Views from the ANThill

"Views from the ANThill" is the (mostly) monthly column by our anthropologist in residence, douglas reeser. 
Destroying Nohmul: Heritage Distancing and an Ancient Mayan Site in Belize by Claire Novotny and 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.
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Tilting towards the Local: Uneven Globalization in Belize 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.

Speaking in Proverbs: Language & Everyday Life in Belize 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.

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Relationships, Identity, and Home in the Field, or, Why am I in Belize? by douglas reeser on March 13, 2013
Some of the more common questions I have been asked while in the field have to do with why I, as a white man from the US, with no clear ties to Belize, have decided to work in a country other than my own. For me, answers to these queries have not always come easy, for there really is no simple explanation.
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Anthropology and the Dilemma of Critique by douglas reeser on March 6, 2013
Recent attention in the national media has once again placed anthropology in an unflattering light. Two new book releases are behind the latest uproar: Noble Savages, by controversial anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, and The World Until Yesterday, by controversial writer Jared Diamond.
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Corporate Market Research is Not Anthropology by douglas reeser on February 26, 2013
Anthropology is back in the national U.S. news, and yet again, the coverage does not cast the most flattering light on the field. New books by infamous anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, and naturalist-turned-geographer, Jared Diamond, have been framed by the national press as igniting long-standing conflicts among anthropologists, about issues that include the role of science in anthropology, and the search for universals of human behavior and evolution.
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Seeing, Hearing, and Feeling: Reflections on Ways of Knowing by douglas reeser on February 15, 2013
One of the more widely read pieces that I have written for Recycled Minds is a short article I wrote just after the American Anthropological Association announced that it would remove the word "science" from its mission statement back in late 2010. I was one of the first to comment on the development, so my article received a good amount of attention as coverage of #AAAfail, as it became tagged, reached beyond the world of anthropologists, and even got covered by the New York Times.
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Challenging Anthropology: Teaching with Positive Messages by douglas reeser on January 23, 2013
By now, most of us in the academic world are back in the classroom, teaching or taking classes. For me, it's a return to the classroom after about a year and a half of research in Belize. At this point, the culture shock of being back in the US has begun to wear off, but the levels of consumption, the degrees of insular individualism, and the sheer amount of stuff remain palpable.

Infrastructural Violence & the Belizean Health Care System by douglas reeser on January 19, 2013
Life in the southern Toledo District of Belize is full of contradictions. It has a tropical climate, and the beautiful geography of the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea makes it an aesthetically pleasant place to live. There is a rich ethnic diversity in the district, and after a short time there, it often feels like everyone knows everyone else.
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The Coming Backlash against Social Networking by douglas reeser on January 10, 2013
My gig as a teaching assistant throughout my years as a graduate student was great. The position came with a tuition waiver as well a small paycheck, and while it didn't keep me out of student debt, it kept some change in my pocket. The position also gave me a lot of insight about the class room environment, and especially into how I want my classes to function. 
Scandals Under the Sun: McAfee, Indigenous Knowledge, and Corruption in Belize by douglas c reeser on December 19, 2012
Thanks in large part to the adventures of anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee, some of the world’s attention has recently been focused on the tiny nation of Belize. I won’t rehash the entire story here, but in short, McAfee has had some run-ins with various levels of the Belizean government, and is now wanted for questioning in the murder of his neighbor. 
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The Bounds of Belief in Belize: Health, Belief, and Biomedicine in Rural Communities by douglas c reeser on December 12, 2012
As an anthropologist, it is expected that I present my research to the public. One of the most accepted means of doing this is through national and international conferences. A big issue with conferences, however, is that they reach a very specific public. Conferences are often quite costly which limits who has access, many papers are presented to very small audiences, and the papers are rarely published or otherwise made available. 
Mutual Beneficience with Research Assistants by douglas c reeser on November 22, 2012
A major aspect of my research in Belize involves trying to get an understanding of how families manage their health, given the various options available to them. After spending a good year in the community, I had in mind to speak with the female head of the household. Wives, mothers, and grandmothers are often the decision makers when it comes to matters of health in southern Belize, and they are most often familiar with the health issues and events faced by their families.
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Where are the Activists? by douglas reeser on September 12, 2012
On a recent morning, while writing at my computer and having some coffee, I received a surprising text message from a good friend. It read, “Belize Lodge burned last night! Folks can have a pretty nasty way of settling conflicts.”  She was referring to a foreign owned eco-lodge in a nearby village in which I have conducted research for a number of years. The lodge had fallen into financial difficulties over the past year or two, and owed back wages to many of its workers. 
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Academia is Dead. Now What? by douglas reeser on September 3, 2012
There is a lot of hand-wringing among scholars going on right now out here in cyberspace. Much of what I'm reading is from and by anthropologists, but from the comments on these articles, it sounds as if the issue goes beyond anthropology and extends to all disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities and everything in between. The issues being discussed are systemic - in other words, there's a problem with the system. 
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What if Everything was Free? By douglas reeser on August 23, 2012
I've been thinking about the concept of "free" a good deal lately. Our recent posts on for-profit universities, Open Access (the ability to access research reports and articles for free), and internet access reflect that thinking to a certain degree. But I would like to take the idea a bit further than we have so far. If internet access is to be a human right, it needs to be free. I would argue that education - all of it - needs to be free. 
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Of Food and Buckets: Mobile Treats and Identity in Belize by douglas reeser on July 20, 2012
I love food. I like to eat and I like to cook. I like to eat what other people have cooked. From the white tablecloth to the white paper napkin, I love to try new foods in new environments. I’ve written about food and shared recipes that I’ve created. I’ve cooked with friends and family in kitchens all over the Americas. 
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Bringing Traditional Medicine into the Hospital by douglas reeser on July 13, 2012
It was 2005 when I began my graduate training in anthropology. I had decided to get more serious about my interest in indigenous issues, and follow a path towards understanding traditional and indigenous knowledge in its many forms. It was then that I came across Joseph Bastien's Drum and Stethoscope, a book that details efforts in Bolivia to integrate traditional medicines with the biomedicine practiced in the nation's hospitals. This is a book from 1992, and 20 years later, we have yet to see significant advance in such efforts.
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Living with the Spirits: Ghost Stories of Southern Belize by douglas reeser on May 23, 2012
My research on health and healing in southern Belize has revealed a world that remains hidden to the casual observer or visitor. There persist various beliefs across ethnic groups about the spiritual origin of illnesses. Q’eqchi’ Maya healers seek to appease certain spirits when they work with patients. Garifuna healers go into trance to communicate with ancestor spirits who give advice on how to properly treat patients. More importantly, people from across ethnic groups maintain that spiritual forces are active around us and can be influential in our health and well-being.

