Dr. Keri Vacanti Brondo (Ph.D. 2006), Associate Professor at University of Memphis, just released a new introductory text, “Cultural Anthropology: Contemporary, Public, and Critical Readings” through Oxford University Press. This reader offers a flexible and applied approach for teaching undergraduates. When Oxford Press approached her, Dr. Brondo realized it was an opportunity to create her ideal reader for an intro class, so she combined classic pieces (such as Bohannan’s “Shakespeare in the Bush”) with a significant number of contemporary pieces: 39 articles from the last decade and 24 from the last few years. Dr. Brondo wanted students to get exposure to a variety of recent ethnographic texts, regardless of what other texts (ethnographies or traditional textbooks) they were assigned.
The reader includes many examples from the U.S., encouraging students to think anthropologically in their own backyards. The book also boasts some features that are unique among readers, such as the “In the News” pieces which discuss current events from an anthropological perspective, and “Anthropology in Practice” sections which feature examples of anthropologists at work in real life situations. Each section of the reader also starts with an essay that introduces students to the topic. These kinds of features are common in traditional textbooks but are not usually included in readers. The result is a versatile text that could be paired with a traditional textbook, or used as a stand-alone text to be complemented with lecture material.
Dr. Brondo also wanted to feature colleagues whose work she had long admired, some of whom she met during graduate school. Thus, many MSU anthropology alumni are among the contributors: Natalie Bourdon, Andrea Freidus, Tara Hefferan, Michael Perez, and Michael Walker as well as others Dr. Brondo met at MSU such as Neera Singh (Geography Alumnae) and Barbara Rose Johnston (Adjunct Professor).
The textbook is Dr. Brondo’s second book. Her 2012 ethnography, “Land Grab: Green Neoliberalism, Gender, and Garifuna Resistance in Honduras,” began as her dissertation at MSU. While finishing her degree, she worked as a social scientist in an applied position for a conservation research organization in Honduras and was able to come at her topic from a different perspective. Another summer of research after joining the faculty at the University of Memphis brought the ethnography up to date. “Land Grab” applies feminist political ecology and critical race and ethnic studies to analyze the contradictory development policies that exclude Garifuna from securing land and resource rights while allowing others to benefit.
Dr. Brondo credits MSU Anthropology for her grounding in contemporary theory. With the department’s support of policy-relevant research, she graduated prepared for both applied and theoretical work. As a graduate student she worked as GJEC coordinator while the specialization was launched and engaged with feminist methodology. Lately, she finds herself in the same conference circles as her former advisor Dr. Laurie Medina because of their similar research interests. Since she mentors graduate students herself, she continues to appreciate the commitment Dr. Medina gave her as a student in the form of her time and straightforward feedback.
Dr. Brondo is currently the Director of International Studies at University of Memphis, and was recently awarded a 2016-2019 Dunavant Faculty Professorship, a prestigious award at her institution that recognizes excellence in teaching, research, and service. She continues to teach one course a year in the Anthropology department and enjoys how close-knit the department is, with synergy across different faculty due to similar interests. Since it is an applied program, the MA is treated as a professional degree and students will go on to practice anthropology in a variety of ways.
Dr. Brondo is now working on a new research project focused on multispecies interaction on the island of Utila and looks forward to developing this research into future publications.
Image above: Dr. Brondo (right) in Honduras
Image at right: Dr. Brondo’s textbook
This article appears in our Fall 2016 newsletter. Read the entire newsletter here.01.01.17