The Yale Anthropology Society rose from the ashes early this semester when a group of enthusiastic Anthropology majors decided to re-establish the student organization that dissolved a few years ago.
The society’s re-emergence brings a new resource to Yale undergraduates and sheds light on the process by which student organizations come to exist.
“[This process is] relatively painless,” said Anthropology professor Marcello Canuto, the society’s faculty adviser.
The anthropology society facilitates lectures and informal gatherings that allow undergraduates to interact with renowned anthropologists and graduate students in the field. This week, for example, the society brought distinguished anthropologist George Marcus to campus for a Wednesday lecture and department-funded luncheon.
Yale’s previous anthropology society fizzled away some years ago, so Anthropology Director of Undergraduate Studies Enrique Mayer made an effort early this year to regenerate student interest in a new group.
Jennifer Staple ’03, current president of the society and an anthropology major, stepped forward and with Mayer’s guidance laid the foundations for a re-instated society. At a meeting for anthropology majors last January, Staple announced plans for the society. She said that enthusiasm ran high and officers were elected on the spot.
The society then enlisted Canuto as a faculty advisor. In this role, Canuto evaluates the plausibility of officers’ ideas and helps the society tap into the resources of the Anthropology Department.
Next, the officers submitted a brief constitution, identified officers, defined the society’s membership and specified expenses in order to become a registered undergraduate organization.
After this process was complete, the society was able to apply for funding from the Undergraduate Organization Funding Committee, a source of $600 per semester for club expenses other than speaker fees, student travel and publishing costs.
To generate student interest — in particular the current e-mail list of 50-odd potential participants — Vice President Adam Stack ’04 hung posters throughout campus and asked Master’s aides and selected professors to notify students.
Having thus laid its foundations, the reincarnated Yale Anthropology Society continues to make plans for the future. Two more renowned anthropologists will visit in the next two months and several speakers have already committed to come next fall.
In early April the society also plans to release an online anthropology journal, which may eventually appear in print and include submissions from graduate students and students outside of Yale.
Founding member Tanya Senanayake ’04 said she hopes the society will help broaden the perspective of anthropology students.
“The essence of the society lies in the extensive spectrum the field covers,” Senanayake said in an e-mail.
In this spirit, plans are in the making for a senior colloquium this spring, intended to give seniors in the anthropology department the chance to present their theses to one another.
Canuto said he hopes that, as the Society continues to develop, it will eventually allow Anthropology majors to participate in the vast array of fieldwork fundamental to the discipline but often largely neglected in the classroom-oriented major.
The Society has re-emerged and come to face an ambitious future through a process Stack termed “remarkably easy.” But despite this ease, Senanayake said she believes the society will create a richer academic environment.
“Anthropology at Yale will become more interdisciplinary and rewarding,” Senanayake said.