One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Final Primatology Presentation

As the semester winds down, this is the time for presentations, last minute panic to write papers that you were aware of since the beginning of the semester, and exams. Yesterday I did my presentation on my Primate Zoo Project, I figured I would share the Prezi and and presentation notes. Remember Primatology is just one field of study for anthropologists, specifically biological anthropologist. Why? Primatologist study our closest relatives, apes and monkeys, to get an idea of how our behavior in the past, before the apes/human split and before human evolved into the anatomically modern human – what we are today. Although we may never truly know how early humans may have acted, we can only speculate based upon the behaviors of apes and monkeys.

So I give you, gorillas.


Introduction/Why Study Gorillas:

Hollywood has portrayed the image of the gorilla in various ways ranging from being meat-eating, ferocious beasts to caring, shy majestic creatures. Like most information in society, knowledge of gorillas comes from two places, movies and the internet. As it is known, movies are for the entertainment factor and have badly portrayed the image of gorillas in vehicles such as King Kong or Planet of the Apes, where the interpretation that has been implanted into viewers’ minds is that they are monsters.

I have always been fascinated with gorillas because of how largely misunderstood they were by a large number of people through the images of movies and how these images clash with the reality of the nature of gorillas. I chose to do my research paper and zoo observation of gorillas due to my fascination as well as my hope to spread the knowledge of these animals to help save them due to their pending extinction due to poaching, hunting, and habitat loss.

Previous Research

            George Schaller and Dian Fossey were two of the most influential individuals who, through their ground-breaking research, dismissed the public perception of gorillas as violent beasts. Little was known about gorillas in the wild before the 1960s. In 1959 George Schaller conducted the first long-term study of wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Virunga Volcano region of Central Africa for a year (Schaller 1963, Lang 2005). Schaller lived with his wife among the mountain gorillas studying their ecology, behavior, and life. Schaller published The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior in 1963 that portrayed the intelligence, nature, and life of the mountains gorillas that was contrary to the popular belief of the time (Schaller 1963).

Six years later, the American zoologist, Dian Fossey, followed Schaller’s research of the mountain gorillas in the forests of Rwanda for over thirteen years (Fossey 1983). Fossey conducted one of the longest naturalistic studies of primates in the world and established the Karisoke Research Center to save the mountain gorillas from poaching, hunting, and extinction (Harcourt and Stewart 2007, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). Tradically, in 1985 Fossey was murdered in her cabin located in Rwanda.

Since Schaller and Fossey, there have been several studies of gorillas in the wild. But due to war and other violence in the region of Central Africa, it has been difficult to get consistent data on various groups of gorillas and many of the groups have fallen victim as casualties getting caught in the line of fire (Harcourt and Stewart 2007).


Like most primate taxonomy, gorilla taxonomy is controversial. Traditional classification that has been in place for over 30 years had gorillas in the subfamily hominoidea lumped together with orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos in the family Pongidae. Within this taxonomy there is only one gorilla species that is divided into three subspecies: western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla graueri), and mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) (Fossey 1983; Lang 2005; Schaller 1963; Harcourt and Stewart 2007). Knowledge of wild gorillas comes from twelve study sites in Africa: eight in west-central Africa and four in eastern Africa (Harcourt and Stewart 2007, Falk 2000).

An alternative taxonomy begins the genus in the family Hominidae with humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. A new subfamily Paninae was created to distinguish gorillas from humans. This taxonomy then splits the genus into western and eastern gorillas. Western gorillas include two subspecies: western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013, Harcourt and Stewart 2007). Eastern gorillas include two subspecies as well: mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla. beringei graueri). There is not enough evidence to support this claim that the gorilla be split into two species with the controversies over mtDNA and interpreting the results of the molecular data (Harcourt and Stewart 2007). For consistency throughout this report, the traditional taxonomy will be followed.


            Geographically, gorillas are distributed throughout the countries of Central Africa. Populations are estimated upon night nest counts in known areas of habitats (Lang 2005).

The eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorillas are located in between the mountains and lowlands of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. These gorillas are named after the scientist, Rudolf Grauer who first discovered the species, but little is known about them (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). It has been estimated that there are fewer than 5,000 eastern lowland gorillas due to habitat loss and poaching in the recent years (Lang 2005, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013).

There are about 700-880 mountain gorillas in the wild and they are separated in two populations (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). The first population of mountain gorillas is located in the forests of the Virunga Volcanoes that are shared by the countries of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second population lives in the forests of Uganda (Schaller 1963, Fossey 1983, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, which is still in operation today with ongoing studies of the mountain gorillas as well as the other subspecies (Fossey 1983, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013).

The most common gorillas found in zoos are the western lowland gorillas. In the wild, these gorillas are located in the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The population is estimated to be about 150,000-200,000 gorillas left in the wild (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013).

