Ateneo levels up
LAST week my old school, Ateneo de Manila, where I received an MA in Anthropology with major in archaeology some decades ago, invited its alumni and friends to the formal inauguration of a levels-up Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Its acronym is ASIA, for Anthropological and Sociological Initiatives of the Ateneo, an umbrella organization for research and public scholarship of its various transdisciplinary studies.
Ateneo’s Department of Sociology and Antthropology started in 1960 with the Jesuit anthropologist, Frank X Lynch, SJ who was joined by John F. Doherty who became chairman and with Mary Racelis and John Carroll, SJ part of the faculty and research staff.
It is an institution of more than half a century that is now trying to rationalize through scholarship, research and practice the current structure and human component of a globalized society, especially in the Philippine context of a Third World country and how it transforms.
The issue brings in many factors such as value formation, what is vital and essential as against what is not, how to interpret contemporary social forces and act on them. An example is globalization versus national integration for Third World countries for us in the Philippines. How to solve gross inequalities in access to power and resources among different groups of people amid the degradation of the physical environment, the rationalization of modern life and the destructive ethos of a highly technological post-modern life (read: the social media, for example, as well as the trajectory of artificial intelligence).
The above have consequences of different ways on genders, age groups, social classes, ethnic communities.
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This is what the Ateneo ASIA Institute’s students have to confront and accommodate through training and research for which ASIA will manage through professional competence and teaching skills of its faculty within the context of work for humanity’s welfare as well as nurturing its students and staff. The goal is to graduate people who will be analytical and critical thinkers who will include in their universe the spiritual element of human beings and the positive values for a sustainable and inclusive society.
Examples of the fields and degrees that ASIA will promote are, Heritage Studies, Sociology (MA and PhD), MA in Anthropology, MA in Social Development, MA in Applied Sociology and Anthropology, Transdisciplinary Social Development. This last is concerned with the study of local communities, traditional leaders and indigenous elders. All of these lead to careers with local governments, tourism, development work which are a contribution to knowledge, useful practice and civic virtues.
Interestingly, ASIA collaborates with other institutions from the University of Peace, a UN agency in Costa Rica, other professionals and universities abroad and other local institutions like UP Visayas and Visayas State University. Scholarships are available.
What interests me most because of my archaeological studies is Traces, the Department of Deep Time Archaeological Collaboratory and Cultural Resource Management Space which is a transdisciplinary scholarship for interactive instruction and research within anthropological and sociological initiatives to seek answers to questions on human evolution and behavior. It studies material culture, i.e. artifacts to determine their former function related to former human activities.
Currently, Traces is studying early occupation in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. They have found the oldest stone tools in association with the Kalinga Rhinoceros fossil (700,000 years ago). They are as well doing excavations of caves, rock shelters in Iloilo, Bohol and in Mindoro on the island of Ilin near San Jose where they consider they have found the first modern humans and seafarers who traveled to the Philippines more than 35,000 years ago. Farther on they are also doing traceological analysis of similar old artifacts made of stone and bone from Central and North Sulawesi (Indonesia).
The shell midden they are excavating in Ilin has a bottom layer of over 30,000 years ago.
Regarding the archaeological program, Traces has the modern equipment to analyze and date artifacts. What piqued my interest is that they are working on a robotic excavator with two French engineers from Institut Catholique d”Arts et Metiers in Paris on campus at Ateneo. They already have a prototype of a robotic find retrieving mechanism.
There is, too, a Cultural Heritage Program in ASIA that looks and analyzes cultural products for their influence on the outside world as well as importance and value within our society. These factors strengthen citizen loyalty by promoting knowledge of achievements. Also these studies are venues to many careers, from gastronomy, tourism, urban planning. They also include indigenous medical knowledge and the management of local creativity. In this manner Filipino identity is also defined and promoted.
Indeed, Ateneo has leveled up its sociology and anthropology department with ASIA and Traces, collaborative studies with outside universities and a general sense of modern scholarship paired with the necessary ethical values that are a true fulfillment of education.
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology chairman is Dr. Jose Jowel Canuday; the director of ASIA, its umbrella organization, is Dr. Alfred F. Pawlik, with Dr. Ma. Glenda L. Wui, undergraduate coordinator and Dr. Melissa Quetulio Navarro, graduate coordinator plus an impressive roll of faculty members.
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