I do not normally write about my duties as a professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa on this blog, since the blog isn’t associated with UHM and most of what I do in the classroom and committee meetings doesn’t belong on the Internet. But the Australian National University’s (ANU) recent decision to cut its School of Culture, History, and Language (CHL) deserves to be widely noted. This decision is not the first restructuring at Australia’s flagship university, and it will probably not be the last. But it is unique for its severity, short-sightedness, and the damage it will do to Australia’s well-earned reputation for excellence in studies of Asia and the Pacific. I would urge all readers to sign this petition to preserve the school. That said, there is one benefit to the ANU’s cuts: The increasing prestige and eminence of my university as a world center for study of Asia and the Pacific.
This is the start of a new series in the history of anthropology where I will document the way that grad school in anthropology has always sucked, there have never been jobs, and it is crazy to expect to make a living off of it. The reason is not neoliberalism, Obama, or anything else — or at least, these are not the only reasons grad school in anthropology has sucked. It is important to understand that wide variety of reasons that grad school has sucked, and the diverse methods by which people have grappled with this fact.
But my point here is not to produce another piece of quit lit. Rather, I want to add some historical depth to our sense of the chronic problems that academic anthropologists face. Anthropology, perhaps more than any other social science, has been deeply affected by the baby boom. Even today, we still live in a world where senior professors imagine there are as many job openings now as there were in 1965. We need a more expansive imagination of the challenges anthropologists have faced over the years. And, most importantly, we need to remember that there are many successful, happy survivors. Continue reading
There are a lot of things in life that can be solved with a good timeline. While most people tend to think of them as a specialized way of visualizing data, or something they learned about in elementary school, I love them. I think all my major research projects have involved creating timelines — they provide a level of organization to any project that is valuable. This could be just keeping track of when you interviewed who, or it could be to keep track of a complex case study. It could just be to keep track of when your exam papers are due. Basically, since you exist in time, the visual display of time will always be useful.
I’ve personally always been fascinated by the history of anthropology, and how telling stories about our past enables or disables certain futures for our discipline. At some point about ten years ago, I began a history of anthropology timeline and blogged about it on Savage Minds. I kept working on it, and did another post in 2010.
Since then my timeline has grown and now contains over 600 events! And in the course of doing this work, I’ve shifted between different software. After a decade of looking for Mac software to create timelines, I’ve found — and stuck with — Aeon Timeline. Continue reading
(Savage Minds is pleased to present this occasional post by Gregory Starrett, professor of anthropology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This piece is a response to Charles Hirschkind’s Savage Minds piece A Smear in Disguise: Comments on Starrett. Hirschkind was himself replying to Starrett’s essay in anthropology news, The Symbolic Violence of Choice -Rx)
I am grateful to Charles Hirschkind, whose intelligence and thoughtfulness I’ve always appreciated, for his sharp observations on my essay in Anthropology News. I argued there that voting on whether or not to have the American Anthropological Association officially approve the boycott of Israeli academic institutions was a form of symbolic violence, an occasion for the precipitation of identities through multiple calls to order. I apologize for the number of times Charles had to read the essay in order to find hidden messages which were never actually there. So I will try to articulate its point more clearly below. His own exercise in eisegesis helps immensely with that task, because it works by attributing to me a set of political positions I do not hold, thereby pointedly illustrating the process I described. Continue reading
I was saddened to learn yesterday that my friend and colleague Bernard Bate passed away. A scholar in his prime in his mid-fifties, Barney (as he was known) was a model of vitality, health, optimism. On paper, Barney’s story is straightforward: A Chicago anthropology alumn with a speciality in Tamil oratory, he taught at Yale before moving to Yale-NUS, an innovative liberal arts college in Singapore where Yale and the National University of Singapore created a unique curriculum combining Western and Eastern classical traditions. His book, Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic says a lot about Barney: It’s sly reference to Weber encapsulates the mix of playfulness and profound depth that marked Barney’s scholarship. The book is also a homage to Barney’s deep personal commitment to Tamil as a language, Madurai as a place, and to the global Tamil-speaking community.
