All posts by Jane Baxter

I am a historical archaeologist with interests in the archaeology of childhood, labor, and identity as well as contemporary and community archaeologies. I am also a passionate teacher and have built my career on a teacher-scholar model. I am very interested in pedagogy. My PhD is from the University of Michigan (2000) and I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at DePaul University. Follow her on Twitter at @janeevabaxter.

Boundaries and Bundles: Further Thoughts on Jigsaw Anthropology

We apologize for the delay in releasing our last November guest blog post on behalf of the AAA AD Executive Board. We had to have a last minute author change, and I am incredibly grateful that Patricia McAnany stepped up to write a second post for our series. We hope readers will see all of our posts as a chance to comment on potential ways we can further integrate archaeology and other fields of anthropology. Patricia McAnany is the Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology at UNC Chapel Hill and is the President of the AAA Archaeology Division.

The AAA annual meetings in Minneapolis went pretty well this year. Held just a week after one of the most startling and disconcerting U.S. elections on record, the meeting sessions all seemed to refer, even if vaguely, to the specter of a brave new world under a Trump administration. With promised dismantling of the EPA and related protection of cultural resources—not to mention unbridled racism, sexism, and xenophobia in the air—anthropologists of all stripes and colors huddled together in ad hoc strategy sessions. Suddenly, we had more in common than our epistemological differences might suggest.

Randy McGuire delivered the Patty Jo Watson Distinguished Lecture at the Archeology Division (AD) Business Meeting on Thursday evening and reminded us of the many ways in which an archaeological approach to the human experience matters and can drill to the core of issues like racism, xenophobia, and even darker legacies, such as human torture during the Argentine “Dirty War” of 1976-83. Human practices leave traces and that material legacy can speak volumes (or not, if suppressed).

In my last blog, I addressed the increasing interdependence (in methodological terms) between anthropology and archaeology that comes along with the collaborative turn within archaeology. There is now greater attention to entanglements between living people and objects or places that resonate with ideas and feelings about a past. Today and at the urging of Jane Baxter, I turn to the deeper question of whether there is commensurability between the productions of knowledge within socio-cultural anthropology and within archaeology. As before, my thoughts are channeled through my recent experience as President of the AAA-AD. But I warn the reader that I do not represent the views of the AD or the AAA, the membership of which represent an extraordinarily diverse array of opinions on this topic. Continue reading

More thoughts from the Archaeology Division of the AAA- Publications, Blogging, and Making Conversations Count

This post is the latest in the November guest blog series by the Archaeology Division of the AAA. This post is by Lynne Goldstein. Lynne Goldstein is a Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Campus Archaeology Program at Michigan State University. She is the outgoing Publications Director for the Archaeology Division of the AAA.

In this blogging miniseries, some of the officers of the AAA’s Archaeology Division (AD) have been outlining what makes the AD unique and important, as well as some future plans to increase our reach, as well as our member numbers. As noted earlier by both Jane Baxter and Patricia McAnany, the AD may not be the primary organization for most archaeologists, but it is the place where we can best bridge archaeology and other parts of anthropology.

Since 2013, my focus within the Archaeology Division has been on publications. But, as of the AAA meeting last week, I have come to the end of my tenure as Publications Director of the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association. We are back on track, healthy, and publishing some great articles. Our publication – AP3A – is different than most AAA journals: it comes out only once a year, and the articles are submitted as a group with a guest editor. The volume is peer reviewed at several levels, and we don’t accept individually submitted articles. This has been the structure of the journal since its beginnings almost 30 years ago, and because each issue has a specific focus or theme, many scholars use the volumes for both research and teaching. Indeed, articles from AP3A are often also included in other anthropological collections focused on related topics. The journal has relatively small circulation numbers, but it is available in most libraries, and faculty often assign articles in their classes. Now that AnthroSource has been improved and the journal is digital only, anyone with full access to AnthroSource has access to the journal.

Are there ways that the AD can increase the influence and discussion that AP3A volumes produce? If the journal really focuses on broad theoretical and topical issues, shouldn’t more AAA members be interested in its content? If the impact can be increased, it would be to the benefit of the authors, the journal, and the members. Can we leap the divide and encourage other types of anthropologists to read AP3A? Certainly, with AnthroSource, accessibility is easy, but most people are busy and look only at those things they know. How do we get folks to take advantage of their easy accessibility to AP3A, and move us toward better integration of anthropology?

