2019 Five Fields Update

Next month SACC will be offering its Five Fields Update in Vancouver! To whet our appetites for this always informative talk, Evin Rodkey, organizer, chair, and SACC president shared with me the following abstract for this year’s panel presentation on the power of engagement in teaching anthropology.

In this session we bring together anthropologists from the various subfields to report on current trends and present on relevant developments and noteworthy new titles. Importantly, presenters deliver this material with attention to the importance of getting their messages across.

In a divisive era of constricted media consumption and related over-simplification of complex issues relevant to matters long central to anthropology, it is crucial the messages we deliver are accessible.

We see the divisiveness that has resulted in this era as driven by three related characteristics, as follows:

1) The acceptance of ideologically appealing assertions over rational argumentation.

2) The flouting of scientific examination in favor of personally satisfying answers for empirically demonstrable, or at least explainable, social and natural phenomena.

3) The reification of misconstrued or even inaccurate commentary via social media and other media platforms.

As anthropologists and academics we face stiff competition in the battle for attention. Consumers of information can turn to any number of media outlets that get their messages across extremely effectively, however lacking in analysis and critical engagement they may be. To address this, presenters in this session focus not strictly on updates in a respective subfield, but concomitantly on the importance of teaching and practicing in this era, including ways of enhancing accessibility and more effectively getting the message across.

The anxiety and even hostility that drives our current state of divisiveness is extraordinarily easy for media outlets with an interest in doing so to tap into. We propose that with engaging presentation and delivery of our material, we can achieve a broader appeal than we tend to have. We can intervene and provide an outlet for information as well.

Panelists will address trends in their subfields as pertaining to teaching and practicing anthropology amid any of the above three characteristics of contemporary culture. Our goal is to address, in the context of a given subfield, the importance of effectively intervening as social science practitioners and teachers, making anthropological explanations welcoming and engaging. Our students and others contribute to the cultural atmosphere—we can help them more effectively improve upon it.

In support of the panel’s goals, five panelists will respond to the topic “getting the message across.” Excerpts from their abstract summaries follow.

Nikki Gorrell, through her research on Basque women, will speak to the applied role of anthropology in a presentation called, “Nireak ere bai: the Me Too Movement in the Basque Country: Getting the Message Across.” “This presentation will demonstrate how we as anthropology professors, can connect our students in the United States to globalized protests and advocacy networks that draw parallels between young women fighting against abusive masculine power structures within an international context.”

In her paper, “Navigating the Space-Tech Continuum: Deploying Active Learning Strategies,” cultural anthropologist Gina Sanchez Gibau will address how “both the use of physical learning spaces (e.g., advanced technology classrooms; traditional classrooms; museums and other community sites) and learning technologies (e.g., image sharing software, white boards) can create active learning experiences. These experiences help equip students with the cultural competencies and sensitivities with which to engage and challenge the changing world in which they live.”

Bonnie Urciuoli, presenting “What Use is Linguistic Anthropology?” will “consider concepts such as indexicality (how discursive practices link speakers to their social world) and register (what specific varieties of language consist of and how they are used). These concepts may seem terminologically obscure, but they are not difficult to explain or illustrate in the classroom and they can provide students with powerful tools for understanding how the world around them works.”

Archaeologist Mark Golitko’s paper “Genes, Networks, and Human Prehistory” will “challenge how ancient DNA is currently being used and offers another emerging archaeological paradigm—archaeological network analysis. This form of analysis presents opportunities to counter problematic but popular narratives of the human past.”

And finally, Chris Shaffer will speak on the importance of “Leveraging Anthropological Holism for Teaching Evolution.” This presentation will consider “how to successfully impart to students the importance of science as a mode of inquiry and evolution as the unifying theory of biology. To achieve this, he believes it is essential for educators to recognize the cultural and social factors that influence students’ acceptance of evolutionary theory. By employing the old anthropological maxim ‘taking culture seriously’ and using techniques designed to reconcile different worldviews, anthropologists should be on the front lines of scientific education.”

Session time and place

2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting, Vancouver.

Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC)
Invited Session # 5-1130

Vancouver Convention Center WEST, Room 112
Saturday November 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Organizer and chair

SACC President Evin Rodkey
Muskegon Community College
[email protected]

Co-chair and presenter

Nikki Gorrell
College of Western Idaho
[email protected]

Barbara Jones is the contributing editor for the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges and teaches anthropology at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. Her research focus addresses issues of ecotourism and notions of wilderness.

Cite as: Jones, Barbara. 2019. “2019 Five Fields Update.” Anthropology News website, October 31, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1297

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