Joyce Rivera-González is a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Her research tackles the intriguing and complex ways humans and nonhuman animals interact with each other, as well as how cultural and ecological processes both influence and are influenced by these relationships.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Joyce is interested in the ways local Puerto Ricans interact with introduced rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas). Nonhuman primates were introduced in Puerto Rico during the early 20th century by researchers affiliated and funded by American institutions, as part of research efforts on primate behavior and socioecology. Some of these primates, albeit housed in islets off the coast of Puerto Rico, escaped and became established in the mainland.
Rhesus and patas monkey populations have grown significantly, and pose a significant threat to an emerging agricultural industry, as well as risks to public health through the transmission of diseases. Joyce’s research intends to explore the myriad ways in which both human and nonhuman actors are affected and involved in this interaction.
Through the lens of these relationships, her research aims to gather insights into the complex and problematic sociopolitical and economic relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico.
For Joyce, anthropology is an intellectual crossroads, through which different aspects of the human experience can be explored in a holistic and integrative way. Thinking anthropologically requires thinking critically about human behavior, cultures, and biology. However, this mindset is one that is not fostered through education programs in which the history of humankind is depicted linearly, in which some voices are erased from history and heinous acts committed throughout history are indirectly justified.
Thinking critically about history and humankind as a species is a tool that should be acquired early in a child’s education. As part of Joyce’s Social Responsibilities of Researchers in-service project, she intends to develop a preliminary curricula for an after-school program, modeled after Dr. Christopher Lynn’s Anthropology is Elemental project at the University of Alabama.* This program would provide children from first to fourth grade a first encounter with the discipline of anthropology in a fun, interactive way. The main objective of this program would be to expose children to a critical understanding of history and, in the broadest sense, of the different circumstances and access to opportunities that humans have had throughout history.
Joyce also intends to focus on children from underrepresented backgrounds (class, race, and ethnicity) in the discipline. For this project, Joyce would like to focus on the Benjamin Harrison Primary Center in South Bend, Indiana, a school in which the majority of the student body are Black and Latinx, as well as from working-class backgrounds. Through this focus, this project intends to also foster interest in students that could, in the future, contribute new perspectives and worldviews to a discipline that could thrive on such diversity of life experiences.
* For more information on this project see Funkhouser, J. Lynn, J. Friel, M. Carr, K. Likos, and C. Lynn. 2016. "Anthropology is Elemental: Anthropological Perspective through Multilevel Teaching." Annals of Anthropological Practice 40(2): 246-257.