Dissertation Tips

Are you heading into your 3rd year and would like to know about writing a dissertation? Or are you just interested to know what it feels like throughout the year long experience of formulating your own work?

Then check out the following tips and highlights of my year-long journey writing my personal research piece!

#1 – Start early!

Don’t leave the preparation or formulation of ideas till the start of the semester. Your final year is quite a step up from the year before, and having a head start with a clear idea of what you want to do will help you relieve some of those weight.

#2 – Get the administration out of the way!

You will want to focus on content, research and the actual writing itself, not on completing administrative papers or logistics. If you already have a clear idea of what you would like to do, head to your relevant staff members to get ethical, funding or logistical approval. This way, everything is in place to give you a piece of mind to conduct your piece of research.

#3 – Research, research, research

Whether you are heading into the field for research or doing a literary review, the time you have from the summer months to November are crucial to get your results in place. I completed all my research and had all my results in place by July, such was my over-enthusiastic drive to make sure my dissertation wouldn’t take up too much time during term time.

#4 – Meet your professors

Knock on their doors, send them emails… make sure you meet up with professors who aren’t your dissertation supervisor. They are crucial in getting an encompassing view on your research and provide useful insights to things you might have never thought of.

#5 – Quadruple check with your friends and family

They might not have expertise in your field, but what I’ve learnt most is that friends who might not study the same subject or who have a different life experience to yours can point out mistakes you might never notice. Imagine them as lawyers reading your dissertation – they scrutinise and give you insights to the way your grammar and vocabulary is structured and what makes this brilliant is that your piece of writing is not only academically sound, but it can also be understood by the public.

All the best to the next batch of dissertation writers!

Jason Chang

SSIS BBQ

Sun, burgers, good laughter, goodie bags and plenty of familiar and new faces – these were all part of the end of year Student Engagement and Academic Representation BBQ held at the RAM garden on campus. The event was organised by George Flower and Anna Hamilton from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies with the aim of rewarding students from the college for their dedication to the improvement of the student experience.

SSIS BBQ 10

Plenty of awards recognizing the achievements of various projects and individuals were handed out. Within the department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (SPA), members of the Sociology and Anthropology society were commended on their contributions to the department, alongside Global Exe, the youth project started by editor of this blog, Jason Chang.

SSIS BBQ 1

The BBQ provided an opportunity for SPA to interact with other attendees from CSSIS. Attendees from the politics department who had set up the “Diplomatic Hub” conversed with attendees from Global Exe and exchanged various ideas between each other to improve and make progress to their own individual projects.

SSIS BBQ 4

The melting pot of ideas and conversations did not simply stop at the projects and initiatives that students had set up. With the wealth of expertise in attendance, students from law to philosophy conversed about ideas for their future and also the sharing of good practice in their coursework. Among the many themes of discussion at the table included the study of linguistics, military law and even the sociology of name tags!

If you would like to join the table for such interesting conversations and would like to represent your cohort in a leadership position, places are still available to nominate yourself to be a representative for the Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology SSLC positions! If you would like to find out more information or nominate yourself, email ssis-studentengagement@exeter.ac.uk today!

Jason Chang

Desert Island Books: Philosophy

Continuing our ‘Desert Island Books’ posts, editor Samuel Fawcett lists five essential books that any philosophy student should read.

René Descartes – Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes is often referred to as the father of modern philosophy, and his Meditations underpins his thought and outlines most of his key      ideas. Intended as a proof of the existence of God, the Meditations have nonetheless proved a touchstone for both religious and secular philosophers, as they stress the importance of scepticism and methodic doubt. It is in this work that the famous ‘I think, therefore I am’ statement originates.

Ludwig Wittgenstein – Philosophical Investigations

A hugely controversial figure in his day, Wittgenstein proposed that nearly all philosophical problems were simply due to semantic and linguistic issues. Philosophical Investigations is his attempt to demonstrate the limitations of language and meaning and how it impedes our search for truth. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the philosophy of language, and serves as a foundation for much of post-modern thought. This work is famed for Wittgenstein theorising that if a lion could speak English, we wouldn’t be able to understand it.

Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

De Beauvoir was a giant of both existentialist and feminist philosophy, and her work, The Second Sex, is regarded by many as her magnum opus. The book deals with the multitudinous ways in which women’s bodies and thoughts are regulated by a patriarchal society and puts forward a pathway to liberation. It is a groundbreaking work that is credited with igniting second-wave feminism, and it was instantly placed on the Vatican’s list of prohibited books. It was in this work that de Beauvoir stated, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’

Hegel – The Phenomenology of Spirit

If you can make your way through Hegel’s turgid and often over-complicated prose, The Phenomenology of Spirit is one of the most rewarding and important books in understanding modern philosophy. It is in this work that Hegel outlines his famous ideas of the dialectic and absolute idealism. The broad range of topics and ideas covered in Phenomenology formed the basis for many future philosophical and political schools, including existentialism, communism, fascism and nihilism.

Plato – Republic

No list of essential philosophical texts would be complete without Plato’s Republic. Arguably the most influential work of philosophy and political theory ever written, the Republic outlines Plato’s concepts of justice, liberty and fair governance. In outlining these ideas, Plato also puts forward his famous allegory of the cave and his theory of ideas. So many philosophical schools and ideas can trace their roots back to Plato’s Republic, and this alone makes it an essential read for philosophy students.

Anthropology Desert Island Books

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Looking to do some anthropological summer reading to get you in the academic mindset but not sure where to start? Wanting a casual read that’s both fun and informative? Not sure whether to start with classic or contemporary literature? Then check out this Desert Island Books recommendation by Anthropology Editor Jess Wiemer, who provides her must-read anthropological favourites.

 

Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology: Humanity, Culture and Social Life

By Tim Ingold

This volume is a comprehensive guide to the main theories and arguments in cultural and biological anthropology. It contains sections on human evolution, the components of culture and their histories, and social processes. This volume is ideal in gaining a basic understanding of the field of anthropology. Its short, succinct sections work perfectly as a quick and easy reference.

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harari

This volume is ideal for the budding biological anthropologist. This historical overview of humankind begins discussing ‘The Cognitive Revolution’ through an examination of human biological evolution. From there Harari moves on to discuss ‘The Agricultural Revolution’ and the beginnings of human culture, followed by ‘The Unification of Humankind’ and imperialism. He concludes by examining ‘The Scientific Revolution’ which includes an in-depth analysis of capitalism and industry. This volume exquisitely details the main events in human history and its consequences. Sapiens is a perfect resource to use when attempting to examine social events with philosophical, sociological, historical, biological, and cultural anthropological perspectives.

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Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory

By Alfred Gell

This intriguing volume examines arguments surrounding the agency of art. Agency is define as the intentional will of an actor for a specific outcome to occur. Gell theorizes that art objects are actors with the capacity to enact agency on the viewers of the art objects. For anyone interested in Actor-Network theory, art, or technology, Art and Agency is a brilliant work conceptualizing contemporary ideas on the blurred lines between the human and non-human.

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Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache

By Keith Basso

This ethnography examines conceptions of space and place by focusing on landscape ontologies of the Western Apache nation of east central Arizona. This fascinating volume delves into theories surrounding the symbiotic relationship between humans and landscape, and the agency and cultural meanings derived from both. Basso’s poetic writing engages the reader whilst remaining analytical in his research. Wisdom Sits in Places is and exciting read for those interested in landscape, the agency of objects, or theoretical ethnographies.

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Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography

By James Clifford and George Marcus

This brilliant volume edited by Clifford and Marcus is an essential read for anyone interested in writing ethnographically. It delves into controversial ethical dilemmas surrounding ethnographic writing including issues of bias and problematic data. It examines the argument that being a distant, scientific observer is not only impossible to be as an anthropologist, but the attempt perpetuates ideas of Western supremacy of knowledge which stems from imperialism. This volume thoroughly analyses the changing dynamic of ethnography and cultural intervention in the postmodern era, and is critical for students learning how to research and write ethnographically.

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Join the Buddy Scheme!

Keen to provide a friendly, peer-to-peer support for incoming freshers for the next academic year? Then the Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology department wants you! The SPA Buddy Scheme is a Peer Mentoring programme run by students, for students.

Starting out at university can be a big change, and the Buddy Scheme aims to provide pastoral support for first year students to help them feel more settled in the university. Keen to support and empower mentees to find solutions to problems, signposting them to appropriate services and building a supportive relationship to get them off their mark? Then the Buddy Scheme is just for you!

Jess Wiemer, one of our editors and current Buddy Scheme mentor, rates the scheme highly –

“The Buddy Scheme was a great opportunity to help first year students feel more comfortable at university. I found the scheme to be a more intimate way for them to get to know the university and the town from a student perspective, as opposed to speaking to lecturers or the university administration. Not only was it exciting to help students, but I made new friends along the way. I really enjoyed the experience.”

What will you take away from it? As a former mentor myself, I found that you will develop your verbal and listening skills, alongside understanding how to maintain boundaries while being fully supportive in understanding the experience of working with the needs of students in a higher education institute.

Interested? Applications should be submitted by 25th May at the following link:  http://goo.gl/forms/pg2pdvoBWL

Questions? Contact ssis-studentengagement@exeter.ac.uk for your queries!

Jason

Studying for a degree? Consider doing work experience!

One of the most useful things about studying for a degree is the opportunity for work experience and the extra-curricular activities it brings. These endeavours can not only enhance your CV, but also broaden your understanding of the subject and how it relates to the wider world.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to intern at the local office of Ben Bradshaw MP, and I can honestly say that as well as demonstrating the practical applications of sociology the experience was a rewarding one, helping me judge in which direction I wish to take my life.

Exeter’s MP since 1997, Ben Bradshaw. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

As Exeter is holding elections for its City Council next month, most of my week was taken up by canvassing. We spent the week traversing the length of Exeter, often accompanied by Ben Bradshaw, which though physically tiring gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents. Indeed, any kind of volunteer work within a city broadens your knowledge of the area and makes you feel more a part of it. This was furthered by the fact I was able to meet not only the local MP, but also the council leader and various councillors who were able to share their experiences of working in local government and information about Exeter’s communities and the problems they face. Meeting residents was also very informative; issues raised ranged from housing and schooling to their dislike of Labour’s new direction.

From a sociological point of view, what was most interesting was how demographics offer a key indicator of voting behaviour. While working-class areas and council estates proved more likely to support Labour, they were also far more likely to want to vote to leave the European Union. This ties in with findings that show that people in areas that generally possess a lower level of education and are more directly affected by immigration are more likely to wish to leave the EU. Similarly, while middle-class areas were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, they were also more likely to vote Green, which corresponds to the idea that people who have less to lose are more likely to risk voting for principles rather than out of pragmatism.

Anyone studying for a Social Science degree should make sure they learn something of the society and people about which they are theorising and back up their ideas with hard evidence. An ideal way to do this is through work experience in the political, journalistic or charity fields. University is about more than just studying for a degree, and the excellent connections and services of Exeter University and its SPA department provide students with perfect opportunities to pursue the fields in which they are interested.

Interview with lecturer in Criminology, Katharine Boyd

Belfast Katharine Boyd

This week we catch up with Katharine Boyd, lecturer in Criminology in our department.

Hi Katharine, I hope you are well! Thank you for doing this interview. Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?

Katharine: Hi Jason! I’m doing well, thank you. I’m a criminologist here at Exeter. My research focuses on terrorism, or political and religiously motivated violence, as well as evidence-based policing and alcohol related violence.  I moved here from NYC a year and a half ago and I suppose I can’t help but mention that I row, since I’m training 8 times a week!

What got you interested in researching policy and literature regarding terrorism and violence?

Katharine: It may sound cliché, but I became inspired to research terrorism following 9/11.  After this tragedy people suggested numerous strategies for how to respond, some more reasonable than others, and after doing some digging I realized there’s not a lot of research done on terrorism and evaluating counterterrorism policies.  I feel it’s important that policy decisions are informed by research and we do not make important, consequential decisions based solely on emotional or ideological rhetoric.  So, I guess, I am still quite idealistic hoping to someday contribute to a safer and more peaceful world by producing relevant research and by teaching students about this complex and important topic so they are informed citizens.

Congratulations on receiving funding of £249,974 from the Police Knowledge Fund HEFCE and College of Policing Grant. Could you let us know what sort of research will you be pursuing with this?

Katharine: Thanks!  This is a very exciting opportunity for me and my colleagues – Brian Rappert and Hannah Farrimond, also in SPA, and Mark Pearson and Iain Lang in the med school –to work with the Devon & Cornwall Police and the OPCC.  The ExPERT project has numerous components related to evidence-based policing.  The project aims to develop and sustain capacity amongst police officers and staff for evidence-based practice, to do research that is relevant to the realities of policing and accelerates evidence-based approaches, and to improve knowledge transfer between the police and academia.  The ExPERT Project includes four components to meet these needs. The first are workshops to teach police officers and staff how to identify, critically appraise, and utilize research evidence.  The second component is a series of Project Generation Forums (PGFs) where the police, academics, and community stakeholders meet for the co-production of research projects.  PGFs are used to identify specific topics of concern and develop concrete empirical research projects.  The third component to the ExPERT Project is the use of knowledge brokers to bridge the gap between research and practice communities by exchanging knowledge and information held within these different groups.  Short, goal-oriented secondments for police and university staff will enable us to identify areas where research can improve policing and embed evidence into practice.  The last component is to conduct systematic reviews that summarize research evidence on topics by identifying, assessing, and synthesizing the existing evidence.  Systematic reviews produce evidence that is more robust than a single study and provide valuable information for evidence-based policy making.

How has the international outlook on counterterrorist policies by governments shifted over the years since the 9/11 attacks? 

Katharine: Well, I think there is greater international attention to what counterterrorism policies are being used worldwide.  Social media is a platform where information is shared and it may be more difficult for governments to conduct themselves without public oversight.  People are more aware of, and interested in considering, the unintended effects of counterterrorism measures, and therefore may be more critical of certain policies.  At the same time, people who feel threatened, especially just after an incident, may understandably feel motivated by retribution and endorse short-sited policies.   I like to think that governments will be prudent and consider international opinions when making big policy decisions, though there is no guarantee this would necessarily affects outcomes.  It all depends on who holds powerful positions.  This brings up the importance of elections.

How do you see counterterrorism policy changing in the future?

Katharine: I think polices to prevent terrorism will continue to be advocated for and developed.  Studies show that not all counterterrorism measures produce the intended effect, and similar policies may not produce the same effect on different types of groups.  More research in this area is critical. Governments have been funding research on terrorism and counterterrorism policies, but whether accurate and relevant information is utilized in policy-making is an on-going question.

One of your research interests happens to be alcohol related violence. Is this solely down to alcohol causing the violence or a socially produced violence as a result of its consumption?

Katharine: I’ve only recently started studying alcohol-related violence since I’ve moved to the UK and started working on the #RU2drunk initiative.  In England and Wales, over half of the violent encounters between adults are alcohol related.  Obviously most people who consume alcohol are not involved in violence, so I wouldn’t say it causes violence directly.  People have described a ‘binge and brawl’ culture in the UK that suggests a relationship between drinking and violence that is influenced by the context and environment.

Could you take us through what goes on in someone’s mind when drinking alcohol? What goes through this person’s mind when consuming it? Why is there this heighten aggressiveness towards not only violence, but a heightened motivation to attempt acts that one would normally not do?