Learning Languages, Using Anthropology by douglas reeser on April 13, 2012
I think of myself as an anthropologist. My primary efforts in the field are designed to provide insight into human behavior, particularly in the realm of health and illness. There is also another side to what I do here, work that is distinctly applied anthropology. I come out of a program that has an applied focus, where we are urged to work for positive change in our host communities. My applied work is not directly tied to my research; however, it is a direct result of my being an anthropologist. I do not think of myself as being the source of action here, rather I see my work as more facilitation. Let me explain.
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Roadblocks: On Working Through Research Slumps by douglas reeser on March 13, 2012
My research had hit a slump. I had been in the field for about seven months, and had reached a point at which I felt ready to begin doing more in depth and directed interviews. However, the Christmas holiday was fast approaching, a time when people are especially busy and moving about. During the winter holidays, people are either preparing to host a large contingent of family members visiting from out of town, or are themselves preparing to journey to other parts of the country for what is for many a once-per-year family gathering.
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Yu no taim hyaa weh Ai di chrai tel yu: On Not Understanding in Belize by douglas reeser on February 15, 2012
When a good friend of mine who is conducting ethnobotanical research here in Belize heard that I would be writing this column about fieldwork for Anthropology News, she asked if I had read Paul Rabinow’s classic, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. Somehow, through all of my years studying anthropology – ten years from my bachelor’s through my doctoral studies – I hadn’t been asked to read the book, and it never found its way across my path.
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Indigenous Knowledge, Development, and Trust by douglas reeser on January 26, 2012
Here in Belize, I'm working on a number of what might be called "development" projects. Basically, I've been partnering with a few different organizations, all working on a type of traditional healing garden, each one of which aim to preserve and pass on traditional (indigenous or local) knowledge, educate youth, and provide a means of income generation. Each organization is built on ethnic background, and so each project is working with a traditional knowledge system specific to each ethnic group. Still, there is a good deal of overlap, as each group's knowledge is derived from the same environmental conditions. Each of the projects are at various stages of development or execution and each has faced its own challenges. I have come to realize that this is likely the path that each must take to have a chance at success. Most agree that success will include a multi-ethnic healing garden in a central location that offers a space for the wider community to spend time and share.
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Extraction from Immersion By Kristina Baines on December 27, 2011
As I begin the last weeks of my dissertation fieldwork, the preferred topic of conversation during my final encounters is my imminent departure. Thanks to my (extensive) anthropological training, I felt well prepared to enter my study community and immerse myself in a version of the tried and tested ethnographic methodology, however, I never gave much thought to the idea that the time and care spent entering would or should be mirrored in the leaving process. Again, as a practitioner of this traditional methodology, I figured I would always come back. Forever. The members of my study community, however, are eager for more details than “I will always come” and it has become clear that my extraction is requiring as much emotional honesty and practical finesse as my immersion.
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Shots in the Field: 
Finding the Value of Research-related Photos  By douglas reeser on November 21, 2011
Recent social movements around the world have been fueled by the constant flow of images sent from protests, crackdowns, and marches to thousands of interested observers. If you’re part of a social media site, you have probably seen an influx of images of all types in support of (or perhaps denouncing) the Occupy Movement. Whatever your political persuasion, it is clear that the circulation of images remains vital to many aspects of our lives. Images have become so ubiquitous – think advertising - that we have lost track of exactly what their influence on us is.
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Conversations on Fairness and Power
by douglas reeser on October 22, 2011
During the process of fieldwork, there is always present the innumerable conversations that have little or nothing to do with your actual research focus. Such conversations are an integral part of settling into your research community and building rapport with the people and places in which you are spending your time. During my first few months here in Belize, I have had many such discussions.
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This IS Anthropology!  By douglas reeser on October 13, 2011
