As students, we sit in our classrooms listening to professors that we often know little about. They tell us their credentials the first day of class and as the semester passes they might offer tidbits about themselves, but we rarely learn much about their hobbies or passions.
Professor Jeremy Stoll is no different. He teaches Anthropology courses at MSU Denver, but he is just as passionate about creating comic books. As a cultural anthropologist specialized in folklore, telling stories through comic books doesn’t seem unfathomable. But the extent of how deep Stoll has dipped into the comic book world might surprise his students that don’t know him very well.
His interest in other cultures and comics took him to India in 2010 and 2013, where comic books had been extremely popular since the ‘80s. Many of them include religious myths and folktales.“I’m a folklorist by training so I focus on performer centered ethnography, which is a cultural research related to doing fieldwork and interviews and getting an insider perspective of culture,” Stoll said of his research work.
While in New Delhi, Stoll worked with and interviewed a group called the Pao Collective, a group of five comic book creators that included Orijit Sen, who created India’s first graphic novel and for whose work Stoll has great respect.
“Their idea is that they wanted to create a collective for comic creators to be able to earn a living in India. To create events and anthologies and to find funding and make inroads so that people could have careers in comics,” Stoll said.
He also focused on a collection that came out about a year ago called, “Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back” done by all female comic creators. This collection was about what it means to be a woman in India.
While in India he started giving his comic books to the people he interviewed, who encouraged him to print them and have them published.
“We have similar values about comics and community,” Stoll said, “Not really being interested in mainstream and superhero comics. We were more interested in comics journalism.”
In 2013 he collaborated with comic creators in India and produced “Dogs! International Comics Anthology”.
“We knew we wanted to ask people in New Delhi, we knew we wanted it to be international and we knew pretty quickly we wanted to give away the proceeds to nonprofits,” said Stoll. “We worked on that for two years. It was a really amazing process and everyone involved was so incredibly patient and excited about it.”
Since then, Stoll has been focusing more on queer comic creators in India, but hasn’t had the chance to go back yet or do as much interviewing.
Stoll attempted his first comic book at the age of 18. “In retrospect it was terrible,” Stoll laughed. “There were no panels and it was very weird, but it was pretty fun to make.”
He started incorporating more characters and comic elements. He might of stopped, but his professor, who was a graphic novelist, encouraged him to keep trying. She shaped his appreciation for comics and for understanding comics.
“I remember I tried to make a superhero comic and she said ‘No, don’t do it. Make something else. Try out other kinds of narratives’, Stoll said. “She quickly became a huge role model for me.”
Our professors can surprise us. They’re not just in our classrooms to intimidate and hand out tons of homework. They’re human just like us and they might still struggling to learn, just like us.
The Huffington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller, professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He comments on Trump’s first 100 days: “It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump wants to govern in the same manner he would undertake a real estate development project. In real estate development there are two ways to move forward on a project: (1) raze the existing structure and replace it with something that is entirely new; or (2) keep the existing structure but gut it from the inside and replace it with revolutionary interiors.” Stoller compares Trump’s style to that of leaders of millenarian, or cargo cult movements.
what the world needs now
Gillian Tett, former social anthropologist and now journalist with The Financial Times, writes in the FT about the value to business of anthropology and other social sciences:“Companies realise that as the world becomes more globalised, there is more — not less — need to understand cultural difference…as a former anthropologist myself, I am delighted that parts of the business world are actually recognising the benefits of social science; and I am doubly excited if it means that long-neglected anthropology departments might get more funding, and that their graduates might find jobs.” [Blogger’s note: the presence of anthropologists in business might, importantly, lead to transforming business practices to be more socially responsible by including attention to….people and no just profits].
Though Syrian communities pre-date the modern world, Syria’s national identity is only about 72 years old. Since 2011, the country has been involved in a civil war with Sunni rebel groups, ISIS, Al Qaeda affiliates and Kurdish forces up against the Alawite authoritarian Assad regime. All sides of the war have committed human rights violations and contributed to the mass refugee crisis that has only been worsening in recent months. Last month, the United Nations led Geneva peace talks on Syria, but no agreements have been reached and the fighting continues.
BBC News reported on how Turks in the Netherlands feel about Turkey’s controversial referendum on April 16.The article quotes Thijl Sunier, professor of cultural anthropology at the Free University of Amsterdam: “It just makes them more passionate about him.” He says that Dutch-Turks see Erdogan through rose-tinted glasses: “They don’t experience the negatives caused by his policies, all the economic crumbling… they’re looking at him from a distance, they’re impressed by the macho way he does politics.”
