Missouri State University
Sociology and Anthropology Blog

New Study Away Opportunities

We should take some time to congratulate two of our faculty members who recently had their proposals accepted by the Study Away Programs office at Missouri State University. Dr. Wedenoja will be leading one entitled Reggae Island: The History and Culture of Jamaica, West Indies. The travel component of this program will be May 24 to June 6, 2015. Dr. Wedenoja has been working in Jamaica since the early 1970s and has led many student trips there. Dr. Worman is the director of a second study away program entitled Valles Caldera National Preserve Archaeology Field School. The travel component will be June 8 – July 10, 2015. This program will emphasize the challenges and opportunities associated with conducting archaeological research on public land.

Together, these programs represent at least two of the four fields of anthropology – cultural anthropology and archaeology – though they will likely touch on all four fields in one way or another. If you know of anyone who may be interested in these programs, contact Dr. Wedenoja at BillWedenoja@MissouiState.edu or Dr. Worman at FScottWorman@MissouriState.edu. Dr. Worman will also be joined by Dr. Wedenoja in leading the Bluefields Archaeology Field School in Jamaica from December 27, 2014 to January 10, 2015. Students will conduct archaeological research at historical and prehistoric sites in Bluefields with the goal of helping the local community build a program of heritage resources tourism

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Artifact Identification Day

The September meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of the Missouri Archaeological Society will be held on Wednesday, September 3rd at 7:00 pm at the Center for Archaeological Research located at 622 S. Kimbrough. Our meeting will consist of an “Artifact Identification Day.” Individuals are encouraged to bring any unidentified prehistoric and historic artifacts to the meeting for identification as to artifact type and possible age.

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Making a Difference in the Springfield Community


Neighbor for neighbor BLOG, 8_15_14 --Robberson 047 (2) GROUP Volunteers

Dr. Mike Stout, Associate Professor of Sociology in the department of sociology and anthropology, organized the Neighbor for Neighbor tables and the community development survey at the Robberson and Weller Neighborhood Night Out events on Friday, August 22nd, sponsored by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks and the City of Springfield.

Prior to the event, Dr. Stout held a training session on conducting  face-to face surveys at Missouri State University in the CASL department, after which the participants, including sociology students, faculty and staff,  were sent to the neighborhoods.  The survey’s focus was to determine each neighborhood’s need for community development projects such as the creation of green space whether in the form of a park or playground, the need for a community center, as well as the residents’ willingness to participate in the planning and implementation of the projects. Residents were also given the opportunity to provide ideas for additional areas of community improvement.  Approximately 50 surveys were completed at each event

Sociology Program Coordinator, John Harms, and Professor Tim Knapp were available at the information table for the Neighbor for Neighbor Program at each site to anyone who completed the survey and wanted additional information about the program.



Neighbor for neighbor BLOG, 8_25_14, Robberson 022 COOK OUT

The Neighbor for Neighbor table and survey were just a part of the Neighborhood Night Out event. Other activities open to residents and their children included informational booths, the Springfield-Greene County mobile library, tours of a fire truck and an ambulance, sidewalk games, and a cookout.  It was an opportunity to connect with neighbors, and friends—old, and new.

Neighbor for neighbor BLOG, 8_25_14--Robberson 037 (3) FACEPAINTING

Programs like this one are designed to help communities that are struggling to find ways of working together to achieve their goals and develop social capital. This program reflects the department’s goal of public outreach and building community.


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American Indian Studies

The first meeting of the American Indian Student Association for the 2014-2015 year will be held on Wednesday, September 3rd @ 5:30 pm in Strong 458 (Sociology & Anthropology Department Conference Room). We will be electing officers and making plans for future meetings.

In the past, the American Indian Student Association has been an informal gathering of like-minded people who want to promote American Indian culture, history, and leadership at Missouri State University. The focus has been largely on the PowWow for the past several years.

This year will mark the beginning of a new era. Regular meetings will be held, and events will be planned evenly throughout the year, instead of focusing all our efforts on Native American Heritage Month in November.

We’re planning field trips, guest speakers, games, and community involvement activities. Come join the fun!