Anthropology is a commonly misunderstood discipline. For many, it is not all that clear what anthropologists actually do, especially because there are few job positions with the actual title of "Anthropologist." Yet anthropologists work in a variety of roles in a variety of fields. We seek to understand humans and human activity in the present and the past, and more often than not, we are working toward the improvement of the lives of those we work with.
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Reflections on Beginnings By douglas reeser on September 8, 2011
On September 1st, 2011, the American Anthropological Association launched the new online version of their popular Anthropology News magazine. For the next year I will be writing a monthly column for the publication titled, "Notes from the Field", in which I will muse on the many aspects of research and life that I experience while conducting my dissertation research in Belize. The column will run once a month, and I will be able to repost here on Recycled Minds. Ideas and requests for future columns are always welcomed, and in the end, I hope everyone enjoys the columns. This is the first in the series...
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Humans, Power and Fairness By douglas reeser on July 11, 2011
During the process of fieldwork, there is always present the innumerable conversations that have little or nothing to do with your actual research focus. Such conversations are in integral part of settling into your research community and building rapport with the people and places in which you are spending your time. During the first month or so here in Belize, I have had many such discussions.
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With Missionary Zeal By douglas reeser on June 21, 2011
Here in southern Belize, where I'm slowly working on dissertation research, it's hard to miss the influence of the Church on the local populations. There are a variety of churches trying to position themselves as the faith of choice here in Punta Gorda and in the villages of Toledo. Roman Catholics seem to be the most rooted here in the region, as evidenced by the many RC schools scattered throughout the district. However, Protestants continue to make inroads, and are quickly becoming a force in religious lives of many.
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Into the Field!  by douglas reeser on June 3, 2011
Some of our regular readers may have noticed a drop in the frequency my posts here on Recycled Minds. I am happy to report that: 1) there was good reason; and 2) that posting will begin in earnest in the coming weeks. And now, the rest of the story…
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Is it Time for a More Serious Global Governance?  by douglas reeser on March 21, 2011
We hear more and more these days about how we live in a global era, or how the world is increasingly affected by globalization. However, it’s not often clear exactly what is meant by this language and terminology. The recent disasters in Japan may be just what it takes to clear things up. The earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown trifecta is perhaps the first major event that will have a crystal clear effect on the entire world. It can already be seen in the stock markets, and there is talk about shortages and rising costs of the many products that come out of Japan.
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Anthro as Science Redux by douglas reeser on December 14, 2010
I mentioned, in my last Views from the ANThill post, my attendance at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meetings, and offered a perspective on changes made to the AAA long-range plan mission statement, specifically about the removal of the word "science". At the time, I was unaware that this removal of the word "science" would spark a firestorm on the internet, and I was even more surprised to find that my post was being used to characterize an anti-science, postmodern, "fluff-head" bloc of cultural anthropologists supposedly out to rid the world of science and allow myths and religious beliefs to take their rightful spot in driving human progress. The coverage has continued for over two weeks now
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Anthropology as Science by douglas reeser on November 26, 2010
As Lana mentioned a few posts ago, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the American Anthropological Association in New Orleans last week. While I have a number of things to share, I want to start with comments on the new organizational mission statement adopted by the executive board during the meetings. The new plan is a substantial redraft, and perhaps most significantly, removes all mention of the word "science". For those from outside of the discipline, this may seem like an insignificant change, however, for many anthropologists, this comes off as a stunning development.
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Prisons for Profit: It's the Law! by douglas reeser on October 29. 2010
The Arizona immigration law that was passed earlier this year had many around the country in a tizzy. The bill (Arizona Senate Bill 1070) has its share of supporters, while many find it discriminatory and racist. The spectrum of reactions is such that in Florida, Rick Scott is running for governor on a platform that includes a call "Arizona-style immigration law" for the state. On the other end, businesses threatened to boycott Arizona if the law was put into effect. Immigration is a contentious issue in the US - or at least our politicians and news outlets would lead us to believe.
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