Dick Powis is a PhD student in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research interests include men and childbirth, prenatal screening technologies, and reproductive health in urban settings in Senegal. Read more at http://about.me/dickpowis.
Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites. This is the third entry in the series, you can read the Introduction here and Week One here.
Oguz Alyanak: On Ramadan Diet: A Vegetarian’s Perspective
Without a doubt, one of the challenges of doing fieldwork is dietary. While some may be open to dietary change, and willing to experience new dishes, others, like myself, may be less inclined in giving up on dietary restrictions. Continue reading →
Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites. This is the second entry in the series, you can read the Introduction here.
Oguz Alyanak: On Doing Fieldwork During Ramadan
Ramadan has a different rhythm to it. For those who conduct fieldwork in a very systematic manner—e.g., wake up at 6 to prepare for the day, leave home by 9, get back before sunset and type down fieldnotes before sleep—fasting will pose challenges. For one, there is no coffee or snacks to keep you going during the day. Instead your best friend is your constantly rumbling stomach. The sahur (predawn) meal is in the middle of the night. You can either get up at 3AM or stay awake until 4. Either way, you will end up losing sleep. And try falling asleep with a belly full of food and water! Continue reading →
Savage Minds is excited to present this invited blog from Ellen E. Foley, an Associate Professor in International Development, Community, and Environment at Clark University. She was also the Program Committee Co-Chair of the recent #DakarFutures2016 conference, which was co-sponsored by the African Studies Association (ASA), the American Anthropology Association (AAA), the West African Research Center (WARC), and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).
The recent AAA and ASA joint conference in Dakar, Senegal was recently highlighted on the True Africa blog under the headline “Why are conferences in Africa excluding African scholars?” As the US academy turns its gaze inwards to questions of diversity and inclusion (sanitized terms for racism, sexism, cis-patriarchy, white settler colonialism, capitalism, heternormativity, transphobia, Trumpmania, xenophobia) it is fair to ask: do American academic organizations take their colonial legacies and institutionalized inequalities on the road when they travel beyond the United States? Drawing attention to the politics of knowledge production, particularly about Africa, is important if not new. Francis Nyamnjoh (then head of publications at CODESRIA) nailed it in his 2004 critique of the politics of publishing on Africa. He highlights “the epistemological imperialism that has facilitated both a Western intellectual hegemony and the silencing of Africans even in the study of Africa.” Continue reading →
Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites.
During the holy month of Ramadan, the month when the Devil (Shaitan) is chained, many Muslims around the world undertake the practice of fasting. Fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is first and foremost a practice where Muslims rediscover the importance of self-restraint. As an individual is deprived of bodily intakes such as food, water, and cigarettes, the mind goes through a journey of self-discipline. The fasting individual is also asked to watch his/her manners, such as restrain from being foul-mouthed, gossiping or staring at the opposite sex with bad (i.e., sexual) intentions. One of the aims of this month, then, is to discover that one’s will can overcome his/her physical weaknesses, and to tame the ego (nefs). Another aim is to be reminded of the bounties that Allah provides year-long, to be thankful of His grace, and to help those who may not be as fortunate by sharing one’s wealth (a practice known as the sadaka-i fitr). Sharing is not only monetary. During this month, Muslims come together, attend communal dinners, after dinner prayers specific to Ramadan (known as the tarawih/teravih), Quran recitations (known as muqabala/mukabele) and other conversation circles. Another aim of Ramadan, then, is to teach Muslims the importance of fraternity and community (ummah/ummet). Continue reading →
Savage Minds is delighted to present this invited book review by Lauren Cubellis, a Ph.D. student at Washington University in St. Louis.
In this engaging first book, Zoë H. Wool takes on the density of daily life after war for young veterans recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After War: The Weight of Lifeat Walter Reed (2015), is a timely contribution to the growing anthropological literature on precarity, ordinary ethics, and care, as well as ethnographic accounts of soldierly life and PTSD in the wake of US military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wool’s theoretical framework, of queering masculinity and experiences of the extra/ordinary, challenges long-held assumptions about violence and suffering, and masculine roles in the United States. And it trains a critical eye on the experience of ordinariness as it is both coveted by former soldiers, and persistently postponed by the complexity of their post-war existence. Continue reading →
[Savage Minds is pleased to present an invited post from Mike Agar. Mike Agar left academia in 1996 with an early emeritus exit from the University of Maryland and now works in New Mexico as Ethknoworks (ethknoworks.com for details on his checkered past and present). His long life on drugs is described in Dope Double Agent: The Naked Emperor on Drugs. He recently published The Lively Science: Rebuilding Human Social Research and currently works on water governance in the Southwest.]
The phone was ringing and the message light blinking when I walked into the project office in Baltimore. Fred, an outreach counselor my age with whom I’d worked on a Johns Hopkins project, had already shown me a copy of our flyer that he’d gotten I didn’t know where. “It’s all over the streets,” he said with the sideways smile he used when he knew he had me inside a teaching moment.
