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Gary Gossen

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Latin American Studies
State University of New York at Albany

PROJECT:

Magical Realism in a Postmodern Social Movement: Cultural Production of the Maya Zapatistas

In Chiapas, Mexico, a white, blue-eyed intellectual using the nom de guerre of Subcomandante Marcos and accompanied by a mythical feathered pig-an animal soul companion of his own invention-serves as the spokesman for a disparate group of Maya Indians known as Zapatistas. They seek both cultural autonomy and democratic participation in their nation.

Since January 1, 1994, this rag-tag band of three thousand poorly-armed people have used small arms (even wooden guns), poetry, humor, art, and massive electronic media sophistication to influence, albeit indirectly, the turn of modern history in Mexico, most notably the end of the seventy-year rule of the single-party PRI government last summer. How could this happen?

In his book-in-progress, Magical Realism in a Postmodern Social Movement: Cultural Production of the Maya Zapatistas, Gary Gosssen uses a dual lens to examine the rich emerging culture of the Zapatistas. He believes that both postmodernism-a perspective celebrating idiosyncrasy, particularity, and uncertainty-and the literary form of magical realism, in which the bizarre, magical, and irrational produce “real” events, are useful tools that can help interpret this highly unconventional guerrilla movement.

Gossen observes, “The Maya Zapatistas have produced a major new voice in Maya cultural expression, a tradition that has a history spanning some 3,000 years. The Zapatista movement is enormously complex and polymorphously perverse. Although highly local in inception and practice, it is nevertheless interethnic, national, and international in perspective and lines of solidarity. It is eccentric and humorous, militarily impotent and symbolically aggressive, residing in a colonial backwater but surviving and thriving due to electronic technology. It is a postmodern social form that is evolving even as I write today.”

Gossen will explore many new aspects of the productive and varied Zapatista culture-including architecture, political units, religious cults, public art and new art forms, mythology, music, poetry, and children’s literature.

Because the end of the Cold War and the development of a global economy have dramatically changed world political dynamics, local ethnic and cultural identities are seeking to reinsert themselves in the flow of history. “To understand the Zapatistas may provide some insight into what the ethnic identity quests of the 21st century around the world might look like,” Gossen states.

James F. Brooks

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

PROJECT:

Nations, Tribes, and Colours: Borderland Peoples and a History for the Twenty-first Century

“How do local peoples get along—or not—when they’re relatively free to make up the rules?” This question serves as the focus of resident scholar James Brooks’ SAR project, Nations, Tribes, and Colours: Borderland Peoples and a History for the Twenty-first Century. This same question also guided his recently completed book, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands, an examination of the cultural consequences of long-term reciprocal captive-and-slave raiding between indigenous and colonial peoples in the American Southwest.

In Nations, Tribes, and Colours, Brooks will expand his previous exploration of pastoral borderland cultures both geographically and chronologically. In a cross-cultural analysis spanning several centuries, Brooks examines the experiences of mixed-descent borderland peoples in very different parts of the world. He hopes to discover ways we might understand, and influence, the future of ethnic communities situated near unstable cultural or national boundaries in the modern world.

“I explore cultural borderlands in hopes of unveiling the promise concealed in their very inchoate potential,” writes Brooks. “Transformations seem everywhere on the verge of realization—new ethnogenetic identities, alternative families, symbiotic communities and economies, and a widespread refusal to accept the hegemony of the nation-state as a central organizing principle in everyday life.”

Although Brooks will be examining borderland peoples in the Canadian West, the U.S. Southwest, the Argentine Pampas, the Russian Caucasus, and Southern Africa, Nations, Tribes, and Colours will not take a conventional approach to comparative history. Brooks is using a “poetics of metaphor” that moves in a non-linear fashion, allowing the reader to discover similarities and differences between these communities in an imaginative way, through the narrative accounts of individual people, families, and communities.

“I hope to sketch a new method and style of doing history in the twenty-first century, one that strives to capture the intimacy and messiness of discrete historical experiences, yet also reaches for a depth-of-field that will endow those particularities with a richness of meaning beyond their conventional bounds.” In short, Brooks says, “to tell in small stories, big histories.”

