Re-Naming the Savage Minds Blog: Your Suggestions, Please

The editorial collective at Savage Minds has decided to change our name. We have several reasons for this, but mostly feel that the name no longer fits or best represents the blog. As a title, “Savage Minds” was a sort of anthropological insider’s double pun. As we explain on our About page, the name “comes from French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s book The Savage Mind, published in 1966. The original title of the book in French, La Pensée Sauvage, was meant to be a pun, since it could mean both ‘wild thought’ or ‘wild pansies,’ and he put pansies on the cover of the book, just to make sure readers got the pun. Lévi-Strauss was unhappy with the English title of his book, which he thought ought to have been “Pansies for Thought” (a reference to a speech by Ophelia in Hamlet). We liked the phrase “savage minds” because it captured the intellectual and unruly nature of academic blogging. As a result, the pansy has become our mascot as well.” And thus, a blog was born in 2005.

levi-strauss

In 2016, however, we found ourselves in a different political moment in the discipline as well as the world. For a while, some of us have been privately mulling over a name change, but right now no longer feels like a time to ponder, but one to act. And so we are acting now in response to international political trends towards populism and xenophobia in general, and in response to an earlier impetus in particular. In June 2015, one of our wonderful guest bloggers, Zoe S. Todd, posed an important challenge to us in a very generous way:

“So, I’ve danced a bit around the elephant in the room in the last few weeks, which is something I want to bring up in a loving and gentle way before we begin. As I’ve sought out Indigenous and/or POC people to interview for this series, I have found myself in the rather awkward position, as a Métis scholar, of asking you (and others) to do an interview on your work and your experiences in the academy for a blog titled Savage Minds. So, I guess before we begin I just want to get it out of the way that this title bothers me somewhat. And I want to re-iterate that I say this in a loving, open way. I mean, I understand that it is a nod to a highly regarded French anthropologist. And I love a good play on words (especially one that involves wild flowers!)–particularly ones that draw attention to contested words, or those that draw attention to words with baggage. And I acknowledge that Levi-Strauss has perhaps one of the most influential people in Anthropology in a great long while. But, as an Indigenous woman, it’s another one of those moments that puts me in a ‘double bind‘, so to speak–I want to celebrate anthropology while at the same time, some of our language and our phrasing, even when used ironically, alienates me from the anthropological academy—how do I explain to my non-anthropology friends that in writing for something titled ‘savage’ that the title is meant to be a nuanced commentary on anthropology’s history? It has made it awkward for me to seek out Indigenous interviewees for this series because I feel that I have to keep explaining the context of the title in an apologetic way in order to move forward. I don’t know how to address this, other than to preface our interview with a gentle statement about it just so it’s clear that I myself am struggling with the complex position of wrangling with the multiple, complicated facets of using words like savage (or indeed other loaded words from Anthropology’s past, like primitive or ‘hunter-gatherer’) in our work. Because while this title is playful and purpose-full (and politically informed), I have also been the person in the room critiqued for ‘going native’ by a classmate. How do we make space to talk about what happens when ironic use of phrases can unwittingly create space for the un-ironic, deliberate and pejorative use of phrases within our discipline?”

We’ve sat with these words for a while now. It has taken over a year, but we are changing our name. The title “Savage Minds” was not meant to be offensive, but we acknowledge that it can be seen that way, read that way, and felt that way. We are going to choose a new name, one that will better represent us and the discipline, as well as reflect the progressive commitments to scholarship that this blog and its bloggers have held dear for so long. We will not erase our history or our love of puns or pansies, but instead will explain when asked why the blog was named Savage Minds and why, in 2016, we decided we wanted to change the name.

We have been brainstorming new names among ourselves, and would like to open up the process to you—our readers—to suggest new names for us to consider. Please put your suggestions in the comments section below. We will be soliciting suggestions through Thursday, December 15.

