All posts by Ryan

Ryan Anderson is an environmental and economic anthropologist. His current research focuses on the social dynamics of coastal development and conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the department of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

The Taste of Nostalgia: Vanishing Flavors from the Ancestral Japanese Village

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Next in line for the Anthropologies #22 Food Issue, we have this essay by Christopher Laurent. He is currently a Cultural Anthropology doctoral candidate at the University of Montreal in Quebec Canada. Laurent’s research primarily focuses on regional food revival in Japan. Check out his blog Chanko Food, and look for him on Twitter: @SFchanko –R.A.

On a vernal Sunday morning, I meet with a group of retired women to travel to the mountains of rural Kochi in Japan. The day is overcast, yet the drive outside the city is pleasant with patches of flowering trees dotting the side of the road. We reach a small windy lane wide enough for one small car. Mitani sensei, the driver, tells me that the road did not exist when she was younger and the trip had to be made on foot. We reach her hometown, a hamlet, also called Mitani where we came to collect wild mountain vegetables called sansai. For many in Japan, spring evokes recollections of a peculiar grassy bitterness that can only be found in these wild mountain greens. This bitter taste is one that Japanese people seek as it reminds them of seasonal flavors from times immemorial. The aim of this essay is precisely to uncover the relationship that exists between unique flavors of the past and the elusive sentiment of nostalgia. Continue reading

Local Food, Process, and Social Change

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

The next installment of the Anthropologies #22 Issue on food comes from Allison Perrett, who is part of the Local Food Research Center and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. –R.A.

In 2007, I moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina to conduct research for my doctorate in applied anthropology and begin my immersion in an initiative to build a local food system through the efforts of one particular organization, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). Nearly 10 years later, I’m still here. I co-direct the work of Local Food Research Center, the research arm of the organization that is looking at what happens when we localize food systems and more specifically at the actions we need to take so that local food system building creates the economic, environmental, and social changes we imagine are possible through this process.

Ten years ago one of the first meetings I attended at ASAP was around the development of a local food brand, Appalachian Grown™. With a group of farmers and other entrepreneurs making value-added products with locally-sourced ingredients, we met one afternoon to talk about brand qualities and standards. As we were waiting for members of the group to arrive, I took the opportunity to ask Greg[1] one of the organizers at ASAP, “So what production standards will the logo stand for?” His response was “none.”  To further clarify my understanding of the purpose of the brand, I asked, “So other than the location where it was grown, what will the brand stand for?”  In reply, he said, “Well, the logo will brand food grown on family farms in the region that we serve.” Seeing the blank look on my face, he continued, “If we limit the program to farms growing in a certain way, then we are leaving out the majority of farms in the region and all of them need support. Without it, we will continue to lose farms and farmland. And farms can’t grow food or shift their production [to environmentally sustainable methods] if they are no longer in business.” Continue reading

Colorado Cuisine: From Traditional Food to Porno-Molecular Gastronomy

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Up next for the anthropologies #22 food issue, we have an essay by Fernando Valerio Holguín.*–R.A.


According to the old German saying, “We are what we eat.” Therefore, many gastronomic stereotypes have come to describe people from various countries according to their food preferences.  For example, Italians are known as “macaroni”, English as “roast beef,” Belgians as “chip-eaters”, French as “frogs” and Germans as “krauts” (Fischler 1988: 279). The word ‘stereotype’ comes from the Greek, ‘stereos’: solid, and the French ‘type’: type, meaning “stereotype plate” or “image perpetuated without change” (Online Etymology Dictionary). As can be observed, some cultures reduce (and) locate other cultures by means of various gastronomic stereotypes. Hence, the ingestion of certain types of foods is what comes to define one’s culture.  This metonymic reduction (‘food’,(substituting) for ‘the diner’) is not free from disdain, scorn, or satire toward these respective cultures, and constitutes an expression of political power.

The question arises about the gastronomic stereotypes with respect to Americans, and specifically, Coloradoans. What is Colorado’s cuisine and thus, what is the culinary stereotype that defines Coloradoans? According to Linda Hayes, “We [Coloradoans] are known for our lamb, as well as wild game…” (Cited in Cross Castañeda xviii). If lamb defines Coloradoans, then should the Coloradoans be called “Lamb eaters?” My purpose in this article is to analyze Colorado’s gastronomic identity. Furthermore, I suggest that in addition to the traditional cuisine, over the last decade, international, vegetarian and molecular gastronomies, as well as cannabis, have been integrated into the Colorado cuisine, making it one of the most diverse gastronomies in the United States. More even than (simply) the different types of food – which can be found alone or in combination in other states of the American Union, what makes the gastronomy of Colorado unique is the co-existence and varying combination  of all the types of cooking already mentioned,  thus creating a century-old, multicultural gastronomic identity. There seems to be a discursive struggle of flavors and tastes that has affected the gastronomic identity of Coloradoans. Continue reading

ArXiv for anthropology: @SocArXiv + #AAA2016 = Open Access Strikes Back

Cliffs Notes version of this post: @SocArXiv is a Green Open Access digital repository that is currently being developed for the social sciences. I think this is a good thing. Let’s talk Open Access and publishing at #AAA2016. –R.A.

