Sunday, December 26, 2010

Join the AAA Writers Circle

Recent controversies and concerns regarding the AAA LRP have brought to the fore the need for dissemination of our approaches and methods both within the anthropological community and out to the public. The AAA Writers Circle could be an excellent tool to promote that professional circulation and intellectual outreach.

What is the Writers Circle?

The AAA Writers Circle aims to engage the public on topics of central importance to anthropology through the publication of op-ed pieces, short magazine articles, and other short pieces in a variety of local, regional and national media outlets. The AAA Writers Circle aims to support professionals working on original, accessible writing by reading and giving feedback on this type of work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Legal victory for adjuncts at Illinois university

Adjunct faculty at East-West University in Chicago who had their contracts pulled as a result of their attempts to unionize have been reinstated and have won guarantees of job protection for other employees who support unions:

"Under the terms of an agreement approved last week by a National Labor Relations Board official, the private university in Chicago has agreed to provide back pay and new job protections to five adjunct faculty members who were denied contract renewal last summer while leading an effort to unionize part-time faculty members there. The university has also agreed to publicly post notices announcing the agreement and assuring its other employees that they will not be subject to dismissal or other negative repercussions if they support a union drive."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Calling online anthropologists!

If you are 1) an anthropologist, 2) a blogger or are on Twitter, and 3) have been actively involved in the online discussion of the AAA LRP issue (aka #aaafail), please send me a message on Twitter @JNRutherford or an email. I'd like to talk to you! We want the AAA Executive Board to know how much the online anthropological community participated in shaping the conversation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#aaafail in cartoon form!

Thanks to Daniel Lende for bringing this sad cartoon to my attention.

Section Assembly issues recommendations to AAA EB

Note: The Section Assembly of AAA is composed of all Section Chairs. The following statement of solidarity is a very welcome development.

"Dear all,

On behalf of the Section Assembly (SA), I’m pleased to submit the following resolution:

Because the SA represents all 38 sections of the AAA, it has a unique (and uniquely powerful) kind of voice. When we speak together, we have an authority that the Executive Board (EB) alone, or the Association as a whole, cannot match precisely because we represent the discipline in all its variety.

We have two issues which demand our attention, and together they clearly illustrate the challenges facing AAA. On the one hand is the revised wording of the Long Range Plan (LRP), which eliminates any reference to science. On the other we have the National Research Council (NRC) rankings, which—whatever their merits or flaws as rankings of individual programs—presume that Anthropology is a social science and hence only journal articles should be counted toward research productivity, with books and monographs not counted. One is perceived as turning its back on science, the other turns its back on anything except science narrowly defined.

Both are objectionable. Both humanistic and scientific approaches have characterized Anthropology from its inception, and this should be viewed as one of the discipline’s greatest scholarly strengths.

The Section Assembly unanimously rejects the NRC logic regarding publications as misguided and not reflective of any of the 38 sections comprising the AAA or the discipline as a whole. We take this as an opportunity to stand together and formally affirm that Anthropology includes and should include both scientific and humanistic modes of scholarship.

Second, and conversely, we unanimously ask the EB to revise the LRP to reflect the value of both scientific and humanistic approaches to the discipline. While doubtless the intention was to be inclusive, dropping science from the statement has the opposite effect. Few could credibly argue that scholars eschewing scientific approaches feel rejected, marginalized or unwelcomed by the Association. But it is true, for better or worse, that many scholars adopting such approaches do feel rejected, marginalized and unwelcome, and this demonstrably weakens the Association by minimizing the number of these anthropologists who maintain AAA membership.

These measures have been offered and approved by unanimous consent.

While the role of the Section Assembly is still evolving, its ability to express the will of the Association–across its diverse membership–is one of its most powerful attributes. We use that power here because, whatever our epistemological and methodological positions, we recognize and affirm that significant scholarship is performed by colleagues holding other positions, and this continues to be one of the greatest scholarly strengths of the discipline.

The SA presents its position to you in the most collegial spirit and as our contribution to the ongoing conversation regarding our discipline. We hope it duly informs the process of revising the LRP statement.

