From the Field (+ Archive)

IMG_20150708_071642 by Laurian In June of 2014, as part of a project of 20th-century Ghanaian cloth, I interviewed Felicia Abban, the widow of the designer who fashioned clothes worn by the first president of an independent Ghana—Kwame Nkrumah. During a period when Western attire marked modernity and res...
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Open Access Five Years On

By Beth and Laurian Envision Imprint had a few false starts.  We once had affiliation with an academic press and a kick-ass group of activists, academics and practitioners on our advisory board.  Funding fizzled and our big dream needed a rest from academic entanglements.  We regrouped and decided that--for a while at least--we would remain independent. Recently, we revisited a column we wrote in 2012 for Anthropology News (below). One statement stands out: "We ar...
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From Guatemala To the Sea

By Beth U Red bulbs pulse a path down the carpeted aisle.  A glittering crucifix dangles from the rear-view mirror.  Decal silhouettes of busty women recline on either side of Jesus; their breasts lead the way through Guatemala to the sea.  This overnight bus is a game show, or a bordello.  We are off, gaining speed: our only view refracted asterisks of red light that streak across the night-black glass. Suddenly, the driver vaults to his feet, jams his upper body out the ...
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Revisiting Solnit: Mansplaining in the Kyriarchy

By Beth U In 2008, Rebecca Solnit published an article in the LA Times entitled “Men Explain Things to Me.” In it, Solnit describes a conversation she had with a stranger at a party.  During their brief chat, the man tells her about book that, in fact, Solnit herself wrote.  When she finally gets through to him that she, indeed, wrote the book, he is momentarily stunned, then continues to explain her own book to her.  Solnit writes:
Men explain thing...
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The More Things Change…on reproductive Justice

By Beth U We came across this article while archive-surfing.  Twenty-eight years after it was published, SB3 and HB77 have been introduced in Pennsylvania.  If passed, these bills propose the most extreme restrictions on abortion in the country including banning them after twenty weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest, health or fetal anomalies.  These bills are two of many threatening access to sexual and reproductive health care on both state and federal levels. Last ...
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Another day in Africa. Another Mall.

by Laurian Mannequin-KCM Last year in Ghana, I wrote about a new shopping mall being built in Cape Coast, Ghana, a city about three hours west of Accra. This year I am at work in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region and located in the middle belt of the country. As ...
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The More Things Change (a new series)

By Beth & Laurian We are archive-hunting as part of a grant we received from the Leeway Foundation. Our goal?  To find documentation about cross-racial and cross-class feminist organizing in Philadelphia during the 70s and 80s.  We are interviewing feminist and womanist activists from that time too, and immersing ourselves in their rich and complicated stories. More

no firme nada

By Beth U. Shot on April 13 on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. Update: This year's Carnaval de Puebla in South Philadelphia (I wrote about last year's celebration here) was  cancelled because organizers fear heightened activity from immigration officers. Juntos, a community-led, Latinx immigrant organization in South Philadelphia has created these cards for those in fear of or in...
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On Deresiewicz and the Demons of Debt. A rant.

By Beth U I am working on a paper for an upcoming conference panel about teaching on the non-tenure track. As so often happens when immersed in a new writing project, seemingly random radio stories or news coverage will spark a new connection or direction in the work. Yesterday I listened to an episode of Gaby Dunn’s podcast Bad with Money in which she discusses how the 40-year reduction of state and federal funds for higher education, coupled with the more than 1...
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The root of all…

By Beth U Shot February 2nd on the sidewalk in front of Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Philly. http://www.myneighborhoodproject.org/site/
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Racism’s Rage and Bitter Despair, James Baldwin’s Heart

By Beth U. I am reposting this piece from 2014 as I read about who might be in the US presidential cabinet come January 2017. ______ In these days following the grand jury’s choice not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, between protesting and watching live streams of people on the streets of Ferguson, I read James Baldwin. I read and reread James Baldwin. I put down one book only to pick up another. I need the particular combination of solace and fury that ...
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Reflecting on Twenty Years of Sensuous Scholarship

By Beth & Laurian We are presenting a paper and co-chairing a panel at the upcoming American Anthropology Meetings to celebrate the twenty-year publication of Paul Stoller's Sensuous Scholarship.  Read below to see what we are up to! ________________ Panel Abstract Since its publication twenty years ago, Paul Stoller’s Sensuous Scholarship has informed not just what we write but how we write as ethnographers. In it, Sto...
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Reading Stoller’s YaYa’s Story: On Mourning & Well-being

By Beth U Recently, I lost a close friend to cancer. She was forty-two years old when she died. Since her death, I have been reading Paul Stoller’s most recent book Yaya’s Story: The Quest for Well-Being in the World. This book and his prior one, The Power of the Between: An Anthropological Odyssey,are personal meditations on resilience in the long shadow of cancer. Not long after his mentor and teacher, the Songhay sorcerer Adamu Jenitongo, passed away from...
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We are our nation-state?

