Anthropology of Childhood and Youth Interest Group

Met with the Society for Cross-Cultural Research for the second time this February.  Prof. Jill White organized a session (see below for the session and paper abstract) and presented a paper.  Next year the ACYIG will meet in conjunction with the Society for Psychological Anthropology in April somewhere in Southern California.

Constructing a Child Self across Contested Spaces

The social construction of childhood is an inherently political process in which heterogeneous  actors may become engaged.  In the contexts of nation building and dissolution,  struggles over liberation and rights of refugees, diaspora and national identity , defining childhood in certain ways is a discursive tool that allows the state to set forth ideals, make claims regarding its own morality, and set its priorities.  The state’s construction of childhood is itself not unitary; besides possibly consisting of multiple political parties or ideological blocs, every state will necessarily consist of multiple bureaucracies and agencies charged with carrying out the policies regarding children.  A state’s control over its public education system is a particularly powerful example.  Moreover, inside every state, children are exposed to alternate and sometimes conflicting constructions of childhood from non-governmental organizations, religious institutions and family members.  This session will explore examples of children negotiating the construction of the self in contexts of diverse adult agendas.

The State, The Royal Family, and the Child: Negotiating Old and New Childhoods in Jordan

Jill Collins White

The country of Jordan is currently enmeshed in a contest over how childhood ought to be defined.   The state, in the form of key Ministries such as that of Education, Social Development and Health, each have a stake in defining childhood in certain ways.  Each ministry has its own priorities and agendas, which are complicated by factionalism and partisanship.  The royal Hashemite family have initiated several projects to improve the lives of children, working outside the constitutional framework of the government.  Such projects – a Children’s Museum, computer clubs, shelters for victims of child abuse, as well as private schools – also enable each royal to promulgate his or her own vision of children and childhood.  As children are exposed to competing discourses in the media, at school, and by coming into contact with various agencies and non-governmental organizations, they must make sense of these diverse visions and navigate a course through them.  The pathways they choose, however, sometimes put them in conflict with parental and familial theories of childhood and the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto.

Dalke Poster Accepted at ISAZ

Our Karen Dalke will be presenting her research at the International Society for AnthroZoology meetings in Toronto, Canada in August.  Give her your congratulations!  Here is the abstract of her poster:

Mustang: Images are Everything

What is a wild horse or mustang? Or, more importantly, what do we imagine it to be? When recounting the history of the wild horse or mustang, it is apparent that its status continues to waiver between a pest to be eradicated and a cultural symbol worthy of protection. How can one animal evoke such passionate and oppositional responses? The wild horse is the same species as its domestic counterpart. However, as a feral animal, it lives in a liminal state between domestic and wild. Vast amounts of data have been collected on the behavior of wild horses, their herd composition, and their impact on the environment. As an anthropologist, I am interested in how culture constructs the mustang and how different social constructions influence behaviors and beliefs about these animals.  The purpose of this ethnographic study was to establish a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of images that exist regarding wild horses and explain how these images are manipulated for specific purposes. The greatest concern when undertaking this ethnographic study was that the wild horse and its many images do not have a specific longitude or latitude. The study was not defined by geography, but by flows of people, goods and information.  The ongoing discussion of whether the mustang should be eradicated or promoted reveals the power of images. Attacking or trying to eliminate the mustang challenges history, the West and the value of freedom. Can one remember the West without a mustang? Do the mountains and desert seem as exotic without wild horses running upon them? Do are hearts race a little faster when we view a commercial in which a mustang snorts alongside the car of the same name?

R.A.W. – Racial Awareness Workshop

One of our own professors is leading a workshop on campus in two weeks on the topic of ethnic conflict.

Thursday, March 27 – 2-3:30 Christie Theatre “Derogatory Terms: Past, Present, and Future”(Speaker: Dr. Jill White and Panel Discussion, Facilitated By Buffy Ruffin)

The point of derogatory terms has always been to make it easier to hurt other people. Have times changed? What is a derogatory term for your race/religion/background? Does it offend you or do you see it as just a word? How has pop culture influenced the way America views derogatory terms and issues? Hear what scholars and your peers have to say about it.