We look forward to moving forward together. We look forward to all a new name might bring. And we like to think there still might be some unruly irreverence every now and then. Thank you.

pansies

 

 

 

I am an anthropologist and historian of Tibet, and a professor at the University of Colorado. I conduct research, write, lecture, and teach. At any given time, I am probably working on one of the following projects: Tibet, British empire, and the Pangdatsang family; the CIA as an ethnographic subject; contemporary US empire; the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet; the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army; refugee citizenship in the Tibetan diaspora (Canada, India, Nepal, USA); and, anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

87 thoughts on “Re-Naming the Savage Minds Blog: Your Suggestions, Please

  1. Site of Being
    Being Together
    Ethnological Abyss
    Rituals and Rites
    The Human Passage
    Towards One Another
    Inhabited
    The Gathering
    Symbolically Conveyed
    Shared Symbolic
    Fields of Meaning
    Group Devils
    Mundas in situ

  2. Since “Pansies for Thought” seems to have met with editorial critique, I propose an alternative: A Pansy for Your Thoughts. Or, in the spirit of L-S, “Blogologiques”

  3. Still don’t think a change is necessary. That said, add one vote for Chris’s “Strangers and Friends.” Or, it suddenly strikes me, consider “Strangers and Colleagues.”

  4. Well, I know I have no skin in the game, but I have always liked the name because I speak French and my first response was about the pun; of course “savage” doesn’t read the same in English (and maybe now not the same in French), so maybe it is time. Still it would be nice to capture the unruliness that has wonderfully characterized the blog, so I look forward to the suggestions that will certainly come. And it would be good, I think, to make a change that somehow harmonizes with the previous name.
    Pat Galloway

  5. What about a translation of “anthropology”, updated for the 21st century? Humansplaining.

    Ok, I’ll stop now.

  6. Salvage Minds?

    Wild Thoughts? (Both for a closer feel to the original name.)

    I know you’re going for a break here, but I would like it if there was still some connection to the old name (which I loved, by the way). Times are hard, but becoming more politically correct is not really going to solve anything.. on the contrary, becoming so careful almost feels like censorship sometimes.. (on a more general note).
    That said, a change is always good!

  7. Some thoughts, thinking of how to connect with those outside the clever anthropological field. I’d love to see other ideas!

    Unruly Thinkers
    Thinking Otherwise
    Past Boundaries
    Meaningful Fields

  8. The Human Factor
    Human Hub
    Triple P: Peoples, Practices, Pansies
    Counterintuitive Construction
    Unrationalulous

  9. A tip from an old adman. If your name is “convenient,” i.e., could be used for blogs in any number of other fields, it is too weak. “Savage Minds” may be disturbing to some, but it communicates “This is an anthropology blog” very well, indeed, on several levels. The goal is to find a name at least as strong, ideally even better.

  10. I’m glad you are changing the name! On one hand “Savage Minds” is a nice in-joke kind of name that ties us together as people who have shared knowledge (& curriculum) so I get why people would be lax to change it, but on the other hand, you know, apocalypse/Trump-times call for a more open platform.

  11. More including some mash ups:

    Bricoleuristing
    The Liminalist
    Culturalia
    Anthronautica
    Kinship & Critique. (er…Kintique?)
    All Our Kin
    Borderlands
    Anthroscapes
    Cultural Playback
    Coming of Age

    I love lots of the suggestions so far, esp Strangers & Friends and Cultural Relatives. 🙂

  12. What a long, strange trip it’s been since you folks opened for business ten or eleven years ago. Then you were Savage Minds, bravely casting adrift from institutional anthropology. But that was then, this is now. At this juncture of self-reflection and self-identification, it may be well to reflect on how you can proceed in order to give the least offense to the greatest number (A new categorical imperative for our times?). With that in mind, perhaps we should recall a meditation of Marcus Aurelius, repackaged for the wide screen and Dolby Sound by Hannibal Lecter in his advice to Clarice Starling: “For any particular thing, ask ‘What is it in itself? What is it’s nature?’”. What is the nature, what is now the true thing that once was “Savage Minds”? How about “Politically Correct Anthropology”? Or perhaps, “Anthropology as International Social Work”? To thy new self be true.

