Sociocultural Anthropology

Examples of cordage and textiles. Gourd Cave, ca. 1100-1300 C.E., Ancestral Pueblo, Kayenta Province.
Ruth B. Jolie, Ph.D.

Anthropology offers a cross-cultural, comparative view of humanity. Sociocultural anthropology, my own subdiscipline, is concerned with examining cultural differences and similarities among extant peoples. My scholarly interests lie in museum and public anthropologies, focusing specifically on questions related to gender and kinship. Within the context of those interests, I pursue three main research agendas: 1) the investigation of changing gender roles in the United States, with reference to institutional policy impacting gender equity and families; 2) public outreach and community engagement through museum anthropology; 3) comparative study of North American ethnographic and archaeological textiles to explore questions related to gender and power dynamics.

Dr. Jolie leading a tour at ASM.

While collections-based research is a hallmark of museum anthropology, sharing that research with diverse publics is of equal importance. This is why I teach a course on the method and theory of museum interpretation for interested community members and university undergraduates. Students can also apply to work alongside me in the museum as paid interns where we develop and deliver interpretive products for ASM’s exhibits that are aimed at engaging diverse publics. I have a deep appreciation for this type of faculty-guided student research that benefits students, the museum, and the public.

Since coming to the Arizona State Museum (in 2021), I have begun to more fully examine anthropological questions bearing on cross-cultural patterns in gendered craft production and textile arts. Gender is essential to the organization of labor, especially among non-state level groups. Cross-culturally, the creation of particular crafts are socially prescribed by gender; that is, depending on the group either men or women are considered responsible for a particular craft’s production. This is true for textile-related crafts such as weaving and basketry. Cordage (string or yarn), the most basic unit in weaving, is also assumed to be gendered but this has been an understudied topic. The creation of cordage and other textile arts has tangible and intangible social repercussions, since gendered craft production impacts the organization of space and variability on social roles and status.

Ruth Burgett Jolie, Ph.D.
Associate Curator of Education and Associate Professor of Anthropology
Arizona State Museum / University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210026
Tucson, AZ  85721-0026
See Dr. Jolie's profile