Back in May, fellow Savage Mind Chris Kelty wrote a post about Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN (aka the Social Science Research Network). The short version of the story is that this purchase is Not Good News, although some folks think it’s Worse News than others. Kelty’s primary argument was that SSRN users needn’t worry so much about their papers, and that DATA was the actual issue. Data, he wrote, is the real reason why Elsevier was attracted to the idea of getting their hands on the SSRN. This data is valuable, Kelty writes, because: Continue reading

Eating with Strangers: Bringing an Anthropological Perspective to the Table

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

The anthropologies food issue continues! Up next we have an essay from cultural anthropologist Christy Shields-Argelès, whose current research focuses on the tasting practices of Comté cheese producers in the Jura mountains of eastern France.  She is an assistant professor in the Global Communications department of the American University of Paris.  You can reach her at cshields AT aup dot edu –R.A.

Anthropologists have long studied commensality as a means to gain insight into the life ways and worldviews of others.  Sitting at another’s table, mastering their etiquette and incorporating their cuisine are powerful ways to encounter and learn about other societies.  It is for this reason that I have long used commensal events as teaching tools in my anthropology classes at the American University of Paris.  A unique institution where Anglophone students come to study in the French capital – sometimes for a semester, though more often for their entire undergraduate education – AUP provides the perfect setting for a hands-on approach to learning the practices and perspectives of the anthropologist. In this short article, I want to explore commensality, and in particular welcome meals abroad, as a site for intercultural learning.  Continue reading

A seat at the bar: Issues of race and class in the world of specialty coffee

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

For the third installment of the anthropologies food issue, we have an essay from William Cotter and Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson.* –R.A.

From a Caffeinated Elite to Average Joes

If you’re in academia, you probably have a very close relationship with coffee. For most Americans, coffee feels like a necessary part of our day, crucial to our higher-order cognitive functioning. Coffee has been a staple in American households and workplaces for over 100 years, and coffee as a commodity is one of the most widely traded and profitable items on the international market (Pendergrast 1999). In early 19th century, coffee served as a strong index for the elite classes of American society. It was expensive, often challenging to obtain, and was consumed primarily within prestigious social circles. However, the increasing reach of white European imperialism and the fine-tuning of the mechanisms of colonial trade and exploitation led to such resources becoming accessible to a wider range of consumers. In less than a century, the notion of coffee as a beverage consumed in the drawing rooms of the upper crust eroded. Coffee instead became a ubiquitous fixture of the American working class, tied to notions of cheery productivity and the booming prosperity of the American labor force (Jimenez 1995).

Figure 1
Source: Mitch O’Connell.

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Anthropologies #22: Reflections on Food in Food Research

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

The second installment of the anthropologies issue on food comes from Zofia Boni, a food anthropologist. Boni’s PhD (SOAS) focused on food and children and the negotiations regarding feeding and eating in Warsaw. Currently, she is a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Her new research project focuses on the social dynamics of childhood obesity in Poland. –R.A.

Food is an intrinsic element of all anthropological research. Sharing food can be an ice breaker; it can provide a context or an opportunity for the conversations with your interlocutors, it provides insights into their lives and often means that “you are in!” or at least you are getting closer.

In the case of anthropology of food, however, food becomes particularly important as it is placed at the heart of the research. What happens when food is not only a research tool which facilitates interactions, but also becomes the object of the research? How can we actually study something so ephemeral? And what happens when we eat it and therefore embody the object of our research? What sort of implications does it have for the researchers and the researched? What sort of tensions or connections does it create? Though anthropologists reflect on those issues, the centrality of food and its importance for many anthropological encounters, to a large extent, stays implicit. This essay aims to inspire the discussion about the role and place of food in anthropological research on food. Continue reading

Anthropologies #22: Some thoughts on food, animals, and anthropology

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Here it is: the long-awaited first installment of the anthropologies issue on food. We kick off the issue with a short essay by James Babbitt, who is a graduate student in cultural anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Babbitt’s main research interests are animal agriculture and affect in the United States. He is currently confused by the complexities of human-livestock worldings. –R.A.