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Is There Room For This Man?


Lyle Foster shares his experiences in San Francisco where he attended the American Sociological Association meetings from August 16-19.

Quite simply the conference theme of “Hard Times” is very close to my interests in inequality and poverty, as well as the energy that is usually generated from learning and hearing from other colleagues and experts. I also find that I benefit a lot from the experience of city exploration as I consider myself an “urbanologist” of sorts. I will share more pictures with you. The picture that is attached is nothing exceptional and we can find similar in Springfield and in many places of our nation, but it was poignant for me because of the extremely high costs of living in San Francisco and the current concern of rapid gentrification in the city. Several workshops as well as walking tours focused on this. The situation is so out of hand that bidding wars that offer 10 to 30 percent above the listing price are not uncommon and many of the offers are in cash. It is no secret that the tech boom is creating a substantial sector of the population that has income to spend. Yet, as evidenced in many media reports recently in several demographic studies (some attention has been on Apple in particular), the tech sector is overwhelmingly white, Asian, and male.

So back to the picture…On the positive side San Francisco has a vibrant retail sector downtown which I think is wonderful, as many cities have had to reinvent themselves in their center cities as the big stores headed to suburbs and lifestyle centers.  Downtown “San Fran” has every store imaginable. A number of them are high end and their footprint is very noticeable. However, it also abuts the Tenderloin district which is still an area that has a lot of homelessness, crime, vice, drugs, etc… and has been resistant to change. In fact, while I was looking at more history, I noticed a news story that a tourist was shot in the Tenderloin district this past Sunday morning.  I was struck by the sight of this single man sleeping on the sidewalk in the shadows of some of the greatest wealth in the world and the sheer vibrancy of Market Street and Union Square. There were many occasions when I saw groups of people that had shopping carts and were sleeping in parks and other areas,  but the solitude of this man who seemed to have been here for a while sleeping, with  Bloomingdales and Nordstrom just blocks away, spoke volumes to me. And just a few blocks in the other direction were construction cranes erecting new high rises for condominiums that many can only whisper the price. It is easy to get accustomed to the growing homeless population and recognize that it is a simple fixture of urban life – as a Sociologist and simply as a human – I don’t want to be comfortable with it, or to not consider the question of how we can have such affluence and stare in the face of such lack literally in the same moment and breath.

So my reflection of the time I spent in San Francisco for the American Sociological Association meetings was ….”is there a room for this man?”

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O’Donnell Thesis, Part II

When we honored Sarah O’Donnell for finishing her thesis, we asked her to tell us more about the project. Here is a summary of her work along with some pictures from her project.

Sarah’s thoughts about her thesis

It is with great excitement, pride, and relief that my Master’s thesis, Investigating Ozarks Marginality, has been completed. This thesis represents two years of research, consultation with tribal and federal agencies, data collection, analysis, writing, editing, more editing, and finally formatting for publication.

What began as a simple question (What was happening during the late prehistoric Missouri Ozarks?) grew into a geochemical sourcing project that sought to understand late prehistoric Ozark inhabitants and their relationships with the nearby complex chiefdoms. This research question stemmed from my undergraduate work at Cahokia, the sprawling prehistoric Mississippian urban center, and realization that I knew very little about the prehistory of the Ozarks.

Ceramics, society and analysis

Drawing on my skills with ceramics, I explored links between complex core societies and the Ozarks margin. After choosing ceramic samples from selected late prehistoric sites in the Northern Ozark Highland, I conducted geochemical analyses. Using the resources of the Archaeometry Lab at the Nuclear Research Reactor at the University of Missouri, I was able to ascertain the geochemical signature of the ceramic samples and compare them to known source groups from the complex core areas outside the Ozarks.

Research outcomes

My results suggest that Northern Ozark Highland communities were isolated from the complex core societies to the east and southwest. These results may bolster other existing research that suggests the inhabitants of the Northern Ozark Highland purposefully kept themselves isolated from the urbanites of Cahokia and other large mound centers.

