Posted by Ben Oppenheimer '14
My multispecies ethnography centers on the relationship between the mounted human riding horseback and the horse whose back is mounted by a human, observed in Saratoga Springs, New York at Skidmore College. To fully grasp the Skidmore College experience, I analyzed human-horse relations, a key component to the student life and culture. My ethnography examines human-horse relations and the influence the horse has on the college community.
Anthropocentrism regards human as the central fact of the universe, to which all surrounding facts have reference. Multispecies ethnographies aim to avoid this notion by focusing on human interaction with other living organisms. The social studies of human-animal relationship must not permit anthropocentric observation to overlook the presence of interspecies relationships, the way in which two things are connected.
This mode of anthropological research is not confined only to the study of humans but also inclusive of our relationships and interactions with other living beings. Saratoga Springs is a hub for human-horse relations. Based on ethnographic research, this project draws on data from interviews, observations, ethnography, and participant observation. The findings demonstrate that interaction between humans and animals has the potential to form groups, relationships, codes of conduct, and other structures that construct and organize human behavior within a community. This has proven to be the case with human-horse relations in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Posted by Sarah McInerney '14
In the general public, the field of archaeology tends to be somewhat misunderstood. One approach to public archaeology includes presentations at local museums. My senior capstone project uses information gathered through archaeological excavations conducted on the Skidmore College campus in North Woods during the fall of 2012 to illustrate the importance of archaeology. The excavations uncovered material from the 19th and 20th centuries and focused on the Grotto Stables of the Woodlawn Estate, which was built by Henry Walton in 1820. This project had two main goals: (1) to gain a deeper understanding of the Woodlawn Estate in terms of its use, the people who lived and worked there, its historical significance within Saratoga, and more importantly, what the site can teach us about archaeology; and (2) to find ways of educating the public (in this case, elementary-school aged children) about archaeology and why it is so vital to our understanding of the human past as well as the present and our collective future. This project demonstrates what we can learn about the class differences, architecture, and tourism of Saratoga Springs through the lens of archaeology.
For the presentation aspect of my capstone, I decided to present my findings to elementary-school aged children at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. In order to keep the kids interested in what I was telling them, I decided to introduce them to the concept of archaeology through a hands-on activity. The activity consisted of the children searching through different items in a box that I provided, and together coming up with a possible story that links all of the items together. Every item in the box stood for a material object I found during my excavation. For example, I included things such as a cut up paper plate, a rubber horse shoe, a small bottle of mouthwash, and peanut shells to symbolize broken ceramic plates, metal horse shoes, glass medicine bottles, and discarded clam shells respectively. The children reacted well to this activity, and were able to come up with interesting stories as to how these pieces of the puzzle fit together. Afterwards, I explained to them that the activity they just did is very similar to what archaeologists do. They are like detectives, in a way, and use what they have (in terms of archaeological evidence) to learn more about different peoples and cultures. When I put it in a perspective that these children can relate to, they were able to understand the concepts very easily.
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