Friday, December 5, 2008

The Development of Social Science Theory, Archaeology, and Indigenous Peoples

The social sciences have experienced a number of rapid and expansive theoretical developments over the course of the last hundred years. From fighting for their existence as an intellectual endeavor within academia and the university during the 19th century, to experiencing a series of popular and wide scale adoptions with such theoretical epistemologies as positivism and behaviorism, the social sciences are currently at an epistemological crossroads. In the aftermath of such powerful critiques as deconstructionism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and the Frankfurt School’s singular attack on positivism and the Vienna School, the social sciences are struggling to find their epistemological footing. This is particularly true within the field of anthropology, including its daughter discipline of archaeology, for not only has the theoretical foundations of the discipline been called into question, but the field’s subject matter – its source of data and existence – has also been brought to bear. In an effort to reestablish some form of theoretical footing, the social sciences have begun to open their epistemological doors to cultures and ways of knowing historically allowed to only represent data. In this process, indigenous peoples and their epistemology have played a key role.

Over the past two decades a significant amount of academic energy has been invested in professing the urgent need and essentialness for developing what some have called an indigenous archaeology. Books, essays, and academic conferences have discussed, defined, and designed a multiplicity of paths towards this goal. Very little effort has been expanded, however, in seriously examining the intellectual viability or the social and cultural desirability of this project. In a recent paper entitled Aboriginalism and the Problems of Indigenous Archaeology Robert McGhee attempts to examine this theoretical endeavor within the field of archaeology.

Read more about Aboriginalism, indigenous archaeology, and the development of social science theory here.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

American Indian and Indigenous People's Conferences: Call for Papers

Call for Papers: American Indian/Indigenous Film Area

Southwest/Texas Popular & American Culture Associations 30th Anniversary Conference, Albuquerque, NM

February 24-28, 2009

The 2009 WS/TX PCA/ACA Conference will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

The American Indian/Indigenous Film Area is looking for panels, papers, and workshops on topics related to American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous film. We welcome proposals from all disciplines that examine, utilize, promote, or teach Native/Indigenous film and media are welcome. The American Indian/Indigenous Film Area is particularly interested in bringing together Native filmmakers and Native/non-Native academics to talk about the burgeoning field of Indigenous Film.

Some topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Native women filmmakers.
  • American Indian/Indigenous Film and/or filmmakers.
  • New Voices in Native/Indigenous film and media.
  • Needs, Access, and Issues in Native/Indigenous film.
  • The outcomes/consequences of using Native films across cultural boundaries and in comparison to other cultural approaches.
  • Teaching American Indian or Indigenous films as part of a non-American Indian Studies course, such as Humanities, American Studies, or English.
  • Disciplinary and cultural politics as they influence how we read Native film.
  • American Indians in Hollywood film.
  • Approaches to teaching American Indian film.
  • Indian and the Western (this could also apply to how Indigenous people globally are positioned as “Indians” in national “Western” genres).
  • Effects/impacts of Native representations in film/media on Native and non-Native culture.
  • Showcasing new work (if you would like to facilitate a panel that screens new work, please do so).

If you have specific ideas for topics, workshops, or panels that are not listed here, please submit those as well.

Native filmmakers, scholars, teachers, students, professionals, and others are encouraged to participate. Graduate students may wish to submit papers for fellowships and awards. Further information regarding the conference (listing of all areas, hotel, registration, tours, etc) can be found at Register early for a discount rate and to reserve space at the conference hotel—rooms fill quickly.

Date and Place: February 24-28, 2009

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
30 Tijeras
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: 1.505.842.1234
Fax: 1.515.766.6710

Please pass along this call to friends and colleagues.

Deadlines: Priority Submission and Registration: December 1, 2008 Final deadline for Proposals and Panels: Decenber 15, 2008 Final Conference Registration: December 31, 2008 (All participants must be registered by this date).