The addition to the alternative taxonomy, the Cross River gorillas are located in an isolated forest area of Cameroon and Nigeria.  The estimated population of the cross river gorillas is fewer than 300 in the wild

General Information

 Average lifespan of gorillas in the wild is 30-40 years and in captivity, 50 years. Infancy is the most dangerous time in a gorilla’s life, only about 60% of mountain gorillas will make it into adulthood.

Gestations is about 8.5 months with usually interbirth intervals of about 4 years. But it may change if infant dies, female will return her sexual cycle.

Weight – Males and females are sexually dimorphic in body size. Average weight for males is about 400 lbs and females are from 160-215lbs.

Social Organizations – Polygymous usually with 1 male with multiple females and offspring.

Diet – folivorous of bamboo shoots, stems, leaves, roots, with termites and ants.

Personal Research

The North Carolina State Zoo in Ashboro, North Carolina is the home to a six member western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) troop. This group includes: Nkoski, the alpha male silverback; the pregnant adult female, Acacia; the adult female, Olympia and her seven-month-old infant son, Apollo; and the adult female, Jamani and her seven-month-old infant son, Bomassa. Nkoski is the father of both male infants as well as the father of Acacia’s future offspring.

The day that I had chosen to go to the NC Zoo, it was approximately 60 degrees and without any clouds or wind. Upon entering the zoo, the entire facility had experienced a power outage and resulted in some of the animals, including the gorillas, to be released into their enclosure later than usually scheduled. The gorillas were released and present in their enclosure at about 10:45 in the morning.

Each individual was given an identifying number: Individual 1-Nkoski the male silverback, Individual 2-Acacia the pregnant adult female, Individual 3 Olympia the female adult mother, Individual 4-Apollo the infant of Individual 4, Individual 5-Jamani the female adult mother, and Individual 6-Bomassa the infant of Individual 5. For consistency throughout this report, the individual’s numbers will be used instead of their name.

The observational technique that was used was instantaneous scan sampling at one minute intervals for two, thirty-minute periods. With this technique, notes of behaviors are quickly recorded onto the data sheets. This technique was appropriate for this observation to make comparisons of the behavioral patterns of the group as a whole and of each individual.

Data sheets include each individual’s location, posture, locomotion, and activity/behavior at each one minute interval for a thirty minute period. Each data sheet also includes space at the bottom of each sheet for notes and ad libitum sampling, the random and interesting behaviors that do not happen to occur during the one minute time frames. All observed behaviors were recorded onto the data sheets that were created specifically for this group of gorillas. The data sheets are divided into five categories: Individual, Location, Posture, Locomotion, and Activity/Behavior. Each individual is indicated by their corresponding number (1-6) and there are 30 intervals that indicated each instantaneous scan sample. There are two data sheet sessions, one for each 30 minute session.

From the enclosure diagram, one can see that this enclosure is spacious for the primates with three high grass areas, two play features, and a concrete play area that also holds water and food sources. The enclosure diagram is divided into 20 portions: columns A-E and rows 1-4. Using this diagram and the data sheets, one can determine where each individual spends most of his or her time and which areas are rarely used. The areas that were most frequently used were: B2, B1,C2, and C4. The areas that were never used include: A4, D1, D4, E1, and E4. All other areas had very little usage by the gorillas.


The main postures were stand, sit, and lying down. The male silverback spent about 80% of his time in C4 either sitting or lying down.

Locomotion: walk, ride, or no movement.


main activities included, eat, sleep, cling, explore, looking, groom, and play. Infants were the most active individuals. Both spend a majority of their time exploring – exploring with the mother would allow her infant to check out its surrounding area and start wandering on its own, but the mother would only allow the infant to go a few feet before retrieving them or when the infant would vocalize a distress call that sounded liked a whimpering puppy. They often explored the high grass areas. Mother was usually squatting and watching the infants. But what was interesting, the mothers would never interact with one another and at times it seemed as if they were trying to avoid one another by staying on opposite sides of the enclosure during both my observational sessions.


The idea of captivity in zoos may be appalling to many, but captivity is allowing these animals to survive that would otherwise be facing the dangers of poaching or habitat loss. From my observations at the NC Zoo, the enclosure the gorillas were in was very spacious and the animals were able to go about their daily activities. The gorillas were breeding within the troop and the infants were not faced with the danger of infanticide that they could have been the victims of in the wild. In contrast, the opposing side to captivity is that these animals would not be performing natural activities that they would in the wild and thus could never be released into the wild. But the survival of these primates, in my mind, outweighs the cons. I also see zoos as a way of teaching the public. I am sure that no one would like to be watched and be stared at through the glass as one goes about their daily lives, but this opportunity can be a teaching tool. At the NC Zoo, there are signs explaining the subspecies of the gorilla, the members of the group, and the dangers that the wild gorillas face. The caretakers of the gorillas are also present in the observational viewing areas to explain daily activities and answer any questions the public may have about these majestic primates. Zoos are a conservational tool that is employed to maintain the survival of these apes.

