Select Page

Ned Blackhawk

Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
University of Washington

PROJECT:

The Transformation of Nevada: Competing Systems of Knowledge, Power, and Land Use in the American Great Basin

The doctoral dissertation Ned Blackhawk began writing at SAR sets out to historicize the native peoples of the American Great Basin by demonstrating the many ways their lives were profoundly changed by contact with Europeans and Euro-Americans. “Indian people in this region have generally been denied roles as actors in the historical and anthropological literature,” Blackhawk explained. “They have been naturalized—viewed as having an unbroken lifestyle that went on forever without varying.” The process of historicizing, he said, restores social agency and gives Indian people a richer and more complex historical voice.

Bounded roughly by the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Colorado and Snake Rivers, the Great Basin was of only marginal interest to Spanish colonialists. It lay far to the north and northwest of Santa Fe, which was itself on the extreme fringes of New Spain. Nevertheless, writes Blackhawk, “although sporadically documented, Spanish contact and colonization, first in New Mexico and later in California, irrevocably transformed the lives of the indigenous societies living in the Great Basin. From the introduction of the horse to the trade in human slaves, Spanish influences reverberated north from Santa Fe in small and often large waves.”

The first section of Blackhawk’s dissertation, titled “Tierra Incognita: Spanish Exploration and the Slave Trade in the Great Basin, “examines the violence, disease, and destruction of families and environment that rippled out from Santa Fe into the Great Basin. Slavery is one aspect of this destruction that has been inadequately examined by historians, Blackhawk maintains.” All the surrounding Indian groups were enslaved either by the Spanish or by other Indians,” he said. “The Southern Paiutes, for instance, were repeatedly devastated by the slave raids of the Navajos and Utes.”

Drawing on Spanish archival material such as baptism and trade records, Blackhawk documents the extent of the slave trade in this area. “Records show that hundreds of Indian children, some of Paiute origin, were brought to the slave markets of New Mexico. If the Paiutes, who did not have horses, were being raided by their powerful, equestrian Ute neighbors, it seems likely that other nonequestrian Great Basin peoples, such as the Shoshone, were also subject to Ute and other raids.” Blackhawk, who is a Western Shoshone Indian, noted that there are family stories among the Nevada Shoshone of Paiute raids for women and children. Such intertribal raids, Blackhawk maintains, did not grow out of precontact, indigenous practices. Rather, Indian slavery evolved from and was integral to Spanish colonialism in the Southwest.

Blackhawk had not planned to devote so much time to the Spanish influences on the Great Basin Indians. “But I realized that to understand this region and the native peoples, we must understand the changes brought by the first Europeans in the area.”

Marcia-Anne Dobres

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Research Associate
Archaeological Research Facility
Department of Anthropology
University of California at Berkeley

PROJECT:

Toward an Anthropology of Technology: A Humanistic Framework for the Study of Technical Agency in Prehistory

“Technology is a web consisting of things, people, cultural values, and social interactions,” says Marcia-Anne Dobres. In a manuscript titled Technology and Social Agency: Outlining an Anthropological Framework for Archaeology, Dobres challenges mainstream contemporary archaeology’s approach to understanding the technology of prehistoric peoples, an approach characterized by the long-held Western distinction between technology as practical science on one hand and art and symbols on the other.

“Archaeologists miss the big picture by trying to explain an ancient culture through its tools,” Dobres said. “An archaeological site was actually an arena of social interaction. The bottom line is, you don’t have a technology without people.”

Dobres’ goal is to facilitate an analytic shift of attention beyond the artifact. “The legacy of archaeology is that we find a hand ax and call it technology,” she said. “This reaffirms Western beliefs that technology is about stuff and not people, and that material technology is what allows us to survive and adapt.” These views, she writes, “are foundational to why contemporary archaeologists ask certain questions about technologies of the past and how they go about trying to answer them.” Christopher Hawkes’ “ladder of inference,” for instance, argues that technology rests at the bottom of what is knowable about the past and determines everything deriving from it—social organization, politics, symbolism.

