The folks at Allegra drew some attention on the Internet recently with their fish out of water story of visiting the AAA annual meetings in Chicago last year. I ran into the main authors of the site, Miia and Julie, in Chicago and was blown away ( ‘wilted under’ would be a better description) by their energy and enthusiasm. So what is Allegra? How does a website manage to be ‘deadly serious’ ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and ‘sexy’ all at the same time? How does it fit into the Internetoblogosphere? We sat down together for a (virtual) interview recently so they could tell me about their site.
Last night I received an email announcing that Gerald Berreman passed away on December 23rd. I never met him, and his work on India and the Himalayas was far outside of my fieldwork in the Pacific. But I — and everyone else — deserve to remember Berreman not only because of his ethnographic work, but because he was one of the first generation of anthropologists to politicize anthropology in the late sixties and early seventies.
If you are interested in learning more about Berreman, you may want to check out two of his better-known articles, both of which have been posted online at his website: “Anemic and Emetic Analyses in Social Anthropology” and “Is Anthropology Alive? Social Responsibility in Social Anthropology“. We have a new generation of anthropologists who know not Berreman, not this influential work doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
Savage Minds is currently seeking a volunteer to join our crew to help Rex with community outreach. This internship (if that’s not too fancy a name for it) will run from late January to early May, with a possibility of extension. Duties may include: comment moderation, interview transcription, handling correspondence with publishers, and posting on social media such as facebook and twitter.
SM plans to provide mentoring and training to our volunteers, which will may also include readings (on for instance, comment moderation, best practices for transcription, etc.) We expect this job to take 3-10 hours a week, depending on how interested you are and how busy we become. I’d really like to use it to go beyond comment moderation to expand what we are doing to include more interviews, podcasts, syllabi collections, and other things that we just don’t have the cycles for at the moment.
No one at Savage Minds is paid to work on the site, so you won’t be either. At the end of the internship, however, we will be willing to provide a letter of recommendation for job or grant applications. If you hit it off well with us, then there is also the possibility of joining us as a blogger.
We imagine these positions will appeal to a graduate student or aspiring undergraduate anthropology major. However, pretty much any one can apply if they want to.
Savage Minds is strongly committed to increasing the diversity of our Minds, and we are particularly interested in receiving applications from people who are not White Men.
We will soon post another call for volunteers for a position to work with Matt Thompson. You can apply for both positions if you like.
Send a CV, contact details of three personal references, and a short (no more than a page) bio describing who you are and why you’d be good for the job to email@example.com. The application deadline is next Friday, January 17th.
Good morning everyone. As promised, I’ve changed the discussion settings on our blog. Everyone who wants to post comments will now have to register with the site (you can do this with preexisting credentials, such as twitter or WP). Pseudonyms are fine. All comments will now be manually approved by me (or, in the future, an intern) before they appear on the site, and they must follow our existing comment policy (which you can find in the header of our site). I expect 90% of the comments submitted will be approved, but please be patient if it takes a little bit — especially if you post during the Hawai‘ian evening. If I feel your comments are in violation of our comment policy, I will do my best to send them back to you to explain how they don’t meet it. That way you can resubmit and have your comments appear. Thanks for your patience, everyone.
Happy 2014 everyone! We have a number of improvements and expansions planned for Savage Minds that we’ll roll out as the year goes forward. Today I’m announcing the first one: we will be revamping the comments policy on our site.
For years we’ve felt that the comments section of the blog were, well, toxic is pretty much the word that comes to mind. We never really had a solution to this problem because different Minds had different senses of how severe the problem was, and because solutions took cycles that most of us didn’t have. This semester, however, I am finally taking the plunge and am dedicating myself full-time to moderating all comments.
My goal is to create a vibrant, civil, inclusive space where genuine discussion about anthropology can occur, and where anyone — professor, grad student, or random passer-by — can participate. Creating this community has always been central to our vision of the blog, but had fallen by the wayside. We’re bringing it back.
In the next week I’ll be announcing a new comment policy. We’re still working out the kinks, but essentially, I will personally be moderating all SM posts. Every commentor will have to register with our site, and all comments will be moderated by me before they are posted. I am also planning to ask for a volunteer/intern to work with me on comment moderation, as well as other aspects of the site. There’ll be endless thanks (and a letter of recommendation) for the person who comes on board to help.
I’ll be posting more of this soon. If you want to provide comments about the new comment policy before it comes into effect, now’s your chance.
This number of the Savage Minds Occasional Paper Series features Ruth Benedict’s “anthropology and the humanities.” This piece is the published version of the lecture Benedict delivered for her presidential address at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological association in 1947. In this piece, one of the last she wrote before she passed away, she argues that anthropologists can benefit from drawing on the methods of the humanities in addition to scientific methods. Benedict’s argument is worth examining in its own terms, but it is also worth reading between the lines of her essay. In making her case for the humanities, Benedict implicitly describes anthropology’s core values. This piece is valuable, then, not only for its argument about the humanities, but because it gives us a summary of what one of our foundational figures considered the essence of anthropology to be.
