One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Wordless Wednesday – Ethnography video

Anthropology: People, Strangers, and Reactions

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Writing More

I know that I have been lacking in the thesis update department, but I do plan to get better at that. This week for Research and Design, we are working on building our literary review for our thesis. This is actually suppose to be a practice run of sorts. But the idea is to also improve our writing skills as potential scholars. Tonight we were discussing how important it is to practice our writing skills and ways to improve our writing skills. Personally I love writing. I am much better at writing by far than testing. I would also prefer to write a 25 page research paper than take a test, its not because I don’t know the information or the material, its because I get horrible testing anxiety that I blank out on tests. So writing is what I like to do. With that said, I know that I am not the best when it comes to grammar. I am frequently reminded by my fiance who looks over my papers. But when I do take the time to write a paper for whatever class or conference it may be, I do go back and edit my work. The tendency that I do have is that I like to write whatever comes to mind at that moment and time. It works at that moment, but I do put it away for a few hours to a day and then I go back to edit my work.

One of the tips that the professor expressed tonight was to write all the time and to practice writing even if there isn’t any purpose to it. So it got me thinking that I should do this as well through the use of this blog. I do intend to be better at posting more on here especially with thesis updates. This weekend I will post more updates on that subject. I do hope though that people who do read my blog have enjoyed what I have posted thus far. Well back to the grind stone!

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Primate Observation part II at NC Zoo

images (2)I spent this past weekend in North Carolina where Brian and I visited the NC Zoo so I could work on my Primate Observation Project for my Primatology class. This trip was far more successful than my trip to the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Pensacola. Besides the park-wide power outage, we were able to spend a couple of hours observing and recording the group of gorillas that were very active that morning.

This troop consisted of 6 individuals: 1 adult silverback male, 3 adult females, and 2 male infants. The infants belong to two of the females and  the third female is pregnant and due to give birth in the summer, the silverback is the father of all the infants. The infants are still very newmother n infant and the mothers are just starting to allow the infants to explore the enclosure. When they were not exploring, they were being carried on the mother’s back. However, they are a BIG distraction due to their cuteness and they took a lot of my attention away from the rest of the observation of the other individuals. Nonetheless, they were adorable to watch. Numerous times one of the infants would go into in the tall grass and all all you could see is the grass move where he was. The other mother-infant dyad were in the western end of the enclosure and out of sight for the majority of my observation, so I wasn’t able to watch them as closely as I got to with the other mother-infant dyad that stayed a majority of time in my line of sight and around the tall grass towards the middle of the enclosure. As the infants played in the grass, the mother wasn’t too far behind and always keeping a watchful eye. Mother was usually eating in order to provide breast milk for the infant. So as the mother foraged, the infants were put down to explore. At one point one other mothers did place her infant in front of her to groom for about a minute before the infant got distracted to go explore the tall grass once again.

DSC_0319As I had mentioned before, the male silverback is the father of all both male infants as well as the father of the pregnant third female. For the majority of the time that I spent observing, he spent his time either sitting in the southern corner where the glass observation was or laying down. When he was sitting there, he would be facing out into the enclosure watching the other individuals. At one time he did get up and walk around the entire perimeter always looking at one of the females, before he settled back into the corner. He slept for a good 10 minutes of my first observational session and again for 20 minutes into my second observational session. He either sat and ate or slept, but always facing out into the enclosure. He is the alpha male of this troop and the father of the infants. The keeper/trainer of the gorillas was out at the observation window and informed me that the male does often hold and play with the infants. But a majority of the time the infants stay with the mother and the father will occasionally interact with the infants. He is the ever watchful protector of this group.

The pregnant female was out of my sight most of the time at the other end of the enclosure where I could not see past the DSC_0431stone corner. She spent most of the time eating and foraging in the tall grass. Towards the end of my first session, she walked over and laid down in the opposing corner of the silverback, (the southern observational window) where she also preceded to sleep as well. She slept the rest of the my first session about 10 minutes and about 15 minutes into my second session. The rest of the second session she moved from that corner either just sitting and watching or moving toward the tall grass in the center of the enclosure to forage and eat. She is pregnant so she needs to eat as much as she can and rest. (In this picture you can see her pregnant belly).

Fun Fact: gestation period for a gorilla is about 8.5 months.

