American University may find a link between anthropology and various state gay marriage bans that you probably never knew existed. Tomorrow, Master’s and Ph.D candidates will strut their stuff at AU’s Public Anthropology workshop.
Merriam-Webster’s defines anthropology as “the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture” or, alternatively, a “theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings.” The official schedule for the AU event gives us an idea of just how elastic a definition that can be.
On the schedule are sessions on “Militarism and Violence” and “Environmental Justice.” One of the more benign-sounding panels is entitled “Getting your stuff out there—Communicating as a public anthropologist outside of academe.”
A gander at one of the panel participant’s bios gives us an idea of how “out there” anthropology can get. “Michelle Carnes is a sex work/queer studies enthusiast in the social-cultural anthropology department at American University,” her official biography tells us. “Her dissertation is a filmed/written ethnography of traditions and histories of black lesbian strip performance events in Washington DC area nightclubs.”
Additionally the day-long workshop will feature a discussion of aspects of “Sexuality and Citizenship” such as:
• “How much policing of sexuality by a democratic government is acceptable?
• “What does this have to do with who is allowed to be a citizen in the US?
• “In what ways does placing a border around certain sexualities mime 19th century
(and current) fears around national pollution, immigration and racism in the US?
• “Should these national policies impact our intimate relations and families?”
“Graduate students and faculty from the Department of Anthropology tackle these intriguing questions by examining how the discipline engages sexualities at the intersection of race, gender, policy making, and cultural citizenship,” the program promises. If you haven’t already, you can get a clarified idea of what direction this inquiry is going in by a look at the panelists’ vita.
Start with William Leap, the chairman of AU’s Anthropology Department: “His research on urban gay geography, and in gay men’s men’s language use, shows how white space and white privilege dominate the sexual terrain in both urban areas, and how languages of sexuality and gender in these settings are deeply infused with discourses of racial hierarchy.”
Moving right along, we have:
• Michelle Marzullo who is “currently pursing a PhD in Anthropology, concentrating in Race, Gender, and Social Justice at American University. Her current research interests are in the areas of sexuality, gender, race/ethnicity, kinship systems, family/health policy, queer diaspora, and organizational programming.”
• Russell Smith, a PhD Student in the Department of Anthropology at AU. “His research focuses on the lives of rural gay men in the United States and the connections between rural gay identities and economic and cultural globalization.”
• Aaron Tobler: “His current research primarily focuses on homophobia and the police, with supplemental interests in state agency and mass news media,” and
• Maria Amelia Viteri-Burbano “a PhD candidate at AU who holds an M.A. in Social Studies with a Concentration on Gender Studies from FLACSO, in Ecuador.”
This last young lady’s “research interests include finding new ways to create and practice theory as a way to unmask how sexuality, race, ethnicity and gender have been constructed to perpetuate regimes of racism, sexism, homophobia and ethnocentrism,” according to her official profile. “Her dissertation examines how meanings around queer and Latino are evoked, acted, recycled and constantly re-signified and how ‘race’ and ‘sexuality’ are translated in the Latino [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered] LGBT Diaspora in the District of Columbia.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.