Profit Over Health

Should profit take priority of health? In the U.S., the answer
is yes. Photo courtesy of PR Watch.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on December 13, 2013.
With the recent roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S., the health care system has come under scrutiny and has garnered much media attention. I am currently working on my dissertation that, in part, examines the national health care system in the small Caribbean nation of Belize. Having spent about 2 years living and researching how people maintain their health, and what they do and when they do it when they get sick, I was able to get an up-close and detailed look at the challenges, successes, and shortfalls of a national health insurance scheme.

In Belize, the national health care system is run by the Ministry of Health, which operates the 2 arms of the public health system: NHI (the National Health Insurance scheme), and the BHIS (the Belize Health Information System). The BHIS is basically a surveillance system, that has over 90% of the population's health records in the system. Once someone is in the BHIS, they can visit any health facility in the country, including rural clinics, hospitals, private doctors, and even pharmacies, and their complete health records will be available for the provider. The BHIS, in theory, provides patients with more effective treatment and medication, and allows the Ministry of Health to more quickly identify broader public health needs and emergencies.

The NHI is the part of the Belize health system that provides care. Available to any citizen, NHI provides access to health care at any of the country's rural health clinics, the more comprehensive policlinics, as well hospital care. My research, conducted in a rural and somewhat isolated part of the country, showed a number of problems with how the NHI services were staffed, funded, and provided. I've chosen to highlight these aspects of the system in my dissertation, as a service to the people in Belize who were so hospitable towards me, and who rely on the services of NHI.

First Friday Picture Show: Contemplative Abstractionism by Denise McKellick

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Denise McKellick on December 6, 2013

Our December Picture Show features the mixed-media work of Philadelphia artist, musician, and poet, Denise McKellick. In her paintings she plays with the concept of conveying feelings and emotions through random objects and abstraction relying heavily on shape and color. Through photography she explores society's need to document our own lives through social media  in images resulting from capturing brief, beautiful moments in time that would have gone unnoticed if not for the need to document.

 Enjoy the rest of the show!

For Your Consideration this Thanksgiving

November 27, 2013
Another moving TedX talk, this one by photographer Aaron Huey that offers some true insight into the roots of the tradition of giving thanks. From TedX:
"Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people -- appalling, and largely ignored -- compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk." 

Can Trees Communicate? With a Little Help from Fungi.

by douglas reeser on November 13, 2013
The idea that plants communicate is an old one, and increasingly, scientists are uncovering just how this communication takes place. Last year we wrote about how plants use sound and vibration to send signals to one another, and just this week I came across this short video featuring the work of Suzanne Simard, professor of Forest Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Simard explains how trees use their roots, with the help of fungi, to form networks in the forest that they use to feed and communicate with one another. Mother Trees, the old and grand trees we sometimes see, nourish vast networks in the forest, and these networks produce a diversity that protects trees and the forest from extreme events. The more we learn about nature, plants, the environment, and our surrounding (and supporting!) ecosystems, the more amazing it becomes.

Check out the video for more on how trees communicate in the forest:

Intellectual Pursuits and Life Outside Academia

In the world outside of academia, intellectual pursuits
increasingly seem to lack respect among the wider public.
Photo by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on November 9, 2013
I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus for about two months now. The break was mostly expected, but the extent to how deep of a break it would be has come as a surprise. I've been writing regularly for Recycled Minds since 2005, recently completed a two year stint as a contributing editor to Anthropology News of the American Anthropological Association, and have been working on completing my dissertation for about a year. These projects do not include a couple of peer-reviewed journal articles, and a few random pieces for other sites that I've also written recently. Writing has become somewhat of what I do, although it's largely a labor of love that has not brought any financial benefit in my direction.

And sadly, this lack of an income was one of the driving factors in my decision to take a few months, return to my roots in Pennsylvania, and produce a Halloween show. The production proved more intense than I fully anticipated, and for two months I was forced to drop everything else that I had been working on. To be fair, the move brought me back to family and old friends, all of whom I sorely missed, and I did some writing for the production - a 30 page script based on historical figures from the local area where the production was set. Still, if, through my 8 years of graduate school work and over 10 years of writing regularly, I had developed some sort of income for myself, I wonder if I would have made the same decision.

First Friday Picture Show: Art with a Conscience by Cassandra Tondro

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Cassandra Tondro on November 1, 2013
"Enchantment," 24 x 24 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas

November's First Friday Picture Show features the green art of Cassandra Tondro. Cassandra Tondro is an artist who has found an innovative use for leftover house paint ‐‐ she repurposes it for her colorful abstract paintings. Cassandra rescues the paint from recycling centers in the Los Angeles area before it is disposed of. By visiting these outlets regularly, she has assembled a palette filled with unusual colors. She enjoys the challenge of working with the colors that she finds, rather than colors of her choice. Once a color is gone, it is unlikely that she will find the exact same color again. House paint comes in a variety of finishes, including flat, satin, semi‐gloss and eggshell, that add depth and texture to the surface of her paintings. 

"Bubble Up," 18 x 18 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas

Cassandra has developed several methods of working with the paint, including pouring, pulling, pressing and dripping it onto canvas. While the paint is wet, she often uses tools, washes of water, or her fingers to create imagery. The paint dries slowly, and in the process of drying, serendipitous things sometimes occur, such as bubbles that pop to reveal another color below.

"Azure," 24 x 12 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas

Cassandra's eco‐friendly paintings create a unique focal point for contemporary interiors, and the green materials complement sustainable design. Collectors of Cassandra's work have said that her paintings evoke feelings of inspiration and joy, and are even more beautiful in person.

"Vortex," 30 x 24 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas

Enjoy her show on Recycled Minds, and be sure to visit her at for more art with a conscience!

