Ethan Kostishak ’20
I have for the longest time always been interested in understanding difference. As a minority, I have always thought about the discrepancy between my lived-experience and the dominant societal conceptions about that experience. Of course, my experience is also different from others who navigate different cultural scripts. I was equally impressed by the similarities: even when social configurations, histories or language are very different there is normally a common human point of connection between people. After taking my first anthropology class, “Palestine in Ethnography and Film” with Professor Lara Deeb, I knew I would be able to explore both the similarities and differences between people, and more importantly the political relevancy of these (dis)connections; so, I decided to major in the field.
Anthropology defamiliarizes what is normalized: from the way we configure personal relationships to how we relate to nature and the environment. I feel that I have constantly had my assumptions and ideas overturned by encountering the varied human ways of constructing a life. The discipline comes to these insights through ethnographic methods and giving particular attention to how people live their day-to-day life. I believe it is this attentiveness to people’s lived experiences that makes Anthropology such an engaging and productive discipline.
I have formalized this engagement through my research on queer organizing in Lebanon and Palestine through Pomona’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF). I look at how two different grassroots organizations, Helem and al-Qaws, create queer liberation paradigms from their unique cultural and political contexts that should and have influenced international organizing. It is through anthropology that I have been able to explore this subject and engage with it in a nuanced, complex manner. I hope to use the insights from this project and other critical cultural engagements to advocate for political change with and for different groups of people.
Ash Anthony Maria ’22
Growing up I really liked asking questions. I never could settle for a single answer. My parents and teachers learned quickly that my first question would be far from the last. Anthropology encourages this unapologetic curiosity, but also provides the tools to step back and critical think about the questions we’re asking. It goes without saying that anthropology does have an extremely problematic history with its original purpose as a discipline of studying the Other (non-Europeans). However, the discipline’s troubling history has allowed for its students to consistently question its ethics and methods; in recent decades, anthropology has generated influential dialogue on nearly all other academic disciplines using a human-centered socially conscious approach.
My first exposure to anthropology came from a series of phone conversations with my SagePost47 mentor Danny Low ’11. Danny spoke in detail about what he had learned studying anthropology at Pomona and how it has greatly impacted his practice as a primary care physician today. The heightened cultural competency and humanizing analysis that came with having a background in anthropology allowed Danny to build relationships with, and provide care, to his patients that he wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Danny sharing his experience played a critical role in getting me to sign up for what later became the most influential class I’ve taken in my academic career, Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology with Professor Tobias Hecht. It only took a few weeks of being in Prof. Hecht’s class for me to be convinced that there was no way I wasn’t going to be an anthropology major. Never in my life had I so consistently done the many readings for a class and not checked the page count to see how long I had to stomach the assignment for. The readings focused on issues directly applicable to humans; it didn’t take a Ph.D. to understand the very real impact of the issues discussed and their salience. Additionally, the class discussions that Hecht and his readings fostered brought in perspectives from all the students and are some of the best academic discussions I’ve had. Potentially, the most exciting aspect of anthropology is ethnography. Over time I’ve found, through dialogues with Professor Hecht, that anthropology serves not only as an effective and unique research method but an approach to life. This approach seems to color his world in such a more curious and open-minded way–I hope to engage with the world this way as well one day.
If it wasn’t for Danny and Professor Hecht, I know for fact I wouldn’t be studying this field I’ve come to love and will utilize in every interaction I have the rest of my life. My dream is to one day be a primary care physician like Danny, using the critical thinking and humanizing skills of anthropology I’ll have learned from Hecht and others to provide the best care not only to my patients, but the people I meet in my life.