SfAA President’s Column

August 1, 2012

By Merrill Eisenberg
University of Arizona

Merrill Eisenberg

Whatever happened to those lazy days of summer? Your Board and staff have been quite busy this summer and I want to bring you all up to date.

The Future of SfAA – and the Past: You will soon be receiving, via email, a link to our 2012 Membership Survey. The survey is part of our strategic planning process for taking SfAA “beyond 75”—the birthday we will celebrate in 2015. The purpose of the survey is to help us better understand the composition of our membership and how we can best serve you in the years to come. It has been very instructive for me to look back at the original intent of our founders as we think about where we should be headed in the future. It is no surprise that some of the original issues and concerns that were raised when SfAA was in its infancy are still relevant today. A bit of history…

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Rocking the Boat: Our Professional Ethics

August 1, 2012

By Carla Pezzia
University of Texas at San Antonio

Carla Pezzia

In a recent conversation with one of my mentors, the issue of professional ethics and id entity reared its ugly head. I had mentioned that I was considering continuing my education after my doctorate in anthropology. My plan was to work toward a service-oriented degree (such as an MA in counseling or MD) to complement my future research as an applied anthropologist studying access to mental healthcare. I felt that if I was going to continue working with an underserved population that I had an ethical imperative to ensure that my study participants’ immediate mental healthcare needs were being met. My mentor challenged me to consider how this might mean that I could no longer identify myself as an “ethnographer.” I was not sure if I completely agreed, but I figured that if it would be a sticking point amongst other anthropologists then so be it. But before I discarded my identity as an ethnographer, and potentially an anthropologist altogether, I decided to explore what it “officially” means to be an anthropologist. Having always identified myself as an “applied anthropologist,” I looked to where I thought I could get the answers I needed: the SfAA Statement of Ethical and Professional Responsibilities.

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An Academic Memoir of an Applied Anthropologist

August 1, 2012

By Sarah Anne (Sally) Robinson, ret.
Independent Scholar

Sally Robinson


In 1953 when I started graduate school at the University of Chicago, it was the height of the post-World War II era, but conditions were changing rapidly. One of the significant influences on all universities was the gradual end of war veteran students supported by the GI Bill. Chicago itself was changing. Train travel was giving way to transcontinental airlines that flew over the city from Coast to Coast. Travel became less leisurely. These shifts impacted conditions that produced the vaunted “Golden Age” of the University’s Department of Anthropology; however, retirement and “new blood” in the faculty produced profound change not only in theoretical orientation but also in departmental character.

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From Iran to Mississippi: Applied Anthropology at Work!

August 1, 2012

By Mohammad Shahbazi
Jackson State University

Mohammad Shahbazi

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
—Sa’adi Shirazi, a 12th Century Persian Poet


One of the most pressing issues in public discourse, nowadays, is how to deal with ever increasing health care costs at a time when the United States, and indeed the world, economy is weak. Individuals and governments around the world are facing debts and budget deficits. Cutting health services and medical expenses has been a target by some and there are others who view such an act as evil, arguing that this will leave people less healthy in the short term and that the preventive approaches will be jeopardized in the long term.

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Mackerel Behind Bars

August 1, 2012

By Merrill Singer
University of Connecticut

Merrill Singer at the fish auction

In 2004, the government banned access to cigarettes among inmates at 105 federal prisons (although some tobacco is still smuggled in). This move followed a series of court opinions, including a 1993 Supreme Court ruling, that have supported non-smoking inmate claims that being detained in a smoke-filled facility may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Many state correctional departments have also gone smoke-free. This change, however, was not driven by health issues alone. Prior to the ban, in addition to smoking them, inmates used cigarettes as currency to acquire goods and services from fellow prisoners, including contraband items like drugs, Grey Goose Vodka, salmon as well as services like protection (possession of cash having already been banned). This was not the first time tobacco had been used as currency in the United States. During the colonial era, the Chesapeake colonies relied on locally grown tobacco to purchase supplies and even to pay fines and taxes. Indeed, 1000 pounds of tobacco was once the colonial fine for encouraging Blacks to hold meetings. Half this amount was the fine for letting Blacks own a horse (Scharf 1967).

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Reflections on the Establishment of the University of South Florida Applied Anthropology Graduate Programs: A SfAA Oral History Interview with Gilbert Kushner

August 1, 2012

By John van Willigen
SfAA Oral History Project, Chair
University of Kentucky

John van Willigen

Gilbert Kushner played an important leadership role in the development of the applied anthropology pedagogy nationally. The foundation for his accomplishment was serving as department chair in the period when the University of South Florida’s precedent setting graduate programs were developed. He was very active in the affairs of the Society and served as its secretary. Gilbert Kushner died in 2010. His contributions in these realms were recognized in 2005 with the Society’s Sol Tax Distinguished Service Award. His friends, colleagues and students honored his memory and contributions with the establishment and funding of SfAA’s Gilbert Kushner Student Travel Award.

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John Fox, Author of “The Ball,” Hits a Home Run (Part 1 of 2) Sidestepping Academia as He Rounded the Bases

August 1, 2012

By Brian McKenna
University of Michigan-Dearborn

It may be one of the most animate of inanimate objects in our material world.
-John Fox, The Ball, p. 26

Brian McKenna

Rumbling through the racks at a Barnes and Noble bookstore a few weeks ago I was taken aback by a huge book display of “The Ball, Discovering the Object of the Game” (2012). On the cover was an African lad perching a blue soccer ball precariously on his head. The book was endorsed by one of my favorite sportswriters, Frank Deford. I hurriedly pulled it off the shelf, and after reading about its author, John Fox, I fell into the nearest chair, in total disbelief.

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