Updated March 2013
Over the 2012-2013 academic year I have been busy preparing and teaching new courses, completing old research and writing projects and starting new ones, advising undergrads and graduate students, reading proposal drafts and dissertation chapters, traveling to conferences and engaging in fieldwork, though not all at the same time.
In Fall 2012, with the help of preceptors Barbara Andersen, Todd Nicewonger, and Jen Trowbridge, I taught a new (and large) freshman–level course titled Spanish Modernity From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, tracking the Islamic contribution to Renaissance and Enlightenment thought and practice, with special emphasis on architecture, the novel, sexuality, and notions of civitas within urban life that became central to Spain's imperial designs overseas. At the same time I again taught a graduate seminar on memory, patrimony, and personhood, with the usual nice mix of bright students from NYU and other schools around the city. In Spring 2013, I have been teaching both an undergraduate lecture course and a graduate seminar on the Anthropology of Food, Feeding, and Eating. Covering topics such as sacrifice and religious feasting and fasting, the peculiar and perishable materiality of foodstuffs, the place of taste in the hierarchy of the senses, the central place of cooking and eating in the production of understandings of consubstantiality, the human/animal divide, the ethics of care and the concealment of killing in the production of meat, terroir and the microbiomes shared by persons and foodstuffs (both raw and 'processed'), food as art and source of culinary capital, and the global food regime and patented GM seeds, the course is at the same time fun and theoretically challenging. I imagine that I will teach it regularly, rotated with courses on memory, the Latin American city, and colonialism and modernity.
Working with graduate students on a variety of topics, I read and commented on drafts of MA papers, research proposals, and dissertation chapters. I remained in contact with graduate advisees engaged in fieldwork or writing their dissertations (on artisanship and distributed community among the mate burilado carvers of Peru, the Peruvian gastronomy boom, memory, the military, and the dead in Argentina, urban Mapuche in Chile, sex work in Ecuador, the circulation of photographs from exhumations of extra-judicial killings in Spain, contested sovereignty in Curaçao. I celebrated with new Ph.D.'s their successful dissertation defenses (among those, one on archaeological personhood in Mexico, and another on the sociocultural landscape of high-art photography in Mexico City) and subsequent jobs and postdocs and weddings. And along with trying to learn something about all of these things, I wrote a lot of letters for much deserved summer grants, dissertation fellowships, post docs, and jobs, many of which were happily forthcoming.
On the writing front, I published an article "The 'Ethnos', Histories, and Cultures of Ethnohistory in the US Academy" and submitted two more ("The Iterated Mountain: Things as Signs in Potosí," and "The Devil, Temptation, and Penitence in Oruro's Carnival Pageant"). I will shortly submit a book manuscript (really an extended essay and a transcription and translation--by Rachel Lears and Kahlil Chaar--of the court case on which it is based) on an early19th-century case of transgender titled "TransAtlantic/TransGender: Antonio (Né María) Yta, from Conventual Novice to Husband and Colonial Career." The case is the last in the series of social climbing and passing Spaniards in the Indies I am presenting in my book-in-progress “Passing Narrations: Social-Climbing, Self Narrative, and Modernity in the Spanish Transatlantic World, 1550-1808,”which brings together a series of confessional narratives of colonial social climbers whose trial records document the rise of the self-made modern subject. The Potosí essay forms part of another book in progress, tentatively titled “Ghosts in the Ruins,” treating the cultural history and ethnography of popular public performance and the space-time of property and patrimony in the Bolivian mining center of Potosí, Bolivia. Class discussions in both my memory course and my Latin American cities seminar have been central to thinking through the centrality of the dead to this last project, and to understanding how time condenses and adheres in the organizing schema and materiality of the spaces of social life and the forms of trans-individual personhood that are those spaces' fourth dimensions.
During the past several summers, I have followed some of these same themes, along with new ones, as I develop a new project in Toro, Spain. There I am focused not so much on property and patrimony, but on food and drink as very special kinds of material signs, long marginalized in the literatures of exchange, value, and material culture/materiality, not only because cooking and feeding are gendered differently from durable commodities, nor solely because of the low ranking we give to the primary senses for appreciating foods, taste and smell (in contrast to the distanced senses of vision and hearing), but because the perishability of food and drink reminds us of our our own organic materiality and hence mortality. In Toro, my concern is with the embodiment of regional identity through cuisine and the terroir of its wines, cheeses, and garbanzos. Over tapas in the plaza and visits to some of Toro's fifty-some bodegas I have been discovering how growing attention to patrimonio connects not only with the current economic crisis (hinging as it does on mortgages and patrimonial property) but with the region's marketing strategies in the EU and the emergent Castilian nationalist movement.
Over coming year I look forward to completing some of these projects, to continue the mentoring process, and to participate in the collective intellectual and social life of the department. ¡Salud!