Ashley Meredith takes us through her profession and passion as the National Cultural Anthropologist and Deputy National Historic Preservation Officer for the Federated States of Micronesia.
Ashley Meredith serves as the National Cultural Anthropologist and Deputy National Historic Preservation Officer for the Federated States of Micronesia. Micronesia is a sovereign island country in Oceania situated northeast of Australia and Papua New Guinea and consists of 600 islands covering a massive area of around 1 million square miles. There are 18 languages spoken across the islands.
Echoing what we might call a traditional fieldwork approach, Ashley works with a team to document, preserve, and establish cultural pathways for different Micronesian communities. This includes work like ethnographic surveys, linguistic studies and observational fieldwork.
Yet, her work is also applied anthropology. She talks with communities to understand what they want in terms of infrastructure, tourism, education, or heritage development and works with them to find resources, generate funding and support. Beyond this, she interfaces between communities, government and international relations including with the United States and UNESCO.
Ashley’s breadth of experience provides a key perspective for rethinking how we use data. This includes why we need qualitative data in a world obsessed with numbers, but also how transmission matters. As we explore in this conversation, transmission has to do with cultural practices like storytelling as much as with technological limitations such as internet speed across the islands.
FSM National Cultural Anthropologist and Deputy National Historic Preservation Officer
Ashley Meredith joined the Federated States of Micronesia Government in 2016, in which capacity she collaborates with multi-lateral teams and historic preservation colleagues across the country to strengthen the nation's projects and historic preservation programs, including heritage conservation through survey and inventory, experiential learning opportunities, developing field methods, practicing community-based anthropology, employing geography and GIS methods. She serves as the FSM's National Cultural Anthropologist and Deputy National Historic Preservation Officer.
She and her colleagues employ decolonizing research methodologies in their heritage management strategies, as well as build upon the FSM's strong relationships between the HPOs and community organizations. She and her colleagues have grown deep roots in FSM that include research on wayfinding, food sovereignty, human origins and settlement, as well as socio-political organization. Their work together infomed and achieved the UNESCO nomination of the ICH element, Carolinian Wayfinding and Canoe Making as well as the establishment of the Mahkontowe Conservation Area. She and her colleagues are featured in National Geographic’s Lost Cities with Albert Lin for an episode on Nan Madol, FSM’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.