A Folktale from Madagascar

by lana lynne on October 27, 2013
The other day we received the following email from the editor at Open Book Publishers, a pretty cool project based in the UK, and decided we would share it with you!
I am delighted to let you know about a new title in our World Oral Literature Series: How to Read a Folktale: The ‘Ibonia’ Epic from Madagascar by Lee Haring, which I thought might be of interest to readers of Recycled Minds. 
How to Read a Folktale offers an English translation of Ibonia, a spellbinding tale of old Madagascar. Recorded when the Malagasy people were experiencing European contact for the first time, Ibonia proclaims the power of the ancestors against the foreigner. Its fairytale elements link it with European folktales, but the story is nonetheless very much a product of Madagascar. Inflating the form of folktale to epic proportions, it combines African-style praise poetry with Indonesian-style riddles and poems. 
Through Ibonia, Lee Haring expertly helps readers to understand the very nature of folktales. His definitive translation, originally published in 1994, has now been fully revised to emphasize its poetic qualities, while his new introduction and detailed notes give insight to the fascinating imagination and symbols of the Malagasy. Haring’s research connects this exotic narrative with fundamental questions not only of anthropology but also of literary criticism. 
Open Book Publishers is a non-profit organization, run by academics in Cambridge and London. We are committed to making high-quality research freely available to readers around the world. We rely on our friends and colleagues to assist in publicizing our books, and we thank you for your support.

Second Friday Picture Show: 20 Miles Around Shohola, Part II

A Second Friday Picture Show
by Jonathan K. Slingluff
Last week, our featured artist for October, Jonathan Slingluff, showcased photographs from an upcoming exhibit in Scranton, PA, "Photographs, Paintings and Gatherings." Today, we're sharing some shots of Slingluff's paintings, including a few detail pieces. Slingluff is well-known for his minimalist paintings of stark landscapes -- a perfect complement to a crisp autumn day. From our curator, Kevin:

I first saw Slingluff’s paintings when I was living in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. I fell in love with how he captured a landscape (oceans and cornfields primarily). His “Oceans” were dominated by an expansive sky taking the viewer away from what you would think of when visiting a beach. The sand and ocean were present in the most minimal way. The skyline taking up 4/5 of the canvas was what drew you in. It was like looking at a world of possibilities, dreams, melancholy wrapped up in blue paint. Why fill up a canvas with sand and water? I get that. How do you make a beach painting not look tacky? How do you make a skyline look classic and modern in the same stroke? Slingluff figured it out. 

The paintings in this month’s Picture Show are not of Oceans, but Slingluff’s cornfields. I feel the same emotions when looking at the cornfields. The snow: the stalks barely holding for life. They are beautiful and speak volumes to me when thinking about the farms where I grew up. The expansive sky lets you know how small and large the world is in a few brush strokes. Years ago when talking to Jonathan about his work he said that he would rather see his “Oceans” on the wall in a cabin in the woods and the “Cornfields” at the beach. I always keep that in mind when I look at the collection of work that I have of his. I live in Philadelphia -- right in between the Atlantic Ocean and miles of cornfields.

First Friday Picture Show: 20 Miles Around Shohola, Part I

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Jonathan K. Slingluff on October 4, 2013

"20 Miles Around Shohola": Photographs, Paintings & Gatherings
 Our October Artist of the Month is Jonathan K. Slingluff. This is Part I of a two-part Picture Show focusing on Slingluff’s photography. Using medium and digital formats, this collection of photos is part of an upcoming exhibit in Scranton, PA, showcasing his photography, paintings, and “gatherings," which are objects he found within a 20 mile radius of the Shohola Waterfalls in northeastern Pennsylvania. Part II of the Picture Show will be on Recycled Minds next Friday and will focus on his paintings.

Slingluff’s work was featured on Recycled Minds in November 2011. Recycled Minds' curator, Kevin, caught up with him for a brief Q & A to get a little dialogue to go with Kevin's fascination with his Instagram updates. They talked coffee makers, beer, and the reintroduction of an old hobby, fly-fishing. But to get down to knowing person, sometimes it's best to ask the simple questions in life.

Enjoy this week's show, and be sure to check out Part II next week!
What is your favorite music to listen to while you paint?
Jazz or some slow-paced music. I like to avoid lyrics and keep it simple - nothing to hinder the process.

What is the last beer you drank that you loved?
Right now I’m opening Anchor’s Wheat beer. I also like Pepe Nero, Goose Island.

First Friday Picture Show: Proyecto Fotovoz/Project Photovoice

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Anne Pfister on September 6, 2013
~ Co-investigadoras y amigas queridas - Co-investigators and dear friends ~
Self-portrait by Anne E. Pfister
The collaborative project “Proyecto Fotovoz” was part of my ethnographic research exploring the experience of deafness in Mexico City, Mexico. These photos were taken during a photovoice project exploring deaf youth identity among sixth grade students at Instituto Pedagógico para Problemas de Lenguaje (IPPLIAP) from August 2012 – July 2013. Recognizing the necessity for multi-modal and visual communication choices with deaf participants, I planned the use of participatory, visual data collection methods. These methods included photovoice, which maximized deaf youth’s visual learning style and explored their visually-based understandings of the world. 

During weekly photovoice workshops, my co-investigator, Marcela, and I presented themes we hoped would lend insight into the participants’ experiences and identities. The 19 youth participants responded to these themes through photography, and presented their photos to their peers in Lengua de Señas Mexicana (Mexican Sign Language, or LSM) each week. Participants were also interviewed individually in LSM to follow-up on ideas generated in group discussion during the workshop. The participants’ photos were used as guides and visual cues to augment ethnographic interviews, which in turn generated new research themes through participatory analysis.

