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.