Greeting from the Chair

Hello Faculty, Students, and Friends of Anthropology,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Department of Anthropology in the new 2020/2021 academic year. All of us have had a completely unexpected set of events unfolding earlier this year, as we came to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, paying homage to the wisdom of folklore in many cultural traditions around the world, I will say that the challenges (although some were gruesome), hopefully “will make us stronger.”

While forced into quarantine or social distancing, we discovered that there were hundreds of new and exciting ways to teach and discuss Anthropology – the study of human cultures, societies, behaviors, and traditions. The fact that the pandemic overlapped with national economic downturn as well as the dramatic growth in the Black Lives Matter movement, meant that we could encourage our students to observe, listen, and record the new levels of civic engagement and antiracism that were becoming a part of American culture today. Although we can no longer do traditional ‘fieldwork’ until the virus is conquered, we are keen on discovering new ways to research and dialogue with each other, and with fellow Americans in our communities using the internet and zoom. All of these technological tools help us verify that culture is never static, but forever changing. Beyond that, we acknowledge that many students are forced back into family homes, childhood bedrooms, and places they sought to leave. But we urge you to see those places through a new set of eyes—acknowledging that they too have changed in ways we might not have predicted before. Engage newness!

Personally, these challenges have brought me closer to my family members, and allowed new conversations about their hobbies, games, illnesses, and aging, as well as questions about my career, and about university life. Through zooming to see the new-born nephew, the new hairstyle, or the diagnosis of disease, we are forging new bonds of togetherness. They have brought me closer to my faculty members within the Department of Anthropology. I encourage anthropology students to be aware of how the new circumstances can provide new terrains of learning and research and self-development.

The focus on ‘Engaged Anthropology’ that our Department faculty have celebrated over the decade of our formal existence, now enters a new phase, as we encourage our faculty and students to imagine and live another level of engagement appropriate to our present and our futures. You may be seniors taking the required Fieldwork and Ethnographic courses, or in-betweens doing the electives that take you to Urban US, Latin and Central America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or ‘fly-over’ zones in the U.S.; or you may be taking courses in Intro, medical anthropology, media, sexualities and culture, immigration/exile issues, disability cultures, or super-soldier analysis. We welcome you back to what will be a very exciting and admittedly untraditional year of course experiences. New conversation and dialogue opportunities will be presented throughout the year, and we invite you to be a participant and a contributor!

Gwendolyn Mikell
Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Anthropology
Georgetown College
Academic Year 2020-2021