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Time to Apply to the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology

simaposter_medIts application season again for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology.

As noted recently on the American Folklore Society website:

“The Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA), supported by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, is accepting applications for its 2015 program in Washington, DC to be held June 22-July 17. SIMA is an intensive museum research methods training program for graduate students, offered in residence at the Department of Anthropology in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Graduate students at the masters or doctoral level who are preparing for research careers and are interested in using museum collections as a data source should apply. Although primarily oriented to cultural anthropology, students in related programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are welcome to apply if the proposed project is anthropological in nature.”

Learn a lot more about SIMA on the program website:

I am excited to be returning to SIMA 2015 as a visiting faculty member.

Thanks to the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution for its great support of the Institute.

Osage Weddings Project Website Launched


What is European Ethnology? The International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) has a great answer.

I wish the membership of the American Folklore Society, the American Anthropological Association, the Council for Museum of Anthropology, the American Society for Ethnohistory, and/or the Society for Cultural Anthropology could cook up a short video this good. Congrats to our great SIEF friends–some of whom appear in this video.

Still/Moving: Puppets and Indonesia Lecture and Exhibition Opening

Still/Moving Lecture & Exhibition Invite

AFS “Folklore and Museums Section” Founded, AFS Members (and Non-Members too) are Welcome to Join

I am happy to note here that the Executive Board of the American Folklore Society has endorsed a proposal put forward by the Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group to establish a Folklore and Museums section within the society. The section came into existence as of the Executive Board’s November 2014 meeting in Santa Fe. I am very pleased to serve as the new section’s first convener and to invite everyone with an interest in the intersection of museum practice and folklore (/folklife/ethnology) to join the new section.

As noted in the call for members on the AFS website:

the Folklore and Museums Section exists to foster communication and cooperation among museum-oriented folklorists, to advance the contribution of folklore studies scholarship and practice in museum settings, and to articulate museum-oriented folklorists with other colleagues, institutions, and organizations in the museum sector. The section aims, whenever possible, to cooperate with other sections of the American Folklore Society and with peer-organizations in the field.

The public web home for the new section can be found online here: and the member’s group space is accessible to members who are logged into the AFS website.

While I am very eager for all interested colleagues to join AFS, I want to note that the AFS has a free “Section Only” membership category by which non-AFS members can sign-up with sections such as the new Folklore and Museums section. This might be of particular value to non-folklorists who wish to keep up with the section’s work. Information on the Sections Only “membership” is available on the Membership Categories page of the AFS website. There is no cost to join the Folklore and Museums section.

The Santa Fe meetings were a great gathering for museum-minded folklorists. I am optimistic that the new section can help make the 2015 meetings even richer for our corner of the field. Thanks to all who have contributed to the momentum behind the new section and to the growth of folklore and museums work.

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art

Sky Above New Mexico Museum of Art, November 2014

On the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group: An Invitation


New members are invited to join the Digital Practices in History and Ethnography Interest Group (DPHE-IG) in the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international initiative to facilitate the development of effective data practices, standards, and infrastructure in particular research areas, and across research areas–aiming to enhance capacity to archive, preserve, analyze, and share data, and for collaboration both within and across research communities.

RDA’s DPHE-IG works to advance data standards, practices and infrastructure for historical and ethnographic research, contributing to broader efforts in the digital humanities and social sciences.  Bi-weekly calls move the work of the group forward.  Many meetings are “project shares” during which someone leading a digital project describes their efforts and challenges. Some calls are with other RDA groups (such as the Provenance Interest Group), aiming to draw their expertise into our work in history and ethnography.

Our call-in meetings are on Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m. EST; see our schedule through May 2015, and let us know if you would like to share a project. Also see our annual report of activities, including a list of project shares thus far.

RDA holds two plenary meetings each year at which interests group can meet, and interact with other interest groups.  The next plenary is in San Diego, California and will be held on March 9-11, 2015.

Please join the group (just below the calendar here) [its free] and pass on this information to others who may be interested.  We would especially appreciate help reaching people outside Europe and North America.

Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University), Mike Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Kim Fortun (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), co-chairs

(Contact me if I can answer any questions that you might have about DPHE–Jason)

Seeking Applicants | Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters

Call for Applications (Deadline Nov. 15)

Museums at the Crossroads:  Local Knowledge, Global Encounters

A Summer Institute of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana, USA
May 14-21, 2015

The Indiana University Mathers Museum of World Cultures and School of Global and International Studies invite applications for up to eight Museum Partners who will take part in an innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history.

