Anthropology Graduate Student Collaboration Group

Hello fellow grad students!

I just wanted to let everyone know that we’ve started a collaborative study/writing group open to all anthropology grad students regardless of where you are in the program – all MA as well PhD students are welcomed. We meet every other Tuesday in AnSo 1305 from 9am to about 11am. Our first meeting yesterday was a success – thanks to all who participated! Our next meeting will be on February 10, 2015. Feel free to just drop by to see if this is something you could benefit from.

For more information contact Martina at

26 January 2015 AGSA Meeting Minutes

In attendance: Steffan, Joe, Heather, Megan, Danielle, Martina, Maddie, Eva, Clayton, Ezra

  1. Updates from Reps
    • Lindsey – Union rep
      • TA and Markers union bargaining for new collective agreement
      • No significant updates and could take some time (last bargaining was over 2 years) If job action would get lots of warning à see website
    • Cordelia – Dept. rep
      • Presentation about computer security
      • Recommend encrypting computers (especially if on fieldwork)
      • Faculty strongly recommend apply to Trudeau and Vanier since not a lot of students do (if have SSHRC cannot apply)
      • Anyone can apply at the first step and department only puts one of those forward (talk to graduate secretary and supervisor)
    • Ezra – Centennial Initiative Fund
      • Application made for 3 day event celebrating diversity of work at UBC
      • Event would collaborate with Musqueam
      • Also try to involve other disciplines to discuss topics
      • Application looks very strong, award is up to $10k
    • Michelle – GSS update
      • GSS survey results are in and looking to get mandatory minimum stipends for grad students
      • GSS hired a general manager to run things
    • Joe – AGSC
      • We have yet to be invited to a meeting
  1. Review of AGSA letter to the Department from last year
    • Talked with Daria about the background of the letter (traditionally just asking for funding and other issues around financials)
    • Changes were made through recommendations in this letter (dissertation financial aid award, change to 4YF – if get SSHRC can still get tuition bursary)
    • Thinking of changing theme of letter to stress departmental involvement and communication and less on funds (since funds are already low)
    • Looking at changing 500 to one term
    • 506 to more of a research methods course (where grads would also organize colloquiums and blend those with AGSA talks), maybe also at times separate MA and PhD students to address specific topics relevant to those at different levels, poster templates
    • May also be good to try and collect possible class topics for 506 to present to the department
    • Other proposed changes was streamlining the comprehensive exam process, taking less coursework (or perhaps if keep coursework amount the same offer more courses)
      • Less coursework à also would be beneficial for those students who completed an MA at UBC Anthropology that they would not have to take the same required amount as a PhD student
    • Maybe create a directed readings catalogue of past directed reading courses and the syllabus
    • Can we ask about changing the comprehensive exam system? Move towards a similar system done at SFU and UVIC (you write over time 3 publishable papers and still create the same annotated bibliography and defense)
    • Streamlining of dissertation writing process
      • Better communication between students and supervisor and also know responsibilities for both parties
      • A manual may be helpful, creation of timetable for turnarounds of drafts etc…
  1. Poster Session/Anthropology Research House
    • May still be on the plate for 506
    • SFU has an arch symposium March 7th
    • Steffan will go to 506 to discuss this
  2. Departmental and student faculty engagement
    • Could have AGSA talks/colloquiums as a continued event at same times throughout the month as a cohesive unit
    • Martina has organized a collaborative work shopping group Tuesday 9am, very informal, just getting feedback, trying to connect across different cohorts
    • Pub nights Wednesdays at the Fringe (6 onwards)
    • Department activities – maybe a potluck in the department, food parties (cupcake decorating etc…), selling pancakes and bacon
    • Department Yard sale (may also be a fundraiser)
    • Martina will organize a hiking/snowshoeing day – check for future emails
  3. AGSA fundraising ideas
    • Ice cream social
  4. Funding post year 4 while writing
  5. New profile page
    • PDF file that will be sent around that you can fill in and then send back to be posted online
    • No limits on words yet but that may change
    • Current set up is that MAs and PhDs are separated into different pages on the UBC website and would like that to change so that they are collapsed together
    • If no info in one category then you will not have any blank sections on your profile page (ie. Awards, if you have no awards there will not be an awards link on your profile to an empty page)
    • Any comments, questions, suggestions contact Heather and Joe
    • Cannot be updated all the time unfortunately, can ask to update information beginning of any term
    • Any info sent to Anth News can be CC’d to Joe or Heather to be added to your profile