There are many conservation projects that exist to try and save the gorillas in the wild that include the Fossey Fund and the International Gorilla Conservation Program (Lang 2005, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). Between the years of 1989 and 2003, the mountain gorilla population increased by 17 percent and this increase occurred with an area that is protected by the Fossey Fund (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013). By 2010, the mountain gorilla population increased again by about 26 percent in the same area (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International 2013).

Prezi Presentation:


Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Inc.

2013  Learning About Gorillas. (accessed Feb 18, 2013).

Doran-Sheehy, D. M., Greer, D., Mongo, P. and Schwindt, D.

2004  Impact of ecological and social factors on ranging in western gorillas. Am. J. Primatol., 64: 207–222. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20075

Falk, Dean.

2000  “Gorillas: The Largest Primates of All.” Chap. 12 in Primate Diversity, by Dean Falk, 298-317. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Fossey, Dian.

1983  Gorillas in the Mist. New York: Mariner Books.

Harcourt, Alexander H., and Kelly J. Stewart.

2007  Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation Between the Sexes. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lang, Kristina Cawthon.

2005  Primate Factsheets: Gorilla (Gorilla) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . October 5, 2005. (accessed February 17, 2013).

Maple, Terry L., and Michael P. Hoff.

1982  Gorilla Behavior. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Rothman, Jessica M., Ellen S. Dierenfeld, Harold F. Hintz, and Alice N. Pell.

2008  “Nutritional Quality of Gorilla Diets: Consequences of Age, Sex, and Season.” Oecologia ( Springer in cooperation with    International Association for Ecology) 155: 111-122.

Schaller, George B.

            1963  The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior. Chicago: The University of Chicago.

The Gorilla Organization .

2013  n.d. (accessed February 17, 2013).

Weber, Bill, and Amy Vedder.

2001  In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land. New York: Simon & Schuster.





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Wordless Wednesday…Indiana Jones Shinanigans

If only archaeology was this exciting. I think this is one of my favorites thus far.

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Academic Genealogy

UWF anthropology genealogy - culturalWhen we think about genealogy, the first think that  usually comes to mind is kinship tree of family. Which is all well in good, but have you ever thought about you academic genealogy? Who your professors studied under? And who those professors studied under and so forth? In anthropology, we talk about so much the “gods of anthropology” that it seems so far off in the past when we read about them. But in reality, we are not that far away if we map it out.

For this week’s Avant-Garde Challenge in Presenting Anthropology, a fellow cultural anthro student and I came up with the idea to do an academic genealogy of our professors. This project went from just focusing on the cultural professors to the whole department. The idea originated from t-shirts that my undergrad created with the genealogy of the Anthropology Department of UMW and one of our professors fro UWF had been thinking about putting a department genealogy together. We also were Amanda L genealogygetting sick of just talking about archaeology in the class, so we wanted to come up with something that would present cultural anthropology. Although it pertains mostly to the student at UWF, you can realize how closely academically related you are to Boas or some of the other big names in anthropology. As anthropologist, we do pride ourselves on our academic lineages and it’s cool to know that you may be just a generation or so away from some big names in the discipline.

In addition to the cultural genealogies, Amanda and I mapped out our personal genealogies. We decided to just focus our genealogies on our Masters Thesis Committee. Amanda did her bachelors at UWF as well, so her professors remained pretty much the same. Mine, however, has the addition of my undergraduate mentor on my thesis committee, Dr. Margaret Huber. Dr. Huber was a studenttina genaelogy of Rodney Needham which makes my lineages from both sides of oceans, Bronislaw Malinowski and Franz Boas. Which is pretty good. Through Dr. Huber I am the great great granddaughter of Malinowski and the great great granddaughter of Franz Boas. Amanda is the great, great, great graddaughter of Boas through Dr. Robert Philen’s lineage. (I think I got that right) Overall, it is just pretty damn cool.

It is important to keep in mind with genealogies that the vertical lines are decedents to/from and the horizontal lines are relationship to. Not everyone is an academic sibling to the other, but there are many who are because they studied under the same individual. For example, Amanda and I are academic siblings of each other because we are both studying under Dr. Robert Philen and Dr. Kristina Killgrove. But we are not siblings when it comes to Dr. Huber, I was her student. Hopefully that makes sense.

