Dear All,
Welcome to the Fall 2021 semester! There's no denying the mix of excitement, anticipation, hope, and trepidation in the air. Thankfully, there has been measurable progress on multiple fronts as compared to this same time last year, but there are some continuities as well with the continuing pandemic, unresolved LEO contract negotiations and ongoing efforts to improve our departmental climate.

We are back on campus doing the research, teaching and public engagement that attracted us to this fabulous anthropology community. We welcome and look forward to getting to know our new cohort of students, and we thank Andrew for managing the department during an especially challenging time. Under his leadership we secured wonderful new faculty and students, fiscal good health, and excellent relations with the College and Rackham.

Our department officers this year are Laura MacLatchy (Associate Chair, and Director of Social Justice Initiatives, Winter 2022), Damani Partridge (Director of Social Justice Initiatives, Fall 2021), Maureen Devlin (Director of Undergraduate Studies), and Raven Garvey (Director of Graduate Studies). Our subfield heads are: Mike Galaty (Archeology, and Director of the U-M Museum of Anthropological Archaeology), John Kingston (Biological), Bruce Mannheim (Linguistic) and Liz Roberts (Sociocultural). Our student organizations and initiatives—Michigan Anthropology Graduate Students (MAGS), Michigan International Student Anthropology Association (MISAA), Michigan Anthropology Anti-Racism Collective (MAARC) and Anthropology Undergraduate-Graduate Mentoring Program (AUGMENT)—showcase the commitment students are making to our department community by addressing student needs and advocating for positive change. Our staff— Kari Beall Conley, Kat East, Darlinda Flanigan, Helen Garbarino, Melinda Nelson, Amy Rundquist and Julie Winningham,—bring immeasurable talent, expertise and energy to our department, keeping our ship afloat. And our faculty, with their cutting-edge research, are redefining and expanding the reach of anthropology in fascinating ways.

It’s going to be another challenging year. We will continue our efforts to combat the racism, colonialism, sexism and ableism that attended the birth and development of our discipline, and that linger in unintended but no less real and harmful ways. The Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements forced an overdue acknowledgment that, despite championing and celebrating diversity, the discipline of anthropology has fallen short of producing inclusivity and equity among its practitioners and in its scholarship. Moreover, as a field-based discipline, anthropology is acutely impacted by the ongoing pandemic, which is surging in regions where many of us work. Some students, despite having fellowships and research permits in hand, have had to postpone their dissertation or preliminary fieldwork for the second year in a row. And with one foot here and one foot in field sites around the world, many of us worry about those with whom we work who do not have access to vaccines, quality healthcare and other needed resources. 

We will need everyone’s participation, creativity, flexibility, and mutual respect to make it through this year. I ask you for this and offer mine in return. Enjoy the start of the term and the beauty of late summer/early fall. I look forward to seeing you, learning from you and working alongside every one of you.

- Kelly Askew, Anthropology Chair