But it is really in this YouTube clip where you can catch a sense of Barney’s remarkable personality. Asked by the interviewer what duty Tamil speakers have to preserve their language, Barney immediately turns the question around. “I wouldn’t put it like that,” he says. “What joy of preserving your language, I would say. I mean, it’s not a really a duty.” And then, switching into Tamil, he walks the walk by talking the talk, ending with the line “it’s your duty to enjoy your language.”
As an undergraduate, I was deeply impressed with Daniel Miller’s Material Culture and Mass Consumption — in fact, in one of my first published articles I used Miller’s concept of ‘forging’ (which implies both making and faking) to help understand the transformation of landowner identities around customary land registration. I’ve admired a lot of Miller’s other works as well, including Stuff, which is an accessible walk through his writings on material culture. On the other hand, I haven’t been that impressed by his work on the Internet and Digital Anthropology. I think I may be the only one who feels this way, however: UCL’s Center for Digital Anthropology (which offers an innovative MSc in Digital Anthropology) has grown from strength to strength. Of course it’s important not to reduce the center to just Miller, or to view it as the institutional expression of the personality cult surrounding him (which I know some detractors do). Miller has changed the field not only with his publications, but by creating a network of scholars with a shared outlook — a genuine movement in anthropology, not just a clique with a rigid doctrine. It’s incredibly impressive.
We might look at Miller as a consummate academic entrepreneur then, at least until today. Today the Miller and his team have turned up the volume on their project with the simultaneous release of three open access books on social media that have emerged from their global social media impact study: Social Media in an English Village, Social Media in Southeast Turkey, and How The World Changed Social Media. And a fourth volume on social media in Chile is coming in June! All open access, and all from UCL Press. You can get even more over at Why We Post, a further website of the project.
I can not speak to the quality of the works (tho if you do stop by the UCL Press site, I’d recommend Lisa Jardine’s Temptation in the Archives), which I have not read, but it’s hard to miss the impact of an event like this. It’s an incredible accomplishment I’m reminded of Mimi Ito’s Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media project, which produced not only the volume Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out, but also trained up a bevy of great scholars, including danah boyd, Patricia Lange, C.J. Pascoe, and others.
I particularly like Miller’s project because of its strong open access component. It’s great to have these pieces available. The biggest issue now is reception: In a world full of Too Much Stuff To Read, can the UCL open access volumes grab the attention of readers? Well, as we used to say on the Internet back in the nineties: I, for one, welcome our new global social media impact overlords. So this weekend why don’t you download a book or two, take a gander, and see if you think this latest piece of open access scholarship is worth spreading.
I’m in a reading group with sociologists — no, really, it’s been a good experience — and they said to me “it’s been a while since we read any ethnography, why don’t you chose the next book.” Choosing a book for a reading group is difficult : You sort of want to pick something you don’t really want to read, since the reading group will make you read it. But then after all you want to pick something you really want to read, right? Something of general interest that you need to keep up with the field, or maybe a specialist work that you absolutely need to read and haven’t yet. You know what your friends and colleagues are publishing, but then you want to chose a book that stretches your horizons and moves you out of your usual networks.
When I sat down to draw up my list of six or seven books that I really wanted to read, I found it was actually incredibly easy to do so. And as I looked over my list I thought: Damn, anthropology is pretty fracking interesting. Then I thought: well, yesterday I wrote a thousand word post about identity politics but decided not to blog it because it would just piss people off, so why don’t I at least share my reading list with the world (BTW having the covers strangely cropped like that was a complex and principled stylistic choice on my part, not a result of my failing to understand how my blogging platform handles images).
