Category Archives: Research

Guest Post: American Anthropological Association Conference 2017 Recap

On Thursday, November 30, 2017 I attended my first ever American Anthropological Association (AAAs) Conference. I’ve been regularly attending professional conferences for over seven years, but the AAAs were both overwhelming, exciting, and unlike any other conference I have been to before. The sheer size alone was almost jaw dropping. There were approximately 6,000 people in attendance (!!), meaning that there were over 40 sessions at any given time between 8am and 8pm – totaling 750 sessions across five days. In fact, the conference was so large that it was held in two adjacent hotels in Washington, DC. Session topics ranged from roundtables on feminist ethnographies to oral presentations on manhoods and masculinities, from presentations on the global refugee and migrant crisis to the rise of 21st century nationalism in Europe and the US. The AAAs are an international conference and presentations focused on diverse cultural issues from an array of locations across the globe.

Dr. Faye Harrison presenting “From Ferguson and Flint to Standing Rock: Resisting Racializing Assaults on Community Sustainability and Human Life” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

This year’s theme was “Anthropology Matters” and numerous sessions focused on diversity, social justice, and the role of anthropology in a politically and socially turbulent world. One of the most intriguing sessions I attended was “Between Visibilities and Invisibilities: Forms of Racism and Anti-Racism in the Twenty-first Century”, organized and co-chaired by Faye Harrison (University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign), Yasuko Takezawa (Kyoto University), and Akio Tanabe (The University of Tokyo). This panel examined race, racism, and racialization in the contemporary globalized world, juxtaposing transpacific and transatlantic experiences and perspectives. Ultimately, this session aimed to “provide a common platform for interrogating the various forms and mechanisms of racisms where visible and invisible modalities operate in diverse yet connected ways.” Oral presentations included the racialization of social movements in Ferguson, Flint, and Standing Rock (presented by Harrison), a comparison of the transracial and transsexual movements (presented by John Russell – Gifu University), an examination of the “othering” of Eastern Europeans in Iceland (presented by Kristin Loftsdottir – University of Iceland), racial discrimination in Japan against invisible groups like the Burakumin (an outcaste group that generally lives in small rural communes in Japan; presented by Takezawa), and an exploration of how marginalized social groups have been racialized in Odisha, India during the age of globalization (presented by Tanabe). I especially enjoyed Harrisons presentation, “From Ferguson and Flint to Standing Rock: Resisting Racializing Assaults on Community Sustainability and Human Life.” Harrison illustrated how racial subjection and violence have undermined the well-being and human dignity of racially subjugated communities (namely, Black and Indigenous groups) in the Americas. Additionally, she outlined how groups like Black Lives Matter and the Water Protectors are banning together for their rights to ancestral territories, clean water, and other basic human rights.

Jennifer Porter-Lupu, MA, presenting “Sex Workers as a Stakeholder Community in Washington, DC: Incorporating Harm Reduction Philosophies into the Archaeological Praxis” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The range of diversity at the conference was so refreshing. Over the years, I have become used to being one of the only (or one of a handful of) black scholars at many of the conferences I attend. The disproportionate population of Euro-Americans scholars to Black and Indigenous scholars is well known within the archaeological community and has led to calls of a more inclusive archaeology over the years. But I have noticed that ethnic diversity is still severely lacking at the two to three archaeological conferences I attend or present at each year. Although, Euro-Americans and Europeans are still generally overrepresented in anthropology, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx scholars were well represented throughout the AAAs. This allowed for a variety of sessions and individual papers to focus on topics that commonly effect marginalized groups like decolonizing institutions (including anthropology and archaeology), health and sustainability for marginalized groups, activist scholarship, and race and racism. Although these topics are not new to anthropology, minority scholars allow for emic perspectives of the issues and fresh ideas for possible solutions to these challenges.

Dr. Kristen Barnett presenting “Archaeology as a DEcolonizing Mechanism: An Indigenous SURVEY and Response to Archaeologists” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The first session I attended and perhaps, the one I took the most away from was the “Enhancing the Presence of African Americans in Anthropology: Discussion of the Problem” roundtable organized by Tony Whitehead (University of Maryland). When I walked into the room it was jammed packed with mostly African American graduate students and professors (including Michael Blakey, Faye Harrison, Rachel Watkins, Kalfani Ture, and Anna Agbe-Davies). The roundtable style allowed for an open, honest, and critical discussion of the issues that face Black anthropologists throughout our careers. How can Black anthropologists successfully navigate the persistence of anthropology as White space? Will it ever be possible to establish (or in some cases, reestablish) Anthropology Departments at HBCUs? What is the role of Black anthropologists in social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock? As we worked through these questions, a point that was stressed time and time again was the importance of being connected to uplifting communities, mentors, and groups (like the Association of Black Anthropologists). Graduate school can be very isolating and self-doubt plagues many, but having a community to reach out to will help you navigate through the often turbulent waters of academia and remind you that you’re not alone.