  13. I immediately thought Anthropos Today. I’m not sure what the author of that volume would have to say about such an appropriation however. Maybe you could invite him to write an introductory blog post on the occasion of the name change? He has been known to read and comment on SM — and to be interested in collaborative experiments in knowledge production.

    (Iterations on ‘anthro-‘. Anthropoesis: already taken by another blog. Anthroponosis: refers to diseases transferred to animals from humans (viral? perhaps Anthroponotic Ideas). I had proposed the name ‘Anthroponos’ for a anthropology corporation modelled on Elizabeth Holmes’s ‘Theranos.’ Anthroposcene! Appears to have been in use, but seems to me perfectly appropriate for this blog… {Maybe Ethnoscene})

    The thing I like best about the name Savage Minds was that it paid tribute to both high theory and the arcana of the discipline — and these are things about Savage Minds that I always appreciated. Unabashed anthropological geekiness and obscurantism and yes.. elitism. It would be nice if the new name could somehow continue that idea. So a play on a classic anthropology title or concept? Argonauts of the Internet? (Cheesy I know.) The Elementary Forms of Anthropological Life? The Traffic in Anthropology (after Rubin). Webs of Significance? etc

    Good luck you guys.

  14. Hey Carole & the rest of the SM team,

    I think it’s fantastic that you guys are acting positively with that (legitimate) critique of the title – while also agreeing with many others that Savage Minds has come to mean a lot for our anthro community; it’s a standard of quality, as well, I think.

    That said, here’s mine: Public Anthropologies (or PubAnth, indicating our commitment to publics and plurality of anthropological knowledge)

    Good luck with this! Cheers!

  15. Not sure how I feel about these (kind of bland), and they may not appeal to all theoretical / subfield orientations, but perhaps go with a name focusing on anthropological methodology. If you want to appeal to anthropologists and others, this is probably what you are best able to uniquely offer.

    Participant Observers
    Thick Description

    Of course, if you still want to pay homage to the history of anthropology and play off a key title, why not just use your current tag line, or is too long and bland:

    Notes and Queries in Anthropology (i.e., Pitt Rivers)

  16. Make Anthropology Great Again!

    That would sort of (i) admit the past ‘great’ mistakes of colonial anthropology without forgetting them, (ii) whilst also nodding towards the ‘great’ period of anthropology that came shortly afterward that we seem to have lost. (iii) Additionally it would nod toward the US style of anthropology that this blog has, and finally (iv) be addressing the contemporary head-on, whilst also ‘Occupying’ an idea, instead of retreating. Though I am sort of thinking of using it myself 🙂

  17. I would propose this as a new name:

    (We are all) Savage Minds

    Arguments for:

    • addresses (or at least attempts to address) the possible exclusionary/insulting character of the original name.
    • but retains all the name recognition
    • better captures the meaning of L-S, which was that all humans think in similar ways.
    • evokes the critique of othering made by the French protesters during the events of May: when one of the leaders, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, was attacked as an “outside agitator” because his background was German, they chanted “Nous sommes tous des Juifs allemands” (We are all German Jews).

  18. “Science of the Concrete” keeps the nod to Savage Minds, has some inside joke irony to it, and leans towards the not-so-modern modes of anthropology that I like and would hope are the future of the discipline.

    Also, that Zoe Todd’s call for a little more room to maneuver can be so readily made fun of and dismissed by some in this thread doesn’t cast a our discipline, or at least this community, in a great light. She’s hardly calling for political correctness, just pointing out a practical problem that the name limits the kind of anthropology that she can do under that name and which is presumably among the kinds of anthropology that the blog wants to invite. But if “political correctness” must be kept at bay in the interest of preserving the insideness of the inside joke, how about…say…”Good Ol’ Boy Anthropology”? Or, “A Blog in the Strict Sense of the Term?”

  19. “Savage Minds” is brilliant. And as is becoming increasingly clear from all the lame suggestions, it ain’t so easy to come up with something brilliant. Savage Minds says it all, because beneath the “sophisticated” veneer, we are all savages, no? And when it comes to minds, the more savage the better, no?