Dissemination Disaster: Being Forced to Stop Sharing Research Results

A graphic showing the use of traditional home remedies from my data
brochure. Image courtesy of doug reeser.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on August 25, 2013
The completion of fieldwork is but one milestone in the research process of an anthropologist. Data analysis and write-up remain, followed by the dissemination of our research findings, one of the key ethical codes for anthropologists. The relationships we develop in the field carry on in time and space, and ethically, we must share our findings in a timely manner with those that helped make the research possible. Yet, research results may take years to be published, and there is no widely accepted means of distributing our findings more quickly to our non-academic stakeholders.

After spending a semester away from my fieldsite at the completion of my own dissertation research, I planned a return to visit with friends and maintain the connections that I had made. My research included a diverse range of people throughout the community, including medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, traditional healers, government and administrative officials, and women spanning wide economic, age and ethnic backgrounds. From the beginning of my research, I planned to share my dissertation and shorter reports with various stakeholders, but I wanted to share some of my preliminary results in a widely accessible format.

What makes someone Indigenous?

~ A collection of indigenous tools from Belize ~
Photo for Recycled Minds by Marah Cabral  
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on August 15, 2013
I'm one of the lucky ones. This evening I got in my car, drove to a restaurant, ate a nice meal, drank a couple craft brewed beers, and enjoyed some good conversation. It wasn't an expensive night out by U.S. standards, but taken in a global context, it certainly falls in the realm of the privileged. I might not even mention such a night, let alone write about it, if not for the conversation I had while eating.

As is lately the norm for me during my social outings, the conversation eventually turned to Belize. As an anthropologist, I am often engaged for my insights on various aspects of the human condition. In this case, the topics of gender, farming, and indigenous knowledge kind of came together from a few different tangents, and I found myself having to explain and defend indigenous knowledge.

It all started when the conversation turned to sexism, and the fact that women continue to struggle with not only abuse, but just the day-to-day experience of inequality and being taken advantage of. I mentioned that in indigenous communities in Belize, violence against women remains a serious issue.

"Why do we glorify these indigenous cultures?" my dinner partner asked. "In some respects, they are almost backwards, and didn't they sacrifice children in Central America?"

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

The poster for the 2nd Decade of the International Day
of the World's Indigenous Peoples
by douglas reeser on August 9, 2013
Today is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, an annual event that aims to spotlight the vibrancy of indigenous cultures and the many issues faced by indigenous people around the world. First proclaimed in December, 1994 by the United Nations General Assembly, the day was to be observed on August 9th every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, which marks the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. Now extended through its second decade, the 2013 theme is "Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements."

According to the UN, The 2nd International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, which began in 2005, has five main objectives:
1) Promoting non-discrimination and inclusion of indigenous peoples in the design, implementation, and evaluation of international, regional and national processes regarding laws, policies, resources, programmes and projects;
2) Promoting full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in decisions which directly or indirectly affect their lifestyles, traditional lands and territories, their cultural integrity as indigenous peoples with collective rights or any other aspect of their lives, considering the principle of free, prior and informed consent;
3) Redefining development policies that depart from a vision of equity and that are culturally appropriate, including respect for the cultural and linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples;
4) Adopting targeted policies, programmes, projects and budgets for the development of indigenous peoples, including concrete benchmarks, and particular emphasis on indigenous women, children and youth;
5) Developing strong monitoring mechanisms and enhancing accountability at the international, regional and particularly the national level, regarding the implementation of legal, policy and operational frameworks for the protection of indigenous peoples and the improvement of their lives.
These are all noble goals, and it speaks to the slow progress of humanity as a whole, that these remain issues that need to be addressed. Sadly, most indigenous people, and those who work with them, will be able to provide unending examples that would help explain why these objectives remain important. 

My own experience in Belize provides one such example. Just last month (July, 2013), the Belize Supreme Court ruled on a government appeal from a case in 2010 that granted Maya communities in southern Belize rights to their lands. The court reaffirmed that Maya had customary community ownership of their lands, however, it also ruled that the government has no duty to protect those rights. The ruling, it seems, was a victory and defeat all at once. 

International Cry Magazine has a brief history of the case, which actually has roots in the colonial era, when Maya communities throughout the region were thrown into upheaval at the arrival of the Spanish. Centuries later, Maya communities in Belize were still not recognized as the owners of the land they had lived on and cultivated for generations. It took the Inter-American Commision on Human Rights to get things moving towards change, when in 2004, it issued a report stating that Maya have land rights, and the government of Belize has been violating those rights. Finally, in 2010, the country's own Supreme Court ruled the same, however the government appealed the case. 

The latest ruling by the Supreme Court has been seen as a victory by many - Maya communities finally have recognized ownership of, and thus, some semblance of control over, their ancestral lands. However, the other part of the ruling is likely to prove more powerful than this long-overdue victory. By ruling that the government has no duty to protect those land rights, a door has been left open, and through that door has stepped U.S. Capital Energy, an oil company that has been granted permission by the government to drill for oil on those same Maya lands. 

I wrote a bit about this situation in November, 2012, when Capital Oil was just getting started in Belize. At that point, the land rights case was still in the courts, so the company was walking softly. One has to wonder if that will now change, for while this situation has yet to fully play out, a conflict seems imminent. While the Maya own the land, the national government, with no duty to protect those ownership rights, is able to not recognize that Maya ownership. This position was made clear when the oil concession was granted. 

Instead of recognizing Maya land ownership, the government has recognized its own right to the land by granting the oil concession. The oil company has the backing of the government, and so will likely continue the exploratory drilling project. The Maya are primarily farmers, with little history of protest or activism, and the oil company essentially has the backing of the government, and more important, its security forces - the police and the army. To be clear, there have been no reports of protest, or the presence of security forces, however, were it to come down to it, the government has made clear the side on which it lends its support. Its not with the Maya. 

