The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Kinship

“We’ve learned a little about a few of them, in isolation. But nothing is less isolated or more social than a tree.”― Richard Powers, The Overstory “Space, outside ourselves, invades and ravishes things:If you want to achieve the existence of a tree,Invest it with inner space, this spaceThat has its being in you.”―Rainer Maria Rilke… Continue reading The Social Lives of Tree Spirits: A Kinship

Social Distancing: Reflections on a Border Hike

Restless for depth of field, and eager to gaze beyond the myopic viewshed of a blue-lit screen, we set out to hike a stretch of the Sonoran Desert near the border. I craved beautiful things. And a distant horizon. This captivating landscape is, however, punctuated by human desperation and a nationalistic fantasy equating a rusty… Continue reading Social Distancing: Reflections on a Border Hike

Anchoring the Unspeakable: Trauma in Younger Onset Dementia Narratives

“Before the dementia diagnosis, Marcel and I were at dinner with some Jewish friends from South Africa,” said Ruth, Marcel’s wife. I was interviewing Ruth about Marcel’s younger onset dementia. “Marcel started talking about things he never talked of before,” she said. “He told stories about himself during the Holocaust as a child. You know,… Continue reading Anchoring the Unspeakable: Trauma in Younger Onset Dementia Narratives

Passing the Flame: Narrative Trajectories of Trauma

This essay was destined to be a commentary on an article for a small journal I occasionally contribute to. However, my commentary was lost (likely buried in a chain of emails) and not published. To not be a complete loss, I am posting it here. While this version reads better when paired with the article… Continue reading Passing the Flame: Narrative Trajectories of Trauma

Between Two Worlds

“It was, according to my father, a test to believe in the Sky Chief, the Kollinsuitan, the Amotqn, the God. And his son Jesu. Jesu Christe. Converting Indians to Christianity in the name of Jesus… there were some casualties. Big time.” “Nick Si John, that’s what the rolls call him. The rolls were the official… Continue reading Between Two Worlds

Contesting Identities: Historical Trauma, Loss, and Cultural Authenticity

“Where do the Coeur d’Alene people come from?” asked Richard. Richard, the Coeur d’Alene Nation's cultural resource manager, was interviewing me about my research proposal. It was 2001, and I was beginning an ethnographic project with a Coeur d’Alene family on intergenerational relations and identity. I was new to anthropology. Intimidated. I wondered why he… Continue reading Contesting Identities: Historical Trauma, Loss, and Cultural Authenticity

No One Wants to Be “That” Mother: Middle-Class Ideas of the Good Life

By Emma Jelstrup Balkin In this guest essay, Emma, a graduate student at Macquarie University, discusses her research on how neoliberal economic models impact middle-class parents in Australia. “It’s really tough… and no one really understands what I’m going through.” I’m interviewing Laura, a single mother of three children. Her six-year-old daughter Marnie has become… Continue reading No One Wants to Be “That” Mother: Middle-Class Ideas of the Good Life

Parenting, Love, Loss

First thing Monday morning Joe intercepted me. He exclaimed I had to visit an infant he saw over the weekend. “What’s happening?” I asked. “A child,” he replied. “It’s not good, I can’t explain it. You just have to see it.” I didn’t press him. We hurried to a small village next to Sirigu. Word… Continue reading Parenting, Love, Loss

The Gender of Place

“Give me back my notebooks,” I yelled. Akayuti snatched them from my hand as I exited her room into the courtyard of the family compound. The women of the house materialized and encircled us as if watching a street-fight. The men gathered but kept their distance, backing against the meter-high wall marking the inner section… Continue reading The Gender of Place

Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part Two: Polygamy)

“Why would a man have more than one wife?” I asked Ayanobasiya. “What? Do you want a war!” she replied. “I am not a man. You need to ask a man why.” “Your father even married six women,” I said. “What good is in it? I want your perspective.” Beyond the assumed sexual reasons, a… Continue reading Conversations with Ayanobasiya (Part Two: Polygamy)

Talking About the Weather

A brief reflection on the value of researching the mundane. [1,000 words] The adage that advises, if there is nothing else to talk about, to talk about the weather applied in Northern Ghana, where discussions about the weather and the seasons (wet & humid and hot & dry) resulted in interesting conversations and good ethnographic… Continue reading Talking About the Weather

The Koko: Truth, Reality, and a Chimera

“In my tradition,” Ayisoba said, “we pour a libation before things begin.” It was the start of the dry season and early in my fieldwork with several Nankani communities in Northern Ghana. This was my first formal interview with Ayisoba,* although we had chatted several times before. The savanna air was comfortable. Families’ granaries were… Continue reading The Koko: Truth, Reality, and a Chimera