I have had some people ask me before when I originally posted about the primate DSC_0396project at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, what exactly what I was doing just watching the gorillas. But I was actually assigned to implore and observational method to record the gorillas’ behaviors as a group. This method that I was assigned was an instantaneous (scan) method in which I have to watch the behaviors of each individuals in time intervals of one minute for 30 minutes. Every time a minute was up, I would record a new set of behaviors as quickly as possible. What I have described before with the behaviors of the apes, are the interpretations of what I had observed. I feel like it was a lot like scanning as a lifeguard of a crowded pool, but with gorillas. The good thing was that they really just eat, sit, and rest. The infants were the only individuals that really moved around and were hyper. As a result, observation was not only easy but it was easier to see the whole group during the limited time intervals.

Overall, this trip was very successful as well as fun. Brian was able to help me with the timing intervals and taking pictures of the gorillas. When we were done with the observation project. We did explore the rest of the zoo. It is not the most impressive zoo, there is a lot of walking and hiking between the exhibits. But it was fun and the power did come on eventually, so we didn’t have to use the restrooms in the dark. We were there at mid-day (between 11-2pm) the time when it seemed to be nap time for a majority of the animals. So the animals as a whole were not very active. But I was satisfied and got to do my project.



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Wordless Wednesday – Audio Challenge

For the next couple of weeks, our new challenge for Project Presenting Anthropology is an audio challenge. This would include parody songs , interviews, podcasts of lectures, and YouTube videos of interviews, songs, etc. I decided to just do a general search of YouTube videos to see what I can find. So my Wordless Wednesday to you are videos that are heavily interview based. ENJOY!

Major in a Minute: Anthropology

iDeclare – Who majors in Anthropology?

Interview with Levi-Strauss:

What would Alien Anthropologists Think of Us?

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Primate Observation at Gulf Breeze Zoo

DSCN4934Yesterday my undergrad assistant and myself adventured to the local Gulf Breeze zoo so I could do my primate observation on gorillas. Gulf Breeze Zoo is a small zoo compared to the ones that I have been used to going to such as the National Zoo in DC, Bronx, and Atlanta. It is a little sketchy but it seems to be a good little facility to families with young children because there are not an abundance of animals and some of the animals are able to be fed by visitors. One thing that caught myself and Kevin off guard were the various animals that you would normally see every day, were there such as the raccoon. And by the bear exhibit, there was a display on comparing the skulls of primates and humans, odd place to have a primate skull display.

Although the zoo does have gorillas, we found that it is impossible to see them from the observation deck that say you can observe them from there or you would have to take a train that doesn’t stop to see them. So regrettably I was not able to do my primate observation project. However we did visit the various other primates that were in the zoo as well as listening to visitors refer to the chimpanzees as monkeys.

DSCN4914 We were able to observe the chimpanzees from the observation deck. There was only two individuals. One of them sat by the water’s edge and was interacting with us by making noises and signing to us, including blowing kisses, peek-a-boo hands, and being hungry gestures. It was disappointing to not be able to view and observe the gorillas (which is my favorite primate).

As a cultural anthropologist, I have a tendency to watch the visitors interact with the primates. The most common thing I found was visitors mistakenly calling apes monkeys and monkeys apes, as well as trying to get their children to interact with the animals. Either by feeding, making noises, or by acting in away to attract the animal towards the child. Parents want their children to be aware of the animals, but most want to entertain their children with the presence of animals.

The day was actually really chilly and windy which would make it hard to do any recording of the observations that I would be doing. DSCN4929In the absence of the gorillas, we were able to visit and observe some of the other primates that were there. Many of which were in cages which made it easier to watch and see the animals. Unlike the chimpanzees and gorillas that were free roaming within their habitat enclosure.

Other primates that we were able to visit included lemurs, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, gibbons, common marmoset, lion tamerion, and red tailed mustache guenon, and there were a few others that I can’t remember. It is one thing to learn in class about the various species but it is another to see the primates in person. If it wasn’t for this class, I wouldn’t have known the differences between most of the primates. Many of the primates were very active during the time that we were there, so it made observing them easier. The spider monkey that we did observe was watching a family have a snack and was sticking it’s hand out in hopes to get some food, as well as chattering to be heard.


In many of the enclosures there were not many individuals except for the squirrel monkeys that had about 12-15 individuals. Most only had 1-5 individuals. The squirrel monkeys were very active in chasing, playing, and eating during time of our observation.

Overall, the day was fun observing and visiting the various animals at this zoo. It was disappointing to not be able to observe the gorillas which was the goal of the trip. But I think we got some good information, practicing our observation skills, and testing our knowledge of primates from what we have learned in class.

I will have to figure out an alternative to observe the gorillas, perhaps going to another zoo where it won’t be an obstacle to visit and observe the gorillas.