Thank you for your dynamic efforts addressing this matter and, on behalf of the SA, I wish you the best at this time of the year."

"Long Range Plan, Short Range Controversy"

Another great post on #aaafail and now #wadefail (love!) from Daniel Lende over at Neuroanthropology...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anthropology discussed on WNYC radio

Great podcast of the Brian Lehrer show regarding anthropology as humanity/science/what-have-you. Peter Peregrine, President of the Society of Anthropological Sciences, and Hugh Gusterson, member of the AAA Executive Board hash it out.

A light-hearted look at #aaafail from Daniel Lende

AAA Statement on Science Controversy – Holistic Hope Saves the Day?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Was it just the outsiders who got it wrong? AAA Responds to Public Controversy Over Science in Anthropology

The AAA Executive Board has issued a press release regarding its position on science in anthropology as reflected in the new Long Range Plan and the ensuing controversy. They also link to the recently approved statement "What is Anthropology?" I just read the statement and while I am really liking the inclusivity (yes, science is mentioned!) and interdisciplinarity of what we do, I must confess to some ongoing annoyance with the tone coming from the EB. In particular (from the press release): "Some recent media coverage, including an article in the New York Times, has portrayed anthropology as divided between those who practice it as a science and those who do not, and has given the mistaken impression that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Executive Board believes that science no longer has a place in anthropology."

"Changes to the AAA's Long Range Plan have been taken out of context and blown out of proportion in recent media coverage. In approving the changes, it was never the Board’s intention to signal a break with the scientific foundations of anthropology – as the "What is Anthropology?" document approved at the same meeting demonstrates."

While I would agree that much of the media coverage has contributed to such an impression, it was the EB's initial action of changing the wording without sufficient explanation, followed by its delay in producing a compelling response (despite rather urgent demands on the part of AAA constituencies and sections to do so) that engendered the impression in the first place.

Apparently, there will be no acknowledgement of any self-reflection on the part of the current President, and perhaps it is not important. But as we map out a future anthropological endeavor and community, I think it is important to critique and dissect what many of us experienced as dismissal by the organization that is nominally the national catchall for all of us. I'm not waiting for an apology - clearly I would be waiting a loooong time - but considering we can play a role in vetting and voting for a leadership that represents our concerns, this issue and the clumsy and frankly insensitive way it was handled should be remembered.

Examples of what I've repeatedly called tone-deafness play out in the official statements; by parameterizing the public discussion as only taking place in the media and amongst "outsider" bloggers, the EB continues to promote the public impression that there has been no internal dissent or dialogue, which if you've been visiting this and other anthro blogs (um, EB? Familiar with the interwebs? It's a series of tubes...) you know there has been a vibrant internal dialogue expressing a panoply of views regarding not only the LRP wording, but the deeper questions of anthropological identity. It's been exciting and I think very valuable to the discipline, but completely overlooked, at least publicly, by the AAA leadership.

So, enough of the negative. There are enormous and numerous lessons to be learned, and as I've discussed with fellow anthro bloggers Daniel Lende and Kate Clancy, I'm hopeful that this debacle could lead to a renaissance for our broader discipline. Nothing like controversy to get people interested in anthropology, even cynical anthropologists.

Job posting at University of Pennsylvania

(Note to junior folk: this is a relatively senior search.)

The University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology invite applications for an Associate Professor of Biological Anthropology/Associate Curator of Physical Anthropology with tenure pending administrative and budgetary approval. We seek an anthropologist with expertise in human evolutionary studies and the interrelationships of life history, skeletal biology, and human evolution. Special attention will be given to applicants who complement current faculty strengths in genetics, reproductive ecology, and primate behavior.

