Around the Web Digest: Week of June 28

Savage Minders, was your Sunday ruined by the absence of the Around the Web Digest? I’ll have to cast the blame on my intermittent Internet access here in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Thanks to those who’ve sent me links for the digest at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com! (For those who haven’t, make this your resolution for next week).

This post on Cotton Belt Journal connects recent debates about the Confederate flag to the archaeology of African American history: This Place Matters: Remembering African American Heritage Sites

I’m becoming a big fan of Food Anthropology… their posts on “food pedagogy” always make me want to revisit my syllabi and push myself to engage more with the local environment: “You Can’t Talk About Food Without Talking”: Aimee Hosemann with a Professor’s Perspective on the Course “Food and Culture”

Ethnography.com asks, Why Is Queen Nefertiti’s Bust in Berlin and Not Egypt? and answers, “colonialism.” As familiar as this story may be, it’s a good reminder that archaeology takes place in a postcolonial landscape.

In the same vein, the blog Museum Anthropology also features news updates about antiquities and issues of repatriation, like this one: Feds Petitioned to Investigate Sale of Native Objects by East Coast School 

Living Anthropologically provides some resources to answer the question, “What are you planning to do with that?” Anthropology Major Jobs: Advice for Undergraduate Majors 

Guernica Mag also provides a passionate rebuttal to undergraduate students’ increasingly desperate search for the perfectly utilitarian undergraduate major: Matt Burriesci: The Arts and Humanities Aren’t Worth a Dime 

It appears to be primarily sociological, but the blog Understanding Society has a lot of content that should be interesting to anthropologists, like this post about whether the use of social media tends to stimulate real debate and a deeper understanding of political issues or tends to create echo chambers: Deliberative Democracy and the Age of Social Media.

The Scientific American blog Anthropology in Practice also takes up this theme, looking at how technology (from party lines to neighborhood Facebook groups) is used to delineate group membership: How Information Builds a Community. It also makes me think about those groups on social media that are used to explicitly define local identity, like “You Know You’re From Potsdam, NY When…”

Also focused on technology and space, this post from Ethnography Matters suggests harnessing smartphone technology as a method to record the sights and sounds associated with places in the field: Sensory Postcards: Using Mobile Media for Digital Ethnographies 

I include this post from Publishing Archaeology mostly to bring this blog to your attention (World’s Worst Book Review)… although I must say, it does sound like a pretty bad book review. Can anyone top it?

This post on Archaeology, Museums and Outreach reminds us that MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are not necessarily the enemy: Recent MOOCs I Have Taken and How They Helped Me on the Job 

See you next week (minus one day!)

Rebecca Nelson is the executive director of América Solidaria U.S. She recently graduated with a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on volunteer tourism in Guatemala and how it is opening up new avenues for tourists and hosts to develop more cosmopolitan understandings of the world (as well as opening up new forms of friction over the circulation of knowledge).

3 thoughts on “Around the Web Digest: Week of June 28

  1. Regarding ethnography.com’s commentary, a great many national artifacts are dispersed round the world, most being safe in foreign museums. However, before focusing so heavily on these, it is worth considering wider, more destructive events. One such is the situation in Syria/Iraq with locations such as Palmyra, or sadly Nimrud. Aside even from war, is national interest, as evidenced at Mes Aynak (Afghanistan), where the site may be destroyed in the establishment of a copper mine. It seems that such locales are falling under the radar, sadly they are simply overlooked. In the long run, protection of archaeological sites may be more beneficial to national interests, and world heritage, than privileging singular artifacts. As for returning artifacts, museums which do should duplicate these objects for their own displays–following such a logic, museums may be filled with simulacra of artifacts, even sites.

  2. Hi Fred,
    I agree that we should focus on the destruction of archaeological sites, with their potential wealth of information, just as much as (if not more than) precious objects housed in museums, which may have more antiquarian value. It seems to me that objects become important in postcolonial nation-building efforts, and their possession can be an important symbolic touchstone (like in the case of the Elgin Marbles). If we were only concerned about educating the public, replicas might sere the same purpose as originals, as you point out, but international politics enter into the issue. With new technologies (like 3D printing), different ways of duplicating or virtually exploring objects are becoming possible, but I doubt these will make much of a difference in disputes over repatriation.

  3. In talking about sites, I recently read a news article on the new Jewish Museum in Poland (opened 2013 in Warsaw). The thesis of the museum is to highlight the cultural history of Polish Jews over the last 1,000 years. The key attraction is the fresco ceiling from a 17th century synagogue in Gwozdzie, now Ukraine, formerly Poland. The building was burned down in WWI, restored, then destroyed in WWII. Certainly this painted ceiling in the museum is a recreation, at 85% the size of the original. The philosophy of the museum was to recall a rich life that had been erased by the Nazis, and supressed under the Soviets. I think what the Jewish Museum in Warsaw highlights is the philosophy of museums as locations of not only engagement with the past, but of restoration. I would put emphasis on the last, as museums I hope the philosophy of museumology addresses not just nationalistic or identity politics, but also the museum as tourist destinations. In this respect, I believe restoration goes both ways: restoration of the culture and past lives on display, and for the audience (tourist, school outing, etc..) visiting. In my own experience, museum visits are not solely educational (although that is somewhat a considered view of museums), but a place to unwind, to be amazed, or simply gaze (with all that word’s poststructuralist meaning). I agree with you the role of international politics is visited upon the museum. After all, “openings” are as much events of international and national political importance as the contents of the museum. But I still return to the idea of the museum as a restorative location. As then to the question of original artifact or replica, this would have to be answered with respect to the purpose of the museum. The Polin Museum in Warsaw suggests the replica of the fresco wooden ceiling is comparable to the lost original. But, perhaps, also in its restorative purpose it creates for the museum visitor a possibility of collective memory, rather than one in which the past is simply forgotten.

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