Spring 2020

THE ÑUIÑE SCRIPT: Writing and Society in northwestern Oaxaca (1600-1200 b.p.)

Dr. Javier Urcid, Brandeis University
5pm,Thursday, April 2 in Hale 230

The Mesoamerican Ñuiñe script appears to have been a semasiographic and logo-phonic system used by multi-linguistic and pluri-ethnic elites to assert or contest membership in corporate groups that owned the means of production, including land, labor, and access to high-ranking political and religious offices. Most of the known inscriptions are emblematic and synecdochical representations of named individuals and their genealogical tracings. The script was partly coeval with the neighboring Zapotec and Central Mexican writing traditions, and evinces a complex process of scribal borrowing and lending with other Oaxacan, Teotihuacan, and Post-Teotihuacan scripts. It illustrates an alternative path in script development unrelated to uni-lineal, teleological transformations from “picture writing” to an “alphabet.”

Urcid April 2

2020 Distinguished Lecture in Cultural Anthropology

Shaping a Mystery: Artisans and Ancestors in India’s Ellora Caves

Kirin Narayan, Professor of Anthropology, The Australian National University
4pm, Thursday, March 12 Paleontology Hall, (Museum of Natural History)

Ellora, Western India, is a World Heritage Site with thirty-four magnificent Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temple-caves excavated and sculpted from the mountain’s rock. Ellora Cave 10, a 7th-century Buddhist chaitya hall, or shrine, features a towering seated Buddha sculpted with hands in the dharmachakra mudra (or “teaching pose”). This cave has also long been known to locals, pilgrims and art historians as the “Vishwakarma Cave” or the “Carpenters’ Hut.” Why is this so? The deity Vishwakarma, “Maker of the Universe,” is usually depicted with tools, and is considered the divine ancestor of artisan communities and protective patron of industrial workers in many regions of India. I build on contemporary ethnographic research on Vishwakarma worship, historical accounts of Ellora, and an elaborate mythology featuring Vishwakarma’s presence on the sacred Ellora mountain, using the prism of Cave 10 to recuperate artisans’ perspectives on making and the provocations of mystery.

Open to the public. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for the Humanities and Arts, and the Center for Asian Studies.
For more information, contact carla.jones@colorado.edu

Mar 12 2020 Distinguished Cultural Lecture

2020 Distinguished Lecture in Cultural Anthropology

"When Work is Worship: Technology, Labor and the Figure of Vishwakarma—'Maker of the Universe,’”

Kenneth George, Professor of Anthropology, The Australian National University
4pm, Friday, March 13 in Hale 230

Although Vishwakarma worship in India has long been associated with hereditary artisan castes and their hand tools, Vishwakarma’s presence has moved beyond craft workshops and into workplaces associated with the country’s infrastructural systems and networks: factories, engineering schools, design studios, public works departments, and industrial parks.  The increasingly public visibility of Vishwakarma worship across India since 1900 shows unmistakable ties to the rise of industrial capitalism in that country and to promulgating an ethos of technological skill and craftsmanship among the broad workforce.  In this context, the figure of Vishwakarma is part of an ethical armature for contemporary techno-economic systems.  Meanwhile, this god has figured, too, in over a century of scholarly works that have set him apart from the predations and perils of industrial capitalism.  The aim of this paper is to rethink the historical and socio-theological warrant for the god’s techno-ideological location in disciplinary literatures, in shrines, and on the factory floor.

Open to the public. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for the Humanities and Arts, and the Center for Asian Studies.
For more information, contact carla.jones@colorado.edu

Mar 13 2020 Distinguished Cultural Lecture

Inferring whether a taxon was truly absent from a site or has not been sampled yet: applications to Paranthropus
Dr. Andrew Du, Department of Anthropology and Geography, Colorado State University
4pm,Friday, February 28 in Hale 230

Knowing how a fossil taxon is distributed across space and through time is important for understanding its biogeographic history, habitat preference, and evolutionary relationships. While a taxon's presence at a site can be proven by the discovery of at least one specimen, demonstrating absence is much more difficult given that an observed absence is consistent with two mutually exclusive outcomes: (1) the taxon never occupied the site, or (2) the taxon did occupy the site but has not been sampled yet. For my talk, I first examine the inferential and analytical challenges this problem poses. I then discuss my model for estimating the probability that a taxon was truly absent from a site given that a certain number of other specimens have been recovered there. I conclude by applying this model to the hominin genus Paranthropus in eastern Africa. Not only does this method provide a clearer picture of which sites Paranthropus did and did not occupy, it also quantifies the number of recovered specimens needed to achieve a certain level of confidence that Paranthropus was truly absent from a given site.

