Melissa A. Beske

2010 Spicer Winner

spicer_beske.jpgMelissa A. Beske is currently a Ph.D. Candidate and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 2004 and her M.A. from Tulane University in 2007, both in Anthropology.  Following three seasons as a supervisor with the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project from 2002-2004 in San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, Melissa began working in 2005 alongside a locally-based NGO, Cornerstone Foundation, to address the pervasive community prevalence of intimate partner violence.   At that time she decided to focus her efforts on helping to establish Belize’s second domestic violence shelter, and following continued investigations and activism from 2006-2007, her dissertation research from 2008-2009 combined front-line advocacy work with theoretical analysis of intimate partner violence in Cayo, as she worked in collaboration with the newly-formed NGO, Mary Open Doors, which finally opened the country’s second shelter for abuse survivors in 2008. 

In addition to a widespread incidence survey and interviews with members of diverse sectors of society (survivors, reformed perpetrators, governmental officials, NGO workers, police officers, judicial personnel, and medical practitioners), she facilitated a weekly-meeting  support group for concerned citizens in San Ignacio in 2008 entitled Women at Work (WAW), which provides an economically sustainable option for survivors attempting to leave abusive relationships by means of producing weavings and jewelry to sell at local markets in order to gain financial independence from their perpetrators.   Nominated as being the most influential women’s group in the country by the Women’s Department in 2009, WAW continues to meet to engage in community outreach, fundraising for the shelter, and craft production to facilitate survivor assistance.  While currently teaching, Melissa is also in the process of writing her doctoral dissertation with hopes that it will be able to serve as a useful tool to further assist advocates in Cayo in creating a more peaceful community.

In addition to her work in Belize, Melissa has also engaged in research with indigenous medical practitioners in Carhuaz, Peru, in their struggle to continue traditional midwifery procedures despite a governmental push for increasingly biomedically focused births, and additionally with street musicians in New Orleans, as they have endeavored to survive and thrive both pre and post-Hurricane Katrina.


Allison Hopkins

2010 Spicer Winner

spicer_hopkins.jpgAllison Hopkins earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Florida in December 2009.  She received a B.S. in Botany and Plant Pathology and an M.A. in Anthropology from Michigan State University and Iowa State University, respectively.  She is currently applying for jobs that will allow her to continue to pursue her research interests in the relationship between cultural knowledge systems, behavior and social change, and the integration of quantitative and qualitative research methods.  She has received funding for her research and education pursuits from the National Science Foundation (DDIG and IGERT), United States Department of Education (FLAS), and the universities she has attended.   

Allison’s doctoral research focused on the acquisition, transmission and distribution of herbal remedy knowledge among the Maya in Tabi, Yucatan, Mexico.  The results of her research show that initial acquisition of herbal remedy knowledge coincides with having children and the process of knowledge acquisition continues to occur until the age of 45.  In addition, herbal remedy knowledge is transmitted from acquaintances, friends, family, and herbalists to the learner.  These patterns correspond with other communities which, like Tabi, have experienced the influences of modernization and globalization.  A portion of this study is the focus of her presentation at this year’s SfAA meeting.  Prior to Allison’s doctoral studies she carried out her master’s research on medical decision making by women for their reproductive health issues in Las Minas, a rural community in Panama.  In particular she sought to determine what role herbal remedies, a treatment option typical in folk healing systems, played in treatment of illness in a community with increasing access to biomedical health care.  The results showed, although herbal remedies continue to be utilized widely in Las Minas, explanations of the healing process had shifted from the folk healing system to the biomedical system over the last generation.