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Symbolic Wedding

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to do a post on weddings and traditional/symbolic meanings. Wedding planning has been both enjoyable and stressful, it doesn’t help that I am also working on grad work. But what I have enjoyed the most is trying to combine two families and share traditions, as well as making new ones. Brian has been the one I have turned to and leaned on during the hard times and shared embraces through the good times. For this I am happy to share the rest of my life together with him. It has been recently that we have really dove into wedding planning, simply because it is getting closer to when we want to get married and just the time is now to have to start booking venues, ordering invitations, and wedding dress shopping. Every time I turn around, I have been reminded that I must include this and that into the wedding. I have been researching and thinking about all the symbolic meaning to all the elements within a wedding (Traditional Christian wedding). So I have decided to break down symbolic meanings of the structure of a wedding with some personal additions.

Gift Giving:

The very basic premise of wedding is a complex system of exchange: the exchange of women as Levi-Strauss has pointed out, rings, and gifts. Marcel Mauss describes gift exchange as a fundamental element of structuring society and behavior. The logic of a gift is a balancing act between individuals or groups. When giving a gift enters an individual into a social contract. Mauss argues that it is a reciprocal obligation to eventually give a gift in return to someone who has given you a gift. The return gift should be either equal or higher value than the gift that was received. Levi-Strauss takes it a few steps further in that he applied exchange of women into kinship.

So what does this have to do with weddings? Well everything.

The Proposal:

Traditionally the man will talk to the father of the woman who he wishes to marry, in that he will ask for permission to marry his daughter. This is an example of exchange of a daughter to another man and his family with the permission of the daughter’s father. Another example is the giving of the proposal ring. Again traditionally a man will propose to a woman through a gift giving in the form of a ring. Men will spend various amounts of money on a ring, but ultimately the goal is to persuade the woman to accept. In return for the ring, a woman accept. Thus balancing out the exchange system.

Engagement Ring: 

It symbolizes a man’s desire and commitment toward his bride-to-be, the desire and obligation of a couple’s love to each other and indicates the couple’s future marriage.  The use of diamonds, some of the hardest stones available, indicates the strength of the man’s love. The ring is chosen by the man, although today culture a couple will go out and shop for and chosen by the bride-to-be.

The ring is worn on the left hand of the fourth finger (the ring finger), the hand closest to the heart. This tradition of wearing it on the fourth finger on the left hand, is thought to be from the Romans. It is believed this finger to be the beginning of the “vein of love,” the vein that leads to the heart.

The ring is chosen to represent the recipient and within its own right, a symbol of individual love. When Brian picked out our engagement ring, I did not know what it looked liked or anything. Making it even more special that he picked out the ring, and it is gorgeous and unique.

Wedding Dress:

Traditionally the wedding is white that symbolizes purity and innocence, virgin daughters.

“Something old” is ideally an object that belonged to a happily married old woman. “Something new” is usually the wedding gown itself. However, it can be anything at all. “Something borrowed” originally meant something golden. Consequently, it was usually a precious piece of jewelry loaned by a relative. The golden object symbolized the sun, the source of all life, and wearing the borrowed object signified a union between the sun and the bride.“Something blue” is to honor the moon, the protector of all women.

Bridal veil is to conceal the bride’s beauty from any evil spirits.

The flowers in the bridal bouquet  symbolize sex, joyful lovemaking, and fertility.

The Ceremony:

Again we enter into the exchange game of women. In the father gives away his daughter to the groom as a form of exchange.

Wedding rings are perfect circles, with no beginning and no end, symbolizing union, eternity, and completeness.


There are so many different and new customs that vary between cultures and individuals. Wedding have also become so diverse from simple to extravagant, crazy bridzillas, and tons of money. I never realized how involved wedding planning was and making sure not to  forget anything.

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Wordless Wednesday – Valentines Day & My Little Pony Anthropology

Anthropology and My little Pony….this is what I stumbled upon when I was looking for Anthropology videos….interesting

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I bring you LOTR and Harry Potter ! Happy Valentine’s Day!!






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Wordless Wednesday part 2

I came across this and had to share 🙂

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Presenting Anthro – Print Challenge

Our next challenge for the next two weeks in Presenting Anthropology is the print challenge, to present our work or anthropology in print (posters, flyers, etc). It got me thinking about the past projects that I did as an undergrad and the project I did for teaching American Red Cross courses. I have primarily used print media as a teaching tool. I have still to figure out how I will like to present my research. But I wanted to share some of the projects that I have done.