Dr. Joseph Jones presenting “Making Black Lives Matter: Lessons from the New York African Burial Ground” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Finally, the dual African Burial Ground sessions, “Beyond the African Burial Ground: Anthropological and Trans-Disciplinary Innovations in Theory, Methods, and Technologies” and “Anthropology Beyond the African Burial Ground Project: Epistemologies, Ethics, and Interpreting the African Diasporic and Native American Pasts”, were thought provoking and inspiring. Presentations included with the African American descendant community members at James Madison’s Montpelier (Matthew Reeves – the Montpelier Foundation), the intersection of science and social justice in community-based anthropological investigations (Joseph Jones – William and Mary), the value of Black feminist anthropology (Rachel Watkins), the use of paleogenomics in African Diaspora archaeology (Hannes Schroeder – University of Copenhagen), lessons learned through the Werowocomoco archaeological project (Danielle Moretti-Langholtz), Indigenous archaeology and anthropology for and by Indigenous people (Ashley Atkins Spivey – Pamunkey Indian Tribe), and much more. These oral presentations highlighted the importance of ethical public engagement in anthropology and key takeaways from activist anthropological projects.

AAA President Alisse Waterston presenting her farewell address “Four Stories, A Lament, and an Affirmation”at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Although, I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the conference on Sunday, December 5th, I really enjoyed my first AAAs and learned a lot. I saw old friends and made new contacts at the nightly mixers. I met a few of my favorite anthropological scholars which allowed me the chance to ask them questions about their research and get advice on my own research interests. It was an invaluable and encouraging experience as a whole.

The next AAAs will be held in San Jose, California from November 14-18, 2018.

About the Author:

 Chardé Reid is a first year M.A./ Ph.D. historical archaeology student in the Department of Anthropology at William and Mary. She received her B.A. in Archaeology in 2009 from the George Washington University. She has a wide range of archaeological field work experience, having worked on archaeological sites in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, and Athens, Greece. Chardé served as the co-field director of the Shotgun House Public Archaeology Project, Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project (recipient of a SHA Gender and Minority Affairs Committee’s inaugural Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award and a 2017 DC Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation), and the Stanton Road Archaeological Project, all in Washington, DC. She is interested in the relationship between landscape and memory in historically Black spaces. Chardé’s graduate research will focus on the intersection between race, identity, cultural landscapes, and materiality through community-based archaeology.

Week 5, or How to Successfully Defend A Master’s Thesis

Yes, it’s true, I did defend my thesis on Wednesday and I’m still riding on the high of being free from that enormous weight.

As I’ve got this step behind me, I want to reflect a little bit on the process. My program required me to write a portfolio, with the understanding that the essays will build off of those written for seminars over the course of the year. I used an essay that I wrote for my Popular Culture and Power class during my first semester, and the essay I wrote for my Harlem Renaissance class for the other. At the end of the year, my first step was to get organized…

STEP 1: Get organized! Make yourself a schedule!

At the start of the summer, I was required to create and submit a writing plan to my advisor and the Dean. While this was primarily a formality so that I would be allowed to hold a part time job at Michaels, having this as a set of guidelines was really helpful.

I admittedly did not follow this schedule exactly, but I followed it well enough to get a first draft in on August 1 as planned and a defense by the end of September. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was to be firm with your goals, but flexible about how and when you get there.


STEP 2: Make sure to do your research!

I already wrote about the joys of archival research, so be sure to check that out, as well as the lovely piece that was written about me from the VCU end.

STEP 3: Just write! 

Write, unfiltered, as much as you can, every day if possible. I also wrote about that struggle over the summer as well in another blog post.

STEP 4: Editing, editing…and more editing.

IMG_4348After I wrote my first draft and submitted it to my advisor the first time, she gave me a nice little letter with general comments, as well as a physical copy of my paper with marginalia. It took me a little while to wade through all of her comments, but after I did, I compiled a list of all the edits as a check list with notes on how to address each point. (For example, she might suggest that I need to add historical evidence, and I would write in which books or articles had the evidence she was looking for. Occasionally, I’d write a sentence or two addressing the issue on the page. Or rewrite an entire section on the back of a page…)

This process was particularly stressful because I waited until school started to really get into this. So I did an insane amount of content edits in about two weeks. For two weeks, I carried my binder of notes and drafts and edits around with me until I felt like crazy Joe Gould, writing and rewriting his oral history. I was agitated and stressed out for two solid weeks, and in the days leading up to my second submission, I had every last one of my family and friends praying for me.