A record of demonstrated teaching excellence is important. The successful candidate will have a two-course teaching load and will contribute to the ongoing development of undergraduate and graduate curricula in biological anthropology within the context of a four-field program that emphasizes research across the subfields. The successful candidate will also oversee the Museum’s physical anthropology collections, conduct teaching and research with the collections and perform other duties commensurate with the mission of the Penn Museum including assisting with NAGPRA compliance, conducting public outreach, and consulting on the exhibit process. Review of applications will begin November 1, 2010 and will continue until the position is filled. Candidates are to apply at:

Include a letter of application outlining experience and qualifications; evidence of teaching experience; and a current academic vita. The University of Pennsylvania is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women and minority candidates are encouraged to apply.

Undergraduate Scholarship in Anthropology

Announcing the first Mel Ember Student Scholarship Award from Pearson Higher Ed --open to all students currently enrolled in an undergraduate anthropology course. Deadline: Dec. 31st

Friday, December 10, 2010

Daniel Lende posts insightful recap of AAA LRP "situation"

Head over to Daniel Lende's post on the Neuroanthropology blog. He does an excellent job of parsing yesterday's frankly subpar NY Times piece (consensus view about the changes has NOT been a rehashing of the El Dorado affair) as well as laying out a timeline of reactions to the changes. Great reading! And over on Twitter, Lance Gravlee shakes his head over Wade's characterization that anthropology is divided into two camps: those who are scientists and those who study race.

Wiley-Blackwell articles available via open access

Just a reminder that once I post an article, even in early view, on BANDIT, Wiley-Blackwell generously makes it available for free for a limited time!

NY Times reports on the AAA LRP changes

Nicholas Wade reports in yesterday's NY Times on the still unresolved and still quite rancorous issues of the AAA Long Range Plan statement. The piece quotes AAA president Virginia Dominguez as saying "....the new statement could be modified if the board received any good suggestions for doing so." Apparently the statement the BAS sent to President Dominguez didn't contain any good suggestions.

Mother–infant sleep proximity & breastfeeding in evolutionary perspective

I'm excited today to announce the AJPA early view appearance of Evolutionary perspectives on mother–infant sleep proximity and breastfeeding in a laboratory setting by University of Notre Dame professor Dr. Jim McKenna and Northwestern doctoral candidate Lee Gettler.

Keywords:breastfeeding;bedsharing;cosleeping;human evolution
Human maternal and infant biology likely coevolved in a context of close physical contact and some approximation of frequent, “infant-initiated” breastfeeding. Still, mothers and infants commonly sleep apart from one another in many western societies, indicating a possible “mismatch” between cultural norms and infant biology. Here we present data from a 3-night laboratory-based study that examines differences in mother–infant sleep physiology and behavior when mothers and infants sleep together on the same surface (bedsharing) and apart in separate rooms (solitary). We analyze breastfeeding frequency and interval data from the first laboratory night (FN) for 52 complementary breastfeeding mothers and infants (26 total mother–infant pairs), of which 12 pairs were routine bedsharers (RB) and 14 were routine solitary sleepers (RS). RB infants were 12.0 ± 2.7 (SD) weeks old; RS infants were 13.0 ± 2.4 weeks old. On the FN, RB mother–infant pairs (while bedsharing) engaged in a greater number of feeds per night compared to RS (while sleeping alone) (P < 0.001). RB also showed lower intervals (min) between feeds relative to RS (P < 0.05). When we evaluated data from all three laboratory nights (n = 36), post hoc, RB breastfed significantly more often (P < 0.01) and showed a trend towards lower intervals between feeds (P < 0.10). Given the widely known risks associated with little or no breastfeeding, the demonstrated mutually regulatory relationship between bedsharing and breastfeeding should be considered in future studies evaluating determinants of breastfeeding outcomes.

p.s. I'm a bit behind in my "awesome" posts. I hope to get caught up on new BANDIT publications over the break.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to Fail in Grant Writing

The Chronicle of Higher Ed offers this tongue-in-cheek primer on guaranteeing your proposal won't get funded.

Some favorites:
•If your proposal is a resubmission, be snarky about the comments you received from the previous reviewers.

•Don't make any predictions. And if you do make predictions, don't put in any experiments that would actually test them.

•Make sure that the feasibility of your proposal's second and third objectives depends on a particular result from your first objective.

