News & Events

News & Events

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Dr. Johnson from CUNY

February 17th, 2017

Nutritional ecology of forest-living olive baboons & implications for human evolution

Caley Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate and Adjunct Lecturer in Anthropology at the City University of New York (CUNY).

As early hominins left forests and began forging life on the savanna, they fed in increasingly open habitats and their diets diversified, especially in the Pleistocene. Pressures from foraging in these new environments are linked with a suite of changes since our last common ancestor with apes. However, it is unclear how changes in nutrition may relate to these significant ecological, physiological, and behavioral innovations. By examining the environmental conditions that shape nutrient management in a wild omnivorous primate, this discussion will contextualize the evolution of nutrient management in humans, and the propensity of modern humans to overconsume energy, thereby increasing rates of cardiometabolic disease. This discussion will also address paleoecological reconstructions of African fossil hominins through presentation of paired nutritional and stable isotope data; and will address extant primate management, as baboons converge on human food resources and come into conflict with communities across Africa, by examining the interactive effects of baboon diet and movement ecology and conservation.

Friday February 24th 2017

1:15 pm in the African Studies Seminar Room (232 Bay State Rd. Room 505).

Lunch is provided only to those who sign up by February 20th, 2017 by writing to Corky White at *



Posted in Department News

What do Widows Really Want?

February 9th, 2017

“What do Widows Really Want?”

Lecture by Professor Joanna Davidson

Assistant Professor, author of Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in Rural West Africa.

When: Friday February 17th 2017 at 1:15 pm

Where: African Studies Seminar Room (232 Bay State Rd. Room 505)
*Lunch is provided only to those who sign up by February 14th, 2017 by writing to Corky White at *

Anthropological attention to widows has often provided a corrective to male biases in kinship studies by focusing on the widows “themselves and the quality of their lives” (Potash, ed. 1986. Widows in African Societies). But what if these widows do not consider themselves to be members of this category? This presentation explores “the problem of widows” in a place – rural Guinea-Bissau – where they are many (up to 35% of the households) but they are neither named nor recognized as a social category. I consider how an engagement with widows as women who refuse to be problematized as a category might challenge conventional anthropological approaches to gender and to the ethnographic enterprise more broadly.


Posted in Department News

Reframing Hospitality: A Leap from Law to Ethics

February 6th, 2017

Reframing Hospitality: A Leap from Law to Ethics

 Mona Siddiqui, OBE, University of Edinburgh Divinity School

Thursday, February 16

4:00 PM

121 Bay State Rd.

Islamic ethics exists within the framework of ‘commanding right and forbidding wrong’. This lecture will explore the limits of the law when expanding the virtues of hospitality as a theological and sociological paradigm.

This event is co-sponsored with the School of Theology

Posted in Department News

Why Are Dogs Human: Another Take on the Nature of Humanity

February 3rd, 2017

Why Are Dogs Human: Another Take on the Nature of Humanity

Professor Liah Greenfield, University Professor and Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Anthropology

A comparison between human ways of life and ways of life characteristic of all animal species reveals one startling difference: while all animal ways of life are transmitted biologically (genetically), like life itself, all human ways of life are transmitted via symbols. This allows us, by way of the analysis of symbolic transmission, to arrive at a view of humanity as an emergent phenomenon, analogous in its relationship to life to the relationship of life to its material/physical substratum and similarly irreducible to it. Thus separated logically from the biological species which represents its main carrier, humanity becomes an autonomous (though, obviously, not independent) characteristic accidentally bestowed on the “human species” and, as such, may be, under specific conditions, shared by animals of other species. It will be argued that dogs, in particular, have been consistently placed in such conditions and, therefore, are in fact human.

Friday, February 3

1:15 pm

African Studies Seminar Room (232 Bay State Rd. Room 505)



Posted in Department News

Is Taiwan Chinese? And Does it Matter?

December 6th, 2016

Is Taiwan Chinese? And Does it Matter?

Melissa J. Brown, Ph.D. Brown is Managing Editor of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. She is the author of Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities.

People in Taiwan view their identity as different from Chinese identity. That difference is rooted in historical social experience, as Taiwan’s ethnically diverse population was ruled by Dutch, Qing, Han, Japanese, and Chinese nationalist regimes before it became a full electoral democracy in 1996. Taiwan’s different history and identity underpins contemporary political and economic implications for the Asia-Pacific region and, given one recent phone call, renewed global tensions.

Friday, December 9

3:00 PM

232 Bay State Road

Anthropology Seminar Room

This event is co-sponsored with the Department of Anthropology


Posted in Department News

Do Parents Matter?: Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don’t Fight, and American Families Should Just Relax

December 5th, 2016

“Do Parents Matter?: Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don’t Fight, and American Families Should Just Relax”

Lecture by Robert and Sarah LeVine, Harvard University

Bob LeVine, a professor emeritus at Harvard, has studied child rearing practices in several African societies. He taught at BU from 2006 to 2009. Sarah LeVine, a long-time research associate at Harvard, has worked with mothers and children in Africa, Nepal, Mexico and India. Their previous co-authored books include Literacy and Mothering: How Women’s Schooling Changes the Lives of the World’s Children (2012, Oxford University Press) and Child Care and Culture: Lessons from Africa (1994, Cambridge University Press). Sarah has also published Dolor y Alegria: Women and Social Change in Urban Mexico (1993, University of Wisconsin Press) and Mothers and Wives: Gusii Women of East Africa (1979, University of Chicago Press), among other books.