Museums at the Crossroads, scheduled for May 14-21, 2015, in the beautiful college town of Bloomington, Indiana, combines keynote addresses, tours, charrettes, and social interactions. We seek applications from museum practitioners and theorists who wish to partner in conversation and creative practice with a group of invited keynote speakers and international museum fellows in a small, informal workshop setting.  Successful applicants will receive eight nights of on-campus lodging and per diem support of $45 for eight days.

About Museums at the Crossroads

Museums at the Crossroads connects theory and practice, bridging institutional, regional, and national museum contexts in order to advance the global conversation around museums and generate a range of practical outcomes for its participants.

Workshop participants will include:

•    4 international fellows from innovative museums around the globe
•    8 museum partners drawn from museums and other institutions in the United States and abroad
•    12 Indiana University faculty, staff, and graduate students
•    4 keynote speakers, each addressing a broader social and cultural theme that we wish to explore in depth in museum contexts.

Our keynote speakers are:

•    Steven Lubar, Brown University (keynote on Today’s Museum:  Innovation, Change, and Challenge)
•    Michael F. Brown, School for Advanced Research (keynote on Cultural Crossroads:  World Cultures in Transition)
•    Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia (keynote on Disciplinary Crossroads:  The Evolving Sociology of Knowledge)
•    Haidy Geismar, University College London (keynote on Artifactual Crossroads:  Real Meets Virtual)

Museum Partners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Bloomington, Indiana, and are expected to participate actively in the full workshop and in associated follow-on activities. Prior to attending, each shall develop an institutional profile that includes an account of challenges your museum faces relative to the three “crossroads” (Cultural, Disciplinary, Artifactual) being explored in the workshop. Partners without a museum affiliation will be asked to prepare a comparable position paper on the themes.

How to Apply

To apply for a position as Museum Partner, please send a resume or curriculum vitae, as well as a cover letter expressing your interest, as a PDF email attachment to:

Sarah Hatcher, c/o

Review of applications will begin November 15, 2014, with applicants receiving notifications by December 15, 2014.

Further Information

For additional detail on the scope and nature of Museums at the Crossroads, see the workshop précis, which is accessible online at:

Additional information about Indiana University Bloomington can be found at:

Information on the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is available at:

Questions about the workshop can be addressed to the organizers at:

Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (Recognizes Great Not-Books and Not-Articles)

Award Committee Chair Nora Pat Small recently noted for me the Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF). What is so cool about this award is that it recognizes outstanding work in vernacular architecture studies that takes one of many forms that are NOT books or articles. Check out the award information page and the list of past winners. Then send your nomination materials to Professor Small at Eastern Illinois University.

Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy

The Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (aka CHAMP) is a very active initiative at the at the University of Illinois. Led by anthropologist Helaine Silverman, it involves a huge number of Illinois faculty and organizes a wide range of conferences, talks, and projects. CHAMP has announced a busy series of lectures for October. Check out its website for more information on CHAMP’s activities. Here are the upcoming lectures.

3 p.m.
Food, heritage and intellectual property in Europe
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

4 p.m.
Negotiating the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”: Policy, practice, and values around cultural heritage at the Smithsonian Institution
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

5 p.m.
GSLIS 126 (501 E. Daniel)
Why UNESCO Matters: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage around the World
A panel presentation:
Lynne Dearborn (Architecture): The destruction of vernacular architecture
Laila Moustafa (LIS): The loss of Islamic manuscripts
Helaine Silverman (Anthropology): Looting the archaeological record
Kari Zobler (Anthropology): The devastation of Syria’s cultural heritage
Co-sponsored with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship

4 p.m.
Lucy Ellis Lounge, first floor in FLB
Vikings in America? Swedes in the American Ethno-Racial Hierarchies in the 19th Century
Lecture by Dr. Dag Blanck (English Department, Stockholm University)

Lincoln Hall room 1064
The Colonial Occupation of Piura: The Historical Archaeology of the First Spanish Settlement in Peru
Lecture by Dr. Fernando Vela (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Schuman, Green, and Peer-Review

What follows is a discussion of a higher education topic. Such concerns are not everyone’s interest, of course. (*boredom warning*)

The practice of peer-review is in the spotlight again with the trading of essays by Rebecca Schuman and Charles Green. I have broader reactions to the three essays in the chain (1, 2, 3) but I will try to keep them to myself. Here I want to limit myself to one specific response and I share it in the hope that—for my friends and students at least—I can provide a counter-narrative to one present in the works that I have flagged.