And so, without further ado, some of the most interesting and relatively recent books that I, at least, think deserve to be read: Continue reading
Today is World Anthropology Day, a global celebration of all things anthropological. The American Anthropological Association beta-tested this new holiday last year as ‘National Anthropology Day’, and we had a splendid time celebrating with delicious recipes and reminiscing about Alessandro Volta (and more). But ‘world anthropology day’ is a better fit, not only because it is more inclusive, but because it helps point out just how tight the fit is today between the world and anthropology.
Anthropology — and I’m using the term here to mean the American version of it that I practice — is just about a hundred years old. It’s been stretched, shredded, critiqued, defended, and expanded on like the Winchester Mystery House. And while there have been a lot of fair criticisms of the discipline over the years, it’s fundamental approach and findings seem more relevant than ever. Partially this is because they have stood the test of time, but partially it’s because the world of today needs them now more than ever.
At its heart, anthropology’s core finding still largely stand: Human beings are a single species. There are not naturally distinct ‘races’ some of which are superior to others. For most of history human beings have been, on the whole, connected rather than isolated — most of our customs and cultures were borrowed from other places. All human groups must meet the challenge of making a living, but our culture displays a more or less coherent degree or patterning or structure which cannot be reduced to genetic or environmental factors.
Last week marked the launch of Sapiens, a brand new website bankrolled by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The unveiling is especially welcome to those of us who think about public anthropology, since it will mean the end of Wenner-Gren’s seemingly endless social media campaign announcing that Sapiens will soon be launched. At last — after receiving five email which announce that Sapiens is not launched yet, and then invite me to click through a link to view a web page announcing that Sapiens is not launched yet — Sapiens has finally launched!
After scrupulously refusing to retweet non-news about the site, I was quit curious to see what final form Sapiens would take. So, is Sapiens worth the hype? Has a new day in public anthropology arrived? Can all other anthropology blogs now End? The short answer is that Sapiens is a major new voice in online anthropology, with a bucketload of skilled staff, quality features, and gorgeous web design. But if the Sapiens staff are hoping to transform how the public understands anthropology, they may be disappointed — this website is just one more voice in an already crowded online space. That said, with funding, legitimation, and editorial freedom from Wenner-Gren, Sapiens could make an impact in an already-crowded field.
No, it’s not the title of a whimsical new Wes Anderson movie, it’s news of changes within the American Anthropological Association’s publishing program. Ed Liebow, the executive director of the AAA (i.e. the big boss) announced in early January that Schmid will be leaving the AAA to become the Director of Publishing at the Association for Psychological Science.
I’m hardly the biggest David Bowie fan in the world, but when I heard he had passed away I knew I the news would make waves in social media. What I didn’t know was how big those waves would be. It was amazing to listen to my friends and colleagues who were old enough to remember the Bowie of the 1970s and 1980s speak about what a difference he had made in their lives. What I heard spoke not just about the musician but the man and his ideas, ideas which — yes, I’m going there — are deeply anthropological.
When people talked about Bowie, most of them emphasized the way that he “made the world safe for difference,” to use a phrase from Ruth Benedict. He told them — no, he showed them — that it was ok to be gay, confused, different, and/or changeable. For people growing up before web or mp3s Bowie’s records and casettes were visions of other, more expansive worlds.
Tolerance, pluralism, diversity are not really anthropological values. Rather, they run deep in the societies we live in: anthropology is built on top of them, not the other way around. That’s why we expect the broader societies we live in to heed our calls for social justice — and it’s why we make them. I think anthropology’s preoccupation with difference, like Bowie’s staging of it, speaks to something deeper.
I mean really: Bowie was not really someone who was merely willing to tolerate gender bending, was he? He was someone who explored the pleasures of the new, the unusual, the avant-garde, the possible. If he wrote books instead of songs, how much use would we have for Foucault? How does Guattari really measure up to Ziggy Stardust?
Bowie understood the positive power of difference — its pleasure and importance, and its kinks. He was about blurring boundaries, not sharpening them. I think all of this is something he had in common with anthropologists, who think awareness of difference makes life richer, and who recognize that the story is always more complicated and ambivalent than it first appears.