And so yes, even though while reading over the objectives for this 2nd Decade of Indigenous People, they strike me as being issues of the past, it is clear that these are issues still being faced today. On this day, it would seem appropriate for the U.N. to speak out against this very recent case in Belize. Such action, however, has so far not been on their agenda. Instead, they continue to issue a more general call of attention to indigenous peoples, the issues they face, and objectives for some nebulous entity to achieve. This is certainly important, but it's now been over 500 years of the same old story, and it is well past the time to become vocal, to become active, and to lend some real support to the plight of indigenous peoples, not just in Belize, but the world over. 

First Friday Picture Show: Lavender Grid Installations by Greg Patch

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Greg Patch on August 2, 2013
~ dune installation ~ 
Our August Picture Show features the unique work of Greg Patch. Greg is an artist and a traditional herbalist whose paintings portray the earth, the unconscious, and the one-ness of all life. His commitment to restoring the planet and its supported life to its natural balance is reflected in his work with individuals as a natural healer, in the environmental themes of his artwork, and in the non-toxic medium which is integral to the meaning of the finished work.

~ Green Wall Installation ~
Greg was introduced to art during the 1960s era of anti-establishment and high ideals. Studying in New Mexico and New York, Greg’s work evolved through a web of inquisitive explorations of the world surrounding him and of time and space through traditional landscape painting and social "happenings."

In his early experiences working for sculptors Willard Boepple and Robert Schuler, Patch was influenced by the texture, shape, and diversity of these internationally acclaimed artists' work. Influenced by alternative culture, Sacred Healing Arts and the study of indigenous cultures, the artist accomplishes a melding of 1960s idealism with traditional and futuristic science. In his work, Patch explores social movements with a naturalistic and simple style and method.

He continues to integrate and express movement in space with texture, as well as his medium, subject, approach, and holistic lifestyle.

The Trickster's Race: a Blackfoot Story

In many stories, the Trickster is often a role filled by the Coyote.
Picture courtesy of 
by douglas reeser on July 31, 2013
Across traditions around the globe, the Trickster is a famous character who plays a central role in many fables, stories, and tales. Rules and norms are usually meaningless to the Trickster, and people, gods, and animals have often been the prey of the Trickster's pranks. However, more often than not, there is a lesson to be learned when the Trickster enters the story, and upon hearing such a story, one is often left contemplating just what that lesson is.

I have recently begun working on a seasonal project, developing a Halloween event for the fall. In some ways, the Trickster is the perfect character from which to draw inspiration for such an event. I am seeking ways to break rules and norms, to make people uncomfortable, and leave them contemplating what they just experienced when they leave the event. In a sense, I am seeking to create an event that embodies the Trickster.

In a seemingly random occurrence, I was picking up some props for the event, and came across an old book by Stith Thompson, called "Tales of the North American Indians." First published in 1929, the book is a collection of folk stories from Native American groups from across the US. Most compelling to me at this point in time, is the fact that chapter three has a selection of 15 stories about the Trickster. I've begun reading them, not so much in search of specific ideas, but more in an effort to find inspiration from the character of the Trickster.

Why be Normal? Thinking about Neurodiversity and Mental Health

Open Minds
Neurodiversity celebrates "the unique manifestations of
the human spirit."
Image courtesy of Reflections of a Chronic Anthropologist.
by Kristina Baines on July 29, 2013
Wherever you go, there you are. I’ve considered this old adage quite a bit lately in my thoughts and conversations. Wherever I turn, I can’t get away from the brain. By this, I don’t just mean my own thoughts, but conversations about the brain and what it does and how it makes us do what we do and be who we are. More specifically, these “brain-centered” conversations often turn to mental health and questions about the role of brain function and chemistry in keeping us well. 

This flurry of mentally-focused activity is strange for me.  I am not a brain scientist.  I am not more than casually acquainted with mental illness.  My son doesn’t even have ADHD.  In fact, I spent the better part of the last decade chipping at the walls of the Cartesian divide between mental and physical health and, thus, the idea that there is mental illness distinct from physical illness at all.  As part of my recent doctoral dissertation research, I explicitly blur those lines, arguing that what we do and what we think and how we feel are fundamentally intertwined.

Despite the recent WHO definition, which outlines this holistic view of health, it is clear from everyday living that our medical community, and our popular culture, are not giving up “mental health” discussions anytime soon.  From ADHD to autism to depression to PTSD, it is difficult not to become involved in mental health debates.  Lately, I feel compelled to leap into these discussions, ignoring that I have almost no personal or professional experience with any of these disorders.  Complaints fly that our culture is over-diagnosing, over-labeling, over-medicating, under-counseling, ignoring potential causation and generally freaking out.  We are caught up in a multi-faceted mental crisis.

Mexican Puppetry and Balance in Technology

Open Minds
~ Mechanical details for a puppet head ~
Photo courtesy of Puppetitieres.

by Diane Daly, Puppetiteres, on July 12, 2013
Puppetry is a fascinating art form from an Information perspective because it is defined by balance in the technology it uses. The term technology today has come to mean digital tools - the more, the better. But when I speak of the balance in technology inherent within puppetry, I am using the older meaning of technology: Using devices to more effectively accomplish our goals. A puppet itself is technology used toward the goal of creative expression, but a puppet's movements must convey to the audience an intimate connection with the movement of the puppeteer(s). Overdo the technology of Mr. Punch, or El Negrito, or Hanuman, and you end up not with a puppet but with an automaton.

In the US, birthplace of so many digital innovations, we rarely imagine a ceiling for our technological inundation. In my studies of of Information and Library Science, I have begun to explore how people who know how to balance technology approach social networking. Although puppetry exists everywhere, I chose the puppetry community in Mexico as the focus of this research because in my experience digital technology is approached very practically here in Mexico. Tech skills are not perceived as hallmarks of superiority; one simply learns them to advance human objectives.

