Monthly Archives: September 2011

50 years ago in anthropology

Browsing through a 50-year-old online issue of the American Anthropological Association’s Fellow Newsletter, volume 2 number 7, September 1961. Some highlights:

  • Reported on plans for the upcoming 60th annual conference, to be held at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 16-19 1961. The AAA was expecting 265 papers for that conference, and not all of these would be able to be read in full because the program was too full. An opening plenary session on “Sex and Culture” was planned, including a paper by none other than William Masters and Virginia E Johnson entitled “The Cycle of Sexual Response of the Human Male and Female.” Also notable was the the Society for Ethnomusicology held their meetings jointly with the AAA that year.
  • Announced the impending launch of Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, under the editorship of George P. Murdock (of HRAF fame). This was to be a quarterly journal with an annual subscription price of $5.
  • Graduate student Roger Keesing received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. (Keesing conducted fieldwork among the Kwaio of the Solomon Islands, went on to author the much-used text Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective, and was Professor of Anthropology at the Australian National University for over fifteen years before moving to McGill University in 1990. He died of a heart attack at the dinner & dance of the 1993 Canadian Anthropology Society conference.)
  • And this job ad: “University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada. Social or cultural anthropologist. Instructor or assistant professor rank. Ph.D. preferred. Salary $5,500 and up. Summer teaching available and possibilities of ethnological and archaeological field work. Address applications to Dr. A.G. Bailey, Dean of Arts, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada. I’d like to know who got that job, as it pre-dated the official formation of an anthropology/sociology department at UNB.

Interesting to look back at a frozen moment in the history of our discipline to get a sense of what has changed, and what has remained the same (or similar). This year’s AAA conference is being held in Montreal on almost the same dates as in 1961, November 16-20. They expect to attract over 5000 registrants, with over 300 paper sessions (most with 3-6 papers per session). My former PhD supervisor at the Australian National University, Ian Keen, is giving a paper in a session on kinship that also includes a paper investigating the “Implications of Keesing for European Kinship”. So the discipline has grown substantially, but there are still lots of interesting connections to be made.


Forensic scientists identify Ned Kelly’s remains

A recent news item from Australia draws attention to the field of forensics, a speciality of our own Prof. Moira McLaughlin, in relation to Australia’s greatest folk hero (or villain), Ned Kelly, whose remains were recently identified.

Our students here at STU may not be familiar with Ned Kelly. He was the best-known “bushranger” (a kind of outlaw)  in Australian history. The son of an Irish convict transported to Australia, Kelly was born in 1855 in the Australian state of Victoria . His criminal career began at age 14, and he was involved in assaults, theft, and cattle rustling. He eventually became the leader of a gang on the run from the Victorian police for the murder of several police constables, in addition to a string of daring bank robberies. While on the run, he justified his actions in a lengthy manifesto now known as “The Jerilderie Letter,” thought by some to be an early call for an Australian republic. Ned Kelly was finally apprehended after an infamous shootout at Glenrowan (which included the outlaws wearing homemade armour for protection), during which the other members of the Kelly Gand were killed. He was tried, sentenced, and hanged in the Melbourne Gaol in November 1880. He now has a kind of Robin Hood status among some Australians, and is seen as representative of a defiant anti-authoritarian and republican aspect of the Australian character.

The forensic science angle of all of this concerns Ned Kelly’s skull. Kelly was buried in a mass grave at the Melbourne Gaol. In 1929 the area around the gaol was dug up for urban development, and a skull reported to be Kelly’s was stolen as a keepsake. Decades of speculation about the whereabouts and authenticity of the skull ensued. In 2008 more human remains were uncovered and sent to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for analysis, and many were positively identified as the remains of Ned Kelly through a variety of forensic techniques, especially DNA analysis. The skull reported to be Kelly’s, however, has been proven not to be his, and so his real skull is still on the run.






STU anthropology alumnus blogs from fieldwork

Joshua Green, formerly an honours student in anthropology here at STU and now an MA student in anthropology at the University of Alberta, is currently conducting fieldwork for his MA thesis in the Faroe Islands. And he’s blogging about it! Check out his blog, “A Canadian in the Faroes,” at the following URL:

Josh did an honors thesis here at STU on concepts of tradition, authenticity, and cultural production at the Miramichi Folksong Festival (, based on fieldwork and archival research.

His current MA thesis examines similar issues pertaining to Faroese folk music, particularly the ways in which old Faroese folksongs are incorporated into contemporary Faroese popular music. An example is the Faroese Folk metal band Týr (

Josh has been posting mostly photographs taken during his fieldwork. But check out some of his earliest posts to find two excellent research papers that he wrote about the Faroes, one of them presented at the 2011 Canadian Anthropology Society conference, hosted here at STU in May and co-organized by STU’s own Dr. Craig Proulx.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Josh was not the only scholar of folk metal at the recent conference of the International Council for Traditional Music, hosted at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Growing field!

First day(s) of class

For most of us here at STU, yesterday and today were the first days of class for the Fall 2011 semester. We have three completely full sections of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, and one completely full section of Introduction to Physical Anthropology. We are also teaching:

  • two Area Ethnography courses (South America and Aboriginal Experiences in Cities)
  • Archaeology of Early Societies – North/Central America
  • Human Biological Diversity
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Reading Ethnography
  • Applied Forensic Anthropology
  • and our three required upper-year courses: Readings in Anthropological Theory, Qualitative Research Methods, and Issues in Anthropology

So life is busy again. Any students here at STU interested in these courses can contact me, or the professor offering the course.


Welcome to STUAnthroBlog!

Welcome to STUAnthroBlog, a blog created for, and about, anthropology at St. Thomas University. My name is Peter Toner, and I will be your host. I am a social anthropologist specializing in music and social identity in northeast Arnhem Land, Australia, and New Brunswick, Canada.

Ours is a small department of four full-time and three part-time faculty members, in a small liberal arts university in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Over the next few weeks I will endeavour to introduce them all to you.

My intentions in creating this blog are twofold: first, to provide a resource for students at St. Thomas University who are interested in anthropology; and second, to share with the blogosphere something of the research and teaching interests of STU anthropologists. Comments are welcome!

Now, please bear with me as I figure out how to use WordPress…