When she did fieldwork at Upper Paleolithic occupation and cave art sites in France, Dobres found herself wondering why people changed or didn’t change the particular ways they made and used things. “People are my subject, not artifacts,” she said. “Artifacts are a means to an end. I believe that concrete material choices are constrained more by people’s ideas about the right and wrong ways to do things than by mechanical properties of natural resources.” To make this argument, Dobres shifted from archaeology’s traditional focus on the region and began examining particular sites as the arenas wherein specific individuals interacted while making and using tools.

To find inspiration for the humanistic framework she believes is missing in archaeology, Dobres turned to philosophy and contemporary anthropological theory. Her work synthesizes her readings of Mumford, Heidegger, Kant, Marx, and Giddens, among others. “What I’m doing is merging three bodies of theory: Marcel Mauss’s ideas about the chane opratoire, which is both an analytic methodology and conceptual framework for linking sequences of artifact manufacture and use with the social milieu in which they take place; contemporary social theory about how relationships and values are created and challenged during acts of material culture production and use; and the philosophers’ emphasis on how such bodily experiences create both practical and esoteric knowledge.”

It is Dobres’ hope that an actor-centered vision of technology will provide a meaningful alternative to the entrenched techno-deterministic understanding that archaeologists have held for almost two hundred years. “We must do more than simply describe artifact use,” she said. “We have to understand something of the dynamic social conditions within which these things were made and given cultural meaning.”

Jacqueline L. Urla

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Massachusetts

PROJECT:

Basque Language Revival and Cultural Politics

Euskara, the ancient tongue of the Basque people, is one of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe. During the Franco era it was branded as seditious, but since the mid-1970s the movement to revive Basque has been gaining visibility and popular support. Being Basque, Speaking Basque, Jacqueline Urla’s book-in-progress, is based on more than a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in the Spanish province of Gipuzkoa. In it, Urla looks at the culture of Basque language activists and the diverse strategies they employ to ensure the survival of Euskara into the next century.

“The language revival ‘movement’ is, in fact, very heterogeneous in both ideologies and strategies,” Urla said. “Language activists” is a catchall label that includes intellectuals, artists, musicians, linguists, teachers, parents, and young people of varying walks of life. They work in a broad range of configurations, from formal organizations dedicated to promoting Basque education, standardization, and legal status to local grassroots groups engaged in social activities that lie outside the realm of formal language planning. Urla’s book devotes particular attention to the radical Basque youth culture and its use of low-power free radio, community magazines, comic books, and joking, slang, and parody. Through such means, Urla suggests, young people challenge Basque marginality by offering alternative ways of understanding language and the self.

“Bringing together ethnography, sociology of language, and cultural studies, this book takes a broad view of language politics, situating the struggles over grammar, orthographies, and literacy within the larger contestation over what it means to be modern, to have a culture, a language, or an ethnic identity in an increasingly transnationalized world,” Urla writes. Her manuscript examines what it means to be Basque, the role of the language movement in the reemergence of Basque nationalist political activity, the debate about standardization, the growth of community-based language schools, the free radio movement, and the proliferation of Basque-language punk-rock, protest, and traditional music groups.

Urla sees her work as bridging cultural and linguistic anthropology. “I’m not doing linguistic analysis, but I am concerned with language ideology,” she said. “I feel that cultural studies scholars haven’t really looked at language issues as a part of multiculturalism. Language is intimately connected with people’s lives. I want to convey the sense of investment and urgency that many minority language speakers feel.”

“One of my aims is to show that language revival strategies in the twentieth century derive from two assumptions: first, that language is central to cultural identity; second, that language is a social fact that can and must be planned in order to survive.” Noting that Basque language revival has received much less attention than have the Basque nationalist movement and political violence, Urla said, “I want to demonstrate that not all nationalist movements are about extreme ethnocentrism. The media tend to emphasize the evils of nationalism, but the youth strategies I’m exploring are inclusive, not exclusive.”