By Beth U This morning a violent windstorm battered against our windows as I packed.  My clothes damp, caked with sand and the dust of Central America.  Only a few minutes until the first ferry leaves.  We say hasty and half-asleep goodbyes, uncertain when we will see each other again.  I have grown accustomed to us parting in random outposts with 6 months or 3 years until we pick up where we left off.  And then I am running through the gale. The ferry pounds its way to Beliz...
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Celebrating Life & Mourning in the Field

By Beth  Returning to the field.  A cocktail of excitement, dread, nostalgia.  We were here less than 3 hours before I heard that a dear friend and informant, the person I wanted to see more than anyone, passed away 6 months ago. Here is the first thing I ever wrote about him: The first time I met Colfax he rolled us a joint.  Sarah had bought the marijuana from Renny, the man who runs the hotel above the bar.  When buses from Belize City pull into town and leave newcom...
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Envision receives Leeway Art and Change Grant

By Beth & Laurian We are excited to announce that the Leeway Foundation selected us to receive an Art and Change Grant which will enable us to continue our archival work with queer communities in Philadelphia.  We agree with Elizabeth Edwards that the excavation of alternative histories is a political act.  Read more here. PS I used Laurian's profile pic to make her mad :)
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The Fantasy of Ethical Capitalism

By Laurian B. For many years, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place was a staple text for my introductory course in cultural anthropology. A fast, and unsettling read for anyone who has traveled to the Caribbean with a beach vacation forefront on their minds, Kincaid peels the beauty of Antigua to deliver prescient critiques of the privatization-of-everything that continues to devour the few remaining public-enterprises in the world. Kincaid gut punches both natives and tour...
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come out of your ivory towers

By Beth U Shot May 3, 2016 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York City. The photo was taken by Diana Davies in 1970.  Activist Marsha P. Johnson is on the left, handing out flyers for support of gay students at N.Y.U.  A civil rights activist and leader in the Stonewall Riots, Johnson, with fellow activist Sylvia Riveria, formed the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that helped homeless LGBT youth.  Johnson and Rivera a...
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Growing Together

By Beth U Shot on April 16, 2016 leaving the Growing Together community garden in Point Breeze, Philadelphia.  Growing Together is a project of Nationality Services Center.  Here, newly arrived refugees from Nepal, Burma, Bhutan and Congo garden alongside long-term Philly residents.
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Gendering the Burden of Care: Health Reform in Western Belize

By Beth U Medical Anthropology Quarterly just published my article with Siobhan Curran entitled "Gendering the Burden of Care: Health Reform and the Paradox of Community Participation in Western Belize." The article is based on a more comprehensive ethnographic study investigating health disparities and the privatization of health care in Western Belize utilizing participatory action rese...
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Specters of a school’s closing

By Beth U. For his installation reForm, artist Pepón Osorio relocated a classroom from the closed Fairhill Elementary School to another classroom – at Temple University's Tyler School of Art in North Philadelphia, a mile from Fairhill. To find reForm, you have to wander through Tyler’s occupied basement studios until, pushing through some double doors, you come across a row of cubbies from Fairhill. Jackets and bac...
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Not-so-secret secrets of the urban refuge

By Beth U. I like margins. Edges of scholarship, abandoned lots, wildlife preserves carved from the industrial grid. I often walk at Tinicum Refuge, a marshland adjacent to the Philadelphia Airport and the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetland in Pennsylvania. It is only because of conservationists’ efforts that Interstate 95 runs alongside the marsh rather than through it. Along the other side sits the Sun Oil Company tank farm, a series of enormous canisters that ...
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The Fight Continues: Our Movements Will Not be Silenced

By Lucy Gleysteen On Monday May 4th and 5th, Decarcerate PA and its allies occupied the capitol steps in Harrisburg for 24 straight hours to share the words of individuals currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s prisons.  This protest was originally a response to the Revictimization Relief Act (The Silencing Act), a law designed to silence prisoners by allowing the DAs, victims, and Attorney General the power to sue people convicted of personal injuries...
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El Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelfia

By Beth U. A trumpet blares as a sequined figure bends at the waist and stomps.  He swoops low enough that his fake grey beard dusts the street.  Behind him, a sea of fur-trimmed hats bob to the live brass band.  Pink masked faces stare back at the crowd with blank eyes. Richly embroidered costumes of orange, blue, pink, yellow and gold pass by as silver-skinned Aztec warriors prance in a cloud of feathers.  It's Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelfia.  Spectators pour from row...
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Marge Piercy, life as work and words

