Student Talks, Events, and Workshops

For more information contact:

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

Upcoming Events

Full Calendar >>


The Brandeis Anthropology Research Seminar (BARS) is a year-long seminar that meets most Friday afternoons at 2:30 pm in Schwartz 103 (unless otherwise noted). 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

August 26

Welcome Reception for new and returning anthropology graduate students, faculty and university colleagues

Event begins at 4 pm in the Schwartz Lobby

Join us to celebrate a new year with introductions and refreshments.

September 16

Informal mentoring event hosted by the anthropology graduate student representatives

September 23

Surviving Graduate School

Director of Graduate Studies Jonathan Anjaria will share some strategies for success.

October 14

Applying to Doctoral Programs in Anthropology

Dr. Jonathan Shapiro AnjariaOpen to undergraduate students and students in Brandeis master's programs. Director of Graduate Studies Jonathan Anjaria will provide advice on how to get into graduate programs. He will provide insight into how graduate admissions works, as well as how to put together a strong application. Topics will include choosing graduate schools, how to draft an effective statement of purpose, drafting an effective CV and choosing an appropriate writing sample.

October 28

From Antiracist Education to Electoral Campaigning: The Complex Calculus of Race and Politics in Brazil

Dr. Antonio José Bacelar da Silva, University of Arizona

Antonio Da SilvaDr. Bacelar Da Silva will discuss the recent reemergence of black organizations, Black NGOs, in Salvador (Bahia, Brazil) and their uses of race as a political strategy. At the core of Brazilian identity is the idea that there are no clear racial divisions in Brazil.  Bacelar Da Silva’s work specifically explores the boundaries, the limits, and possibilities of black activists’ stated goals of embracing racial differences in antiracist education and electoral campaigning.   This presentation is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program sponsored by the Dean of Arts and Sciences and Provost and is co-sponsored with the Latin American and Latino Studies program.

November 4

Biometric Bodies,  or, how to make fingerprinting technology work in India

Ursula Rao, Director of the Institute of Anthropology, University of Leipzig

Ursula RaoUrsula Rao is an urban anthropologist focusing on India. Biometric technology is proliferating around the globe and has a growing presence in India. Although scholars frequently discuss surveillance, data security and safety, we know close to nothing about the social impacts of biometric devices. How are people repositioned when identification is assigned to an electronic inspection of the body? Routine users of digital fingerprinting devices learn to render a specific social and physical body. They must frequently cope with a “false reject” that causes a disjunction between the body-as-person and the body-as-data. The biometric body is the body of the perfect match. It is created through new hygienic regimes and the manipulation of relations of distance and closeness, such as assertion of class difference and kin solidarity.

November 11

Graduate Student Presentations

Anthropology graduate students who received departmental funding for their research projects will present on their work.

December 2

Applied Anthropology/Activism Panel

Adonia LugioThe panel will include several speakers addressing the topic of applied anthropology and activism. Speakers include Adonia Lugio, a Los Angeles-based street anthropologist studying the conflicting, complex ways that people inhabit cities and streets. Dr. Lugio uses bicycling, walking, and riding transit as embodied methods for observing the racialized and classed power dynamics of urban space. Her approach draws on the tradition of flânerie and the Situationist International's call for political action in public space, blended with feminist critical theory's situated knowledge.

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.

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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Asli Zengin: Violent Intimacies: Transgender Embodiment, Medico-Legal World and the State in Contemporary Turkey

In this talk, Zengin will focus on the regulation of transgenderism in Turkey, and explore how this regulation is related to the formation and articulation of state power, a power that she characterizes as “intimate”. Zengin will trace this intimate state power in two ethnographic settings: gender reassignment process and the death and funerals of trans people. Asli Zengin is an Allen-Berenson Fellow in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests include sexuality, gender, trans studies, queer theory, the body, intimacy, kinship and relatedness, critical social theory, medical and legal anthropology, anthropology of violence, anthropology of the state, anthropology of space, contemporary issues in Middle East, Turkey. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Toronto.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Gabriele Koch: Producing Iyashi: Healing and Labor in Tokyo’s Sex Industry. Co-sponsored with East Asian Studies.

Gabriele Koch is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on how globalizing human rights and labor rights discourses intersect with longstanding histories of gender, labor, and care in urban Japan. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and her B.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University.  She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.

Dr. Koch’s book project, Human Rights in Japan’s Libidinal Economy, explores contestations over the meaning of labor and rights in Tokyo’s mainstream commercial sex industry. In Japan, female sex workers are ambivalent about their work, not because it involves sexual services, but because it is female care work. At the same time that the short-term employment of young Japanese women in this industry is being normalized, labor and human rights advocates are politicizing these women in new ways. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, Dr. Koch’s manuscript examines how intimate relations in Tokyo’s sex industry are implicated within recent political-economic transformations to explore why sex workers do not recognize themselves in the advocacy of competing rights movements.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Faris Khan, Brandeis University

Co-sponsored with South Asian Studies, Sexuality and Queer Studies, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Illegible Bodies: Khwaja Sira Activists, the State and Sex/Gender Regulation in Pakistan

Between 2009 and 2012, the Pakistani Supreme Court granted rights to a category of gender ambiguous and sexually non-normative citizens now commonly known as khwaja siras. The activities surrounding the Court’s deliberations highlight the term’s complicated journey of being institutionalized for legal and regulatory purposes. By focusing on the appropriation of “khwaja sira” in activist and state domains, this paper considers the role of various social actors in the production and perpetuation of ambiguity.

