Student Talks, Events, and Workshops

Friday, December 4

11:15 AM in Schwartz 103

Dissertation Defense: Ryo Morimoto

Under Control: Alterity at the Edge of Nuclear Contamination and Containment in Post-Fallout Coastal Fukushima

Examining Committee members are Ellen Schattschneider (chair), Richard Parmentier, Peter Galison (Harvard University), and Kim Fortun (Rensselaer Polytehnic Institute).

For more information contact:

Laurel Carpenter
Brown 228
(781) 736-2210
(781) 736-2232 (fax)

Upcoming Events

Full Calendar >>


Click to view expanded BARS website.

The Brandeis Anthropology Research Seminar (BARS) is a year-long seminar that meets most Friday afternoons at 2pm in Schwartz 103. The series includes anthropology colloquia presented by invited guests and Brandeis anthropology faculty, alternating with workshops, reading groups and presentations by graduate students. This year the seminar series is the recipient of a Brandeis University teaching innovation grant and will incorporate an expanded multimedia presence and links to the graduate and undergraduate curricula. Often we will close the seminar with an opportunity for socializing with the invited speaker and each other.

Upcoming Events

Friday, December 4

2 pm in Schwartz 103

Ellen Messer, Brandeis University and Tufts University

Ellen Messer will reflect on forty years of anthropological work on Hunger and Human Rights: Theory, Policy, and Practice. Her research areas include cross-cultural perspectives on the human right to food; biocultural determinants of food and nutrition intake; sustainable food systems (with special emphasis on the roles of NGOs); impacts of agrobiotechnology on hunger; and cultural history of nutrition, agriculture, and food science.

2015/2016 Past Events:

September 18

Ellen Schattschneider, Brandeis University:  The Will of Objects: Persons, Things, and Distributed Agency in Japan

Ellen Schaftschneider, Brandeis University

Marshall Sahlins famously defines culture as “a meaningful order of persons and things.” How, in any given sociocultural order, are the relations between persons and things conceptualized and experienced?  It is often asserted in Japan that physical objects, especially those whose shape is modeled on or evocative of the human form, have “spirit” and can exercise will, making demands on persons who must oblige their desires or risk severe consequences. This paper considers how several historical and ethnographic cases, in which a degree of autonomy or volition was assigned to material things, may be understood in reference to long-term themes in Japanese ritual and cosmology and the political aesthetics of capitalism. What abstracted and distilled forms of human labor and exchange value are embedded in physical things, and how are these dynamics channeled, reproduced, or resisted in a range of everyday meaningful practices?

Ellen Schattschneider is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis with a research focus in Japan and the Pacific. Her interests include gender and popular religion; sacred landscapes; psychoanalytic anthropology; trauma and war memory; disaster and ritual response.

October 2 

Susan Greenhalgh, Harvard University: Fat-Talk Nation: The Hidden Costs of America's War on Fat

Susan Greenhalgh, Harvard University

In recent decades, America has been waging a veritable war on fat in which every sector of society is engaged in constant "fat-talk" aimed at educating, badgering, and ridiculing heavy people into shedding pounds. We hear a great deal about the dangers of fatness to the nation, but little about the dangers of today’s epidemic of fat-talk to individuals and society at large. In this talk, and in her book by the same name, Susan Greenhalgh tells the story of today’s fight against excess pounds by giving young people, the campaign’s main target, an opportunity to speak about experiences that have lain hidden in silence and shame. Drawing on over 200 ethnographic narratives, Greenhalgh shows how the war on fat has damaged the bodily and emotional health of young people, disrupted families and intimate relationships, and produced a generation obsessed with their bodies and defined by their size. To unpack today's fat politics, she introduces a cluster of terms—biocitizen, biomyth, biopedagogy, bioabuse, biocop, and fat personhood. Constituting a theory of the workings of our biocitizenship culture, these concepts offer powerful tools for understanding how obesity has come to remake who we are as a nation, and how we might work to reverse course for the next generation.

Susan Greenhalgh is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. In addition to Fat-talk Nation, she is author of Under the Medical Gaze: Facts and Fictions of Chronic Pain, and several books on Chinese biopolitics, including Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China. Before joining Harvard in 2011, she taught for over 15 years at the University of California, Irvine, where this project was born.

October 16

Graduate Student Research Presentations

The following students presented on their research projects:

  • Laura Broadwater: “Companion Animals, Their Humans, and Veterinary Health in Texas”
  • Scott Schnur: "The Way Life Should Be: Farming, Land, and Futures in Central Maine”
  • Aneil Tripathy: “Assembling a Green Bond Market”
  • Shuyang Su: “Facing Modernity: The Lives of Porcelain Artists and their Works in China”
  • Zhiduo Cheng: "When Hans Meet Whites in the Age of Global Capitalism: From Queer Activism to Racial/Ethnical (Zhongzu/minzu) Sexuality”
  • Sarah Reynolds: “Religion and Medicine: Formulating Meaning in Southern Benin”
  • Nanna Hilm: “Cultivating ‘Healthy Aging’ in Danish Health Promotion to Minorities”

October 23

Laurence Ralph, Harvard University: Wheelchair Politics: Disability and Violence in a Chicago Gang

This paper argues that, while admirable, the focus on assuaging social difference within the disability right’s movement has served to obscure key distinctions within disabled communities along the axes of race, socioeconomic status, and gender. While the larger community of disabled activists tends to use the social model of disability, in which there is multiple ways to view ability and physical capacities are not devalued, disabled ex-gang members rely on a medical model of disability that highlights physical differences rather than diminishing them. Here we see what happens when several wheelchair-bound ex-gang members use their life stories to try and steer other young gang members away from a gang’s reliance on sacrifice and vengeance. The fact that they are willing to insist on the defectiveness of their own bodies as a way to deter gun violence is an example of the sheer magnitude of problems with which poor African Americans must contend, and the sheer burden that violence creates in urban Chicago

Laurence Ralph, Harvard UniversityLaurence Ralph is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Departments of Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  He is the author of Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago (University of Chicago Press). His scholarly work explores how the historical circumstances of police abuse, mass incarceration, and the drug trade naturalize disease, disability, and premature death for urban residents, who are often seen as expendable. 


November 13

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, University of Buffalo: The Potency of Indigenous Bibles and Biography: Mapuche Shamanic Literacy and Historical Consciousness

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, University of BuffaloThe 15th Annual Saler Lecture in Religious Studies. Co-sponsored by the Programs in Religious Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies

Mapuche oral shamanic biographies and performances—some of which take the form of “bibles” and involve shamanic literacies—play a central role in the production of indigenous history in southern Chile. Bacigalupo explains how and why a mixed-race Mapuche shaman charged her with writing about her life and practice in the form of such a “bible.” This book would become a ritual object and a means of storing her shamanic power by textualizing it, thereby allowing her to speak to a future audience. The realities and powers her “bible” stored could be extracted, transformed, circulated, and actualized for a variety of ends, even to bring about shamanic rebirth. Ultimately, through their use and interpretation of this kind of “bible,” Mapuche shamans expand academic notions of indigenous history and literacy.

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Buffalo, currently holds a fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Religion and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany.  Her fellowship project, “Memory, Spirits and Violence in Mapuche Chilean Geographies,” explores the Mapuche belief that violence perpetrated by the Chilean state creates wandering spirits of its victims. Bacigalupo is the author of Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power and Healing Among Chilean Mapuche and Thunder Shaman: Making History with Mapuche Spirits in Chile and Patagonia.