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“What Does Anthropology Mean to You?”

Feb 17, 2022

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A blue digital graphic that reads in white text, "Let's talk! Anthropology Day, February 17, 2022."

Today is Anthropology Day. In honor of the occasion, we asked our Cultural Resources team a simple, yet big, question, “What does anthropology mean to you?” Here’s what they had to say:

“As a 21st century anthropologist who identifies as a Black and Latina woman (historically underrepresented groups in the field), I feel obligated to situate myself personally and professionally where I can work to redress the dark origins of the field that are rooted in colonialism, racism, and eugenics. This is why I am honored to be working at the Museum of Us where we take accountability for the role that our institution has played in injustices affecting people of color and Indigenous/Native communities, in particular; and where we make tangible actions to dismantle the colonial legacy of anthropology and museums.”

– Carmen Mosley, NAGPRA Repatriation Manager

“This question hits me at a point when I am fully embracing what it means to be a Mixed/Black woman in a field that has historically excluded, erased, and degraded the work of BIPOC anthropologists as well as the histories and contemporary activities of BIPOC communities. It means as I navigate our current churning cultural waters of a Euro-American dominated society, I look to the past, the present, and to the future for how I want to do the work and who I want to be in the anthropology field.
I look to Black and Indigenous trailblazers like Zora Neal Hurston, Verna Mae Green, Beatrice Medicine, and Ella Cara Deloria who had to work within a colonial system to tell the true stories of their communities. I look to today and see a beautiful mélange of anthropologists and adjacent professions who are more fully recognizing the deeply rooted Colonialist, White Supremacist, and Imperialistic ideals that founded the profession and how they can reject these systems to change the field and our work within it. I also look toward a brighter future of anthropology where professionals can follow their passions to not only learn from and about communities, but make it a core facet of their work to continue breaking down systems of oppression to not only improve the field but better humanity as a whole.
In short, there is a long and dark history to contend with but when we face it, we own it, and we seek to do better in non-performative ways how can we not succeed in making anthropology a field for all?”

– Kara Vetter, Director of Cultural Resources

Anthropology Day is always held on the third Thursday in February. Learn more about Anthropology Day from the American Anthropological Association.

Learn more about Decolonizing Initiatives at the Museum of Us.