I am incredibly grateful to have to support and guidance of my advisor Dr. Liz Sobel and the department, which encouraged and facilitated the presentation of my research at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, Texas.

Sarah O’Donnell with lighting equipment for taking ceramic sample photographs, June 2013

Sarah O’Donnell with lighting equipment for taking ceramic sample photographs, June 2013

Ceramic sample sherd with temper, a defining ceramic characteristic for this study
Ceramic sample sherd with temper, a defining ceramic characteristic for this study


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Mike Stout’s Other Research

Associate professor Mike Stout contributes to the community in a number of ways. In addition to his work in the community and research publications, he also writes for news outlets like Inequality.org. You can read his most recent piece at this website: http://inequality.org/happened-public-good/. The great thing about this type of work is that it provides a venue to share theoretical perspectives and research that may not normally go into a traditional journal and it has a much wider appeal than most academic outlets. His work and those of other professors and students in the department will be highlighted in the department blog over the next year.

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Archaeology Students Excavate Historic African American Site during 2014 Field School

2014 field school 1

During MSU’s 2014 Summer Intersession, 13 anthropology students participated in archaeological field research at the Reeves site, a historic African American residential site in Ash Grove, located 25 miles from MSU’s Springfield campus. The archaeological field work carried out by the students constituted their coursework for Field Archaeology (Anthropology 341), taught by Dr. Sobel of the MSU Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The 13 students include 10 from MSU and three from other universities including Drury, Truman State, and the University of Michigan. The students carried out field work on a daily basis over a three week period, learning basic archaeological field methods including survey, excavation, and mapping. The students also learned about approaches specific to historical archaeology including the use of archival documents, oral tradition, and archaeological remains as complementary sources of information about the recent past. In addition, students learned about the relevance and context of their work at the Reeves site by meeting members of the Reeves family, which still owns the site, and visiting related sites including the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum and the Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic Site. In addition, local African American musician and artist Clarence Brewer spoke to the class about African American cultural heritage in Southwest Missouri. Archaeology at the Reeves site is part of a larger study investigating African American life and race relations in southwest Missouri during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras (late 1800s through 1950s). The Reeves site was occupied for about a century, from ca. 1900 until 2000, by four generations of the Reeves family. This African American family migrated from Tennessee to Missouri by 1880, and settled in a racially mixed neighborhood on the outskirts of Ash Grove by 1890. Unlike most of rural southwest Missouri at that time, Ash Grove had a vibrant black community because the Ash Grove White Lime and Portland Cement Company employed many African American men. This size of this community declined in the 1930s, when the company shut down operations in Ash Grove. The Reeves family was part of this black community. Although most family members moved away in the 1930s, to find work elsewhere, matriarch Cassie Reeves stayed until she died in 1946. She and other family members are buried in the nearby Berry Cemetery, which is the only Greene County cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. The field work carried out by the 2014 Field Archaeology students focused on the remains of original house at the site, built and occupied by Cassie Reeves, William Harvey Reeves, some of their children and grandchildren, and William’s mother. Shovel testing, excavation, and mapping clarified the locations and architecture of the house, outbuildings, and outdoor activity areas. The animal bone, metal tool parts, ceramic sherds, and glass fragments excavated from the area have begun to shed light on the daily lives of the Reeves, including their subsistence activities, participation in the growing consumer economy, social dynamics, and land use. During the 2014-2015 academic year, anthropology students will learn more by from the analysis of artifacts and field records from the excavation. In addition, graduate student Andrea Gregory will study the site as part of her Applied Anthropology Masters Thesis project. Additional archaeological field work, as well as oral history interviews and archival research, is also planned. Archaeological field work at the Reeves site was possible through permission from the Reeves family, which owns the site. The archaeological work was conducted in collaboration with the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum, located in Ash Grove and directed by Moses Berry. The Field Archaeology course helps forward the Museum’s educational goals while providing students with archaeological field training and a chance to participate in anthropological research. The Field Archaeology was taught by Dr. Sobel and anthropology graduate assistants Andrea Gregory and Grace Gronniger. Former MSU Anthropology students John Fox and Sarah Reid served as volunteer teaching assistants.

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