Faris Khan is a Lecturer in Anthropology whose research interests include sexuality and gender, queer and transgender studies, identities and subject positions, globalization and transnationalism, activism and social movements, digital and biotechnologies, Pakistan, South Asia. This spring, Dr. Khan is teaching courses on Activism, Resistance, and Change and Sexualities and Genders in Crosscultural Perspective.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Archaeology Graduate Student Presentations

Brandeis University archaeology graduate students will present on their summer 2015 fieldwork projects.

Ryan Collins

“Visual Planning and Redesign: Into the Minds of Early Architects at Yaxuná, Yucatan, Mexico”

Recent investigations in the Central Plaza of Yaxuná, Yucatan, Mexico, have revealed 6 distinct techniques of floor constructions that span large sociopolitical transformations over time. Coupled with each independent layer are deposits commemorating not only construction but also termination, rendering a complex story blending both ritual and civic practice. With data from previous investigations at Yaxuná, this paper aims to illustrate how floor construction can be read as craft signature, and can shed light on the continuity and change of social values in a space as well as the agendas of the governing elite.

Joshua Freedline

“Classic Maya Court and Contemporary River Port: A temporal analysis of two settlements”

The Maya Late Classic Period (600-900 C.E.) settlement of La Florida was home to the court of Namaan, a socioeconomic center of the Western Lowlands. Today the town of El Naranjo, located in the state of Petén, Guatemala, is situated exactly where this Late Classic settlement was booming approximately 1,300 years earlier. In this talk I will discuss the spheres of influence that the court of Namaan may have been a part of during its prominence, in conjunction with the role that El Naranjo plays in the economy of Northwestern Guatemala. Overall, this presentation will discuss the ephemeral nature of landscape through anthropological and archaeological lenses.

Katherine Peterson

*Archaeology: A Bone to Pick*

“Lab Analysis of a Late Classic Maya Tomb and the Importance of Documentation in Archaeological Fieldwork”

My talk will be about my field research in the Toledo District of Belize. I analyzed a set of human remains and associated artifacts from the Late Classic site of Muklebal Tzul. The site is located in the Muklebal Valley of the Bladen Preserve in the Toledo District of southern Belize. I will also discuss the broader implications of archaeology and the importance of documentation and context.

Sarah Schofield-Mansur

"The Tombs of Mouliana: (Re)formation of Cultural identities in Mouliana, East Crete During the Bronze Age Collapse."

In 1903, Greek archaeologist Stephanos Xanthoudides excavated two wealthy *tholos* tombs found just outside the small village of Mesa Mouliana in eastern Crete, and hail from tumultuous final period of the Aegean Bronze Age. Based on material culture finds, the occupants of the tomb were elite inhabitants of local settlements with some degree of connection to the non-native Mycenaean ruling class; these rich finds have never been examined in depth, and the human remains recovered from the tombs remain wholly ignored over the past 100+ years. Through a contextualized analysis of human skeletal remains and artifacts, my project proposes to investigate the possible cultural identities of the tomb's multiple occupants, and to examine how their identities were formed, reformed, and interpreted during the uncertain times of change that characterized the Bronze Age Collapse.

Leah Wasil

“Man’s Work: Navigating the Landscape of Gender in Japanese Archaeology”

The archaeological record is understood to contain remnants of ancient civilizations, and the way in which the record is read encourages different ideologies of national identity, personhood, and historical narratives. Japanese archaeology has historically been used to legitimize ancient court records and mythologies that support specific nationalistic reading of Japanese history. By emphasizing the professional work of archaeologists, I ask how individuals, or groups of, archaeologists navigate governmental and cultural pressures and restrictions on the types of information produced by archaeological sites.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Stephen Silliman, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Stephen Silliman, University of Massachusetts, Boston“Colonialism, Community, and Collaboration in the Archaeology of Native New England”

Studying colonialism requires addressing important questions. How do anthropologists measure culture change and continuity, and is this even the right question? Do terms like “hybridity” and “entanglement” still suffice to characterize these cultural process? What role does community collaboration play in engaging these interpretive and heritage issues? This presentation will explore some answers, using a long-term community-engaged archaeological project between the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, focusing on the latter’s 330-year-old reservation in southeastern Connecticut.

