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World Anthropology Day seeks to increase understanding

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Olivia Romero and Tegan Stooksbury observe a display on Egyptian cosmetology inside of the Flanagan building Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Monday, February 19, 2018

Understanding a person’s culture is the first step in forming a partnership. And partnerships are needed whether it involves selling soft drinks, improving health outcomes or identifying where terrorist groups are based.

East Carolina University’s Department of Anthropology marked World Anthropology Day with the event “Anthropology After Dark,” which invited ECU students and Greenville community members to tour the department and learn more about its work.

The event, held Thursday in the Flanagan Building, featured an exhibit of Mexican dance masks, a recreation of an Egyptian tomb, tours of the department’s archaeology and bioarchaeology labs and artifact displays and live video discussion between ECU students and their counterparts in Peru.

The event was designed to show anthropology is more than “an ivory tower pursuit,” said Randy Daniels, department chairman.

Anthropology is the study of the development of human societies and cultures. Daniels said it’s a “gateway” degree because the skills and knowledge obtained through its study transfer into multiple fields.

Marketing companies hire anthropologists because of their ability to research behavior, Daniels said.

Eric Bailey, ECU professor of anthropology and public health at the university, developed the university’s Ethnic and Rural Health Disparities Graduate certificate program which helps professionals design health projects, plans and policies for specific ethnic and rural communities in the United States and the world.

An example of anthropology’s flexibility came from the night’s lecturer, cultural anthropologist Robert Greene Sands, a consultant with the Department of Defense who teaches cross-cultural competency to special forces. He also teaches a program that allows special forces enlisted personnel to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“War has changed. A lot of our military operations these days are less combat and more partnership building which demands different sets of skills and knowledge that military personnel haven’t had to use in the past,” Sands said. “It’s important we provide the skills they need when they do end up spending lots of other time in a country with not only other military there, but the civilians.”

Sands shared a quote from an unnamed special forces operator who tracked the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

“The only roads are on maps,” the quote read.

The soldiers had to work with local people, many of them former child soldiers, to identify the pathways and trails used for travel. It required gaining trust and learning local culture and geography, Sands said, all skills used by anthropologists.

Sands also talked about The Pamlico Rose Institute for Sustainable Communities which is based in Washington, N.C.

The organization’s goals are to renovate a historic house to provide housing for female veterans with substance abuse issues. The facility is called Rose Haven.

The organization also wants to renovate historic housing for disabled veterans and their families.

Female veterans are twice as likely to suffer post traumatic stress disorder than their male counterparts with most of it stemming from sexual assault, Sands said.

While PTSD presents similarly in male and female veterans — depression, unemployment, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse issues — Sands said female veterans face additional difficulties when seeking treatment.

Male veterans tend to build off of bonds established in combat scenarios when undergoing treatment. Female veterans, because of the positions they hold in the military and because they develop feelings of isolation from sexual assault, don’t have those bonds.

Rose Haven will work with veterans who have completed a substance abuse program and work with them to build resilience and affirm relationships.

Work on the house began in the fall and is expected to be completed by late 2018, Sands said. The first residents will arrive in early 2019.

Sands said much of the work is being done by volunteers. He encouraged the nearly 50 students and community members who attended his lecture to volunteer.

Individuals interested in learning more about the institute and program or who want to donate can do so at www.PamlicoRose.org.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.