TC Anthro Presenters at 2017 AAA Conference in Washington, DC | Anthropology and Education | International & Transcultural Studies

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In the Department of International & Transcultural Studies

Past Announcements

TC Anthro Presenters at 2017 AAA Conference in Washington, DC

November 29th - December 3rd

On behalf of the Programs in Anthropology at Teachers College, we'd like to express our luck to the following presenters at the 116th AAA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC! We are proud that you represent our TC Community. Below are our faculty, recent alumni and current students who will be presenting various topics at the conference:


Professor Nicholas Limerick:

  • Multilingual Speaking and the Promotion of Indigenous Education in Ecuador from 4:30pm to 4:45pm on Saturday, December 2nd.

Recent Alumni:

Daniel Souleles:

  • I believe you should honor your commitments to people or, One man's response to being mistreated in a buy-out from 3:00 PM - 3:15 PM on Thursday, November 30th.

One of the miseries of our economic moment is that people often find themselves having to embrace market and business ideas and practices that nearly parody themselves in the degree to which people are hurt due to being alienated from themselves, families, and communities. People are seen as bundles of skills or shiftless companies of one, only as worthwhile as the next "demand on human capital," would allow. One social process that exemplifies this ambient monstrosity is the corporate buyout--the process by which a company, a living social organization is sold off as an investment. Often, the buyout is a prelude to layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, and corporate fragmentation. As unhappy as all this is, it's worth remembering, though, that this is not the end of economic history. This paper will present the story of "Llewellyn" the laconic founder of a now 900 person employee-owned firm. Llewellyn and some of his friends got badly burned by a buyout and decided to found a business that would be profitable, buyout-proof, and take good care of its employees. When the buyout happened, Llewellyn felt like he couldn't keep all the commitments he had as a mid-level manager. So he and his friends formed a company where he could.

Current Students: 

Kayum Ahmed:
  • #RhodesMustFall: Decolonization, Human Rights and Disruption from 2:00pm to 2:15pm on Friday, Decmber 1st. 

On March 9, 2015, Chumani Maxwele, a student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, took a bucket of feces and threw it against a bronze statue of Cecil John Rhodes located on the university's campus. Rhodes, who was recognized as a British imperialist and racist, became a symbolic focal point for #RhodesMustFall (RMF) - a radical student movement centered on the decolonization of education by confronting questions of institutional racism, access to education, and reforming the university curriculum. Maxwele’s defacement of the Rhodes statue fueled an ongoing national debate on decolonization and the cost of higher education that had started in the early 2000’s. Protests at universities across South Africa erupted following the defacement of the Rhodes statue expanding RMF into the #FeesMustFall (FMF) movement which has demanded free, quality, decolonized education. 

The RMF movement seeks to decolonize education by employing tactics of disruption inspired by decolonial, black consciousness and intersectional theories. At the same time, the RMF paradoxically rejects human rights discourses in its Mission Statement despite the well-established link between social movements and human rights. Instead, the RMF draws on Steve Biko’s ideas of black consciousness, Frantz Fanon’s decolonization thesis, and Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality theory, framing their struggle as a resistance to the dehumanization of black people which they argue “is a violence exacted only against black people by a system that privileges whiteness”. The RMF’s adoption of decolonial theories and its explicit rejection of rights discourses, forms the first dimension of this paper located within scholarship centered on social movements and human rights. 

A few weeks after the RMF movement started at the University of Cape Town, students at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom also created a RMF movement using the Rhodes statue located at Oriel College as a symbolic reference point in their call for decolonizing education. Similarly, the RMF in Oxford invokes decolonial and intersectional approaches on its Facebook page and calls for the removal of the Rhodes statue in Oxford on, drawing directly on the RMF Cape Town movement’s success in eventually ensuring the removal of the Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town. Consequently, it appears that student leaders at the University of Oxford were inspired by the RMF movement in Cape Town. This flow of knowledge and ideas from the global South to the North - from the colonized to the colonizer - constitutes the second dimension of this paper located primarily within postcolonial scholarship. 

Three related questions will guide this inquiry: (i) how does the RMF movement draw on theory to inform its disruptive tactics? (ii) why does the RMF adopt specific theoretical frameworks, namely, decolonization, black consciousness and intersectionality, and expressly reject human rights discourses? (iii) to what extent has the RMF movement’s adoption of particular theories and tactics in Cape Town, influenced the formation of the RMF movement in Oxford?

  • Decolonizing Human Rights: Sovereignty, Disruption and Tactics from 2:30 to 2:45pm on Saturday, December 2nd. 

While human rights offers the possibility for emancipation and justice, it remains a colonized field. The violent birth and Eurocentric origins of human rights are rooted in colonialism and serve to reinforce the sovereign characteristics of human rights discourse. At the same time, human rights can be used to agitate for the disruption of sovereign power, and can be employed by vulnerable groups and individuals as tactics to claim certain protections. This friction between human rights as sovereignty, disruption and tactics, flows directly from the violent colonial substructure that continues to shape human rights discourse. Consequently, in order to draw on human rights as a source of emancipation, human rights itself must be emancipated – it must be decolonized. 

