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Professor uncovers culture of childhood, youth


September 26, 2013

How does one go from studying architecture to anthropology? As Abby Loebenberg, Honors Faculty Fellow at ASU’s Barrett the Honors College explains, it was simple. She had originally trained as an architect at the University of Cape Town South Africa when, to her surprise, she won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in the U.K. after applying at the urging of her professors.

“At Oxford, there are no design programs, so I chose anthropology to conduct my research and went from there,” she said.

There, Loebenberg earned her master’s in material anthropology and museum ethnography and her doctorate in social and cultural anthropology. From Oxford, she headed stateside to the University of Mississippi, where she was a Barksdale Fellow at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, which ranks with Barrett as one of the best in the nation. She also served on the University of Mississippi’s National Scholar selection and endorsement committee.

Currently researching the culture of children and youth, Loebenberg has published on childhood collection in the journal Material Culture Review, playground trading and economies in the journal Play and Culture Studies, and on recovery of place after Hurricane Katrina in the journal Material World (in collaboration with Sabrina Bradford).

Her research has uncovered some interesting findings, including how children will often adopt elements of popular culture and adapt them to their own needs.

Loebenberg explains, “In this way, they create their own social structure, like a tribe, often right under the noses of adults.”

Her teaching interests and experience include lower-level interdisciplinary teaching and upper-level thematic classes in the areas of global consumption, space, place and landscape, cities and childhood. At Barrett, she hopes to share with her students an appreciation for how learning can be a powerful vehicle for self-reflection and development.