Upcoming anthropology guest lecturer to emphasize cultural awareness

Michelle Reed

Contributing Writer

Professor Eric Gable has been drawn to anthropology since he was a high school student, and he can pinpoint the very moment that piqued his interest in other cultures: a strange conversation with a man in Greece about a series of trenches in the ground.

“I had hoped the holes were signs of an ongoing archaeological dig,” Gable said. “But as he got more and more animated, I realized that he was telling me about a murder, a vendetta among the villagers that had just happened and the efforts they made to find the body among the weeds. All of a sudden, learning about strange presents seemed a lot more exciting than learning about strange pasts.”

Gable will visit the University to give a lecture in the Elaine Langone Center Forum on March 21 at 7 p.m. A part of the ongoing Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson lecture series, Gable’s talk, What Heritage Does and Does Not Do to Identity: The Case of Hemings and Jefferson,” will draw on material from his fieldwork in Indonesia, West Africa and Monticello. This lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Griot Institute for Africana Studies. Gable will also give an additional lecture on March 20 entitled “The Anthropology of Art” in the Traditional Reading Room in the Bertrand Library at 12 p.m.

Gable, who teaches anthropology at the University of Mary Washington, emphasizes the importance of learning about other cultures by attempting to connect with them.

“To understand them requires being engaged with them,” Gable said. “Listening rather than talking, watching rather than expecting to be watched, any complex human situation needs to be understood and mapped out from the native’s point of view first. Having that understanding in hand prevents us all from making big mistakes as we plan how to make the human condition better.”

Budding anthropologists, according to Gable, should learn to put themselves in unfamiliar territory.

“As much as you can, learn to speak other languages and try to speak in them as much as you can. Read the old school anthropologists, both for fun and for learning how the world looked to them. Travel as much as you can. Get away from the places you know to places you don’t know.”


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