The Department of Anthropology is committed to publicly engaged anthropology. Here are some information about their ongoing research projects.
Exploring The High Line
Since May 1, Anthropology majors Alexis Alemy and Jennifer Rogers have been conducting field research on the High Line, the enormously popular park built on an abandoned railway trestle on the Westside of Manhattan. Working under the supervision of MSU professor Dr. Julian Brash, the two have been interviewing park users and making behavioral observations as part of a National Science Foundation-funded research project that uses the High Line to examine the meaning and function of public space in the postindustrial city. The High Line has been lauded as a model of contemporary urban public space, yet also criticized as an expression of the hyper-gentrification of New York City; this project aims to use ethnographic research and anthropological analysis to weigh these competing interpretations of the High Line. Through understanding how people use and experience the park, this research will deepen our understanding of the role public space— the physical expression of democratic citizenship, a place where people gather, converse, and encounter each other — is playing in contemporary urban citizenship and politics. To read more about this research, click here. See also Dr. Brash's profile page.
"The Dynamics of Place" in Orange, NJ
Community-based participatory research (CB/PAR) being led by Dr. Matthews and Dr. McCaffrey, which aims to open a space for the community to discuss and mobilize around reclamation and revitalization. It will also teach students digital survey and mapping technologies, documentary research, oral history, interviews, and participant observation.
Food Insecurity & People with Disabilities in the U.S.
This research aims to document how people with disabilities in the U.S. define and experience food insecurity, including but not limited to “food deserts.” It is part of a community-based initiative to understand how common it is for people with disabilities in the United States to experience difficulty accessing sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. Food studies scholars have been measuring the prevalence of food insecurity in poor socio-economic areas, but most have yet to include disabled people in their mapping and measurement efforts. However, this work is needed because: a) disabled people are over-represented in poor communities where food insecurity is prevalent; b) disabled people experience additional access barriers to obtaining appropriate nutritious food than do their non-disabled counterparts; and c) disabled people, because they are more likely to have other health issues, are at greater risk for and more likely to experience negative health consequences from food insecurity than are non-disabled people.
Dr. Gerber's project expands her online, pilot survey to examine the ways in which standard measures of food insecurity do not adequately capture the barriers faced by people with disabilities in getting sufficient food, including attitudinal barriers. And, it begins documenting ways in which this population is included and excluded from the benefits of food, beyond nutrition and health – that is, the sociality, networking, and identity formation that accompanies eating. It also asks directly about access solutions to these barriers. For more information about this project, contact Dr Gerber directly or visit: http://www.montclair.edu/chss/anthropology/research/food-disability-research/
Socionatural Landscapes across the Caribbean Sea
With funding from the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society, Dr. Siegel has been leading an interdisciplinary team of earth and climate scientists and archaeologists in an investigation of historical ecology in the southern Caribbean and Lesser Antilles, spanning the full range of human occupations in the region. The team carefully assessed settings on nine islands between Venezuela and Puerto Rico to collect environmental cores, from which proxy data were obtained informing on pre-human baseline and anthropogenic landscapes. Major categories of proxy data include plant microfossils of pollen and phytoliths, sediment chemistry and grain sizes, and charcoal microparticulates. Shifting environmental histories were evaluated within the framework of Holocene climate records to distinguish natural vs. human-derived perturbations or landscape disturbances. Control on time was maintained through an aggressive program of high-precision radiocarbon dating. Results to date clearly show that human groups colonized the Lesser Antilles thousands of years earlier in the Holocene than what archaeologists previously considered. Further, these earliest colonists modified and managed landscapes upon which later settlers built. Finally, a number of our cores produced primary environmental evidence for the devastating effects of European domination and reconfiguring of Caribbean landscapes. This project in historical ecology adds the important dimension of time that is lacking in the static perspectives of cultural ecology. In so doing, we are able to address directly the legacies of human action on landscape history.