Category Archives: news

Julia Earle Wins 2015-16 Anthropology TA Award

Earle, Julia, photo by Daniel Kwan
2015-16 Anthropology TA Award Recipient Julia Earle. Photo by Daniel Kwan.

Congratulations to Julia Earle, recipient of our fourth annual Anthropology Teaching Assistant Award! Julia’s nominators noted how her approachability, consideration and encouragement resulted in creating an inclusive learning atmosphere that students clearly appreciated. Not only were her tutorials well-structured and organized, but she consistently went the extra mile to demonstrate she really cares for the well-being of her students. We are confident that Julia is fully deserving of this award and that the qualities she has exhibited as a TA this past year will serve her well!

Julia’s photo will soon hang in the Administrative Offices of the St. George Anthropology Department along with past award recipients. Special thanks to Daniel Kwan for taking the photo, check out some of Daniel’s photography at

Three of Shawn Lehman’s Grad Students Receive Environment Awards

Keren Klass

Congratulations to Keren Klass, Malcolm Ramsay and Matthew de Vries, three of Prof. Shawn Lehman’s graduate students who have received competitive awards from the School of the Environment Award Adjudication Committee on restricted awards and fellowships for this academic year.

Keren Klass (Ph.D.) received one of three Beatrice and Arthur Minden Awards, which are awarded to PhD students enrolled in the School of the Environment’s graduate programs to provide them with support during the research stage of their dissertations, including enabling their involvement in conferences, summer schools, field work and collaborative visits to research groups across Canada and around the world.

Matthew de Vries
Matthew de Vries

Malcolm Ramsay (M.Sc.) and Matthew de Vries (M.Sc.) each received an Arthur and Sonia Labatt Award, which are awarded to students who are exploring practical based solutions to environmental issues and/or examining market place for solutions to environmental issues.

In the words of Prof. Lehman, his “students ROCK!” Learn more about them at

ATLAS Funding Awarded for Embracing Virtual Anthropology

photo of Bence Viola
Prof. Bence Viola

Our department has been awarded funding as part of the Advancing Teaching and Learning in Arts & Science (ATLAS) program. The successful proposal, spearheaded by Prof. Bence Viola, was recommended for partial funding out of 17 other received proposals. The Committee appreciated the relevancy and importance of developing a virtual anthropology lab to give students access to cutting-edge technology that is reshaping research in anthropology. The Committee also recognized the potential benefits that this lab can have in terms of helping students to develop advance practical skills in digitizing, analyzing, and reconstructing artefacts, which have become increasingly important skills.

DIIF Sends Four Anthropology Students to Kerala on CREST Internships

IMG_2240Dean’s International Initiative Funding (DIIF) awarded to Prof. Tania Li for the second consecutive year is enabling Maggie Morris, Lama El Hanan, A. Aarthi and Alice Tsibulsky to travel to Kerala to take up internships with the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST). They were selected from a total of 15 applications for this experiential learning opportunity about Overcoming Social Exclusion in India. Two students who participated in the program last year, Sydney Lang and Shannon McKechnie, are helping with briefing and preparation. Find out more about this ethnographic research project at

Anthropology Wins 2016 Northrop Frye Award!

Chair E.B. Banning accepting the Northrop Frye Award on behalf of the Anthropology Department at the May 4, 2016 University of Toronto Awards of Excellence Ceremony. Photo by Gustavo Toledo.
Chair E.B. Banning accepting the Northrop Frye Award on behalf of the Anthropology Department at the May 4, 2016 University of Toronto Awards of Excellence Ceremony. Photo by Gustavo Toledo.

Transforming Students into Researchers: Anthropology Wins the 2016 Northrop Frye Award

Our department is the proud 2016 recipient of the Northrop Frye Award! By integrating original fieldwork into undergraduate courses, our department has been recognized for introducing students to research and rousing their enthusiasm. Both are key criteria for this prestigious award. Learn more at

Bence Viola Co-Authors Groundbreaking Study

A toe bone from a male Neanderthal dating back at least 50,000 years. Bence Viola.

Prof. Bence Viola has co-authored a groundbreaking paper in Nature (doi:10.1038/nature16544) that demonstrates how interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans happened much earlier than previously thought. The study also showed there was gene flow from the modern humans to Neanderthals, while up until now we had only evidence for the other way. The New York Times has reported on this exciting research here. The Nature article, entitled Ancient Gene Flow from Early Modern Humans into Eastern Neanderthals can be read online here.

