MAY 2021

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A Wonderwerk discovery!
University of Toronto Professor Michael Chazan and Professor Liora Kolska Horwitz from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with their team, have unearthed early evidence of human occupation in a cave in South Africa's Kalahari Desert. 

This cave is known as the Wonderwerk Cave, meaning 'miracle' in Afrikaans, and has been found to date back about two million years. Spanning over 15 years, the Wonderwerk Cave expedition continues to intrigue researchers with insight into human evolution.

Read the National Post article or visit the Wonderwerk website to see what they have discovered!


The Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to individuals "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional ability in the arts."

We would like to congratulate the Faculty of Arts & Science Professors Eugenia Kumacheva from the Department of Chemistry, Amira Mittermaier from the Department of Religion and Anthropology,  Kevin Lewis O'Neill cross-appointed to the Department of Anthropology, and anthropologist Kamari Clarke on receiving this prestigious award.

Read more about their achievement here!
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science article.
  Call to Action
University of Cape Town Library Fire

Faculty and students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the devastating wildfire that destroyed a significant portion of the library at the University of Cape Town, South Africa on April 18, 2021.

Among the most significant losses were the university’s Plant Conservation Unit offices and the Jagger Reading Room, which housed priceless artifacts related to African history, including 19th-century watercolors painted by Indigenous peoples, maps, manuscripts and government records.

A recent statement by the Chancellor, Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe can be found here.

Donations are being collected here

So as to reconstruct the lost collection as much as possible, the library is requesting anyone who has digital copies, photos, and photocopies of the lost materials to make contact here.
Recent Publications
Dr. Bence Viola and a team of international researchers recovered up to 100,000 year old nuclear DNA from cave sediments in Spain and Russia, and can now study the population genetics of archaic humans even at sites where no fossils are available. In the image: Chagyrskaya cave, the source of the genetic samples in Siberia. 

Their paper is published in the journal of Science titled “Unearthing Neanderthal population history using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from cave sediments.”

Read more about their study and their findings here
Dr. Ornella Bertrand, a graduate of our department and Prof. Mary Silcox coauthored a study in Nature Communications Biology on "The impact of locomotion on the brain evolution of squirrels and close relatives during the Cenozoic.". 

The authors look into how locomotion, body mass, and phylogeny impact the size and proportions of the brain of rodent species spanning more than 50 million years of evolution using virtual endocasts (see image). 

Read more about their study here!
In the Teichroeb lab, PhD student Samantha Stead published an article in Primates on "High levels of infant handling by adult males in Rwenzori Angolan colobus (Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii) compared to two closely related species, C. vellerosus and C. guereza." 

This study provides insight into the evolution of infant handling in various species of Colobines (see image).

Access their study here.
The Teichroeb Lab published another study this month! Postdoctoral Fellow Jean Arseneau-Robar with PhD student Eve Smeltzer and MSc student Ming Fei Li published a study in the journal of Animal Behaviour.

Their study, "Be early or be tolerated: vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) foraging strategies in a dispersed resource." investigates the factors that influence within-group spatial position, feeding strategies, and feeding success for a group of wild vervet monkeys at Lake Nabugabo, Uganda (see image on their foraging experiment set-up).

Their study can be accessed here
Alumna Dr. Columba Gonzalez-Duarte (2019) published a study in the journal of World Development that assesses the current conservation strategy of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in the rural landscapes (see image) of Michoacán and Estado de México, Mexico.

This study shows how the current conservation strategies, along with increasing violence associated with the Mexican Drug War, undermine sustainable community forest management and deepen the control of organized crime. An alternative strategy is suggested in this study as a way to protect both the region's human and nonhuman inhabitants. 

Read the details of the study "Butterflies, organized crime, and “sad trees”: A critique of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Program in a context of rural violence." here
Teaching & Learning
In collaboration with the Institute for Islamic Studies, Alejandro Paz and Jens Hanssen have begun a new initiative called "Hearing Palestine" at the University of Toronto. 