    Why not, then: “Anthro-Apologies”? Sorry, but I prefer my anthro with no apologies.

  20. Many thanks for this initiative. As many others I´ve often felt the blog name does not invite a wider audience beyond, but also within an anthropology [or -ies].

    I take up Janita’s point that this renaming may require a deeper concern with different sources of knowing in anthropology, and this starts with the epistemology of the ‘mind.’ Thinking/Understanding/Learning about our own and other socio-cultural facets of life are related bodily in just as diverse ways. For instance, in Hawaiian epistemology, it is the na’au, the guts, that are ‘thinking,’ that is the seat of intelligence, emotion, etc. – see here for more info: http://ulukau.org/elib/cgi-bin/library?e=d-0hooulu-000Sec–01haw-50-20-frameset-book–1-010escapewina%3Dd&p=frameset&toc=0&d=D0.6.52

    The argument can be made as to why it should be exactly this cultural conception/term and not any other. Yet a counter argument can be why a western-european one (and framing this as obsession with political correctness misses the point that we are moving in – and moving further – an ever-changing and expanding field of inquiry that is anthropology)? More so, naming the blog after any other different bodily (or ancestral, spatial, etc.) way of knowing beyond the mind seems to entice more curiousity than alienation about the field, particularly among those not familiar with it. Think of HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory – this should encourage us to gather more creative ideas.

  21. Though a number of people would like to keep the inside joke or the nod- to -the -founders type of title, I agree with those who would like to build on an open and self-reflective notion of anthropology, one that includes an awareness of the origins, limits and assumptions of the discipline’s development in the U.S. and northern Europe.

  22. Jason Pribilsky’s “Good to Think With” suggests a promising direction. In these words I hear, however, an ego-focused emphasis on how the other might offer useful hints for how I might be thinking. Going a step further, “Thinking With” suggests the decolonizing, collaborative sort of research that many here seem to see as the heart of the new anthropology they are aiming to construct. It remains, however, inclusive enough to encompass “Good to think with as well.”

    “Thinking With”

    What do you think?

  23. Decolonial Ink
    Plural Worlds
    Priests, Warriors and Cattle
    Wild Heresies
    Argonaut
    Culture Shift

    Also liking Familiar Strange….

  24. “Jubilee” Perhaps too biblical, but references the meta-sabbatical, sabbatical of sabbaticals, a time when slaves are freed to go home to their families, occupied lands are returned to their rightful owners, and we relearn how to shout for joy; more generally we all re-evaluate our relations with each other and work to dissolve any corrosion or solidifications that may have developed from previous behaviours

    “Reciprocities” Central concept for all anthro fields. Also holds our feet to the fire as to our future orientations/ obligations with and for those with whom we work.

    “Movable Feasts” Referencing more of the ritual calendrical aspect than Hemingway per se

    “Skin In The Game” Someone used this phrase in the above comments and I like it. Anthropologists do have skin in the game but often don’t acknowledge it enough…

  25. Thank you all for your suggestions. We will now begin deliberating on a new name—from your suggestions here, from ones we received on social media, and from possibilities we have shared among ourselves. Lots of good ideas in circulation.

    Thank you also to those of you who expressed support for the name change, or perhaps relief or other emotions that involved a sense of “finally!” In the above post I wrote that the name could be considered offensive by some and that this wasn’t the intention. It wasn’t, and yet the name was offensive, period. We also understand now that it kept some people from reading, participating, and contributing to the blog.

    Changing the name now is more than just a superficial move. Instead, it reflects shifts in this blog, shifts in the discipline, shifts in the world. This is not about being “politically correct.” To those of you who read our name change in that way, no, you are wrong. This is something else. This is about thinking about anthropology–its past and its promise, and how we can best write and represent the unique perspectives and interventions of anthropology. We see the name change as a reflection on anthropology now and how we want to position ourselves going forward. And we’re glad we’ve finally got here.

    Once we have the new name figured out, we will announce it. Stay tuned.

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