What do you think? Do you think that it is important to know your academic lineage? I believe it is important to know where you came from personally and academically. This heritage that we have in anthropology allows us to calm an identity within the discipline that many other disciplines do not have the pleasure of. Genealogies also allows us to remember those who have pasted and have made an ever lasting impression upon us. Although many of us have similar lineages, but it is the experiences and influences from our academic elders that defines who we are. For instance, my undergraduate program had 3 very different anthropological perceptive (structuralism, post modern, and functionalist) and although I loved and was influenced by all 3, the most influential was Dr. Huber and her structuralism. Regardless, it is important to know where we came from and to be proud that you may be a decedent from Franz Boas. I challenge you to construct your own academic genealogy and see who you are related to.

This is UWF Staff genealogy.  If you are the student, you are EGO.

UWF staff-anthropology

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Need something to read? Witchcraft!

One of my favorite topics of anthropology is magic and witchcraft. As an undergraduate, I took a class on the Anthropology of Witchcraft. It is interesting to see how similar the myth, rituals, and symbols of witchcraft are in different cultures like Africa, Native Americans, and Europe. The following book are the ones that were required for that class, as well as the book I chose to do my final paper on.


Navaho Witchcraft by Clyde Kluckhohn

This is an ethnography of Clyde Kluckhohn of witchcraft of Navaho. As an anthropologist, Kluckhohn was interested in understanding the misunderstanding within cultures to possibly avoid conflicts because he was horrified of the violence and destruction of humans has done during the World Wars. He wanted to give contributions to humans, thus analyzing cultural differences before they could become conflicts. With this in mind, he did extensive studies of the Navajo (over 37 years). (Navajo is the modern spelling, Navaho was the way it was spelled in 1944). Navaho Witchcraft, is a analysis of the ideas and behaviors that define witchcraft as well as the causes and reactions of witchcraft within the culture.

Not a huge fan of some of his ethnographic methods of speaking with informants – i.e. picking up drunk Navajo off the side of the road – but it in 1944 there were not the ethical issues that have are strictly enforced today. Nevertheless, it is a great read and again, it is interesting to see how these ideas of witchcraft from the Navajo are very similar to that of Western beliefs of witchcraft.

Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande by E.E. Evans-Pritchard9780198740292_p0_v1_s260x420

Published in 1937, this is an ethnography of the research done in the Southern Sudan during the 1920’s. Evans-Pritchard studied the Azande and their beliefs and ideas of Witchcraft among this culture. Like the Nuer, this is an excellently written ethnography! (If you haven’t read the Nuer, shame on you! It is an anthropology classic which must be read by ALL anthropologists). Like much of his other work, I love Evans-Pritchard’s almost pompous attitude about the way he describes other cultures. Regardless of that fact, this book is about a culture that is pretty much extinct today. During the time of his research, the Azande was already being absorbed into colonialism.

This is another great ethnography about the ideas and beliefs of witchcraft in another cultural point of view. After reading this, the same ideas once again are present among the Azande as they are in European ideas of witchcraft. It makes you wonder where these ideas originated or if they are universal patterns that are present in every cultural idea of witchcraft and magic?


Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England by T.M. Luhrmann

This ethnography is of contemporary England witch cults that describe why people are drawn to bizarre practices of magic and witchcraft. It is hard to image sometimes that there are still groups in the world that actively practice the ideas of magic and witchcraft, and individuals who believe that they can produce magic and witchcraft. This book is a bit disturbing at times. But the focus is on middle-class, educated people who are involved in secret practices of witchcraft within the modern urban culture.

This is a very different perspective of witchcraft than what many have been exposed to. When we hear about witchcraft, it is in Harry Potter or within studies in histories, fictions, or primitive cultures. We usually don’t think that there are people who exist today that still practice rituals that have not changed through time.

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath by Carlos Ginzburg

This is by far one of my favorite books and I still refer to it in my research. This book is an ethnohistory of the beliefs a978-0-226-29693-7-frontcovernd practices of the early accounts of witchcraft throughout Europe and England from the time of the Inquisition . He goes through trial records, folklore, and popular iconography that  form patterns and is evidence of a hidden witchcraft cultures that have been present for thousands of years.

Great, great, great book! Again another percepective of witchcraft, but this time through the eyes of those being accused. The trial records that Ginzburg presents are the written accounts of what was said by those being accused, accounts of those who were prosecuting, and what became of those accused from the time they were arrested to when they were sentenced. These accounts were patterns that Ginzburg traces throughout Europe.

wizard-of-oz-bookThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz 

For the final of this course, we had to choose a book that contained witchcraft and present how the same pattern and concepts that we had read about through the semester were present in the book. One of the main themes we traced through all these accounts of witchcraft, was the concept of Dual Sovereignty (power vs. authority).

I was able to trace all the concepts and patterns in this book, and I have been able to in every book I have read that consists of magic and witchcraft.