An article in The Bangkok Post described how The Face Thailand, a reality model contestant show, will feature a transgender model among the remaining nine contestants.It is the first time that the reality model competition has allowed transgenders to compete alongside other aspiring female models. The article includes a comment from Wipavee Phongpin, a gender expert from Thammasat University’s faculty of sociology and anthropology: “Compared to other countries, Thailand is considered quite open for the LGBT community, but it has still has some way to go.”
Colgate students and faculty assembled in the Persson Hall Auditorium on Wednesday, March 29 to listen to a talk given by Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Co-Director of Global Health at Depauw University Dr. Rebecca L. Upton. A Colgate alumna with a degree in anthropology, Upton discussed the ways in which the complexities of masculinity and fertility fears might be taken into consideration as Botswana moves forward with different HIV/AIDS prevention programs and policies.
Upton began her lecture familiarizing the audience with male infertility, a topic that is vastly understudied around the world. After spending 20 years in northern Botswana, Upton gathered enough ethnographic data to uncover ways in which Botswanan men discussed voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), a practice that contributes greatly to insights on the potential success of HIV/AIDS prevention programs such as the “magic bullet” and new public health strategies of voluntary adult male circumcision.
Two newspaper reports on Trump’s April 6 missile attack on Syria included commentary from cultural anthropologists. An article in The Providence Journal (Rhode Island) offered several points of view on the effectiveness of the attack from experts in Providence, Rhode Island including that of Catherine Lutz, Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University: “The launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles is not only a major act of war that threatens to have killed as many people as the recent heinous chemical attack, but it is in violation of the War Powers Act…The financial cost is not insignificant, either: at an estimated $1.4 million each, that makes for a total of $83 million that might have been used to assist the refugees of that war rather than to accelerate it.”
In The Press Republican (Plattsburgh, New York), James Armstrong, professor of anthropology at the State University of New York Plattsburgh commented that the attack was not the best way to effect a positive outcome: “The Syrian situation is so complicated, you can never be sure what kind of reaction your action will produce.”
who has Trump’s ear?
The Tehran Times carried an interview with cultural anthropologist William Beeman, chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. The topic was: who is shaping Trump’s foreign policy? Beeman comments that “Both Bannon and Miller are, in my personal opinion, extremely dangerous ideologues in a government where the president is deeply inexperienced and impressionable…Bannon and Miller seem to be the most influential people. Many of Trump’s cabinet appointees seem to be peripheral. For example, Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State not only seems to be almost absent from policy decisions, he has not been able to appoint a deputy, and the budget for the Department of State seems to be about to be reduced by 30% or more. This is unprecedented in U.S. history. Outside of Bannon and Miller, President Trump seems to be listening to military generals.”
women’s secret language
OZY magazine carried an article about Nüshu, a secret script used by women in Hunan Province, China. It started as a simple way to communicate and later became “a log of a woman’s private torment and misery. Women would often weep while writing the script, expressing fears about arranged marriages, the anguish of leaving one’s family and all of life’s misfortunes.” Fei-wen Liu, anthropology research fellow at Academia Sinica in Taiwan and author of Gendered Words: Sentiments and Expression in Changing Rural China, says that Nüshu was meant to be written in verse and sung or chanted aloud: “The core of Nüshu are feelings of misery and bitter experiences.” It provided a rare window into the everyday misgivings of rural daughters, wives and mothers as they transmitted life lessons on how to survive in a society that was harsh to women.“Nüshu was about sisterhood,” and they called themselves “sworn sisters,” using Nüshu as “a way to bind them together.”
The Montreal Gazette reported on the launch of a new book by Homa Hoodfar, professor emerita of anthropology at Concordia University in Toronto. Publication was delayed by a year because of her imprisonment in Iran on specious allegations that were eventually dropped. The book, an edited collection, focuses on how women fighting for their rights in sports extends into the political arena. IT was originally planned to appear before the run-up to the 2016 Olympics as a contribution to the discussion about women in sport accompanying the Rio Games. Hoodfar commented that there are many parallels between the sports arena and the political sphere when it comes to women negotiating their rights. In the Muslim world, women have often had to fight just to be able to participate in sports.In Iran, she said, women pushed back against the notion that it was “un-Islamic” for them to play sports by arguing physical activity is a part of healthy living, “and taking care of health is everyone’s responsibility because health is a gift from God.”