Bowie was not Ruth Benedict — that concept album, alas, never got made — but his mindset, his habitus, resonates with much of anthropology’s. It’s no surprise: Anthropology was remade by the same baby boom that produced Bowie. In these days when you can listen to songs without cover art or liner notes, there’s a danger of decontextualizing Bowie’s ouevre. So this week, let’s see if we can extend our understanding of Bowie past the 24 hour newscycle and see if we can imagine him as an anthropological thinker. It’s a stretch, and requires imagination. But I think that’s precisely what he would have wanted.
(This is the second annual posting of a short, edited snippet of pages 55-66 of Charles Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. In it Mann describes the history of Indian-European relations that existed before the arrival of the Mayflower by following the story of a single Indian, Tisquantum, and the role he played in the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving. There reality is — surprise! — a lot messier, entangled, and nasty than the normal story taught in school. If you’re not American, or just wondering what really happened to create this current celebration of over-eating and colonialism, read on! This fair use reproduction is just a small chunk of Mann’s 500+ page book. If you’d like to read more about this topic — I’d recommend buying and reading all of 1491.)
I had learned about Plymouth in school. But it was not until I was poking through the scattered references to Billington [the author’s ancestor] that it occurred to me that my ancestor, like everyone else in the colony, had voluntarily enlisted in a venture that had him arriving in New England without food or shelter six weeks before winter. Not only that, he joined a group that, so far as is known, set off with little idea of where it was heading. In Europe, the Pilgrims had refused to hire the experienced John Smith as a guide, on the theory that they could use the maps in his book. In consequence, as Smith later crowed, the hapless Mayflower spent several frigid weeks scouting around Cape Cod for a good place to land, during which time many colonists became sick and died. Landfall at Patuxet did not end their problems. The colonists had intended to produce their own food, but inexplicably neglected to bring any cows, sheep, mules, or horses. To be sure, the Pilgrims had intended to make most of their livelihood not by farming but by catching fish for export to Britain. But the only fishing gear the Pilgrims brought was useless in New England. Half of the 102 people on the Mayflower made it through the first winter, which to me seemed amazing. How did they survive?
In his history of Plymouth colony, Governor Bradford himself provides one answer: robbing Indian houses and graves. The Mayflower hove to first at Cape Cod. An armed company of Pilgrims staggered out. Eventually they found a deserted Indian habitation. The newcomers—hungry, cold, sick—dug open burial sites and ransackedhomes, looking for underground stashes of food. After two days of nervous work the company hauled ten bushels of maize back to the Mayflower, carrying much of the booty in a big metal kettle the men had also stolen. “And sure it was God’s good providence that we found this corn,” Winslow wrote, “for else we know not how we should have done.”…
Inexperienced in agriculture, the Pilgrims were also not woods-people; indeed, they were so incurious about their environment that Bradford felt obliged to comment in his journal when Francis Billington, my ancestors son, climbed to the top of a tall tree to look around. As Thoreau noted with disgust, the colonists landed at Plymouth on December 16, but it was not until January 8 that one ofthem went as far away as two miles — and even then the traveler was, again, Francis Billington. …
Huddled in their half-built village that first terrible winter, the colonists rarely saw the area’s inhabitants, except for the occasional shower of brass- or claw-tipped arrows. After February, glimpses andsightings became more frequent. Scared, the Pilgrims hauled five small cannons from the Mayflower and emplaced them in a defensive fortification. But after all the anxiety, their first contact with Indianswent surprisingly easily. Within days Tisquantum [and Indian who had previously visited England] came to settle among them. And then they heard his stories.
