One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

From the Heart – the reason I go to Grad school & my Goals

It is the last day of January and the semester is moving along quite well so far. Lately I have been reflecting on my goals and reasons for going to grad school and my goals in general for life. Many of create goals based upon hope of gaining a better opportunity for a job and hopefully a career to have a comfortable living style. And yes that is a very valid reason due to the economy we live in. But for me it is different, it is much more than having a career and having a comfortable life style. I have created goals bases upon the expectation and hopes of others as well as influencing others as I progress through my degree.

When I graduated from UMW, I honestly did not know what I wanted to do with my degree. I had so many interests but not enough money to pursue them, especially going to grad school. So I decided to pursue some of my interests by just keeping up with anthropological readings and working on side projects with friends while I worked to make extra money to maybe and hopefully get into grad school one day. I did that for about two years. At that time, yes my goals was to go to grad school to advance and have a better opportunity at finding a good paying, stable career to live the rest of my life comfortably. It was also the hope of my parents, my father especially. He wanted me to get a Masters degree and get a career, although he didn’t agree with my choice of a career in anthropology he wanted me to get a Masters regardless. So I worked 2 jobs both in the aquatic field to make extra money at the same time I was studying for the GRE and searching graduate schools. I also met my future husband during this time as well.

Then everything in my world changed.

In October of 2011, my father became seriously ill. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and the doctors said that he would have about 2 years if it remained untreated. And that is what hit it, made me realize that I needed to accomplish the goal of going to grad school and achieving my masters for not only myself, but for my father. He wants to so badly see me get my Masters. The reasoning for my goals changed, it is for him. My goal is to finish my Masters within the time that has been given to him. That time is until this coming November. My goal is to hopefully be done with the course work by the end of the Fall 2013 semester. And that has proven to be a lot of work. A full time grad student is 9 hours (3 classes), I take 12 hours and do as much research as I can working on my masters thesis in the time that I have when I am not working on course work. Due to living expenses I am working this semester at the university pool to be able to continue to going to school.

I have never in my life wanted or worked so hard for something, and this is not for myself. It is for my father. To see his goal achieved through me by gaining my Masters degree. I find that I work harder and much more focused when I think about what I am doing and who I am doing this for, and it gets me through the rough times.

I am getting married as well so I can have my father walk me down the aisle and give me away to the man that I love and I am going to spend the rest of my with. I want him to be there and to be apart of the next chapter of my life.

With all this said, I could have not done any of this nor have gotten through these past months and this past year without the aid and love of Brian. When my father got sick, he was there and understood what I was going through. All the raw emotions that were so hard to handle at times and still have when I think about my father. Brian lost his father when he was 15 years old to cancer and knew and understood what I was going through. He was there when my emotions got the best of me, he was there and forgiving when I made mistakes due to being blinded by my uncontrollable emotions. He helped me learn to control them and has always listened when I need to just let my emotions out. He is my crutch in life. He is the one I lean on when I need help or when I just need someone to listen. He is my best friend and soul mate, I could not have asked for anything more.

If it were not for Brian, I would not have been able to live and go to school. I have the little money that I was able to save up from working, but as many of us know the cost of expense of living. He provides extra support in paying for my rent and my trips back home to Virginia and he is so selfless. He would give up our precious time together for me to spend the time with my parents. We met only a little over a year ago, but it seems like a life time of knowing each other. And he is another reason I wish to meet my goal of being done by the end of the fall semester. Being over 700 miles away from him is hard, but we have both discovered that this has built and made our relationship stronger as well as our love. I want to be able to see him every day when he gets off work and be with him every waking moment of our lives. But he has been so understanding of my goals. It is very hard knowing that after we get married that we both have to be separated so that I can go back and finish school and he has to go back to work. We are giving up a honeymoon due to the lack of expenses we have for that. But you have to be willing to sacrifice.

With the always depending potential for deployment, we cherish the little time that we do get to spend with each because it could very much be the last until his return. Although with all his support, like I have stated before I have to go work on top of school to be able to make enough to pay off expenses. He had wanted me to just be able to focus on school and not have to work but we had to realize that it just isn’t possible at the moment.

