Around the Web

Here at the Around the Web corner office in 1 Savage Minds Plaza we’re constantly striving to improve our blogging. We’re not afraid to try cutting edge formatting techniques like underlining and bulleted points. And hey! If anyone wants to give us some feedback on how to make this column a little better, don’t be shy and speak your mind.

FEMINIST HULK SMASH TWITTER: Out of teh suck that is the internet emerge precious gems like High Expectations Asian Father and Shit My Dad Says. But whither the radical politics? Pick up this twitter feed where the Incredible Hulk smashes patriarchy in all capital letters.

 
 
Have a cow, man: This is an interesting post from the Open Anthropology Collective about ritualized animal sacrifice at the World Cup in South Africa and the state of ritual theory in anthropology. Contrary to many of the comments on this post I find Van Gennep and Turner’s theories to be quite elastic in analyzing culture, expression, and performance. Have others abandoned these theories in like fashion? Or do they still hold appeal for you as they do for me?

 
 
Islam and “the West,” again: Here are a collection of links concerning France’s proposed burqa ban and related confrontations between state and ideology.

  • Reuters places the proposed burqa ban in the context of French colonialism of Algeria and Morocco
  • An editorial in Slate proclaims, “Like the Taliban and the Saudi government, France is selfishly using women as silent chess pawns in the greater game of cultural domination and control.”
  • Anthropologist Gabriele Marranci suggests, “We have to read the ban through ‘values’ and ‘morals’ seen as part of a ‘civilizing’ ideology. Europe, with the end of communism and an increased social political identity crisis, seems to increasingly employ defensive epistemological paradoxes to affirm a patronizing ‘moral’ superiority over its own Muslim minorities.”
  • The Washington Post reports that in Aceh, a more conservative autonomous region of Indonesia, there will be a ban on women wearing pants and tight fitting-clothes.
  • A senior at Pomona College flying out of Philly was detained and handcuffed by the TSA then questioned by the FBI, for carrying Arabic flash cards in his pockets. So start putting your terrorist language materials in your checked luggage!

 
 
Violence in Jamaica: More than seventy people have died in recent clashes between Jamaican government forces and armed factions aligned with Christopher Coke, a neighborhood political boss and drug kingpin. Complicating matters for Prime Minister Bruce Golding is the close patron-client relationship between the government and “garrison” communities where such kingpins run votes for the government in exchange for free reign in their neighborhood. Oh, and he had to publicly apologize for hiring lobbyists to fight Coke’s extradition to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges.

  • Anthropologist Huon Wardle has some insightful commentary on the conflict and the comments section of the post have many useful links to online coverage of the issues.

 
 
Kids these days: As professors we often slip into critique of our students’ behavior – texting in class, citing Wikipedia in essays, drinking “energy drinks,” wearing mini-skirts with Uggs – by way of a liberal dose of mythologizing our own undergraduate experience. My own self-told narrative of college places all my attention on two things: anthropology and intoxication. And so I tut and smile politely when I see kids out on a Friday night, knowing that they could never hold a candle to the shenanigans of my heyday.

 
 
Love and theft: I am both sympathetic to and frustrated by this post from Ethnography.com about the obscurity of anthropology relative to other disciplines. I don’t think the culture-concept was ever anthropology’s to claim as exclusive property. I also get the sense that anthropology has worked hard on marginalizing itself in the academy and that this contributes strongly to the poor marketability of our graduates relative to other disciplines.

 
 
Facebook is finite and other notes from the future: I only recently became aware of the fact that Facebook limits the number of friends a user can have when I noticed one of my friends was friends with the prominent American Indian poet Joy Harjo. Intrigued I clicked on her name to see what info she had public and there was the message, “PLEASE NOTE: At FB friend capacity. Join fan club.”

 

Also check out this picture I snapped out front of my neighborhood 7-11. Yoville, Farmville, and Mafia Wars Slurpees! I still haven’t decided if these games are the new Pet Rock, or if Facebook will become to online communication what Amazon is to online retail.