AGSA November Meeting Minutes, 20th November 2014

  • Take GSS health Survey
    • Link in GSS news letter
  • Sound system and DJ rentals available from Campus Radio
  • Update on Centennial Funds: working on interdepartmental application and collaboration with Musquem; different sub-disciplinary panels
  • Cordelia no updates
  • Heather and Joe meeting with Joe Barker
    • Discussing new layouts for grad profiles on the department website
    • Want to switch from list to table that keeps MA and PhD students together and not separated
    • So presenting a table format that also lists what stream you are in and then a different tab layout
    • Also going to see if we can create a new system for website profile updates so that Eleanore doesn’t have to do it
  • Archaeology Day (Bryn update)
    • On the 21st of March
    • Jasmine has expressed interest in helping Jing
    • Day long symposium centered around “Destruction”?
    • Megan will also help volunteer
  • Alternate location and day discussed for pub night to up attendance
  • Benefits for becoming a club
    • Access to the club benefit fund
      • Only be used for events not recurring
      • Can only be used for less than half the cost
      • Downside is a lot of paperwork to keep club status going
    • Email GSS about becoming an affiliated group
      • Steffan or Martina email VP finance (possibly named Guillome?)
    • Department Christmas party
      • Funding for party = get in touch for Jasmine (150$)
      • Martina getting cups/plates/table covers
      • Invitations
        • Printing for Faculty and Staff
        • Email for everyone else
        • Posters
      • Ordering liquor and Ice, also non-alcoholic beverages – Storm brewery
        • Bryn order
        • Heather pickup
        • 37 L of keg plus extras from liquor store that can be returned (wine, beer, cider)
      • Serving it right
        • Bryn and Heather
      • Semi formal
      • Decorations
        • Decorating party (make decorations)
        • Bring whatever you have to decorate
      • Set up 5/530
      • Liquor license starts a 630
      • Heather speakers

AGSA September 2014 Meeting Minutes

September 11, 2014 AGSA Meeting

Convened at 1:10

In attendance: Steffan, Bryn, Joe, Sultan, Anastasia, Michelle, Cordelia, Lindsay, Ezra, Jordan, Jasmine, Katie, Eva, Martina, Collen, Heather, Megan


  1. Welcome and intro to AGSA and events
  1. Filling open positions
  1. Brief intro on last year’s letter to the AGSC and response (these will be made available after the meeting for discussion and possible action in the next meeting).
  1. Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) club – Intro (Adam)
  1. Brainstorming possible fundraising ideas and objectives

2014/15 AGSA Officers

AGSA Pres/Vice Pres or Co-Presidents: Steffan Gordon, Martina Volfova

Treasurer: Jasmine Sacharuk

Secretary: Megan Wong

AGSA talks organizers: Heather Robertson; Bryn Letham

Department Rep.: Cordelia Frewan (PhD); Colleen Parsley (MA)

AGSC Rep.: Lauren Harding (PhD); Joe Hepburn (MA)

Social Chair: Bryn Letham

LoA Reps: Bryn Letham and Katie Roth

GSS Rep: Michelle Hepburn

TA Union Rep: Lindsay Moore

Undergraduate Liaison: Jordan Handley

Social Media Coordinator: Jasmine Sacharuk


-introductions of those in attendance

-described positions and called for candidates

– Sultan had to leave but volunteered for any position that wasn’t filled

-short presentation by Undergraduate research Opportunities representative (Adam)

-will be providing follow-up info to Martina for interested gradstudents

-some discussion of AGSA positions

-Lindsay suggested that Undergrad liaison duties could potentially be handled by Department reps, since Undergrads would also have a rep at the meetings; ultimately there were enough volunteers to fill the position

-Martina contacted by Undergrad president regarding organizing Undergrad arch day and Grad school; following up

-decision to have a social media coordinator

-main concerns of last year’s two letters to the department outlined; letters and response will be emailed to AGSA by Steffan

-travel/conference attendance grant raised by Steffan as an example of a possible item to fundraise for

-Lindsay raised concern that fundraising should be for things that will benefit both PhD and MA students

