Greg Grandin’s new book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World has garnered a lot of attention, with reviews in almost every major American news outlet. It is truly a remarkable tour de force, doing something much modern anthropology seeks to do but rarely does satisfactorily: it portrays the complex interconnectedness of things with elegance and grace. Continue reading
For some reason, since we launched the new site, our security software was preventing people from leaving comments. That should be fixed now. Sorry about that!
Also, we previously posted that people would have to register to leave comments. That is not the case. In fact, we’ve turned off the feature that let people register and deleted most of the new registrations from this week because we were getting hundreds of SPAM users registering for the site. You can use your WordPress.com, Facebook, or Twitter account to leave comments, or simply enter any valid email address. (We will monitor this policy and change it if needed.)
Please let us know if you are having any problems that are making it difficult for you to use the site. Right now we are focused on squashing critical bugs. If you have more general feedback (good or bad) about the design, feel free to leave that as well, but please note that we won’t be making any major revisions to the new design till this summer.
Since we launched Savage Minds in 2005 the only time there were ads on this site was the short time last year between when we moved to WordPress.com for hosting and when we paid to turn them off. We apologize for that. The fact is that most of us use ad-blocking software so we didn’t notice the ads until they were pointed out to us and then we promptly got rid of them. We don’t intend to put ads here, and — even though we all put in a lot of work (and money) behind the scenes to keep the site going — we aren’t asking for your support…
OK, enough with the “we.” Although this is a group site and we make all major decisions (including posting this request) together, this is very personal for me. For the past three months I’ve been working non-stop behind the scenes to move to a new server, restore the archives, and redesign the site. If you paid a professional to do this kind of work it would cost at least $2,000, and maybe as much as four times that. I did it because I care about this site. If you also value this site and the work that goes into it, I’d like to ask you to support an organization that is very important to me: Budhan Theatre.
Because our archives were lost to the internet for the past year a lot of great content has been offline. (Google is now slowly re-indexing all of it.) If you just started following Savage Minds recently and would like a quick overview of our best posts for the past seven years, please take a quick look at our annual highlights. These are our yearly end-of-the-year round-ups which highlight our best content from each year. We started doing these in 2006, so we don’t have one for our first year, 2005, but it’s otherwise pretty comprehensive. Enjoy!
Since 2005 over a
hundred and thirty sixty people have blogged on Savage Minds. (And another 44 have written “invited posts.”) We have email addresses for most of them, but not all, and some people may have changed their email address, so the easiest way I know to reach everyone is by posting this here. Hopefully they still read the site! (Everyone else feel free to ignore this post.)
As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, we are getting ready for some big changes around here. To ensure that everything goes smoothly, we will be taking the site offline sometime on Friday evening (Eastern Standard Time). If all goes well, the site should be back up early Saturday morning with the new layout and the restored archives in place. I’ll keep this post active as a place for you to post your reactions (good or bad) to the new site, as well as for catching any bugs in the code.
UPDATE: Welcome to the new/old site! It is new because we have a fresh new look, and it is old because all our archives going back to 2005 have been restored. We are still working on ironing out a few things here and there, so please let us know if anything is broken, not working, or not to your liking. And if you like the new site, please don’t hold back from sharing your praise!
I’m not going to link to a certain New York Times columnist who inspired this post. His piece about how there are no good public intellectuals anymore is a pathetic attempt to troll the academic community. He clearly doesn’t read widely enough to know better. Or he does, but he chooses to pretend otherwise. I do, however, want to say something about anthropologists as public intellectuals. It may be an obvious point, but it is something I think all too often gets overlooked when we have these discussions. The thing is, anthropology is full of public intellectuals. You see anthropologists across all different forms of media, from leading newspapers to blogs, to local talk radio. You see anthropologists working on behalf of communities all around the world as well as working as bridges between communities. And you see anthropologists working daily with the large portion of the public that is in school, training the next generation of public intellectuals.
