Ada Amobi '09
My anthropology training has made an invaluable impact on my career; it has shaped my perspective and given me skills that I use every day. As a physician, I am constantly talking with patients in an effort to better understand their lived experiences. My anthropology education helps me be a better listener and to ask more meaningful questions during patient interactions. Anthropology gave me a deep understanding of how social structures impact the health and lives of the people I care for. It is this understanding that led me to pursue public health training and service. In my public health work, I help understand and address community and society- level factors that impact health. In addition to understanding epidemiological health data, I also incorporate the perspectives and priorities of the communities I am working for in my work. Anthropology has shaped the kinds of topics I am interested in, I have worked on issues of violence prevention and health equity. These focus areas lend themselves to asking questions such as: “how did we get here? “and “what is truly at the root of the outcomes we are seeing?“. I feel very lucky to have started my career with a foundation in anthropology. I know without a doubt that the research training and core tenets of anthropology have helped me be a better physician and public health practitioner.
Mgbechi Ugonna Erondu '10
As an anesthesiology resident at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas I have been able to apply what I loved most about anthropology at Princeton: the study of cultural relativism. I appreciate my patients' perceptions of disease and illness on their own terms and in languages that range from Rohingya to Vietnamese to Amharic and many more. While the illness experience—that is, how we behave when ill and the idioms we use to describe it—may be culturally shaped, our mortality as human beings remains constant. At the head of the bed, on the non-sterile side of the surgical drape, the anesthesiologist serves as humanity barometer. We are uniquely placed as bridge between disease (surgeon) and illness (patient) in a way that primary care providers in internal medicine, pediatrics, even psychiatry are not. Consider a technically difficult abdominal aneurysm repair. While the surgeon is intently focused on a particular square of flesh, the anesthesiologist serves as clinical diviner of the unconscious patient, of blood pressure and oxygen exchange, even neuronal activity. Like an ethnographer, it is the anesthesiologist who must observe the patient closely enough to determine whether a twitch is in fact a Clifford Geertz wink.
To write about the human condition—fictional or otherwise—requires the same sort of attention to disease, suffering, attachment and belonging I learned in Professor João Biehl's medical anthropology course. While at Princeton I received a certificate in creative writing and since graduation attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop for an M.F.A. in fiction. My writing encompasses what I studied as an anthropology student: myth, magical realism, and the folktale as modes of storytelling. My career goal is to become a pediatric anesthesiologist with a focus in global palliative care, an area where I can best combine my anthropologist's lens with narrative medicine and the technical skill and expertise I've gained as an anesthesiologist.
Ankur Rathee '14
Investigating human behavior is an actor’s lifelong undertaking. My job is to understand what drives my characters, and so often I’ve discovered that underlying what they feel and do are cultural forces, some apparent and others unspoken.
Anthropology helps me formulate the right questions about people who I must bring to life. How do traditions, customs, caste, race, and kinship ties inform our motivations and interactions? We all participate in a culture, sometimes multiple, and observing my characters’ value system and ideology in this context helps me understand them better and eventually embody them on-screen.
Since graduation, I’ve worked on many Bollywood films and shows for Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’ve played a boy toy, domestic abuser, freedom fighter, troubled orphan, impotent ladies’ man, hidden gay lover, heir to a crime syndicate, ghost of an Iraqi soldier, and far too many fiancés who never cross the finish line (In every script I either get killed or she leaves me. So annoying.) For each of these roles and many others I’ve found myself thinking like an anthropologist on my sets, debating with my director like I might have done in an Anthro class years ago.
Katie Wong ’10
Since graduating from Princeton, I have been a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher, collaborator, and arts administrator. In these various roles, I have used my degree in cultural anthropology as a direct source of inspiration and guidance. It has shaped the way I see the world, my community, and my craft.
When developing concepts for new works of choreography, I often approach ideas through an anthropological lens. My dances have explored topics ranging from endangered languages to space travel, from education reform to political elections, and from HIV prescription-induced dreamscapes to psychological studies on vulnerability and love. Most recently I premiered a new piece inspired by the U.S. Constitution's 14th amendment, which reflected on our nation's history and current relationship with birthright citizenship and equality under the law. My time as an anthropology student at Princeton firmly planted a seed of curiosity that drives me to look at our society and culture through a wide array of disciplines and perspectives. This allows my artistic lines of inquiry to continually shift and evolve.
My creative process is also inspired by anthropological methodology. Comprehensive research, interviews with the community, deep listening, observation, and historical contextualization, are all tools I use to understand and synthesize topics of interest before diving into the studio with my dancers. These are also skills I employ daily as a dancer and collaborator for other choreographers with whom I work.
The other aspect of my career has been in arts administration, specifically digital marketing for arts organizations. I spent five years at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, revitalizing their digital presence from social media to web design to blog articles. Much of my effectiveness was directly related to my appreciation for the power of community-building through storytelling.