Right now, I am on a farm in rural New England where hundreds of meat chickens and turkeys are being raised. About a mile down the road is a dairy where a couple dozen cows are milked twice daily. I study animal agriculture in the United States. This summer I am conducting preliminary fieldwork. Animal agriculture is not new to Anthropology. Steven Striffler’s Chicken, Timothy Patchirat’s Every Twelve Seconds, and Alex Blanchette’s article, “Herding Species”, in a recent issue of Cultural Anthropology, are all worth checking out if one is interested in how the majority of meat in America is industrially produced. However, these studies do not look at small-scale production. It is the smaller scale operations that I am most familiar with, having worked as a killer on a small organic chicken farm. But before I discuss, that I will provide a bit of background to flesh out where I am coming from. A good place to begin is vegetarianism.

As a teenager, I was introduced to vegetarianism through punk bands like Propagandi, and was an on and off again vegetarian throughout my twenties. Without punk I probably would have never seriously thought about what I put on my plate and in my mouth. In this I am not alone, for punk seems at least partially responsible for the diets, politics and worldviews of many of my peers. At DIY punk shows there would occasionally be food and it was always vegetarian. To do otherwise would be taboo or heretical. There are a number of great songs about animal rights, animal liberation and vegetarianism/veganism by punk and hardcore bands. My personal favorites are Mob 47’s “Animal Liberation” and “Stop the Slaughter”. Continue reading

Anthropologies #22 Call for Submissions: The anthropology of food!

Burgers, Plate 4. Photograph by Thomas Hawk, 2009.

Everyone eats, and there are cultural and social meanings embedded in the food that we consume. This issue of anthropologies will look at the anthropological understanding of food and the values, beliefs, technologies, ideologies, and imaginaries that we construct around its production and consumption.

What is food? How do we decide what food is desirable and undesirable? Where does our food come from? How is it produced? What effect do our food habits have on others both human and non-human? What, ultimately, does food mean? We are looking for submissions from every corner of anthropology – linguistic, biological, cultural, and archaeology – and from a variety of perspectives within the discipline. So tell us what food means to you, or the role that it plays in the lives of people you work with.

Deadline for submissions: January 10, 2016

Publication Date: March 2016.

Email submissions to: anthropologiesproject AT gmail dot com

Jeremy Trombley and Lauren Moore will be the co-editors for this issue. We already have a few contributors lined up, but we have room for more! See below for more information. Continue reading

Reader Survey Results Part 3: 95 percent of you never (or rarely) comment!

Why do you comment on Savage Minds. Or why don’t you comment on Savage Minds? Are the comments good? Do they suck? Do you even care? Can internet comments save the future of the human species? These were some of the questions we tried to answer with our reader survey earlier this year. Ok, well, we didn’t actually ask that last one about saving the human species–that was just to see if you’re still paying attention and not frittering away on Twitter while “reading” Savage Minds. I know you’re out there! Anyway, here are some of the answers to this riveting survey. Bonus: Star Wars reference if you reach the end. How can you resist reading this post now? Answer: Don’t even try.

About twelve percent of you never read the comments, period. The majority, about 73 percent, said they read our comments “sometimes.” About fifteen percent said they always read them.

But when it comes to posting comments, about 95 percent of people said they never or very rarely leave comments. Nearly five percent said they comment occasionally. Only 0.2% (one person out of 430 responses) said they comment regularly.

Less than one percent of you regularly posts comments! What’s up with that? Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: Weather changes people: stretching to encompass material sky dynamics in our ethnography

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

Heid Jerstad brings our climate change issue to a close with this thoughtful essay. Jerstad (BA Oxford, MRes SOAS) is writing up her PhD on the effects of weather on peoples lives at the university of Edinburgh. Having done fieldwork in the western Indian Himalayas, she is particularly interested in the range of social and livelihood implications that weather (and thus climate change) has. She is on twitter @entanglednotion –R.A.

For most people, the climate change issue is a bundle of scientific ideas, or maybe a chunk of guilt lurking behind that short haul flight. The words have fused together to form a single stone, immobile and heavy. Change is a bit of a nothing word anyway – anything can change, and who is to say if it is good or bad, drastic or practically unnoticeable?

But what about climate? It is a big science-y word, neither human nor particularly tangible. Climate is about a place – engrained, palimpsested, with time-depth. That big sky, those habits – the Frenchman advising wine and bed on a rainy day, the Croatian judge lenient because there was a hot wind from the Sahara that day. This is weather I am talking about, seasons, years, the heat, damp and sparkling frost.

People care about the weather. We consider ourselves used to this or good at observing that. My home has more weather than other places – it is colder in winter, the air is clearer and brighter – because it is mine. My sunsets – this is eastern Norway – are vibrant and fill the sky, my sky will snow in June with not a cloud, my nose can feel that special tingle when it gets to below -20˚c. The north is not gloomy in winter – the snow is bright white, the hydro-fuelled streetlights illuminate empty streets and windows seal the warmth in.