The Mexican Puppetry Community

Knowledge about puppetry techniques, source and construction materials, performance venues, and marketing are just a few of the types of information that are shared online in this community. But on a deeper level, the puppetry community in Mexico is interesting from an Information perspective is because it is alive.

The Curandera: Healing in Action

July 10, 2013
Traditional healers play an integral role in the health and well-being of people around the world, and are able to treat ailments and conditions in ways unfamiliar to biomedical science. Check out this brief video that shows such a healer in action in Mexico and how and why they have maintained their effectiveness.

"A short (seven minute) piece that shows a rural curandera treating various village children with plants and other methods including various types of limpias or cleansings. Through interviewing the curandera we learn what is the most important thing that enables healing..."

Writing Research Online: Personal or Public?

~ Research by the Sea in PG ~
Photo from Belize by douglas reeser.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on July 3, 2013
Regular readers know that I've spent two of the last three years in southern Belize, where I was engaged in anthropological fieldwork that will be the basis for my PhD dissertation. Early on in my fieldwork, I agreed to write a column for the American Anthropological Association's Anthropology News, called Notes from the Field. The column appeared monthly, and included a range of topics related to my fieldwork. I also used my fieldwork as a source of inspiration to write frequent columns for Recycled Minds. Each of these commitments to write about my fieldwork for a wide audience led to fairly constant questions of what was ok to write about, and who I was writing for. Other questions included: How much detail about my research should I share publicly at such an early stage? What would people find interesting? Who would be reading? What will Belizeans think? There are few (if any) guides about writing online while in the field, so I used my own judgement in trying to answer these and other questions while writing about my fieldwork.

Now returned from the field and working on my dissertation, I am still writing for both forums, and so I still grapple with some of those same questions. With a column due to Anthropology News, I saw that Popular Anthropology Magazine, an open access publication that aims to raise public awareness of anthropology and anthropological perspectives, just released their latest issue, which contains three articles about blogging from the field. I eagerly downloaded the articles in hopes that they might offer some new inspiration for my continued writing about my fieldwork.

Can Your Diet Make You Happy?

A recent study using data from the UK shows that a healthy serving of fruits
and vegetables everyday can have a positive effect on your mental well-being. 
A recent study from the UK says yes!

by douglas reeser on June 21, 2013
A good friend of mine in Belize recently started working a new job. The job is with a family business, and requires long hours 6 or 7 days per week. I could see the toll the hours were taking, and urged her to be sure to take care of herself, especially by keeping up with a healthy and nutritious diet. I knew that eating well during a time of stress would help her tired body, and I found myself wondering if a healthy diet would also have an effect on her mental health. I know physical health, mental health, and diet are all entangled, but I wondered if diet could directly affect your mental well-being - can your diet make you happy?

After a few days, this question continued to linger in my mind, so I decided to do a little research. My own anthropological research has focused on health and diet, and so I had a few places to look, but I didn't find anything specifically about diet and happiness. I broadened my search and came across an article from 2012 in the journal, Social Indicators Research, a social-science journal that focuses on quality of life measurement. The article I found was titled with the very question I was asking: "Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?" It turns out that few studies have actually been done on happiness and health, and perhaps none trying to tease out diet as a factor in our happiness.

First Friday Picture Show: Imaginative and Otherworldly Drawings by Jon Carling

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Jon Carling on July 5, 2013
Future Shaman
Our July Picture Show features the drawings of Oakland-based artist Jon Carling. Carling’s work has been described as imperfectly precise and otherworldly. Childhood imagination haunts his drawings, as they often swing from pure fantasy to dry terror. Working only with pen and pencil (and the occasional spot of color), he weaves creatures and environments that recall 19th century book illustration, while incorporating transcendent and sinister themes.

“I want people to have an emotional response to my work that reminds them of being a child. When certain details are left out of an image, you use a very special part of your brain to fill in the spaces, and I think that is the key to engaging the viewer, let them write the story for themselves.”
Moving the Triangle
Since graduating in 2002 from Oakland’s CCA with a degree in illustration, Jon’s work has been featured in numerous gallery expos and publications, either in solo exhibitions or alongside his contemporaries in cities across the United States and Italy. Along with those exhibitions, he has made  animated videos, multi-media projections, posters and album art for bands such as The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Entrance Band, Meho Plaza, Agent Ribbons, Magic Castles, Noceans, Voice on Tape, The Lovely Eggs and Ema and the Ghosts. Visit Jon Carling online at

Continue reading to view the rest of the show >>

United Natures: a Film for Gaia

June 18, 2013

"When you think of the declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, the concept and practice of Earth Democracy that we are building in India - these are all contributions towards building an Earth Community, thinking of a United Natures - a United Nations of all Species" - Vandana Shiva

"I think it's about the rediscovery and recreation of new indigenous culture, that is our cultural task."

Check out the trailer to this important new film and ponder the implications of the project...

Visit for more information. 

Thinking Socially: a Way Forward Out of this Capitalist Mess

Can we find a social solution to this capitalist mess?
Image courtesy of the Socialist Organizer.
by douglas reeser on june 10, 2013
My recent return to southern Belize has been a pleasant and productive revisiting to a place where I spent nearly a year and a half working on my dissertation research in anthropology. I've written much about this place and Belize more generally, and while I am plumbing the depths of my experience here in an effort to complete my dissertation, I continue to find inspiration for shorter musings and reflections. One such experience occurred the other night while I was having some drinks with some non-Belizean friends of mine. 

We were out at a local seafood restaurant, popular with expats and tourists. It's a place with good food and character, an old wooden building sitting on stilts out over the Caribbean Sea, with a large outdoor deck perfect for star-gazing and enjoying the cool sea breeze. It's also the center of social life for the younger ex-pat community, where you can run into any number of young foreigners, here doing research, volunteering or interning at local NGOs, or working in efforts to relocate to Belize. I was there with some archaeologist friends, one of whom I did my Master's schooling with, and some researchers who work with a local conservation organization, talking about different issues that come up in the world of "development."

