Blog Archives

Upcoming AnthroPlus Conference

Each year our department hosts a student research conference, Anthroplus, at the University of Maryland. Only graduate and undergraduate students may participate as presenters of either papers, speed talks, or posters.  It’s kind of nice to sit back and see what the students can do – both the awesome and the cringe-worthy*.   It is good practice for students in a safe setting, and I generally encourage all the students who work with me to participate.

From PASA’s soliciting email:

The Practicing Anthropologist Student Association will be hosting its 6th Annual Student Conference, Anthro+ on Saturday, 11 April 2015. The theme of this year’s conference is A World Made Safe for Differences: Addressing Diversity in the Discipline. For those unfamiliar, this conference is an opportunity for students of anthropology and related disciplines to present a broad range of research, often in nontraditional ways.   Registration is free.  Abstracts should be submitted by 1 March 2015.  As the conference develops, we will post updates on the Anthro+ website.  If you should have any questions, concerns, or comments, please email us at

Be the solution*Bear in mind that the cringe-worthy can be because of bad research, bad presentation, or that the individual just chokes getting up in front of people and you feel awful for them.  And as an adviser/research supervisor, if my student is cringe-worthy, that means I need to step in with my mentoring of their learning and research.

ANTHRO+ Conference Participation – Final Schedule

It recently came to my attention that pretty much most of our lab is participating in the ANTHRO+ conference on Saturday, 6 April 2014 in the Stamp at the University of Maryland.  Presenters and a panel discussant.  Here’s how we’re participating:

Maria Sharova

Public Heritage: A visual study of changing environments in Mozambique and Angola

Mozambique and Angola gained their independence from Portugal in 1975, but subsequent political and economic events have significantly affected the governance of their natural resources and landscapes. Chambers (2006) notes that governments and other institutions often craft specific images to promote a public heritage that will “drive broader socio-political and socio-economic aims.” Others have used such public heritage imagery to assess the success or failure of national and international programs like poverty elimination or crisis management. In this presentation, I compare visual public heritage images produced by Mozambique and Angola on the cusp of their independence with contemporary images of the same or similar locations found on the Internet to analyze how differences in politics and economics at the national level have affected local natural environments over the past 30-40 years. What did these countries make available about their environmental public heritage in the late 1960s – early 1970s? What does this say about what they valued as public heritage? Have these places flourished or deteriorated? Are these places still valued as public heritage today? What, if any, connections between broader political and economic events and environmental governance can be made through this analysis?

“Changes”: Navigating Relationships in a Changing Environment, Margaret Brent A, 9:30-10:30am

Amelia Jamison & Jordan Tompkins

MODERN LOVE: Biomedicine and Public Health

A close reading of both history and theory has redefined our approach to medical anthropology. In this presentation, we seek to apply our new anthropological knowledge to our current research with public health interventions, at home and abroad. Jordan will discuss how concepts from medical anthropology can contribute to our understanding of infectious disease, specifically malaria. Amelia will explain why the critical perspective is a necessary lens to understand the success/failures of national immunization campaigns. Together we’ll argue that medical anthropology is terrific XXXXX.

“Station to Station”: Dialogues Across Disciplines, The Atrium, 10:30-11:45am

Alyssa Nutter & Rebecca Alberda

Who Says Quidditch is for the Nerds? Quidditch and Traditional Sport Culture

In late 2013, five graduate students at the University of Maryland completed an ethnography to describe the university’s quidditch team and analyze how the team defies or reinforces the traditional culture of sport. Quidditch, based on a game in the fictional Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, is a niche sport that is unique for several reasons, but most notably because it is mandatorily coeducational and players must keep a ‘broom’ between their legs at all times. These qualities and the perception of the sport as ‘nerdy’ inspired the researchers’ exploration of quidditch, utilizing ethnographic observation, survey, interviews, and participant photography. Analysis demonstrated that while the quidditch team does defy the traditional sport narrative, they also want to be perceived as legitimate and purposefully conform to specific cultural expectations of collegiate athletics. The data was analyzed across five core themes: athleticism, gender, connection to Harry Potter, community, and outsider perceptions.

“Young Americans”: Ethnographies of the College Campus, Margaret Brent A, 12:30-1:30pm

Katie Chen

A Mix and Match of Data and Dimensions

Organizations around the world define “food security” in a variety of ways, but usually derive their version from the World Food Summit in 1996. Food security from this meeting is defined “as existing when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The amount of change to this definition varies from organization to organization so I attempt to compare the definitions from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to understand how the definitions are shaped and how this impacts the information they collect. In an extensive search through documents, survey data, reports and published works, I found that the surveys conducted may not give an adequate idea of what food security is. I am also comparing Dr. Shaffer’s household survey conducted in Tanzania to the information collected by the FAO to see if the the data sets are comparable and representative of food security definitions.