By Beth U. I just put down poet/writer Marge Piercy's memoir Sleeping with Cats. In it, Piercy explains that she had no role models while coming of age in the 1950s. “Resistant to sex roles,” she “wanted something larger and deeper and darker” than the lives of women she knew (67).   So she became her own role model. She cast herself as “odd” and in search of “fringe types”—“others with writing ambitions, left politics—misfits and rebels and intellectuals” (89).   Ye...
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On Audre Lorde and the Uses of Anger, Part IV

By Beth & Laurian This series on Audre Lorde centralizes anger as a way to discuss intersectionality, patriarchy and feminism. In this fourth and final conversation, we consider the benefits of anger for renewal and strength. Beth: We have talked a bit about anger and fear – the ways in which social norms discourage women from expressing anger and how juridical systems punish women who defend themselves from the anger/violence of others. Anger takes on...
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On Audre Lorde and the Uses of Anger, Part III

By Laurian & Beth   Below is part three of our series on Audre Lorde in which we use Lorde’s work to reflect on race, feminism, and anger. Our session today touches upon institutional racism, academia, activism, guilt, and building commonalities. Beth: Let’s talk for a bit about racism and sexism on college campuses. Recently, faculty members Eve Dunb...
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Hit the Road: Musings on Beat Muses

By Beth U I’ve been reading bits of Beat memoir here and there.  Recalling her coming-of-age during the Beat-era, writer Janine Pommy Vega describes her virginity as a "hindrance."  At 16, she and a friend staked out the Cedar Bar (the popular Beat hangout in Greenwich Village) to meet Gregory Corso.  A few days later, they visit him and Peter Orlovsky in their shared apartment. As Vega waits to have sex with Orlovsky (a given for a female fan?), Corso takes her friend into a...
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Dialogue with Susan Brin Hyatt

ENVISION is thrilled to post a dialogue with Susan Brin Hyatt, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. As an urban anthropologist and former community organizer, Dr. Hyatt prioritizes participatory and community-based research methods. She is the founding Director of the Graduate Program for IUPUI’s MA in Applied Anthropology. Dr. Hyatt’s corpus of ethnographic work examines the gendered impact of neoliberal policies on grassroots activism in ...
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The Beauty of Quitting: Keguro Macharia on Deracination, Psychic Breaks, and the US Academy

By Beth U. I just came across Keguro Macharia's beautiful post “On Quitting” for The New Inquiry. In it, Macharia tries to make sense of why he resigned from a tenure track job at the same time he completed a book manuscript for publication. Academia rewards self-abnegation in the pursuit of perfectly timed and perfectly placed publications. It demands cycles of fevered writing followed by lengthy periods of ...
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On Audre Lorde and the uses of anger, Part I

By Beth & Laurian How do we have “intersectional” conversations about state violence, gender, class, sexuality, and race as feminists? What do we do with our rage when we know that women, girls, queer people, and trans* people (among others) continue to be sidelined in discussions about state-sanctioned violence? To erase experiences of violence from public discourse is a form of violence in and of itself. To erase resilience and leadership is also a fo...
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What we need is a Pain-Capable Woman Protection Act

By Beth U. Reading Ellen Willis and watching VESSEL in light of a proposed 20-week abortion ban When Congress reconvened a few weeks ago, two Republican Representatives introduced a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36) that aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Republicans planned to vote on this legislation but changed course at the last minute.  Members of their own party More

What can genealogies of radical and revolutionary poetics tell us now?

By Beth U. It’s winter and I am reading. I find myself devouring older U.S. feminist criticism (and criticism of this criticism) in order to think about the now: all the cracks, heroic optimism, anger, inadequacy, misdirection, bravery and labor of feminism/s—the messiness of messy people pushing social boundaries, expressing what it is at stake, taking the fall, finding joy, exposing fragility and strength and rage. Together, feminist efforts demonstrate that "no sing...
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Whose Free Speech is Prioritized?

By Lucy Gleysteen Why is the freedom to disseminate ideologies that reproduce inflammatory stereotypes accepted while the freedom to express condemnation of Charlie Hebdo is silenced? Why is it so difficult for the public to grasp the notion that terror and violence spring from environments in which violence is encouraged, environments that allow for anti-Islam protests to be acceptable, environments where black and brown bodies are not valued, environments where minorities a...
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Breaking the Failure Taboo

By Beth U. A friend who is applying for tenure track teaching positions just emailed me Patrick Iber’s article “(Probably) Refusing to Quit” posted on Inside Higher Ed last spring. Iber details his struggle to obtain a tenure track position in the midst of the death of his mother and the birth of his children. At one point Iber tweeted: “Here's me: Ph.D....
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On Academic Contingency: This is Satire

