By Arjun Shankar, PhD
At the Penn Museum, there is a room deep in its basement, far away from the watchful eyes of a passing public in which nearly 900 skulls sit, organized by number, behind glass cabinets, a reminder of anthropology’s beginnings as the study of the Other. Each of these skulls was collected by the racist scientist, Samuel Morton, over the course of 50 years, meticulously differentiated based on his global racial categorization system: mongolian race, caucasian race, malay race, american race, and the ethiopian race. Similar racial categories were promoted with variations around the world, sometimes with fewer and more racial categories included.
But before we explore these cabinets of curiosities further, we might ask, how can a human skull and humans become an object of curiosity? The first and most important starting point is to strip these humans of his or her humanity. These human skulls, which were attached to human beings with families, cultures, aspirations, dreams, must be considered valuable only in so far as they were/are the repositories of information for those conferred subjectivity, agency, and, yes, curiosity. Laws reinforce this logic as, to this day, skulls that are over 100 years old are considered antiques, no different than the jars, furniture, and anything else that was considered worthy of inclusion in the cabinets of curiosity. Whether or not the skulls were stolen from sacred burial sites, sold by a kin relation to make a quick buck, or given as gifts by prison wardens after the deaths of inmates, they are now merely antiques.
The 2016 Camra Fellows program application is open. Any Penn (or nearby university) undergrad or masters student working on a independent media project is encouraged to apply! We are excited to build off the successes of the previous fellows and mentors and to facilitate great media work again this year.
APPLY HERE for the Camra Fellows 2016 Program.
Download the camrafellows2016 flyer here.
A Quiet Inquisition
a film by Holen Kahn and Alessandra Zeka (66 minutes).
Introduction by Tali Ziv, Anthropology, Penn.
“At a public hospital in Managua, Nicaragua, an OBGYN Doctor struggles with her conscience as she contends with the harrowing implications of a new law that prevents the termination of any pregnancy, even when a woman’s life is at stake. As the Doctor and her colleagues navigate the fears of prosecution and whether to use medical protocols that enable them to save lives, the drama of the deadly impact of this law emerges. We travel the story with the charming and compassionate doctor who becomes a hero in unlikely circumstances.”
Free with Penn Museum Admission.
This is a co-sponsored film screening at the Penn Museum in collaboration with the Penn Humanities Forum on Sex and Penn Museum Culture Films.
Sunday, 8 November 2015 – 2:00pm
Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South StreetLearn more here.
We had a wonderful brainstorming, planning, and regathering meeting on September 11, 2015 at Slought! Thankful for the new partnership with Slought. They are awesome check them out here. We are excited about the CAMRA Labs, CAMRA Fellows Program, SSMF and upcoming events this year. Look for upcoming events soon.
By request we are posting here below Arjun Shankar‘s introductory remarks for Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, The Law in These Parts, which inaugurated the 2015 Screening Scholarship Media Festival.
* * *
Good evening and thank you all for joining us today for the inaugural session of camra’s 2015 Screening Scholarship Media Festival. I’m Arjun Shankar, doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and one of this years director’s of camra along with Sandra Ristovska. I’d like to start by thanking Corrina Laughlin, Veena Vasudevan, and Nora Gross for organizing this year’s Screening Scholarship Media Festival, which I think is going to be truly outstanding.
It’s a real pleasure for me to introduce Ra’anan Alexandrowicz and his film The Law In These Parts today. And to begin I just wanted to explain a bit about camra’s mission and vision and how it was we decided to invite Ra’anan for this evening’s event. We’ve been around for three years now, and we started in a really humble way, in a class taught by our directors – Dr. John Jackson, Dr. Stanton Wortham, and Amit Das. In that class we were tasked with a single question: what would it mean to develop filmic and digital products that were as rigorous and as legitimate as their textual counterparts? And it was that question which drove us to start camra, really for any graduate student across the university who wasn’t satisfied with traditional scholarly practices or simplistic disciplinary confines.