiques of what I do - for better and for worse. Yesterday I had one of my heroes describe one of my ongoing hypotheses as a "crazy idea." Sweet! I first "met" some of the big names in placentology during my dissertation when I emailed a couple of them for advice on how to process marmoset placentas for stereological investigation. They were so generous and encouraging, and excited that someone outside their world was interested in their work. It's been great to have that kind of reception.

The interdisciplinary nature of biological anthropology means that many of us have to make intellectual leaps beyond our background training to gain the knowledge and skills we need to do our work. I'd love to hear from others who move around in fields outside the bounds of anthropology - what's it like for you at the bone, genetics, DOHaD, anatomy, bioinformatics, ecology, animal behavior, psychology, neuroscience, etc., etc., etc., meetings you attend? Which ones are your favorites? Do you know a lot of people in that world or do you float around on the fringes? What do you like best about attending these extracurricular meetings? What are the biggest challenges? Is your work/identity as an anthropologist taken seriously? Please leave comments!

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