BARS: Brandeis Anthropology Research Seminar

All events will be held in Schwartz 103.

This fall, we are excited to inaugurate the Brandeis Anthropology Research Seminar (BARS). This year-long seminar will meet most Friday afternoons at 3 pm, and will include our anthropology colloquia presented by invited guests as well as presentations by Brandeis anthropology faculty and graduate students. Moises Lino e Silva, curator of the Anthropology Research Seminar for the coming year, describes the seminar as “a venue for rigorous and creative intellectual engagement with current anthropological research.” Often we will close the Friday afternoon seminar with an opportunity for socializing with the invited speaker and each other, sometimes off campus at a nearby pub or other gathering place.


Friday, January 16 at 3:00 pm

Anita Hannig, Brandeis University

Professor Hannig's research investigates a set of specialized hospitals in Ethiopia dedicated to treating women who suffer from obstetric fistula, a maternal childbirth injury that leads to chronic incontinence. Her most recent scholarship includes  "Spiritual Border Crossings: Childbirth, Postpartum Seclusion, and Religious Alterity in Amhara, Ethiopia." Africa 84. 2 (2014): 294-313. and "The Pure and the Pious: Corporeality, Flow, and Transgression in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity." Journal of Religion in Africa 43. 3 (2013): 297-328. At Brandeis Hannig teaches Medicine, Body, and Culture; The Anthropology of Gender; Dirt, Disgust, and Contagion: The Anthropology of Pollution; Medicine and Religion; and Integrative Seminar on Health.

Past Events: 

Friday, November 21 at 3:00 pm

AAA Practice Talks

Friday, November 14 at 3:00 pm


"Japan’s Debt as an Anthropological Problem"

Hiro Miyazaki, Hunt Lecture in Economic Anthropology, Cornell University

Debt in Japan has a peculiar shape. From sovereign debt to municipal debt and corporate debt, Japan’s debt markets seem distinctively domestic, and Japan’s debt relations look structurally circular and closed, in the ever globalizing Japanese economy. In this paper, I attempt an anthropological analysis of Japan’s debt economy by examining three ongoing examples: the trading of corporate bonds issued by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant; the Bank of Japan’s massive bond purchasing program in the context of Abenomics; and the proposed issuing of “demolition bonds” by local municipalities in depopulating rural Japan. These examples showcase a range of forms in which financial debt appears at once both calculative and non-calculative, social and asocial, and temporal and eternal. Through the lens of these manifestations of debt’s simplicity and complexity, the paper seeks to illuminate the simultaneously constructive and destructive (or deconstructive) force of finance.

Hirokazu Miyazaki received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Australian National University. He is currently Professor of Anthropology, Director of the East Asia Program and Coordinator of the Global Finance Initiative of the Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. His scholarship has focused on theories of exchange and has investigated the intersections of economy and religion ethnographically. He is the author of The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge (Stanford University Press, 2004) and Arbitraging Japan: Dreams of Capitalism at the End of Finance (University of California Press, 2013). He also has co-edited The Economy of Hope (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming). For additional information on Professor Miyazaki's research and publications, please see his website.

Friday, November 7 at 3:00 pm


"Posters, Banners, and Scribbles: Urban Inscription and the Public Sphere in Indonesia"

Karen Strassler, Queens College

Since 1998, artists’ access to the street as a surface for inscription has been celebrated as a material embodiment of a new democratic era in Indonesia. Yet the cacophonous mix of art, advertising, political slogans, and graffiti on urban streets also serves as a potent symbol for the breakdown of order that accompanied the end of authoritarian rule. Recently, the visual noise of the city
has become a subject of public concern, spurring debate about who has the right to mark urban surfaces, which kind of inscriptions are of value, and when and how public writing should be regulated. At stake in these debates is the very nature of the post-authoritarian public sphere.

Karen Strassler’s current research investigates media and the work of images in Indonesia’s post-authoritarian public sphere. Her first book, Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java (Duke UP, 2010), examined the role of photography in the production of national subjects, spaces, and imaginaries in postcolonial Indonesia. She received her PhD from Michigan University and teaches at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. For more information on Professor Strassler's research and publications, please see her website.


Friday, October 31 at 3:00 pm

Fieldwork workshop: Moises Lino e Silva, Brandeis University

Professor Lino e Silva holds a joint lecturer appointment with Anthropology and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. His areas of expertise include Brazilian urban life; favelas; and the question of freedom in its relationship to wider topics such as poverty, sexuality, religion, violence, social justice, globalization, and linguistic practices. Lino e Silva's most recent publications include "Queer Sex Vignettes from a Brazilian Favela: An Ethnographic Striptease." Ethnography (2014) and a review of "Urban Encounters: Affirmative Action and Black Identity in Brazil. André Cicalo. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. American Ethnologist 41. 2 (2014). For more information on his research, publications, and courses taught, please see his website.