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Wordless Wednesday – Cyber Archaeology?

With changing technology and human relying more and more upon it, many have referred the human species as cyborgs.  We not only have become to rely so much upon technology, but it has literally became much a part of us, our culture, and our life style. You can’t leave your house without a phone that has your entire life planned in it. Are we becoming ‘cyborgs’ as a human race?

The video clip that I am featuring this week is about cyber archaeology, a way to try to preserve sites but at the same time allow individual the chance to be on a site without really being there. Is Cyber Archaeology the future of the discipline? Does it benefit or take away from archaeology?

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What Jobs Can You Get With An Anthropology Degree?

keyboard-job-searchContrary to popular thought, (like Florida Governor Rick Scott) anthropology incorporates everything and anything allowing anthropologists to be well suited for almost any job. The major draw back that many students just coming out of school have is that thought process: “because everyone says there are not jobs, then there are not.” Much of the time we have to look passed the “anthropologist” title and look more at the skill sets that were acquired.

What skill sets do we as anthropologists have?

In general, all anthropologists are taught: observational skills, recording data, interviewing and interacting with other people from our culture or from different, extensive researching skills, ethical issues that may or may not harm other individuals and how to protect their identity, public speaking, and writing skills.  These are just a few, depending on your anthropology interests it will change.

For archaeology – you learn public policies that pertain to sites, states, and countries, taught how to use survey equipment, recording data, site mapping, knowledge of material remains and artifacts, etc. Biological anthropologists – well rounded in evolutionary theories, knowledge of human bones, forensics, knowledge past and present, etc.

Anthropologists are not just limited to what I have outlined here, these are just a few things that have thrown out there. Our skill sets are wide and vast, you just have to think about what you were taught and how you can apply it to the world.

What Jobs are out there?

Most jobs will not list “anthropologist,” which is the mistake that many do. It is important to read the description of the job and compare your skills sets with the required skills that are required for the job. When interviewing for a job, it is important to emphasize how your anthropology degree has influenced your and could influence your training in anthropology applies to the position you are seeking.

Academia is the largest employer of anthropologists from high school to college/university level. There are even programs within the military that teach cultural awareness or cultural classes.

Government – the federal government is the largest employer outside of academia. The federal government hires cultural anthropologists for cultural affairs,   natural resource management, forensics, and in security and defense. This also includes the military.

Marketing – businesses look for ways to identify and research consumer behavior to target sales.

Great place to look is if you are interested in working with the government.

Some jobs areas that anthropologists have held:

Contract Archaeologist, Corporate Analyst, Corporate Anthropologist, Editor, Educational Planner, Forensic Specialist, Government Analyst, High School Teacher, Medical Researcher, Museum Curator, Park Ranger, Peace Corps, Social Worker, Translator, University Administrator, CRM (cultural resource management), etc  – this is a list from the American Anthropology Association.

Also check out the careers section of the American Anthropology Association AAA-Careers. This site will give you a description of a few career possibilities and what you can do to prepare for them.

Do you have to go to Grad School or get a PhD?

Grad school and PhD is not for everyone, it is an expensive investment and can be challenging for some. So the answer is No, only if you want to.  My decision to go to grad school was to become more rounded in anthropology. I love learning and learning from other people. I want to eventually teach at a college level, so the requirements of that career choice will have to be grad school and eventually a PhD.

Not only did I get a degree in Anthropology from UMW, I also studied in the Historic Preservation program, worked as part of the crew for the field school, and I practice my teaching skills through my training certification with the American Red Cross. I have been an instructor for the Red Cross for over 6 years and I organize, advertise, and teach various classes from CPR, first-aid, Lifeguard training, water safety, babysitting training – I also train individuals to be instructors. Why does this matter? Even though it is not anthropology, teaching and training individuals has given me the experience of organizing classes, public speaking, working with various individuals of different ages, ethnicity,  and backgrounds. I can apply these skills that I have learned and experienced through teaching to a career of one day teaching an anthropology class.

If you are looking to go to Grad school be prepared for the costs of tuition (grad school classes are more expensive), the costs of living (rent, bills, etc), and what is to be expected of you from professors. It is a lot of work and professors will challenge you.

As far as getting a job – you don’t have to go to grad school. Grad school does give you a leg up on the competition, but it is not a requirement unless it stated on the job description.

I have many friends I went to undergrad with who got a job right after they graduated from the Peace Corps, international teaching in Korea, internships that turned into job positions at the Smithsonian and at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, CRM positions, working at the National Archives in Washington D.C., computer software engineering, political campaign staff, etc. It depends upon your interests and your dedication to pursue a career.

This post was a request, but I hope that it will be helpful in some way. 

