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   Alumni Newsletter

Dear Alumni and Friends,

   A few times a year, the Chair of the Anthropology Department sends alumni and other friends of our department exciting news and updates via a newsletter. Please check out the most recent news from our 2019 newsletter below (for past newsletters, click: Anthropology Alumni Past Newsletter):

We are thrilled to share updates about recent accomplishments of our faculty members. Timothy Pugh finished up research supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, which investigated public and private space at Nixtun-Ch’ich’, an early Maya city. In 2019, he published three articles on this research. He was also invited to speak at the European Maya Conference at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, where he spoke about Catholic churches in Spanish colonies in the Maya region.

Karen Strassler was a keynote speaker at a conference on “Chinese Indonesians: Identities and Histories” at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia on October 1, 2019. Her talk, “An Oblique Lens: Photography and Chinese-Indonesian Histories,” explored the under-recognized contributions of ethnic Chinese photographers to the cultural project of nation-building in the decade following Indonesia’s independence from Dutch rule.

Mandana Limbert recently delivered the Fredrik Barth Memorial Lecture at the University of Bergen. The title of her lecture was, “On Homelands and History in Southern Arabia.”

Omri Elisha recently co-organized an international conference entitled “Ethnographies of God” at the University of Toronto, which was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Larissa Swedell and Tom Plummer have been collaborating to develop new ideas about the evolution of social behavior in our hominin ancestors, using recent advances in paleoanthropology, paleoecology, and behavioral ecology. Their most recent treatise on this topic was published in the Journal of Human Evolution in November 2019. This article focuses on the evolution of a complex society in Homo erectus, modeled after the society of hamadryas baboons, in which kinship ties among males and females and pair bonds between the sexes all work together to provide foraging benefits, cooperative child rearing, predator protection, and social benefits to individuals. This combination of features, likely crucial to the evolution of modern human society as we know it today, would have only been possible in the context of a multilevel society.

Related to this work, Larissa Swedell was interviewed for an article in The New York Times about multilevel societies in the vulturine guinea fowl, a small-brained bird. While some researchers have suggested that cognitive sophistication is a necessary prerequisite for multilevel societies because there are so many individuals to keep track of, Professor Swedell pointed out that such societies might actually make it easier to keep track of your neighbors because you only have to be able to recognize a few individuals in each of the sub-units. More importantly, such societies allow individuals to reap the benefits of both large and small group size, i.e., they can “have their cake and eat it too.” https://www.nytimes. com/2019/11/04/science/birdssociety-vulturine-guineafowl.html

Kevin Birth was one of the guests on the November 1 edition of NPR’s “The Pulse.” In his first segment, he explains the use of master clocks from around the world and how they’re used to help calculate time. He also explains how time zones came to be, how the second came to be defined, and what a tropical or solar year is. Birth also discusses the “Frankenstein monster” of the different cultural aspects of time measurement. He recounts how when he lived in Trinidad years ago, he stopped looking at his watch— knowing that certain stores would open as long as customers were there, or that he could catch interviewees during the day whenever he heard the theme from The Young and the Restless; he also explains a bit about using time cues other than watches, especially the problem of trying to time cooking (the perceived need for Minute Rice, for instance). When the interviewer asks him about favorite time-related objects, he mentions, among other things, Japanese Edo clocks and the “pissing baboons” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can listen to the podcast from this page: https://www.npr.org/ podcasts/381443461/the-pulse

Miki Makihara and Juan Rodriguez presented their co-authored paper on linguistic stance, power, and politics in a discourse analysis conference held in a medieval university town of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, this summer. This international conference drew participants from Europe and the Americas, and was conducted in Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and English.

   In addition to departmental updates, the newsletter serves as a means of encouraging former students and friends of our department to update us with your own news. We welcome any updates regarding your family, career, research, and accomplishments. If you are an alumn of the Department of Anthropology at Queens College and would like to update the us with contact information or would like to appear on Our Alumni page highlighting news about your life, please email your name, year of graduation, a brief statement, and optional photo to Dr. Kate Pechenkina at pechenkina@yahoo.com or call (718) 997-5529.

   Finally, if you are an alumn or friend of the department and would like to consider giving a gift to Anthropology, please follow the link to the Give to Anthropology page. Your gift of any size truly makes a difference.

   We look forward to hearing from all alumni and friends! Check back periodically for more updates as we continue to develop our alumni pages.