The filmmakers behind one of my favorite ethnographic films from last year, ManDove, are not professional anthropologists, but you’d never know that from watching this insightful, sensitive portrait of Indonesia’s National Perkutut Championship — a singing competition for doves. In fact, Kian Tjong, who made the film with his partner Jim de Sève, calls himself “a self-taught anthropologist and sociologist” and so it is only the lack of some institutional stamp of approval which prevents me from referring to him as a “professional” anthropologist…
The official synopsis for ManDove does a good job of setting up the story:
To be a real man, one must have a wife, a house, a horse, a dagger and a singing dove. – Javanese traditional wisdom
Three big announcements…
Founded in 2005, Savage Minds is now nine years old. Our current design is a default WordPress template I used when our original (more colorful) theme somehow got corrupted, preventing Google from indexing our site. Then our site went down again about a year ago when our hosting company decided it didn’t want to honor a promise made by a smaller company it had bought-out. This was a terrible crisis for us as we somehow hadn’t backed up the site in years, falsely believing that our host was keeping adequate backups on our behalf. Unsure of what to do next, we threw this temporary site up on WordPress.com, using the same generic template we’d been using before. Now all that is about to change, and a number of other things as well.
Winner of the SVA’s Jean Rouch Award in 2012, Stori Tumbuna is the only ethnographic film I can think of for which one has to watch out for “spoilers.” Indeed, what starts off as a seemingly generic ethnographic film soon turns into a Blair Witch-esque horror film. Despite the title of this post, I don’t intend to write any spoilers —I really don’t want to ruin for anyone the pleasure I felt watching this film the first time — but there really is only so much I can say about the film without giving too much away… The story is so well crafted and shifts gears so subtly from ethnography to horror that the discerning and suspicious viewer will likely find themselves caught up in the excitement without even noticing the switch.
In the first of what I hope to be several reviews of ethnographic and documentary films, I want to write about Hu Tai-li’s excellent film Returning Souls. This film will be of interest to anyone teaching about museum anthropology, repatriation, and indigenous rights. Filmed over eight years, the story it covers goes back forty years to a typhoon in 1958 which destroyed an indigenous ancestral house in the Amis village of Tafalong, about forty minutes south of where I live in Taiwan.
While Amis are generally egalitarian, the owners of this house, the Kakita’an family, had a special place in the village, and their house “is the only recorded structure with carved pillars” among the Amis (from the study guide – PDF). While aristocratic families and carved pillars are common among the Paiwan, they are not otherwise known among the Amis.
As many of you know, our blog title comes from Lévi-Strauss’s book Pensée Sauvage, translated in English as The Savage Mind, but which is a pun on the French word for “wild pansies” (viola tricolor). We are now working on a redesign of our website and I’ve been spending a lot of my time searching Google for good images of wild pansies that we could use for our banner.
The image on the blog sidebar right now is the one that was on the cover of Lévi-Strauss’s book. It is by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to find high-resolution scans of this image in the public-domain. I have found some other botanical illustrations that I like, but was still looking when I discovered the work of Count Franz Pocci, who painted this delightful painting, which I just had to share with everyone:
I usually try to avoid ranting about my pet-peeves, but I just gotta get this one off my chest: what’s up with leftist academics criticizing a theory for being “disempowering”? I don’t even know where to begin with such criticism. It is as if someone, upon learning of such a theory, would be so overwhelmed by the inevitability of domination that they simply give up trying to make the world a better place. Has this ever happened to someone? Really?!
Since restoring the old site was taking so long, we took the plunge and paid WordPress.com the $100 to be able to use our old domain here, it also gets rid of the ads which were bothering us. (We’ve always been ad-free.) We still haven’t been able to restore our old posts, and we are still working on moving the site to our own self-hosted account, but all that will take much longer than we thought. Till then, we didn’t feel it was necessary to constantly advertise that this was a temporary site. If you have any problems using the site as a result of the changes, please let us know.
UPDATE: Rebecca Schuman has come under fierce attack for her article, including calls that she be fired. Please see this letter of support.
Rebecca Schuman has a piece in Slate which is getting a lot of attention. Titled “The End of the College Essay: An essay” she complains that “It wastes 15 hours of my time to mark up my students’ flaccid theses and non sequitur textual ‘evidence’” especially when plagiarism is so rampant and the students who actually read comments are the ones who need them the least, etc. She is quick to add that “Of course it would be better for humanity if college in the United States actually required a semblance of adult writing competency.” But insists that she has tried everything, all to no avail. In the end, she offers up some alternatives to writing papers, such as written and oral exams. It is an intentionally provocative piece, and I’d like to make use of this provocation by making a few points drawn from my personal experience as well as some more general observations based on things I’ve read.