Please send 100-200 word abstracts to:

M. Elise Marubbio,
Assistant Professor & Director Augsburg Native American Film Series CB 115 Augsburg College
2211 Riverside Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 330-1523

Call for Papers: American Indians Today

Abstract/Proposals by 15 December 2008 (Deadline Extension) February 25-28, 2009

Southwest/Texas Popular & American Popular Culture Associations 30th Annual Conference

Albuquerque, NM. February 25-28, 2009
Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
330 Tijeras
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Phone: 1.505.842.1234
Fax: 1.505.766.6710

Panels now forming on topics related to American Indians Today. I am looking for panels or papers that examine the influence that American pop culture has on aspects of contemporary American Indian life ways and vice versa.

American Indian culture is diverse and an examination of the culture, influences, adaptation, and cultural syncretism as it is presented in contemporary America is welcome.

Proposals may examine any aspect of American Indian life ways and pop culture as represented or interpreted in: the arts and performing arts (storytelling, myth, legend, theater, music); poetry; oral tradition; myth; legend; philosophy; sciences, arts; fashion; artifacts; foods; journalism; media (radio, television); photography; cultural, spiritual or identity appropriation; stereotypes; mascots; tribal politics; history; gaming; Indians in the military; activist movements; social influences; reservation, rural and urban influences; languages; assimilation, adaptation, and syncretism; sovereignty, peoplehood and any influence one may observe that has its genesis in American popular culture as adapted by contemporary American Indians.

This year marks our milestone 30th Anniversary! We will mark this accomplishment with our conference theme that celebrates our roots, "Reeling in the Years: 30 Years of Film, TV, and Popular Culture." For this special theme, papers are particularly sought on aspects of film, TV, and popular culture of the last 30 years with an emphasis on the popular culture of 1979.

We are honored to have as our Luncheon Keynote, former New Mexico Governor David Cargo (1967-1971). Among his many accomplishments, Governor Cargo founded the New Mexico Film Commission, the first of its kind nationwide, which brought Hollywood film production to New Mexico. Continuing a tradition of governors who act, David Cargo played roles in several films including The Gatling Gun (1973), Bunny O'Hare (1971), and Up in the Cellar (1971) about a student poet who seduces his college president's wife, daughter, and girlfriend over lost financial aid.

Priority Submission and Registration: December 1, 2008.

Final Submission Deadline: Dec. 15, 2008.

Conference Registration: Dec. 31, 2008 (all participants must be registered by this date!).

Send abstracts and proposals for panels of 100-250 words. Submissions may be directed to me at the address below by 15 December 2008. :

Richard L. Allen, Area Chair
American Indians Today
Cherokee Nation
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465
(918) 453- 5466

Details regarding the conference (listing of all areas, hotel registration) can be found at

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November 26-December 2, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of November 26 - December 2, 2008

Ecuador: Mass Indigenous Protest In Defense Of Water Caps Week Of Mobilizations In Ecuador

Over 10,000 indigenous people from hundreds of Ecuador's Northern Sierra (highlands) communities gathered to present the native movement's proposed Water Law. Protesters chanted, "Water is not for sale, it is to be defended," as speakers excoriated President Rafael Correa's draft Water Law, saying that it could lead to privatization and pollution by mining companies.

The protest was organized by the Confederation of Peoples of the Kichwa Nationality (Ecuaranari), the Sierra regional block of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Marches left from the North, South and West to converge on the Pan-American Highway, blocking the country's central artery for over six hours.

The march also showed the indigenous movement's capacity to mobilize large numbers of people, a sign that the CONAIE is recovering from past internal divisions and political defeats. Correa has regularly insulted indigenous leaders and anti-mining activists, claiming that they do not represent a real political base. But indigenous people at Wednesday's protest were passionate about defending their access to clean water.

Maria came to the march from the community of Santa Anita, in the Central Sierra province of Chimborazo: "We are here to defend the water. We take care of the páramos (Andean wetlands) to get our water. We don't get our water for free. They say they're going to take away our water, and we're not going to let them."

The protest came two days after thousands of campesinos and coastal fishers staged nationwide protests and road blockades against Correa's draft Mining Law and support for large-scale shrimp farms. Activists contend that the law would allow companies to undertake damaging large-scale and open pit mining in ecologically sensitive areas, contaminating the water supply with heavy metals. Fishers demanded that Correa overturn Decree 1391, passed on October 15th, which handed thousands of marine hectares over to large-scale shrimp farmers. This will lead to the further destruction of mangrove forests, critical habitat for the area's fish, crabs and conchs. Participants in all of this week's marches have emphasized the importance of natural resources to their communities. Read more about indigenous protests in Ecuador here....

