Fermentation is a practice in which complex communities of humans, animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria meet and thrive. It provides us with a unique vantage point to engage and connect with recent debates in anthropology, biology, and beyond. Today, many of these multi-species communities that have been fermenting together, often in an unbroken chain for hundreds of human generations (and millions of microbial generations), are under severe threat of loss.
No one is surprised that most murderers are men. What gets ignored too often is that most men are not murderers. However, the entanglement between maleness, masculinity, and violence is neither straightforward nor uniform. For several decades, cultural anthropologists have studied and analyzed masculinities and gender-based violence of all sorts. These range from intimate partner violence, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, racialized violence, and armed conflict. Simultaneously, biological anthropologists have examined the relationships of evolutionary processes, genomics, and endocrinology between maleness and violence. Yet rarely if ever do these two currents in contemporary anthropological scholarship meet, except perhaps in effortless dismissal of the more intemperate claims of others.
Even today, Atlantic slavery and the slave trade continue to haunt our present and to impact our everyday lives. The persistence of racist ideology and its contestations, economic disparities within and between nation states and across continents, human trafficking and massive migratory movements in world populations today are stark reminders of global processes unleashed by capitalist and imperial expansions concomitant with the Atlantic economy. While the institution of slavery and the trade in people were important components in other major global trade networks (e.g., Roman empire, trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean commerce, etc.), the historical proximity of Atlantic slavery, its strong racial and racist foundations, its scale and its long-term effects make it profoundly relevant to the modern experience. Its enduring legacies and multiple reverberations on various domains of modern life are sensitive topics of tremendous political and popular concern in various regions of the globe, and particularly in Africa, the Americas, and Europe.
Anthropology is well known for its capacious and ever-expanding framework and its embrace of diversity. Yet, this universal circumstance has too often been neglected in our field. Ethnographic studies of embodiment, personhood, kinship, gender/sexuality/reproduction, cognitive diversity, violence and its disabling aftermath, as well as citizenship and biopolitics remain incomplete and undertheorized without the consideration of disability. This framework provides a powerful lens to refocus and potentially transform thinking about new and enduring concerns shaping contemporary anthropology. At its most basic, the recognition of disability as a social fact helps us to understand the cultural specificities of personhood and to reconsider the unstable boundaries of the category of the human. This symposium addresses the transformative value of critical anthropological studies of disability for many of our discipline’s key questions.
When geologists first argued that modern humans were a geological force and should have an epoch named after them—Anthropocene—cultural anthropologists were skeptical. After all, the term encapsulated many of the problems anthropologists have pointed to in science policy, including willingness to view the planet as a homogeneous space and the human race as a homogenous group. In the past few years, however, anthropologists have begun to join multidisciplinary conversations in hopes that anthropological insights might reshape Anthropocene discussions, and, conversely, that the urgencies of the Anthropocene might spark a new anthropology. This Wenner-Gren Symposium pushes forward this agenda through an exploration of a “patchy Anthropocene,” that is, the fragmented landscapes of livability and unlivability created by colonialism and industrial development.
Wenner-Gren Symposium #155 on “Cultures of Militarism" will be held March 11-17, 2017, at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal. The conference is organized by Catherine Besteman (Colby College) and Hugh Gusterson (George Washington University).
Wenner-Gren Symposium #154 on “The Anthropology of Corruption" will be held September 9-15, 2016, at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal and organized by Sarah Muir (Barnard College, Columbia University) and Akhil Gupta (University of California, Los Angeles).
Wenner-Gren Symposium #153 on “Human Colonization of Asia in the Late Pleistocene" will be held March 18-24, 2016, at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal. The conference is organized by Christopher Bae (University of Hawai'i at Manoa), and Michael Petraglia and Katerina Douka, both of Oxford University.
Wenner-Gren Symposium #152 on “Fire and the Genus Homo" to be held October 16-22, 2015, at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal. The conference is organized by Francesco Berna and Dennis Sandgathe, archaeologists at Simon Fraser University.
Wenner-Gren Symposium #151, “New Media, New Publics?" will be held in Sintra, Portugal at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais Hotel, and is organized by Charles Hirschkind (University of California, Berkeley), Maria José de Abreu (University of Amsterdam/ICI Berlin), Carlo Caduff (King’s College London).