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Have you ever been curious about a career in anthropology and linguistics? Now’s your chance to find out with snapshots, conversations with professional, practicing, and applied anthropologists. Let’s meet Anna Marie. Anna Marie Trester owns two businesses peer Consulting Group and career linguist. She considers herself an anthropological linguist and lives in Tucson, Arizona.
How did you get interested in anthropology
Anna Marie Trester 0:57
I was an English major in college and a Spanish minor. And I realized now I was kinda floatin’ around anthropology and linguistics. But I didn’t quite know, I had a good friend who was an anthropology major and a linguistics minor, but somehow I just didn’t really know really know about those fields. So I went abroad. And there was kind of an administrative mix up, actually, while I was abroad. And I usually don’t tell the story this way, because it makes it sound like, you know, anthropology and linguistics or what you study, would somebody goofs up your registration, but I was in Costa Rica, and it kind of was a question of who would let me in their classes because I was late to register. And the linguists and the anthropologists were kind. But I love the classes, I was the only non-native speaker in a lot of my classes, and I was doing really well. Loved it. And there was something about so I was learning language, and then learning about what was happening with my brain as I was learning language, like, at the same time, and I found that so intoxicating. And I really have always been interested in anything that can help me understand how I think how other people think. And for me, then, you know, it just clicked. So that was ’95, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
How has the anthropological perspective or training enhanced your contribution to your workplace,
Anna Marie Trester 2:53
My background makes me very aware of the conditions in which work is getting done. So, you know, I worked in an office before I went to school, and then went to work in an office after I was done with my PhD. And so ever since, like, I just have not been able to not pay attention to workplace culture, as they call it in the, in the business world, I guess. So, you know, I’ve been, I work as a consultant, but everything kind of has been climbing towards wanting to specifically focus on workplace culture. And that’s my latest venture. It’s a collaboration with a colleague who is a narratologist. But she and I are both focused on story listening as a way to understand organizational culture and, you know, specifically questions of diversity and inclusion. How that happens in the workplace, you know, we have a sort of dynamic approach to language. And you know, something like inclusion is something we see as something that’s constantly being produced and negotiated and it’s a dynamic.
What types of industry challenges do you get to help solve with this anthropological lens?
Anna Marie Trester 4:31
You have stories that were collected as part of a workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. So, I was saying before story, listening for me is a way in to thinking about how you produce equity and inclusion in a workplace, how you negotiate it, how you navigate it, how you create it, sustain it, and maintain it. And in these stories, it’s so fascinating because you can get on the surface As the narrator will be saying, Oh yeah, we have we have good. The story often belies, you know, the surface work that someone is trying to say, you know, things are fine here. And then you jump into a story where you really get the fine grained experience of what it’s like for someone. And I think people kind of lose themselves in the telling of a story. But when you can do something like we like to do, we do. narrative inquiry. So we’ll, we’ll end up collecting, ideally, hundreds of stories. And when you have a series of stories that you’re able to compare, you know, this lived experience, this lived experience, this lived experience starts to illuminate patterns of ways of being and experiences that people are having. And it does kind of unlock. In some really, like, sometimes people want to talk about as magic, it’s not magic, but clients can kind of feel like that sometimes. Because it’s, it’s something that’s there, that they wouldn’t have seen it any other way. Or there’s, you know, there’s a way that stories kind of help contain knowledge, but they also help to contain chaos, that isn’t containable in any other way. So it’s a it’s a modality that I like to work in a lot story listening, is what we call it. But really, I think it’s bringing a linguistic or anthropological, analytical lens, to the work that stories are doing in interaction, and the meaning that gets made and how that can be visible, once you start to be able to see it, so we do a thing towards the end of a project where we’ve got all the partners kind of in a, in a, in a room, and we got all the stories kind of surrounding the leaders of an organization so they can kind of see like, this is what it is like to work here to be here. And it’s there’s a way that that engenders kind of an ownership and a you can’t really ignore it, you can’t really distance yourself from it, you can’t pretend that it’s not happening, because it’s just all around you. And taking responsibility for that, you know, means becoming much more story aware and going out there and and really what that means is just being more aware, you know, it’s you give you give a story as a thing to pay attention to. But that’s just really it’s a conduit into kind of having a way of seeing that is a little bit more aware of what’s happening below the surface, I guess.
What advice would you like to pass on to future anthropologist seeking roles in professional fields?
Anna Marie Trester 8:00
I have that moment of an overpowering sense of inadequacy. I have learned to trust that. And it almost always happens once or twice. I suppose we all have our days, but 99% of the time. If I trust the process, and I don’t look scared, I remind myself I’ve got to find something to say you know, Charlotte Lindy talks about “being interested to be interesting”. I know how to be interested. So I can be interested until I find something interesting. And then I can give and again 99 times out of 100 by the end of that hour, I have offered something I had we are trained to think differently. And sometimes that’s scary, because they don’t know necessarily what to ask you how to add you don’t know exactly how to help either so but if you can trust that process, and then trust that you can be interested to be interesting. You’ll find something interesting.
Thank you Anna Marie, for sharing your experience as a practicing anthropological linguist. For more snapshots find this at practicing anthropology.org, LinkedIn, Meta, and Twitter
[On Screen Text] Many Thanks to NAPA’s General Council for their Support! NAPA is a section of the American Anthropological Association. Practicing Anthropology.org Directors: Reshama Damle and Suanna Crowley Producers: Cathleen Crain, Niel Tashima, Joshua Liggett
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Anna Marie Trester 9:38
[Outtakes] it’s a dynamic I’m reaching for a metaphor…ever-changing…tapestry doesn’t work because tapestries aren’t dynamic but anyways. Water maybe water is cooler. It’s water would be better another’s currents and changing tides and…
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai