Give and Take

By Leslie J. Sabiston and Didier M. Sylvain

did i see that right?
my skull is in a cardboard box
in that basement?
my bones are under
an orange tarp from canadian tire,
cracked.
rattling plastic in the wind.
 
my grave is desecrated
my skull is in that white lady’s basement
my bones are under that orange tarp from canadian tire
cracked
rattling plastic in the wind like a rake on the sidewalk.
 
my body is tired
from carrying
the weight
of this zhaganashi’s house.
 
ah nokomis
this shouldn’t have happened.
your relatives took such good care.
the mound so clearly marked.
ah nokomis
how did this happen?
what have you come to tell us?
why are you here?
 
aahhhhh my zhaganashi
welcome to kina gchi nishnaabe-ogaming
enjoy your visit.
but like my elder says
please don’t stay too long.*

              —Leanne Simpson [1]

Beloved, she my daughter. She mine. See. She come back to me of her own free will and I don’t have to explain a thing.  —Toni Morrison [2]

We knew we would be confronting a constructed division between our communities and profession before we even got here. We already had questions to critique that construction, to deconstruct the idea of the university as a place of enlightenment. And as the years go by, as we return to our ancestral homelands to conduct research, those questions become stronger and also more difficult to parse. Today we feel even more compelled to refuse certain colonial practices of our discipline, but the “why” spirals deeper and deeper. How deep do we want to go? What do we give and take in the descent? What do we lose?

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Around the Web Digest- September 12

Hello everyone! Hope the first few days of Fall are treating you well. Here are some readings to keep you company as the temperature drops.

The fashion industry in Los Angeles, California keeps growing as the market continues to manufacture goods at an explosive rate. In a blog post by Stephanie Canizales in Youth Circulations, the lives of unaccompanied Guatemalan migrant youth in L.A. and how they navigate the harsh labor conditions of the garment industry.

Ghassan Hage on declining an invitation to address the Israeli Anthropological Association: “So to me, the beginning of any decolonial anthropology is to be anti-politicidal. It has to be concerned with how to stop this horrendous violence and how to give presence and political and social power to the colonised.”

As the struggle against DAPL continues, representatives from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe met with the United Nations Human Rights Council to advocate for international support. Eventually UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz stated that DAPL should stop immediately due to the lack of informed consent, environmental degradation to water supplies, and destruction of sacred land.

As major transportation shifts from railways to airlines in India, the culture of sharing meals on train cars among passengers begins to shift. NPR cites chef and anthropologist Kurush Dalal in the socioeconomic shifts in food and travel among India’s growing middle class.

Algorithms are subject to just as much bias as the humans who program them. However, is bias encoded into the basis of the English language itself?

See you next week!

Anthropology and the MacArthurs

The 2016 MacArthur Fellows were announced yesterday and — unlike some years — there were no anthropologists on the list. Established back in 1981, the grant was intended not to find “geniuses” (despite the fact that its nicknamed the genius grant) but rather “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary orginality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. This year no anthropologists made the cut, but this isn’t how it always goes. Continue reading

Childhood games: What would Margaret Mead say about screen time?

Last month, a New York Post article about video games being like “digital heroin” for kids caused a bit of an uproar. The article describes a young boy losing interest in reading and baseball in favor of Minecraft, increasingly throwing tantrums until late one night his mother finds him in a catatonic state. Many have refuted this article as based on suspect evidence and even as a plug for the author’s addiction recovery center, noting the human tendency to treat new technologies—especially those used by children—with hysteria. It’s just the latest in the “screen time” debates.

But beyond scaremongering, what does screen time and immersion in digital worlds actually mean in terms of child rearing? Continue reading

Decolonization as Care

By Uzma Z. Rizvi

What happens to our praxis once we start from a place of acknowledging difference in our persons, our histories, our bodies, and our aesthetics? This text starts from a standpoint of curiosity, consideration, and mindfulness as we explore how, who and what we are, inform structures we create. The moment and place of knowing requires a certain slowness to enter into our thoughts, movements, and research, allowing for nuance and precision, for care and humility, and for an aesthetic of difference to incubate our praxis. Once we allow our work to breathe, to reflect, to sense difference, it transforms structures around it or structures created through it.[1] The act of research becomes praxis through which critical awareness of one’s own condition and the condition of others comes into high relief. One aspect of this praxis includes bodies co-producing the work. There are intricate processes that situate us between theory and practice as praxis, which must begin to take into account the many ways in which we are identified, the modes of address, our different bodies, and varied epistemologies.

Intersectionality allows us to occupy that praxis and standpoint critically.[2] It takes into account systems of oppression within the world that hold marginalized people in place (often at an inferior position) in multiple ways. It is not a new idea to acknowledge that our vectors of identity (race, class, ethnicity/gender/body, et cetera) inform how we experience and consider the world, but what is significant in intersectionality is that that place holding happens in different ways at different times and for different reasons. On the flip side, it also means that privilege manifests itself in similarly multifaceted forms. If, due to your body experience, you have never had to question how the world looks at your race/class/ethnicity/gender/body, or if that has never impacted the way the world identifies your research or work, you should know that that is a privileged experience. And that privilege or lack thereof, informs you and your praxis.

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Colorado Cuisine: From Traditional Food to Porno-Molecular Gastronomy

Up next for the anthropologies #22 food issue, we have an essay by Fernando Valerio Holguín.*–R.A.

Introduction

According to the old German saying, “We are what we eat.” Therefore, many gastronomic stereotypes have come to describe people from various countries according to their food preferences.  For example, Italians are known as “macaroni”, English as “roast beef,” Belgians as “chip-eaters”, French as “frogs” and Germans as “krauts” (Fischler 1988: 279). The word ‘stereotype’ comes from the Greek, ‘stereos’: solid, and the French ‘type’: type, meaning “stereotype plate” or “image perpetuated without change” (Online Etymology Dictionary). As can be observed, some cultures reduce (and) locate other cultures by means of various gastronomic stereotypes. Hence, the ingestion of certain types of foods is what comes to define one’s culture.  This metonymic reduction (‘food’,(substituting) for ‘the diner’) is not free from disdain, scorn, or satire toward these respective cultures, and constitutes an expression of political power.

The question arises about the gastronomic stereotypes with respect to Americans, and specifically, Coloradoans. What is Colorado’s cuisine and thus, what is the culinary stereotype that defines Coloradoans? According to Linda Hayes, “We [Coloradoans] are known for our lamb, as well as wild game…” (Cited in Cross Castañeda xviii). If lamb defines Coloradoans, then should the Coloradoans be called “Lamb eaters?” My purpose in this article is to analyze Colorado’s gastronomic identity. Furthermore, I suggest that in addition to the traditional cuisine, over the last decade, international, vegetarian and molecular gastronomies, as well as cannabis, have been integrated into the Colorado cuisine, making it one of the most diverse gastronomies in the United States. More even than (simply) the different types of food – which can be found alone or in combination in other states of the American Union, what makes the gastronomy of Colorado unique is the co-existence and varying combination  of all the types of cooking already mentioned,  thus creating a century-old, multicultural gastronomic identity. There seems to be a discursive struggle of flavors and tastes that has affected the gastronomic identity of Coloradoans. Continue reading

Dialogical Anthropology in an Age of Controlled Equivocation

I’ve been thinking about Dennis Tedlock and reading Marisol de la Cadena’s Earth Beings at the same time lately. Much of Earth Beings is concerned with intimacy, translation, and understanding — both cross-cultural and inter-personal. It seems to me that Earth Beings isn’t alone in having this concern. Although I am hardly an expert in this literature, Viveiros’s ‘controlled equivocation’, Holbrad’s Truth in Motion and much other work in this vein is really about what it means to understand someone who is different than you. Although much of this work is branded ‘ontology’ at times I feel like its central concern is really epistemology.