For more information contact: christina.ryder@colorado.edu

Andrew Du

Reconstructing Concepts from Archaeological Remains
Rob Wiseman, University of Cambridge Archaeological Unit
5pm,Thursday, February 27 in Hale 230

Archaeologists have long regarded abstract concepts as difficult —maybe even impossible —to reconstruct from the archaeological record. However, in recent decades, developments in cognitive science have produced new ideas about what concepts are and how they form in the human brain. These give archaeologists new tools to reconstruct many concepts which were important in past societies.

In this talk, Rob will outline some of the new methods available to archaeologists and anthropologists, as well as present results from his own research. These include reconstructions of kinship structures, political concepts, and beliefs about the dead—all from the material record. (And along the way, he might also discuss concepts of love, time, control, the cosmos, and more…)

Rob is a member of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and the MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

For more information contact: scott.ortman@colorado.edu

Dr Wiseman

Multispecies Injustice: Race and Animal Advocacy in Southeast Asia and South Africa
Dr. Juno Salazar Parreñas, Professor of Anthropology at Ohio State University
4pm, Friday, February 7 in Hale 230

Articulations of human rights and animal rights have insufficiently engaged the dire challenges of biodiversity loss, species extinction, and climate change. Instead of situating environmentalism and animal advocacy in the language of liberalism through rights-bearing citizens and wards, this paper argues for a broader sense of justice, one that recognizes the shared plight of human and animal subjects while also critiquing the material conditions of ongoing colonialism. This paper draws from ethnographic research in Sarawak (present-day Malaysia) and preliminary research in South Africa to compare the welfare of displaced orangutans on Borneo, ex-circus lions in southern Africa, and the people who work to enable the survival of such critically endangered and vulnerable lives.

Free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology, Geography and the Center for Asian Studies.
For more information contact: carla.jones@colorado.edu

Juno Parrenas Spring 2020

Fall 2019

How to Tame a Fox (and build a dog) - 2019 Anthropology Colloquium Series
Dr Lee Alan Dugatkin, University of Louisville
4pm, Friday, November 8 in Hale 230

Abstract: For the last six decades a dedicated team of researchers in Siberia has been domesticating silver foxes to replay the evolution of the dog in real time. Lyudmila Trut has been lead scientist on this work since 1959, and together with biologist and historian of science, Lee Dugatkin, she tells the inside story of the science, politics, adventure and love behind it all. Like a set of Russian nesting dolls, How to Tame a Fox {and Build a Dog} opens up to reveal story after story, each embedded within the one that preceded it.  Inside this tale of path-breaking science in the midst of the often brutal -35° winters of Siberia is hidden a remarkable collaboration between an older, freethinking scientific genius and a trusting, but gutsy young woman. Together these two risked not just their careers, but to an extent their lives, to make scientific history. If you go one level deeper, you find yourself lost in the magical tale of how some hardscrabble but openhearted humans and the wild animals who they domesticated developed such deep attachments to each other that both seemed to forget the species divide between them.

How to train a fox



2019-20 Distinguished Lectures in Biological Anthropology

Population Substructure, Health Disparities, and Precision Medicine:  Insights from Biological Anthropology
Fatimah L. C. Jackson, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of Biology, and Director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory, at Howard University
4pm, Friday, November 1 in Hale 230

Evaluating the Genomics of Old and New World Africans
Fatimah L. C. Jackson
, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of Biology, and Director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory, at Howard University
7pm, Saturday, November 2 in Hale 270

Jackson 2019

Life Revitalized Workshop
Anthropologists engage with liveliness beyond the human
9:00am-4:30pm, Friday, October 25 in Hale 450

We write to warmly invite you join us in thinking about questions of liveliness beyond the human. We will be co-hosting an intimate workshop on Friday October 25 considering what it means to expand our conceptions of vitality and humanity. Life Revitalized will bring together leading scholars working at the intersection of feminist anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) to consider how human life is defined and valued in practice.