Spank it Instead of asking tenure track job candidates those boring and predictable questions about research and publication plans, or how they propose to dovetail every proposed course with a predicted article, search committees could ask questions that reflect the reality of most applicants’ current job responsibilities, especially if the candidate is already a contingent faculty member. After all, isn’t the purpose of an interview to assess the a...
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Africa Meets the (mid)West

By Laurian B. I left Indianapolis on November 23rd pumped to write my reflections on the African Studies Association Conference. Then the events in Ferguson and Cleveland peeled back more layers of US white supremacy and I was sidetracked. Or perhaps I got centered and focused. I'll have more thoughts on that later... It has been a decade since I’ve attended ASA. The African Studies Association conference is often concurrent with the American Anthropological Association meetings and usuall...
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From Ferguson to Philly

By Laurian & Beth 8:27pm beth (text to laurian): the mainstream coverage awaiting ferguson decision is making me fucking insane 8:28pm laurian (text to beth): it's a ball of bullshit 8:33pm b: coverage from St. Louis = white fear/can't we all get along/justification to use force against dissent 8:34pm l: white supremacy at its best 8:41pm b: indeed. the "deescalation training" from the police is "keeping protestors peaceful."  protestors meaning anyone who is ou...
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Ghada Amer’s Rainbow Girls

By Beth U. Ghada Amer’s paintings give off heat. They vibrate. In the quiet interior of Cheim & Read, a gallery on East 24th Street in Manhattan, they moan. I am grateful that the gallery is nearly empty; I need to be alone with these paintings. It’s early May and I am here to see Amer’s latest exhibition Rainbow Girls. Known for her embroidered “paintings,” Amer repurposes images from pornography and popular culture and transforms them from quick snap...
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Dialogue with Paul Stoller

We are pleased to launch our Dialogues initiative at the same time that Día de los Muertos celebrations sweep the Americas. Fittingly enough, our first conversation is with anthropologist of sorcery Paul Stoller.  Stoller is Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University and winner of the 2013 Anders Retzius Gold Medal in Anthropology from the King of Sweden. Stoller has published numerous articles and 11 books, including his most recent Yaya’s Story: The Quest for Well-Being ...
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See Now Then: Jamaica Kincaid’s Tidal Force

By Beth U. Reading Jamaica Kincaid is like immersion in a sea, not a lake, not a brook but a sea or an ocean—perhaps the Atlantic which bangs against Africa and also against islands in the West Indies. You stand on the shore. It takes a long time for her words to arrive, a sentence that starts somewhere beyond the horizon but ends with you. Her words catch you—off guard, despite the waiting—around the ankles and tug. So you walk in, you begin to swim, slowly at first: the wat...
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Murals, Museums and the Mexican State

By Beth U My review of Mary Coffey's excellent book on revolutionary art in Mexico has been published in Visual Studies. Mary Coffey’s book is an evaluation of how, despite its assumed commitment to popular struggle, Mexican muralism became ‘official’ and in doing so helped to legitimize an authoritarian state. In three bulky chapters, Coffey examines murals in state funded and managed public museums: the Palace of Fine Arts, the National History Museum, and the National Anthr...
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Accra Under Construction

By Laurian B. As rural to urban migration continues to outpace housing in Accra, Ghana, I was unsurprised by the number of construction projects that took place during the summer of 2011. However, many of these building projects were not in the areas where they are needed most. Whenever I conduct research with migrants in Accra, there are recurrent conversations about the lack of affordable and sanitary housing. Rental fees can strip all earnings within a year for most tenants. Accra resident...
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Zielony’s Sails, A Review

By Beth U. I recently went to see Vele (Sails), the photographic work of German artist Tobias Zielony at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Through stop motion video and a series of photographs, Zielony documents a desolate housing project in the outskirts of Naples known as “The Sails of Scampia.” In the 1960s, architect Francesco Di Salvo designed the complex to house working-class families and furnish them the fixings of ideal city living, such as parks and playing fields. Now, warri...
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Laurian is in Ghana: Reflection on Tipping

By Laurian B. For tourists to Ghana’s capital, the Osu area is probably the most well known area of Accra. In Osu, foreigners easily find comfort foods from home and enjoy Internet access at expat owned coffee shops. A week ago, my friend Adua raved about a decadent chocolate dessert at Pinnacle Restaurant and invited some folks to join us there. The brightly tiled multistoried building sits off Osu’s main drag, Cantonments Road. The street is more colloquially known as Oxford Street, in d...
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Launch and Remembrance

By Beth U. Today I found out that a friend I met while conducting fieldwork in Punta Gorda, Belize passed away.  She contacted me several weeks ago and I had yet to return her email, busy with a new semester of teaching.  Panic and remorse follow me these hours after her death.  Pieces of the days we spent together filter through my thoughts and the rawness of fieldwork returns.  We walk the humid, mud-sluiced streets of PG at night.  We grasp arms as our small boat to a remote island caye hi...
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