The U.S Department of State Supports three pioneering Faculty Outreach projects

By Ad Lane

Maya Feb visit to archives
Maya February visit to Archives

In a rapidly globalizing world, one emerging issue for many anthropologists is the disappearance of culture. Here at UNC, Dr. Patricia McAnany and Dr. Gabrielle Vail, are using funding, education, and their expertise as researchers of Maya heritage to fight this trend. Their collaborations is supported through InHerit, a non-profit organization ran from here in UNC’s Alumni Hall which “celebrates indigenous heritage through progressive collaborations that educate and advocate for native languages, traditions, and the rights of local communities to manage and conserve the material remains of the past.”

 

This year, they are running an ambitious international project that links Morganton, NC, an area with a particularly high Maya population, and Yucatan, Mexico. InHerit is reconnecting modern high-school youth with their Maya ancestry using a combination of archival research, student-driven projects and workshops, and cross-cultural exchange programs. Maya SHC visit-5

The project, which is currently funded for one year by a grant from the US Department of State through a program administered by the American Alliance of Museums has seen massive support locally and the hope is that it can become an ongoing resource for Morganton’s Maya students and potentially beyond. It has also built a productive relationship between the Department and UNC’s renowned Southern Historical Collection. Currently, InHerit is finalizing a student-curated exhibit, “Revitalizing Maya History and Heritage: Our View from the Archives”, which will be open to the public at Wilson Library on April 13th from 11:00am to 5:00pm. For more information on InHerit, visit In-herit.org.

State Department funding also is being used to create opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in the ground-breaking research carried out by Professor Michele Rivkin-Fish who directs the program in Medical Anthropology. She has long investigated women’s health issues in Russia, especially changing attitudes towards contraception, abortion, and women’s rights.

Michele captureDr Rivkin-Fish has collaborated with a Russian colleague on a State Department “Peer-to-Peer Award” for a project entitled “Increasing Public Awareness about Inequality in Children’s Lives.” The goal is to promote dialogue between child welfare professionals in Russia and the United States. Upon receiving the grant, Dr Rivkin Fish developed a course called ANTH 248: Anthropology and the Public Interest. In the Spring 2017, she led students enrolled in the class through investigation and discussion of the effects of poverty, immigration and consumerism on children. Their efforts are culminating in a participatory exhibition and a conference via Skype with their partners in St Petersburg.

In a third State Department project, the current chair of Anthropology, Dr. Colloredo-Mansfeld is leading an exchange among

The Museum of the Imbabura Textile Factory (Atuntaqui, Ecuador) with sculpture made from dismantled electric looms
The Museum of the Imbabura Textile Factory (Atuntaqui, Ecuador) with sculpture made from dismantled electric looms

heritage professionals in North Carolina and Ecuador that focuses on the cultural legacy of industrial textile manufacturing. With pilot funding from the US Embassy in Quito, he will host a delegation from the Museum of the Imbabura Textile Factory in May 2017. They will visit the UNC Campus, Rocky Mount, Saxapahaw, and Star NC to see the way small towns and cities in North Carolina have used old textile mills as new cultural spaces. In June, a group from North Carolina, including two teachers from Rocky Mount will visit the factory and museum in Ecuador.