Elon anthropologists and Lumen Scholar present research in D.C.

Three Elon faculty members and a university Lumen Scholar shared their work at the 2014 American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Faculty members from Elon’s Department of Sociology & Anthropology and a Lumen Scholar presented their research at the 113th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, which was held Dec. 3-8 in Washington, D.C.

The theme of the meeting, “Producing Anthropology,” focused on anthropological theory and method in the production of knowledge about what it means to be human.

Assistant Professor Mussa Idris presented his paper, “Comparing Culture-Centered Versus Non Culture-Centered Businesses Owned By Ethiopian and Eritrean Migrant Entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C.”  The paper was part of the session on Migration, Belonging, and Diasporic Cultures, reviewed by the Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology (http://sunta.org/how-to-join-sunta/).

Idris’s work is based on entrepreneurial case studies using participant observation-based ethnography over a two-year span (2009-2011) in D.C. and its surrounding areas. His paper describes a culture-centered business model of some Ethiopian and Eritrean migrant entrepreneurs and how this is different from the non culture-centered business model used by other migrant entrepreneurs from the same community. Idris also uncovers the use of social networks and the development of a socially positive attitude toward conducting business in the United States (neged), which is a socially stigmatized job sector back home. In the United States, these migrants find the right business environment for a change of attitude.

Assistant Professor Aunchalee Palmquist and Cecilia Tomori, a research associate from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-organized two sessions on the Anthropologies of Breastfeeding: Producing New Conversations Part I & II, which featured leading edge research from across the cultural and biological subfields.

Palmquist’s paper, “Consuming Immunities: The Biocultural Context of Passive Immunity Among Milk Sharing Donors and Recipients“, is based on her ongoing multi-sited research on milk sharing practices in the United States. In the paper, Palmquist examines the social life of human milk immunology and argues that biocultural perspectives offer new potential to elucidate the ways in which human milk sharing practices connect people both socially and biologically.

These two sessions were reviewed by the Society for Medical Anthropology (www.medanthro.net), and distinguished scholars Penny Van Esterik (York University) and James McKenna (University of Notre Dame) participated as panel discussants.

Elon University senior Lumen Scholar Sarah Paille-Jansa, a public health studies major, joined Palmquist in presenting Lumen research titled “The Embodiment of Fear: Exploring Cultural Constructions of Childbirth and the Prenatal Decisions of Expectant Mothers.”

In her project, Paille-Jansa examined birth stories from women of different socio-economic backgrounds and birth experiences to better understand the ways that structural inequality is embodied in childbirth. Her poster presentation was part of the session People Talking and Feeling: Student Research in Disparate Contexts, reviewed by the National Association of Student Anthropologists.

Pamela Runestad, a visiting assistant professor at Elon, organized a session, Medical Anthropologists as Patients: The Roles of Researcher-As-Patient Narratives and Embodied Experience in the Production of Ethnography. In the session, Runestad presented her paper, “The Next Project: Developing Research Questions and Interviewee Rapport from the Hospital Bed,” in which she argues that there is a theoretical shift occurring in which ethnographers who work from a phenomenological perspective in medical anthropology have begun to view their own bodies as assets rather than hindrances in research.

Her work, along with others in this panel, explores the intersection of patient narratives, embodiment and the self by considering how researchers’ medical experiences in the field influence the formulation of research questions and access to resources, including but not limited to social networks, as well as how these experiences shape data collection and analysis and choices regarding writing style. The session was reviewed by the Society for Medical Anthropology.