-possible fundraisers include soup/chili sales on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, when undergrads take most of their classes; T-shirts, requiring deposits before they are ordered

-Bryn reminded everyone of pubnight this evening; still to be determined if will regularly be on Wednesdays or Thursdays

Meeting adjourned 2:10

AGSA Meeting Minutes October 2014

AGSA Meeting: Oct 20th minutes

In attendance: Steffan Gordon, Martina Volfova, Joe Hepburn, Jordan Handley, Cordelia Fewren, Bryn Letham, Heather Robertson, Eva Marley, Lindsay Moore

  1. Cordelia – updates from Departmental meeting

Important: We must keep our Academic Records updates – especially new MA students

The Departmental website is being redone and restructured. There is a website committee: All graduate students (MA and PhD) will be in one location “graduate students”–The suggestion from the department is to have someone from the AGSA responsible for keeping it current and consistent – photos, short bios, and other info we want there. We as a student body can decide how we want to structure it.

Heather and Joe– volunteered for this task, we need to discuss what kinds of things we want to have on the website – this will be brought up at the next AGSA meeting – suggestion of researching what other departments include on their websites.

Developing an institute for critical indigenous studies; First student intake 2017/2018

  1. TA Union: election of new executive; chief bargaining agent reelected.
  1. Joint SFU and UBC party – Halloween party at Jordan’s place. Heather has started a preliminary planning – mainly inviting SFU people.
  2. We need to start organizing Christmas party – either the very end of November or the first few days of December. (AAA meeting in December) Set for Friday, November 28th.

Heather – will get the liquor licence. Bryn will check with Ali to see what was purchased last year, which worked out great.

  1. Discussed how to better engage graduate students in our department in departmental and AGSA activities.

Some ideas include: better advertising for AGSA Talks to encourage people to not only sign up for the Talks, but also attend them. Martina will try to organize something like “Anthropology Café”- where students could meet informally to discuss their current work – projects, papers, thoughts on specific topics… Martina will also prepare a little speech about grad student engagement and will try to give a little talk to the new cohort at 506.

Steffan has been looking into AGSA becoming a club. Will continue to do that and will give us more updates at the next AGSA meeting.

Come and join us for the next AGSA Talk – Wednesday Nov 5, 2014 12PM to 1PM

AGSA talks poster

Full Abstracts:

The Authority of Orthography: Or How to Choose a Script

Dr Mark Turin

Chair, First Nations Languages Program

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

The much cited political aphorism that a language is a “dialect with an army, a navy and a flag” still resonates in many locations across the world. Yet in the context of contemporary India and Nepal, where I have worked for over two decades with speech communities whose languages are at risk, the statement might be modified to position language as a “dialect with a library and its own unique writing system,” preferably accompanied by a distinct Unicode font.

For complex historical reasons dovetailing with systems of state recognition that reward Indigenous distinctiveness, there is a widespread (and increasingly instrumentalized) belief across many parts of South Asia that a one-to-one correlation between a language and unique writing system should, and can even be made to, exist.

In this brief presentation, I reflect on aspects of a longstanding research partnership with members of the Thangmi-speaking community in Nepal and India. Thangmi lexicographers and community linguists are working hard to both protect and revitalize their previously unwritten language, and are confronting complex questions about orthographic choice, alphabetical order and standardization in the process.

Unsettled Stories: Language Revitalization in Places that Insist on Speaking

Martina Volfova

PhD Student

Department of Anthropology

Much of recent research on landscape, memory, and place has focused on how relationships of political and social power influence the representation of historical events (Foote and Azaryahu 2007). Historical narratives are continually reconstructed to do work in the present and while some narratives become enshrined, others get marginalized or erased (Cruikshank 1998). “Collective histories and sentiments are interactively formed as people variously learn, argue over, celebrate, and resist representations of the past” (White 1999:507).

This paper draws on my experience conducting an ethnographic research project at the University of Utah’s Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprentice Program. Language revitalization efforts aim primarily at addressing severe alterations of sociolinguistic landscapes resulting from colonial practices and policies (Meek 2010). However, the historical and symbolic significance of physical landscapes and locations where revitalization efforts are carried out remain largely unexamined and outside of the scope of these efforts. Meanings, memories, and narratives continuously emerge in these complex spaces, often “disrupting” the sediments of the official history.