But fortunately, my second submission was defensible! I got my advisor my second draft Monday morning of the 11th and by the 12th, she’d e-mailed me saying my draft was good, that she’d go ahead and e-mail my committee to set up a date at the end of September, that I would have yet another annotated draft in my mailbox and that after finishing those edits, I should e-mail out my portfolio (my third draft) to my committee by the 15th. (Can I just take a second to emphasize what a SUPERHERO my advisor is???)

STEP 5: Schedule and prepare for your defense.

My advisor handled this part, primarily because I think she thought we’d be able to get the ball moving faster if she plead on my behalf. I had to get my defense done by the end of September and while I wanted to be done, the fast turn around had less to do with me and more to do with satisfying administration.

Because of this, I didn’t have any control over when I actually defended. They gave me a date and a time, and that was it. I gave myself a week break from looking at my thesis because honestly, I was burnt out from thinking about it. Then, I started trying to prepare.

My defense, as I understood it, was not a formal thing. It would mostly be a conversation. My advisor suggested however, that I write a short statement to introduce my work. I tried very hard to write it, but it only happened the night before the big day, and in the end of it was just a series of bullet points– cute anecdotes about being a precocious child in love with comics and a hotheaded teenager using comics to prove a point in English class. I talked about how I came to Black Panther comics and Incognegro, what I was trying to accomplish and where I wanted to go with my work.  I practiced it in my car driving from Suffolk to Williamsburg and to my dog, who had no idea what was happening but looked at me encouragingly.


Even knowing that the defense was informal, that my committee members were awesome, that my advisor would not set me up for failure, I was still nervous going in. I put on my James Baldwin sweatshirt and prayed for the confidence of Angela Davis, the candor of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the presence of mind of Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, DuBois and literally every Black figure I’ve ever been inspired by as I walked up to the building.

We had it in the library in the American Studies building. I chatted with my advisor until everyone appeared, and soon after that, my advisor welcomed everyone and gave me the floor for my introduction. I did it and then the questions started. One of my committee members set me at ease by saying that all of his questions should be framed by the fact that he thought my portfolio was great and it was a really fun read. He got the ball rolling by asking me to talk about the parts that I enjoyed writing and did well in my portfolio and which could have used more work– and as I described how fun it was to go do archival research and learning about the historical presence of Black Panther, I finally understood what everyone was trying to tell me. I was the expert on this. I knew this stuff. This was my wheelhouse and I loved it. It showed in my work. It showed in my face as I lit up talking about my paper. So it went on like that for an hour and a half, fielding questions about intellectual property, time-traveling frogs, and Christopher Priest. They complimented sections of my close readings and pointed out one important section of an image that I completely missed (thankfully it didn’t destroy my argument and I can go back and add it as a footnote.) They gave me suggestions and helped me think through where I could go with my ideas. I took lots of notes, and then at last, it was over.

They asked me to step out of the room for a few minutes and when the door opened again, my advisor came to get me, smiling widely and giving me thumbs up. “They loved it!” she told me, and I walked back into the room to congratulations and hugs. I chatted with them for a little while longer, got myself a celebratory hazelnut latte, and called my parents with the news as I walked to class.


IMG_4389 I spent the hours after my successful defense buying myself ingredients to make stew, having Red Lobster with my parents and writing a blog post about my gratitude for everyone who helped me get to this point.

The celebration lasted a couple of days. I was taken out for dinner, ice cream and coffee by friends and family. My friend got me a hilariously appropriate congratulatory Superman card, on which she had crossed out the “birthday” with Sharpie and added “defense” instead. I got calls from friends and texts from advisors and mentors and I could not have been happier.

STEP 8: Attend to the final administrative touches.

Now, even though the hard part is over, I still have administrative touches to go through. My committee each gave me drafts with comments and line edits, though one member assured me it would be a day or two of edits at the most. I still have to submit it to an online system for the College, which could result in formatting edits, plus forms of all kinds which will allow it to go on JSTOR and I have to get it bound for the American Studies department once those edits happen.

My advisor suggested I get these done sooner than later, so I’ll probably take this up again over Fall Break. I applied to get my diploma in January, so I do need to make sure all of these logistic matters are in order so nothing stands between me and degree number 2.

It’s been a wild ride but the worst is over thankfully. Now, I can move on to the next step– I’ll admit, I’m already thinking about comps lists.

