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The Wacky, Crazy-Awesome, Reno, Nevada Adventure PART III

July 9, 2010

Day 2…

Katie got us up that morning, but we were all groggy. So we missed the first set of speeches, but we did arrive in time to see some of the coolest presentations of the conference.

this is where the madness and madcap was going down

These presentations were the Ambivalent Ancestors, by Eleanor M. Nevins, and Veg or Non-Veg, by Heidi Swank and Shannon Hannahs. What drew me to the Ambivalent Ancestors presentation was my interest in language preservation through its incorporation into religious ceremonies. In the case of Nevins, she discussed the incorporation of Apache language into Christian missionary work.

The Veg or Non-Veg was amazing. The presentation discussed the texting habits of Tibetan exiled youth in India. The name itself is adopted from the Indian lexicon, where it is more socially acceptable to be vegetarian. Therefore, the terms “veg” and “non-veg” have become associated with either conforming to, or rebelling from the social norm, respectively. This one point is interesting, considering there is no such social stigma in Tibetan culture against eating meat.

So if you guessed that “non-veg” refers to text messages that are sexually graphic and explicit, you were correct! Some of the texts were amusing, others were extremely vulgar. When collecting the texts, some volunteers found that they couldn’t actually read them out loud to the anthropologist.

I found that the presenters took the speech in an unexpected direction. They took statistical information about the relationships between men and women described in the texts, and whether men or women were sending them. The result: women are found to be in a double-bind scenario, after a fashion. While they are expected to be the traditional woman, they are also caught up in the women’s workers movement, and are expected to go out into the world and earn a living. As a result, women tend to send messages that put the woman as more passive, but the men send the messages that put them as the dynamic element.

Totally fascinating!

After that, we got to see the presentations for the UN Reno crew. And they had some cool-ass-shit going down.

First, they had Gnawed by Chrissina Burke. Her research was aimed at creating a more systematized methodology for analyzing carnivore toothmarks in bone. The thought was to more effectively determine the relationships between pre-historic humans and their carnivorous buddies, such as bears, big cats, and anything dog-like. To carry out her research Burke had contacted a park for wild animals that had been raised in captivity, and they agreed to let her feed these animals raw cow limbs. The coolest part of her presentation was the video she had of a wild cat very daintily devouring the meat on a large bone.

She was able to videotape black bears, wild cats, lynxes, and wolves. In studying the marks left on the bones, and preliminary conclusions were that bears use primarily their paws to hold the object down and their incisors to pull the meat off. Canids used their paws less extensively than the bears, and used their molars to grind the meat off, being very careful not to harm their canines. The cats didn’t use their paws at all, but used all parts of their mouths.

Next up we had a presentation on the archaeology of 20th century advertising, which took samples of cardboard boxes found in a mine in Sulphur, Nevada. Another one, also from Sulphur, was about repeat photography, where a person attempting to locate archaeological features tries to mimic old pictures. The process serves to give the surveyor a reference point for their research.

These were both interesting, but it was surprising when the advertising paper won the student prize. I, of course, didn’t have access to their paper, so all I had to go on was their presentation. This seemed to be a trend-those people who won the competition had less engaging presentations. The student paper competition only factored the papers, but I think it would be more comprehensive if it included how well their presentations went.

After that…

We left a little early from that session so we could see the Poster section. That was really cool, because it allowed the persenters to discuss their research in a much less formal environment. There was a lot on the issues of environmental degradation and its effects on various indigenous populations-one of my main foci.


The extent of the conference was concluded, except for the banquet dinner and keynote speaker.

I must say, I was a little spoiled, because the previous year we’d had Montgomery McFate as our keynote speaker. The subject of the conference had been about the use of anthropology in the military, and so had come to a climactic conclusion with McFate’s speech. The entire auditorium was silent as she had presented her work (and creation), the Human Terrain System-the military project condemned by the American Anthropological Association as a gross violation of anthropological ethics.

This is Montgomery McFate...

Controversy and conflict prevailed when she finished.

This year, was nothing so exciting.

The speaker was Doctor Don Hardesty, chair of the department of anthropology at UN Reno. I suppose that I am biased, in that archaeology is not my main interest, but I could not focus at all on his presentation. It was on the subject of land rush, oil, gold, and silver, and its cultural and environmental effects.

In Conclusion:

Charles and I socialized with the other people at our table who were kind enough to put together the conference, and they did a spectacular job. I hope that sometime in the future I will be able to help to organize a similar event, and I look forward to seeing all these people again.

Charles and I ducked out during a lull in Doctor Hardesty’s speech, and headed back to the hotel room.

The presentations may have been over, but the trip was far from finished…

for a full schedule of all the presentations, here’s the actual list and people who presented: SWAA 2010 schedule

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