I explore the positions from which different people, both Shoshone and non-Shoshone, articulate their stories, memories and understandings of history of the traditional Shoshone territory. I also address silence and argue that silence must be examined as an integral part of communicative strategies (Basso 1990; Gomez Pereira 2008). I demonstrate how material reminders of troubled past continue to resurface, not necessarily by a person’s explicit articulation of the past, but by simply physically being present on the land. Two separate, but intimately connected localities are central to this paper: the Bear River Massacre site in Southeastern Idaho, and the historic Fort Douglas military complex on the University of Utah campus.

“I wish I had known” – Some advice on how to plan your study

Hello everyone! 

Ana Vivaldi and Brenda Fitzpatrik – both 4 + PhD candidates in our department, have kindly put together a document to share their experiences and lessons learned  about how to best plan our study to avoid unnecessary hardships as we get further along in our academic paths. This document is a work in progress and we welcome any comments and any other advice that might be missing. Thank you Ana and Brenda!

What I Wish I Had Known

Notes on Financing and Professional development for Graduate Studies in Arts

Based on the personal experience of a PhD student in the Social Sciences

Your own situation may differ, depending on your discipline and other circumstances, so not all of these recommendations may apply, but in general, I recommend that you:

Be aware that financial support after the fourth year is virtually non-existent for Arts students, so plan accordingly:

  1. Make a financial plan along with your academic plan

Get both the department and your committee involved in that plan. Discuss with your committee a budget to cover your studies from start to finish, including at least one additional year to completion (over what you project in your academic plan). Project worst-case scenarios, look at your sources of funding (bank, family, etc.) and how much each can provide, consider how much debt you are willing to take on, and where you would turn in a financial emergency. Plan for inflation, and increases in cost of living (at least 2% a year) and tuition, and bear in mind that salary and fellowships may not increase with inflation. Plan how you will support yourself during summers. Go back to this plan, just as you go back to your grad program.

  1. Maximize your funding applications

Use the support your department provides in funding applications in the first two years. Prioritize these applications over being an overly obsessive student. (To be blunt, good grades won’t pay your research or living expenses. Which is not to suggest that you neglect your coursework, but only that you set priorities.) Work on your applications with other students; read and edit your work together. Research what type of projects are getting funding, plan a strategy to match those criteria (taking into account your own interests, of course). Do your own research for funding opportunities (ask for help at the library); there are many funding sources that most students do not know about (IDRC, Soros Foundation, and others).

  1. Save money in the early years of your program for later years

Do not expect that your financial situation will improve throughout your program; it is actually the opposite–funding after the 4th year is almost non-existent. Any time you have funding or other income, prioritize and make a monthly budget that allows you to save as much as you can for when your funding runs out.

  1. Consider the following income-generating options
  1. a) Teaching Assistant-ships: You will be eligible for 5 years (6 if you take fieldwork or other types of leave; read the union agreement carefully).
  1. b) Sessional work: If there is an opening in your area of expertise, this is great experience, and worth doing at least once during your program, but take this work knowing that it will likely leave you no time to work on your thesis, and progress will be nearly stopped during that time. (Teaching the same course twice is very good because you have all the preparation done, but this is not usually possible).
  1. c) Teaching work outside the department or university: Consider teaching or TA-ing in a related department, or at other universities and colleges (SFU, Capilano, Langara, etc.)   For this you will need: to find out about the calls for sessionals and TAs, to get permission from the department to teach, and to show your teaching evaluations from any TA position(s) you have held, so keep those (they are all on-line now). (International students do not need an off campus work permit anymore but are limited to part-time work)
  1. d) Research Assistant-ships: It may be difficult to find an RA-ship with anyone other than your supervisor or committee members, but occasionally RA-ships may be available, even if not advertised. Contact professors and ask them if they need an RA.
  1. e) Jobs at UBC: As well as decent wages and benefits, any administration position over 50% time provides a tuition waiver. This option is much unexplored among students and gives you work experience, connections and much more financial stability.
  1. f) GSS jobs. (they come up from time to time)
  1. g) Resources for Jobs

→ At UBC Administration

→ UBC Campus jobs (the Bookstore, the Library, Food Services, etc.)

