COSWA 2006 Meeting Events

Critical Intersections: Women Practicing Anthropology Beyond the Ivory Tower

Invited session, co-sponsored by NAPA and COSWA
Date:  Fri, 11/17/2006
Time: 8:00 - 11:00 AM
Room: Mtg Rm D-Concourse-San Jose McEnery Convention Ctr
Organizer: Keri Brondo
Chair: Christina Wasson

More than fifty percent of recent anthropology PhDs are now employed outside of academia, yet their career trajectories are not tracked in the same way that those of academics are tracked by the AAA Guide to Departments and the AAA survey on university careers.  Given the feminization of anthropology in general, women may constitute the majority of practicing anthropologists. To explore the careers and lives of women in the world of practice, a recent NAPA Bulletin presented the autoethnographies of eleven women practitioners.  This panel builds on the Bulletin by inviting speakers to share their experiences as female practitioners, engaging specifically with this year's theme "Critical Intersections and Dangerous Issues."  Panelists will explore, from a gendered standpoint, the challenges they face not only as women but as anthropologists in a variety of work contexts.

More information on the NAPA Bulletin, Making History at the Frontier: Women Creating Careers as Practicing Anthropologists can be found at: http://www.practicinganthropology.org/ or http://www.practicinganthropology.org/napabulletin/?bulletinid=26.  The volume presents the stories of 11 women anthropologists whose career paths have successfully navigated the terrain of practice.

Speakers, abstracts, and presentations:

Introductory Remarks
Christina Wasson, University of North Texas
Download Power Point presentation here

On Becoming a Female Applied Anthropologist
Marlene Berg, Institute for Community Research

I come to anthropology via a circuitous route. During graduate school in Urban Planning at New York University, I was deeply immersed in the emerging field of advocacy planning, essentially doing the work of applied anthropology, but not identifying it by that name. The development of neighborhood groups during the early 70’s needed professional support to realize their missions of community engagement and community building and I had the opportunity to be among a group of planners and architects from across the country who worked to create an organization to respond to that need. My understanding of and commitment to anthropology, however, did not become formalized until 1988 when Jean J. Schensul, a nationally recognized anthropologist took on the daunting task of creating the Institute for Community Research (ICR) as an independent nonprofit research organization.  ICR outlined its commitment to using the tools of research in collaboration with community towards the objectives of social justice; and along with Dr. Schensul and other colleagues, I participated in building the organization.  Together we have developed and used the methods and tools of anthropology in partnership with marginalized groups most especially women, girls, families headed by woman and youth as they identified and addressed issues in their daily lives, sought to understand them from their own perspectives, to test and deepen their understanding through research and action, and to bring about change through research-driven advocacy.  In this paper I will describe how these activities have informed and shaped my understanding of myself personally and professionally as a woman and as an urban, applied anthropologist.

Finding a Voice in Highly Technicized, Rational and Masculine Settings
Jeanette Blomberg, IBM Almaden Research

High tech corporate research settings are dominated by agendas that stress causal relationships, schematized elements, and a desire to fix socio-material relations.  The emergent, situated quality of social life is not readily acknowledged and is viewed by some as an assault on the rational, deterministic goals of “science.” Working as an anthropologist in these settings for nearly a quarter century, first at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and now at IBM Research, has required a thick skin, patience and a tolerance for having to explain oneself over and over again. In these organizations where nearly 90% of the researchers are male, a female anthropologist is not only “other,” but also potentially dangerous to established and shared ways of seeing and being in the world. In this talk I will discuss strategies for finding a voice in these technicized settings that enables new agendas and perspectives to take hold.

Dropping Out and Dropping In:  Exploring the Professional Identity of Women Practitioners
Mary Odell Butler, Battelle

Women who trained as anthropologists during the early days of the feminist movement have developed careers in an atmosphere of profound change for both anthropologists and women.  Many of us came into anthropology because of good role models - woman anthropologists like Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict.  But by the time we received advanced degrees, academic jobs were largely “tenured in” by anthropologists who trained in the decade after World War II, most of them male.  With academic opportunities attenuated, women took advantage of new opportunities in practicing anthropology.  Many women who were successful as practitioners moved away from anthropology altogether, partly because the world of practice demanded demonstrated skills more than professional identity and partly because the image of anthropology as “soft” compounded barriers that they faced as women in workplaces dominated by technology.  Outreach to woman practitioners who have “fallen out” of anthropology and their inclusion in the life of the profession as well as creating linkages between practitioners and both professors and students are key opportunities for AAA to mentor anthropologists as they face fundamental changes in employment opportunities available to them.

