Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shameless self-promotion: One in a series

My book has a cover image (which I am sure will have the Shutterstock watermark removed from it...) and a place in the Berghahn catalog now! Not to mention that I feel honored to have Pregnancy in Practice included alongside Charlotte Faircloth's forthcoming book and in a list with so many interesting and important works.

Note the 25%-off sale on all books in the Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality series from Berghahn!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Towards a Four Fields Anthropology of Fetuses

Looking for a few good anthropologists interested in talking across the four fields:

The 112th AAA Annual meeting will be held at the Chicago Hilton November 20-24, 2103 in Chicago IL. The 2013 annual meeting theme is Future Publics, Current Engagements.

It is our hope to organize a panel of scholars from across the four fields to consider the possibilities of building publics within anthropology and furthering engagements around the concerns of reproduction. The focus of this panel will be on research in anthropology on fetuses and address the question: What is a fetus?

The work of anthropologists has contributed to an ever more nuanced understanding of fetuses as entities with cultural, social, and biological significance. A central focus of this work has been on what ideas and practices concerning fetuses reveal about the socially ascribed status of persons. Well documented is the variation in how fetuses have become interpreted across cultures and histories. Recent scholarship also examines the role of science, itself a cultural system, in the construction of fetuses and embryos as what Lynn Morgan (2009) described as “asocial biological entities.”

In this panel, we will discuss what a fetus is from the perspectives of archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. In this panel, we will consider the following questions: How has each of the four fields of anthropology conceptualized fetuses, and how might an engagement across the subfields transform our knowledge of them? What might we gain from a four fields anthropology of fetuses – what also are the challenges and limits – and what can we do to build it?

Papers will be written and presented with the goal of communicating from a particular subfield to our colleagues and peers in other subfields.

Please e-mail an abstract (no more than 250 words), paper title, and keywords, by FEBRUARY 15, 2013. Our hope is to organize the panel for invited status.

Dr. Sallie Han (
Dr. Tracy Betsinger (

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A climactic scene in Episode V as reimagined by Bubbie, age 5

From left, Han Solo, Yoda, a Stormtrooper, Darth Vader ("I am your Dad"), Luke Skywalker ("No"), the Death Star.

Sunday school

Today, I took my kids to church* for the first time ever** in their lives.

I just typed that, then realized that I need to qualify.

*In this case, I took them to a service at the Unitarian Universalist Society, which to a lot of practicing Christians is not considered "real" church at all. Which is part of its appeal to me. As StraightMan observed to me, having the kids attend religious education at the UU is more or less like having them enroll in a course on the anthropology of religion.

**In fact, for Beanie, it was the second time that I had taken her to a religious service. The first time also had been at the UU for a memorial service to remember her beloved music teacher.

I cannot even recall the last time that I attended a religious service aside from a wedding. I had been raised attending church (I even had been confirmed as a Catholic,) but at some point, I no longer regarded it or belief in God to be important, meaningful, or necessary. At least for me.

I will confess that I had been tempted to think that I could look to anthropology as an alternative to religion. Which now that I have articulated the notion, it seems esp. naive and embarrassing to admit. Not unlike the discussions about anthropology "versus" activism that I can recall from graduate school. The gist of such conversations had been that one's work as an anthropologist is not the same as one's politics (although clearly there is a relationship between the two). Either anthropology will fall short of the activism that is needed to enact change in the world - or the activism will fall short of the anthropology that is also needed.

We will see where this leads, but I plan to take the kids to the UU again next Sunday. (The theme being explored this month: Bullying. Topical for both children and grown-ups.)

Alas, this is not a turning to God for which my mother might have been praying :) However, for me, it is a wish for the following:
  • That my kids understand and respect that most of the people in the world participate in ideas and practices about God, whether or not they agree, much less believe.
  • That they learn how to live with (as well as among) other people as members of a community.
  • That they appreciate there is more to us as people than the world that is most obvious to us.
  • That they develop their capacity for awe and wonder and experience moments of grace.
I am not claiming that these*** can be found only in religion, but to me as a parenthropologist, it seems a good place to look.

***As an aside, I also could add the chestnut about kids in our society needing to develop at least a bit of Biblical literacy so that they know the basis of so many of our metaphors and images, also that I am not entirely joking when I say that they need to learn how to sit still for extended periods of time with no screens whatsoever and limited comprehension of what is happening around them. Terrific preparation for fieldwork, I think.