Kathryn Linn Geurts

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Post Doctoral Research Associate
Committee on Human Development
University of Chicago

PROJECT:

Culture and the Senses: Embodiment, Identity, and Well-Being in an African Community

When Kathryn Geurts first arrived in Ghana, West Africa, to study sensing among the Anlo-Ewe speakers, she took the five-senses model with her. “I assumed it would be meaningful to them,” she recalls, but her questions about touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing were puzzling to many Ewe people, especially those who spoke no European languages. “They had no over-arching term for those five modes of experience,” says Geurts.

Through a structural analysis of the nearly thousand-year-old Anlo-Ewe language, Geurts eventually identified linguistic categories for the perception of experience that link emotion, disposition, and vocation to physical sensation. Many Anlo-Ewe people consider abilities such as speaking and balance to be “senses.” In addition, Geurts explains, “they have a complex category called seselelame, translated as ’feel-feel-at-flesh-inside’ or feeling in the body. In some contexts, it serves as a meta-sense uniting multiple sensory modes. In others, seselelame is used to describe specific experiences we might call ‘intuition.’” Geurts notes that although research in cutting-edge science has come to recognize the limitations of the strict five-sense categories, “the validity of this model has not really been questioned as to its cross-cultural relevance.”

In her book, Culture and the Senses: Embodiment, Identity and Well-being in an African Community, Geurts explores the relationship between sensory orientations and cultural difference in psychological functioning. “I argue that sensory orders are culturally relative and that child socialization involves the acquisition of culturally distinct ways of perceiving that play a vital role in how people experience and ‘know’ the world around them.”

As an example, Geurts explains that balance, both literally and figuratively, is considered by many Anlo-Ewe people to be an essential component of what it means to be human. Infants are encouraged to “Do agba!” or “Balance” when learning to sit up, toddlers balance small bowls and pans on their heads, and school children carry books and desks on their heads—all progressing toward an adult orientation “in which balance is considered a defining characteristic of mature persons.”

“That sort of analogical relationship—between sensory experiences cultivated at an early age, and perceptions of self and other, sensibilities about society, the world, and the universe—is the central subject of my book,” says Geurts.

Martha A. Sandweiss

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Professor of American Studies and History
Amherst College

PROJECT:

Picture Stories: Photography, Popular Culture and the Nineteenth-Century West

In Picture Stories: Photography, Popular Culture and the Nineteenth Century West, SAR resident scholar Martha A. Sandweiss traces public reaction to the emerging medium of photography as it documented the exploration of the American west. “Today, it’s so easy to say, ‘Photography instantly changed the way people understood everything,’ but I want to argue that it took a long time for viewers to embrace and accept it,” said Sandweiss.

Her book follows photography’s early forms, such as daguerreotypes, as they entered into a crowded field of 19th century illustration that included drawings, paintings, lithographs, topographical drawings, and engravings. Compared to these narrative and fictive views that reconfirmed existing cultural beliefs, Sandweiss contends, the static literalism of daguerreotypes —unique images on small metal plates —was uninteresting to a public hungry for exciting stories of America’s expanding presence in the west.

As technology advanced through the negative and half-tone processes, photographs could be printed on paper and published, and —perhaps most importantly —words could be attached to them, allowing photography to become a more narrative medium that could compete, for instance, with the popular illustrated dime novels of the time.

Sandweiss asserts that the practices of collecting and the selective use of images by historians, anthropologists, and art historians have obscured the original visual and literary narratives created by 19th century photographers, whose work was typically assembled in albums or viewed in a series of images rather than as a single photograph displayed on a museum wall.

“I want to rehistoricize photography and ask: in the 19th century, how would you have encountered this image, and how would you have understood it? These images were parts of complex arguments about ‘manifest destiny,’ about the necessity of westward expansion, and about the necessary disappearance of native cultures. I think that context has been lost by many present researchers,” says Sandweiss.