To be honest, I was surprised how much attention Peter O’Toole’s recent passing received. We all knew he was famous, but we also learned this week how deeply he was loved. Many people loved him because he had that one thing that is so hard to find in the entertainment industry today: charisma. But anthropologists loved him for something else: Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence of Arabia is central to anthropology, and ought to be more even more central than it is. It is about fieldwork, intimacy, impersonation, and colonialism. It puts on display the complexity, ambivalence, and often ugliness that comes with anthropological fieldwork.
There has been a lot of talk around the Internet recently about Elsevier taking down PDFs of articles on academia.edu and what it says about scholarly publishing (my favorite analysis is here). As an open access advocate my sympathies in this case are, actually, with Elsevier. Here’s why:
This week’s Savage Minds Occasional Paper (SMOPS) is Edward Sapir’s “Culture in the Melting-Pot”. In this brief piece, Sapir asks: What would it mean to have a uniquely, authentically American culture? One free from its roots in Europe and anchored in the lived reality of Americans? This is just as pressing a question when Edward Sapir addressed it in 1916 as it is in today’s era of reactionary conservatism. But in truth, the points raised in Sapir’s brief comment are relevant to any settler colony, and hence is of interest far beyond the United States.
Most attendees of the annual meetings in Chicago are, as one wag put it, exhAAAusted from all our conference going, and the dust is only now settling. As we look back on the conference, however, it is worth asking what actually happened there. Different people will have different answers to this question, but for me and the people in my scholarly network, the big answer is: ontology.
The term was not everywhere at the AAAs, but it was used consistently, ambitiously, audaciously, and almost totally unironically to offer anthropology something that it (supposedly) hasn’t had in a long time: A massive infusion of theory that will alter our paradigm, create a shift in the field that everyone will feel and which will orient future work, and that will allow us, once again, to ask big questions. To be honest, as someone who had been following ‘ontological anthropology’ for the past couple of years, I was sort of expecting it to not get much traction in the US. But the successful branding of the term and the cultural capital attached to it may prove me wrong yet.
In fact, there were just two major events with the world ontology in the title: the “Politics of Ontology” roundtable and the blowout “The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology”. But these events were full of ‘stars’ and attracted plenty of attention.
Will this amount to anything? What is ontology anyway? Were there other themes that were more dominant in the conference? I don’t have any answers to these questions yet, but I hope to soon and will let you figure it out when I do. If you get there before me, then fire away in the comments section and we’ll see what people think.
James Scott’s work drives me nuts, but there is no doubt about it: his review of Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday is one of the best is one of the best that has been written, and deserves a wide audience.
Really? Thirty bucks for the kindle version of Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century? C’mon.
This number of the Savage Minds Occasional Paper Series presents an edited version of Edward Sapir’s essay “Culture, Genuine and Spurious.” “Culture, Genuine and Spurious” is worth reading for several reasons: it demonstrates the way anthropological theory can be applied to ethical issues; it exemplifies the way Boasians founded public anthropology by weighing in on the great issues of their day alongside cultural critics like Randolph Bourne or George Seldes; it gives us insights into the opinions of Boasians on cultural imperialism and the exploitation of labor; and above all, it presents us with a set of questions — and answers — that are as relevant today as they were eighty years ago.
This week’s SMOPS paper is Robert Lowie’s book Culture and Ethnology, which I have cut down to 19 pages. Robert Lowie was one of the most polemical of the Boasians — the phrase ‘attack dog’ has been used, I believe — and is remembered today for many things: his role in creating the Berkeley department of anthropology, his ethnography of the Crow, and his work on the nascent field of kinship studies. Undoubtedly, however, it Lowie’s defense of Boasian orthodoxy that stands out. In his book Primitive Society he forcefully repudiated the Victorian evolutionary theorists that Boas opposed, and towards the end of his life he sparred with Leslie White in the pages of American Anthropologist over the prospects of a revised evolutionary perspective. His undeservedly under-read The History of Ethnological Theory has moments that resemble some sort of Victorian Twitter flipout…
This week’s SMOPS is an edited version of Kroeber’s “A History of the Personality of Anthropology,” a piece which Kroeber wrote very late in his life. In it, Kroeber lays down his vision of anthropology’s unique outlook. In one striking passage, he describes anthropology as a ‘changeling’ discipline. Changelings are, in European folklore, elf or fairy children who are brought up by human parents who are unaware of their child’s true nature. The child of natural science on the one hand and the humanities on the other, Kroeber sees anthropology as ill at ease in its adopted home of the social science.
This paper is worthwhile because it conveys in a few short pages some of the fundamental instincts of American cultural anthropology. It will be useful for teachers who need a text to use as the basis for a lecture on anthropology’s outlook. Of course, the piece itself could also simply be assigned. Anthropologists from other national traditions will benefit from this thumbnail sketch of the American outlook, as will non-anthropologists looking for a nontechnical explanation of how anthropologists look at the world.