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When Cultural Anthropology Was Popular: A Quiz

Guest post by Paul Shankman

Cultural anthropologists are often concerned that their work is not getting the public attention that it deserves. Yet just a few decades ago, cultural anthropology was familiar to a broad audience who thought it to be interesting, thought provoking, and even life changing. In the 1960s and the 1970s, the work of a number of cultural anthropologists found an appreciative public, and their books sold well. These anthropologists wrote in plain English, on eye-catching subjects, and for commercial presses rather than academic presses. Looking back, their work may elicit a mixture of admiration, amazement, embarrassment, and even dismay. Can you identify these anthropologists? (Answers follow the questions.)

THE QUIZ: Continue reading

The deviant girl and feel-good feminism: Channeling Margaret Mead in Bangalore

In my field site of Bangalore, south India, I found support among young female professionals for feel-good feminism—that is, messages of female empowerment in pop culture that do not seek to shift the status quo much. This kind of feminism is often used by advertisers to appeal to female customers, as in this much-talked-about detergent ad in which a father belatedly realizes the bad example he set for his daughter by not helping with housework, or this recent Nike ad featuring female athleticism in India, where few women participate in sports. The idea here seems to be that a general female empowerment can allow (middle and upper-class) women to push the boundaries of gender norms ever so slightly.

But how much deviance from gender norms is really possible? Deviance is a word not used in contemporary anthropology very much anymore. It suggests a rigid norm that can be identified and described with a certainty few anthropologists would agree with now. It is also a term loaded with stigma. Who are the deviants? Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- September 4

As Fall begins to creep around the corner in the Northern hemisphere, I present you with this week’s readings.

As big data continues to permeate every facet of your life, Cathy O’Neil reveals how structural inequality perpetuates through your personal information.

As the days get shorter and winter creeps on the horizon, I can only remember the Mai Tais from the summer. However, the history of the tiki bar and its commodification of Hawaiian religious symbols leaves a sour taste.

Need a movie suggestion? Might I suggest Ixcanul by Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente. The film is shot in the Mayan language of Kaqchikel in a conscious effort to combat the racism against indigenous groups in Guatemala.

In a piece for the Medium series Muslim Women Speak, Ayqa Khan details the false dichotomy of being a Muslim woman and embracing sexuality.

As Gary Johnson continues to not inspire voters by stating “What is Aleppo?”. Feel free to use this to educate the people in your life about the Syrian conflict. 

As the struggle of activists in Standing Rock continue, the American Anthropological Association released this comprehensive statement of solidarity with Tribal Nations. 

See you next week!

Seeing Culture Like a State

At this year’s Taiwan’s annual anthropology conference, the Taiwan group anthropology blog Guava Anthropology hosted a public event where blog members were invited to give five minute “lightning talks” on the topic of cultural policy. In May, Taiwan’s new Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chun 鄭麗君 announced plans to hold a national conference with the aim of establishing a “Basic Cultural Law” for Taiwan.1 These talks were to reflect on both the role of the government in shaping cultural policy and the role of anthropologists in shaping government policy. Below is the English version of the talk I gave in Chinese.2

The State must “see” culture

The central problem facing state cultural policies is the need to make culture visible to the state. After all, if the state can’t “see” culture, how can it regulate it? Post-war Taiwan saw tremendous changes in cultural policy: from promoting China-centric cultural nationalism to embracing multiculturalism. But whether it is mono-culturalism or multiculturalism, whether the state wants to suppress or encourage the development of local cultures, it must first be able to “see” them. Continue reading

Would Margaret Mead tweet? On anthropological questions, social media, and the public sphere

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Rachel C. Fleming

In my first introductory anthropology class of the year, I spoke a bit about the figures I consider “founding” to cultural anthropology, and asked if anyone had heard of them. Franz Boas, I inquired? After a pause, one woman tentatively asked, “Isn’t he the father of anthropology or something?” Yes, ok, close enough. She allowed that she had learned about Boas in another anthropology class. Bronislaw Malinowski? One hand went up in the back. A bearded young man said, “I’ve heard of him, but that’s probably because my girlfriend is an anthropology major.” Yes, that would explain it. And then I asked, Margaret Mead? Silence. I was frankly taken aback. I realize her popular appeal peaked from the 1920s through the 1960s, ancient history to this generation of students. However, she is consistently remembered in our field as possibly the most famous anthropologist to date. She wrote popular columns in national magazines about sexuality, gender, and childhood in the US. Coming of Age in Samoa was a massive bestseller and is still in print. The controversy over her research in Samoa was headline news in anthropology for years. The recent bestselling novel Euphoria fictionalizes her life.

