The snow is really coming down outside; big, fluffy flakes the cats'll try to chase for a moment before they realize snow is wet and cold. They're back inside in a minute, licking their frosty paws. Yes, it's that time of year, and my life has been too busy to send out the cards. But then the electronic letter is more efficient and eco-friendly, so here's my e-update.
I've settled pretty well into my job as an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Dayton. I'm still the only full-time anthropologist, so I'm able to develop the curriculum according to my tastes. I've created courses on Africa and Childhood, and I'm working on an Anthropology of Human Rights to complement the newly-created Human Rights major. I went to New York and Washington DC this fall to present my work at conferences, and my friend Susan and I convened an interest group for the anthropology of children and childhood, which has been incredibly well received; many attendees told us that our organizational meeting was the highlight of the annual anthropology conference. At UD, I've been asked to be on a 4-person task force for internationalizing the curriculum, so I'll return to Washington DC for a conference in February on that topic. I'll also be advisor to a student summer immersion to Zambia in 2008.
In March, I bought a house. It's a big ol' 1924 fixer-upper about a mile from the university across from a historic neighborhood. I'm learning from experience that houses truly are money pits, having spent several thousand dollars on new windows and attic insulation over the past month alone. I'm hoping that's already paying for itself through a reduction in heating bills… But I've also become very adept at using power tools, and I never miss the clearance rack at Lowe's! I'm living in the upstairs, and the downstairs will be ready to rent out with just another coat of paint and a few final touches.
With my dissertation in the pipeline to be published, I set about constructing a new research project. Over the summer, I spent an amazing six weeks in Uganda firming up my research design for a project with AIDS orphans. It had already been 5 ½ years since I'd been to Uganda, so I had a lot of catching up to do with people. The kids I worked with in my dissertation research were all young adults, and though we'd kept in touch, I couldn't believe how grown up they all were! I wanted to keep these great relationships going, so I invited them to be youth research assistants for my new project, and brought in my friends Martin and Simon from A-TRAIN to train them in social research techniques. They did an excellent job, and when we paired each youth RA with a focus group of 5-10 year-olds from a community school, they bonded instantly; the younger kids called the older ones their "brothers and sisters". It was really gratifying to bring all these people I care about together in such fruitful and mutually beneficial ways. I'm looking forward to more great collaboration as we progress.
I returned to the States to find my book had come out from the University of Chicago Press. Check it out: Pillars of the Nation. So far, it's been very well received, and I look forward to teaching it in classes this winter.
I got to see the whole family in Michigan during Thanksgiving, as my brother Ryan was home from Colorado. I'm concerned about keeping the momentum going on my research, though, so I'm headed to Uganda on the 18th. I'll check up on progress and challenges the youth RA's are facing, both related to research, and otherwise. I'll play "auntie" to Prossy's new baby Prisca by spoiling her rotten, and I'll play Santa to all the kids, thanks to all of you who gave me donations to take with me. I'll make it back just in time to celebrate the New Year with my friends here in Dayton.
2008 promises to be a year of extensive travel and adventure for me. I'm tentatively planning trips to DC, New Orleans, Turkey, Ireland, Uganda, Zambia, Australia, and China – and that's all in the first half! Looking forward to seeing some of you along the way, and if you're ever in the Dayton area for some reason, stop by. In the meantime, I wish you all a peaceful, joyous holiday and a prosperous New Year!
"The rainmaker who doesn't know what he's doing will be found out by the lack of clouds."
-- Luganda Proverb