No record survives of Tisquantum’s first journey across theAtlantic, but arithmetic gives some hint of the conditions in Hunt’s [who had captured Tisquantum] ship. John Smith had arrived with two ships and a crew of forty-five. If the two ships had been of equal size, Hunt would have sailed with a crew of about twenty-two. Because Hunt, Smith’s subordinate, had the smaller of the two vessels, the actual number was surely less.Adding twenty or more captured Indians thus meant that the ship wassailing with at least twice its normal complement. Tisquantum would have been tied or chained, to prevent rebellion, and jammed into whatever dark corner of the hull was available. Presumably he was fed from the ship’s cargo of dried fish. Smith took six weeks to cross theAtlantic to England. There is no reason to think Hunt went faster. The only difference was that he took his ship to Malaga, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. There he intended to sell all of his cargo, including the human beings.
The Indians’ appearance in this European city surely caused a stir. Not long before, Shakespeare had griped in The Tempest that the populace of the much bigger city of London “would not give a doit [a small coin] to a lame beggar, [but] will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.” Hunt managed to sell only a few of his captives before local Roman Catholic priests seized the rest—the Spanish Church vehemently opposed brutality toward Indians… The priests intended to save both Tisquantum’s body, by preventing his enslavement, and his soul, by converting him to Christianity… In any case,this resourceful man convinced them to let him return home — or, rather, to try to return. He got to London, where he stayed with John Slany, a shipbuilder with investments in Newfoundland. Slany apparently taught Tisquantum English while maintaining him as a curiosityin his townhouse. Meanwhile, Tisquantum persuaded him to arrange for passage to North America on a fishing vessel. He ended up in a tiny British fishing camp on the southern edge of Newfoundland. It was on the same continent as Patuxet [Tisquantim’s home], but between them were a thousand miles of rocky coastline and the Mi’Kmac and Abenaki alliances,which were at war with one another.
Because traversing this unfriendly territory would be difficult, Tisquantum began looking for a ride to Patuxet. He extolled the bounty of New England to Thomas Dermer, one of Smith’s subordinates, who was then staying in the same camp. Dermer, excited by Tisquantum’s promise of easy wealth, contacted Ferdinando Gorges. Gorges, a longtime, slightly dotty enthusiast about the Americas, promised to send over a ship with the men, supplies, and legal papers necessary for Dermer to take a crack at establishing a colony in New England… On May 19, 1619, still accompanied by Tisquantum, he [Dermer] set out for Massachusetts…
What Tisquantum saw on his return home was unimaginable. From southern Maine to Narragansett Bay, the coast was empty – “utterly void,” Dermer reported. What had once been a line of busy communities was now a mass of tumbledown homes and untended fields overrun by blackberries. Scattered among the houses and fields were skeletons bleached by the sun. Slowly Dermer’s crew realized they were sailing along the border of a cemetery two hundred miles long and forty miles deep. Patuxet had been hit [by Western-introduced diseases] with special force. Not a single person remained. Tisquantum’s entire social world had vanished.
Looking for his kinsfolk, he led Dermer on a melancholy march inland. The settlements they passed lay empty to the sky but full of untended dead. Tisquantum’s party finally encountered some survivors, a handful of families in a shattered village. These people sent for Massasoit, who appeared, Dermer wrote, “with a guard of fiftie armed men” — and a captive French sailor, a survivor of the shipwreck on Cape Cod. Massasoit asked Dermer to send back the Frenchman. And then he told Tisquantum what had happened.
One of the French sailors had learned enough Massachusett to inform his captors before dying that God would destroy them for their misdeeds. The Nauset scoffed at the threat. But the Europeans carried a disease, and they bequeathed it to their jailers. Based on accounts of the symptoms, the epidemic was probably of viral hepatitis… Whatever the cause, the results were ruinous. TheIndians “died in heapes as they lay in their houses,” the merchant Thomas Morton observed. In their panic, the healthy fled from the sick, carrying the disease with them to neighboring communities. Behind them remained the dying, “left for crows, kites, and vermin to prey upon.” Beginning in 1616, the pestilence took at least three years to exhaust itself and killed as much as 90 percent of the people in coastal New England. “And the bones and skulls upon the severall places of their habitations made such a spectacle,” Morton wrote,that the Massachusetts woodlands seemed to be “a new-found Golgotha,” the Place of the Skull, where executions took place in Roman Jerusalem.
