“This brings me to another thing: the danger of kissing on the mouth”

This semester I am at the College of William and Mary completing a practicum in archives and special collections primarily focused on digitization, the whole point of which is to make items such as manuscripts accessible to users online. As is the nature of special collections the material is one of a kind and that means along the way I occasionally find treasures that catch my eye through the blur of metadata creation. I’ve already shared with you the pleasures of huffing nitrous oxide at Yale College in 1821 and today I have a new one, the dangers of letting people kiss your baby.

My current project is the digitization of a collection of romantic correspondence between a young couple in a small Virginia town in the early 20th century. First they are friends, then they are dating and engaged, and once they are married the correspondence stops and the remainder of the collection is Christmas cards. It was here that I found a three page form letter from the Women’s Home Companion Better Babies Bureau dated September 1939.

Initially I interpreted the moniker “Better Babies Bureau” as a play on the WPA alphabet soup of agencies, but according to this encyclopedia entry this series from Women’s Home Companion dates back to 1913 and links the to eugenics movement.
Continue reading

#HanyangTowson

Networking Media Anthropology

Samuel Collins is teaching a seminar at Hanyang University (ERICA campus) as part of his Fulbright grant in South Korea and, as luck would have it, Matthew Durington is doing the same in Baltimore. The two of them resolved to network their courses together using some of the principles they espouse in Networked Anthropology (Routledge, 2014), combined with some new directions for their research. Among other challenges? The 1 day + 13 hour time difference.
Continue reading

Writing Anti-Racism

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Ghassan Hage as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Ghassan is the Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne. He is author of numerous books include White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (Heibonsha Publishers, 2003), Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society (Pluto Press, 2006), Waiting (Melbourne University Press, 2009), and with Robyn Eckersley, Responsibility (Melbourne University Press, 2012). His most recent book is Writings in Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Racism (Australian Society of Authors, 2014) and forthcoming in February 2015 is Alter-Politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imagination (Melbourne University Press).

 To the people of the bus.

In my recent work on racism I have differentiated between the ‘racism of exploitation’ (e.g. towards slaves and migrant workers) and the ‘racism of exterminability’ (e.g. anti-Semitism). I argue that the latter is prevalent in the racist modes of classification of Muslims in/by the non-Muslim West.

Inspired by certain dimensions of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s multi-realism, and the teaching of a seminar around Mauss’ The Gift, I have tried to show that the racist experience of the other as exterminable involves the projection of complex layers of affective and existential angst that takes us beyond the dominant domesticating mode of existence in which we live, and where instrumental classification thrives. It invites us to perceive the experience as pertaining to a multiplicity of other realities or human modes of existence. The first is the reciprocal mode of existence classically explored in the work of Marcel Mauss on the gift. I read The Gift as pointing to a whole order of existence where people, animals, plants and objects stand as gifts towards each other. The second is what I will call, after Marshall Sahlins, the mutualist mode of existence. It highlights an order of existence where others are ‘in us’ rather than just outside of us. Central here is Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s work on ‘participation’: a mode of living and thinking where the life-force of the humans and the non-humans that surround us are felt each to be contributing to the life-force of the other. Continue reading

Strategy of Condescension

中文翻譯 Chinese translation

That Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview in Chinese was big news this week. You can see the start of the interview here:

As you can hear, Zuckerberg’s performance was greeted with “repeated cheers and applause by the assembled students and faculty members.” I don’t want to pick apart Zuckerberg’s Chinese – he only started learning a few years ago, but still did better than some people I know who have lived in Taiwan for over a decade. Nor do I want to focus on the mixed reactions he got on the internet later on. Rather, I want to engage in a thought experiment. Can you imagine a Western audience cheering and applauding a Chinese CEO for speaking in English?

Pierre Bourdieu uses the term “strategy of condescension”1 to refer to the “act of symbolically negating” the power relationship between two languages. Continue reading

Academic life is a trapeze, and librarians are the safety net: SM is now archived

This open access day I wanted to officially announce some good news — Savage Minds is now being archived at the University of Texas at Austin. Thanks to the initiative of Pat Galloway and her students Brian Douglass, Kathleen O’Connell, Josephine Ragolia, and Rachel Winston, an archive of our blog now lives on UT Austin’s Dspace install(Update: I TOTALLY forgot to give Kerim credit for the incredible amount of work he did communicating with the UT Austin crowd to get the archive set up. In fact, he does ridiculous amounts of work on the back end of the blog all the time which few people (me included, apparently) understand, but that everyone benefits form. So thumbs up to Kerim as well.)

It’s a real mark of accomplishment that someone has taken the time to preserve the blog in a format that ensures that future generations will be able to read our poorly-spelled, hastily written blog entries. In some small sense — and I mean ‘small’, I’m not getting a swelled head here — SM really has become the blog of record for the sociocultural anthropological internetosphere.

