Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday because it is the most fun. I love playing dress up (perhaps a secret underlying factor in becoming a sociocultural anthropologist?) and I love ritual, so I am all about October 31st. This year though, on Saturday when all my undergraduate neighbors were out throwing their red plastic beer cups at my car*, I was in working on a grant. And tonight, the big night, I’ll do the same.

But will I let that sway my Halloween spirit? Absolutely not! I’ve tucked my black corduroys into high black boots, put on a loose black shirt, tied a black pajama shirt around my head and I am sitting on my couch, with all my grants drafts open, Dread Pirate Roberts-ing it up.

Sometimes, a lady’s just got to dress like a pirate and write some grants.

* The great drifts of red cups that emerge after party nights in a college town are like a form of weather all their own, in my opinion.

Academic Grant Writing Support

Despite my best intentions to have solid drafts of all my grants at least a month before the deadline, I find myself a week before a deadline with a stinky, gloppy mess of a grant started too late and severely lacking in lovability. A big part of that failure was simply part of learning the process that works best for me in writing academic grants*, but thank goodness there were also a couple of people (my adviser, the friends who shared their successful grants with me, my Grant Writing Buddy, and a couple of peers who selflessly pretend to actually want to read and edit my grotesque early efforts) to keep me from wholesale fail.

In addition to those indispensable and wonderful support people, I have also found a number of online resources helpful for staying on track. One I already mentioned, but bears repeating, is Dr. Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template, by Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In (http://theprofessorisin.com). Another, too obvious for links, are the guidelines and links provided on each granting agency’s website. The last is the treasure trove of advice on academic grant writing found in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Academic grant writing resources for all!

* A key turning point was when I realized I shouldn’t try to write lit reviews by starting with the narrative and filling in the citations, but rather making a list of all the people I want to cite, categorizing that list, and then writing a synthesis that ties them all together. My adviser tried to explain this to me previously, but I still needed to learn the hard way for some reason …

Voting for Carmona

Richard Carmona for U.S. Senate

Living in Arizona, caring about politics can sometimes be depressing, but I am actively excited about the Democrat candidate for U.S. Senator: Dr. Richard Carmona*. I know I’m always going to be pretty far left of any major candidate running for national office, but being raised with para-governmental social justice advocates gave me a strong appreciation for thinking about politics pragmatically.

Lucky for me, even though Carmona is super centrist, he does care about issues I’m motivated by:

“I’ve known my whole life that I am not a perfect fit in either party, because I am truly independent,” Carmona told Bloomberg News during an interview between town halls this past weekend. “I looked to see where Republicans are in my state on issues like women’s health, access to health, immigration issues. I couldn’t support what the state Republicans are doing.” (from Crawford at Bloomberg.com)

Even though I don’t plan on using this blog to talk about candidate often (ever again? who knows …), I know some of my Democrat Arizona buddies read this and may not think their vote counts because Arizona will go red in the presidential election. But while Flake initially led the polls by double digits, the two candidates are now within the margin of error (some have Carmona ahead, some have Flake ahead). In other words, for the first time in a very very long time, Arizona could have a Democratic Senator – but only if Democrats turn out to vote.

You can read more about Carmona at the New York Times, his campaign website, or you know, just use the Googles.


* I wasn’t sure what kind of title to give him – I could have also gone with “Former Surgeon General,” “Vice Admiral,” and “Professor” at my very own University of Arizona.

Grad School Soundtrack

What gets us through the various solitary tasks of grad school? Music! And, if you’re like me, you have favorites for each. I would love to see what other people come up with, but here’s my own list:

  1. GradingAve Maria, by Schubert – sometimes my students need all the help they can get
  2. Office Hours: Pie Izquierdo, by Ana Tijoux – because she is awesome. That is all.
  3. Reading: Chaiyya Chaiyya, from Dil Se – unobtrusive, and not understanding the lyrics helps me keep from being distracted but the song makes me tap my feet so I don’t get dragged down into a reading stupor
  4. Grant writing: Eye of the Tiger, by Survivor – because I seriously need the encouragement
  5. Brainstorming: Calle Luna, Calle Sol, by Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon – salsa makes my brain work in exciting ways; alternatively, I take a break and dance by myself for a little bit*
  6. Paper writing: Beige Plastic, by Drosophilia – soothes my blank page anxieties and the walking beat keeps me producing steadily, so I listen to it on repeat …
  7. Paper editing: Take Off Your Shirt, by Bibio – like Beige Plastic, this song on repeat keeps me working, but with more intensity
  8. Conference Travel: I’m Not Your Toy, by La Roux – woohoo! networking is my favorite! also breaks in schedules ftw!
  9. Fieldwork travelQuizàs, Quizàs, Quizàs, by Nat King Cole from the In the Mood for Love Soundtrack – seems to capture the bizarre mixture of emotions I feel when heading out from my home to the field

*dancing salsa by yourself is fine at home but you should probably listen to something else if you’re working at a coffeeshop.

