Keene State College Professor of Anthropology Rosemary Gianno will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2018 spring semester.
Gianno received her Bachelor of Arts at Queen’s College, City University of New York, and her Master’s and doctorate at Yale University before choosing to work at Keene State College.
“One of the things that really got me interested in anthropology was learning about where we came from, origins of people. I think knowing about yourself has to do with knowing other people. That’s one of the big things, I think, about anthropology, the more I teach about other cultures, the more we learn about our culture,” Gianno said.
During a research project in Malaysia, Gianno lived with the Orang Asli, the original people of Malaysia, to study the resins that were historically traded throughout Southeast Asia. “The Orang Asli are less than one percent of Malaysia but they’re the original people of Malaysia,” Gianno said.
Gianno said globalization and modernization are decimating the Orang Asli’s culture and way of life, much like is happening to Native American tribes in the United States.
“If you’re going to write biographies of Americans that you think are important, a whole book on one person, then don’t you think there should be documentation of a whole culture in Malaysia? They’re just as important as people in America, and they’re all part of the human record. I think that’s one of the valuable things about anthropology is providing this record,” Gianno said.
Gianno said she created the Orang Asli archive so their culture and identify would be preserved. She said, “Having this archive, establishing the archive, is basically a statement. We cherish the Orang Asli, we cherish their culture. We think it’s important enough to actually have an institution dedicated to their cultures, and it’s outside of Malaysia. So this is a political statement of social justice of the validity of these cultures.”
Gianno said that the reason why she’s retiring now is to dedicate more time to her research. “At this point in my life, I feel like I know a lot about a lot of things and I have a lot to share with people. On the other hand, I also have a lot of field notes I haven’t written up,” Gianno said.
“I have a lot of research. There’s a lot of data that I’ve collected, and I spend so much time teaching that I never get around to working with this stuff. Given all that, by retiring now, I can teach one class instead of three classes so I can balance my life a little bit better than what I was doing before.”
An event to honor the occasion of Gianno’s retirement was held on April 27 in Mason Library, where Orang Asli artifacts were put out on display for attendees to examine. In attendance were Gianno’s colleagues, friends and both current and former students.
During the event several of Gianno’s colleagues and former students spoke of their appreciation and experiences with Gianno.
Senior women’s and gender studies major with a double minor in anthropology and holocaust and genocide studies JP Colasacco said he attended the event because he had Gianno as his advisor for two years and she acted as a mentor to him and helped him figure out what he wanted to do before graduation.
Senior sociology major with a double minor in anthropology and women’s and gender studies Briannah Bellot said she had Gianno as a professor, and what she learned from Gianno’s class will help her career in sociology.
“Sociology, as my major, relates a lot to anthropology. So I’m interested in more social justice type of work, so I think that what I’ve learned in my anthropology class in regard to understanding how people work and [understanding] different cultures I think will be useful in my career. Those types of skills are gonna be helpful.”
To kick off her retirement, Gianno said she plans on traveling to Malaysia over the summer to collect more data and visit some of the people she has known since 1980.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org