  • The Republican party’s hilarious new website where anyone and everyone can post policy ideas for the GOP to consider. As a good friend of mine observed, “Apparently Republicans are unaware that the internet is populated overwhelmingly by people who are morons, trolls, or (usually) both.” Also Boehner has five times as many Facebook friends as Pelosi, ZOMG!!1!
  • Not to be outdone Senator Ben Nelson (D-NB) admitted during a recent interview, when questioned about a possible bill capping ATM fees, that he has never used an ATM. Although, to his credit, he said, “I know about the holograms.” I had to laugh listening to the pundits on the Diane Rehm Show parse this one: Talking Head #1: “He doesn’t know how to use an ATM? How does he pay for lunch?” Talking Head #2: “That’s what lobbyists are for.”
  • Our cyborg melding of nature and technology now means that computer viruses can spread to people! On a related note, is anyone else bothered that the average age of the Senate is currently 63, making it the oldest Senate in history?

 
Seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community? Email me at matthew.thompson@cnu.edu.

Matt Thompson is adjunct assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University and a Masters student in the School of Information Science at the University of Tennessee. He was once cast as a soldier in Andrew Jackson's army in a theatrical production on an Indian reservation.

11 thoughts on “Around the Web

  1. Thanks to all my friends who helped out with the many interesting links and HTML code tips!

  2. Thanks for the post. One thing, though. Ben Nelson is a senator from Nebraska, abbreviated “NE” not “NB.” Cheers!

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot about the obligatory dress of Arab Muslim women, and the bans in Turkey and France for a while. This is something I think should be explored more in anthropology, and not in the knee-jerk way it usually is.
    It seems the the issue depends on the position of the observer in the social realm and the level of scale they incorporate. For example, who exactly is using who as a pawn? If we only look at the French government, then we have to ignore Turkey’s ban. If the burka is a symbol of Islamic piety and fundamentalist tradition, then it’s hard to separate it from Sharia law, which isn’t far from Jihad, because it’s purpose is to spread Islamic law. This is why the Turks banned it. The Turks realized that if they were going to have a secular gov’t, they couldn’t afford to be symbolically naive.

    So is the French government being culturally hegemonic, or are they simply not being symbolically naive. (I’m not positing an answer). Are women in France and in other secular democracies wearing burkas and scarves as a sign of religious freedom, or as a symbol of social stigma? It really depends again on the position of the subject, and the level of scale they incorporate. When women in Europe and the US say that they are expressing themselves and their freedom, are they completely forgetting that they only have that choice because they live in secular democracies? Women don’t have a choice in large parts of the Muslim world. So, by expressing themselves, are they ignoring and insulting the women who don’t have that choice? Why don’t they refuse to wear them as a symbol of solidarity with the women who have acid thrown in their faces if they don’t wear them?

    Then, is it the French gov’t who is controlling the bodies of women, or is it the womens’ families and social networks. Is it the men who are doing it, or other women. Only a generation ago women in Egypt didn’t wear scarves, now they feel pressure to always wear one. Many of the women of the older generation find this trend troubling. So, is it the French gov’t or the men in the womens’ own community, or other women, or simply the individual womens’ own fears and insecurities, or a political statement? I’m thinking it’s a combination of all the above.

    If we look at the US is it men who force women to wear uncomfortable footwear, or other women? I know I could care less, and I promise you that men never discuss the footwear of women. Yet many women are forced to wear high heels at work places controlled by men.

  4. This is why the Turks banned it. The Turks realized that if they were going to have a secular gov’t, they couldn’t afford to be symbolically naive.

    I am no expert in the history of the Turkish state but I do think the issue is more complex than that. My understanding is that the Young Turks were, for want of a better term, violently secularist à la the Jacobins. Apart from the historical particularities I would just point out that it would be symbolically naïve of the Turkish (or any other) government to pretend that the symbolic associations of veiling are not contingent upon whether or not the practice is licensed by the PTB.

    When women in Europe and the US say that they are expressing themselves and their freedom, are they completely forgetting that they only have that choice because they live in secular democracies? Women don’t have a choice in large parts of the Muslim world.

