From the Chair — Spring 2016

Janelle Taylor headshot
Janelle Taylor

Commencement season each year marks the point when students prepare to move on from the temporary home they have made at the UW. This spring, UW Anthropology faculty, staff, and students are preparing to move from the department’s temporary home in Condon Hall, back to a newly renovated Denny Hall, where we invite you to come visit us this fall. As anthropologists steeped in a discipline built around the importance of field-based research, we understand that temporary displacements, while sometimes uncomfortable, can lead to understanding, growth, and productive transformation. This issue of AnthropoLog features some stories of displacements — some temporary, some more permanent — that have been important in the life of the UW Department of Anthropology this year.

Our purpose as an institution, of course, lies with the students with whom we are privileged to work for some more or less temporary period, while they study anthropology. The department continues to serve over 450 undergraduate majors and minors, and some 100 graduate students, even as enrollments elsewhere in the College of Arts and Sciences have dropped significantly. In the time they spend with us, our students accomplish remarkable things, and we are proud to share some of their achievements with you in the pages that follow.

Anthropology faculty and staff generally spend much longer in the department than students, but over time that lineup too undergoes change.

This year, we are delighted to welcome five new faculty members. Jean Dennison, who joins us as Assistant Professor, is a citizen of the Osage Nation and author of Colonial Entanglement: Constituting a Twenty-First-Century Osage Nation (UNC Press 2012), which speaks directly to national revitalization, one of the most pressing issues facing American Indians today. She explores how indigenous peoples negotiate and contest the ongoing settler colonial process in areas such as citizenship, governance, and sovereignty. Also joining us this year as Assistant Professor is Radhika Govindrajan. She is a socio-cultural anthropologist who works on human-animal relations in India’s Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Her interests include animal studies, South Asia, the anthropology of religion, agrarian studies, environmental anthropology, and the anthropology of the Himalayas. A third newly hired Assistant Professor in Anthropology is Jenna Grant, a medical anthropologist and scholar of Southeast Asia whose research has focused primarily on biomedicine as practiced in urban Cambodia. Alex Hill, newly appointed as Lecturer, is a biological anthropologist who explores the ways in which evolutionary theory can inform our understanding of human behavior. Of particular interest to him is the influence of sexual selection on human phenotypes, with much of his attention focused on the ways in which vocal attributes have been shaped by this process. He is currently building on previous work aimed at assessing the relative contributions of mate choice and contest competition within our species. Marieke van Eijk also joins us as Lecturer this year, after already teaching here for one year in a Visiting Lecturer position. She is a medical anthropologist with a background in gender studies whose research interests center upon how institutions, insurance, and money shape biomedicine as practiced in the U.S., especially in contested domains such as transgender health care.

This year the anthropology department also welcomes two new staff members, who provide vital behind-the-scenes support to faculty and students. Program Assistant Sasha Duttchoudhury and Undergraduate Advisor Morgan Hale bring impressive skills and wide-ranging interests to our department, which you can learn about in these pages.

Two of our faculty are moving onward and upward on the tenure track: we are delighted to congratulate Professor Sven Haakanson and Professor Sareeta Amrute on their recent achievement of tenure. Two other longtime faculty members, meanwhile, will be reconfiguring their appointments and shifting away from the department in Fall 2016, to better align with the evolution of their own research and teaching interests. Sasha Welland, who has been jointly appointed in Anthropology, will be appointed full-time in the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. Alison Wylie, who has held a joint appointment in Anthropology and Philosophy, will be shifting her UW affiliation entirely to the Department of Philosophy, in the course of reconfiguring her position to allow her to spend fall quarter each year at the University of Durham (in the U.K.) where she has found a second academic home. While sorry to see them leave the department, we thank them both sincerely for their many years of excellent contributions, wish them very well, and look forward to continuing relationships with these important UW colleagues.

The idea that intentionally and consciously displacing oneself can be a productive path toward experiential learning has long been central to the discipline of anthropology. UW Anthropology faculty seeking to provide such learning opportunities for our students have devoted great energy to developing field schools and overseas study programs. We are proud to share with you here news about programs that bring faculty and students together in such far-flung places as Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam, Jordan, Tahiti, Italy, and Grand Ronde Confederated Tribal lands in Oregon.

Sometimes, what once may have seemed a permanent loss can be transformed into a temporary displacement and return. Read on and you will also learn how Professor Sven Haakanson has helped revive traditional Alutiiq boatbuilding skills and designs. Boats and other objects taken from Native Alaskan communities decades ago and kept in museums far away have, through this work, provided the basis for the revival and revitalization of traditions. As I write these words, the Angyaak canoe recently built in the Burke is being prepared to launch, when it will in turn carry people away and back again to shore.

I hope that you will enjoy reading about these and other activities and accomplishments of UW Anthropologists. As department chair for these past four years it has been my privilege and honor to support and facilitate the excellent work being done by our students, staff, and faculty. Serving as chair is, too, a temporary displacement (and a learning experience!). I will soon step down and return to teaching and research, and Dr. Patricia Kramer will step in as Chair beginning July 1, 2016. I am glad to know that our department will be in her very capable hands!

Please come visit us in the new Denny this fall! We are eager to stay in touch, and the AnthropoLog e-newsletter is just one way we hope to do this. Our website also lists events that we encourage you to attend, if possible, and has links for making donations. The website also features news, and we welcome our alumni to share items that we might post.

Thank you so much for your interest in anthropology, your support of our students, and your friendship. We are so grateful to have you in our community.

Sincerely,

 

Janelle Taylor

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