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Grad School Experiences with the Help from Calvin and Hobbes

dbd1da10d20538b851ee7c7bd4a2196cI grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes comics. And like Disney movies, when you are a little kid you like it for the entertainment factor but you are unaware of the ‘adult’ side of it. Now that we are older we get it.

Lately I have been coming across Calvin and Hobbes and I have been relating much of what Calvin says to my experiences in academia. For a 6 year old, he is a really deep thinker and intellectual. Here are a few that I have came across that I think relate very well.(Along with my rants about grad school)

We all get that feeling when we are in school, that it is never going to end. For some of us it just might not until we are done with 6+ more years to achieve a PhD. While in grad school, the constant question that comes into light is “why the heck am I doing this?” Adding more debt that I collected as an undergrad, going through all the work, research, papers, and all that plus having to work a job to keep up with rent and bills monthly. Seems crazy?! Well it kinda is, but I believe it is worth it. I have some amazing professors who have pushed me and educated me to see the BIG picture in the end. Although we accumulate school loans and debt, it is worth it to learn from those who have been through the experience  understand when you have those crazy weeks of freaking out due to stress and hyped up on too much coffee. Many also have to realize that EVERYONE has some sort of school loans and debt, school isn’t cheap. But it is the experience and the education that is worth it. Worth it to have a better chance of a career and networking. I was fortunate as an undergrad to already build those connections with my undergrad professors, especially Dr. Margaret Huber who has been a great influence on my decision to go to grad school, helped me get in, help me achieve my first conference publication, listener to my grad school rants, and is now going to be on Thesis Committee. Even though grad school can be intimidating at first, you build friendships with those who understand completely what you are going through and you are not the only one.

1f1206336f9936929dfb1166f5e01317When going to grad school, be prepared to do the basics – read, write, coffee, repeat….

There is a lot of reading of boring articles that you will probably never again in your academic career and there are some that will haunt you to the end of your days. I don’t know how many times I have read Clifford Geertz’s Thick Description  or Bourdieu’s Outline of the Theory of Practice. Undergrad and grad, and possibly again when I go for a PhD.

Not only reading but also writing either a mini 2-4 page paper on the article or a paper on a theory that you were suppose to be thinking about the entire semester. calvin&hobbes1My point is, just be prepared to write. To be honest, I much rather write and express my thoughts about what I have done the semester than take a test.  I have not encountered too many tests in my grad classes, I think semester will be the first that I will have to take a final exam in Primatology. Honestly I measure intellect based upon what can be expressed through writing  it shows that one can think, plan, and organize thoughts. Test taking, I believe, shows that one can memorize facts that may or may not be retained. I didn’t take any written exams in my last years of undergrad, it was all papers. calvin-strip2And I learned a lot more writing and organizing within a paper than when I tried to cram for an exam. When I was working on the application process for grad school, one of the requirements was to take the GRE…the worst thing in the world and only proves if you can take a test and if you can do it well. I am a horrible test taking because I get testing anxiety really badly, it is probably because I do second guess myself and I start to panic about  what could happen if I failed.

3d111e36da2a5fdd5947a972d7da528bBut as far as the GRE, like I said it was a waste of time. The GRE has three components, much like the SAT, math, reading comprehension, and writing portion. I hadn’t taken math since my freshmen year of undergrad and there was a reason for that, I hated it and I was not good at it. My brother-in-law, Nic, had to reteach me basic algebra for this test. And guess what? I am not taking ANY math classes as a graduate, funny how that works. Again, I feel it just demonstrates whether or not you can memorize facts for a short period of time. But I may be wrong, that it just how I feel about test. Some are better at writing than others and some are good at taking tests. I am not one for tests.

As far as writing goes, I think I have improved upon my skills as a writer. 5ebd9565f489868b8e61bfb65148720fI will fully admit that my brain thinks faster than I can type, resulting in many grammar errors, which is evident when I get my written assignments back. But I have been better at going back and going through my work to correct it as I go then just sending it to Brian and asking him to edit it. Which is still what I often do.