Katharine: I think these questions may be better answered by a psychologist or neurologist!  From what is known about alcohol as a substance, it affects neurotransmitters and therefore brain chemistry, which influences people’s perceptions and behaviour.  Rather than simply attributing aggressive behaviour to alcohol alone, however, I think it’s important to note the social and environmental factors that influence the relationship between alcohol and aggressiveness.  Social psychology and criminology show how people –  including you! – behave differently in different contexts.  I’m sure you can think of a time, especially when you were an adolescent, when you did something that you feel was very ‘out-of-character’.  Did you explain or justify your behaviour in relation to a substance and/or circumstantial and social factors?  Well I think it’s necessary to consider the interpersonal setting when assessing the relationship between alcohol and aggression.

Finally, having been in the university for over a year now, how would you reflect on your experiences so far?

Katharine:  I’ve really enjoyed it!  Both the city and the Uni.  I admit when I was moving here from New York City I was concerned Exeter would feel ‘too small’ for me, but Exeter has many of the conveniences of a city that I like and it is truly a beautiful place.  I love the rolling hills, the historic buildings, and the quayside.  I’m glad I started rowing here so I get to spend hours on the river!  As for the university, I really can’t speak highly enough of the colleagues in my department and in Q-step.  I am so fortunate to work and develop research ideas with such great people.  And, of course, I really enjoy the students here as well!  I’ve enjoyed getting to know students who have taken a few of my modules and students – like you – who I just see around campus all the time! Overall I’m really glad I came to Exeter and it’s been a great year and a half!

Third year? Don’t forget to fill in the National Student Survey!

 

If you are a third year studying Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology at Exeter you have until April 30 to fill in the National Student Survey (NSS). If you have not done so already, we strongly urge you to do so. Departments which fail to receive feedback from 70% of their students do not get a grade in the following year’s league tables. Currently, the SPA department is only slightly further than halfway to reaching this threshold, meaning that the department, currently in the UK’s Top 10, could become ungraded. Obviously, it is in students’ interests that the department receives a grade, as this will affect the value of our degrees.

For every completed survey, Exeter University will donate one pound to RAG and those who complete the survey will be able to claim a free bar of fairtrade chocolate, or vegan alternative, from Amory reception. Theodore Stone, Subject Chair for SPA, writes: ‘It’s extremely important that finalists provide as much feedback as possible in order to locate problems within the college and improve standards.’

Completing the survey takes less than five minutes, and could make a real difference to your degree. So please, if you’re a third-year SPA student, fill in the NSS at www.thestudentsurvey.com and urge any friends you have who are also finalists to do likewise!

 

SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop: Highlights

The long-awaited SPA Post-graduate Applications Workshop was held this past Thursday, the 10th of March. If you wanted to go but didn’t get the chance, here are the highlights of the event to keep you informed on the realities of social science postgraduate applications! The workshop was conducted by Jess Wiemer, second year Anthropology student,in partnership with the SPA department as a Students as Change Agents project. Talks lasted approximately an hour and a half, followed by a chance to chat with the speakers over refreshments. The subject of postgraduate applications in sociology, philosophy, or anthropology was approached from four different perspectives by the four speakers.

Prof. Susan Kelly

Prof. Susan Kelly

The first was Professor Susan Kelly, one of the Sociology Professors in the department and Director of Post-Graduate Studies in SPA. She spoke about how to write post-graduate proposals. She provided excellent resources for good proposal writing in the forms of books and websites, including Przeworski and Salomon’s The Art of Writing Proposals (1995) and the ESRC guidance to research grant proposals found at http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/how-to-write-a-good-research-grant-proposal/. She explained how to justify the costs of the research and connect to the research interests of potential supervisors and concluded by discussing the typical structure of a proposal.

Dr. Andrea Butcher

Dr. Andrea Butcher

The second speaker was Dr. Andrea Butcher, anthropology lecturer at the University of Exeter. She spoke about the importance of collaborative research and how to profile oneself for these collaborations. She explained the changing values placed on the social sciences and emphasised the current requirements to demonstrate impact outside of academia. She spoke about how interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations can help provide funding for research through the demonstration of social, economic, or political impact. She provided links to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) website, which gives information on the expectations of research (http://www.ref.ac.uk/), and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium website, which includes a list of different collaborative organisations (http://www.ahrc-cdp.org/about/). She concluded by stressing the importance of networking and making yourself known through online profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and through joining organisations like the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA).

