2021-22 Colloquia

February 8, 2022
Heidi Colleran, Max Planck Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

Rejecting 'natural fertility'

Abstract: The idea of a naturalized state of human reproduction ('natural fertility') permeates evolutionary anthropology and demography, and is foundational for most population modelling. In this talk I'll provide an overview and a critique of this approach. I'll argue that natural fertility creates unnecessary ethical, theoretical and conceptual problems for evolutionary anthropologists and population researchers that putting pressure on this core assumption builds bridges with socio-cultural anthropology. Drawing on a range of interdisciplinary anthropological work, I will give examples of how I think anthropology and the population sciences can better work together.

On Zoom, 4:30pm-6:00pm


February 22, 2022
Jeff Guhin, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles

Agents of God: Boundaries and Authority in Muslim and Christian Schools

Abstract: Sociologist Jeffrey Guhin spent a year and a half embedded in four high schools in the New York City area -- two of them Sunni Muslim and two Evangelical Christian. At first pass, these communities do not seem to have much in common. But under closer inspection Guhin finds several common threads: each school community holds to a conservative approach to gender and sexuality, a hostility towards the theory of evolution, and a deep suspicion of secularism. He shows how the communities use "external authorities" to teach their children who they are. These "external authorities" -- such as Science, Scripture, and Prayer -- are experienced by community members as real powers with the ability to issue commands and coerce action. By offloading agency to these external authorities, leaders in these schools are able to maintain a commitment to religious freedom while simultaneously reproducing their moral commitments in their students.

Location TBA


May 17, 2022
Emily Ng, Term Assistant Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College

A Soul Adrift: Psychosis, Mediumship, and Intergenerational Impasse in China

Abstract: Since the early 2000s, Chinese cities have seen a considerable “boom” of psychotherapeutic languages and practices. Meanwhile, rural regions have seen what's been described as a revival of “popular religion” since market reforms. Drawing from ethnographic research in urban and rural China between psychiatric wards, temples, and the home altars of spirit mediums, this talk will consider how post-Mao political-economic transformations are transmitted through psychiatric as well as cosmological accounts of illness. In spite of more common renderings of Maoist state secularism, the ventriloquized laments of spirit mediums speak to a potent sense of loss and moral disorder following the death of Mao as a figure of cosmic guarantee. Across the temple and the hospital, I trace a sense of intergenerational impasse, marked by a crisis of filial piety and illegibility of mutual care in an era of rural-urban labor migration.

Location in RO 015