Latin America: Indigenous And Latin American Leaders Optimistic About Obama

Latin American reaction to the presidential election victory of Barack Obama has been overwhelmingly positive. Indigenous leaders as well as presidents of countries with activist native communities sent notes of congratulations to the president elect; they have also expressed optimism for improved relations between Latin America and the U.S.

For Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose historic victory as an indigenous man winning the presidency in a country with a long and violently racist past, the Obama victory was a “historic triumph.”

“… on behalf of the national government, congratulations,” President Morales said at a press conference Nov. 5. “He [Obama] is a man who comes from one of the sectors most discriminated against, from people who were enslaved; it is historic certainly.

“I am sure he will continue to make history,” Morales continued. “I am also sure that the relations between the Bolivian and U.S. governments will improve.”

The Aymaran leader repeated his assertion that “… who could have been better, … a person who represents the most marginalized people, the African Americans.” President Morales went on to encourage the president-elect to lift the blockade against Cuba (as would the presidents of Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela) and to retire U.S. troops from “… some countries.” Read more about Obama and Latin American perspectives here....

Africa: Mobile Finance: Indigenous, Ingenious Or Both?

In Ghana, it's popularly known as susu. In Cameroon, tontines or chilembe. And in South Africa, stokfel. Today, you'd most likely call it plain-old microfinance, the nearest term we have for it. Age-old indigenous credit schemes have run perfectly well without much outside intervention for generations. Although, in our excitement to implement new technologies and solutions, we sometimes fail to recognize them. Innovations such as mobile banking -- great as they may be -- are hailed as revolutionary without much consideration for what may have come before or who the original innovators may have been.

The image of traditional African societies as predominantly "simple hunter-gatherer" is more myth than truth. The belief that Africa had little by way of economic institutions and processes before the arrival of the Europeans is another. As Niti Bhan pointed out during her fascinating "Life is Hard" presentation at the Better World By Design Conference earlier this month, many rural communities today are familiar with concepts such as loans, barter, swap, trade, credit and interest rates, yet the majority remain excluded from the mainstream modern banking system and have never heard of things like ATMs, banks, mortgages or credit cards. It's not that people don't understand banking concepts; it's just that, for them, things go by a different name.

In Kenya, as few as one in 10 people may have a bank account, but that doesn't stop many of them from using a number of trading instruments or running successful businesses. Technology can certainly help strengthen traditional trading practices, and we know this because when technology is made available, the users are often the first to figure out how to best make it work for them. Mobile technology is today showcasing African grassroots innovation at its finest. Read more about indigenous economics in Africa here....

Canada: A World Leader – In Inuit Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis rates among Inuit in Canada may be 90 times higher than in Canada overall, Dr. David Butler-Jones, head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, told delegates to an international gathering in Toronto last week on tuberculosis and indigenous peoples.

Those rates are among the highest in the world in places where reliable statistics are available. Butler-Jones said poverty and overcrowded housing are mainly to blame.

"We have a tragic history when it comes to tuberculosis, and unfortunately for many Inuit communities, it continues to be today's reality," national Inuit leader Mary Simon said on the eve of the international forum.

The Toronto meeting, sponsored by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Assembly of First Nations, brought together representatives of indigenous organizations from over 60 countries.

Around the world, indigenous people suffer from much higher rates of tuberculosis than other populations, Gail Turner, director of health services for Nunatsiavut in Labrador, said after attending the global gathering.

It may be even higher among the Masai of Africa, or in indigenous groups in the Himalayas than among the Inuit, Turner said, but accurate statistics are not available for those areas. Read more about Inuit tuberculosis in Canada here....

Philippines: Bukidnon Tribe's Children Get Another Chance To Go Back To School

Argielyn clutched the strap of her backpack containing notebooks, pens and other school supplies. Her groomed hair matched her spanking black shoes and lily-white socks as she entered the Bukidnon National High School here. She beamed as she joined the sea of students who rushed inside the gate as the school bell rang to announce the start of classes for the day.