Fellowship in Ethnographic Writing, 2016-17

The Centre for Ethnography (CE) at the University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC) is accepting applications for its annual Fellowship in Ethnographic Writing. Writing is a key component of the work of an anthropologist, but it takes time and benefits from some distance from the fieldwork itself, and from other obligations. In recognition of this fact the CE introduced a Fellowship in Ethnographic Writing in 2010. We are now seeking applications for year 2016-17, to be held at UTSC in either the fall or winter term (to be determined by the CE).

Recipients of this award are expected to devote their time fully to writing and may not teach or hold any other post-doctoral funding or form of employment during the tenure of the award. They are expected to attend all talks and colloquia at the CE, to work several days a week on the UTSC campus, and to contribute a presentation of their work in progress to the colloquium. In addition, CE Fellows must be available to coach students completing an undergraduate writing assignment, in tandem with a professor teaching a core introductory course. This work will be limited to 5 hours in total.

Applicants should submit their curriculum vita and a statement of no more than 5 double-spaced pages that describes their writing project and outlines both the project’s timeline and precisely what they wish to accomplish during the duration of the Fellowship. All applicants must have completed their doctoral fieldwork and have already submitted significant portions of their dissertation to their committee. Explicit attention to questions of genre, narrative, and audience are welcome but not essential. The current stipend is set at $10,000 for a period of twelve weeks

The Centre for Ethnography Fellowship in Ethnographic Writing is open to applicants who are (or were) enrolled in doctoral programs at Canadian Universities as well as to Canadian citizens studying elsewhere. All applicants must be either in the final stages of completing the doctoral thesis, or have received their PhDs within the past year (2015 or later).

The closing date for this competition is March 15, 2016. Please send all applications, as well as the names of two referees, electronically to the Centre for Ethnography at

Did our hominid ancestors leave Africa and return?

U of T anthropology professor David Begun makes the case for evolution in Europe

The phrase “Out of Africa” might conjure up visions of a romantic movie of 1985 or the memoirs on which they were based. To anthropologists the turn of phrase refers to the theory, dominant since the days of Charles Darwin, that our human ancestors probably evolved in this continent.

In The Real Planet of the Apes, Professor David Begun of U of T’s department of anthropology proposes that a significant component of human evolution in fact took place in Europe between nine million and 12.5 million years ago. Hominids, he argues, then drifted back to Africa in a “homecoming” response to climate change.

Begun’s theory – called “explosive” by Princeton University Press – is based substantially on field work in which undergraduates participated.

“I felt extremely lucky to have contributed to even the most minor extent in Dr. Begun’s research,” says Klara Komza, a biological anthropology major. “It was my first taste at discovering something in the field.”

U of T News writer Arthur Kaptainis talked with Begun about his theories, his book and the importance of involving undergrad students in research.

You use the word “eureka” in the introduction to your book. Was there a specific moment at which your theory arose in your mind? Did it involve one of your own field discoveries? 

There was a specific moment when the idea of a European origin occurred to me but I don’t remember exactly when. And yes, it was as I was analyzing the skull we found during our excavations in Hungary. Several pieces of the skull and partial skeleton were found by field school students.

Was there anything about the European environment that made these evolutionary adaptations possible? Would there in fact be no homo sapiens without this European interlude?

Europe was somewhat more seasonal (cooler winters, warmer summers) than equatorial Africa at the time, though the difference was not as great as it is today. More seasonality means more challenges in finding food during the lean months, which may have led to selection for abilities to map the environment, figure out how to access a larger diversity of resources and to travel efficiently though the forest. These could explain the increase in brain size that we see at this time in apes, and the development of an ape-like body plan (long arms, short legs and a more vertical backbone.)

What caused hominids to migrate back to Africa?

Staring about 14 million years ago the climate began to cool and dry in Europe, which led to the evolutionary innovations I just described. But by 10 million years ago or so conditions had become too stressful for these apes, and they began disappearing from the more northern parts of Europe. Other apes were able to disperse south, tracking the southward retreating forests. Eventually they made their way back to Africa as conditions in southern Europe worsened, becoming too dry for apes (as it is today, for example, in Greece.)

Princeton University Press calls your claim “explosive.” How much resistance do you expect to meet among your peers? Have you already experienced resistance?

photo of Dave Begun
Prof. David Begun

Researchers have known about these ideas for some time. Some prefer the African origin hypothesis (most researchers who work in Africa) while others see the merits of my idea.