The religious overtones in Morton’s metaphor are well placed. Neither the Indians nor the Pilgrims had our contemporary understanding of infectious disease. Each believed that sickness reflected the will of celestial forces… Until the sickness Massasoit had directly ruled a community of several thousand and held sway over a confederation of as many as twenty thousand. Now his group was reduced to sixty people and the entire confederation to fewer than a thousand. “The Wampanoag,” wrote Salisbury, the Smith historian, “came to the obvious logical conclusion: ‘their deities had allied against them.’”
The Pilgrims held similar views. Governor Bradford is said to have attributed the plague to “the good hand of God,” which “favored our beginnings” by “sweeping away great multitudes of the natives . . .that he might make room for us.” Indeed, more than fifty of the first colonial villages in New England were located on Indian communities emptied by disease. The epidemic, Gorges said, left the land “without any [people] to disturb or appease our free and peaceable possession thereof, from when we may justly conclude, that GOD made the way to effect his work.”
Much as the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which killed tens of thousands in one of Europe’s richest cities, prompted spiritual malaise across Europe, the New England epidemic shattered the Wampanoag’s sense that they lived in balance with an intelligible world. On top of that, the massive death toll created a political crisis. Because the hostility between the Wampanoag and the neighboring Narraganset thad restricted contact between them, the disease had not spread to the latter. Massasoit’s people were not only beset by loss, they were in danger of subjugation.
After learning about the epidemic, the distraught Tisquantum first returned with Dermer to southern Maine. Apparently concluding he was never going to meet Rowcraft, Dermer decided in 1620 to make another pass at New England. Tisquantum returned, too, but not with Dermer. Instead he walked home—the long, risky journey he had wanted to avoid… Tisquantum was seized on his journey home, perhaps because of his association with the hated English, and sent to Massasoit as a captive.
As he had before, Tisquantum talked his way out of a jam. This time he extolled the English, filling Massasoit’s ears with tales of their cities, their great numbers, their powerful technology. Tisquantum said, according to a colonist who knew him, that if the sachem “Could make [the] English his Friends then [any] Enemies yt weare to[o]strong for him”—in other words, the Narragansett—“would be Constrained to bowe to him.” The sachem listened without trust. Within a few months, word came that a party of English had set up shop at Patuxet. The Wampanoag observed them suffer through the first punishing winter. Eventually Massasoit concluded that he possibly should ally with them — compared to the Narragansett, they were the lesser of two evils. Still, only when the need for a translator became unavoidable did he allow Tisquantum to meet the Pilgrims.
Massasoit had considerable experience with Europeans—his father had sent Martin Pring on his way seventeen years before. But that was before the epidemic, when Massasoit had the option of expelling them. Now he told the Pilgrims that he was willing to leave them in peace (a bluff, one assumes, since driving them away would have taxed his limited resources). But in return he wanted the colonists’ assistance with the Narragansett.
To the Pilgrims, the Indians’ motives for the deal were obvious. They wanted European technology on their side. In particular, they wanted guns. “He thinks we may be [of] some strength to him,”Winslow said later, “for our pieces [guns] are terrible to them.”
In fact Massasoit had a subtler plan. It is true that European technology dazzled Native Americans on first encounter. But the relative positions of the two sides were closer than commonly believed. Contemporary research suggests that indigenous peoples in New England were not technologically inferior to the British—or, rather, that terms like “superior” and “inferior” do not readily apply to the relationship between Indian and European technology.