The archive itself is just one part of a process to get SM more fully archived both now and in the future… but I’ll leave out details of our future plans since, frankly, they may never materialize.

SM started with no long-range plan for archiving, or indeed for pretty much anything, and over the years we’ve suffered a variety of data loses, ranging from minor to catastrophic. The lesson for open access week is this: back up your data. But at the same time, if you feel the urge to write, write. Start new projects when you feel you have the energy and opportunity to start them, even if all the pieces aren’t in place yet. Archiving is important, but don’t let scholarly apparatus have a chilling effect on your innovation. If academic life is a trapeze, librarians are the safety net. Thanks to UT Austin, Pat, and the whole crew for doing their job so that we can do ours.

Old Web City

Old Web City

Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington are posting a series of writings that are theoretical and activity extensions based on their recently published book Networked Anthropology (Routledge).

Just like his colleague Sam Collins in Seoul walking the New App City, Durington meanders the streets of downtown Baltimore and downloads the Baltimore Heritage app in the neighborhood of Marble Hill.  It is across the street from the neighborhood of Bolton Hill and the street Eutaw Place is a symbolic and literal dividing line of race and gentrification in Charm City.  Baltimore Heritage is an organization that attempts to tell stories about Baltimore’s past through buildings and key sites throughout the city.  Their app is a replica of the organization’s website and after geolocating himself through the menu on the app, a marker appears on the screen and once clicked an historical tidbit about an individual named Howard Atwood Kelly is accessible.  Information about this historical figure who lived on the street where Durington is standing appears on his dated iphone.  Hmmmm.  Dr. Kelly was the first professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University, the ‘wizard of the operating room’ for his innovative surgical techniques.  He was also renown for his groundbreaking use of radium to treat cancer. The urban anthropologist now knows something about the past of this neighborhood in Baltimore before white flight.  What about the fact that the zip code where this historical location is marked is now also noted for a different phenomenon by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as a neighborhood with one of the fastest ascending rates of new HIV infections in the United States?  The app provides a connectivity to the past, but not necessarily to the present…that is the continuing project of the researcher.  The app facilitates historical information, but not engagement in the now.  It would be interesting to see what someone living there now thinks about this dilemma.  Could an app oriented toward an applied and engaged anthropology provide it?

 
Continue reading

The end of Open Access Anthropology (.org)

Open access week is a time to celebrate new projects and look back at the success of old ones. However today (yes, it is still Tuesday in Honolulu) I also want to look back at one open access project that I recently said goodbye to: the website openaccessanthropology.org.

OA Anthro was founded back in the heady days of 2006. Back then, open access was a movement that was just beginning to gain recognition in the social sciences, and the blog was meant to be a central location for anthropologists interested in open access issues. The blog continued for a number of years until, basically, we all got too busy doing other things. After a years of inaction, we recently finally decided to pull the plug.

So: was openaccessanthropology.org a success?

Continue reading

It’s Open Access Week!

It’s Open Access Week! This week the Internetz celebrates and affirms our scholarly ideals of openness: the right of readers to know, of authors to be known, and for our research to be reused to keep the Knowing More And Knowing Better train rolling right along.

Anthropology, like much of the social sciences, has a more complicated view of openness than some other disciplines. We recognize the culturally-specific nature of our ideals. We also recognize that a commitment to openness doesn’t mean we have the right to compromise the privacy of the people we study and learn from. Indeed, open access is deeply to the ethics our fieldwork, because it is important that we openly share our research with the people who made it possible, whether that be in original, peer-reviewed form and in other, more accessible forms. Indeed, openness means trying to produce, as much as possible, scholarly work that a broad audience can find readable. Openness means, in other words, lowering the bullshit quotient as much as possible.

My personal goal this week is to do an entry a day on Open Access related issues to help celebrate this week. I will almost certainly fail. But let’s see how I do. And more importantly — let’s see what other great open access projects are our there this year!

Mourning, survival and time: Writing through crisis

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Adia Benton as part of our Writer’s Workshop seriesAdia is an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University. She has worked in and studied the fields of development and global health since 2000, and is a contributor to Cultural Anthropology’s recent special issue on Ebola in Perspective. Her book HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in 2015).

“Everyone identifies with the survivor.” The man, whose name I have yet to learn, wore a sage-colored newsboy cap. We were sitting next to each other at my neighborhood café. A half-hour before, he was several feet away, sketching, occasionally eyeing my copy of The Wretched of the Earth. “Pardon me,” he said, as he approached my table. “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re reading…” Within minutes, our conversation about radical anti-imperialist writing and secret societies had devolved into a meditation on how humans cope with tragic and sudden death.

“Everyone identifies with the survivor,” he repeated, as he adjusted his sketchpad in his lap.

“I don’t,” I said. Continue reading

New App City

Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington are posting a series of writings that are theoretical and activity extensions based on their recently published book Networked Anthropology (Routledge).