Harry Potter would be Sociocultural

hominum studium est scientia humanitatis

The Four Houses of Anthropology*

Now I know this is going to be a contentious topic, but sometimes a person just has to stand up and decide which branch of anthropology corresponds best to each of the Houses of Hogwarts from Harry Potter.

Gryffindor is the House of Sociocultural Anthropology:
Headed by the professor of Transfiguration (a “theory based subject” says Wikipedia, concerned with the changing properties of people and things), Minerva McGonagall; According to Phineas Nigellus Black, members of other houses sometimes feel that Gryffindors engage in “pointless heroics.” Being daring (to the point of recklessness) seems somehow related to sociocultural fieldwork to me, but I am almost certainly biased. And then, of course, there is the fact that many of the most widely known anthropologists (Mead, Malinowski, etc) were cultural anthropologists, just as many of the most well-known wizards were from Gryffindor …

Hufflepuff is the House of Archaeology:
Where else could the one field of anthropology that really labors belong? They are diggers (like the Hufflepuff’s badger) and if there’s an element associated with archaeology, it is undoubtedly earth (which is, of course, the element of the Hufflepuff House). Despite the obvious symbolic connections between the House and the Subfield, this didn’t feel all the way right because archaeology has so much cachet and Hufflepuff is a more humble House, but the archaeologists I know are good natured enough that I don’t think they’ll mind …

Slytherin is the House of Biological Anthropology:
The “spirit” of the house is all wrong – this is hardly the subfield of anthropology I would consider motivated by Machiavellian ambition. However, the theory of evolution does share with Slytherin a belief in survival of the fittest! Slytherin is headed by the Potions instructor, who shares with Biological Anthropology an interest in the effect of substances on the body. Founder Salazar Slytherin is described as monkey-like, and as we know, primatology is an important part of this subfield. The Bloody Baron was the only ghost to actually kill someone (and biological anthropologists are the only ones in our discipline who we are okay with killing their subjects! Poor rats …).

Ravenclaw is the House of Linguistic Anthropology:
If linguistic anthropologists had an element, they would, like Ravenclaw , be represented by the element of air – how else would speech be possible? Ravenclaws are concerned with erudition, and although many of the linguistic anthropologists I know do very grounded work, the image of the linguist certainly evokes that kind of aura. Finally, Ravenclaw is led by the Charms professor – a subject that is all about incantation which seems like the class of spell a linguistic anthropologist would be most interested in.

*A note on the Four Houses of Anthropology image: That picture is one that I made for a hypothetical t-shirt, but that didn’t pan out. The Latin at the bottom was a collaborative effort with three awesome friends from my days in the Oberlin College Classics Department who have now grown up to be Classics PhDs and profs, and says something like “the study of humans is the science of humanity” (but with a little play on words in studium and is also a reference to the famous Kroeber quotation about anthropology).

Worldbuilding Questionnaire meets Research

Grant writing about your research demands that you answer some very big questions with very high stakes. When confronted with them, especially when I’m staring at a blank page, my resolve to Get Things Done turns to jelly and suddenly I realize I’ve let hours pass by doing nothing but checking Twitter and Facebook. The third time that happened this week, I decided I needed a new approach. Something that let me start thinking about my research in productive ways but didn’t have such high stakes. I needed a screen that gave me a new way to look at my work.

This week’s exciting answer came from one of my favorite fantasy authors from my childhood.

Patricia C. Wrede* created a list of Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions over at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America site that is truly spot on for fantasy writers and almost completely irrelevant to anthropological research. Perfect! Hard to imagine lowering the stakes more, really. So my buddy and I chose a short list of questions for each other (about 15), and set about answering them. It worked best when the questions were unanswerable in their current form, but worked metaphorically to brainstorm new questions about the research.

FOR EXAMPLE: If magic requires study, where do you go to learn about it? How do people fund their training? Is there an apprenticeship system, or are there wizard schools, or is it one-on-one tutoring/mentoring? Is an untrained wizard dangerous, or just an ordinary person?

The approach shook loose some new ways to think about my research and my fieldsite, and now thinking about those other Big Questions is a lot less intimidating. Another win for fantasy and anthropology!

* Author of the Dealing With Dragons series, which remains some of my Favorite Books Ever.