Hilton and Singletary Receive P.E.O. Scholar Awards!

Two SoA Ph.D. candidates are among the 100 women out of 741 nominees selected to receive a $15,000 P.E.O. Scholar Award for the 2018–2019 academic year! Congratulations! The P.E.O. Scholar Awards were established in 1991 by the International Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral-level degree at an accredited college or university. Scholar Awards recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.

Amanda Hilton (left) is a cultural anthropology doctoral candidate interested in ecological anthropology and the anthropology of food as well as broader discourses surrounding social and environmental justice. Amanda’s dissertation title is “Selling or Saving Cultural Heritage? Sicilian Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) Olive Oil” and her advisor is Professor Diane Austin.

Project Summary: This project explores the impacts of a new Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) for extra-virgin olive oil from Sicily, Italy on Sicilian olive oil producers. In the European Union (EU), PGIs guarantee, and therefore help to create, the “authenticity” of food, the place in which the food is produced (terroir), and the people involved. However, a tension lies in the fact that these efforts promote “authentic” cultural heritage by commodifying and selling it globally. This study explores the effects of the process of legally defining and then selling cultural heritage, as embodied by extra virgin olive oil “Sicilia,” on the people and places it is meant to protect or preserve. Italy is considered an economic burden but a cultural treasure trove in EU relations, and within Italy, narratives of the “Southern Question,” or North-South, industrial-agricultural, rich-poor divisions, persist. The Italian islands, Sicily and Sardinia, are even one step further removed—Sicily could be considered the super-South, in some regions nearly feudal in its agricultural structure, and deeply impoverished. Why are the EU and the Italian state interested in championing Sicilian olive oil? How does the local become embedded in the global, and vice versa? Sicily’s location, geographically and geopolitically, make it a prime place to study the interplay of environmental, technological, economic, and social fields in the rolling out of a new PGI designation. The PGI makes the legal claim that this olive oil can only come from this place—a Mediterranean island with a deep history of colonization, poverty, and oliviculture. Focusing on the olive oil producers celebrated in marketing materials and “protected” by the PGI, my research asks (1) what are the human-environment relationships that produce Sicilian olive oil (which the PGI seeks to protect), and (2) how is the PGI designation actually affecting these relationships and practices?

Britt Singletary (right) is a biological anthropology doctoral student of Associate Professor Ivy Pike. The title of Britt’s dissertation project is “Who cares? How caregivers influence communicative and cognitive development during early childhood.”

Project Summary: Allomaternal care (AMC—care provided to infants from someone other than the mother) likely plays a significant role in shaping communicative and cognitive development in children by providing a rich learning environment full of many signal types, a benefit further explored within this project. Early, varied exposure to different sights and sounds enhances perceptual abilities, brain development, and cognitive skills. Considerable AMC creates opportunities for children to interact with different signalers (e.g., nannies, grandmothers, siblings), exposing them to a larger variety of sensory experiences. This project examines how AMC impacts developmental outcomes in infants aged 13 to 18 months using a novel combination of interdisciplinary methods, including questionnaires, daily diaries, interviews, and laboratory tasks. This study will help determine whether AMC improves early developmental outcomes, such that infants exposed to high levels of AMC develop more extensive sets of communicative and cognitive skills at a younger age than infants exposed to low levels of AMC. The results will enrich our understanding of why such extensive AMC was maintained in our species, thereby impacting how we tell the story of the origins of human AMC.