Spring 2023 Anthropology Newsletter
Message from the Interim Chair
We begin our newsletter this year with remembrances of three former students and valued members of the Memphis community who were tragically lost this year. Kat Turner, Mia D Madison, and Gail M House will be deeply missed; our thoughts remain with their friends and family. Thank you to Paige Walkup, Jamie Russell, Chris Reeder Young, and Ruthbeth Finerman for sharing their reflections about these valued colleagues.
In addition to news about field schools and student and faculty awards, I want to share that the Anthropology Department will be relocating to the third floor of McCord Hall prior to the Spring 2023 semester. We have been in Manning Hall for many years but hope this will be a great new space for us.
Finally, I am so pleased to be serving as Interim Chair for the 50th anniversary of the Department, following Keri Brondo’s excellent leadership. We plan to celebrate this anniversary in the spring semester with a party and a panel of former students, so please stay tuned for details. This is a great opportunity to reflect on our history and celebrate all our amazing alumni, students, staff, and faculty, and I hope to see many of you over the coming months.
Please share news and updates with us so we can include them in the Spring 2023 edition!
Kathryn Hicks, Interim Department Chair
The Anthropology Club was established several years ago by graduate and undergraduate students who wanted a space to share a common passion and love for the discipline of anthropology. However, when that cohort of students graduated, the club became dormant. Over the course of the last two years, a small group of current anthropology students have taken the initiative to revive the club in hopes that it may be established as a permanent presence here at the University of Memphis.
The purpose of the Anthropology Club is to create an inclusive and supportive community for all students interested in exploring anthropology. The club intends to be proactive in the Memphis community through outreach, volunteering and education. The Anthropology Club is designed as a space for students to be themselves, speak openly about concerns, share interests with like-minded people and cultivate their own sense of belonging here on campus.
Already, the club has engaged in activities such as hosting an Archaeology Day, and they have plans to do more in the future. This includes partnering with other groups on campus such as on events to nourish diversity and inclusion, as well as being involved in Homecoming Week festivities on campus.
Join the conversation!
Tiger Zone: anthropology club
On September 15th, Professor John Gilmore participated in the PEN America panel “Educational Gag Orders and Anthropology in Higher Education” alongside Jeremy Young (PEN America), Josiah Heyman (University of Texas at El Paso), and Kathryn Clancy (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). The panel members discussed the impacts on their work of “bills targeting higher education, seeking to silence the core anthropological topics of race, gender and their function in culture and society…”
We are very pleased that Dr. Erin Mellett will be joining the department as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in medical anthropology in fall 2023! Erin completed her MS in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice at Boston University School of Medicine in 2016 and her MA in Anthropology at Brown University in 2018. Her dissertation research examines the experiences of deaf immigrants in the Rhode Island area and focuses on issues of language, identity, and belonging.
Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Several Anthropology faculty recently met with Dr. Chrystal Goudsouzian, Interim Director of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) to discuss ways to better integrate our programs. For undergrads, the WGST minor is an interdisciplinary program for students interested in exploring constructions of gender and sexuality. Students are exposed to feminist, womanist, and queer scholarship and perspectives through diverse readings and case studies. They learn how gender intersects with other social identities such as sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and ability. Engaging projects and internship opportunities allow WGST students to first analyze and then challenge systems of power and structural inequities. Several anthropology classes (including ANTH 3511: Culture, Kin, and Family) fit within the Minor.
For graduate students, WGST offers a certificate program. The program draws on the expertise of faculty from different departments and colleges, including the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education, and Business; therefore, the academic program for each student will be individually crafted in consultation with the Women’s and Gender Studies advisors.
Interested students should contact Dr. Goudsouzian at email@example.com.
Fishing Livelihoods and Lionfish Markets
Dr. Brondo and partners from the Bay Islands Conservation Association and Kanahau Conservation Research Facility wrapped up their National Geographic-funded project “Fishing Livelihoods and Lionfish Markets” this August and are now working on a manuscript analyzing the relationship between conservation values, food tastes, and the concept of “invasion” in multispecies relations.
The project piloted an alternative revenue stream for 10 Cayan women, including training and certification of a small group to safely hunt and dissect invasive lionfish and a larger team to design and sell jewelry out of the fins and fish leather. The team has secured additional funding to support the expansion of this local enterprise. You can learn more about the capacity-building component of this project in this short documentary.
