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Spadola Wins Book Award Runner-Up

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on December 15, 2014

Spadola-Geertz Award

The runner-up in the 2014 Clifford Geertz Award competition is Emilio Spadola’s The Calls of Islam: Sufis, Islamists, and Mass Mediation in Urban Morocco (Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) (2014). The Calls of Islam is a highly original and accessible book on the multiple, concurrent calls of/to Islam in Morocco and in particular on how Sufism has been appropriated by the Moroccan state. Spadola shows how mass mediation has affected structures of piety, authority, and power.

The book is rich in ethnographic and historical detail. The focus on mediation offers fresh theoretical contributions to the anthropology of Islam by arguing against the singular pious body and instead for the “breached” collective body as an effect of the force of communication. The Calls of Islam beautifully fleshes out an interpretation of the call to worship as a communicative mode that generates difference as much as coherence.

The Calls of Islam gives a new and innovative perspective on Islam and manages to introduce the field of media theory to these issues in an accessible and insightful fashion. The book also provides a very sensitive and theoretically sophisticated approach to the controversy involving Sufism.  The competition included 45 books from 2012 through mid-2014, and two prizes were awarded, Spadola’s being the Runner-Up.


Pictured: Emilio Spadola receiving the award on Dec. 6 during the annual meeting of the American Anthropology Association in Washington, DC. Spadola is with Lauren Leve, a committee member and Associate Prof. of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill.

“Die in” held at American Anthropological Association Meeting

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on December 15, 2014

The annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA or “triple A”) reflected what is happening in our society at large this year, with both protests and academic papers related to the reaction to the Ferguson and Staten Island decisions. Anthropologists reacted by joining the street protests in Washington DC, the site of this year’s conference, and by holding a “die in” at the conference hotel. In the following post, Faye V. Harrison, a prominent American anthropologist, reflects on the personal and intellectual implications of this historical moment.
 Submitted by Professor Mary Moran

When Force is Hardest to Justify, Victims of Police Violence are Most Likely to Be Black

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on December 5, 2014

After the grand juries in both Ferguson and New York City chose not to indict police officers for actions leading to the deaths of African-American civilians, I’ve seen the same few questions pop up again and again in conversations and blogs and comments:

  • How do we know this is about police racism across America, and not just about the particular people involved?
  • Okay, maybe blacks are more likely to be recipients of police violence, but isn’t that because they are more likely to deserve it because they are doing something criminal or aggressive?

According to FBI data,  the answers are clear:

  • African Americans, especially young men, are much, much more likely to die at the hands of police then their white counterparts.
  • Of those who have been killed by police, African-Americans victims are less likely to have been resisting/attacking the officer(s).  In fact, “the less clear it is that force was necessary, the more likely the victim is to be black.

Professor Mary Moran facilitates anthropological conference on Ebola

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on December 3, 2014
By Jessica Rice ’16 on November 25, 2014


Colgate University Professor Mary Moran

In light of the Ebola outbreak that spiked last summer, Professor Mary Moran and more than 20 other anthropologists recently met with policy makers in Washington, D.C., to advise organizations assisting with containment efforts.

Moran helped organize the conference, titled Ebola Emergency Response Initiative: Discussion and Preliminary Findings of Anthropological Experts Workshop, which was held at George Washington University Nov. 6–7. It was sponsored by the American Anthropological Association.

In addition, Moran facilitated two sessions, one on health communications, and another focused on attending the dead. Other sessions included care of the sick, clinical trials, and interventions. The conference concluded with a public forum regarding anthropology collaboration on Ebola.

Representatives from the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization attended to provide information on their efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Due to their lack of regional expertise, these organizations have requested the assistance of anthropologists like Moran, in need of their knowledge and research on the region.

“For one of the first times that I’m aware of, we’ve got experts on this region advising an ongoing intervention,” Moran said. “It’s pretty unprecedented because the practitioners on the ground have not always believed that they needed regional expertise in responding to an emergency.”

Conference participants met in working groups to address questions and topics on which policy makers asked for guidance. The results from those working groups were compiled into recommendations for actionable steps.