Seeing Double Two Times: Applying Anthropology Across the Divides
Jacqueline Copeland-Carson, U.S. Bank Private Client Group

This paper explores the challenges women, and others, can face in constructing hybrid career identities that integrate theory, practice and lived experience from multiple fields. Copeland-Carson suggests that women of color applied anthropologists often experience a kind of double, “double consciousness” (DuBois 1990/1903) as they traverse multiple cultural worlds, struggle against racism and sexism, as well as the discipline’s subordination of practice. With growing interest in ethnography in various fields and industries, she argues that there may be an emerging feminization of practicing or applied anthropology affecting both men and women.  This feminization can position applied ethnography (practice) as “soft” (women’s) work, leaving analyzing and theorizing (scholarship) to the “hard” (men’s) social sciences such as economics.  Copeland-Carson suggests tactics for empowering practicing careers, and proposes a scholarship-practitioner vision of anthropology that uses data from applied practice to inform publicly relevant scholarship. 

Living as an Anthropologist: Person, Practice, and Priorities
Miki Iris, Council for Jewish Elderly

Biographical and autobiographical writings by female anthropologists constitute a small yet growing literature that provides us with a long history of the barriers and challenges women have faced in the course of building a career in anthropology.  These writings are filled with descriptions of difficult choices and roadblocks to advancement and success, largely experienced within the fieldwork setting though with occasional reference to discrimination within academic departments, or even blockades to appointments.  Less frequently, we read of the various supports these women have received.  However, despite a greater willingness on the part of our female colleagues to expose the more personal side of becoming an anthropologist, we know little about the career pathways of women as practitioners.  This presentation will describe one practitioner’s experiences of traversing this path, focusing upon the “critical intersections” where important choices must be made, and the “dangerous issues” that can arise in the course of career development.  Specifically addressed will be the intersection of the applied practice setting and the academy; family and career as both a tension and a stimulus; and the opportunities presented by grappling with dangerous issues such as disability, the “critical voice,” and power relationships. The importance of situated practice will be described.

Theory and Practice: Improvising a Life as a Practicing Anthropologist
Eve Pinkser, Stroger Hospital of Cook County, University of Illinois at Chicago

Success as a practicing anthropologist demands the use of ethnographic skills to learn which aspects and results of anthropological theory and method will be seen as useful by potential audiences and employers.  The curiosity about multiple social worlds and perspectives that led me to become an anthropologist, added to the need to be gainfully employed, has also led me to investigate multiple venues where an anthropologist’s perspective can make a contribution -- from community development and evaluation to family medicine, public health, and leadership training.  Although I have been sometimes frustrated by potential colleagues who find that perspective too far “out of the box,” the advantage of being an ethnographer and participant-observer is that any experiences enrich the data I can draw from in advancing my own knowledge of social world(s) and how I can fit in -- or not.  In trying to explain to others the connections between what may seem like diverse areas of interest, I have been forced to clarify for myself the broad questions that have held my interest and my passion over time:  the connections between individual change and social change,  and between social organization and cultural models.

A Female Practitioner’s Guide for Careers in Anthropology
Heather Walsh-Haney, Florida Gulf Coast University
Dowload PDF here

Forensic Anthropology is an applied anthropology field that promulgates the view that its practitioner’s are educated in the subfields of physical anthropology (human and nonhuman primate anatomy, evolution, behavior), human osteology (the skeletal system on a macroscopic and microscopic level), and archaeology (analysis material culture) in order to debate their findings concerning a decedent’s identification and trauma analysis in a court of law.  For the most part, being recognized as a content expert, within international and national courtrooms, requires that the forensic anthropologist have masters or doctoral degrees in physical anthropology and that she has extensive laboratory and field experience in the analysis and collection of human skeletal cases, respectively.  The acquisition of case experience requires interdisciplinary work with attorneys, pathologists, law enforcement, and experts from other scientific fields such as botany, entomology, toxicology, and odontology all of whom must endeavor to allow both novice and veteran access to the forensic anthropologist’s basic units of analyses (e.g., the skeletal cases).   Yet, little attention has been paid to the notion that while more women are becoming forensic anthropology practitioner’s most will work along side disproportionately higher numbers of men from other forensic fields. Additionally, numbers of skeletal cases are unduly female.  As such, mentoring young forensic anthropologists must not only involve technical training but also (1) emphasize how women can and should move forward and upward in the forensics community and (2) place a premium on developing new methods in the analysis and interpretation of trauma patterns and lifeways evidenced by female victims.  In keeping with the topics mentioned above, I will discuss current deficiencies in the applied field of forensic anthropology and present suggestions on bettering the field for future women in forensic anthropology.