“Hearing Palestine” is a new initiative at the University of Toronto (UofT) that provides a safe space for Palestinians and those interested in the history and future of Palestine to share their experience and research. This initiative facilitates discussion on cultural life, artistic creativity, social justice and current affairs in Canada and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from the perspective of Palestine. Moreover, the initiative responds to calls for improving the university experience for students, staff, and faculty enduring, and concerned about, anti-Palestinian discrimination on campus.

As part of a more general re-evaluation at the U of T, Hearing Palestine promotes curricular engagement with settler colonialism, sectarianism and authoritarianism in the MENA region, in Canada and wherever else the Palestinian diaspora lives. The Institute for Islamic Studies, History, and CSUS are founding sponsors.

They will be launching a website soon. In the meantime, you can follow them on facebook: 

Photo: Courtesy of Hearing Palestine.

Science Rendezvous 2021 will be taking place VIRTUALLY on Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 10am to 4pm! Each year, the Science Rendezvous street fair attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the University of Toronto, aiming to foster an appreciation of S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) in the community and to enhance scientific literacy. They will continue to run their programs this year through an online format and would like to invite you to attend their events - from Science Chase experiments, annual Science Fair competition, and their first ever production, “The SR Show”, featuring engaging demonstrations from over 30 University of Toronto departments. Join them for a day filled with fun and science! 

For more information, visit the SR 2021 website

Register for the event via the Eventbrite RSVP Form at After registering, you will receive an email with more information and a Zoom meeting link

Photo: Courtesy of Science Rendezvous.

As the historical legacies of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination continue to persist in our contemporary world, such questions demand increasing attention from scholars in the study of religion. To this end, the University of Chicago Divinity School invites submissions for an international essay contest on Race and Religion here

The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2021. Please send your essays with a short cover letter to

For questions, please contact Sarah Hammerschlag ( or Alireza Doostdar (

Photo: Courtesy of The University of Chicago Divinity School.

Digital Exhibit

Professor Zoë Wool is thrilled to share this digital museum exhibit -- a media-rich timeline detailing the history of Black civic engagement and environmental racism in Houston's historic Pleasantville neighborhood.

The timeline is the first output of Project Pleasantville, a community collaborative team project founded in 2019 by Professor Wool, along with Dr. Lacy Johnson, Ms. Bridgette Murray, and Mr Cleophus Sharp.

The project also includes a growing oral history archive, a poster series, and a number of student research projects accessible here

Photo: Courtesy of The Houston Flood Museum.


Dr. Alpa Shah, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics

  • Tuesday, May 11th. 
  • 5pm London, 9am San Francisco, 11am Central Mexico, 12 noon Ottawa, ON, 7pm Syria. 
  • Register here
Democracy by Sortition, Liberal Elections and Communist Revolutionaries
What if we selected our leaders by lottery? Zooming out of the mud hut villages of indigenous communities in the forested hills of eastern India, this lecture will compare three different models of leadership and democracy: liberal electoral democracy, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist democracy, and sortition, that is the drawing of lots. It will turn how we think about democracy and leadership on its head to provide a new vision for the future.

More information can be found on the CIIS Series Web Page here

Chicago Tamil Forum Keynote Address: Law at Large: Notes on the Public Mediation of Community in the Juridical Field

Dr. Francis Cody, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto

  • Thursday, May 13th. 
  • 4pm EST. 
  • Zoom link forthcoming.
Legal reporting at the Madras High Court serves as a site to better understand how public images of the law bear on questions of caste, gender, and political community.  Beginning with a famous and widely quoted judgement in favor of the novelist Perumal Murugan’s right to free expression, this talk then follows a habeas corpus case resulting from illicit love that became major media event, and then ends with career of the High Court Justice, C.S. Karnan, who was arrested for “scandalizing” the court after accusing fellow Justices of casteist discrimination.  The analysis demonstrates how public affect and perceived opinion on the question of community loop back into the texts of High Court judgements.  When authority is routed through the mediation of normative news-consuming publics and not only in legal procedure, judicial power is vulnerable because it demands from the media of publicity a forum for displaying its power that can be withheld.

More information can be found here

Get Involved

Have you considered giving back to the Department of Anthropology? Our Alumni Committee welcomes your thoughts on how to connect to our undergraduate and graduate students. 

Donate here
Alumni Engagement Opportunities
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