Guns are an example. As Chaplin, the Harvard historian, has argued, New England Indians were indeed disconcerted by their first experiences with European guns: the explosion and smoke, the lack of a visible projectile. But the natives soon learned that most of the British were terrible shots, from lack of practice—their guns were little more than noisemakers. Even for a crack shot, a seventeenth-century gun had fewer advantages over a longbow than may be supposed. Colonists in Jamestown taunted the Powhatan in 1607 with a target they believed impervious to an arrow shot. To the colonists’ dismay, an Indian sank an arrow into it a foot deep, “which was strange, being that a Pistoll could not pierce it.” To regain the upper hand, the English set up a target made of steel. This time the archer “burst his arrow all to pieces.” The Indian was “in a great rage”; he realized, one assumes, that the foreigners had cheated. When the Powhatan later captured John Smith, Chaplin notes, Smith broke his pistol rather than reveal to his captors “the awful truth that it could not shoot as far as an arrow could fly.”
At the same time, Europeans were impressed by American technology. The foreigners, coming from a land plagued by famine, were awed by maize, which yields more grain per acre than any other cereal. Indian moccasins were so much more comfortable and water-proof than stiff, moldering English boots that when colonists had to walk for long distances their Indian companions often pitied their discomfort and gave them new footwear. Indian birchbark canoes were faster and more maneuverable than any small European boat. In 1605 three laughing Indians in a canoe literally paddled circles round the lumbering dory paddled by traveler George Weymouth and seven other men. Despite official disapproval, the stunned British eagerly exchanged knives and guns for Indian canoes. Bigger European ships with sails had some advantages. Indians got hold of them through trade and shipwreck, and trained themselves to be excellent sailors. By the time of the epidemic, a rising proportion of the shipping traffic along the New England coast was of indigenous origin.
Reading Massasoit’s motives at this distance is a chancy business. But it seems likely that he did not want to ally with the foreigners primarily for their guns, as they believed. Although the sachem doubtless relished the possibility of additional firepower, he probably wanted more to confront the Narragansett with the unappetizing prospect of attacking one group of English people at the same time that their main trading partners were other English people. Faced with the possibility of disrupting their favored position as middlemen, the Narragansett might think twice before staging an incursion. Massasoit, if this interpretation is correct, was trying to incorporate the Pilgrims into the web of native politics. Not long before Massasoit had expelled foreigners who stayed too long in Wampanoag territory. But with the entire confederation now smaller than one of its former communities, the best option seemed to be allowing the Pilgrims to remain. It was a drastic, even fatal, decision.
Tisquantum worked to prove his value to the Pilgrims. He was so successful that when some anti-British Indians abducted him the colonists sent out a military expedition to get him back. They did not stop to ask themselves why he might be making himself essential, given how difficult it must have been to live in the ghost of his childhood home. In retrospect, the answer seems clear: the alternative to staying in Plymouth was returning to Massasoit and renewed captivity.
Recognizing that the Pilgrims would be unlikely to keep him around forever, Tisquantum decided to gather together the few survivors of Patuxet and reconstitute the old community at a site near Plymouth. More ambitious still, he hoped to use his influence on the English to make this new Patuxet the center of the Wampanoag confederation, thereby stripping the sachemship from Massasoit, who had held him captive. To accomplish these goals, he intended to play the Indians and English against each other.
The scheme was risky, not least because the ever-suspicious Massasoit sent one of his pniese [a warrior-counselor], Hobamok, to Plymouth as a monitor… Sometimes the two men were able to work together, as when Hobamok and Tisquantum helped the Pilgrims negotiate a treaty with the Massachusett to the north. They also helped establish a truce with the Nauset of Cape Cod after Bradford promised to pay back the losses caused by their earlier grave robbing.
By fall the settlers’ situation was secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. Massasoit showed up with ninety people, most of them young men with weapons. The Pilgrim militia responded by marching around and firing their guns in the air in a manner intended to convey menace. Gratified, both sides sat down, ate a lot of food, and complained about the Narragansett. Ecce Thanksgiving.