When: Friday, December 9th, 12pm

Where: Anthropology Department, Room 102

Light Lunch will be provided only for those who sign up by writing Professor Merry White at by 5pm Dec. 6th

Do Parents Matter? seeks to make ethnographic observations of parenting available to American parents. In 1930, Margaret Mead suggested that worldwide variations in parenting were like a grand experiment enabling American parents to “read the answers” to questions of parenting instead of having to try out different practices themselves. In the 86 years since then anthropologists have studied parental practices in many parts of the world, and we agree that parents in our society can benefit from knowing that there are other ways of treating infants, toddlers and older children.

Posted in Department News

Religious Extremism, the Media, and Counter-Terrorism in Xinjiang, China

November 23rd, 2016

Religious Extremism, the Media, & Counter-Terrorism in Xinjiang, China


Talk by He Xinliang, member of the National People’s Consultative Congress and the National Committee on Minority and Religious Affairs.

When: Thursday, December 1, 4:00 PM

Where: 121 Bay State Rd, First Floor

This event is co-sponsored with the Department of Anthropology

Posted in Department News

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Dr. Janet McIntosh, Brandeis University

November 23rd, 2016

“Listening vs Lingwashing: Promise, Peril, and Structural Oblivion in White South African Linguistic Nationalism”

Lecture by Dr. Janet McIntosh

When: December 2nd, 2016

Where: Anthropology Department RM. 102

12:00pm PLS102 (Anthropology Seminar Room)

Light Lunch will be provided only for those who sign up by writing Professor Merry White at

by 5pm on Nov. 29th

In recent years a growing number of urban, liberal South African whites have expressed a wish to learn an indigenous language such as isiXhosa or isiZulu, often out of anxiety that their linguistic limitations have become embarrassing, even disabling, to their national belonging. Their efforts have been met with mingled enthusiasm and skepticism. I discuss some semiotic dimensions, promises, and perils of white South African language learning efforts, including shifting aesthetic perceptions of click phonemes; the discomfiting vulnerabilities that may arise in white speakers; charges that white linguistic efforts may be an effort to paint over deeper social offenses (“lingwashing”); and the struggle for some whites to grasp the difference between speaking a language and closing deeper gaps in understanding.


Dr. McIntosh is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She is author of The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood, and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast (Duke University Press, 2009; winner of the 2010 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion) and Unsettled: Denial and Belonging among White Kenyans (University of California Press, 2016).

Posted in Department News

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Dr. Marcy Brink-Danan

November 1st, 2016

“Global God Talk: Communication Anxiety and Playful Improvisation in Interfaith Encounters”

Lecture By Dr. Marcy Brink-Danan


WEDNESDAY November 16th 2016

12:00pm PLS102 (Anthropology Seminar Room)

 Light Lunch will be provided only for those who sign up by writing Professor Merry White at

by Friday November 11, 2016

From President Obama’s Interfaith Campus Challenge to the Doha Annual Interfaith Dialogue Conference, today there are few places in the world where government policies have not prioritized increased interfaith “communication.” Why is God talk experiencing such a global boom? To investigate this question, I study international organizations involved in what is cynically called the “interfaith industry,” charting the movement of interfaith dialogue practices between London, New York and Jerusalem. I will analyze how different methods of interfaith communication promote and resist dominant language ideologies present in intercultural dialogue advocacy, such as authenticity, scripting and therapeutic talk (Carr 2010).

Marcy Brink-Danan (PhD 2005, Stanford) specializes in linguistic and cultural anthropology, politics, religion and secularism. Her work appears in American Anthropologist, Anthropological Quarterly, PoLAR, Language & Communication, edited books and a monograph called “Jewish Life in 21st Century Turkey: The Other Side of Tolerance.” Her current project, “Global God Talk,” analyzes the global circulation of linguistic strategies for managing religious diversity, focusing on “God-talkers” such as interfaith dialogue advocates, New Atheists, Humanists, politicians and religious authorities. Brink-Danan was on the faculty at Brown University before joining the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she now lives.

Posted in Department News

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Dr. Chun-Yi Sum

October 19th, 2016

“Does Market Integration Give Rise to Social Inequality?

The Case of Mosuo in Southwestern China”


Presented by Dr. Chun-Yi Sum (Ph.D., Anthropology, Boston University)


Friday October 28, 2016

12:00pm PLS102 (Anthropology Seminar Room)

Light Lunch will be provided only for those who sign up by writing Professor Merry White at

by Tuesday October 25, 2016

The Mosuo (Na) are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group in southwestern China. This small population of 30,000 on the provincial border of Yunnan and Sichuan is known for being the only remaining matrilineal society in all of China. Since the 1990s, tourism and economic development have brought considerable income to some – but not all – Mosuo communities. Having practiced subsistence agriculture for centuries, Mosuo people found their traditions and lifestyles increasingly integrated into the mainstream Han Chinese economy.

Based on demographic data collected in 2008, this paper compares patterns of wealth distribution and socio-economic well-being in three Mosuo communities. It investigates how varying levels of market integration correlate with inequalities in health, employment, and educational attainment in transitioning economies.

Posted in Department News