“It has been said that anthropology makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange. My goal is to make our own cultural practices visible as a means of helping students understand themselves and their own position in the world. At the same time, I strive to make practices that may seem initially exotic intelligible and rational.”
Perhaps there is no better person to help students understand the "exotic" practices they learn about in the study of anthropology than professor Barbara LoMonaco. After all, she might well be described as exotic herself, at least when it comes to her many and varied hobbies and interests.
The Bingham Award-winning professor, for example, is a huge fan of mixed-martial arts fighting, the male-dominated sport that combines the use of boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, karate, and other fighting styles into one full-contact, combat sport. It's something her father got her hooked on while she was in college, and she even tried it herself for a while.
LoMonaco, likewise, is fascinated with tattoos and other forms of body decoration, as well as what they say about a person's identity. Recently, she combined that fascination with her interest in mixed-martial arts fighting in a research project with a former student. The pair is studying how mixed martial arts fighters articulate their identities through tattoos.
Not so exotic but equally as foundational to her success as a teacher are interests in horses and animals in general (unless you consider that she hikes with her goats), gardening and producing her own food, and her latest conquest: kayaking.
"Last summer, I was introduced to kayaking and loved seeing parts of Kentucky that you can only experience from the water," she said.
But it's a passion for travel that best explains her success in the classroom, LoMonaco said.
"I think most anthropologists have a passion for travel and experiencing new cultures. I am certainly no exception," she said. "I have been fortunate to travel with students and find it is a powerful way to illuminate many of the concepts I introduce in my classes—and a great way to get to know each other. Anthropology majors at Transy have studied in Bhutan, Ireland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Japan, and many other countries. Travel enriches learning in countless ways, and makes me a better teacher."
LoMonaco has taught a variety of courses at Transylvania, including Human Origins, Healing and Culture, Urban Anthropology, Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, and Refugees in the Bluegrass, among others. She's teaching a new class based from her interest in sustainability and producing her own food called the Anthropology of Food.