    True, but it is also worth taking the freedom to/freedom from distinction into account. I always imagine every first time visitor to the U.S. from the Muslim world muttering some version of “Yes, women are treated with soo much more respect in this country!” as they see the strip club billboards during their shuttle from the airport to the hotel.

  5. “I am no expert in the history of the Turkish state but I do think the issue is more complex than that.”

    Of course.

    “as they see the strip club billboards during their shuttle from the airport to the hotel.”

    You’re assuming a position that those women are exploited in some way, rather than choosing a way to make a lot of money, quickly, and without much labor. They choose when they work and how long they work. It would be sexist to assume that women somehow need to be protected from themselves and their own sexuality. I’ve known both female and male strippers, and I never got a sense they were doing anything they didn’t want to do. Go to a strip club in the US and there are strict rules on touching for men, whereas if you go to a strip club for women, women are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want.
    Regardless of cultural mores, we don’t kill, beat or main women with the sanction of the state for things like wearing pants or having their faces uncovered. In that sense I’m going to commit a crime in post-post modernist, American anthropology and say are are therefore better in the sense of being more inclusive of who is fully entitled to free expression.

    I don’t know if anyone’s looked into like Marvin Harris’ exploration of why pigs are forbidden in Near Eastern religions, but I’m thinking that there is likely a materialist explanation for the origin of this practice. The extremely hot, dry, and shade free desert areas that these practices originated in are devastating to the skin. It would make sense to cover ones body in a time prior to sun screen to prevent skin cancer, or very rapid aging. A woman of 40, is going to look about 20 years older in that climate without skin protection. My skin turns a brown color and becomes dry and tough in that climate, and I have to use sun screen constantly throughout the day.

  6. I don’t want to ignore your point or link about differential concepts of freedom. This is a theme very prevalent in Buddhism as well. This is why monks, both men and women, shave their heads. Hair has historically been something that is associated with pride and vanity. The shaving of one’s head is a symbolic, ritual act designed to represent one’s internal mental state of non-attachment to one’s superficial appearance. Hair is something that is almost always symbolic. I personally think this sentiment and that behavior is beautiful. However, it is something that both men and women do. Male and female monks also dress the same, and no physical harm has ever come to anyone for not doing this, which is something seen as a completely personal decision. It’s been like that for 2,500 years.
    Shunryu Suzuki notes this differential expression of freedom with his experiences in the US:

    “Physical practice and rules are not so easy to understand, maybe especially for Americans. You have an idea of freedom which concentrates on physical freedom, on freedom of activity. This idea causes you some mental suffering and loss of freedom. You think you want to limit your thinking, you think some of your thinking is unnecessary or painful or entangling; but you do not think you want to limit your physical activity.”

    This type of narrative is co-opted within the Muslim world, but it is something new and is understood as a resistance to the unnatural female expression of her own sexuality, which is exactly how it’s seen. Traditionally, it is females that are used as the devils tools to entice men to sin, and therefore it was their responsibility to protect men from them.

    This really gets at the heart of the way various cultural themes and narratives produced in modern, liberal, secular, democracies are used as propagandist tools by others. How are themes of universal tolerance to be invoked with the intolerant?

  7. Regardless of cultural mores, we don’t kill, beat or main women with the sanction of the state for things like wearing pants or having their faces uncovered. In that sense I’m going to commit a crime in post-post modernist, American anthropology and say are are therefore better in the sense of being more inclusive of who is fully entitled to free expression.

    I’m biased here because most of the Muslims I have known are from Indonesia or Africa, but when I read that statement I can just see them shaking their heads and saying, “Why do Americans think Saudi Arabia is the same thing as Islam?” A shit government is a shit government regardless of the religion.

    I’ve known both female and male strippers, and I never got a sense they were doing anything they didn’t want to do.

    My only anecdotal evidence is from the sole person I have ever known who has stripped, and she quit after two weeks because she noticed that all the vets started drinking the moment they clocked in and didn’t stop the rest of their shift. I’m not one to morally judge, but I do have the impression that sex work takes more than it gives back.

    This really gets at the heart of the way various cultural themes and narratives produced in modern, liberal, secular, democracies are used as propagandist tools by others. How are themes of universal tolerance to be invoked with the intolerant?