Even though Brian makes a great living that could support me for the rest of my life had I not gone to grad school, I would not have the need financially to go to get a career. But as I have stated before, I am doing this mostly for my father because I love him and I want him to be proud and see that I have accomplished his goals. I will have to admit that I would feel greatly accomplished when I am done. But again not for just myself. I see this as a way to help others better their lives as well. I have always enjoyed teaching. I have been a swim instructor for 10 years and CPR, First-aid, and Lifeguard instructor for 6. And I have enjoyed teaching individuals to are willing and want to learn to help them be better prepared in life. I see having a Master’s as doing just that as well. In anthropology we learn why we are the way we are and acknowledge other individuals and cultures. I want to be able to teach what I have learned to other who share the same interests, need to be culturally aware of other countries (such as military deployments), etc. I would even volunteer my time if it meant being able to provide, influence, and educate another individual to hopefully better their life.

With all of this I can’t forget to acknowledge my mother who is my idol. For the past year she has been my supporter as well as the rock of the whole family. With my father being ill she has had to drop all her wants to support and help with my father and the family. My father is no longer able to drive and has many appointments during the week between local doctor visits to MRIs and visits at UVA (2 hour drive from where they live). She drives him, takes him to his appointments, and sacrifices her wants and needs to support my father without complaining. She has also been helping with my wedding planning by visiting and talking to local vendor, as well as picking up the financial expenses as much as she can so that I don’t have to be stressed out about it. I have been trying to keep the wedding as simple and inexpensive as possible, but I have no means of being able to pay for it nor does Brian due to helping me pay for school. At times I have considered of not doing a wedding so that my parents did not have to pay for it. But my mother wants me to have a dream wedding and she helps out in any way she can. It is hard being over 700 miles away, paying for school expenses, and trying to do most of the wedding planning. I am so thankful for her and I wish I could contribute more or have other help.

Meeting my goals and being done by the end of next fall would allow my father to see me married and have my degree. It would also allow me to be closer to home to be able to help my parents, help drive my father to his appointments, and allow my mother to have less stress. So here is to crossing my fingers and long school days ahead. But I hope it is all worth it in the end.

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Wordless Wednesday – Assume the Position

This is my favorite retelling of American History as popculture by Robert Wuhl

 

For some reason this won’t let me post it on my blog, but go watch it!

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Public Anthropology

Should Anthropology be in the public? And if so, how much of anthropology should be publicized?

The answer is, why not? The ways of communication have expanded and the popularization of  the uses of social media has proven to have helped expand the discipline of anthropology, and it has only been recently that all these types of communication has come into existence. Many academics, as well as myself, have been behind on the times. Although it is still very much in it’s infancy, it is quickly spreading and developing through a younger generation of academics. It has given way to embracing the discipline of anthropologists and being an anthropologist. The project: This is Anthropology, has done just that. Besides the recent response to the governor of Florida’, Rick Scott, has claimed the uselessness of anthropology. The goal is to spread and educate how effective, influential  and what is being done through the use of anthropology throughout the world. And that is what we should be using social media, as an education tool.

As anthropologists, we have all heard the same questions and statements made by the ‘uneducated’ public about anthropology. Most people think we have study insects or dinosaurs or aliens….and we just shake our fists the fantasies of Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, and Bones for the way we are portrayed to the public. There is just a lack of general knowledge to individuals outside of the discipline. It is not the public’s fault, but it is really our own. We should be providing the public with the knowledge. (Although there are those people who are too far out there about aliens and archaeology who are beyond our help) If you think about it, where does the public get their information? Television shows and the internet, whether the information is correct or not, it is the main source of gathering and receiving information. TV shows like Ancient Aliens, The Aquatic Ape….these may seem far fetched ideas to us but the individuals who present this information have the power and influence over the information that is being spread and received by the public.  People are innately curious about themselves, their pasts, and of other cultures. Thus is why many of us joined the discipline. Why not use the same tactics to spread information about our research?

Public Anthropology gives us a sense of purpose to be able to reach out across the boundaries and spread ideas as well as bring individuals together. We are anthropologists and there is a need for embracing the discipline for not only ourselves but for others as well. The new generation of anthropologists need to have inspiration and influences in the right direction to be successful. When I was an undergraduate at UMW, the Anthropology Department was struggling to stay at the university as a major discipline. Much for the same reason of the statement of Rick Scott, there is a sense that anthropology is a useless major and an academic dead-end. Every year the university faces the same struggle and is always being threatened on the cutting block. Cutting the program would lead to loss of not only jobs of the professors but also a loss of potential anthropologists. Do we really want this fate for anthropology? To struggle at university of a sense of identity? I really don’t want to see this happen at UMW or any university.