You are often told since high school, don’t leave assignments and projects to the last minute. We all know we do and it is inevitable. We stay up late to the wee hours of the morning working on a project, sleep for 2 hours and then have to be up to turn it in. I was told by a professor that you are not a true scholar or academic if you don’t leave things at the last minute. I have left many things at the last minute, depending on the assignment and class. Last minute meaning, the night before. There are many who do assignments the day of or 2 hours before it is due. Again, it depends upon the individual. I try to get a majority of what is due for the week done at the beginning. Readings I usually do the night before so it fresh in my mind and I take extensive notes.CalvinAndHobbes This semester I have only had a couple of weeks where I haven’t really read the material and it showed on a couple of reading quizzes. But everyone has  those weeks.  Despite that, writing assignments however, I do start working on those little at a time and then tweak it as time gets closer to turning it in. 07bec445f126c7cfc7be05c55cff3568I will admit there have been a few times where I just write to turn something in, again that also depends on the work load of that week and what I already was working on. Some times it is my best work, others it is not. But everyone is different, some people can  and work better at the last minute panic. I, however, am not that type of individual. I would get too stressed. It is better to get into a habit of organizing yourself for grad school because there is a lot of work and you are expected to accomplish it and produce good, quality work from it. The thing is, like I stated earlier, many professors understand that you may have a couple off weeks and life gets in the way that may hinder you for that time period. And it isn’t like undergrad where many of the students are still fresh out of high school, first time away from home and parents, don’t have jobs, or many obligations. Graduate students are older, with jobs, may or may not have families of their own, and have ‘adult’ responsibilities and problems. (not saying all but many) I was the undergraduate that worked 40 hours to pay for the 21 credits I was taking each semester. Even 106679084893308864_Bp3bRQZK_cthough I do not fit in the norm, many do. Again, you must able to organize your life in order to incorporate school and life during the same time.

As I stated before in earlier posts, I have to juggle being here  in Florida and trying to help with my father who has cancer who is in Virginia, over 700 miles. And on top of that, my fiance who is stationed in another state. All of these factors have affected me many times during my studies, where I get a phone call from my mother to tell me the latest news from the doctors, my father calling me to tell me that he is scared and needs reassurance, and my fiance who I have leaned on during the hard times, I am only able to call. I see everyone that I am friends with here being able to live with the ones they love. I never thought that I would be in this position where I am doing what my father wants me to do most at the expense of being over 700 miles away. I do not regret this decision, just wish I had this experience at a better and happier time. Thus is life, it never is fair when you want it to go your way. Again, it could always be worse.

On a happier note, my experience as a grad student has been a rewarding one. As an undergrad I was exposed to mostly cultural anthropology and theory with some archaeology in the Historic Preservation department. Here I was able to get some experience and knowledge about biological anthropology as well d83a3e69350617edccb1e8c28fea8e04as applied anthropology. Although I like my cultural anthropology and my theory, I am thankful to be exposed to other subfields to have a more rounded knowledge of anthropology. It has also been an experience with being in classes with undergraduates and listening to the conversations and class discussions with them. It makes me very relieved to go to my graduate classes. It is interesting to hear when people get exposed to the first time to anthropological theory, but it is also interesting to note WHAT they are getting hung up on. For example in Primatology, when we reach the part in the lecture about a primate species’ mating, it is the sexual part that we have the most discussion about. Why? Maybe because sex is an interesting subject or the fact they don’t know anything about it. Who knows, but to me primates have sex because it is a part of life, whether it is for fun or for reproduction. THE END. But no, it doesn’t stop there. That is just one example, there are many. Regardless, it is entertaining to listen to and interesting to see what happens next. Again, usually after those classes I am glad to be in my graduate classes.

d94759b13a7571497ed7bb7475cdeac8Alright, well I think I have made this post long enough, but I want to share some experiences of grad school with you. I actually had a request to make a post about my experience by someone who commented on one of my posts. This is only my second semester here, I will have a few more plus the summer. So there will be more experiences to share as well as some updates of thesis research and other project I will be working on.

Hopefully, you also enjoyed the Calvin and Hobbes comics that I included. Many of them to relate to academic experiences and some I thought related very well to anthropology topics (like gender and identity).  And this last one to my thesis topic. d6cdadd0441e6ecb53ed37a9fad75463


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Wordless Wednesday – Planetary Anthropology?

This is interesting, but I don’t know if I would agree with the title. What do you think?

This was going through my head the entire time of this video.




Thesis update

I haven’t posted in awhile about my thesis. So here is an update on my research and methods.

Background and Research Methods

            The Lord of the Rings series is a fantasy fiction written by J.R.R. Tolkien between the years of 1937 and 1949, consisting of three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. This canon is the sequel to Tolkien’s earlier work The Hobbit that was published in 1937 and was originally a children’s fantasy novel, and later was developed into a larger work. These works had an everlasting impression upon popular culture that Tolkien probably never thought would happen. I will assume that the reader has either read the books or have seen the movies and a greater detail of plot summary of each of these titles will not be necessary. If not, spoiler alert and you have been warned.