As my mom would say, “Keep it movin’.”

Intermission, ft. Baby’s First Archive Trip!

As promised, today I’m rehashing my first archive visit! After completing one successful visit, I am clearly an authority on how to do this (please, please read the sarcasm), so if you need a step by step tutorial, you’ve come to the right place!

Step 1: Have a vague (or specific) idea of what you’re looking for; find an archive that has this vague/specific material– or something closely related.

DO: Ask your professors for leads on archives, archivists who specialize in your topic, universities that have certain collections.

DON’T: Assume the only archive you know about has what you’re looking for.

All I knew when I was starting out was that I wanted to find an archive that had the July 1966 Fantastic Four issue no. 52, which featured the introduction of Black Panther. I really wanted to read Stan Lee’s Soapbox Letters and the Letters from the Bullpen in the early Black Panther comics to see what the discourse around the character was. Everything I’d been using up until yesterday had been a reprint and thus all of the fun extra pages from the originals were absent.

One of my professors gave me a lead on a comic archive in Michigan, but as I’d assumed I’d find something in the National Archive, I didn’t apply for summer research money, thinking I’d just have a jaunt up to D.C. and return with everything I needed. When I finally had time to scour the archives a few weeks ago, I came up empty handed and started to panic.

Once I pulled myself together, I told myself I just needed to follow a different trail. One of my favorite things to do is mine footnotes of articles and books that were inspiring to me. I wound up searching through the entire #WakandaSyllabus just to see if anything would jump out at me. Fortunately, one of the sources in the Syllabus, was a link to an article about VCU’s Comic Collection and the head archivist there, Cindy Jackson, in RVANews. It took me about ten minutes to realize that the archive had every Black Panther comic I needed to look at, and dozens more, and only a few minutes after that to begin drafting an e-mail to the archivist…

Step 2: Reach Out to the Archivist of Your Collection

DO: Go through the archive and have a list of things you’d like to see.

DON’T: Worry about getting everything perfect the first time. Be honest about where you are in your researching journey.

Working with Cindy was fantastic. She promptly replied to emails, was happy to pull additional sources for me that I hadn’t listed, but felt I might enjoy, and was generally outstanding in her knowledge of comics and comic scholars. I knew when we both agreed that Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound was a better Wonder Woman history than Jill Lepore’s The Secret Life of Wonder Woman that I was in good hands.

Step 3: Plan Your Visit

DO: Have a date in mind, but be flexible. It may take time for the archivist to gather your materials.

DON’T: Over do it. Don’t ask to see 300 sources when you know you’re only going to be visiting for a day.

I planned on coming in to the archive about a week after I initially reached out to Cindy. I made myself a list of things I needed to see (which really was only the Fantastic Four no. 52 and 53 and a few of the first Jungle Action issues) and then listed everything else as “would be nice but not necessary.”

Cindy gave me a general set of guidelines for what to expect when I got to the archive– she’d pull a set of things for me, but I’d be able to take about 5 into the reading room at a time; there was a scanner but I was able to bring in electronics and a camera if necessary; and she recommended I bring a jump drive, as it’d be a little easier than trying to e-mail myself a zillion pages of comics.

Step 4: Prep For Your Visit

DO: Pack your bag the night before. Charge your electronics. Make sure you have directions to the archive. Take a jacket or a long sleeve shirt in case it’s cold. 🙂

DON’T: Forget your camera battery.

I forgot my camera battery. I left it in the wall, charging.

It wasn’t really that big of a deal because I had my jump drive and was able to scan everything I needed, but I was mostly just annoyed that I’d done all that prep and even ran back into the apartment for snacks and an additional phone and iPad charger— but still forgot the camera battery.

Had the camera. Forgot the battery.

Here’s what I took with me in a tote bag:

  • My iPad
  • My iPhone
  • My iPad/iPhone charger and USB cord
  • My Jump Drive
  • My camera (which was useless without its battery but anywho…)
  • My thesis binder with all my notes, essay drafts, and other related materials (included a pad of paper for scratch notes)
  • My journal, which had written instructions on how to get to the library, and then how to get to the archive once inside
  • Pencil case just bursting with writing utensils (which was also useless as, of course, you’re only allowed to bring in pencils and they have those inside the reading room so…)
  • My wallet
  • Snacks! (I didn’t know what my food situation would be like, alright?)

I didn’t take my laptop, mostly because it’s big and clunky and honestly a piece of crap. But I almost wish I’d taken it, if only because I could’ve used it to make sure all my scans were saving properly. (I’m a little anxious that everything will disappear on me.)