It was the late 90s and I’d just started running a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to figure out why illegal drug epidemics happened. Yet another white researcher in a majority black city. Though I lived in a suburb near the University of Maryland, College Park, from which I’d resigned in 1996, I wanted to do the project in Baltimore because I’d done work there before consulting with Hopkins public health and I was weary of the strange city that Washington was and is. Many people in Washington said that Baltimore is a “real” city.” Continue reading →
The semester is nearly complete, and summer is upon us. After finishing my first year in graduate school, I have this to say: I had no idea that I was capable of reading so much so quickly. Wow.
And yet, there were many things that I wanted to read and could not fit into those tiny pockets of “free” time. You know what I’m talking about, right? You get that itch that says, “If only there were more hours in a day, I would totally pick that book up!” And reading Carole’s Ethnographic Theory syllabus is not helping matters.
So I need to keep this momentum going; here is my summer reading list for 2015. It serves a few purposes, so it has to be somewhat calculated. This time next year, I’ll need to turn in a substantial literature review that gestures (somehow) toward my dissertation research/proposal, so now is the time to ramp up my consumption of readings that will contribute to it. There are also some things that I feel like reading, because “How have I gone this long without reading that” (e.g. Nietzsche)? One is out of sheer curiosity (i.e. Bennett). A few things I’ve read in the past, but I’d like to revisit with a full year of graduate social theory seminars under my belt (e.g. Foley, Fullwiley). And I owe Duke University Press a review (i.e. Starn; coming soon!). Naturally, this does not include the rapidly growing list of articles – classics, landmarks, and brand new publications – that I’ll need to whittle away.
Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis
Michael Kimmel, Christine Milrod, and Amanda Kennedy, eds. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2014. 251 pp.
“Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis” is a new publication (October 2014) from Rowman & Littlefield following fast on the heels of its companion “Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast” which was released in September. I’m told that they’ve been warmly received by anthropologists, as they both sold out rather quickly at the R&L booth at the meeting of the American Anthropological Association this past December in Washington DC. As a budding scholar (ahem) of global masculinities, I thought it would have been silly to not take the opportunity to review Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis, if not simply for the title and synopsis, definitely because of Michael Kimmel’s involvement. Kimmel, one of three editors (in addition to Christine Milrod and Amanda Kennedy), is one of the more well-known sociological scholars on men and masculinities in America. Of more than a dozen books on the subject, perhaps his best-known is “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys become Men,” a book that I would highly recommend for undergraduate- and graduate-level students of Gender Studies. While some of Kimmel’s work is not without some anthropological blindspots (he is not an anthropologist after all), one should be able to approach Cultural Encyclopedia (henceforth, CEP) trusting that a book written by over 90 authors would ultimately deliver on its claim to being “cultural.” It should be noted that this review is written without any knowledge of the content and style of Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast, which was edited by Merril D. Smith. Continue reading →
As 2014 comes to a close, I thought I’d take up the annual task of rounding up the best of Savage Minds and the anthroblogosphere. First, some fellow Savage Minds authors will share their favorite posts from the year. As the Around the Web curator, I’ll list the posts (from SM and elsewhere) that stood out for me. Then, I’ll show some of the submissions that we received from our readers. Finally, we’ll review some of the best blogs and articles that have provided an anthropological perspective on the 2014’s current events.
We all knew it was going to happen. For a couple weeks, we kept hearing about how the Grand Jury decision was going to happen at any moment. The governor called in the National Guard and declared a state of emergency; businesses in Clayton, MO (a small affluent suburb of St. Louis) started boarding up windows and blockading the streets. And then came Monday morning: as I left home for school, I saw the news. The city was wrapping monuments to keep them from being vandalized. As Michael Che commented on SNL: That’s like your lawyer telling you to show up to court in something orange. Continue reading →
After a couple rather dry months on the anthroblogosphere, it seems that this week anthro-bloggers have rallied (and conspired against me?) to give you, dear reader, so much content. There are so many blog entries (this doesn’t include anthropology-related news) that I can’t even read them all. I just can’t – it’s not gonna happen. We’re going to try a (‘nother) new format for cases like these – author name, title, and blog – and please let me know how you feel about it. If you have a blog article that you’d like me to share next week, please don’t hesitate to hit me up at email@example.com or on Twitter at @dtpowis.
First, some business:
Most importantly, the AAA Webinar on Ebola and Anthropology. If you missed it, do yourself a favor, watch it, show it to your classes, and talk with them about it.
Next, a petition: Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
In case you missed it, here are some of the best things provided by the internet this week. If you have something that you want me to post next week, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @dtpowis. Now go ahead a procrastinate a little.
Dr. Todd and Natalia are talking shit again. (YouTube)
Adia Benton called attention to the “race and immuno-logics” of spectators of humanitarian efforts in Ebola-afflicted regions of West Africa. (Somatosphere)
Raad Fadaak discussed the difficulty of tracking the migration of “emerging infectious disease.” (Somatosphere)
Anthony Stavrianakis responded to George Marcus’ reviews of Demands of the Day and The Accompaniment, as well as Michael Fisher’s review of the latter. (ARC)
Elizabeth Ferry described the ritual of the West Point Class Ring Memorial Melt. (CASTAC Blog)
Michael White wrote on why science might help, but it certainly won’t stop Ebola. (Pacific Standard)