Friday, October 24 at 3:00 pm

"Brandeis Vinography of Israel Project: Rediscovering the sublime wines of old"


Andrew Koh, Brandeis University

This talk explores the origins and nature of viticulture in the ancient Mediterranean. Thanks to the discovery of the oldest and largest scientifically identified palatial wine cellar in the Mediterranean at Tel Kabri in Israel, the Vinography of Israel Project strives to advance our knowledge of both the trade and consumption of ancient wine. We know that marzeahs, ritual feasts involving heavy wine drinking, were a central part of ancient Near Eastern culture. After the 7th century Muslim conquest of the Levant, the famed vineyards of Phoenicia gradually vanished. In the 19th century, noted Zionist Baron Edmond de Rothschild imported grape varieties from his chateaus in Bordeaux, which remain the basis of Israeli viticulture to this day.  By isolating grape DNA at Kabri and conducting GIS and ecological studies to identify feral grapes that might have descended from these ancient cultivars, we hope to rediscover the heralded wines of old.

Professor Koh is the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Classical Art, Archeology, and Chemistry. His areas of expertise include Greek art & archaeology; Aegean prehistory; Bronze & Iron Age Mediterranean; archaeological & conservation science; GIS; cultural heritage & ethnoarchaeology of Crete; Silk Road; ancient craftsmanship & commodities; and cultural hybridity. For additional information on Professor Koh's research, publications, and courses taught, please see his website.

Friday, October 17 at 3:00 pm

Graduate Student Fieldwork Presentations Part 2

Ryan Collins will speak on archaeological fieldwork at Yaxuná in Yucatan, Mexico, Jessica Bray will discuss queer activism in Mumbai, and Paige Henderson will cover cyberstalking in India.

Friday, October 10 at 3:00 pm

"The Life of Cheese: Negotiating the Values of American Artisanal Production"

Heather Paxson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cheese is a perishable good, alive with microorganisms. The “the life” of artisanal cheese is as various — as unstandardized — as are the lives and livelihoods of the people who make it. Elaborating on both elements of the life of cheese — its lively materiality and the vocation it affords — in this talk I lay out the challenges that American artisan producers face, and the worth they derive, in handcrafting cheese for commercial sale.
Anthropologist Heather Paxson is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she serves as Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD Program in History, Anthropology & STS. Her second book, *The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America* (University of California, 2013), won the Diana Forsythe Prize in 2013.


Friday, October 3 at 3:00 pm 

"Christianity, curative ritual, and newly emergent Kalinga traditions in highland Luzon, Philippines"

Rikardo Shedden, Brandeis University

Recent research undertaken in upland Kalinga, Philippines, shows that convert populations identify as Christian yet participate also in local religious and curative rituals. This participation across religious boundaries has allowed for the development over the last two decades of a newly emergent tradition in the form of a Christianized healing mass. The paper asks how people engage in co-occurring yet doctrinally and cosmologically distinct religious practices, seemingly without a sense of contradiction. Building in part on Rappaport (1999), I offer an answer to this question by proposing a new conceptual framework which considers the relations between competing and complementary aspects of juxtaposed religious traditions.  

Rikardo Shedden holds a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University, Canberra, and has conducted 15 months of fieldwork in southern Kalinga Province, Philippines, focusing primarily on the emergence of a new religious tradition that incorporates aspects of Christianity and traditional healing practices. He has research interests that include the anthropology of Christianity, syncretic religions, morality, performativity in ritual, and culturally informed notions of sickness and healing. He is currently a visiting research scholar at Brandeis University.

Friday, September 19 at 3:00 pm

Graduate Student Fieldwork Presentations Part 1

Doug Bafford will speak on discourse of creationism among Kentuckian evangelical Christians, Lauren Bader will discuss folk narrative in Dresden, Germany, and Holly Doerflinger will cover undocumented immigrants in Providence, RI.

Friday, September 12 at 3:00 pm

mcintosh"Linguistic reconciliation? Moral nationalism and language essentialisms from post-apartheid South Africa"

Janet McIntosh, Brandeis University

This talk explores the cross-cutting motives behind and commentaries on a distinctive genre of YouTube videos showcasing South African whites speaking indigenous African languages. Professor McIntosh will explore some ironic reversals of colonial- and apartheid- era language ideologies and analyze the language essentialisms embedded in both enthusiastic and critical commentaries on these videos. She will suggest the commentaries point to divergent notions of which moral stances might rectify the nation's past. Professor McIntosh, Associate Professor of Anthropology, is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology, language ideology, narrative and discourse, personhood, essentialism, religion, ritual, Islam, ethnic identity, colonialism and postcoloniality, and East Africa. Download the poster here. (PDF)