•Replace simple, meaningful words with polysyllabic behemoths whenever possible. Don't write "use" when you can say "utilize." Why "use a method" if you can "utilize a methodological technique"? There is no reason to "increase" when you can "exacerbate." Bonus points for using polysyllabic words incorrectly, as in "the elevation in glucose concentration was exasperated during exercise."

•If you're applying for an NSF grant, make sure that in your "broader impacts" statement you say that your research on frog metamorphosis will help cure cancer and/or help us understand the function of the human brain.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Free Access to Int. J. Primatol!

Just got this email:

Springer has made the entire International Journal of Primatology website content free to access until the end of the year. Just go to:
This is a great opportunity for those IPS members who haven't yet subscribed to take a look at the society’s journal, and might encourage you to subscribe! Remember that as a member of IPS you get a much reduced subscription rate to the journal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maderas Rainforest Conservancy Scholarship in Field Primatology

Great news for aspiring field primatologists! The American Society of Primatologists is teaming with the Maderas Rainforest Conservancy to offer a generous scholarship to undergraduate and graduate students to attend field school sessions at one of two sites: La Suerte, Costa Rica, and Ometepe, Nicaragua:

The scholarship provides full tuition for an approximately one month course including room and board (3 meals/day), instruction, access to all facilities at the field site and in-country transportation to and from the field site. Information about the history and location of the field sites, facilities, course offerings, course syllabi, research opportunities, primate species present, and a list of La Suerte/Ometepe teachers and alumni can be found at

As an alum of the Ometepe course and a veteran teaching assistant of both Ometepe and La Suerte, I wholeheartedly endorse this program.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Email from AAA President to membership

Revision to AAA Long Range PlanAAA []
To: Rutherford, Julienne

The following is a letter from AAA President Virginia R Dominguez regarding the association's long range plan.

Every so often an event or statement captures the attention of anthropologists on important issues for the profession, regardless of the intentions of those involved in sponsoring the event or formulating the statement. The past 10-12 days are an excellent example.

When such an issue presents itself, I hope we can use these moments of reflections and debate to strengthen our profession and our engagement with it. I have long been interested in who we are, what work we do, and how our commonalities and differences (past and present) are all still anchored in our shared interest in humanity in all of its aspects and diversity.

I urge you to read the statement issued by the four AAA officers yesterday and posted on the AAA Home Page along with a direct link to the document that sparked the recent discussion and public debate.

The document to which I refer is a revised AAA Long Range Plan. The plan, originally adopted and occasionally amended by the AAA Executive Board, is one element of the Board's process of planning for the future, our use of resources, and our stewardship of the association. The AAA Executive Board uses it as it fulfills its legal duty to the AAA membership to plan for a sustainable future.

Upon reading the revised Long Range Plan, if you have suggestions to strengthen and improve it, I urge you to forward them to me at or post them on the AAA Blog so that the AAA Executive Board can benefit from your wisdom and counsel.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The AAA responds

The AAA officers released a statement about the rewording of the mission.

Long-Range Plan

From the officers of the AAA to our membership:

Our AAA long-range plan needed updating in order to address the changing composition of the profession and the needs of the AAA membership. At its November 20 meeting in New Orleans, the Executive Board specified, concretized, and enlarged its operational roadmap for investing the Association’s resources towards a sustainable future. Section leadership was consulted prior to the New Orleans Annual Meeting, and the Executive Board acted. Then immediately after the highly attended 2010 AAA Meetings in New Orleans, some criticisms of the plan were circulated electronically that had not been sent our way prior to the Meetings. Among them were thoughtful responses from several quarters, many queries about hearsay, and some suggestions for improvement or change. These responses, however, were amped up by blog headline editors earlier this week: “Anthropology Without Science” and “No Science Please. We’re Anthropologists.” We believe that the source of the problem speaks to the power of symbols: we replaced the term “science” in the preface of this planning document by a more specific (and inclusive) list of research domains, while explicitly acknowledging that the Association’s central focus is to promote the production, circulation, and application of anthropological research findings. Each one of us (the four officers of the AAA) may add or comment on the issues separately, but collectively we care about letting the entire association see the document at hand. We know that comments will continue to come our way and we welcome them from our clearly engaged membership.