Drawing on more than fifteen years of archival research in historical societies, libraries, and museums, Picture Stories will be the first broadly conceived overview that historicizes 19th century photography and examines how it gained cultural authority depicting the lands and peoples of the American West. Sandweiss teaches American studies and history at Amherst College.

Mary Eunice Romero

Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate
Education, Language, Literacy and Culture
University of California, Berkeley

PROJECT:

Language Shift and the Socialization of Pueblo Children

When children learn their first language, they not only learn to communicate, they also acquire cultural and social values, beliefs, and practices that are embedded in the language itself. In subtle yet profound ways, language functions as a tool of socialization, transmitting a culture’s essential ways of being to each generation. What happens to this link between language and culture, however, when a people’s mother tongue is replaced by another language—the phenomenon known as “language shift”?

Mary Eunice Romero is exploring this transition in her dissertation, Language Shift and the Socialization of Pueblo Children. Her study examines the shift from native language to English in Cochiti, New Mexico, a Keres-speaking Pueblo community, in relation to its socialization practices. Romero, who is from Cochiti Pueblo, has witnessed the power of language to preserve and maintain the Pueblo traditions that have evolved over centuries, as well as the consequences of a community’s gradual embrace of a new language.

Language shift occurs because of internal and external changes in a speech community. In Native American communities, language shifted for a variety of reasons, ranging from the nineteenth-century U.S. Federal Indian Policy of English-only boarding schools that aimed to eradicate native languages and cultures, to the recognition that English will open job opportunities and facilitate interactions outside the community. What may get lost in this transition, Romero asserts, is the social and cultural knowledge necessary for becoming a competent member of the Cochiti world—knowledge that is transmitted through the language itself.

Romero’s three-part study is based on 32 months of field research in Cochiti Pueblo, 35 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. To gather information about traditional child-rearing practices, she conducted interviews with elders who were socialized into the community at a time when the culture and language were fully intact. Because the Cochiti language is unwritten, the elders hold particularly valuable information. Romero then conducted a second set of interviews with the young-parent generation about their own socialization practices. In addition, she observed home and community adult-child interactions. In the final stage of her research, Romero has constructed a language history that illuminates the relationship between language shift and the socio-cultural patterns of socialization.

Ruth M. Van Dyke

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Fullerton

PROJECT:

Lived Landscapes, Constructed Pasts: Memory, Phenomenology, and Chacoan Society

Architecture’s ability to evoke powerful emotions is evident to most people visiting a Gothic cathedral, national monument, or public building such as the U.S. Supreme Court. Through size, shape, and relationship to the surroundings, such structures are intentionally designed to suggest authority or sacredness, or to honor a person or an historic event. In Lived Landscapes, Constructed Pasts: Memory, Phenomenology, and Chacoan Society, Ruth Van Dyke presents a new argument for the meaning and purpose of the “great house”; architecture that spread across northwestern New Mexico during the 11th century, imagining how these huge structures may have been experienced and perceived by members of the communities who built them.

An anthropological archeologist, Van Dyke is investigating the intersections of landscape, power, and memory among the Ancestral Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest, both at Chaco Canyon and surrounding “outlier” settlements within a one hundred mile range. At least seventy-five great houses similar in structure to Chaco’s Pueblo Bonito were built in this area. While many scholars agree that construction of the great houses is related to developing social inequality, their meaning and use remain a mystery.

Drawing on concepts from critical social theory and phenomenology that suggest our lived, sensory experiences and daily interactions with architecture and landscape are part of the construction of our social contexts and identities, Van Dyke speculates on the potential impact of the “Bonito-style” architecture. “The great houses are big, they sit up high, they look down on people. I’m convinced that part of what’s going on is that people are supposed to be impressed by that,” she says, “and that the great houses are positioned to be recognizable at a distance.”

The elements that make up the suites of Bonito-style architecture found in the “outliers”—including great houses, roads, great kivas, and earthworks—gradually constructed what Van Dyke calls a landscape of social memory. “These spaces reminded people of their real or imagined pasts, and helped create a feeling of social continuity that would have played an important part of the developing social inequality,” states Van Dyke.