Soon, a mutual friend walked up to say hello before leaving for the night. She runs a local company that helps to produce and export agricultural products, and has helped to develop a program that sources the product from local farmers, and connects them to "ultra-premium" producers in the US and elsewhere. It's a model in the vein of fair trade, and provides farmers with a decent price for their product, and more importantly to some, introduces a level of competition in a field that was previously dominated by one company that dictated prices and terms to the farmers. We asked her how her business was doing, and before long, I was engaged in a short conversation with one of the conservation people I was sitting with. 

This is a Global Resistance Movement. Obviously.

The road ahead is not what you are used to. It is not developed.
It must be created. Collectively.
by douglas reeser on June 3, 2013
The world has changed. It happened while nobody was looking, and in a way few thought would matter. The prominence of the nation state has receded, and taking over its place has been the multinational corporation. The global triumph of capitalism has led to unbridled confidence and blind following of the market doctrine. When capitalism won, nations lost, people lost, and the interests of multinationals were granted the power to drive policy in even the most powerful nations on the planet. It has gotten so that the multinational corporation has infiltrated not only our political system, but also our social life, our everyday. People often care less what it is to be a citizen of a nation, or what it is to be a human being, and more with the latest, greatest, fastest, coolest... product. And this change is global. In the US and other "developed" nations, such has been going on for decades now, but the penetration of the product (the many flags of the corporation) into social life has now reached every corner of the globe.

And what are the implications of this shift in attention that has become so pervasive all around us? I would argue the result is what "development" has become in the modern world: the constant erosion of the collective, the community, the whole, and the unreasoned acceptance of the individual as the point of primary concern. "Developed" society has led us to a point in history in which it is socially acceptable and desirable to promote your own interests over those of others. The capitalist ethos of competition, and the drive for profit has now been translated into a guide for action. "Do what you have to do to get that new smartphone, damn the rest." The intense rule of the product is especially pervasive in the world's youth, who are less well equipped to be critical of the constant promotion and advertising of the new rulers. It also important to remember that these new rulers - the multinational corporations - no longer have the interests of the nation in mind when calculating their next steps. Their interests are solely self-interests, primarily the drive to increase profit. No matter the cost.

All is not lost, however...

First Friday Picture Show: Maya Resilience by Kristina Baines

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Kristina Baines on June 7, 2013

~ Keep Moving ~
Turning sesame seeds toasting on the firehearth.

Our June 2013 Picture Show is by Kristina Baines, an ecological/medical anthropologist who has been taking, developing, and thinking about photos for over 20 years.  She has a strong interest in corn, how what we do in our environment makes us well, and using innovative methods to make anthropology relevant and accessible to a wide audience.  You can find out more about how these interests translate into projects and pursuits at or by contacting her at   

~ Simiona's Shop ~
Rice to be sold if the mill is buying.
I made this set of photographs in 2011 while I was living in Santa Cruz, Belize conducting my dissertation research. A traditional Mopan Maya village in many ways, Santa Cruz continues to be in flux, its residents actively negotiating the changes brought about by new opportunities and stressors - road paving, new schools, changing politics… These photos capture both the adaptability and the resilience of the community’s residents, and their landscape, to these changes, highlighting the subtleties, and beauty, of everyday life that continues in their midst.

Continue Reading to view the rest of Kristina's show. 

Destroying Nohmul: Heritage Distancing and an Ancient Mayan Site in Belize

The destruction of the ancient Mayan site of Nohmul can be seen
as an example of “heritage distancing.”
Photo courtesy of CTV3 Belize News.
Views from the ANThill
by Claire Novotny & douglas reeser on May 27, 2013
The bulldozing and destruction of the ancient Maya site at Nohmul, in the Orange Walk district of northern Belize, has recently received widespread international attention. The largest structure of the ancient ceremonial center was reduced to rubble for use as road-fill by a local contracting company, a widely condemned act that will likely result in minimal consequences for the perpetrators. This incident, and others like it, are examples of the vulnerability of major historical sites, demonstrates the importance of the archaeological landscape for communities, and brings up issues of cultural heritage and engaged anthropology.

Nohmul was a medium-sized city founded in the Middle Preclassic period (650 BC – 350 BC). Interestingly, its fortunes waned during the Early Classic period (AD 100 – 250), when it was all but abandoned, only to be re-occupied during the Terminal Classic (AD 900 – 1000), when ties to the Yucatan peninsula are evident in its architecture and ceramic assemblage. Nohmul is one example of Maya longevity, memory, and re-use of important sites. When they re-occupied it in the Terminal Classic is was already an ancient place – at least 1000 years old. Nohmul has been a marker of place, history, and ancestral heritage for more than 2,000 years (see Hammond et al.).

March Against Monsanto: It's About Your Right to Know

Visit Occupy Monsanto for a march near you!
by douglas reeser on May 24, 2013
The giant agro-chemical company, Monsanto, has a long and troublesome history about which people around the globe are starting to take issue with. This Saturday, May 25, 2013, marks the first ever global protest against the company, with supporters calling on a long list of motivations for the rally. Occupy Monsanto, one of the many outgrowths of the Occupy Movement, has a list with links to over 100 cities where marches and protests are set to take place. In addition to the list, there is a short, but telling list of reasons why people are are protesting:
- Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.
- In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products.
- Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.
- For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.
- Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have caused colony collapse among the world’s bee population.

Student Debt in the US: Is There an End in Sight?