Lauren Redfern

Lauren Redfern

The third speaker was Lauren Redfern, Exeter Alumni and MA student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She spoke about post-graduate education and how to use your undergraduate degree to your advantage. She explained how skills acquired through experience may be even more relevant than academic excellence, and that these skills can come from areas which may not always seem relevant to the future research project. Drawing on her own experience she explained how her internship with an anthropological filmmaker give her the research skillsshe could highlight in her application for a medical research Masters programme. She explained that mixed methods are becoming more common and asked for in the social sciences and stressed interdisciplinary collaboration. She concluded by stating that the most important thing to keep in mind when developing research is to focus on an area that is needed.

Ashley Kilgallon

Ashley Kilgallon

The final speaker was Ashley Kilgallon, Exeter Alumni and PhD student at the University of Leeds. She spoke about the process of application to publication and the realities of the PhD journey. She also stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the social sciences. She provided an example from her own research of the Police Liaison Teams of the Metropolitan Police Service. She explained that it was collaborating with the police force that provided her with the access needed to conduct her research. Collaboration, she explained, built trust between her and the employees of the Metropolitan Police Service. She then made several useful suggestions on how to conduct oneself in an interview for applications to research programmes. She stressed the importance of networking, field work, and having passion for your research. She concluded by noting that what makes you stand out is your drive, and to demonstrate this you must stay true to your character no matter what.

The SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop was one of many events conducted to inform students about careers and postgraduate education within the social sciences. The event was a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about the postgraduate journey to those who have already, or are currently, experiencing it. The speakers provided helpful advice on writing proposals, getting grants, conducting research, and publishing material. Informally chatting with them over refreshments afterward was a great way to network and to gain knowledge on the realities of social science academia. The SPA department at the University of Exeter continues to collaborate with the Careers office and Students as Change Agents projects to develop creative programmes and events to support its students. If you desire to organise an event, create your own Students as Change Agents project to make your idea into a reality!

Modern Anthropology and the Repatriation of Material Culture

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Anthropology is often seen by the general population as a discipline which deals solely with broad, theoretical concepts. Being a discipline based in theory, it is not seen to have much practical use outside of academia. Until I began studying anthropology at the University of Exeter, I was among those who felt that way. I thought anthropology was interesting, but not very applicable. However, with a growing globalised world, anthropology is more relevant to practical life than ever before. Anthropology is necessary in international and European policy-making organisations, advocacy and aid groups, tourism, heritage sites, diplomacy, journalism, and day-to-day life. There are many examples of the uses of anthropology in Exeter, which I have come to learn about through my studies. One example is the recent debate over the repatriation of a collection of artefacts from the RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum) and how this involves changing attitudes toward ownership and the importance of material culture and heritage.

Repatriation of museum-based artefacts is an issue that many museums across the UK are currently facing. The RAMM in Exeter has held ethnographic collections from across the world for over a hundred years. One particular exhibit houses artefacts from various First Nations peoples of Canada, some of which were acquired during the colonization of Canada at a time of enforced power hierarchies between indigenous peoples and colonists. Museum curators must now re-examine the roots of these artefact acquisitions and the underlying ethical problems. They must also consider the educational value of these items, and where that value is best put to use. Of particular interest is Crowfoot’s regalia in the RAMM’s ethnographic exhibit.

Crowfoot’s regalia is a collection of items which once belonged to Issapoomahsika (or Crowfoot, ‘Leader of the Blackfoot’ of Canada). 110 years after it was sold to the museum, it received a visit from home. In November 2013, the RAMM welcomed representatives of the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai nations of Canada and the Blackfeet nation of the United States. This visit was conducted in an effort to attain better understanding of the artefacts through the interpretations of the Blackfoot people, but moreover it has opened up further discussion of repatriation. The collection hadn’t been seen by the Blackfoot people for 130 years. It contains a decorated deerskin shirt, leggings, a ceremonial knife, two pouches, a bow-case and quiver, bows and arrows, two quirts and a bear-claw necklace. They served as emblems of Crowfoot’s earned authority and status as a leader. It was sold to the museum for £10 in 1904 by Cecil Denny, then a member of the North West Mounted Police. It is unclear how Denny came to acquire Crowfoot’s possessions, but he did acquire them sometime before the signing of the 1877 Treaty and it was widely known that he and Crowfoot were friends. (Eccles 2015)