I also wish I’d had business cards with me so I could’ve shared my information with some of the other really nice archivists I met. (Especially since I was planning on writing nice things about them on my blog.)

Step 5: Enjoy the Journey

DO: Blast hype music in the car and sing loudly during the hour I spent on 64 traveling to Richmond.

DON’T: Panic or stress.

Once I got into Richmond, I missed a lot of turns and got really turned around because there was so much construction happening on the campus itself. Cindy had recommended just parking in a lot so I wouldn’t have to move during the day, but I was so worried about arriving late, that I just swung into the first 2 hour spot I found on the street. (Thank God for my three years of parallel parking training in insanely tight street spots near the French House.)

Nevertheless, I was only moderately behind schedule and was ready to head into my latest adventure.

Step 6: Get Started!

DO: Introduce yourself! Explain your project! But also listen to the archivist– they’ll give you valuable information about the archive, the sources they’ve rounded up for you, and any special directions/protocol to follow while working in the reading room.

DON’T: Worry about getting lost on your way to the archive itself! Just ask people where to go. Bonus points if you accidentally run into your best friend from undergrad, who’s studying to be a dentist, while you’re attempting to find the archive. (She helped me find the library.)

As I’ve mentioned, Cindy was an invaluable resource. She pulled a bunch of really awesome comics for me, including one really neat one that was an actual “Black Panther” comic (like the Oakland, CA/Black beret/10 Point Program Panthers), featuring a brother named “Eldridge.” (See below) How sway. She also let me know about cool things they do, like an annual comic sale!

Once we were done chatting, I selected my first five comics and headed into the reading room with my iPad, phone, binder, jumpdrive, charger, and pencil.

Step 7: Start Scanning!

DO: Take a look to see what treasures you’ve uncovered!

DON’T: Spend all day just looking. Start scanning so you can pour over them from the comfort of your home.

My goal was to get everything Cindy had pulled for me scanned and on my jump drive so I could look at everything carefully when I got home.

They had an overhead scanner, so I could look at the pages while the machine did its job. I mostly scanned nonstop, but if something jumped out at me, I’d jot down a note with the issue I found it in. For instance, I just noted things like:

  • Striking villains. (ex. Black Panther v. the Klan)
  • Lynching scenes
  • If Black Panther was listed as a comic you could subscribe to (it usually wasn’t)
  • Who the advertisements were geared to
  • If any of the fan letters stuck out to me.

After I got into a rhythm, it didn’t take me long to move on through the issues.

Around noon, I decided to take a lunch break and move my car…

Step 8: Take a break! Eat! Drink! Be Merry!

DO: Move your car if it’s in two hour parking.

DON’T: Get a parking ticket. (I didn’t, so that was nice.)

Fortunately, there was a full service Starbucks on the first floor of the library, so I met up with my aforementioned friend and we passed an amicable lunch hour together, getting caught up and filling each other in on our respective pursuits. It was only appropriate that the (future) Drs. Stringfield and Dao ran into each other at a library where we were both trying to do work.

Step 9: Finish scanning!

DO: Make sure to get business cards before you leave!

DON’T: Leave the room a mess. Make sure it looks the same as it did when you came in.

I spent the rest of the afternoon scanning more issues and chatting with one of the other archivists, who was pleasant and interested in my project. Before long, I had scanned everything I needed and I tried to use the scanner to see if my scans were being saved on the jump drive properly. It took a while, but I managed to figure it out and I saw about 2 dozen folders on my jump drive, so I figured they’d stuck.

I spent a few minutes writing about the most interesting things I’d seen during the day and what I might like to see if I came again.

I returned everything to its proper place in the reading room and returned the rest of my issues to the archivist on duty, making sure they were placed back correctly in their plastic. I made sure to grab one of Cindy’s cards so I could e-mail her and thank her, as she’d been gone when I was leaving.

For some reason, I’d imagined archive work to be dreary and miserable, but I had passed a remarkably pleasant day, wading through first editions of comics in a bright, newly constructed facility, with enthusiastic and knowledge archivists ready to help me, if I said the word. I was satisfied knowing that I’d found a resource so close to home that I might be able to use not only for my Masters thesis, but for my dissertation as well.

Step 10: Carefully review your new found collection of sources.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this morning when I haven’t been writing up this post. I’ve been looking through my issues, renaming folders as necessary and taking notes, all while enjoying as much coffee as I’d like (one of the downsides of archives: no coffee allowed.)

I’ll be sure to let you all know what treasures I’ve uncovered when I’m done wading through all my sources!

If you’re interested in comic studies and happen to be in the Virginia/DMV area, be sure to give Cindy and the Comic Arts Collection a visit in VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library.