My research will focus on a theoretical structural analysis of Tolkien’s work The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with the The Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth as references. I will be looking at major themes and patterns that are present and have been carried throughout the series such as: magic, dual sovereignty (power and authority), and language. Although there have been literary articles on these similar themes, my aim is to not do another literary article but demonstrate how anthropological theory can be applied to a fictional setting and demonstrate how fictional literatures are reflections of culture itself. Fictions are cultural products that reflect an author’s interpretation of his or her own culture. If culture cannot be reinterpreted or reproduced, what is the point of culture in the first place? It can be argued that every fiction is a cultural experiment. If a reader buys it, then we have reproduced culture.  Maybe not quite the way people thought it was but it’s intelligible, which means it reproduces culture.  If they don’t, then we don’t understand our culture.   In this regard modern fiction writing is just like myth-making, because the teller of tales in a non-literate, non-capitalist society either has the audience with her/him or she/he doesn’t. If he or she does not, she or he doesn’t have a clue how to talk about her or his culture.

With that aside, I will shift to research and theoretical methods that will be implored to collect data within the series. As mentioned above, structuralism will be the major theoretical method for analysis of this series. Why structural analysis? It encompasses everything from the major themes to being able to define the relationships between the major themes and culture itself. I feel the following quote from the introduction of Margaret Williamson’s Powhatan Lords of Life and Death, justly defines the reasons for a structural analysis of this work:

“A common objection to this sort of analysis [i.e., structuralist] is that it represents nothing more than the imaginative acrobatics of the (western-trained) analyst, which while they may be impressive do not get us much further in understanding why a group of people act as they do. It may be objected also that the really die-hard structuralist is so handy with an answer to any possible objection to a proposed structure, or to the method of structuralism, that disproving the validity of either is impossible. Indeed, the matter of proof raises a serious question. How is anyone to know whether what is proposed is “true” or not, particularly when, as in this case, we cannot even ask informants their opinion of any hypothetical structure? The answer is that we cannot know. But we can make a case that all the available evidence supports one interpretation more strongly than it does the alternatives (Darnton 1984:257-259). This is no more than an application of the law of parsimony: the most economical explanation of the phenomena we are trying to understand. Thus I assume that my analysis of the Powhatan is probably correct because it provides an explanation for everything that we know that they did, and moreover it establishes logical kinds of relationships among all those things” (Williamson 2003).

As mentioned before, the major themes that are present throughout the series are: magic, dual sovereignty, and language. Although there are other patterns and themes like life and death, male and female, gender roles, etc.; these themes are intertwined with the major themes I wish to explore.

Magic occurs throughout the series beginning with The Hobbit and is heavily present in the Fellowship and the beginning of the Two Towers, but the use of magic begins to dwindle as the story line progresses through the second book and into the third. The use of magic is almost non-existent in the third book and by the end of the series magic is leaving Middle Earth with the departing of Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel. The degree to which magic is used and by whom varies throughout the series with those who are able to produce, wield, and who are magical beings themselves. There is also an occurrence to the degree of where magic is used the most, geographically. As the characters journey across Middle Earth, the journey begins in the North and travels South, we see that magic is more frequent and stronger in the Northern region than in the South. This also occurs in other fictional literatures, but it would be interesting to see if it correlates with other mythos of witchcraft.

There are several power and authority struggles that occur throughout the series from the obvious control of Middle Earth between Men and the armies of Sauron to the possession of the One Ring. There are many power and authority struggles that occur between the races and within, many obvious and some that are not. Many of these struggles are correlated with the gravitas and celeritas, the concept of order and chaos, of the world.

As we know, Tolkien created the languages that are spoken in the movies and by the diehard fans of the series. These languages define each culture within Middle Earth with an identity that has shaped the behavior and cultural meanings of each race. Much like the languages of Europe where there are several languages spoken that define a country with English being the languages that connect them as a whole group, languages of Middle Earth follows suit. There are several languages: Dwarfish, Elvish, Orcish, Ancient languages of each, and Common Speech. Common Speech is the language of Men and is known by almost all the other races. I am interested to explore the uses of the languages, by whom, and how it has shaped the culture. It will be also interesting to see how Tolkien uses the languages and when he switches languages within the storyline and between whom.

I would be measuring the number of occurrences these themes and patterns take place throughout the series to determine if they could be defined as universals and potentially be applied to other fictional literatures in the future research. I would also explore if these patterns were also parallel to cultural lore and mythos of Europe, the area in which they were written.

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Kids Challenge Project

This week and next week is Kid’s Challenge in Presenting Anthropology. I decided to make a coloring and activity book that describes anthroeach subfield. My inspiration for my characters came from Disney’s Tarzan, just because I was watching Tarzan as I was working on it.

Who doesn’t like coloring books!

All the pages are free-hand drawn, then outlined in sharpie, and then they were scanned into my computer. Very tedious, but I enjoyed it. I have not drawn cartoon characters that much before, so I was pretty satisfied with the results of this project. I do have artistic abilities that have not been used in a very long time. So drawing these pages took awhile (all day actually).

As I stated before, I am pretty satisfied with the results! Take a look 🙂

Anthropology coloring and activity book