and , go to “Careers Online”—they have links to various jobs

→ Staff finders: They provide temporary staffing to UBC units. Wages start at about $19/hour. Their positions tend to be full-time, though temporary, so this may be a good option for the summer. for information

  1. f) Other jobs. Ask Oralia about job listservs. UBC Career Services
  1. g) Loans: If you need to take on debt, plan ahead for it as much as possible. Do not wait until you are in financial difficulties, but find out in advance what types of loans you are eligible for, and the maximum amounts.
  1. h) GSS Emergency Fund: This is a one-time emergency hardship fund for students in financial distress. There are specific conditions to be met, and the maximum is normally not more than $2,000 so it is never going to save your semester, but it may help if you are truly facing an emergency.
  1. i) Take a leave, work intensively outside UBC and then come back. (if you are an international student you need your visa *not* to expire while on leave, otherwise you are unable to renew it and become illegal – this is the type of things International house will not discuss much with you-).

Finally, take leaves of absence if there is any particularly difficult moment. You can take up to 1 year in different portions (a semester each time or several semesters together). You can take a leave for personal reasons with no further explanation (ie no need to show doctors notes or any other document just a written letter and a form). There are also medical leaves. Do not try to hold to the program if you need and can take time off.

Accademic considerations: Streamline your program and prepare to the job market

1) Make your academic program tight in time, not overly ambitious and try to use time wisely as much as you can: use summers, try finishing the course-work in one year (take summer courses, if they are not available in Anth look outside the department), make the comps as short as you can, plan for shorter rather than longer fieldwork (ie 10 months vs 12). Already at proposal – comps stage you can plan to leave a portion of work for the post doc (or the doc if you are MA), for example leave archival work for latter if it is not central. Start writing drafts of your thesis as soon as you can. Use courses for the purpose of your research as much as you can, make final papers be small, draft lit reviews fro your dissertation or Comps project proposal.

2) Bear in mind the program, but also all professors and mentors prepare you to follow an academic path, but only a few of us will get that work. Try developing other skills (this can be software expertise as ATLAS TI, to statistics (SSPS), geographic information systems, health research tools, find out what you may need in your area). Get a job outside the department, get teaching experience. Consider taking any course you need to develop these skills. Consider participating in the following programs.

Graduate Pathways to Success Program: and the Instructional Skills Workshop Program: .

3) Try to get to know people in your sub-field as much as you can, search outside the department, consider applying for the Liu institute (if you fit in it) and – or any other network (RAGA, migration) that is suitable for your work. Search professional organizations and conferences in applied social sciences in your areas of interest. Build your professional as well as an academic profile, as much as you can.

If you are international student:

1) Bear in mind tuition is already much expensive than for local students and may continue to raise. The gap between local and international tuition gets bigger after the 2nd year. There is an international tuition fellowship that attempts to match international tuition with local tuition for grad students, but that fellowship has not risen in many years, what means that you get even more inflation on your tuition each time it rises. Project this raises. Also while domestic tuition gets reduced after 3 semesters, international tuition keeps the same until the end (and you pay tuition even after defense, until the day your final version of the thesis is submitted).

2) Bear in mind you depend on your full time student status to renew your visa. This may be a problem at the end of your program and if you need to take time off.

3) Bear in mind that off campus work-permit you have limitations to work, you can only work a number of hours a week (20?), and you are not in the hiring priority for jobs.

4) Consider you are not eligible to any state help (ie disability, family, other), you can’t apply for loans and bursaries in UBC. You can’t apply to bank loans in Canada.

So it is a good idea as international student you:

1) Consider applying for Permanent Resident as soon as you can (second year), even if you are not planning to stay in Canada. This will make you eligible to more fellowships, much cheaper tuition after your second year, give you possibilities to work full-time and be more eligible to work, be eligible to Ubc bursaries and Ubc loans, and the specific bank loans for students, you will also be eligible to more post docs.

2) Know your rights and the resources available

Read the TA agreement, read FOGPGS policies, navigate the GSS website. You may also find it helpful to consult the GSS Advocacy Office, the UBC Ombuds Office, UBC Equity, or International House if you experience issues related to finances, leave, visas, supervision, (or any other aspect of your relationship with UBC). Bear in mind they are pretty disarticulated, you will have to connect and process the information (ie International house knows about visas but will not know about what happens if you get a debt with UBC as international student).