Virginia R. Dominguez, President
Leith Mullings, President-Elect
Debra L. Martin, Secretary
Edward Liebow, Treasurer

Interesting that they blame bloggers for "amping up" the response. Wonder if they noticed that a lot of the bloggers were some of their own? I think it's good that they are considering this as an example of the power of symbols, but wonder why this didn't occur to them sooner. Indeed, according to their own spokesperson a few days ago, the AAA wasn't prepared for the impact of that symbolism:
"Mr. Dozier, meanwhile, believes that this month's dispute has been rooted in miscommunication. "We wanted to choose language that described our purposes in more expansive ways," he says. No one realized, he says, how loaded the word "science" actually might be."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Biological Anthropology Section's statement to the AAA Executive Board

Many thanks to the executive board of the Biological Anthropology Section of the AAA for officially expressing the widely-shared concern about the new wording of the AAA Statement of Purpose.

Karen Strier, the new chair of the BAS, sent an email to the BAS membership to let us know of this statement and made some great, results-oriented suggestions to increase the profile of biological anthropology within AAA. With permission, I share the email here for BANDITs who do not belong to BAS:

Dear BAS Members,

I am writing as the new Chair of BAS, having just replaced Darna Dufour, who deserves recognition and appreciation for her service as BAS Chair these past two years. I had been expecting to slowly ease into the job at the close of the AAA meetings in New Orleans, but alas, the news about the AAA Executive Board's (EB) revisions to the Mission Statement hit my desk right after I returned from the meetings and, well, here we are.

Briefly, for those who haven't seen any of the emails or blogs, the concerns pertain to the revised rewording in the AAA's mission statement from the long range planning committee. The revision excludes the word "science," which we think sends the wrong message about anthropology in general and the place of biology in it, in particular. The revision also refocuses the emphasis from being about advancing "anthropology as the science that studies humankind..." to be about advancing "the public understanding of humankind.".

I am writing to assure you that the Executive Committee of the BAS is among the many representatives from many sections that are challenging these revisions. Our message to the President and EB of the AAA has been submitted, and a copy of it has been posted on the BAS website.

We are confident that the AAA statement will be re-evaluated and subsequently revised as a result of the objections it has generated. Therefore, I hope that you will all stand by BAS during this time. It is especially important that we have the strength of our membership numbers behind our voice right now.

This is also an opportune moment to encourage you to increase your participation in BAS and the overall presence of Biological Anthropologists in the AAA. Here are a few of the ways you can do this:

1. Nominate worthy books for the 2011 W.W. Howells Book Award.

Deadline is Feb 1, 2011; nominations should be sent to Sara Stinson:

2. Organize a session or volunteer a paper or poster presentation at the 2011 AAA meetings, which will be in Montreal. Deadlines for abstracts are in the early spring; watch for the call from AAA.

3. If you are a student or know an eligible student, consider entering in the 2011 BAS Student Prize competition when it is announced.

4. Vote in our upcoming BAS election. We are preparing a slate of amazing candidates for the 2011 elections.

5. Self-nominate, or tell someone else that you would like to be nominated, for future BAS positions and/or committees of the AAA. The more representation we have on the latter, the more we can shape the Association to represent ourselves.

6. Attend the 2011 AAA meetings. Our 2011 Distinguished Lecture will be given by Jonathan Marks.

7. Send any news you may have for publication in AnthroNews to the BAS Newsletter editor, Virginia Vitzthum:

8. Send any news or updates (e.g., field schools, summer programs, etc.) for the BAS website to our webmaster, Kate Pechenkina:

More information about BAS activities can be found at our website. We are in the process of updating the website, so please be patient. If you can't find what you're looking for, please let us know.

Thanks to all of you for your continuing support of BAS.

