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Anthropology Day returns with worldly program

Published on February 22, 2024

Anthropology Day returns with worldly program

Ricardo Perez, professor of anthropology, addresses students before a screening of the film "The Linguists."

Panelists, from left: Emma Wink, Joyce Bennett, Kate Reinhart

Students Elaina Meccariello (left) and Danni Durao host a scavenger hunt in Webb Hall as part of Anthropology Day.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Anthropology Day on Feb. 15 featured events to educate students on topics such as endangered languages, Maasai culture in Kenya and graduate school pathways.

Jordyn Milton
Jordyn Milton, president of the Anthropology Club at Eastern

Anthropology Day is held on the third Thursday of February each year and is hosted at Eastern by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work. Organized nationally by the American Anthropological Association, this day presents opportunities for communities, workplaces and schools to host events dedicated to education in and recognition of the discipline of anthropology.

The day started with a guest panel titled "Choosing Anthropology," featuring Kate Reinhart, a project archaeologist; Joyce Bennett, associate professor of anthropology at Connecticut College; and Emma Wink, a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Each panelist discussed a different avenue through graduate studies.

Reinhart, who took five years after her undergraduate studies before pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts Boston, recommended obtaining a master’s degree before going for a doctoral degree. Reinhart pointed to the “very different workloads” between programs as a reason to get a master’s degree first.

Despite having gone right into a Ph.D. program immediately after her undergraduate studies, Bennett shared Reinhart’s sentiments. “A master’s is halfway to a Ph.D.,” she said. She also emphasized the critical importance of knowing one’s motives for their graduate studies. “You really want to know why you’re going for that Ph.D.”

Wink, who is a recent Eastern graduate and current graduate student, advised students toward combined programs, or those that provide “Ph.D. funding on the way to your master’s.” She also advised students to get “more information on the program and culture” that they aim to enter. Each panelist advised meeting faculty members in advance.

"I am grateful for the support of the Anthropology Club, whose enthusiasm and hard work made possible the morning panel," said Ricardo Perez, professor of anthropology and coordinator of Eastern's anthropology program.

Students exchange questions and answers with residents of a Maasai village in Kenya via Zoom.

Eric Williamson, lecturer of anthropology, hosted an interview with members of a Maasai village in Kenya via Zoom. Williamson, who works with the Maasai people as part of his research, organized the interview with Maasai village resident William Letulo.

The Maasai villagers touched on important aspects of their lives, such as their dependence on livestock and their nomadic lifestyle. At the end of the interview, Maasai men and women demonstrated their traditional dances, which featured a high degree of choreography and rhythmic vocals. “They’re incredibly nice, welcoming and intelligent people,” said Williamson.

"The live interaction and communication with the Maasai people in Kenya were the highlight of the day," said Perez. "This is what anthropology is about: connecting with people from different backgrounds to admire and understand their beautiful cultures and histories."

The day’s events concluded with a screening of “The Linguists,” a 2008 documentary by Seth Kramer. The film follows linguists David Harrison and Greg Anderson as they embark on a worldwide search for speakers of endangered languages.

The film shows the damage done to indigenous communities by colonization and globalization. Many languages, such as Chulym in Siberia and Kallawaya in Bolivia, had been rendered almost extinct by dominant languages in the regions. In many cases, these languages did not have written forms, and because most of their speakers had died, they had not been recorded.

Perez hopes that the impact of Eastern's Anthropology Day celebrations will extend beyond its campus in years to come. "We would like to invite middle and high school students to our campus or visit them in their schools," he said. "The idea is to create hands-on activities for the students and expose them early to the fascinating world of anthropology."

Written by Noel Teter