Ashely 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 north east of Australia and Papua New guinea. 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 demographics, surveys, linguistic studies and observational fieldwork.
Her work also is 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.