Best wishes,

Karen Strier

Chair, BAS

Carlina de la Cova is awesome! (X2)

Biological anthropologist and fellow IU alum Dr. Carlina de la Cova of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a paper in the latest issue of American Anthropologist: Cultural Patterns of Trauma among 19th-Century-Born Males in Cadaver Collections. Gotta love work that incorporates systematic examination of skeletal collections with analyses of class and culture. Plus, the woman uses "fisticuffs" in her list of keywords. THAT, my friends, is what awesome looks like.

Keywords:interpersonal violence;trauma;African American history;19th-century history;fisticuffs
ABSTRACT  Comprehending violence among bioarchaeological and historical groups is a topic of recent interest among biological anthropologists. This research examines trauma among African American and Euro-American males of low socioeconomic status born between 1825 and 1877. A total of 651 male skeletons from the Cobb, Terry, and Hamann-Todd anatomical collections were macroscopically evaluated for skeletal trauma, based on the presence of fractures and weapon-related wounds, and statistically analyzed according to ancestry, birth (Antebellum, Civil War, Reconstruction), combined ancestry–birth, and collection cohorts. Results indicated that African Americans and Euro-Americans expressed ethnic differences in regard to interpersonal violence. To interpret these disparities, documentary data were used to reconstruct the socioeconomic and cultural environment of these individuals. This research emphasizes the importance of evaluating skeletal data within the context of class, culture, and environment so that behavioral patterns observed in the skeleton can be better understood.

Carlina is on fire this week, with another paper out in AJPA:

Race, health, and disease in 19th-century-born males
ABSTRACT This study analyzed skeletal health disparities among African American and Euro-American males of low socioeconomic status born between 1825 and 1877. A total of 651 skeletons from the Cobb, Hamann-Todd, and Terry anatomical collections were macroscopically examined for skeletal pathologies related to dietary deficiencies and disease. Individuals were separated into age, ancestry, birth (Antebellum, Civil War, Pre-Reconstruction, and Reconstruction), combined ancestry/birth, enslaved versus liberated, and collection cohorts. These groups were statistically evaluated using ANOVA and χ2 analyses to determine if age, ethnic, and temporal differences existed. Results indicated that African Americans, especially those born during Reconstruction, had significantly higher frequencies of tuberculosis (P = 0.004) and treponematosis (P = 0.006) than Euro-Americans. Historical sources are important in contextualizing why these different ethnic and temporal patterns were present, pointing to environmental conditions related to enslavement, postliberation migration to the industrialized North, crowded urban living conditions, and poor sanitation.

I'll warn you that "fisticuffs" does not appear as a key word, but "treponematosis" does so the awesome still abides.

Kate Clancy is awesome - and so is her post on #aaafail!

Check out Dr. Kate Clancy's blog, Context and Variation, to see her interpretation of the AAA statement: What is a generous interpretation of the AAA mission statement?

Anthropology Just Says No to Science?

Cultural anthropologist Krystal D'Costa over at Anthropology in Practice links to the BANDIT blog in this thoughtful piece: Anthropology Just Says No to Science?

Whither Anthropology as a Science?

Professor Carl Lipo's take on the AAA Statement of Purpose at Evolution Beach.

I think he nicely frames one of the threads in the BANDIT comments yesterday:
"Of course, so much of what anthropology does do really isn't science, not even in its most empiricist and "systematic" form. Looking over the set of papers presented at the AAAs, one sees largely an ad hoc assortment of viewpoints, beliefs, assertions, claims, stories, tales, re-envisionings, interpretations, polemics, rallies, hubris, hue, and so on. Little of it is even empiricist in its crass form and even less is "systematic" in any recognizable way.

But on second thought,the idea that the people who believe that anthropology cannot or should not be a science can entirely co-opt the entire discipline is pretty outrageous. This kind of gerrymandering of the mission basically makes it necessary for those who believe that there are ways of generating theory-laden falsifiable accounts of the world in terms of culture (and other basic anthropological concepts) must work under a different banner than anthropology. But why should this be - we (science focused individuals) are anthropologists in the best sense of the discipline and its tradition. The anti-science theme is something early anthropologists fought against -- and is a relative late comer to the party."