The Man of the Crowd–Android Version

Collins downloads a free app from the Chongno District Government in Seoul, “Chongno Alleys” (종로 골목길).  The app is an extension of the Chongno tour series (of the same name), each course highlighting lesser known places of interest in Chongno, the central district in Seoul that is home to the lion’s share of Seoul’s national treasures, including palaces, countless museums and architectural landmarks.  But these tours are different.  Developed with neighborhood residents and community groups, these alley courses highlight significant places that are generally overlooked by large crowds of tourists.  It is targeted specifically at Korean tourists (that is, the app is only in Korean).  The app (which appears to have been released in 2011-2012) transforms 9 of the alley tours into a mobile experience using mapping, GPS and gamification.

Continue reading

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day

Today we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, to remember and celebrate the heritage of indigenous people everywhere. There is a lot to say about IDP: is it too American? Does it elide the particularity of the American Indian experience? Is Dora The Conquistadora, perhaps, a bridge too far? And of course, there’s always this frequently-retweeted little morsel:

I don’t have a lot of insight at the moment into what IDP means of should mean. Since I feel that SM should mark this day, I will punt the ball with a random list of Indigenous Anthropologists (you’ll notice I’m biased towards the Pacific) who I’ve learned from over the years, and suggest you celebrate IDP today by making it a point to read something by them this week. So without further ado:

Continue reading

Ethnographic Fiction: The Space Between

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Roxanne Varzi as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Roxanne is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Irvine. She is author of Warring Souls: Youth, Media, and Martyrdom in Post-Revolution Iran (Duke University Press, 2006). Her ethnographic research in Iran spans multiple genres, from the ethnographic monograph to ethnographic fiction to the film Plastic Flowers Never Die (2008) and on to the sound installation Whole World Blind (2011). Her current research is on Iranian theater.)

Fiction, for me, like ethnography, has always melded with a deep desire to understand and explain the world around me. As an eight-year old in Iran I wrote stories to either escape or explain the Revolution that had turned my country into an Islamic Republic and had turned my single identity as a dorageh, or two-veined Iranian, into half-American, half-Iranian, forcing me to either choose one identity or to stay in-between. Writing helped me to make sense of the in-between, to make sense of my new life while holding on to the one that was already becoming a dream — unreal.

The past was a place where “Bombs were flying through the air, the sky was ablaze, there was no night.” My American high school teacher read this opening of one of my stories and said, “Write what you know.” She smiled at me and told me to try again. I explained that I had seen bombs and that the sky was ablaze and night or not I couldn’t sleep for days as a child because I was so scared about what was happening in the streets. At least that’s how I remembered it.   I came to see early on that we cannot fully replicate reality—even and especially in ethnography—in film, text or sound (the mediums I work in), nor is fiction purely a figment of its writer’s imagination. Was I writing fiction or ethnography and did the distinction really matter? Continue reading

A Networked Anthropology

Students capturing media in Baltimore for their Networked Anthropology
Students capturing media in Baltimore for their Networked Anthropology

A Networked Anthropology

“Networked Anthropology” is suspended between a theoretical and methodological program, on the one hand, and a critique and engagement with the network society we’re enmeshed within, on the other.  How can we possibly justify using social media in our applied anthropology?  And how can we afford not to?  Our book, “Networked Anthropology,” lays out the the premises of this ongoing inquiry, contextualizing it within a public, media anthropology.  But the promise and the problems of a networked anthropology hardly end there; each new wrinkle in our socially networked lives suggests new problems for anthropology–and for any scholarly inquiry that purports to engage communities of people.

(Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington will post blogs related to social media, mobile applications in anthropological research and the idea of a Networked Anthropology…post 1 of 4  below is an excerpt from their recent book.)

Continue reading

HAU and the Malinowski Monographs: An Interview with Giovanni da Col

I recently sat down (virtually) with Giovanni da Col, the founder and editor-in-chief of HAU, to talk about the latest developments surrounding open access and HAU’s new monograph series, the “Malinowski Monographs”. Here’s what went down. (transparency: I’m on the editorial board of the journal HAU)

AG: Recently HAU unveiled a new partnership with the University of Chicago Press. It sounds like there are two parts to this: first, HAU’s existing open access books will be available for purchase in paper. Second, you will be publishing “The Malinowski Monographs,” which is a new line of books. Is that right?

GdC: Over the past three years, HAU has grown far beyond its initial ambition (and successful achievement) of being a world-class, open access journal in anthropology. In 2013, we become formally a Learned Society: The Society for Ethnographic Theory, which publishes HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and now HAU Books (founded in 2014). With support from our sponsors (such as ISRF) and partners in the HAU Network of Ethnographic Theory (HAU-N.E.T.), HAU has become the first full-fledged open access press in anthropology, with current and future initiatives in both publishing and digital anthropology expanding on an ongoing basis.  Continue reading