Invited presenters Andrea Ballestero (Rice University), Marisol de la Cadena (University of California Davis), and Mayanthi Fernando (University of California Santa Cruz) will share ethnographic work exploring human life as a category for organizing experience, a locus of moral or ethical concerns, and a standard against which other forms of life or non-life are measured. We invite participants to consider questions including: What is life, and how can it be acted upon? What forms of life are excluded or dignified? What does it mean to strive for a better life or to improve the lives of others? Does anthropology--long defined as the study of human life--offer ways to engage with lives and liveliness beyond the human? What are the methodological and disciplinary limits of these questions?

Join us as we engage the “politics of life itself” to ask how distinctive ways of knowing simultaneously afford or exclude access to particular lives and to life in the abstract.

Please register for the workshop using this link by October 21 so that we can plan to include you in the day.  For questions please contact Alison Cool, Carla Jones or Carole McGranahan.

Life Revilatlized Fall 2019

2019/20 Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology
Viewing the World from a Moche Mask: The Ontological Turn and the Fate of Meaning in Archaeology
Edward Swenson, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Toronto
4pm, Friday, September 27 in Hale 230

Ritual masks, defined as material objects that disguise, transform, and resignify the identity of its wearer, commonly serve as powerful agents in initiation rites, funerary rituals, theatrical displays, and reenactments of cosmogonic myths. In this lecture, an investigation of masquerade among the Moche of the North Coast of Peru (AD 200-800) reveals that masks acted as animated persons that extended and distributed the life-force (camay) of powerful wak’as (sacred beings). In particular, I examine the remains of broken ceramic masks recovered in feasting middens at the Moche ceremonial center of Huaca Colorada (AD 650-900)
in the southern Jequetepeque Valley of the North Coast of Peru to demonstrate that Moche masking traditions ritually materialized the ontological underpinnings of political and religious ideologies. The iconography of the masks suggests they were worn by officiants who reenacted stories of creation in rites that promoted agricultural bounty, life, and fertility. The discovery of mask fragments and musical instruments in middens containing a high quantity of face-neck jars used to decant corn beer further indicates that ritual specialists donned masks during feasting events staged on ceremonial platforms. The masked figures and their replicated ambassadors, materialized in numerous portable jars sporting prominent faces, acted as conduits of life-giving fluids that were festively circulated among celebrants gathered at the site. In the end, an analysis of Moche masks permits a critical assessment of archaeological interpretations of past ontological dispositions.

Ed Swenson September 27 2019

2019/20 Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology
Imperial Expansion and Transformations in Gender ideologies during the Andean Middle Horizon
Edward Swenson, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Toronto
7pm, Saturday, September 28 in Hale 270

The Middle Horizon (AD 600-900) is associated with the florescence of the highland Wari Empire, and it coincided with widespread economic, political, and religious transformations throughout the Andes. Archaeological investigations of the Late Moche Period (AD 650-800) in the Jequetepeque Valley of northern Peru suggest that Wari expansion resulted in the reconstitution of gender ideologies as reflected in the ascendency of women ritual specialists and a new iconographic corpus celebrating a Moche goddess. The lecture presents results from recent archaeological research in the southern Jequetepeque Valley that sheds light on the role of Wari imperialism in reformulating gender-based political associations on the coast. I argue that novel architectural designs encoded a religious cosmology founded on gender complementarity that paired “male” highland polities with “female” societies on the coast. As documented at the time of the Spanish conquest, the alliance of highland and lowland communities was understood in terms of the union between male and female wak’as or sacred beings and their respective social groups. In fact, our recent research in Jequetepeque strongly suggests that the coast may have been religiously incorporated into the Wari Empire as the female counterpart to a male polity based in the mountains. In the end, the lecture provides a case-study of how archaeologists can investigate architectural remains to interpret the effects of imperial projects on everyday life and gender relations.

Ed Swenson September 28 2019

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