“Anthropologists and other scholars of the region are saying that this is not just a medical issue,” explained Moran. “This virus is transmitted by some of the most human activities that we know of, which include care of sick family members and treatment of the dead. Sadly, it is the most contagious at the late stages of the disease, and from the corpse.”

As a professor of anthropology and Africana and Latin American studies, Moran noted, “I have written lots of scholarly pieces about funerals and no one has ever needed them before. It’s nice to find that all of this work that I’ve been doing for a rather limited audience suddenly has other uses.”

Read more

The Independent Variable – ASA’s Newsletter for Undergraduate Sociology Majors

By Chris Henke on November 24, 2014

The American Sociological Association is putting out a newsletter geared toward undergraduate sociology majors.  Titled, “The Independent Variable,” the fall edition of the newsletter can be found here.

Liberians Meet Death With Flowers, Trumpets And Cameras

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on November 14, 2014

Professor Mary Moran has been very busy this semester on sabbatical, but using much of that time to share her studies of Liberian culture amidst the focus on Liberia and the Ebola outbreak.  Read this fantastic NPR story on Liberian burial rituals which quotes Mary Moran extensively.

Lilyan Jones: Anne Ray Intern 2014–2015

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on November 12, 2014

Lilyan Jones is a 2013 Colgate graduate and studied with the SOAN (anthropology) and NAST departments.   She was recently awarded the 2014-2015 Ann Ray Internship from SAR – School for Advanced Research.  The School for Advanced Research, Indian Arts Research Center (IARC) offers two nine-month internships to individuals who are recent college graduates, current graduate students, or junior museum professionals interested in furthering their professional museum experience and enhancing their intellectual capacity for contributing to the expanding field and discourse of museum studies.  Read more about Lilyan’s internship and the School for Advanced Research HERE.


It’s Not Time to Panic

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on November 11, 2014

According to a new global poll by Ipsos Mori, Americans greatly overestimate the US unemployment rate.  They thought it was 32% when it is actually 6%.  They also vastly overestimated the teen pregnancy rate – the average answer was 24% when it is really 3%.  Respondents also hugely overestimated the percentage of immigrants, Muslims, and senior citizens in the country.

It turns out that we are not alone.  Respondents in Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and nine European countries overestimated those same numbers.  Sadly, though, we did worse than most.  The US ranked only behind the Italians in a measure Ipsos calls the Index of Ignorance.

Submitted by Professor Carolyn Hsu

SOAN screens “The Throwaways”

By Chris Henke on October 28, 2014

In the midst of the recent student sit-in at Colgate, SOAN had the pleasure of hosting the award winning filmmakers Ira McKinnley and Bhawin Suchak to preview their soon to be released documentary, “The Throwaways.”  It is a timely film given the recent issues in Ferguson, MO, covering the experiences of New York state native Ira McKinley, a chronically homeless African American male.  It offers a first hand look at the forces of urban poverty and police brutality that plague minority communities in Albany, NY.

News outlet Democracy Now! recently aired an extended interview with the filmmakers, featuring many clips from the film.  In addition, the filmmakers have made other material available online.  Ira McKinley’s YouTube page and Bhawin Suchak’s Vimeo’s page host footage shot for the film as well as other pieces of interest, including their coverage of the recent Occupy movement.

You may also be interested in the Youth FX page, a summer film school for Albany, NY youths run by Bhawin.  Their Vimeo page includes a collection of short films made by students of the program.

-submitted by Professor Joe Gibbons

SOAN Professor Mary Moran puts “Ebola in Perspective”

By Chris Henke on October 9, 2014

SOAN’s local expert on West Africa, Professor Mary Moran, has coedited a series of analyses and responses to the Ebola crisis in the online version of the journal, Cultural Anthropology.  In the introduction to this series, Professor Moran and her coeditor, Daniel Hoffman, seek to put Ebola in context, both culturally and historically, and argue for the importance of a deeper understanding of the recent histories of countries such as Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in order to more effectively address the disease: “In the current epidemic, as in the violence that preceded it and in the long uncertain period to come, intervention and understanding are not separate. One is not possible without the other.”  Everyone has seen news reports about the recent Ebola epidemic, but these essays provide the background that you will not find in other media—take a look to learn more.

Professor Moran also gave a talk recently at Duke University on the potential political fallout for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; you can read the text of her talk here.