News & Events

News & Events

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

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Professor Robert P. Weller

October 7th, 2016

“The Yin World in Chaos: Expanding Cities and Transforming Religions in Contemporary China”


Lecture by Professor Robert P. Weller


Friday October 14th 2016

12:00pm PLS102 (Anthropology Seminar Room)

Light Lunch will be Provided

For Lunch you must RSVP to Professor Merry White at by October 11th.

Rapid urban expansion in wealthy parts of China has led to the resettlement of many villagers into high-rise buildings, making earlier forms of social organization impossible.  At the same time, large-scale urban reconstruction has displaced many old city neighborhoods.  The result is that the territorially based religion described in much of the anthropological and historical literature has become increasingly untenable.  Instead we see an expansion in other forms of religiosity less tied to place.  This talk examines what appears to be an especially creative zone for religious innovation:  the expanding urban edge.  The cases come from various cities in southern Jiangsu and focus on ghost attacks, a spirit medium network, and innovations in the forms and objects of temple worship.  The conclusion compares these changes in popular religion with developments in other religious traditions as China urbanizes.  Theoretically, the paper seeks to illuminate the processes of change with comparison to disturbed ecosystems.

Posted in Department News

Graduate Lunch Series Presents: Professor Parker Shipton

September 26th, 2016

The Department of Anthropology Presents

Graduate Lunch Series

 Aborigine to Zombie?  Angles and Ironies of “Savagery”

Lecture by Professor Parker Shipton.


Friday September 30th 2016

Noon PLS102 (Anthropology Seminar Room)

Light Lunch will be Provided

For Lunch you must RSVP to Professor Merry White at by September 27th.


Savagery, like civility, refers to a motley mix of ideas, not all directly interlinked. It gains and drops meanings, over time and in translation. But some recur more than others. So do some kinds of verbiage that evoke them. Whether denoting ostensible character traits (noble or ig-), conditioned or situational responses, or dramatic enactments for humor or horror, the vague, versatile concept of savagery resists purported expunging. It bounces between ethnic, racial, and other groups as perceived. Blurring species bounds, it sometimes produces similar emotive and prejudicial effects even with traits negated. Few remain immune. Slurs like savage or barbarian, spoken or written, may stick better to acts, intents, or episodes than to people or cultures — let alone species. But will they stop seducing?

Posted in Department News

Christopher Taylor Awarded Harold K. Schneider Prize

October 29th, 2015

Christopher Taylor Awarded Economic Anthropology Prize for Best Graduate Paper

Christopher Taylor - 12mg

Christopher Taylor, Ph.D. (Anthropology) BU GRS 2015, was awarded the Harold K. Schneider Graduate Paper Prize from the Society for Economic Anthropology for his paper “New Islamic Charities in North India: Re-Visiting Islam’s ‘Moral Economy.’ ” Robert W. Hefner was honored as Taylor’s Faculty Sponsor.

Taylor’s paper is part of his Ph.D. dissertation project, “Islamic Charity in India: Ethical Entrepreneurism & the Ritual, Revival, and Reform of Zakat Among a Muslim Minority.” His dissertation explores the rise and transformation of contemporary Islamic charity.

In the paper, Taylor argues that the practice of Islamic charity in India today reveals contradictions that invite us to reconsider our ideas of philanthropy and the relationship between the economy and Islam. Drawing on his year and a half of work on new Islamic charities, Taylor illustrates how Muslim reformers seek to re-orient India’s Muslims toward the perceived requirements of capitalist markets. Morality is often imagined to be at odds with capitalism, yet these “ethical entrepreneurs” promote development as simultaneously economic and moral.   Taylor will present his winning paper at the Society for Economic Anthropology annual meeting in Athens, Georgia in 2016.

Dr. Taylor is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and instructor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at George Mason University.  Dr. Taylor was also a graduate research fellow of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Dissertation Fellow of the Lake School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Posted in Department News

Featured Courses: Fall 2015

April 16th, 2015

AN327/727 Islam in Africa
This course examines the Islamization of Africa and the various processes of Arabization and Africanization (localization) of Islam. Case studies from North, West and East Africa are discussed. The course examines the religious beliefs, cultures, and histories of multiple Muslim societies of Africa, including the complex struggles of Muslims in Morocco and in the Hausaland of Nigeria. The course also examines Islam in the Ashanti society of Ghana, in Buganda communities of Uganda, in Wolof communities of Senegambia, and in the ostensibly Christian state of Ethiopia (beginning with the first emigration of Muslims from Mecca in 615 AD). The Mahdi movement of the Sudan and the popular and expanding Muridiyya Sufi order of Senegal are also examined. The course concludes with a survey of the forms and contents of the rich religious and secular literatures in indigenous African languages written with the Arabic script. SS 4 cr.
Ngom, TR 12:30-2


AN330/730 Evolutionary Life History
Prereq: AN102 or BI107
This course analyzes human life history from an evolutionary and cross-cultural perspective. Issues to be addressed include: 1) the basic patterns of human growth and development; 2) techniques for assessing human growth status; 3) life history theory; 4) comparative analyses of human life stages, incorporating studies of living primates and fossil human ancestors; and 5) endocrine, social, and ecological determinants of variation in growth and development. Other topics include brain evolution, fetal programming, sexual dimorphism, senescence, immunity, and obesity. NS 4 cr.
Hodges-Simeon, MWF 9-10:00



AN234 Evolutionary Psychology (formerly AN334)
This course stands at the intersection of biological anthropology, with its focus on human evolution, and psychology, and an emphasis on human thought, emotion and behavior. It explores the extent to which the explanatory approaches of biological anthropology, based in modern evolutionary and genetic theory, can be usefully applied to the study of psychological traits. The course begins by laying a firm grounding in the relevant biological theories, and then uses these theories to dissect a wide range of psychological topics, including sensation and perception, consciousness, emotion and motivation, cognition, learning, individual differences, and various aspects of social behavior, including mating and parenting. NS 4 cr.
Hodges-Simeon, MWF 12-1:00