“Underground/Better Future”: Anthropological Approaches to Food Recreating the Past, Making Change in the Present, Margaret Brent A, 2:30-3:30pm

Jen Shaffer, Discussant

“Let’s Dance”: How We Collaborate — Questions of Scale, Perspective & Creativity, Margaret Brent B, 1:30-2:30pm



Working a Conference

by Jordan Tompkins

Going to the 2014 Society for Applied Anthropology conference in Albuquerque, my main goal was to network. I set the bar high. I planned to attend every panel, discussion, and event humanly possible. I wanted to make a lot of acquaintances, maybe meet some future employers. It was a goal I didn’t accomplish, at least according to my original standards.

I’m one of those people who likes to be over-prepared. I outlined all the panels I planned on going to, starting at 8am every morning and running until 7pm every evening. I never made it to many of those panels. In my excitement, I had forgotten that I am a mere human, someone who needs to eat occasionally and have some down time. After 2 days of intense stress over HOW MUCH I NEEDED TO DO (the capital letters indicate my panic), I realized that my expectations were way too high. After that, I still went to panels, workshops, and other events, but I gave myself plenty of room to breathe.

As for networking, it was harder than I imagined. Talking to people one-on-one is easy for me, but it’s really difficult (and awkward) to walk up to a group of people and give my elevator speech. That’s something I’m still working on…

During the week of the conference, I went to two workshops, one on evaluation and another on text analysis. I highly recommend attending workshops at conferences. That’s where I really met people, people who are interested in some of the same things I am, or who study things that are interesting but have nothing to do with what I want to do.

Outside of workshops, I only met two other people. Both are from Arizona State University, and neither of them study anything remotely interesting to me. But meeting them taught me one of the most important lessons about what it means to network—networking doesn’t mean you have to meet people who do any sort of research or have any sort of interests. It’s more like making friends than it is making professional connections. Or maybe it’s just that making professional connections is more like making friends than I thought.

I was surprised to find that most of the connections I made included me “selling” UMD to undergraduates at the conference. I gave out my email, the email of professors involved in similar research to the undergraduates, and offered to give one person a tour of the anthropology department at UMD. More than making connections for just myself, I realized I was making connections for my department. And it was more fulfilling than just meeting people who would be useful to me.

So my attempt at networking was a failure, at least by the standards I had at the outset. But I did make some friends and I learned a lot through workshops and the panels I attended. I learned more about the students I go to school with every day, and I got to explore Albuquerque. And even if my original expectations didn’t pan out, I learned to be realistic and prioritize when it comes to my time. I also figured out what I need to work on for my next conference or networking event (ehem: elevator speech).

Although I like to be over-prepared for everything, I’m really bad about factoring enough time for myself – if you haven’t already figured that one out! I explored Old Town in Albuquerque when I was avoiding panels. I ate at all kinds of restaurants, the good, the bad, and the downright nasty. I learned that it isn’t as uncomfortable to do things alone as I’d thought it would be…it’s actually kind of nice.

One day one of my cohort members and I took a trip through the desert to the Sandia Sky Tram. That was one of the best parts of the trip, but Rebecca has already given a great description (with pictures!) of it, so I won’t repeat it here. If you ever go to Albuquerque, though, make time for the Sky Tram.

I also made friends, or is that networked, with our hosts. I jokingly tell everyone that Ed (the host) is my new best friend. And he was like my own personal chauffeur, offering to give me rides everywhere. Hanging out with him, and his wife Muriel, was a highlight of my trip.

In short, I learned from my trip to the SfAA conference that networking doesn’t have to be all professional, dressed up in slacks and button ups. It can be more like making friends, if you let it. Additionally, remember to do what you want to do while at a conference. Concentrate on doing things you like. For me, that meant exploring, hanging out with the people I met, and going to workshops; but “fun” looks different for everyone.


Note: Attending panels and workshops or even just going out to dinner with a group – particularly those with folks who are conducting top research in your field is an excellent way to network.  You should introduce yourself and what you do, no matter how difficult this might be for you (the link associated with the image above and here provides some tips on introducing yourself and networking at conferences).  At the minimum you may learn something new from making that contact, and you may even set yourself up for a future collaboration with the individual or someone they know.  Attending panels and workshops can also help you learn what is cutting edge in your field as this is research likely not yet published. But you aren’t required to attend every single event at a conference.  Be strategic. ~J. Shaffer