Dance as an art form is inherently an important element of our cultural landscape. But what I love to rediscover in my work is how ethnographic skills continue to influence my creative process and my approach to dancing. I am currently a Co-Artistic Director of a San Francisco-based contemporary dance company called RAWdance, and I look forward to seeing how my degree in anthropology continues to shape my interests, practice, and art.
Elizabeth Rosen ’10
Shikha Uberoi Bajpai ’13
Anthropology is not simply a field of study, it’s a style of perceiving the world around us. I use the values, skill sets and perspectives of Anthropology on a daily basis in my work. When negotiating or selling to people of various cultures, I have a strong understanding of the cultural and communication differences and how to navigate them. Branding and marketing is a large part of my work and applying cultural relativity in my operations, in addition to knowing how to comprehend communities’ purchasing patterns and behaviors is critical to my success. Much of my success and company’s growth can be traced back to what I learned in Aaron Burr. In today’s globalized yet fractured world, understanding people both as individuals and as part of unique cultures is a prerequisite for success.
I’m a proud Anthro major with a certificate in South Asian studies. I wrote my thesis on youth perception of social impact television in India. As part of my thesis, I submitted six short films, a digital platform, and a format for a television show that would incite and enable social change. Three years after graduating I launched that television property, The Real Deal® which enjoyed over 10 million viewers in India and deployed nearly half a million USD in funds to social entrepreneurs (ndtv.com/therealdeal). Today, my company Impact Media 360, Inc. endeavors to mainstream social change through purposeful programming all around the world. In addition to starting up my production company, I am expanding the APAC and European operations of Indi.com. Indi is a video engagement and ecommerce enablement platform generating reach and revenue for major brands.
Tesla Monson ’07
My first introduction to human evolutionary studies was in classes in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton. After getting my BA in Anthropology in 2007, I moved out to California, and after considering medical school, I decided to complete a MA in Biological Anthropology at San Francisco State University (2012). I went on to complete a PhD in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley (2017) and then a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley (2017-2018), studying the evolution of skeletal and dental variation in mammals and teaching IB 35AC, Human Biological Variation. During the last year (2018-2019), I lived in Switzerland, where I investigated dental variation and population movement in modern humans as a postdoctoral researcher at the Anthropology Institute in Zürich. This fall, I started as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Western Washington University where I am directing my own lab, the Primate Evolution Lab at WWU. My research has taken me around the world to visit museum collections and present at conferences in places like Ethiopia, South Africa, Croatia, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and across the United States. While at Berkeley, I also hosted and produced a radio talk show, The Graduates on KALX 90.7 FM, highlighting graduate student research and promoting diversity in academia (2013-2018). I am excited for the next stages of my journey as Assistant Professor, and I am currently recruiting MA students to come and work with me in biological anthropology. None of this could have been possible without my start in Anthro at Princeton!
Tara Hariharan ’07
My eleven years since graduating Princeton have been spent in financial research, even though I majored in cultural anthropology (with no economics background). Far from being unprepared for my career, I found my anthropological training vital– after all, financial markets are driven by human behavior. At present, as head of research at a New York hedge fund with global interests, my work subtends economics to focus on "political economy". Interpreting the interactions between policymakers and investors is key in today's markets where a brief official comment can trigger dramatic moves in financial indices. In dialogue with a host of international leaders, I use the very fieldwork methods and lenses of reflexivity I learned in anthro core courses to parse their rhetoric on politics and policy. Cultural relativism rules too - political/economic dynamics differ across countries and societies, and sensitivity to nuance is as key to investing as numerical models. To further hone my craft as an anthropologist of political economy, I am actively engaged with the Council on Foreign Relations (as a term member) and various transatlantic civil society organizations.
Nina Bahadur ’12
I am a freelance writer and editor writing for Refinery29, Glamour, Teen Vogue, Women's Health, Men's Health, Racked, SHAPE, SELF, People, and more. I primarily write about women's health, body image, empowerment, and inequality. Majoring in Cultural Anthropology, along with my certificates in Creative Writing and Gender and Sexuality Studies, helped me become a more thoughtful storyteller and cultural critic. I wrote my JP on women's bodies in the media and my senior thesis on attractiveness effects, and both projects equipped me to write with added context and authority. Ethnography training informed my reading, writing, and reporting skills, and anthropology as a discipline taught me to be curious, listen carefully, and amplify unheard voices.
Douglas Clark Lennox II ’09
I chose to become a college swim coach because this position allows me to partner with students in their academic, athletic and personal lives for four very developmental years. The positive influence I can have on a young person is massive by virtue of all the time spent together, the camaraderie built and the lessons taught (and learned) each and every day. Perhaps the most important thing I do on a daily basis is I model my humanity so that others can feel comfortable doing the same. And, I am very open to dialogue about anything and everything so that students can understand the profound impact of simple tasks such as listening to, learning about, respecting and accepting a person without ulterior motives. It’s powerful stuff!