Whatever you may think about Margaret Mead, we cannot dispute that she was a major early figure in what we now call public anthropology. With the efforts of anthropologists such as David Graeber, Barbara King, Tanya Luhrmann, Jonathan Marks, Carole McGranahan, and Paul Stoller, to name just a few, we have a growing voice in the public sphere, spurred along by social media. Yet I cannot help but feel nostalgic for a time when Mead was so well known that she was widely derided in the academy as a “popularizer.” Given the value of anthropological insight for current issues—a point we all strive to make in our classes and elsewhere—I suggest that we could learn from such a popularizer now. In this blog series I will thus reconsider Mead’s work on sexuality, childhood, gender, feminist anthropology, and public change by imagining what she might make of today’s world and the questions and crises we face.  Continue reading

ArXiv for anthropology: @SocArXiv + #AAA2016 = Open Access Strikes Back

Cliffs Notes version of this post: @SocArXiv is a Green Open Access digital repository that is currently being developed for the social sciences. I think this is a good thing. Let’s talk Open Access and publishing at #AAA2016. –R.A.

Back in May, fellow Savage Mind Chris Kelty wrote a post about Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN (aka the Social Science Research Network). The short version of the story is that this purchase is Not Good News, although some folks think it’s Worse News than others. Kelty’s primary argument was that SSRN users needn’t worry so much about their papers, and that DATA was the actual issue. Data, he wrote, is the real reason why Elsevier was attracted to the idea of getting their hands on the SSRN. This data is valuable, Kelty writes, because: Continue reading

Eating with Strangers: Bringing an Anthropological Perspective to the Table

The anthropologies food issue continues! Up next we have an essay from cultural anthropologist Christy Shields-Argelès, whose current research focuses on the tasting practices of Comté cheese producers in the Jura mountains of eastern France.  She is an assistant professor in the Global Communications department of the American University of Paris.  You can reach her at cshields AT aup dot edu –R.A.

Anthropologists have long studied commensality as a means to gain insight into the life ways and worldviews of others.  Sitting at another’s table, mastering their etiquette and incorporating their cuisine are powerful ways to encounter and learn about other societies.  It is for this reason that I have long used commensal events as teaching tools in my anthropology classes at the American University of Paris.  A unique institution where Anglophone students come to study in the French capital – sometimes for a semester, though more often for their entire undergraduate education – AUP provides the perfect setting for a hands-on approach to learning the practices and perspectives of the anthropologist. In this short article, I want to explore commensality, and in particular welcome meals abroad, as a site for intercultural learning.  Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- August 28

Hope readers in the U.S. are having a great Labor Day (aka your annual state-mandated day off from the crushing reality of capitalism)! Here are your readings for the week!

Is your groundbreaking ethnography not informing public discourse as much as you hoped? Peter Taylor-Gooby turned his research into a novel. Literary ethnographers keep doing your thing!

I am still weak from Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, but did you catch any of the references to Yoruba and the representation of the Orisha, Oshun? 

As Boliva recently passed Law Nº 807, the “Gender Identity Law” that provides a wide-range of legal protections for transgender and transsexual people in the country. The law providing a contrast in international LGBTQ rights discourse that focuses on same-sex marriage and decriminalization of homosexuality.

August 31, 2016 marked the 64th Anniversary of the “Criminal Tribes Act” in India. However, these communities still face stigma from police and structural barriers to resources.

Perplexed by an enthusiastic “YAAASSSS” from the young people in your life? Dive into the queer history of “YAS” and its recent appropriation in popular culture.

Skid Row in Los Angeles exposes the loophole that intense poverty and over-policing have on each other, as witnessed by sociologist Forrest Stuart.

See you next week!