“Conservation, Culture, and Environmental Change” – Study Abroad in Honduras
The Conservation, Culture, and Environmental Change study abroad program (ANTH 4880, 6880, or 7510) focuses on the intersection of culture and conservation policy in marine protected areas, with a field-based experience in the Bay Islands of Honduras. The 15-day intensive program includes a partnership with three conservation organizations: (1) Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), (2) Kanahau Conservation and Research Facility, and (3) Fundación Islas de la Bahía. All students assist in field-based research with conservation organizations throughout their stay, and graduate students gain ethnographic research experience as collaborators with Honduran partners on the “Climate, Conservation, and Culture Change” project. The program includes comparative research across all 3 Bay Islands: Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja.
Jennie Doss, Eli Kovacs (UMass Boston), Guilia (UniCT) and Allie Buccini (PDMA)
Andrew Hockensmith (CRP), Dane Bostwick (UMass Boston), Phillip Trenthem
“Active San Biagio” – Study Abroad in Sicily
After a two-year pause, Dr. Lambert-Pennington’s participatory action-inspired study abroad program is back. This year’s theme, “Active San Biagio,” explored the relationship between physical space, social dynamics, and the consequences of uneven and unequal urban development. Twelve UofM students from Anthropology, Planning, Public Administration, and Urban Affairs students joined with students and faculty from UMass Boston and the University of Catania to work with resident activists in the San Biagio neighborhood, located in the city of Paternò, Sicily.
During the program, students and residents conducted ethnographic walking tours to map street-level physical details, observe uses of public spaces, interview residents and analyze previously collected interviews and demographic data. They found that San Biagio has been overlooked by the municipality. It has few public spaces, limited social services, many vacancies, and environmental challenges, including inconsistent water, litter, and irregular streets. Additionally, students helped facilitate community workshops to engage residents in co-learning activities. The first, hosted by the Scouts and the San Biagio parish, focused on vetting key findings from the databook and identifying action areas. These included: redevelopment of public spaces; Social activities and vandalism prevention; energy community; real estate challenges and opportunities; and mobility and road safety. Approximately 50 residents and community members attended the second public workshop, where they co-designed projects that could address priority issues. The students’ presentation of projects was well received by community members and the Mayor of Paterno at an event held at Palazzo Alessi. Over the next year, neighborhood activists, the Participatory Presidium of the Simeto River Valley, and the city of Paternò will work together to identify ways to implement elements of these projects.
Congratulations to Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington on winning the University of Memphis, Faudree University Professorship, designed to help the University retain its best and brightest faculty.
Dr. Ted Maclin has been awarded the 2022 Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award for his dedication to his students and this department and the Susan Te Paske "See Me" Award for showing an understanding of and willingness to learn about issues of disability. Congratulations!
Congratulations to Dr. Keri Brondo for winning the Ed Bruner book prize for her book Voluntourism and Multispecies Collaboration: Life, Death, and Conservation in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The committee noted of the book, “Dr. Brondo combines a sophisticated theoretical analysis and a detailed review of relevant literature with a well-told story. In sum, this is an excellent book which committee members agree is suitable for both undergraduate and graduate discussions.”
Congratulations to Donroy Providence for winning the University of Memphis Department of Anthropology Scholarship for Historically Underrepresented Persons in Anthropology. Donroy’s practicum work, “Heritage, Identity and Development in Stanton, Tennessee,” examines oral history and links between cultural identity and socio-economic development.
Congratulations to Samson Mobashar for winning the University of Memphis, Department of Anthropology Tim Bolding Scholarship in Anthropology!
Dr. Nikia Grayson just finished work at the Sierra Leone Partners in Health site for their new maternity clinic, Paul Farmer’s last project. She is headed to Rwanda soon through UCSF GAIN (global action in nursing) program where they train midwives.
Kat Turner (1974-2022)
Submitted by Paige Walkup and Jamie Russell
Affectionately known as Kat, Katherine Turner lived a life full of adventure and a strong will to help others. Fueled by a love for animals, music, and exploring human relationships, her curiosity led her to secure a Master's in Applied Anthropology as well as a Master's in Regional and Urban Planning from the University of Memphis. Katherine worked at St. Jude and as a city planner with Shelby County. However, Katherine found another passion serving as a Registered Nurse both here in Memphis and as a travel nurse, following in her mother’s footsteps. Katherine embodied the lifetime learner mentality.