There is a long tradition of thinking that African apes and humans evolved in Africa because that is where all African apes live today and that is where the first humans appear. But I think more and more researchers are starting to accept the European hypothesis as a viable one.

You teach undergraduate students and supervise summer field work in Europe. Have undergraduates been involved in any of your discoveries?

Undergrads have participated in the field school in Hungary for more than a decade. In that time students have found many primate fossils. Several students participated in our most important discovery, the ape skull that is the major inspiration for my ideas.

You use “hominids” to denote a family including chimpanzees and gorillas. But there are many differences, notably shorter arms and larger brains. Doesn’t this argue in favour of the exclusive application of “hominids” to humans and their ancestors? 

Taxonomic terms are not based on amount of differences but on the distribution among species of similarities and differences. All great apes and humans (not just African apes and humans) are hominids because they are all more closely related to each other than any of them are related to the remaining apes, the gibbons and siamangs (hylobatids). Within the hominids, African apes and humans are more closely related to one another than any of them is to orangatangs, thus the distinction between hominines and pongines.

You also say that the popular notion that chimps and humans have almost 99 per cent of DNA in common is misunderstood.

The “99 per cent” thing is not so much misunderstood and incompletely understood. There is a huge number of genes in chimp and human genomes, which still leaves a lot of room for a large number of differences. These tend to be concentrated in genes that do many things, such as controlling other genes, which accounts for the important anatomical and behavioral differences between chimps and humans.

photo of Klara Komza with fossils
Klara Komza with fossils in Prof. David Begun’s lab. Photo by Johnny Guatto

Animating Life, Kadokawa Culture Promotion Summer Program


Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation Presents
Summer Program 2016 “Animating Life” : July 4, 2016 — July 14, 2016

Featuring Lectures by Prof. Shiho Satsuka & U of T Alum Grant Otsuki (PhD, 2015)

APPLICATIONS DUE: March 10, 2016

The Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Tokyo, will host an annual Summer Program focusing on various aspects of Japanese popular media culture. The theme of this year’s Program is “Animating Life.” With Anne Allison as the main organizer, the Program invites 10 graduate students from universities around the world, who will collaborate with graduate students from the University of Tokyo. Our hope is that the participants will take advantage of the Program to build new social networks and pursue work related to Japanese media and popular cultures in the future, whether as researchers, artists, or teachers. Please see below for application instructions.

PROGRAM THEME: Animating Life explores limits of intimacy and forms of companionship creatively reorganized in today’s Japanese popular culture. Taking ‘animation’ and ‘life’ as key concepts, the Program examines how the popular cultural imagination animates – breathes life into – a variety of relationships people establish with human and nonhuman others. How do characters come to life? How do dogs come to talk? How do robots come to care? Building on the aesthetic of animation long cultivated in Japanese film, anime, and other expressive genres, we hope to expand the concept of animation to consider the enchantment of life in a wide range of practices and phenomena, including (but by no means limited to) virtual idol fandom, technology of care, gaming, anime pilgrimage, translation, digital sex, social media and political mobilization, and animal sociality. We seek to discern convergence, feedback, and crossing among diverse dimensions of animation. To that end, we welcome applicants interested in any facet of Japanese society where the concepts of ‘animation’ and ‘life’ may be productively mobilized for analysis. The range of topics and disciplinary backgrounds for consideration is wide open.

What kinds of encounters, with what kinds of others, in what iterations of intimacy and companionship, are coming to take the place of human-human sociality? How are human relations thereby being transformed? How are fans, creators, programmers, urban dwellers, protesters, and other social actors navigating what once constituted the terrain of the social through alternative, manufactured, virtual, commodified means? In order to rethink intimacy and companionship against the background of such globally circulating images of contemporary Japan as ‘relationless,’ ‘sexless,’ and ‘singlified’ — images often uncritically linked to a pathology of sociality — we turn to media contents and cultural practices, and to media technologies of various kinds, as a site of creative experimentation in the animation of life.