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My First Prezi

So I am playing around on Prezi, expanding my presentation horizons. Here is my first Prezi. Let me know what you think!

Just click below…

What is Anthropology – Prezi

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The word…”culture”

I just got back from a great weekend with Brian in Jacksonville, NC and one thing that I heard a lot of was the “culture” of Jacksonville, the culture of the church, the locals, and/or the culture of the Marine community on base and within Jacksonville city and how all these cultures are so different from any other community. It got me thinking of how much people use the world culture to describe the demographics of a place and how to describe the meaning of the way people act within a community. Which I will not disagree that is how we do use culture to describe the meaning of behaviors and distinguish one society from another.

There are many macrocosms within the microcosm of the American culture that do differ from one another once the details are broken down. The use of culture is to distinguish identity of a group to either ostracize, accept, compare, etc other societies to another. There is also a sense of how the public views each other through the opposing means of culture.

I am not too sure where I am going with this post other than that I was just fascinated with the heavy the use of culture through the public point of view and how it is used as a universal means of distinguishing personal identity. I heard a lot of “we are special/unique culture within this community” or “the culture is very different here.”  As an anthropologist, I have heard and use the world culture within academia and with fellow students and professionals, but I just never really paid attention to how it was used in the public.

I know from being in Jacksonville it is different from where I have lived before, but that can be the same with anyone when they moved to another location. But being within a military community, there are very distinguishing customs, traditions, etc that are different from those outside of the military community. If I am not careful I will have another anthro project on my hands….

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Wordless Wednesday – Pierre Bourdieu

This video I came across in one of my grad classes about Pierre Bourdieu…hope you enjoy

 

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Wordless Wednesday -Eddie Izzard and ERBH

Eddie Izzard on Archaeology

And Epic Rap Battle of History – Some humor towards my research

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Why do it?

I had a friend ask me about my thesis research topic: what is the benefit of studying characters that are not real? 

My reply was simple: why not? They are fiction, but in their very own definition they are true especially to the characters within the stories. It also proves how anthropology can be applied in various ways. The one thing that I have learned from doing various research projects, it work on something that you are interested in and will stay interested in. And this research combines my love for reading and anthropology.

As I have mentioned in a previous post that I am interested in an ethnographic study of the cultures within fictional fantasy and teasing out the similar characteristics they have in common and comparing them. For those who don’t know what ethnography is, it is literally the study of culture. I emphasize fictional fantasy because there are a lot of fiction out there, but the most popular is fantasy with the uses of some sort of magic and magical creatures. Why? because it is just cool, but there is more to these than just magical creatures and good vs. evil. There are underlining similarities to Judea-Christian theology as well as other Western thought that all these fantasies carry (in the Western world) and with those similarities, is what makes them popular and easy to relate to. I will use Harry Potter for an example – the culture of the Wizarding World isn’t much different than that of Western society, put aside magic. There are struggles for the seat of authority in their government, racism, gender struggles, rites of passage from childhood to adulthood through educational institutions, and so much more of the similar challenges that we have to go through in society. When I say racism – we see this throughout the story with Umbridge and the Ministry against the Centaurus, Ron and the house elves, Malfoy to everyone that isn’t of pure blood, etc. Magic, in many cultures, is very much real. Often we study cultures with the ideas that magic is very much real, loved, and feared in their theologies and ideas of the world. If we can relate and acknowledge that magic is every part real within a culture, why can’t we say the same for the stories?

We still come to the problems that “they are not real.” Well yes and no. Fictional literaturaries are narratives that are imaginary but can have some factual evidence to them, but as a whole it is a work that was made up by the author. But let’s take a moment and look at ethnohistory. Ethnohistory – is the ethnographic study of cultures through historical records that may or may not still exist in the present. Ethnohistorians have to piece together cultures through historical documents, this is most often the case with Native American cultures that do not exist today as they did during the time of colonialism. Amd we all know that these documents by the British, French, Spainish, and Dutch (and even later on with the movement into the Frontier with Americans) that these documents were ethnocentric and one sides, rituals and cultures are interpreted through the eyes the author. Many of these rituals that were performed would be seen as fictional as wizards play Quidditch. Take the Natchez’s mortuary rituals – when a Sun died (their definition of a chief or tribal leader with divine authority), the wives of the Sun and a selected group were to commit a ritual suicide of strangulation during the procession of the death ritual. The Sun would be carried through the village on a stretcher and mothers would through their infants in the paths to be trampled on by the procession.  It all seemed cruel and unholy (most often interpreted that way) but it was seen as an honor within the culture. (that was only the short and clean version of what really happened) But this ritual would seem unfathomable and made up, but it really wasn’t. Like most cultures during that time of colonialism, can only be interpreted by the author itself. Ginzburg does a great job in his work with the Inquisition of witchcraft in Europe, piecing through documents the perspective of the those being accused.