However, this paper struggles openly with the question of how to decolonize human rights. It draws extensively on the work of critical and decolonial scholars across multiple fields to reconsider the very notion of human rights; of what it means to be human, as well as the idea that rights are anthropocentric entitlements derived from Euro-American values of individualism. And in the end, this paper fails to come up with a concrete solution to decolonize human rights. As a consequence of this failure, a more modest contribution to the decolonization project is offered in the form of a conceptual framework that typologizes ‘vernacularizations’ of human rights. Drawing on Merry’s definition of vernacularization as a process through which local actors appropriate and adopt global human rights discourse, this paper argues that human rights take the form of three vernacularizations: human rights as sovereignty recognizes the existence of states, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that employ human rights language to entrench power; human rights as tactics draws on rights-based legal frameworks that serve as a preamble to emancipation; and human rights as disruption offer a radical reconceptualization of rights claims that are often constructed outside legalistic frameworks to agitate for the disruption of power. These vernacularizations of human rights offer a perspective of rights discourses through a decolonial lens. 

Furthermore, it is suggested that categorizing vernacularizations of human rights, serve as an antecedent to claims of an emergent discursive shift from human rights as tactics, located at the center of the human rights continuum, to human rights as sovereignty, and human rights as disruption, located at the peripheries. Building on the work of scholars from multiple disciplines who have examined a range of normative approaches to human rights, this paper contends that most scholars focus their attention on human rights as tactics, understate instances of human rights as sovereignty, and largely ignore expressions of human rights as disruption.

Bruce Burnside:

  • The Berlin Palace - Humboldt Forum: Summoning the Past, Conjuring the Future - Reimagining an Ethnographic Museum for a New Berlinfrom 12:30pm to 12:45pm on Wednesday, November 29th.

In June of 2013 the president of Germany brought down a small hammer on stone and spoke a few enthusiastic words about the future of Berlin as a city of the world. This concluded an hour-long ceremony where various politicians and stakeholders once again made the case for the 600 million Euro construction site they stood in the middle of: the rebuilding of the city's Prussian palace to house a world class Ethnographic Museum to be known as the Humboldt Forum and completed in 2019. The project was the result of almost two decades of deliberation and the final concept came under critique not only for the large price tag, but also the re-conjuring of a Prussian legacy in the palace facade and, significantly, a relocation of the city’s Ethnographic Museum from the suburbs as a centerpiece of the new complex. For the Forum's supporters, the ethnographic collection represents an opportunity to bring a major non-European cultural moment to the city’s center, alongside its world class European collections on the UNESCO-protected Museum Island. The Ethnographic Museum's objects, rooted in Germany's oft-neglected colonial history and meticulously collected by the country’s first generation of anthropologists, have suddenly been brought to the center stage of a debate over of how a German vision of culture should be positioned to the world. Anthropology, by way of its nearly forgotten objects, in a dusty suburban museum has suddenly been made to matter once more. The supporters do not see their project as reactive or retrograde, but rather as a noble attempt to signal again to the world Berlin's place as a world city, an attractive pole of cosmopolitanism that quietly and firmly silences the ghosts of its past. However in the politics of memory, the ghosts called to silence do not always remain so. Grounded in a multi-year ethnographic study of integration modeling in Berlin, this paper takes a particular, significant event of the Humboldt Forum to unpack the themes of the ongoing role material culture plays in reckoning with German colonialism, the subtle positioning of Berlin’s migrant community to help reconcile this history, as well as the reconfigured meanings of German nationalism as the Ethnographic Museum and Prussian past are considered anew. That event is the stone-laying ceremony for the Berlin Humboldt-Forum. This paper scrutinizes three key moments from this ritual attended by VIPs and televised nationally that illuminate the palace supporter's attempts to establish a firm supranational identity for Berlin as a world city, as well as positioning the city's migrant communities as an asset of global capital, and creating a new narrative in regards to the Ethnographic Museum’s connection to colonialism and the historical significance of rebuilding a royal place in the nation's capital to house it. 

Corinne Kentor: 

  • Examining School-Based Advocacy Networks Among the Undocumented Families of Southern California from 8:30am to 8:45am on Friday, December 1st. 

Daniel Rudas-Burgos:

  • Writing practices in the Eastern Andean Mountains of Colombia from 5:30pm to 5:45pm on Wednesday, November 29th.

In Colombia, South America, rural areas surrounding the capital city, like other rural areas in the country, have been affected by the armed conflict and people there suffer poverty and marginalization. However, due to their proximity to the capital, the effects of the armed conflict have been less intense. This means that several institutions (including the government, NGOs, churches, and international agencies) have been able to provide services to the population, including schools, libraries, and communication facilities. Therefore, people there have access to schooling, mass media, and the Internet. This, in turn, has facilitated the emergence of writing practices, both in and out of the school. 
This research is about vernacular writing practices (those that are not regulated by formalized institutions) in two villages close to the capital city, Quetame and Guatavita. In these villages, there are writing practices done mainly by adults that use a traditional rhymed style called copla, as well as memories, diaries, essays and other kinds of texts. These writing practices are analyzed using a relational model that includes three levels: linguistic structures of written texts, face-to-face interactions in which these texts are used (literacy events), and ideological discourses about literacy that can be traced to the aforementioned institutions. In these three levels there is evidence of particular ways of using literacy in everyday life in both villages that reveals the way in which people understand relationships between local and global knowledge, including new technologies, as well as a moral understanding of social relationships, and the effects of the Colombian armed conflict.


For more information about the conference, please visit the AAA Annual Meeting Home Page.