Students march in support of student debt forgiveness in San Francisco.
Photo courtesy of jjinsf94115 on Flickr.
by douglas reeser on May 15, 2013
The student debt issue has been back in the news recently, with a number of commentaries on what some are saying may be the next 'bubble'. With currently fixed interest rates on student loans set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st, 2013, there is a growing call for some sort of relief plan. Last year we began to see some evidence that the issue was something deserving of attention. I first wrote briefly about my student loan experience in October 2012, just after returning from a year and a half of fieldwork, beginning the process of writing my dissertation, and already getting harrassed by the banks for repayment. Since then, my own situation has not improved, and neither has that of millions of students throughout the US, as overall student debt breached $1 trillion US earlier this year.

It seems that the trillion-dollar may have been the turning point that mark pushed the issue into the mainstream. One sign of this is that Yahoo has recently begun publishing a series of "First Person"articles on student debt that share "first-person accounts from those who are still paying and those who have lessons to share." With the announcement that the US government is set to earn $51 billion US from student loan borrowers this year alone, there seems to be a growing consensus that the need for reform has reached critical levels.

Tilting Towards the Local: Uneven Globalization in Belize

James Bus Line out of Punta Gorda Belize. I'll be busing down to PG from
Belize City, about a 6 hour ride. 
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on May 6, 2013
I'm headed back to Belize in the morning. It's been about 6 months since I left, and I'll be returning for about 6 weeks. When I first left Belize last fall, I thought I would be returning in a month or two to teach a field school, but the class fell through. I was then offered the opportunity to teach a class at my home university during the spring semester. I've been a bit disappointed that my return to Belize has taken longer than expected, but getting back in the classroom was somewhat refreshing, and a good exercise for my brain.

The class I taught was an upper-level undergraduate course about human diversity, held in a discussion-based format. During class, I would only give short talks or show a short video, and dedicate the majority of class-time to a full class discussion with the 15-20 or so students who showed up on a regular basis. Teaching about diversity can be fun, as there are limitless iterations of human ingenuity around the globe, and we end up talking about many aspects of contemporary human existence. Talking about contemporary humans, however, inevitably brings up the interconnections that exist between and within cultures, and the inequality that is all too often a part of those connections.

First Friday Picture Show: Realist Paintings by Adam Vinson

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Adam Vinson on May 3, 2013

Ventriloquist (18x14) by Adam Vinson
This month's Picture Show features the paintings of Adam Vinson. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa in 1978, Vinson began his artistic training studying commercial illustration at the Luzerne County Community College and continued his studies thereafter under the tutelage of Anthony Waichulis. Upon finishing the Waichulis Studio curriculum, he enrolled in the historically prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Momentary Things (20x16) by Adam Vinson
Using the styles of trompe l’oeil and contemporary realism, Vinson reflects a balance of contemplation, humor and irony in his work. He believes that, for him, representational painting is the best direct route to forming both a visceral and cerebral connection with the viewer.

He maintains a rigorous exhibition schedule in venues around the country and has been featured in numerous publications including American Art Collector, American Artist, Southwest Art, Stroke of Genius and American Arts Quarterly. In 2009, Vinson was the recipient of the third place award in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Continue reading for the rest of the show!

May Day and the Worker's Struggle

May 1, 2013, May Day

It's May 1st, a day that, globally, is both a holiday celebrating the worker, and a day of protest, fighting for the rights of the worker. In Turkey, Bangladesh, and Greece, along with countless other locales, citizens are in the streets, angry with where austerity measures have brought them. In solidarity, we are sharing a few posters from over the years calling for action on this day of the worker.

Speaking in Proverbs: Language and Everyday Life in Belize

~ "Crab walk 'til e meet kiss-kiss" ~
These land crabs in a bucket left their hole, but met the "kiss-kiss" - the tongs
used to catch them. Colville Young explains: "The adventurer someday meets
 his nemesis" (Creole Proverbs of Belize, 1980). Photo by douglas reeser. 
Views from the ANThill
by douglas reeser on April 24, 2013

“De higher monkey climb, de more e expose.”

After a few months back in Belize, my understanding of Kriol was definitely improving. An English-based creole language, Kriol presents an interesting experience for native English speakers. There are plenty of English words in any given Kriol sentence or two, but they are surrounded by words unfamiliar and foreign, such that many visitors to Belize do not understand the language. My past experience in Belize had familiarized me with Kriol, and within the first few months, I thought I was getting most of what I heard.

However, I soon noticed I would be following along, and then completely miss a sentence or two. Or sometimes, someone would say something to me in Kriol, and I wouldn’t get it at all. My close friends would speak a mix of English and Kriol around me, which from informal observations, seems to be becoming the norm. One day, during a relaxed conversation in which I was asking my friend a lot of questions about life in Belize, I heard something and didn’t understand it. I asked her what she had just said.

“What?” she asked. “You mean, ‘You fas like crofi’?” she said again, laughing.

“Yeah, I have no idea what that even means!” I replied with a smile.

Confessions of a Turmeric Junky

Jars of Yellow Ginger for sale at the market in Punta Gorda, Belize.
by douglas reeser on May 21, 2013
This is a confession. I may have a problem. I'm a turmeric freak. I put it on everything. Eggs, sandwiches, pizza, salads, you name it, and I probably sprinkle some turmeric on it. I go through more turmeric in a week than most Indian restaurants go through in a month. Most of my plates and bowls are stained with that distinctive yellowy-orange hue after years of daily exposure. Most people think I'm a bit crazy when they watch me in the kitchen, especially when I start loading up with my herbs and spices. When I think food, I think medicine, and turmeric is one of my primary agents.

It all started a few years ago. I've been mostly vegetarian since the early 1990's. but it took a while for my vegetarian diet to actually become healthy. I eventually began cooking regularly, which led to my discovery of the joy of food. And as my interest in herbalism and natural medicine slowly grew out of that dietary change, I finally began to realize that eating well was my path to good health. I haven't had health insurance for over 20 years, so self-maintanance of my body has become something of a vital approach to my daily life. Part of that approach has been the regular inclusion of medicinal herbs and spices in my cooking, which began in earnest 4 or 5 years ago.