Glenn Carter Conroy

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Professor of Anthropology and Anatomy
Washington University Medical School
St. Louis

PROJECT:

The Evolution of Humankind: A Modern Interpretation of Human Origins

The publication of Reconstructing Human Origins: A Modern Synthesis (Norton 1997), a textbook for upper-level and graduate students in paleoanthropology, coincided with author Glenn Carter Conroy’s arrival at SAR for a spring semester residency. Conroy used his time at the School to work on a planned second edition that will incorporate molecular and genetic data that have become available since the book went to press and add a chapter on the human fossil record in the New World.

The recent DNA evidence Conroy has been working with relates to a current debate over human ancestry. “DNA in mitochondria, the little organels in our cells, are only inherited through our mothers,” Conroy explained. “That means we can trace maternal lineages back through time. Anthropologists have been looking at the amount of diversity in mitochondrial DNA in modern human populations. Then, on the assumption that this DNA evolves at a constant rate, we can determine that all modern humans had a common maternal ancestor X number of years ago.”

The so-called African Eve hypothesis, based on this technique, holds that all modern humans descended from a common ancestor who lived about 200,000 years ago in Africa. “But fossil evidence in China and Indonesia shows that humans lived in much of the Old World as far back as one million to one-and-a-half million years ago,” Conroy noted. “If the Eve hypothesis is correct, it would mean that a small population in Africa evolved into what we consider Homo sapiens and then migrated out of Africa and replaced all the other humanlike animals. In contrast, the multiregional continuity model says that the whole Eurasian population together evolved into Homo sapiens between one and one-and-a-half million years ago.”

A textbook, of course, must present both sides of a debate. “In this particular case,” Conroy said, “I try to point out some of the assumptions and problems in the African Eve theory and suggest that we need to think about it rather than blindly accept it.” Other debates Conroy covers include which of the apes is closest to humans, and what he calls “the gradual versus the jerky view” of how evolution proceeds.

Conroy’s new chapter on the New World examines yet another heated controversy, the one between those who say there were no humans in this hemisphere before 12,000 BC and those who say there were. “Both arguments rest almost exclusively on carbon-14 dating, and there are many problems with that. For instance, how do we determine whether the 35,000-year-old charcoal found at a site in Chile is from a cooking fire or from a brush fire?”

“Anthropology has been plagued by polarization for a long time, and paleontology in particular has a long history of animosity between various camps,” Conroy observed. “Being at SAR has been a wonderful opportunity for me to read the literature, synthesize it, make some sense of it, and try to present a nonpolarizing voice in these debates.”

Charles V. Carnegie

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Bates College
Lewiston, Maine

PROJECT:

Postnationalism Prefigured: The Social Border Zones of Caribbean Nation States

When he was an undergraduate at Cornell, Charles V. (Val) Carnegie began to question some of the anthropological models he was being taught in light of his experience growing up in Jamaica, West Indies. “Traditional kinship categories, for instance, don’t apply to the Caribbean, where the boundaries between kin and non-kin are blurred,” Carnegie said. “Anthropology’s focus on groups that are separate and constant in structure seems to be both its strength and its problem.”

In Postnationalism Prefigured: The Social Border Zones of Caribbean Nation States, Carnegie presents a critique of the social science paradigm that views cultures as fixed and unchanging. Drawing on a wide range of Caribbean social historical and contemporary ethnographic materials, including his own fieldwork, Carnegie proposes a more flexible approach to the concept of nation states, one that emphasizes heterogeneity and border transgression.

“The book explores a number of areas that point to the persistence of transterritorial and transnational currents in Caribbean social life over the past few hundred years,” Carnegie said. These areas include the history of social interaction between Europeans and African slaves; the black diaspora political movement founded by Marcus Garvey in the early twentieth century; and the contemporary inter-island traders, most of them women, who build social networks that cross national lines. Postnationalism Prefigured closes by urging anthropologists to consider models of world community, discussing the Baha’i faith as one example of an international community that seeks to balance unity with diversity.

