Emerging Worlds


The particular variety of anthropology practiced in our department focuses on the exploration of emerging worlds.  Anthropology is in an exciting moment of transition.  Once upon a time, there was an academic division of labor: archaeology studied the distant past, history studied the more recent past, journalism studied the present, sociology studied what was here, and anthropology what was there.  Most anthropologists have long since stopped specializing in the exotic, or even the ancient, even though many have had a lot to say about how these categories are made.  In recent years, anthropologists have assumed a more assertive stance, insisting on the singular value of the knowledge we produce for promoting greater understanding of the complexities of everyday life (past and present).  Today’s anthropologists study sociocultural phenomena in formation.  We locate the people and things we explore in history and the material world and in connections across diverse borders and frontiers.  In this department, our topics are wide ranging – they include everything from forestry in Mexico, to genetically modified crops in China, to academic peer review in the United States, to the longue durée histories of African Diaspora, to the travels of matsutake mushrooms around the globe.   All of our research reaches out from on-the-ground fieldwork to large categories such as science, bureaucracy, and global capitalism.
A key venue where we are developing this initiative is in our annual Emerging Worlds Workshop.  These workshops feature a public lecture and a graduate student conference that showcases work across the social science. Immanuel Wallerstein will be our guest for the 2011-2012 workshop, whose theme is World Systems and Invisible Colonies.  Professor Wallerstein’s work has been critical in moving anthropology beyond the study of nation-state-based cultures.  Although anthropology has, for some time, emphasized transnationalism, actual in-depth fieldwork projects that can study such phenomena anthropologically have been rather recent.  This engagement promises to yield new ways to think about socio-economic relationships, past and present, including those that characterize the world systems emerging today.
Building on this year’s event, in 2012-2013, we will be hosting an Emerging Worlds Workshop on Indigenous Cosmopolitics that will feature Donna Haraway and Marilyn Strathern.  We are collaborating with UC Davis on this traveling event, which will begin in Davis as part of a Sawyer Seminar Series before moving to Santa Cruz for a public conversation and a graduate student conference involving participants from both campuses.