Working in Hi Tech
Sue Squires, Sun Microsystems

Increasing numbers of anthropologists have elected to work outside of the academy as anthropology has gotten more public exposure. I will share how I came to apply anthropology in the business sector and offers lessons I have learned including the value the theory and methods of anthropology, the importance of a good work environment, and the benefits of supportive collaborative work teams.

The Spiral Path: Toward an Integrated Life
Alaka Wali, The Center for Cultural Understanding and Change The Field Museum Chicago

In this paper, I discuss how my work as an applied anthropologist have been shaped by opportunities and obstacles, both personal and professional that I encountered at various points in my career. I use the organizing framework of Mary Catherine Bateson's concepts of improvisation and "composing a life" to discuss how gender, childhood events, political beliefs and upheavals in the discipline of anthropology intersected as I tried to navigate the paths of self-discovery and professional fulfillment. In reflecting on the twists and turns my own career has taken, I hope to offer lessons learned to the next generation of anthropologists who must navigate perhaps even more difficult terrains.

Jean Schensual, Institute for Community Research

COSWA Workshop
Pathways To Becoming A Practicing Anthropologist
Sponsored by AAA Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology

DATE: 11/17/2006 (Friday)
TIME: 12:15 PM - 1:30 PM
ROOM: Meeting Room B4-Concourse-San Jose McEnery Convention Center
COST: Free! No pre-registration required.

Do you have an interest in working outside the academy? Have you had trouble finding practical resources within your department? Would you like the opportunity to connect with like-minded students and professionals? The Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology (COSWA) is sponsoring a special Workshop, where practicing anthropologists will discuss, and address questions from participants, regarding training, opportunities, and experiences of women in numerous realms of practitioner anthropology, including human rights work, forensic anthropology, archaeology and the corporate world. Discussion among participants is encouraged. Both students and professionals with interests in practitioner anthropology are invited to attend. No pre-registration is necessary.

Workshop Leaders
Rita Denny (Practica Group, LLC) specializes in American consumer culture, focusing on culturally based meanings of products and services in everyday life, applying these findings to advertising positioning, new product and brand development, and corporate communication strategies. Her projects have included a focus on dogs and their owners, book and music lovers, the integration of hi-tech into home life, the metaphors of computing, the culture of drugs, meanings of health and the culture of corporate giving. She, often with Patricia Sunderland, has written about ethnographic methods and the challenges of doing anthropology in consumer research for audiences as diverse as commercial practice, academic marketing and anthropology. (www.practicagroup.com). Teresita Majewski, Ph.D., RPA is chief operating officer of Statistical Research, Inc., a cultural resources consulting firm with offices throughout the western United States and Canada. She is also an associate research professor in the the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, where she teaches classes in historical archaeology. For many years, she has been active in working with graduate students and young professionals to help them learn the skills necessary to bridge the gap between academic training in anthropology and careers as practicing anthropologists.

Victoria Sanford is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College, City University of New York. She is the author of Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala (2003), Violencia y Genocidio en Guatemala (2003), and La Masacre de Panzós (2006) as well as co-editor (with Asale Angel-Ajani) of Engaged Observer: Anthropology, Advocacy and Activism (2006). She has conducted field research on human rights, displacement, women's human rights, and child soldiers in Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador and South Africa.

In this workshop, Dr. Sanford will draw on her experience as an engaged observer conducting human rights research with national and international NGOs to discuss career pathways available to anthropologists outside of academia.

Heather Walsh-Haney is a forensic anthropologist and visiting instructor at Florida Gulf Coast University, in the College of Professional Studies, Department of Justice Studies and full member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. As a DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team) member, she participated in the recovery of victims from the World Trade Center attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, she is the consulting anthropologist for the Bermuda Special Crimes Task Force and Florida Medical Examiner Districts 3, 4, 5, 20 and 21, as well as a Mummy Investigator with Discovery Channel?s show Mummy Autopsy. As a mummy investigator, she has examined ancient remains from Egypt, Scotland and the Wild West. Lastly, she helped to create and has taught short courses entitle Bugs, Bones, and Botany© for forensic practitioners, students, and teachers for nearly 10 years. She has co-authored the edited volume, The Forensic Anthropology Laboratory with Michael W. Warren for CRC Press.

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