PROGRAM FEATURES: An intensive ten-day event, the Program takes place between July 4, 2016 and July 14, 2016. Thomas Lamarre (McGill University) will open the Program with his keynote lecture. Other lecturers tentatively include Elizabeth Povinelli (Columbia University), Shunya Yoshimi (University of Tokyo), Anne Allison (Duke University), Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina), Yasuhiro Yamada (Chuo University), Shiho Satsuka (University of Toronto), Jason Danely (Oxford Brookes University), Sachiko Horiguchi (Temple University Japan), Paul Hansen (Hokkaido University), Grant Otsuki (University of Tsukuba), Alexandra Hambleton (Bunkyo Gakuin University), Christophe Thouny (University of Tokyo), Ryo Morimoto (Harvard University), Patrick Galbraith (Duke University), and Shunsuke Nozawa (University of Tokyo). Lectures are combined with roundtables and breakout sessions to facilitate more informal dialogue among lecturers and participants. The Program also features experiential forays into Tokyo social life through field trips. The Program is open only to participating members, except for some selected events.

The Program will be conducted mainly in English. However, we expect participants to have sufficient Japanese proficiency to facilitate scholarly interaction and communication outside of the classroom.

DATES: July 4, 2016 to July 14, 2016

LOCATION: The University of Tokyo, Japan

FINANCIAL SUPPORT: The Program has no tuition or registration fees. Instead, we will be offering (1) financial support up to 100,000 yen for travel expenses and (2) a 23,000 subsidy for accommodations during the period of the Summer Program to all participants.

Conditions for receiving financial support:

  • Participants must attend the entire Program and may not be absent from the Program without prior written consent from the program administration office.

  • When the travel expense is paid in a currency other than JPY, it will be converted to JPY at the exchange rate determined by the University of Tokyo. Reimbursement of airfare will be made only upon completion of the Program.

  • Financial support may not be used for purposes other than Program participation. Reimbursement may be denied if expenses are judged to be extraneous to the Program.


DEADLINE: Application submissions will be closed at 24:00 on March 10, 2016 (Japan Standard Time). Selection results will be announced in mid April via email.

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants are eligible if they are currently enrolled at an institution outside Japan in a Master’s or Ph.D. program, or have recently obtained a Master’s or Ph.D. in art, humanities, or the social sciences. Upper-level undergraduates, who intend to pursue graduate study in a related field in the future, are also welcome to apply.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: You are required to submit your application form by email. We will not accept applications sent through the mail, unless you are instructed to do so by the program administration office.

  1. Download and Complete Application Form

Application Form is available for download at:

  1. Submit Application Form

Send your Application Form as a Word-formatted attachment to:

IMPORTANT: Matters to be noted when you prepare the application form.

(1) General Matters:

  • Please note that the mailing address should be the one at which you receive official documents from the school and any concerned ministries and/or agencies. If you have a different mailing address when you are out of town for a considerably long period, please indicate both addresses.

  • Your email address must be the one that you use regularly. You are responsible for maintaining communication through this address.

  • Language level:

Please indicate your language level in English and Japanese. The Program will be conducted mainly in English. However, we expect you to have sufficient Japanese proficiency (especially listening) to facilitate scholarly interaction and communication outside of the classroom.

(2)  Recommendation:

A recommendation letter is not required at the time of application. However, you are required to confirm that the person you indicate in the online application form will write a recommendation letter on your behalf; confirm this with the person prior to submission. The person named in the application may be contacted directly by us during the selection process.

(3) Resume/CV:

This should include description of any work experience, responsibilities, projects, or publications relevant to the Program’s main theme. It should also briefly explain any courses you have taken or will take as well as prizes and awards that are relevant to the Program’s main theme. Include your Resume/ CV directly in the Application Form.

(4) Cover Letter (500 Words):

Include your Cover Letter directly in the Application Form. Your Cover Letter must be no longer than 500 words in English. Respond to the following prompts:

  1. Briefly, and concretely, contextualize your research in relation to the Program’s main theme. Explain the relevance of the concepts “animation” and “life” to your research: how are you using these and related concepts for your work, and how does your work contribute to a deeper understanding of them?

  2. At the end of your cover letter, indicate one or two keywords/concepts that most directly characterize your work, most deeply excite your thinking. Just keyword(s)/concept(s), no explanation.

(5) Academic Record (transcript):

Academic transcripts are not required at the time of application. However, when you are selected as a successful candidate, you must submit an academic record from each university that you have attended for one full academic year (two semesters, three quarters or trimesters) or more, regardless of the number of credits received.

NOTE: Any discrepancy between the submitted materials by the applicant and the official record received after the selection process may result in the rejection of your application or withdrawal of our offer of admission.

For inquiry please contact: (do not send applications to this address)