Blogging is one obvious way that we could increase interest in the journal, and we think that it might be a way to keep the issues of the AP3A active and relevant. If we regularly blog about the topics in the issue, more people would become engaged in the discussion, and more people would link back to the original articles.

Although I may be sounding crass, this strategy is not really about numbers – it is a discussion that the AD is having in an attempt to try and make its content more accessible, relevant, and part of larger anthropology conversations.

Many of us are rethinking publications and what they mean. If you work at a university, you are likely being evaluated and measured based on your Google Scholar scores or other such measures. The number of citations you have is seen as a measure of your influence in the profession, and while there are many, many problems with the calculation of such measures and what is included, it is also clear that these so-called “objective” measures will not go away. Universities like to use what they see as objective numbers that someone else calculates, and pushes by faculty to change their use will likely succeed only at the margins.

But I am talking about something else here. We have the technology and capacity to change the way we use and apply publications in our research and teaching. Once something is published, it should not be considered “done.” Why not regularly and actively focus a discussion on the published piece or pieces in a blog related to the publication? Discuss the article(s) and implications for current and/or future research. Highlight things that might be significant or interesting to a broader range of scholars, or to the general public. And, in addition to blogging, promote the discussion in other forms of social media. This is the kind of approach that the AD is discussing to make its work more visible, more accessible, and more relevant to a much broader range of people, whether they ever become members or not. We can have threads that focus on each issue, yet overlap and make broader points, develop arguments for and against specifics, and represent a real discussion of the topics.

What do you think? Would you participate in such discussions? Would it make you rethink your current or former opinion of the AD? Let us know. Of course, we are always open to other ideas too!

 

Bridging the Divide: Bringing Archaeology and Anthropology Closer through the AAA

This is the third in a series of guest blogs this November from the AAA Archaeology Division Executive Board detailing ideas generated at retreat at the Amerind Foundation this past June. This post is by outgoing AD Secretary, Jane Eva Baxter.

As thousands of anthropologists make their way to Minneapolis to take part in the AAA Annual Meetings, it is worth thinking about the potential ways this organization might help to foster a more robust and inclusive anthropology that actively embraces all of the subfields in intellectual and not just structural ways. When the Executive Board of the Archaeology Division (AD) of the AAA met at Amerind in June, one of the major areas of discussion was how to leverage the resources available through the AAA to create a unique intellectual space among all the professional organizations available to archaeologists.

The Archaeology Division is Welcomed to the Amerind Foundation in June 2016.
The Archaeology Division is Welcomed to the Amerind Foundation in June 2016.

It’s important to provide a bit of context for this discussion. Most archaeologists do not seethe AAA as their primary intellectual or professional home, but rather are more actively involved in the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America and/or the American Cultural Resources Association. The AAA is a secondary or tertiary membership for most current AAA AD members. The AAA is also the most expensive professional organization among these to join, and as Patricia McAnany noted in last week’s post the intellectual ties between archaeology and anthropology were disrupted significantly in the 1990s. These factors have resulted in a substantial reduction in AAA membership by archaeologists. Most of us who have retained our AAA membership have done so because of an enduring belief in the anthropological nature of archaeological inquiry and practice, and because we still find engaging with anthropology outside of our own subfield to be an enriching and nourishing intellectual experience. Continue reading

Jigsaw Anthropology: Do the pieces fit together?

This post is the second in our November guest blogging effort reporting on the AAA Archaeology Division meetings at Amerind that explored the relationship between archaeology and anthropology. In this essay, Patricia McAnany, President of the Archaeology Division, reflects on the historical and contemporary ties than bind these fields of inquiry together. Dr. McAnany is the Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology at UNC Chapel Hill.

In 2014, I felt like a marked woman. Time was running out; sooner or later I would be approached to run for President of the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association (AAA-AD). I had been a stalwart member over the years. My graduate training at the University of New Mexico was very anthropological but then I joined the Department of Archaeology at Boston University and began to rub elbows with a diverse group of archaeologists of all stripes and colors. My AAA membership became my tribal affiliation—a gut-level expression of how I deployed method and theory in the practice of archaeology.

