Seeking Better Representations in Anthropology

Amanda Zunner-Keating
Feb 1 · 13 min read

View our daily stories:

February 1st: Michel-Rolph Trouillot
February 2nd: Johnetta Betsch Cole
February 3rd: Charles Preston Warren
February 4th: Vera Mae Green
February 5th: Arthur Huff Fauset
February 6th: Zora Neale Hurston
February 7th: Caroline Bond Day
February 8th: Katherine Dunham
February 9th: Pearl Primus
February 10th: Karen G. Williams
February 11th: Ruth Wilson Gilmore
February 12th: Savannah Shange
February 13th: Walter R. Allen
February 14th: John Wesley Gilbert
February 15th: John Langston Gwaltney
February 16th: Glenn Jordan
February 17th: Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane
February 18th: Mark Hanna Watkins
February 19th: Leith Mullings
February 20th: Delmos Jones
February 21st: Louis Eugene King
February 22nd: Zeresenay Alemseged
February 23rd: Archie Mafeje
February 24th: Irma McClaurin
February 25th: James Lowell Gibbs, Jr.
February 26th: William Manning Marable
February 27th: Cheikh Anta Diop
February 28th: St. Clair Drake

Thanks to all who contributed to our celebration of Black History Month! We are still accepting submissions from authors who want to highlight contributions from Black anthropologists, contact keatinaj@piercecollege.edu for details.

Please see our special coverage of Women’s History:

Please return to this page frequently to find more articles!

We define anthropology as “the study of humanity” and this area of research requires the consideration of diverse perspectives in order to best understand the complete human experience. But, like so much of our modern world, anthropology is dominated by primarily white voices which blocks our ability to consider the complete picture of humanity that we seek to understand.

By privileging the white perspective within anthropological work, our field fails to recognize the experiences of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color whenever non-European groups are constructed as subhuman or as “the other” (Blakey 2010). In fact, as anthropology was essential to the colonial endeavor, the study — and, thus, the objectification of — non-Europeans became the primary goal of initial anthropological fieldwork (Trouillot 2003). Even in more modern ethnographic work, the Black experience is primarily researched and analyzed by white social scientists (Young 2008). The essential research from Black anthropologists, Indigenous anthropologists, and anthropologists of color must be equally represented in the holistic study of humanity if we ever hope to gain a complete picture of the human condition.

Our new publication, “Representations” is specifically intended to elevate the quality of anthropology courses in institutions of higher education. While our students represent all races, genders, and identities, anthropological curriculum and anthropology departments fall short all too often (Brodkin, Morgen, and Hutchinson 2011). If we hope to train a new generation of anthropologists who can represent diverse perspectives, we must teach anthropology in a manner that allows our students to imagine themselves as professional anthropologists.

In “The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology,” Ira E. Harrison, Deborah Johnson-Simon, and Erica Lorraine Williams note, “Students whose identities have been stigmatized or marginalized in society can find sources of inspiration in the stories of the next generation of black anthropologists (xxi).” In other words: classroom representation matters.

Harrison, Johnson-Simon, and Williams further note that,

“…we have gone from a time when the work of Black anthropologists was marginalized and invisibilized because the African American intellectual tradition was not valued by the academy to a time when [the journal] Cultural Anthropology published a series entitled “#BlackLivesMatter: Anti-Black Racism, Police Violence, and Resistance (xxii-xxiii).”

But, if our field has improved in highlighting the contributions of Black anthropologists, the classroom is an arena where representation is still lacking.

We know that Black Lives Matter and that the vital contributions of Black anthropologists matter to the success of our field. In honor of Black History Month, this publication will begin by highlighting some of the essential anthropological ideas and field research developed by a sampling of Black anthropologists in order to begin offering a more balanced representation of anthropological history.

“Representations” is a project designed to bring the perspectives of a wider variety of groups to the forefront of the anthropology classroom. We selected this title as it encompasses our two goals:

  1. to improve representation in the curriculum, and
  2. to elevate the cultural representation of all groups from a diversity of perspectives.

We are launching this project in honor of Black History Month to recognize the contributions of Black anthropologists and hope to segue into a larger conversation about more under-represented communities in our field including Indigenous communities, communities of color, women and non-binary people, the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. We not only hope to highlight anthropologists from these communities, but we hope to highlight the lived experiences of people from these communities in an empowering way.

We are seeking writers, researchers, and editors to continue this project in March when we will highlight contributions from female anthropologists for Women’s History Month. To help, please contact Amanda Zunner-Keating at keatinaj@piercecollege.edu (both student researchers and professional anthropologists are welcome to contribute.)

Authors:
Courtney Azari
Corey Blatz
Mary Eberle
Aaron Ebriani
Lucas Manuel Guerrero
Roni Haziza
Ashley-Marie Hinds
Heather McIlvaine-Newsad
Lisa Matthies-Barnes
Zoe Jensen
Maria Juarez
Brun Mac Ámoinn
Ian Ramos
Jared Seow
Melissa Zamora
Amanda Zunner-Keating
Alexa Zysman

Editors:
Travis Du Bry, Los Angeles Southwest College
Duke Feldmeier, College of the Canyons
Erin Hayes, Los Angeles Pierce College
Brian Pierson, Los Angeles Pierce College
Jessica Proctor, College of the Canyons
Lisa Valdez, Los Angeles Pierce College
Amanda Zunner-Keating, Los Angeles Pierce College

Special thanks to Darian Farrell, Charles Townsend, and Brian Zunner-Keating for their moral support and brilliant editing. And gratitude to photographer Thomas Martinsen for our cover image.

And, special thanks to all who have blazed the trail before us including, but not limited to, the works in our bibliography.

Adams, Amelia; Ross, Hubert; Williams, Lynne. “Caroline Bond Day.” The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology, 15 Nov. 2018, pp. 37–50., doi:10.5406/j.ctv9b2vtr.5.

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“An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890–1891.” From the Archivist’s Notebook, 1 Oct. 2017, nataliavogeikoff.com/2017/08/01/an-african-american-pioneer-in-greece-john-wesley-gilbert-and-the-american-school-of-classical-studies-at-athens-1890–1891/.

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Please consider buying the books mentioned in our publication from a Black-owned bookstore. See Eso Won Books, Reparations Club, Malik Books, Shades of Afrika.

Representations

Highlighting the vital contributions of BIPOC anthropologists.

Representations

“Representations” is a project designed to bring the perspectives of a wider variety of groups to the forefront of the anthropology classroom. Our name reflects our goals: to improve representation in the curriculum and to elevate the cultural representation of more groups.

Amanda Zunner-Keating

Written by

Cultural Anthropologist in Los Angeles

Representations

“Representations” is a project designed to bring the perspectives of a wider variety of groups to the forefront of the anthropology classroom. Our name reflects our goals: to improve representation in the curriculum and to elevate the cultural representation of more groups.