Katherine preferred to work behind the scenes volunteering and building new networks that could help solve problems and address critical community concerns. As a natural convener, Katherine often brought together people from different perspectives and experiences, exposing them to opportunities to support individuals and families in need. In graduate school, finding her using her resources to care for a homeless family or individual was not unusual. Kat saw the challenges of housing and economic security in our community. She also fully understood how gay youth often have even more challenges, including being disenfranchised from family. Katherine loved a good protest both locally and nationally, marching with many friends in Washington, D.C., for gay rights and women’s rights.
Like many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Katherine also struggled with substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and depression. These struggles often remain undisclosed and secreted, which isolates people and perpetuates suffering. We hope that bringing to light the pervasive and often seen as taboo issues related to struggles with mental health and addiction will contribute to having more open dialogues within our communities so that anyone who may be experiencing similar issues will not struggle alone but instead be encouraged to seek support.
Those who knew and loved Katherine are trying to make peace with her early passing and feel called to action in a way that will honor Kat’s passions. A memorial fund benefiting the Metamorphosis project at OUTMemphis was started in her honor and raised $3,267 to support gay youth in our community with housing and economic stability. We know that Kat will be proud of this act of service. Please keep her friends and family, especially her loving stepfather Mitch, in your thoughts and prayers.
Mia D Madison (1973-2022)
Submitted by Chris Reeder Young
I’m lucky to have known Mia D. Madison. She was a dear friend, a committed community activist, and an inspiring anthropologically-minded practitioner. Mia loved her city, and her chosen Memphis family and always worked to make things better.
She graduated from the University of Memphis in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in Urban Geography and received her master's degree in Urban Anthropology in 2012. She applied her passions and skills with an assortment of agencies and organizations in and around Memphis. So much so that her influence can be felt all over our city today.
Mia was a community information and mapping wiz for the U.S. Census Bureau in DC, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, and the City of Memphis Housing and Community Development division. After that, she found one of her most perfect places at Memphis Tilth, where she served as the Executive Director for the last four years. She honored diversity within built environments and worked to make food access equitable for all.
She was a mapper, a farmer, an educator, a planner, a friend, and a wonderful mother…but she always made sure that community voices and empathetic humanity were at the center of her work. She treated Memphis like a dear friend and reminded many of us to walk in our authentic purpose as we move compassionate scholarship from classrooms to communities. She will be deeply missed.
“When I think of Mia, I think of movement. She was always working towards the next best thing for Memphis. Always. Even in DC. Her mind and her body were always...going. Her work never stopped, and that was inspiring for so many others.”
Sutton Mora, Executive Vice President and COO of the Community Foundation
Gail M. House
Submitted by Ruthbeth Finerman
I first met Gail when she was Executive Director of the West Tennessee Area Health Education Center, after she recruited me to help improve cultural sensitivity among medical providers. Gail impressed me with her determination to address pervasive health inequalities and treatment disparities among underserved populations. She also possessed a quick wit and spirit that were utterly disarming.
I was fortunate to teach and help mentor Gail when she joined our MA program in medical anthropology in 2000. Intellectually curious while experienced in transforming theory into real-world applications, Gail juggled her studies with a family and a full-time job. Despite the load, she finished her degree in 2002 and immediately sought more professional and scholarly development opportunities.
After completing her MA, Gail found new employment with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, earning major promotions in health systems management over the next 25 years. In 2017 she was appointed Director of Administration for UTHSC’s Surgical Departments, using her position to press for equal access to high-quality and culturally respectful healthcare. Despite demanding work and family commitments, Gail agreed to teach our Introductory Cultural Anthropology course in the evenings and online, bringing real-world experience to the classroom. She also embraced Mary Church Terrell’s principle of “lifting as you climb,” mentoring students and colleagues, placing MA candidates in practica and employment, and supporting the department during external accreditation and peer reviews.
Shortly after finishing her MA, Gail sought further academic growth. I was honored to serve on her Ph.D. committee in Organization & Leadership at another institution, which she completed in 2004. She balanced the online program with her full-time job, part-time teaching, and family commitments, delighting in the challenge. Her doctorate explored her passion for expanding health sector leadership opportunities for Black women, and her marvelous dissertation was a seamless blend of classic ethnographic research techniques, health systems theory, and policy applications.
Emerson’s claim that “It is not the length of life, but the depth of life” seems inadequate to capture Gail’s achievements in a life cut short. She leaves a legacy of successes in improving well-being in the Mid-South and leadership roles for underrepresented populations. Her kindness, wisdom, and diligence touched faculty, students, colleagues, and friends. But most of all, I will miss her dazzling sense of humor and a laugh that could light up my day.