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2006 Annual Report

Program Highlights for 2006

Research Grants and the Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowships 2006

Research Grants and the Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship


Out of 185 applicants who requested funds to support archaeology projects in 2006, thirty individuals were awarded research grants (including Dissertation Fieldwork Grants, Post-Ph.D. Grants and Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowships). This year’s archaeological research projects covered a broad range of topics that spanned a wide temporal and geographical spectrum. As in past years, projects based on problem-oriented research that clearly address important and wide-ranging issues in anthropology were the most successful.

Two archaeological projects funded during the 2006 season examine the relationship between ceremonialism and quotidian practices performed by commoners to gain a more robust understanding of the ways in which ritual practice is embedded in daily life. Dr. Katherine F. Emery (University of Florida, Gainesville) combines methods and data derived from ethnoarchaeology, spatial archaeology and zooarchaeology in her investigation of the material correlates of rites associated with communal hunting shrines in highland Guatemala. By focusing on the identification of faunal remains included in ritual caches and their spatial distribution at hunting shrines, she seeks to determine the degree to which modern-day hunting ritual behaviors correspond to those of the past and shed light on the variable array of practices through which commoners infused mundane objects with sacred significance. Working at the Formative to Late Horizon (300 B.C. – A.D.1400) period site of Cañoncillo on the north coast of Peru, Dr. Edward Swenson (University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) aims to ascertain whether changes in the organization of household space and domestic economy correlate with changes in ritual activity and the configuration of public architecture within the urban core and its surrounding hinterland. Using comparative analysis, he explores divergences in the production of space in domestic and ceremonial contexts over time to gain insights into political and ideological strategies through which long-term processes of urban power relations were negotiated.

Given the complex relationship between material culture and identity, attempts to infer prehistoric people’s social identities from archaeological materials pose a formidable challenge. Two projects set in New Mexico apply alternative approaches to the study of social identity. An innovative investigation into processes of informal identity formation, conducted by Bernard Schriever (University of Oklahoma, Norman) among three Mimbres communities, assesses the expectation that increased social interaction and decreased social distance among geographically dispersed communities produces similar practices through time. His analysis of synchronic variation and diachronic changes in shared practices (associated with the production of painted ceramics and obsidian procurement within and between communities) seeks to confirm the existence of a regional identity and provide the basis for exploring the conditions that promote the construction of social identities. In an attempt to examine how ethnicity is expressed in multidimensional and situational contexts, Jun Sunseri (University of California, Santa Cruz) focuses on everyday practices and processes of identity formation in multicultural settings located along the 18th century New Mexico frontier. Through his study of ceramic and faunal assemblages (related to domestic foodways and the spatial relationships between economic and social landscapes of three buffer communities in a colonial borderland), he strives to identify microscale patterns of behavior and macroscale practices that reflect and shape broader categories of group identity, while understanding the flexible ways that frontier communities expressed different aspects of identities in different contexts at different moments.

Three projects address complex processes involved in the sociopolitical organization of ancient societies, including the roles that conflict and collaboration play in the development of social complexity. In Mexico, Dr. Leah D. Minc’s (Oregon State University, Corvallis) compositional analyses of ceramic pastes provides the insights into the organization of production and exchange of pottery manufactured in the Oaxaca Valley needed to evaluate the nature of regional integration and better understand the processes implicated in primary state formation. By studying the provenance of ceramic types to reconstruct networks of exchange among administrative centers, she evaluates which of two competing models of economic organization – cooperation or competition – best exemplifies the conditions surrounding the formation and consolidation of the Zapotec state at Monte Alban (500 B.C. – A.D. 200). And in the Sisala region of northwestern Ghana, Dr. Natalie J. Swanepoel (University of Pretoria, South Africa) investigates the nature of political organization of decentralized societies by exploring the relationship between big men, fortified hilltop settlements, and trade routes during a period of heightened conflict stemming from increased warfare and slave raiding in the 19th Century. Drawing on archaeological data, oral traditions, documentary evidence and ethnographic material, she examines: the impacts that fluctuating patterns of cooperation with and resistance to slave raiders had on decentralized communities; how these societies were molded by interactions with more centralized polities; and the political role of big men and their rise to power through the control of trade routes and prestige goods. Working at the tell site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, Serena Love (Stanford University, Palo Alto, California) applies geoarchaeological approaches to see whether temporal and spatial variability in the composition of mud-brick architecture will enable her to draw inferences about social organization and gain insights into perceptions about place, identity and social processes involved in the construction of a Neolithic village community among early sedentary groups from the Eighth to Seventh Millennia B.C. Architecture at the site lacks obvious evidence for social inequality, and her primary goal is to discern the degree to which house-building activities – specifically the shift from community to household-based house-building activities – reflect changes in the organization of social relations that suggest the emergence of social complexity.

