For Women’s History Month, it has become traditional to rifle through the great names of the past, pluck out a few that strike the imagination and have the appropriate gender marker, and dust them off for a new audience. We should know—we run the TrowelBlazers project, a largely community-sourced archive of biographies of women in the “digging” sciences: archaeology, geology, and palaeontology.
As a graduate assistant in biological anthropology at the University at Buffalo, I was tasked with curating the primate skeletal collection. The collection of skeletons—taken from cadavers studied during a primate anatomy class—had been neglected for a few years. Most of the specimens had lost their labels. So, when I began re-cataloguing the collection in 2016, I ran into trouble.
I knew that the skeletons were from three different species of macaques, but I didn’t know how to tell them apart, given that most research tends to focus on skeletal variation at a higher taxonomic rank, like genus or family. I wondered if one species had an anatomical feature that others did not which had been overlooked by previous scientists.
This project ended up becoming the topic of my dissertation. I started reading everything I could about macaque skeletons, taxonomy, and evolution. I also found myself gravitating toward books and papers on the history of taxonomy as a science.
On an otherwise silent night in March 2020, a woman’s wailing cry burst from within a seemingly deserted oil palm plantation in the Bukit Suban village, Jambi, Indonesia. Induk Nyerau, a mother of eight, was crouched down in her traditional wooden tent, suffering from fever and shortness of breath.
So, you think you have the seeds of a great essay or opinion piece. Maybe your research can help people understand an emerging human or environmental crisis. Maybe you want to share your lab’s latest astonishing discovery. Maybe you’ve just wrapped up a National Science Foundation grant and want to live up to the values of the “broader impacts” requirement.
You are ready to write for the public. But where to start? You start with a pitch.
I find myself thinking: Wow, it’s been 20 whole years—yet it’s only been 20 years!
Genetics is a dizzyingly complex field that is still in its infancy. Because of that, new finds and advances have a lot of potential for misinterpretation and misuse. But the field has also served as a potent reminder of how similar we all are at the core—and how blended humanity has been throughout all of deep time.
Ethnography of and on social media, in which my own research on female influencers on Czech Instagram is embedded, presents a growing, diverse and exciting field of research. It also places the ethnographer in an intricate network of relationships that are both more distant, yet also more intimate than their offline counterparts. As was already noted in the introductory post of this blog series, these new types of intimacies call for new types of reflections, both methodological and ethical. I choose here to explore two questions related to digital intimacy as both the subject and method of my research: the methodological dilemma of getting to know my informants by scrolling through their feeds and the ethical dilemma of reciprocating this intimacy via my own feed.
Maybe you’ve sung the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” and wondered who this good king was. The carol wasn’t written until the 19th century, but “Wenceslas was a real person,” writes NPR’s Tom Manoff, the patron saint of the Czechs and “the Duke of Bohemia, a 10th-century Christian prince in a land where many practiced a more ancient religion. In one version of his legend, Wenceslas was murdered in a plot by his brother,” Boleslav, “under the sway of their so-called pagan mother,” Drahomíra.
Wenceslas’ grandmother Ludmilla died a Christian martyr in 921 A.D. Her husband, Bo?ivoj, ruled as the first documented member of the P?emyslid Dynasty (late 800s-1306), and her two sons Spytihn?v I (circa 875–915) and Vratislav I (circa 888–921), Wenceslas’ father, ruled after their father’s death. The skeletal remains of these royal Bohemian brothers were identified at Prague Castle in the 1980s by anthropologist Emanuel Vl?ek. Due to advances in DNA analysis and imaging, we can now see an approximation of what they looked like. (See Spytihn?v at the top and Vratislav at the bottom in the image below.)