Stephen Silliman is Professor and Director of the M.A. Program in Historical Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His publications and research have centered on historical archaeology, colonialism, postcolonialism, community-engaged archaeology, collaborative methodologies, time, memory, social identity, practice, labor, gender, and the politics of heritage.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Angela Zito, New York University

Angela Zito, New York University"China Dreams: of Filial Values in the Persuasive Forms of Social Propaganda, Past and Present"

China is seeing a post-Socialist revival, from above and below, of traditional philosophies and practices. Fall 2014 saw Central Shanghai papered with posters for the China Dreams campaign—in this case, propaganda mobilizing intergenerational, familial sentiment in its service. Filiality, a virtue whose time, many assumed, had long passed, is undergoing a marked revival, being publicly tapped for state-run ethical campaigns at an unprecedented pace since the Revolution. As the old cosmic virtue of filiality suffers a comeback, it is not welcome in all quarters.  On July 1, 2103, amendments to the General Law for Care of the Elderly fell squarely on the family itself, deeming it now a crime to “ignore and cold-shoulder” parents.  In preparation for these new rules, the government issued a revised set of the original “24 Filial Paragons,” updated for 2012, inciting a good deal of criticism. This talk will place the “New 24 Filial Paragons” in context with the original, traditional versions that date to the medieval period, and with a previous socialist update. I am curious how the corporeal demands of the parent-child ties have been imagined at this moment as titled toward communicative bonds that even take into account digital linking, trading bodily intensity for intergenerational psychological connection.  This campaign stands in marked contrast to other filial reward systems that emphasize bodily nursing and home healthcare taken to extremes. 

Angela Zito, associate professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at New York University, co-founded and co-directs the Center for Religion and Media. She specializes in embodiment and performance, especially in China.  Visit for her papers and projects on Chinese ritual, gender, film and cultural-historical studies of social life.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sociocultural Anthropology Graduate Student Presentations

Brandeis University graduate students will present on their current fieldwork projects. This is also the date of our Graduate Open House to welcome accepted students of the next entering graduate class.

Graduate Student Speakers and Talk Titles

Brittany Collentro.  "Firemen, Seniors and Fat Talk: Health, Fitness and Body Image in the Boston area"

Katie Gartner. "Lychrofomi: Life with chronic, invisible afflictions in the Pioneer Valley"

Patrick Harhai. "School climates for sexual and gender minority youth"

Claire Hautot. "Life Under the Battle Flag: The State Flag and Agency in Mississippi "

Idil Omar. "Mapping Somalinimo: Clan, Identity, and Space in the 'New Somalia' "

Yijie Zou. "Gaze Beyond Africa and China: A case study of visual representations of Africans in China"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sasha Newell, North Carolina State University

Sasha Newell, North Carolina State University"On the Animacy of Accumulation and the Affect of Stored Things"

Building upon ethnography in the hidden spaces of U.S. homes, this paper excavates carefully concealed affective intimacies with objects. Unlike curated collections, material accumulations happen of their own accord in darkened corners, gradually accruing mass and inserting affective hooks into the tissue of our sociality, until they burst forth into visible space in ways that threaten normative value structures. Those who fail to contain or conceal such accumulations are classified as hoarders, their deviance essentialized as mental disorder.

Sasha Newell is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology. He has conducted fieldwork in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, amongst Congolese and Ivoirian immigrants in Paris, and the U.S. His research interests revolve around the social life of objects and the role of materiality in the production of culture, but include urban social networks and exchange, consumption and postcolonial identity, witchcraft and magic, semiotics, and ideologies of modernity. His book, The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d’Ivoire, describes how urban African youth consume European and U.S. brands in an effort to perform “modern” success. Such performances, involving dance, slang, and conspicuous consumption, are recognized as bluffing, but imitation is appreciated as an art form rather than scorned as artifice. Newell is currently engaged in a new research project on hoarding, storage space, memory, and the role of stored objects in the production of kinship in U.S. culture.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Caitlin Zaloom, New York University, presents the Hunt Lecture in Economic Anthropology

"American Oikos: Finance, Family, and the Student Loan Crisis"

Caitlin Zaloom, New York UniversityIn 2016, student loan debt topped $1.3 trillion dollars. As the largest debt most families will carry outside their home mortgage, student loans hold a central place in the financial economy and represent a key component of neoliberal governance. Most assessments of neoliberalism’s cultural impact focus on pressures for individuals to care for themselves. This talk takes a different perspective, examining the household as center of financial responsibility. In decisions to send children to college, bonds of love and obligation direct households’ investments and constitute resources for the financial industry. This talk will explore the relationship between the financial economy and American student debtor families through their uses of financial instruments and their investment in the object of children’s potential.

Caitlin Zaloom is an associate professor of Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University and Editor in Chief of Public Books. Her current book, Home Economics: The American Way of Finance and Family (which will be published by Princeton UP) examines the relationship between the financial economy and American families around student debt.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Daniel Souleles, Brandeis University

"Don't Mix Paxil, Xanax and Viagra: What financiers' jokes say about inequality"

Daniel SoulelesAmericans are unsure about great wealth. Accumulated money is alternately the mark of a life well-lived, and despised as the root of social dysfunction. Financiers are not immune to this ambiguity. I will suggest a working knowledge of what makes private equity managers laugh shows the different ways investors understand their wealth and the political possibilities they recognize in its redistribution. And I will support this argument with data from fieldwork with private equity investors, mostly in New York City.

Daniel Souleles (PhD Columbia University) is a Lecturer in the Brandeis University Department of Anthropology. He studies wealth, poverty, and belief in the contemporary United States, and has done field work with monks, financiers, and employee-owned firms.