In defending herself against Green’s criticisms of her earlier Slate essay “Revise and Resubmit” Schuman describes it as a “roast.” Ok. As a folklorist, I was trained to cultivate a particular affection for satirical and counter-hegemonic genres. They do important work. In sharing my own experience here, I do not wish to deny the experience of the “about 100” colleagues who shared their peer-review horror experiences with Schuman. I am no trying to criticize anyone. I sympathize with Schuman’s self-appointed task and with those who find her account of a failed peer-review system familiar.

But I also sympathize with Green. As a “roast” built of “hyperbole” and “dark humor” (self-characterizations in her second essay) Schuman’s account is a caricature (my characterization) and thus trades in “stereotypes” (Green’s characterization). With only my experience to go on (but I have a good bit), I would simply like to offer a counter image of peer-review.

I have experienced peer-review of the sort that Green and Schuman are talking about (and there are other forms too) as a scholarly author and as a editor of three scholarly journals: Museum Anthropology (2005-2009), Journal of Folklore Research (2012-2013), and Museum Anthropology Review (2007-present). As an editor, I have solicited peer-reviews of scholarly articles for a continuous decade. As an author, I have been receiving them for more than two decades. As a peer-reviewer, I have been writing them for 15 years.

Maybe I am lucky. I know that I am privileged in many ways, but I have never received (as an editor or an author) one example of the kind of destructive peer-review report around which Schuman’s initial account is built. Am I denying that they exist? Absolutely not. What I am doing is stressing—for emerging authors who might be confused by the exaggerated account that she presents—that her story is not the only story. At the very least, authors submitting work to one of the three journals that I have been involved in editing are very unlikely to receive anything other than a constructive (moderately constructive sometimes, very constructive sometimes) assessment of their work. (If I were to receive a hurtful or pointless peer-review report, my job is to filter or discard it. In actual practice, my role is to frame and constructively contextualize the real life reports that actually do come in.)

Why am I bothering to write this on a day in which I have other things I should be doing? The peer-reviewers who have helped me make my work better and to get it published appropriately have freely given of themselves on my behalf and I want to thank them and to make clear that I do not see them represented in Schuman’s roast. As an editor, I am constantly asking very busy people to give their time and expertise for the benefit of colleagues, often strangers. Many say no because they honestly can’t fit one more thing into professional lives that are sometimes (in my world, increasingly) impossible. Some say no because they are free-riders who take from a system to which they are unwilling to give. A great many say yes and they say yes not to be the monsters lurking in Schuman’s essay, but because the wish to give back to a field that they love and that has given them a great deal. As an editor, one of my jobs is to honor and thank them for their generosity. I do so again here.

I work in relatively humble fields—folklore studies, Native American and Indigenous studies, and cultural anthropology. These fields also have a deeper than typical understanding of gift economies and of community building practices* and I find that most scholars working within them to be unusually generous and, more often than not, community-minded. I cannot speak of the cultures of macroeconomics, cell biology or German literature studies. I count myself fortunate in many ways, including in my choice of scholarly communities. In my own little world, extra helpings of support and healthy peer-review attention is doled out on those struggling to get their careers underway under difficult circumstances.

This post may seem a product of the pollyanna principle. I think that I have earned a place among critics of contemporary scholarly communication practices.** I believe that we should be experimenting with peer-review reform (see, for example, the positive ideas that Shuman concludes her first essay with) and pursuing a diversity of alternatives. I support those colleagues who are studying—seriously studying—scholarly communications practices, including peer-review. I believe, as I have written and said too many times, that we have tremendous needs to, and opportunities to, reform the way that scholarship is conducted and communicated. On some level I am sympathetic with Schuman’s roast and I am definitely sympathetic to those for whom peer-review has been horrible without ever being uplifting.

But I also want my students to know, as Green is suggesting, that extremes aren’t norms. Or, if what Schuman is describing actually ARE norms somewhere, they are (almost certainly) not norms in my fields. To my students I offer tempered hope. To my peer-reviewing colleagues, I say thanks.

* People bring musical instruments to my national meeting because jam sessions are a longstanding norm there. Countless other humane practices are woven through them–breakfasts that pair new students with senior scholars, receptions for first time attendees, for international attendees, a memorial exhibition for remembrance of deceased friends/colleagues, etc. The scholarly life (which is not the same thing as higher education) is a mess, but it is not an absolute and complete l mess.

** See this and writings cited therein.


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