Sunshine Streets: Street Art of St Petersburg, Florida

by douglas reeser on April 17, 2013
Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida has become something of a burgeoning street art and mural scene. Widely known as an arts-friendly city, this small Gulf-coast locale has seven art museums (including the Dali, with the largest collection of Salvador Dali works outside of Spain), a bunch of galleries, and significant city-government and community support. Still, until recently, most of the city's art had to be enjoyed indoors. After a year and half in Belize, I returned to find murals throughout the city, with a special concentration lining a few blocks of a downtown alley. Here are a few of my favorites:

~ Third-Eye Kitty ~
Can see the true you

Folk Stories of Belize: the Magical Powers of Jade

The infamous Jade Head of Belize, considered a national treasure.
Photo courtesy of Ambergris Today.
by douglas reeser on April 11, 2013
In Belize, folk stories abound, both as a means to share lessons, and a medium through which to share history. Folk stories come from a time when culture and history was primarily shared through oral traditions, and are best when they come in the form of the spoken word. Even today, at a time when literacy rates are high in Belize, and nearly everyone except some elders can read and write, folk stories are a means through which tales are told, and connections are made.

One of my favorite folk stories in Belize was told to me while on a hike to some sacred caves outside of a small Maya village where I have done research and have a number of friends. Our party consisted of me, another researcher from Canada, and two Q'eqchi' Maya men in their early 30s, Timoteo, the son of a respected traditional healer, and Pablo, a partner of the local traditional healer's garden, who knew the trails through the bush with an intimacy lacking in the rest of us (the names are aliases). The day was perfect for a hike through the bush - sunny, but not too hot (for Belize anyway!), which made the trails fairly dry, and the walk under the canopy pleasant. When we reached the caves, the stories began.

First Friday Picture Show: "Ultima" by Nick Pedersen

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Nick Pedersen on April 5, 2013
~ #5 ~
by Nick Pedersen

Nick Pedersen is a photographer and illustrator from Salt Lake City. He holds a BFA degree in Photography, as well as an MFA degree in Digital Imaging from Pratt Institute in New York. He has shown artwork in galleries across the country and internationally, recently including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, the Museum of Russian Art, the Slingluff Gallery, Bastardo Gallery, and Copper Palate Press. His work has also been featured in numerous publications such as After Capture, Beautiful Decay, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and Empty Kingdom. In the past year he has also completed Artist Residencies at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada and the Gullkistan Residency in Iceland to work on his newest project Ultima.

~ #7 ~
by Nick Pedersen

“Ultima is a body of work that is deeply rooted in environmentalism, showing my concern for the future by depicting the ways in which mankind’s creations have an impact on the planet. Primarily it is about the modern conflict between the manmade world and the natural world, and between modern and primitive cultures. I portray this as an epic struggle and in my work these forces clash in theatrical, post-apocalyptic battlegrounds. My goal with this project is to create striking juxtapositions between the ruins of modern civilization and a futuristic ecological utopia. The narrative progression shows a rediscovery of these remnants belonging to the conceivably forgotten past.”

View more of Nick's work at and

Click to view the rest of the show:

Corporate Equality: Should Corporations have the Same Rights as Nations?

by douglas reeser on March 3, 2013
A recent piece in the Huffington Post by political journalists Zach Carter and Ryan Grim reports on a new trade agreement that is in the works between the US and EU. While the agreement is still in its early stages, the content threatens to be quite disconcerting, as it may give corporations unprecedented power and influence over sovereign nations, including the US and European countries. The authors explain: "Exactly how broad these corporate political powers will be is undetermined, but one aspect of the agreement, known as 'investor-state dispute resolution,' would allow a company to appeal a regulatory rule or law to an international court, most likely the World Bank." Such an arrangement would grant the World Bank, which already has the promotion and protection of investment and development interests at the core of its mission, even greater influence around the globe. Even more troubling is that it potentially places "multinational companies on the same political plain as sovereign nations."

Under current international trade agreements, corporations must convince the host nation that they have been wronged in some way, leaving the decision to bring cases to international court in the hands of elected governments. In this scenario, some semblance of power is granted to sovereign nations, such that they are able to determine if an international corporation has acted appropriately within their borders, and what action to take, if any. This current scenario does pose some risk to the corporations, but in theory, it also drives them to act more responsibly. This risk, however, hasn't stopped corporations from polluting environments, exploiting workers, or corrupting officials. It's just that sometimes, they are brought to court for such indiscretions.

Debt, Discipline, and Consumerism

Education is discipline, and debt is consumerism. We learn
to consume and live by our debts.
Photo credit: beware of images
by douglas reeser on March 29, 2013
Maybe you've noticed the picture of Noam Chomsky accompanying a quote from an unidentified source that has been making the rounds on Facebook and a number of websites. I've tried to find where the quote came from, and the best I can tell is that it was from an article in the Ottawa Citizen that no longer has a working link from back in 2011. I've also found links back to the Chomsky Quotes Tumblr, but was unable to find the exact source there either. Regardless of exactly where the quote came from, or even if Chomsky said or wrote it, the message is still compelling, and fits well with the emerging movement to alleviate student debt on a national level.

The meme-ing quote reads:
Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people ina system of debt they can't afford the time to think. Tuition Fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy. 
In my mind, the quote is a little all over the place, and could probably use some context (hence my curiosity about where it came from). Still, I think it captures the attention for linking debt, discipline, and mindless consumerism. Again, being unsure about the context of the quote, I hesitate to offer much critique, other than to criticize those who continue to share it without including a source. At least the quote is attributed, but without the source, it retains little of its original value. What remains worth some further comment are those three primary concepts: debt, discipline, and consumerism.