PHOTO: Lukas Barton (University of California, Davis), 2006 Dissertation Fieldwork Grantee, collecting flotation samples from a Neolithic site for his research project "Human Diet and Domestication: A Critical Evaluation of Low-Level Food Production in North West China."

Physical/Biological Anthropology  

In 2006, Wenner-Gren received 140 applications for research in physical/biological anthropology and made thirty-four awards: twenty-two Dissertation Fieldwork Grants, twelve Post-Ph.D. Research Grants and one Hunt postdoctoral fellowship. The overall success rate was twenty-four percent. The largest number of applications were in the area of Primate Behavior (29.7%), followed by anthropological genetics (14.3%), skeletal biology (13.7%), hominid evolution (13.1%) and human biological variation (10.3%). Applications in the areas of dental anthropology, paleopathology and primate evolution made up the remainder.
Dr. Miriam Belmaker from Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship to prepare her research on the highly important Lower Paleolithic site of Ubeidiya (Israel) for publication. She has carried out an in-depth paleoecological analysis based on the large mammalian fauna of this site and has explored its implications for early human dispersal events out of Africa in the time period between 1.6 and 1.2 million years ago.   

Examples of Dissertation Fieldwork and Post-Ph.D Research Grants in the various subfields of physical/biological anthropology include the following. In primatology, Stephanie Bogart, a graduate student at Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), is using her funds to examine the insectivorous diet of chimpanzees living in a unique dry savanna environment at the site of Fongoli in Senegal.  The data she collects will enable her to explore the potential parallels with early human feeding behavior in presumably similar environments on the African savanna in the Pliocene and early Pleistocene periods.  In anthropological genetics, Dr. Heather Norton, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona (Tucsuon, Arizona), is attempting to determine whether a series of genes are involved in producing variation in skin color among human populations and how that variation might have arisen through evolution.  In palaeopathology, Kristin Harper, a graduate student at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia), seeks to contribute to our understanding of the history of infectious disease, specifically the origin of syphilis and whether it was transmitted to the New World during the colonial period.  Finally, in human evolution Dr. Darryl DeRuiter at Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) will be leading a team investigating Pliocene deposits at a new site called the Virginia Railway Cut in the Free State, South Africa.  This locality could provide researchers with evidence about some of the earliest humans from South Africa.

PHOTO: Dr. Marina Cords (Columbia University, New York City), a 2006 Post-Ph.D. Research Grantee, holds up a successfully collected sample taken from a Blue Monkey living in the Kakamega Forest, Kenya, for her research project "Collective Action, Kinship and Reciprocity: Communal Territorial Defense in Old World Monkeys."


In 2006, the Foundation supported six projects in linguistic anthropology out of a total of thirty applications. Application numbers were down slightly for linguistics this year, but the success rate continues to be high, at twenty percent.  Projects were funded in Ecuador, Germany, India, Israel, Spain and Wales. The range of projects funded highlights the way linguistic anthropology continues to be an exciting subfield making significant theoretical contribution to topics that have long been of interest to anthropology. 

