About Anthro Mama

AR Kirwin, Kirfaid.org

AR Kirwin Near Whitney Portal, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

According to performance theory, my identity consists of various activities and self-presentations. Being able to blend in with different types of groups of people is something I learned at a young age from being a new kid at school every few years.  I think this is why I was so taken with this idea that we perform our identities  according to our self-interests, and belong to various culturally-constructed categories according to what we (or society) tells us what we are:  American, white, Dutch-American, Californian, Buddhist, runner, outdoorsy, professor, Mom, and so on.

In practice, as in what I normally do day-to-day rather than a category of identity, I’m busy being a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a professor, a confident, and professional technical consultant for corporate websites, and  writer of to-do lists.

Almost each day I write up and and then try to knock down a to-do list. When the items that need to get done fill up a page in my pocket-sized notebook, I re-name it “list of failure” to ease the pressure. Can’t get too caught up in these things. Sometimes life just gets in the way. And, plus, I don’t want to waste the gift (life) acting like a false-miserable martyr. I didn’t work this hard going back to grad school to teach anthropology to be miserable. That’s just dumb and self-entitled at the same time.

The “to do’s” on my list of failures used to include getting the kids to school, getting some billable work done for my web clients either at a coffee shop in Ojai or back in the home office, making sure the house doesn’t look like a disaster, and writing donation “thank you” letters and field reports for Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF).

Nowadays, since I’ve been teaching at a couple of community colleges, my days have become less scattered and surprising and more predictable and structured with classes to teach at regular times, student emails to reply to, lectures to update, and papers to grade, and so on.  Until lately, my research on the sport sub-culture of triathlon and marathon runners project  was on hold, but now I’m back at it. This time I’m doing lots of participant observation doing marathon training runs in preparation of the Catalina Marathon this March 11, 2017. Interviews and food research surveys are to follow. Cultures are always changing and the food beliefs and norms of endurance athletes have been no exception. Stay tuned for my next survey results coming out later in 2017.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a disaster relief field report about  disaster relief or education project for our non-profit KIRF.  The last one was after a relief project helping some 2016 flood survivors in Baton Rouge, LA get aid, cleaning supplies, and nutritious food. Lately, in practice and in theory, I’m still a mother, runner, swimmer, barrista, cook, laundress, sh*tty housekeeper, pet sitter, anthropologist, non-profit communications manager/accountant/project manager, freelance web developer. But I’m also an adjunct professor of cultural and biological anthropology. Life is busy and good.

Background in applied anthropology

My history with anthropology is a bit backward: I began with research design for website usability studies (UI/UX) and cross-cultural disaster relief field work and then I went to graduate school and learned about anthropological theory in three sub-disciplines: cultural and biological anthropology and archaeology. In graduate school I learned how much I really don’t know about anthropology. And, I learned how much I really enjoyed learning about anthropology, talking about it and doing cultural research.

Here are some areas of cultural research I’ve done:

Archeology – I learned a little about archeological fieldwork and using GIS tools to analyze archaeological features and ethnohistoric data from historic maps while an intern at a public archaeology firm.  At a Mission Era excavation site I learned a lot about some of the local history of Ventura and the trans-national cross-winds of political, demographic and economic forces that transformed the place where I live from a socially complex First Nation settlement into an urbanized English-speaking beach town.  After the excavation was complete, I supplied the firm with georeferencing (GPS data) of several features of the San Buenaventura Mission complex and surrounding settlement features based on antique maps and fire insurance records using Arc GIS 10.

Research Design – Before entering graduate school I worked for the Jane Goodall Institute as a web project manager for their youth service learning program Roots & Shoots. One of my duties was to develop the research design used to discover the beliefs, concerns and online informational needs of donors and youth members of environmental non-profit. Tools of data gathering included participant observation at community service projects, online surveys and focus groups of youth members, parents and donors of the non-profit.

My foodways research project on the sport cultures of triathlon and long distance runners is a non-commercial scientific research project. The foodways research explored the diet, eating practices and beliefs of racing triathletes and marathon runners. Research methods for the ethnographic foodways research project included two snow-ball or convenience samples of local athletes affiliated with local sport clubs and followers on a twitter account (@MultisportMama) and blog (MultisportMama.com) created for the project.

Disaster Relief Field Work My disaster relief field work experience began by accident in a small port city in southwestern Thailand called Ranong on December 26, 2004. By sheer luck, my family and I just missed getting hit by Andaman Sea tsunami that morning. I did my first field work there by providing care and emergency translation and transportation services for injured tourists who were stranded without anything but their clothing at a local hospital. In 2005 I delivered relief supplies through an informal aid network of local school district personnel and local humanitarians in Picayune Mississippi that delivered disaster relief supplies to families who lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina. Since 2004, I have done disaster relief and education development projects working with local community leaders in communities outside my native culture in India, Thailand, Tanzania and the United States. More information about these projects are at KIRFaid.org.

Academic Background

My academic background includes MA in Anthropology degree at California State University Northridge,  a BS in Business Administration, Marketing degree from San Diego State University, a Web Master Certificate from University California Santa Barbara’s Extension program and an assortment of interesting (well, to me anyway) classes and workshops. While an undergraduate at San Diego State University I did the marketing research design and analysis (using SPSS) for an on-campus research project for Apple. I currently enrich my knowledge and professional skills such as the Skilled Teaching Certificate program at College of the Canyons and a neat anthropology lab at Pierce College taught by a forensic anthropologist.

Professional Background

Rewarding professional experiences include running my own web design, production, usability (UI/UX) research and in-bound marketing consulting business Rockett Studios during graduate school. Before entering graduate school, I worked as a website project manager for the Jane Goodall Institute, a front-end web developer and HTML email marketing producer for Patagonia, and, a long time ago while I was still racing triathlons, I worked as an inside sales rep for Diamondback Bicycles. While an undergraduate at San Diego State University I worked as a sports marketing coordinator for PowerBar and Kashi and did race participant surveys for running and triathlon gear companies for free product.

Athletic Background

A long time ago, BC/BGS “Before Children/Before Graduate School”,  I used to be a competitive age group runner and triathlete. During those years when I just had one job, I completed 17 marathon races, the Boston Marathon, at least 70 triathlons, and two Ironman-distance triathlons: Ironman Canada and the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon World Championships.  Yes, I qualified for Hawaii. Today, I couldn’t do most of those things, so I’m grateful  that I had those experiences when I did.

When I first wrote this post, I said that I believe whole heartedly that:

  1. Life is a journey, not a race, so you may as well make this life the best adventure ever.
  2. Work hard and always do your best–a 100%. It takes courage and a lot of work to do a great job. A great job is the only job worth doing.
  3. No matter how young you are or how old you are, everyone has a role to play. Anyone can make a difference in making the world a better place.
  4. A rich person to me is a person who lives in compassion. I try to be rich every day. I try…!

I would add the following:

5. Life is a team sport, pick your team mates wisely and be grateful for their help. I grew up with an artist who would disappear into her studio and come out with art. I had to learn how to succeed as a non-artist, which meant collaborating and helping others succeed.  I find it more fun to share and “our” success as well.

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