47:AnthroNews: Panel on the Iraq War

30 03 2008

On Wednesday, March 12th, professors of anthropology, communications, history, philosophy, and political science met to present answers to the question: “What have we learned from five years of war in Iraq?”  This event was held from 6 pm to 8 pm in the lecture hall in the Student Recreation Center and was sponsored by the anthropology, philosophy, and political science clubs and the Ethics Center at Fresno State.  Approximately 65 students and community members attended the hour long presentation and a second hour of questions and answers moderated by students from the participating organizations.   

Historian Don Stillwell opened the discussion with a heroic attempt to explain, within the allotted 12 minutes, the thousands of years of history during which the divisions in modern Iraq developed.  Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum of the Anthropology department spoke on the challenges of interacting with other cultures without either demonizing or infantilizing them, and on the current attempts by the United States military to do a better job in this respect with the help of anthropologists working on the Human Terrain System.  Professor of Communications, Kevin Ayotte, argued that what can be learned from the current war is constrained by the words that we use to describe it.  Dr. Andrew Fiala, a professor of philosophy, followed up with a discussion of the Iraq war in terms of Just War Theory, concluding that a truly just war is a myth.  Our final speaker, Dr. Yashaiya Abosch of the Political Science department, brought out a theme that arose in a number of earlier panelists’ presentations:  Who is ‘we?’  He argued that there is no realistic ‘we’ to learn lessons from the Iraq war, and expressed doubts that powerful and weak states can ever have a shared concept of justice.         

During the following hour, panelists accepted questions from the audience about their presentations.  Professor Gruenbaum closed the evening with a hopeful observation:  The lecture hall was filled, for two hours, by people who could have left early, or not come at all, but who genuinely cared about learning something from current successes and failures in the war in Iraq.

Many thanks to our panelists for sharing their time and diverse expertise and to the student moderators:  Steve Colagiovanni, Heather Balcom, Anthony Ferrucci, and Taylor Hartline.

47:Quotation of the Fortnight

16 03 2008

Brought to you by Chrystal Kinsella: 

“If we were to select the most intelligent, imaginative, energetic, and emotionally stable third of mankind, all races would be present.”

Franz Boas

47:Anthropologist of the Fortnight – Franz Boas

16 03 2008

by Chrystal Kinsella


Franz Boas is greatly considered to be the father of American Anthropology. He not only studied anthropology, but also geography and physics.  Rather than study cultures using the standard theories and anecdotes, Boas implemented the scientific theory to his studies. He sought to gather all data before making any generalizations. Aside form all his innovative ideas and practices, Boas was unique in the fact that he actively encouraged women to become anthropologists.


Boas made it standard anthropological thought that all human races are equally able to develop culture. He also believed that race and genetics were not responsible for behavioral differences among human populations, but are a result of culture. With these beliefs, Boas developed cultural relativism and cultural determinism.

47: AnthroNews: Club Minutes

4 03 2008

The design for the new Anthro Club tote bags is decided; it will consist in our name, the four(possibly three) subfields of anthropology, and the motto created by Alecia Barela, “everything humanly possible.” This design will be applied to the tote bags on Saturday, March 9th, 12:00-onward. Following Anthro Club tradition, Jim Mullooly has volunteered his house as a location for tote bag decorating. If possible, bring an iron for design application.

“Culture Inscibed,” the anthropology department newsletter, edited by Jim Mullooly, has a new editorial board. Features include: Anthropologist of the Fortnight (Chrystal), Terms of Interest (Christina), the (in)famous AnthroGeek (Jim) and, of course, regular updates on local anthroplogical doings. The printed version will come out on Mondays after an Anthro Club meeting. If you have copy to submit, please send it to Jim Mullooly, jmullo@csufresno.edu. “Preview Day,” a special visiting day for prospective students, includes a Student Services Information Fair in the Student Recreation Center, held Saturday, April 12th: 12:30-2pm. Anthro Club is one of the participating organizations. Come, tell the world about the joys of being a Fresno State anthropology student.

Our newest event, the second official Anthro Club Fieldtrip, is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 5th, to the La Brie Tar Pits. See our “Events” page for a complete list of Anthro Club happenings (http://groups.google.com/group/fresno-state-anthro-club).