Patricia McAnany, Archaeology Division President, leading discussions at Amerind in June 2016.
Patricia McAnany, Archaeology Division President, leading discussions at Amerind in June 2016. Photo courtesy of Annie Larkin.

Over the years, more and more of my anthropological-archaeology colleagues declined to renew their AAA-AD membership, citing the expense or the fact that sessions about archaeology don’t dominate the meeting schedule as they do at SAA meetings. I couldn’t believe that archaeologists had become so parochial that they were willing to forego the cross-fertilization that continues to happen when anthropologists of all persuasions are brought together under one roof. But, I admit that I am bothered by the price tag of AAA membership—not exorbitant as professional organizations go but formidable considering the weak job market and plateauing of academic salaries. I suspect that among my fellow archaeologists there also is a feeling of discomfort about the fact that archaeologists are a minority within the AAAs. We often struggle to have our voices heard and to air our perspectives in matters of direct concern to archaeology, such as ethics and heritage.

What are we to do? Should we sunset the AD, chalk it up to a casualty of the increasing specialization that inevitably occurs as a discipline matures? Archaeology has grown in ways not anticipated when the Archaeology Division of the AAAs was formed in 1983. No one anticipated that federal legislation—like NAGPRA—would shake the discipline to its core, or that scientific developments like aDNA would allow mapping of genetic relatedness in a way that would realize some of the pie-in-the-sky goals of processual archaeology—that is, kinship affiliation in the Broken K pueblo study. One can ask—as many are—if archaeologists trained in departments of Anthropology stand to lose anything by cutting the strings that bind us to Anthropology—a discipline birthed in that strange cauldron of nineteenth-century European imperialism laced with insatiable curiosity? Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the four jagged-edge sub-disciplines that fit together to create a holistic study of the human experience have morphed and transformed since their earlier crafting. Continue reading

The AD at Amerind: Building the Next Generation of Anthropological Archaeology

This  post is an introduction to the November Guest Blogging Effort by Members of the American Anthropological Association Archaeology Division Executive Board. We are looking forward to having engaged dialog with Savage Minds readers on how the relationship between archaeology and anthropology can be rebuilt in the 21st Century! Jane Eva Baxter is coordinating this guest blogging effort and is the outgoing Secretary of the AAA Archaeology Division Executive Board.

American archaeology has long found its home both structurally and intellectually within the four fields of anthropology. The relationship between archaeology and socio-cultural anthropology has deep historical roots based in large part on shared interests in societies considered “pre-modern” or “traditional,” and early scholarship in both subfields mutually informed and enriched one another. The postmodern turn in the 1980s and 1990s created a rift between these sub-fields and this fissure has permeated both disciplinary structures and intellectual inquiry. The historical commonalities between these two areas of inquiry has been strained, and this tension is reflected in a notable decrease in professional and scholarly engagement between practitioners of these subfields Continue reading

Footprints, Families, and Fallacies

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger, Jane Eva Baxter]

Yesterday, the media widely reported the discovery of 850,000 (or so) year old footprints at the British seaside village of Happisburgh. This media coverage coincided with the publication of an article in the open access, peer reviewed journal PLoS ONE, and the announcement that the footprints will be featured as part of an upcoming exhibition called, “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story” at the Natural History Museum in London.  While the AP story can be found through your media outlet of choice, you also can read a bit about the find through the British Museum blog by curator Nicholas Ashton, who was involved with the project.

The Allure of Footprints

This discovery has generated a good deal of enthusiasm among the general public.  As some small measure of this excitement, I can report six students in my World Prehistory course (of 40 students) emailed me with links to news coverage about the find in a single day. This is not typical, and such news sharing is not required or even necessarily encouraged as part of the course. Archaeologist Clive Gamble, quoted in the AP article, explains why this discovery has such a popular appeal. “This is the closest we’ve got to seeing the people,” he told the AP. “When I heard about it, it was like hearing the first line of [William Blake’s hymn] ‘Jerusalem’ — ‘And did those feet, in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green?’ Well, they walked upon its muddy estuary.” Continue reading

Who’s an archaeologist, and what do we do? A few reflections on Identities and Boundaries in Four-Field Anthropology

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Jane Eva Baxter]

