I’ve fallen behind in my blogging lately, so apologies if you sent me a link that is not published in this post. There’s some on for-profit higher ed and AAA ethics that I’m not getting to this week, but still have on the back burner for the next post. If I forgot yours don’t be shy about resending it. Thanks to everyone for supplying so much good stuff!
The People of Wal-Mart
- Usually content with tabloid coverage of celebrity scandals and news of the weird type pieces, Gawker ran an illuminating one, two, three part series on working at Wal-Mart. However the best part of these articles is not their stand-alone content, but the comments section where readers tell their own stories. I know there are plenty of books out there about the nation’s largest private employer, I just don’t know of any using ethnographic methodology or engaging current theoretical debates. (I take that back, wasn’t there a chapter in Nickle and Dimed about it? Somebody must have done this at length, right?) By itself this series makes the case for the ubiquity the retailer in the everyday lives of a great diversity of Americans.
Culture of Poverty, Again
- This should follow Wal-Mart nicely: “cultural” studies of the causes of poverty are in vogue again. The NYT starts it off, finger wagging at the “overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology” for long ignoring that “attitudes and behavior patterns” keep people poor, as if this were merely a case of political correctness run amuck. Then noting that this “surge” of research comes as the percentage of Americans living in poverty reaches a 15-year high. So that must be because peoples’ attitudes and behavior patterns have changed all of a sudden, right? *note: this is sarcasm -ed.
- Neuroanthropology jumped on it ahead of the MSM (this is why blogging is cool, you get to scoop the big boys). Daniel Lende takes the time to read the scholarship behind the NYT piece and provide the link. He reserves his criticism for the popular understanding of the culture of poverty where the “wrong ideas about ‘culture’ are used to heap blame and twist policy.” He observes, “Culture has been turned into beliefs and perceptions, which Americans view as something highly individual.”
- Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic followed up with a introspective piece about nearly coming to blows when confronted by the target of one his journalistic critiques. Coates blames his willingness to participate in such a display of machismo on lessons he learned as a youth on the streets of Baltimore. After all, “It defies logic to think that any group, in a generationaly entrenched position, would not develop codes and mores for how to survive in that position.” The problem, as Coates sees it, is the willingness for many Americans to read those values or their embrace as uniquely Black without examining why anyone would adopt such values as a matter of survival.
- Salon brought the most critical look at the “culture of poverty” calling it a “myth” and arguing that it is not that “we shouldn’t talk about the interplay of class and culture, but… the culture of poverty framework limits our ability to do it.” Poverty needs to be understood primarily as the result of structural forces. The poor serve an important function in a capitalist economy as their labor produces wealth for others.
The Africa Desk
- Here’s an interesting cut and paste project filling in Africa’s geography with world economic powers. Kinda puts things in perspective.
- Archaeologists uncover a 15th Century Chinese coin in Kenya, marked as belonging to an envoy of the emperor, almost 100 years earlier than Europeans reached east Africa.
- With the very rich and the very poor of Africa capturing the Western imagination, the African middle class can easily slip from view for a mainstream American audience. Classes Moyennes Afrique seeks to correct that image.
- Kashmir Lit is a clearinghouse of interviews, book reviews, poetry, and news by Kashmiri and Kashmir diaspora writers.
- Kashmir Solidarity Network is a blog that collects news and opinion about Kashmir from the western media, international sources, and blogs.
The Profoundly Superficial in Japan
- Cosmetic Cosmologies, a full length essay at Open Anthropology Collective, where our intrepid anthropologist, with the aid of James Bond and Roland Barthes, struggles to find a surface to stand on. But the signifiers without signifieds just keep slipping. “If the Japanese practices we have been considering here appear to be much less cosmic than cosmetic – if, that is, they strike us as superficial – then, I suggest, that is because the cosmological in Japan is so often constituted at the cosmetic level.” Here’s a separate introduction to the same piece. It’s a very good read, highly recommended
- Now that you’ve read that awesome OAC post, check out the latest research on why open access is awesome.
NAGPRA turns 20
- The legislation creating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act begins its third decade on November 16. The journal Museum Anthropology marks the anniversary by collecting all its previously published articles on repatriation in an virtual issue as a prelude to this current themed issue which explores the topic in depth.
- Museum Anthropology’s blog has a collection of links for more perspectives on observing NAGRPA’s anniversary.
- Coverage in the journal Science was not only solid, but is being made available for free to non-subscribers.
Tis the Season for Political Ads
- Sociological Images ran this digest of political ads that, in the vein of G.H.W. Bush’s notorious Willie Horton ad, seek political gain by stoking racial fears.
- Unmentioned by SI (at least in the link above) is the irony of two different candidates, in different parts of the country using the same image of “scary” Mexicans. Or are they “Asians”? I can’t tell.
- Here in Hampton Roads there’s a candidate running for Congress in Virginia Beach who has been painting his opponent as a sniveling politician, making himself out to be wholesome and good, promising this and that. Fairly typical commercial fodder and, so far, nothing to write home about. Only I’ve been wanting to blog about one of his ads where he claims to be an upstanding citizen by virtue of owning a car dealership, which, you know, employees people with jobs and stuff. But this one where he conflates the nation and the (male) bodies of himself, his father, and his son is even better. Because, you see, Scott Rigell has Patriotic DNA (apparently carried on the Y-chromosome).
Have you seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community? Do you want to know how to measure patriotism through genetics? Email me at mdthomps AT odu.edu and all your questions will be answered.