take that anthro degree and…
…become a professor of religion and Middle East Studies. Amira Mittermaier is an associate professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, with a cross-appointment to the Anthropology Department, at the University of Toronto. Bringing together textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, her research has focused on modern Islam in Egypt. Her first book, Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination explores Muslim practices of dream interpretation, as they are inflected by Islamic reformism, Western psychology, and mass mediation. Professor Mittermaier’s current book project, tentatively titled The Ethics of Giving: Islamic Charity in Contemporary Egypt, examines different Islamic modes of giving in post-revolutionary Egypt. Mittermaier provides opportunities for student supervision in areas such as modern and postcolonial Islam, Sufism, anthropological approaches to religion, and ethnographic method and writing. She has a B.A. from the University of Michigan (major unspecified) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in socio-cultural anthropology from Columbia University.
being a woman archaeologist
The Lake County News (California) interviewed archaeologist Seetha Reddy in honor of International Women’s History Month which was in March. Reddy, president of Reddy Consulting, commented:
“In terms of role models, there are several women who I hold in great regard and respect – of particular mention are Dr. Diane Gifford Gonzales (UC Santa Cruz), and Dr. Kathleen Morrison (University of Pennsylvania). These women have been active in fieldwork and laboratory research, and have demonstrated how women make valuable contributions to the field while balancing other aspects of life.”
DNA and the First Americans
The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) reported on recent DNA findings about the first peoples of the Americas published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Biological anthropologists Connie Mulligan, of the University of Florida, and Emoke Szathmary, of the University of Manitoba, consider how genetics informs current understandings of the population history of the Americas. In addition to describing the DNA findings, the authors address the perspectives of American Indians on genetic research as it affects their identity. Mulligan and Szathmary suggest that the use of the term “migration” to describe the initial movement of peoples from Asia into the Americas can be interpreted to imply that indigenous Americans are simply another immigrant population with no special rights to the lands their ancestors were the first to discover. They suggest dropping the word “migration” to describe a process that involved “occupation over several millennia of a consolidated Asian-American land mass.
U.S. birth rate rising among 30 year-olds
The St. Louis Dispatch (Missouri) reported on changes in the U.S. birth rate including the fact that women in their 30s are having babies at the highest rate since the 1960s. Otherwise, the population is generally stagnating. In Missouri, the number of births to women in their 30s increased 17.3 percent, while births among other age groups dropped by 18.4 percent. The article included commentary from biological anthropologist Sarah Lacy, assistant professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She points out that the population of Missouri has gotten older and whiter than in other parts of the country that have added more Hispanic immigrants. “If the state is getting older, you are already pushing the fertility numbers back because younger people are living elsewhere.”
parent-child co-sleeping debate fired up by a post
The pros and cons of parent-child co-sleeping (usually glossed as mother-child co-sleeping) are matters of ongoing debate among scholars and regular people. A father recently posted on social media a photo of his two children sleeping with their mother: it went viral. A CBS article on the topic quotes biological anthropologist James J. McKenna, professor of anthropology and the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. McKenna, a supporter of co-sleeping, says statistics and warnings against co-sleeping shouldn’t be used to scare parents: “You have to go out of your way to make [co-sleeping] dangerous…No matter how many warnings or misrepresentations of inherent dangers moms and babies find themselves… Babies have always slept and always will sleep next to their mothers.”
The Huffington Post published an article by Debra Rodman, associate professor of cultural anthropology and director of women’s studies at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. She is also an asylum expert witness and cultural consultant. Rodman argues that cultural anthropologists have a lot to offer to politics: “In order to create positive, progressive, empirically-based policy decisions, we need science. In a time when fear and bigotry has blurred the line between fact and fiction, it seems like a pretty good time to count on people who have to get their facts straight before they say anything.” Rodman is running for Virginia Delegate for the 73rd district.
trashed: pollution in Indonesia
Channel News Asia carried a piece by Thomas Wright, doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Queensland. He describes the growing environmental problems in Bali such as pollution and freshwater scarcity. Popular tourist destination beaches are covered in waste, most of which is plastic that washes ashore during the rainy season.Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest marine polluter after China, discarding 3.22 million metric tons of waste annually, accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s marine pollution. Wright describes volunteer and NGO efforts to raise awareness about trash pollution and a conference in February organized by The Economist that left out such voices.