Last week, Denver welcomed about five thousand anthropologists to its Gilded Age (and Gilded Age revival) downtown for the massive anthropological blowout that was the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. So what were the main trends of the meetings? Well, in no particular order they were:
The Bibs: This year’s membership badges were, well, slightly larger and redder than they were in the past. I think that the goal was to reduce plastic waste, since the badges were made of cloth. That was a great goal and I think it was well-achieved, and if bibs are the future then that’s fine with me. But… yeah…
Another feature of the badges was a QR code, which could be used to scan your fellow anthropologists. No one I know actually tried to scan anyone else — most people I talked to feared what they would learn. However, according to AAA material, in the future being labeled with a QR code will enable us to participate in ‘scavenger hunts’. That’s right: scavenger hunts. The mind boggles. Continue reading
Welcome to Denver! If you are like me, you will be disappointed by the failure of the AAA to foreground the Mile High City as the location of timeless classic Mork and Mindy. But you don’t be disappointed by the ridonculous amount of panels on offer. Savage Minds has a lot going on this AAA, so I hope you’ll join us at some of our events.
The two most important things to come to are:
The Savage Minds/HAU/University of Chicago Press Party.
Saturday, November 21st, 9:00 p.m.
Stout Street Social
1400 Stout Street, Denver, Colorado
We are going to rock and roll all night and party every day, so come join us. Secondly, to celebrate our blog’s 10th anniversary, we will be having throwing the panel
The Internet and Anthropology: Ten Years of Savage Minds
Saturday, November 21, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Centennial F (Hyatt Regency)
So grab a cup of coffee and come participate in the session where we’ll talk about where we think the blog and anthropology have been, and where it will go in the future. We’ll need some help with that last bit, so if you have any ideas please come share them!
Finally, many of our minds have their own sessions and papers underway. Here is some of what we are doing:
Ryan Anderson is giving the paper “The Life and Death of Cabo Cortes: Social Movements and the Politics of Tourism Development on the East Cape of Baja California Sur, Mexico” as part of the panel “Negotiating Collective Action: Dynamics of Social Movements as Shifting Spaces of Political Action”. Thursday, November 19, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM 709 (Colorado Convention Center)
Kerim Friedman has organized the session “Teaching Language and Culture: Approaches from World Anthropologies”. Thursday, November 19, 2015: 10:15 AM-12:00 PM Centennial B (Hyatt Regency)
Maia Green has organized a session “The Productivity of Regulation: Ethnographies of Alignment and Citizenships” Thursday, November 19, 2015: 10:15 AM-12:00 PM. 707 (Colorado Convention Center)
Alex Golub is giving the paper “Answerability, Acknowledgement, and the Unknowable: Anthropological Entanglements with the Mining Industry and the Work of Dan Jorgensen” at the session “Cults, Christians, and Copper on the Global Frontier: Engaging the Anthropology of Dan Jorgensen”. Thursday, November 19, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM 704 (Colorado Convention Center)
Carole McGranahan is organizing the panel “Theory in (Himalayan) Anthropology Since the Eighties”. Saturday, November 21, 2015: 10:15 AM-12:00 PM 405 (Colorado Convention Center)
Rebecca Nelson is organizing the panel “Unexpected Spaces of Feminist Practice?: Producing Latin American and Carribean Feminisms from the Margin” Thursday, November 19, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM 604 (Colorado Convention Center). She’s also giving the paper “Tensions Between Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Management in a Guatemalan Volunteer Tourism Program” for the panel “Rethinking Cosmopolitanism: Tourism and Tourists in a Post-Hegelian Age” Thursday, November 19, 2015: 10:15 AM-12:00 PM 604 (Colorado Convention Center).
Dick Powis is giving the paper “Men as Men: Toward a New Couvade” in the panel “Proper Births, Proper Parent” Wednesday, November 18, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
608 (Colorado Convention Center).
AAA is a busy time, but why not stop by some of our events and meet our bloggers in the flesh? It should be fun!