Carnegie argues that some of the most central tenets of Western scholarship—the assumption that things fit into neat categories, and the focus on countability, homogeneity, and distinctness of categories—do not fit the modern Caribbean situation. “The social sciences,” he writes, “tend to neglect, erase, or want to regulate social phenomena of the sort this book makes visible: the crisscrossing of frontiers by slaves before emancipation, the activities of inter-island traders, and the pariah treatment accorded to albinos whose presence is a glaring anomaly for the racial classification system.”

Carnegie further suggests the existence in the Caribbean, and perhaps in human nature, of a pervasive resistance, at once conscious and unconscious, to prevailing Western paradigms. “The modern assumption that we can explain everything and solve every problem has within it so much that is counterhuman, that is demeaning and draining of art and poetry,” he observed. “Why do so many people like to visit Santa Fe, with its narrow, irregular, crooked streets? We are attracted to places that confound; we long for inefficiencies. Spiritual pursuits too attract because they offer a frontier that is unattainable and mysterious.”

During his SAR residency, Carnegie took advantage of analogous opportunities to explore the offbeat in writing his book. “Being here has allowed me to go off on intellectual tangents I really wanted to go off on,” he said. “The School is an incredible place for daydreaming, which, by allowing me to imagine and conceptualize differently, is a vital part of my work.”

Brad Laurence Weiss

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
College of William and Mary

PROJECT:

The Multiple Meanings of Haya Coffee

The Haya farmers of northwestern Tanzania had been growing coffee for centuries before Europeans began colonizing their land a hundred years ago, and coffee remains their single greatest source of income as well as an important element in Haya social life. The Haya don’t drink the beverage Westerners call coffee; instead, they cook and chew the beans and use them for family exchanges, ritual offerings, and snacks. In the late 1980s Brad Weiss spent eighteen months studying Haya communities for his doctoral dissertation, a contemporary ethnography published in 1996 as The Making and Unmaking of the Haya Lived World: Consumption, Commoditization, and Everyday Practice (Duke University Press).

“While writing the dissertation, I realized that coffee was a connecting thread for analyzing a whole range of social practices, processes, histories, and places,” Weiss said. Eventually that realization led to Sacred Trees, Bitter Harvests: The Transforming Value of Coffee in Northwest Tanzania, the book project Weiss worked on during his SAR residency. “Coffee was and continues to be central to a number of everyday and ceremonious practices that facilitate the construction of Haya sociality,” Weiss writes in the book’s introduction.

Weiss spent the summer before he came to Santa Fe in Rome, studying archives of the White Fathers, a Catholic order of missionaries who introduced new varieties of coffee into Tanzania in the early 1900s. At around the same time, German colonial officials in the region made coffee planting compulsory in order to promote regional commerce and impose new taxes. “Many of my questions arose out of the research I had done in Rome.” Weiss said.

Weiss’s book seeks to integrate material forms, including commodities, into the wider sociocultural processes through which Haya men and women construct a lived world. This approach challenges the traditional distinction between gifts and commodities found in much anthropological literature. “I focus on the concrete social practices through which objective forms are engaged in social life and thereby endowed with specific local values and meanings—the ways commodities are constantly transformed by different cultures and given new meanings,” Weiss said.

Sacred Trees, Bitter Harvests begins with an investigation of coffee’s place in precolonial Haya culture and the introduction of European colonial currencies at the turn of the twentieth century. It then traces the colonial and postcolonial history of agricultural innovation in northwest Tanzania, discusses the rise of coffee marketing as a crucial means of creating class relations, and compares the place of coffee prepared for local consumption with that produced for a global market. “As a gift, as a resource, and as a crop, coffee has different potentials for defining and redefining community experience,” Weiss writes. More broadly, the book is also a study of the colonial transformation of this region of Tanzania as seen from local as well as European perspectives: “We need greater recognition of the role of people who have less power but nonetheless help to shape global systems.”