SLave housing

As an undergraduate at the UMW, I worked on a historic preservation project that interpreted slave housing and talking about the myths behind slavery that the general public has often been misinterpreted. I continued this project into an internship at the Menokin Plantation site. I created a poster that could be used as an information board that would be placed in an area that might have had slave quarters. I tried to make it very simple for interpretation by using language that could be universally understood by the general public. This simple poster was accompanied by a research paper that I wrote about myths surrounding American slavery and the understanding of slavery housing.

Performing an Initial Assessment 2012

Although this is not an anthropology project. I am an instructor for the American Red Cross teaching CPR, AED, First-aid, Lifeguard Training, Water Safety (including swim lessons), Babysitting Training, and I teach individuals how to become an instructor to teach swim lessons and water safety (instructor trainer).  I created this flow chart to make understanding CPR easier than just reading it out of the manual which can become confusing. Teaching CPR to teenagers can be a challenge because many of them do not want to just read and many are visual learners, many people in general are visual learners, having this flow chart has helped individual learn and retain the information. I will have to say I am very proud of this flow chart.

I update this chart whenever there are updates in CPR and I share this with all my students in every class that I teach. I have also provided this chart to various pool companies and gyms that require their staff to be trained. It has not only been used as a teaching tool, but it has been used to help refresh and review individuals to be better prepared in emergency situations.

WSI flyer for AFF Lifeguard flyer for AFF

These are two flyers that I created promoting my courses. I haven’t really done anything with my research. I am looking forward to what I may come up with.

As stated before, I am still trying to figure out how to portray my research in print. Let the brainstorming begin!

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Claude Levi-Strauss

File:Levi-strauss 260.jpgFor my class History of Anthropology, one of the assignments is to choose a theorist and do a short presentation on him/her. So far they have all been very good and informative. The point of the project to show that they are more than just a blurb in a text book. I choose to do a presentation on none other than Claude Levi-Strauss.

Levi-Strauss was born November 28, 1908  and died October 30, 2009, he was 100 years old. He is highly influential to anthropology as well as the most misunderstood anthropologist. His writings can be very difficult read which is probably why many have been turned off of structuralism. During his time, he is responsible for the single most body of theory and writings of anthropology.


  • 1927–32 Studied philosophy and law at the University of Paris
  • 1934–37 Was as professor of sociology at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and did field research on the Indians of Brazil.
  • 1941–45 Visiting professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City
  •                     Where is met Franz Boaz
  • 1959 he was appointed to the chair of social anthropology at the Collège de France


  • Universal patterns of thought in all forms of human activity
  • analysis of human cultures, the assumption is that all human societies develop and order themselves in similar ways.
  •  the human mind operates on the universal logic of dualities – binary oppositions – that create social meanings
  •   male/female – life/death – nature/culture
  • “the relationship between the elements is as important as the elements themselves

Levi-Strauss argued that the “savage” mind had the same structures as the “civilized” mind and that human characteristics are the sameclaude everywhere. He viewed cultures as symbolic systems of communication and elements that are common to all cultures are identified and studied. Studied: Myth, Kinship, Language, Food, etc.      The goal is to organize data into the most simplest, effective way.

I found that it is easier to talk about his theories through his various works.

Just some titles to check out:

  • Tristes Tropiques – Ethnographic analysis of Amazonian peoples and he wanted to find  “a human society reduced to its most basic expression”
  • Elementary Structures of Kinship – this work focused on kinship and the exchange of women. He argued that kinship is based on an alliance between two families formed when a woman from one group marries a man from another group.
  • Structural Anthropology – The understanding of the “Structural Method” and focused on the man and society in terms of – kinship, social organization, religion, mythology, and art.
  • Savage Mind–  He argues: Myths may be unique & different, but myths of different cultures are surprisingly similar. Argued the universal that the “savage” mind & the “civilized” mind had the same structures & these structures are the same in every culture.

Levi-Strauss was highly influenced by Papa Franz Boaz, his anthropological theories really didn’t rise until he met Boaz. In 1942 he was
at lunch with Boaz in New York, Boaz has a heart attack & died in the arms of Lev-Strauss…It is rumored that Boaz passed on the light of anthropological knowledge to Levi-Strauss…

SO the mystery is… WHO was in the room with Levi-Strauss when he died? Who was the person to receive the light, the beacon of anthropological knowledge?

Why structuralism? It makes sense to me. Just like math is not my subject, someone is very good at it. Anthropology works the same way. There are theories that makes sense to some and not others, thus is why people critique work. Levi-Strauss is not the easiest theorist to read, but once one is able to master his writings…his work is brilliant. There are some of his work that I still don’t understand, but with time I am sure it will get clearer.

Levi-Strauss Presentation – Check it out!

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