A thematic concern with the ways in which linguistic identity and language ideology mutually constitute each other unites many of the projects supported by the Foundation. In some, this concern is further related to issues of language maintenance. Mary Andronis (University of Chicago, Illinois)  is working in Ecuador on the Salasaca’s decision to guard their own dialect of Quichua in the face of standardization efforts. She is particularly interested in learning how language identity and linguistic ideology influence language maintenance. Working in a very interesting location and on a fascinating migrant community, Christina Davis (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)  is asking how language ideologies operate in two distinct types of schools in India. She wants to explore the ways in which language and identity are both practiced and represented at these two sites in light of different linguistic ideologies. Shlomy Kattan (University of California, Berkeley) brings linguistic anthropology into the service of contemporary anthropological interests in multisited ethnography, transnational identity and diaspora studies. While focusing on the linguistic ideologies among Israeli emissary families both at home and abroad, he asks how linguistic ideologies and language socialization practices are constructed and operate. His focus is on how children are socialized so as to learn to maintain languages as well as often conflicting linguistic identities. Jennifer Quincey (Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri) is trying to capture a rare look at a language that is making a comeback. While working on Welsh, she is studying the influence of government-supported adult language socialization programs. In particular, she explores how and why textbook-based versions of the language are interacting with native variants in this process. Elizabeth Spreng (University if Illinois, Urbana) is working on the Sorbian language as it is spoken by a community of speakers in Germany. She is there to investigate how the life and death of a language is both maintained and challenged by different types of code switching, register mixing and language ideology. Finally, Dr. Kathryn Woolard (University of California, San Diego) considers bilingualism in Barcelona at the intersection of language ideology, policy and usage. The contribution here is an exciting one because the results will be added to comparable ones collected previously. The work thus provides an intricate look at a complex bilingual situation based on longitudinal data that will provide a picture of how the situation has developed over time.

Social/Cultural Anthropology

In 2006, the Foundation received 611 applications requesting support for projects in cultural anthropology. Ninety grants (including Post-Ph.D Research Grants, Dissertation Fieldwork Grants and Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowships) were awarded to individuals. As usual the Foundation supported research across the world with far reaching topical and thematic foci,  thus contributing to the discipline in all its multiplicity. The Foundation continues to support research that can make a strong case for theoretical and academic contributions to the discipline.

The range of projects funded in 2006 illustrates how students and scholars in the discipline continue to pay attention to how global processes and transnational actors create spaces for change in local places. This year sees a number of projects that focus on the impact of development and economic aid, from direct humanitarian interventions to consumer activism and social movements in the West. Projects continue to examine how these different interventions -- which are frequently the product of globalizing discourses -- imagine, recreate and are themselves reappropriated in particular situations. 

Several projects investigate applied or practical concerns within public policy and apply their findings to larger theoretical debates in anthropology. Jesse Grayman from Harvard University, for example, is studying global discourses within humanitarian aid interventions. Such interventions have become instrumental in the management of world affairs as wars and environmental disasters demand immediate humanitarian responses from transnational organizations. Researching in Aceh, Indonesia, in the wake of the tsunami disasters, he focuses on the Indonesian staff who act as mediators between international humanitarian agencies and the national and local reality. Grayman asks what role these mediators play in defining the disaster as a national and local event that corresponds to (or clashes with) these globalizing discourses. Similarly, Svea Closser (Emory University) is examining a WHO worldwide campaign to eradicate polio to see how policies (developed by policy makers in the West) operate on the ground. She asks whether these public-health policies represent a new interface in the postcolonial world, where policy makers interpret barriers to success through their own categories. In rural Pakistan (where Closser is conducting fieldwork),  “corruption” and “women’s status” have been identified as primary obstacles to program success, and she is studying how these categories reflect and impact local social organization. Heath Cabot (University of California, Santa Cruz) focuses on the large number of  asylum seekers arriving in Greece, a new portal to contemporary Europe, and she questions how NGOs, lawyers and bureaucracies use the legal debates that are relevant to questions of citizenship and cultural identity in a country on the borderland of Europe that has struggled with a history of population movements into and out of the country.