This was not Argielyn’s routine during school days a few years back. Her world was confined to their shanty where she would do house chores and attend to her younger siblings while her parents worked in their farm. Dire poverty forced her parents, both belonging to the Bukidnon tribe in barangay Dalwangan here, to stop sending her to school after she had finished grade four. She thought she would not get another chance to continue her studies and had resigned to the thought of following her parents’ fate of marrying early and spending the rest of her life in their secluded village near the forest.

Argielyn’s story is common among children of the Bukidnon tribe, many of whom rarely get to finish grade six. Those who manage to complete the elementary level – and only a few of them do – find it harder to enter high school much less college. Luckily for Argielyn and some others like her, a non-government organization has been able to generate assistance for their studies. Since 2006, the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs has received modest amounts and school supplies from individuals, private institutions as well as, from the city government of Malaybalay for this purpose. Read more about the Bukidnon tribe and school here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

HIV/AIDS and Indigenous People in Africa: A Continuing Health Problem

This post is in support of World Aids Day - December 1, 2008.

In the latest issue of Practicing Anthropology, Gisele Maynard-Tucker and Alexander Rodlach bring together panel papers focusing on HIV/AIDS in Africa, which were presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. These papers discuss various topics related to HIV/AIDS in different African countries: the association between gender and HIV infections; the consequences for the epidemic of the shortage of health workers; the importance of ethical considerations in developing protocols for HIV/AIDS interventions; local interpretations of, and reactions to, methods preventing new HIV infections; and the impact of resource insecurities on HIV/AIDS programs.
AIDS/HIV in Africa
HIV/AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, and since that time substantial progress has been made regarding understanding the disease. For example, there has been increasing awareness of social and cultural patterns that either exacerbate or diminish the epidemic. Likewise, researchers have sought strategies for preventing new HIV infections and developed treatment and care programs for those suffering from AIDS, despite shortages of funding for such programs. Similarly, great efforts have been made to prevent new infections, to treat those already infected, and to support those affected by AIDS. Nevertheless, as Gisele and Alexander point out, the high number of individuals becoming infected annually, the costs preventing access to antiretroviral drugs for many, along with the difficulty of creating culturally appropriate AIDS programs mitigates against our complacency.

Contained within this edited edition, Susan Fields Mead concludes that despite the progress seen in the post-industrialized world, HIV continues to threaten the viability of indigenous populations in other parts of the world. For the indigenous populations along the Ghana-Togo border, its threat is felt most acutely by the indigenous women who put their health at risk to achieve a certain level of economic and social security. Susan argues that many indigenous women assume protection from HIV through marriage and other purportedly monogamous relationships, but who then consequently engage in unprotected sex and potentially become infected. The growing prevalence of this virus among indigenous women in the border communities requires special attention from the government, traditional leaders, and aid organizations.
Indigenous People in Africa with HIV/AIDS
Likewise, Joyce V. Millen notes that anthropologists are well equipped to elicit explanatory models and local interpretations that can be used to work collaboratively with indigenous African colleagues who seek research assistance in exploring the relative effectiveness of new policies aimed to train and retain health workers.

Sharon Watson Lai, Regina Mpemi, Nancy Romero-Daza, David Himmelgreen, and Ipolto Okello-Uma argue that in order to deal with the mismatch in addressing western human subjects’ protection, donor priorities and community concerns, a space must be created in the grants and projects section of the field that includes a collaborative process. Collaborative planning does not lend itself easily to institutional budgets and timelines, but it is essential for the success of prevention programs. In doing so, they note that engaging with the local indigenous communities in the formulation of research in interventions, the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice can be incorporated.

Finally, Gisele Maynard-Tucker rightly argues that governments need to establish a stabilization fund by imposing specific health taxes on international companies exploiting local indigenous resources. For instance, she argues that companies could be asked to pay an HIV/AIDS Tax on income earned in a country, and that those funds would then be levied to pay for upgrading health care systems and in providing prevention, treatment, and care for indigenous AIDS patients.

Together, the papers presented in the Practicing Anthropology issue contribute to strengthening prevention and care efforts of indigenous peoples in Africa effected by HIV/AIDS.

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