Physical possession of Crowfoot’s regalia is extremely important to the Blackfoot people, because they believed him to have been a significant leader in their history of whom many can learn from. Crowfoot was not the leader of all Blackfoot nations as some thought, but was acknowledged as one who could speak for all. He urged the Blackfoot to sign Treaty 7 in 1877 between the Crown, Blackfoot nations, Sarcee and Atsinas nations in the desire for peace and the only alternative to war. The treaty put the First Nations under the rule of the Crown, by which England could then implement various institutions into First Nation societies. Despite prejudice and unethical treatment of the First Nation peoples under the law, the treaty meant they were now required to obey the Crown. By signing this treaty, life for the Blackfoot, like many aboriginal nations, was characterised by cultural upheaval. Despite this, Crowfoot is seen by the Blackfoot people as a strong leader who always vied for peace. (Eccles 2015)

The RAMM has been in conversation with the Siksika Blackfoot elders to return the regalia to Bow Crossing, Alberta, Canada (Eccles 2015). Herman Yellow Old Woman, a cultural curator at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum east of Calgary on Siksika Nation, stated that repatriating the regalia would be ‘bringing [Crowfoot’s] spirit home’ (Dempster 2014). He went further to say, ‘To bring back these artefacts to our community will give us a sense of pride… Our children are starting to lose their identity and I think for these kind of artefacts to come back will give them a boost and a positive energy to connect back to who they are as Blackfoot people’ (Dempster 2014). Repatriation of the regalia would evidently contribute to the remembrance of cultural and historical identities of Blackfoot nations and be an educational asset to Canadians visiting the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum. The museum itself also supports the repatriation.

Tony Eccles, curator of the RAMM, was very supportive of the repatriation, stating, ‘Isn’t it about time Crowfoot came home?’ (Dempster 2014). Herman Yellow Old Woman planned to have the regalia returned to the Blackfoot Crossing museum by spring of 2015 (Dempster 2014). Unfortunately, though the regalia is no longer on display, this has yet to occur. Eccles stated that there is still a long way to go before the return of the regalia is agreed upon between involved parties, but was happy to say the RAMM and Exeter City Council are heavily involved in these negotiations. The content of this continuing discourse is not yet open to the public, but readers are urged to keep an eye out for the next issue of the Journal of Museum Ethnography, which will include an article written by Tony Eccles, Alison Brown, and Anita Herle about their involvement with the Blackfoot.

Even small cities like Exeter are alive with international culture and discourse. As an anthropology student, I find places like the RAMM fascinating, not only for its historical ethnographic information but for its involvement with current cultures today. The repatriation of Crowfoot’s regalia is but one example of how anthropology can be used practically to aid in the sustainability of heritage in a modern world. This goes to show that anthropology is so much more than an academic discipline. Studying anthropology at Exeter has given me so much more insight into its applications in ways I never would have considered: anthropological theory does not need to be restricted to academic writing but has many uses for a range of topical cultural and political issues.

References

Eccles, T. 2015: RAMM Meets Blackfoot Representatives, RAMM: World Cultures. [online] Accessed at http://rammworldcultures.org.uk/ramm-meets-blackfoot-representatives/ on 18/02/2016.

Dempster, A. 2014: Chief Crowfoot’s Regalia to Return Home to Alberta, CBC News. [online] Accessed at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/chief-crowfoot-s-regalia-to-return-home-to-alberta-1.2654211 on 18/02/2016.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Crowfoot: Blackfoot Chief, Encyclopaedia Britannica. [image] Accessed at http://www.britannica.com/biography/Crowfoot on 19/02/2016.