Applying Anthropology Through Poetry and Art: The Woman Within: Memory as Muse

Woman Within.pngKerry Dean Feldman 

Kerry Dean Feldman, who served as the invited Program Chair for the highly successful 2016 SfAA international conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada, has co-authored an art, photography, and poetry book about women and the respect due to women, with his artist-wife, Tami Phelps, and photographer Richard J. Murphy: THE WOMAN WITHIN: MEMORY AS MUSE (Cirque Press, 2023). Kerry has been a SfAA member since graduate student days at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1970, studying under the mentorship and NIMH fellowship support of Robert and Beverly Hackenberg (Malinowski award recipients). His colleague in editing the Graduate Anthropology Society journal (GAS) at UC, Boulder became editor-in-chief of Human Organization, Don Stull. (They have been known to hang out late at SfAA March meetings, with liquid refreshments, betting on March Madness basketball games involving Duke U (Kerry’s fav) and U Ky or U Kansas (Don’s teams)). Feldman is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Alaska Anchorage, currently involved with research in the effort of the Alaska Natives of Seward, Alaska to obtain Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 recognition as a tribe, as this Act was applied to Alaska in 1936. 

Feldman taught a course at the University of Alaska Anchorage entitled Anthropology Through Literature. Since his retirement in 2010 he’s authored a novel, Alice’s Trading Post: A Novel of the West (Five Star/Thorndike, 2022), about the impact of Manifest Destiny beliefs on western indigenous peoples, and specifically the invasion of his home state, Montana, by hordes of Euro-American soldiers, miners, railroads, bordellos, towns, Christian churches, farmers, cowboys, capitalists, like his own beloved ancestors (homesteaders and RR folks), as seen through the eyes of a mixed descent woman. (Stull helped edit the book and the story contents). The novel is in most states’ libraries from Maine to California.

Kerry’s poet of influence, among others, is Emily Dickinson (Who are you, are you a nobody too?). His poetry in the current art book publication that has the most relevance to applying anthropology through literature is entitled, “Camped at Elephant Point.”  (His research regarding the rights of Iñupiat to hunt beluga whales helped preserve that right, even though western culture believes whales are like human social mammals and should not be hunted or eaten).


Farther north than I thought I’d ever be,

a gang of girls peeks in,

laughing in chilled salty air

at my research stuff⸺

a scale to weigh muktuk, 

cameras, pens, sleeping bag 

and canned food for a month.

Their ancestors breathed here 

thousands of years before my nylon tent, 

laughing together at odd sights in a day, 

long ago, like these young women 

preparing to take their place.


Decades later, their joy tears into me

when I learn of another corpse,

abandoned like an empty tin can,

an assailant’s seed in her, rotting

along with the beauty in which

she walked, ran, and slept. 

Her grieving family, her friends,

reminded they look like her,

the dead woman, girl, could be

any one of them. We should scream 

each day in this far north killing field,

until it becomes safe to be a Native girl.

©Society for Applied Anthropology 

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