So this brings us back to fictional fantasies and aren’t they just reflection and interpretations of an author’s view of the world just told through a different lens? I think so. Some of who like to write, art, music – aren’t you just interpreting thoughts and feelings of the events going on in your life and/or the world through an alternative means? I find all these similarities within these fantasies. Tolkien for one based LOTR off his experiences of the changing world during the World Wars and the Industrial Revolution and interpreted those events through the use of writing. Again I want and interested in breaking down these fantasies structurally and interpreting their meanings and  how we relate to them as culture/society.

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Anthropology in Social Media

It has only been two classes in the pro-seminar of Presenting Anthropology and it has really opened my eyes to all the different types of social media that is out there now. It has only been recently that all these types of communication has come into existence and I have been proven that I am behind on the times. But it is inevitable that everything in the world has or will become part of the digital world, mainly the way we as human communicate and there is no stopping it. Unless Skynet takes over and then we are all screwed.

As many academics know, the public know very little about anthropology other than what they have gathered from Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, or Bones. Both not the highly of accurate sources, but at least anthropology is knew if it very little.

As a project for the course, we are to explore various social medias that could present or be useful for anthropology and for our personal research. As a way of reaching out to the public to educate and gather information. And with that I have not only created this blog but I also set up a Twitter and Academia.edu site.  As I have stated before in older posts, that I created this blog to just talk about various subjects within Anthropology and my studies as a grad student, but I am also using it to talk about my research and what I am working on towards my thesis, and hopefully get some feedback.

I may add some links later on to some other Anthropology sites that are both interesting and I think would be helpful.

You can follow me on Twitter @anthrogeek_tina

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Working Thesis

As I finished LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring, I began to draw similarities between the Harry Potter and LOTR. It got me thinking even more on what I want to study as far as thesis research. I have always enjoyed reading and I have been enjoying breaking down these fictional fantasies structurally and teasing out the culture within the storylines as well as the what each of these literatures have in common.  As a cultural anthropologist I do need some ethnography work to go along side with my research, and it got me thinking. If ethnohistorians can look through documents throughout history and piece together past cultures such as French and Spanish documents that account Native American cultures that do not exist, why can’t the same be done within fictional fantasies? For instance, Tolkin created the land of Middle-Earth with various races of creatures each with its own cultural characteristics that distinguish one group from another. Same can be seen in Harry Potter, the Wizarding World. Both of these examples hold true to what most ethnohistorians must take in account to tease out and piece together cultures that no longer exist. The authors of these fictions have not only created cultures, but they all have similar characteristics of Western thought that are common with each other and allows readers to connect with the characters and makes it popular. We see this in many world religions. Although there are many Christian religions once you break down and get to the core of the belief they are all the same, founded on the same building blocks. The stories are the same from Creation, the birth and death of  Jesus, and his Resurrection. What makes each religion different is the perspective and interpretations of the stories, the Bible, etc. That is why there are so many different ‘types’ or sects of Christianity because there are different interpretations of the writings within the Bible, etc. But I am not trying to make this a religious battle of defining Christianity, but I simply draw an example or comparison if you will.

And that is what I want to focus my research on. There are so many fantasy fictions in the reading world that are popular and they are popular for a reason. I want to interpret and structurally break down the cultures that have been created by authors and compare them to one another, and find a similar meaning to all of them, because there is.

I am not really interested in how the people, the readers, interpret in their own way of the stories such as Harry Potter renactments or larping, because that turns into establishing social identities. I have done research on LARPing ground as well as renactors, and it comes down to social identity, and social consciousness of a group. Its all well and interesting on its own, but its not my main focus.

Its still a work in process, but the more I read about myth and the fictions that I have on my list. The more I enjoy breaking them down and discovering their cultures.

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