Lee News

Anthropology Majors Present at Conference


By Sara Groos

Several Lee anthropology majors recently presented their research at the Southern Anthropological Society (SAS) conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“The research these anthropology majors are engaged in is cutting edge and far beyond what undergraduates normally do,” said Dr. Murl Dirksen, professor of anthropology at Lee. “I would never have imagined performing this level of anthropological investigation as an undergraduate.”

Amber Beard presented “Symbolism and Representation of Animals in the Cherokee Culture,” which examined how Native American’s stories, primarily Cherokee, symbolically incorporate animals and use them in their daily lives, mythologies, and history.

Students Present at Conference

Jed Foster completed his research with an Appalachian College Association (ACA) research grant in summer 2017 in China conducting interviews on changes in the one-child policy. This research was explained in his presentation “Cross-Generational Perspectives on Family in Post-One-Child Policy China.”

Torah Harding-Laman is funded as a McNair Scholar. Her presentation, “Ha-yin! (‘Stand Up!’): Tsimshian and Language Revitalization in Southeast Alaska,” was conducted to document current Tsimshian language revitalization efforts in order to further empower the Alaskan Tsimshian community.

“What is noticeably unique about the anthropology community is that there is rarely competition, but rather genuine curiosity and encouragement about one another’s research,” said Harding-Laman. “The SAS conference reflected this quality well¬¬¬, and I left the conference with more ideas and determination for my research.”

Gina Merson will participate in archaeology field school at Eagle Rock Shelter in Delta, Colorado, this summer. She exhibited her research in “Baskets, Beads and Burial: Saga of 14,000 Years of Continual Occupation is in the Stratigraphy of Eagle Rock Shelter.”

Kelly Wnuk recently received an ACA research grant to interview historical preservationists in order to learn the symbolic meaning of tradition, racism, and southern pride attached to Confederate monuments. She presented “Leave History Alone: Redefining Collective Memory Among Confederate Cultural Preservationists in Southeast Tennessee.”

Lee alumna Erin Williamson (‘12) completed her master’s degree in cultural anthropology at University College London (UCL) in London, UK. Her presentation, “Rattlesnakes and Reflexivity: Ethnographic Considerations of Pentecostal Christianity in Modern Appalachia,” was based on a paper and introduced an ethnographic study of Pentecostal Christians in Appalachia who practice a century-old tradition of handling venomous snakes in the context of worship.

“These students are not only involved in research in China and among the First Nation people of Alaska, but also locally with groups working on cultural preservation,” said Dirksen. “It is a pleasure to be associated with such a premier group of anthropology undergraduate researchers.”

The anthropology program at Lee includes cultural studies, archaeological excavation and curation, and linguistics.

For more information about Lee’s anthropology program, contact Dirksen at mdirksen@leeuniversity.edu.


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