This past year, I had two conference experiences that offered me a chance to reflect on what it means to be an anthropologist/archaeologist in the 21st century.  These experiences allowed me to consider the dynamic shifts in anthropological inquiry that move us beyond historical visions of and for the discipline.  Simultaneously, these encounters got me thinking about identities within anthropology, and how we connect, disconnect, and reconnect to the particular cultures of our own subfields.  Perhaps most interesting, was the realization that boundaries of practice are shifting with a different pace and rhythm than our own identities as anthropologists, or archeologists, or linguists, or…   In other words, these experiences gave me an opportunity to reflect upon a very active set of incongruities around traditional characterizations and boundaries of practice, the realities of what we actually do now as members of a particular anthropological subfield, and the ways we choose to identify ourselves within the incredible diversity of anthropology/anthropologists today. Continue reading

Undergraduate Ethnographers Infiltrate the AAA: Part 2

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Jane Eva Baxter]

Structuring a course experience or assignment to enable a particular type of learning is a challenging task, and never guarantees a specific set of results. In Part 1 of this post, I described the course context, learning goals, and assignment structure for sending 30 DePaul senior anthropology majors to the AAA Annual Meeting to participate, observe, and write about their experiences as brief ethnographies.

I did not ask students in advance what their expectations were for the AAA meeting (opportunity lost) but my sense, based on their reactions, is they imagined the meeting to be a rather serious, sober, and scholarly affair. They were overwhelmed by how social, dynamic, and fun the meetings were not just as first time attendees figuring out how it all worked, but also for all of you who were busily conferencing away as they were attentively observing you!

Several of the resulting essays were so good I wish I could share them with you in their entirety.  Nearly all were thoughtful, competent, and reflective pieces of writing.  The best were innovative, humorous, and insightful. It is impossible to convey effectively the results of 30 different research projects at the AAA.  Instead, I’ve tried to summarize some of the students’ perceptions using the four broad categories assigned for their structured observations, and to offer some thoughts on what they learned by participating in the annual meeting as undergraduate ethnographers.

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Undergraduate Ethnographers Infiltrate the AAA: Part 1

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger, JANE EVA BAXTER]

November’s AAA meetings are a distant memory after a season of holidays, finals, grading, and course preparation for round two of the academic year. Before they slip away completely, I wanted to share some thoughts about assigning 30 anthropology seniors the task of writing a brief ethnography based on time spent at the AAA annual meetings. That’s right- a small contingent of undergraduate ethnographers was among you. They may have handed you your conference program at registration, sat next to you in a session, or been at the next table at Kitty O’Shea’s or Starbucks. So think back, while you were busy conferencing you were being observed, perhaps were engaged in casual conversation, and certainly were studied thoughtfully by students in a senior capstone seminar trying to learn what it really means to be an anthropologist in 2013.

Teaching “The Anthropological Life” Using the AAA Meetings

The anthropology senior seminar at DePaul is titled, “The Anthropological Life” and is a course designed to help students simultaneously reflect on four years of education, and contemplate the transition from life in school to life without school. Each faculty member who teaches the course takes a different approach, but I’ve always embraced the seminar as an opportunity for students to connect with anthropologists working in a variety of vocational capacities. Usually, this means in a ten week quarter I invite four guest anthropologists from outside academe to come to campus, give a public lecture, have dinner with our seniors, and then have the seniors interview them for about 90 minutes where they can talk about their “anthropological life.”

My two main goals for the course are really quite simple. First, I want students to recognize that anthropology is not a particular vocation, but rather a way of engaging the world. I ask them: How do people with anthropological training see the world differently from those without such training? What are the core values of the discipline and how do those values become actualized in the daily practice of lived lives? Second, I want students to reflect actively on their own “anthropological lives” and consider how anthropology will shape their future regardless of their career or life path. In many forms we engage question such as: What does anthropology mean in the context of your life? How has anthropology shaped who you are as a person and how do you see anthropology shaping your future?

The AAA coming to town was a pretty remarkable opportunity in the context of this course. Where else could students gain so much exposure to contemporary anthropology so efficiently? And so, for the 2013 permutation of the course, it was decided to substitute a guest speaker with a somewhat structured encounter with the AAA meeting that would result in a very brief piece of ethnographic writing.

Continue reading