While these projects focus on the question of global discourses related to humanitarian issues that broadly circulate around questions of human rights in extreme situations, other projects look at the growing numbers of programs and interventions designed to mitigate poverty. Both sustainable conservation projects and microfinance programs share these goals, attempting to intervene in specific places so as to generate new forms of agency and security for local actors. Anthropological research has shed light on some of the darker aspects of development goals as subaltern subjects are frequently drawn into global processes and at times increasingly marginalized or incorporated into a capitalist system that does not promise long-term benefits. Two research projects investigate examples of these programs, but ask if such programs can actually generate any alternative spaces with the potential for new forms of social action and subjectivity that provides a more creative space for the program participants. Dr. Christopher Shepard (University of California, Berkeley) works in the Andes documenting how local and national conservation programs engage with local cultivators to encourage sustainable practices. He argues against the notion of a fixed “Andean” agriculture, however, and instead proposes that the process involves a variety of diverse practices throughout the region.  The research plans to examine how different local knowledge is selectively drawn into conservation programs, and thus he plans to trace what the politics of knowledge are that facilitate this process, highlighting how local knowledge can be selectively utilized and marginalized.  Meanwhile Debarati Sen (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey) looks at how a consumer movement in the West (specifically Organic Fair Trade) impacts women tea farmers in Darjeeling, India. She researches these movements and asks if they engender a new creative space in India where women can mobilize as new political actors. The project’s value lies not only in its search for political agency among subaltern classes but also in its use of a comparative method; Ms. Sen looks at plantation workers who have a history of collective bargaining then compares them to women working within a cooperative organization to ask how different colonial and post-colonial structures engender political subjectivity under new economic conditions.

The Foundation continues to support projects that can demonstrate innovation, whether through methodological and interdisciplinary approaches or the exploration of new thematic problems. Two such projects employ unusual starting points that are indicative of anthropology’s special ability to embrace new methods and ideas. In a type of reverse gaze, Dr. Mwenda Ntarangwi (Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois) will use his Hunt Fellowship to write a manuscript that traces his own experience and immersion into American culture, beginning with his arrival from Kenya to start graduate studies in cultural anthropology, to his subsequent transformation into a professor at an American college teaching students in both the United States and sometimes Africa. This “African” ethnography on cultural anthropology and academia in the United States continues the reflexive turn in ethnographic writing but also destabilizes some of the more unquestioned positions found in American academic culture. By interrogating life on a University campus, Dr. Ntarangwi contextualizes his observations within larger debates in anthropology about race, class and the "other." Based on ten years of detailed fieldnotes and journals, this manuscript promises to continue the contemporary debates about representation, ethnography and anthropological knowledge production in the United States that will be of value to students and scholars in the discipline. Highlighting the potential for interdisciplinary and/or subfield collaboration, the biocultural continues to be addressed in some truly innovative projects which seek a context for a real biocultural synthesis as opposed to assuming a hierarchical relationship between them. Brandon Kohrt from Emory University researches the embodiment of trauma in Nepal, addressing both its phenomenology and the psychoendocrinology. The investigation starts with the local Nepalese concept of the “heart-mind” and looks at the phenomenological experience of trauma, which he sees in the local concept of “wounded hearts and wounded minds” discussed in Nepalese culture. Through ethnographic research, Kohrt examines the endorsement of emotions and sensations related to trauma as well as the impairment in daily living normally associated with the experience of trauma among specific individuals. He also measures cortisol levels and other signs of endocrine functioning among a small sample group. As such the project is uniquely poised to make a contribution to larger questions about the mind-body relationship and address some of the more fundamental questions that anthropology faces today.


PHOTO: Brandon Kohrt (right) interviewing community leaders Ram Bahadur Sitawal (left) and Puru Regmi (center), discussing peace-building programs for children. Nalang, Dhading, Nepal, February, 2007