    True… though it leads me to recall a scene from the film Ride With the Devil in which a Confederate partisan says, “Before they built their church, even, they built that schoolhouse. They rounded every pup up into that schoolhouse because they fancied that everyone should think and talk the same free-thinkin’ way they do with no regard to station, custom, propriety. And that is why they will win. Because they believe everyone should live and think just like them.”

  8. “I’m biased here because most of the Muslims I have known are from Indonesia or Africa,”

    I’m not conflating Islam in it’s totality, I’m referring to the Burka, and as far as I know they don’t require it in places like Indonesia. I’ve been to Indonesia and Malaysia and I never saw anything like it in either place.

    “A shit government is a shit government regardless of the religion.”

    This is an argument often made by various apologists, but there is a tradition that goes back further than British colonialism. Nazism wasn’t merely a government it was an ideology. This is no different. Speaking of Saudi Arabia, they were liberalizing in the 1970′s, up until the Golden Mosque was taken hijacked by fundamentalists and forced the king to roll back the various secularist, and female rights that were being rolled in. As terrible as the governments are, they are largely the only ones that keep the most violent misogynists in some degree of order.

    “she quit after two weeks because she noticed that all the vets started drinking the moment they clocked in and didn’t stop the rest of their shift.”

    That’s my experience as well, but I would drink if I had to take off my clothes in public too. My best friend is a musician and his nights almost always involve a lot of alcohol. Not all strippers have sex with patrons. I’ve had two friends who got engaged with strippers and I got to know the culture of it. One of the guys actually did marry his girl. Then I met, and this might sound a bit of a cliche, but I met a couple of guys in the navy that had stripped as civilians for women.

    “And that is why they will win. Because they believe everyone should live and think just like them.”

    Why would we be different in that regard to anyone else? If the Salafists had the ability to do so every woman in the world would be covered, and there would be beheading in the streets. The difference is that if you don’t submit you get publicly stoned, beaten by male relatives or a husband with the approval of the state, or acid thrown in your face.
    It’s because of this that at the end of the day we all have to kind of pick sides, and I think the side that more fully incorporates fuller expressions of humanity into it is the side I should be on.
    No one here would spend any of their time defending any act or slogan from crazy Christian fundamentalist, neo-nazi who spend their time planing the race war, and who have successful historically. I would fight and give my life to keep our fundamentalists from gaining enough power to impose such laws on our women, against their will.

    The interesting thing about anthropology is that you take something very similar and you put them in a country far way, they speak a different language and they seem exotic, and we feel that can’t judge and must remain relativistically detached from any judgment. If that’s true, then you’d have to say the same thing about our fundamentalists as well.

  9. This is an argument often made by various apologists, but there is a tradition that goes back further than British colonialism. Nazism wasn’t merely a government it was an ideology. This is no different. Speaking of Saudi Arabia, they were liberalizing in the 1970’s, up until the Golden Mosque was taken hijacked by fundamentalists and forced the king to roll back the various secularist, and female rights that were being rolled in. As terrible as the governments are, they are largely the only ones that keep the most violent misogynists in some degree of order.

    At the risk of committing reductio ad Hitlerum, I suppose you could compare the relationship between King Abdullah and the CPVPV to the relationship between the Führer and the Brown Shirts up to a point but the fact is that the House of Saud has not shown any inclination to smash the CPVPV the way Hitler did with the Brown Shirts. So, yes, the Saudi government has the mechanisms to check the actions of groups within their country but the fact is that the House of Saud and Wahhabism have a long association. It seems naïve to me to think of the relationship as simply government patronage of a religious sect. Religion is intertwined with governance in Saudi Arabia just like it is in Iran.

  10. “It seems naïve to me to think of the relationship as simply government patronage of a religious sect. Religion is intertwined with governance in Saudi Arabia just like it is in Iran.”

    I’m confused, are you adding to what I wrote or are you criticizing it? I wouldn’t disagree with any of that, and not of that goes against anything I wrote. The first king of the house of Saud was the one that incorporated Wahhabism as the state religious sect.

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