What is your weather? It would be safe to assume it is part of the climate and I would go out on a limb and say I think you care about it. Am I wrong?

When the weather matters to people, the task becomes one of bridging this caring and the climate change science and projections. Looking at the impact of these weather changes in different areas of life is, then, going to make up a steadily larger part of useful climate change research.

Mead famously convened a conference with Kellogg titled ‘The Atmosphere: Endangered and Endangering’ in 1975, and Douglas published Risk and Blame in 1992. In the new millennium Strauss and Orlove (2003), Crate and Nuttall (2009) and Hastrup and Rubow (2014) brought edited volumes to the debate. It seems to be fairly well established, then, that climate change is a matter for anthropologists, as phrased by the AAA statement on climate change: ‘Climate change is rooted in social institutions and cultural habits. … Climate change is not a natural problem, it is a human problem.’ What then, can anthropologists do, about this problem? Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: Global Warming is not a Crisis

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

For the next installment of the anthropologies issue on climate change, we have a counterpoint essay from Lee Drummond. Drummond is a retired professor of social/cultural anthropology (McGill University).  For the past twenty years he has been director of a very modestly staffed think tank, the Center for Peripheral Studies in Palm Springs, CA.  As a “real” anthropologist he studied South American myth and Caribbean ethnicity.  Later, reincarnated as a “reel” anthropologist he applied his work on myth to blockbuster American movies, treating them as myths of modern culture (see American Dreamtime). –R.A.

The principal “texts” for this little essay are a 2009 lecture, “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society,” by Freeman Dyson, one of the smartest people on the planet, and an epic performance, “Saving the Planet,” by George Carlin, until his death in 2008 one of the funniest people on the planet. Dyson’s lecture may be found here.

It’s over an hour long, but watch the whole thing–it’s great. Carlin’s performance is on YouTube.

It will take only a few minutes of your day.

Before taking up a few specifics of these pieces, let me provide a background sketch of the phenomenon of global warming that has attracted so much attention over the past couple of decades.

The Big Picture: Greenhouse Earth and Icehouse Earth

Environmentalists gravely concerned with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and rising temperatures in the oceans not uncommonly issue the dire warning that these are runaway processes, that Earth will continue to get cloudier and hotter until it becomes another Venus, where lead can melt on its surface. The entire history of the planet suggests that this is not the case. Earth’s climate has oscillated through periods of unusually hot conditions (Greenhouse Earth) and unusually cold conditions (Icehouse Earth), each period lasting tens or hundreds of millions of years. Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: Betwixt and Between: Geological Phase Transition, Adaptive Co-Management, and Anthropology

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

The next piece in the anthropologies climate change series comes from Michael Agar. His bio is here. Check out more of his work on the rest of the Ethnoworks site, or email him at magar AT umd dot edu. –R.A.

Several years ago, in 2011, The Onion—a satirical newspaper—ran a feature story entitled “Planet Earth Doesn’t Know How To Make It Any Clearer It Wants Everyone To Leave.” The Onion presented the Earth’s prepared statement as follows:

At this point, I think I’ve stated my wishes quite loudly and clearly,” the Earth’s statement to all of humanity read in part. “I haven’t exactly been subtle about it, you realize. I have literally tried to drown you, crush you, starve you, dehydrate you, pump you full of diseases, and suck your homes and families into swirling vortices of death. Honestly, what more is it going to take for you people to get the message? Do I have to spell it out for you?” the statement continued. “Get the fuck out of here. I want you to leave now.

Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: The Challenge of Motivated Reasoning: Science, Education, and Changing Climates

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

Next up we have an essay about climate change and education from Joseph Henderson and David E. Long. Henderson is a Learning Sciences Researcher at the University of Delaware. Trained as an anthropologist of environmental and science education, his research investigates how sociocultural, political and economic factors influence teaching and learning in emerging energy and climate systems. You can find Joseph on here, and on Twitter: @josephenderson. David Long is Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Restructuring Education in Science and Technology at George Mason University.  Long examines how religious faith and political ideology mediates the U.S. cultural relationship toward evolution, climate science, and genetic engineering in educational settings. You can find more about his work on the George Mason University website and on –R.A.

What does it mean to know climate change? A recent study on the global awareness of climate change found that nearly 40% of adults did not know about climate change (Lee et al., 2015). Among those who did, formal education proved the biggest individual predictor of awareness, with more education leading to greater awareness. The researchers also discovered that awareness levels increased in so-called “developed” nations, where access to formal education tends to be greater. They also found that each nation had a risk perception dynamic unique to their particular context. For example, “developing” countries are more likely to experience the local effects of climate change in their daily lives, even though they rate lower official knowledge of abstract climate change concepts. This shaped perceptions of risk accordingly, toward the more tangible and concrete impacts of already existing climate impacts. Conversely, “developed” countries tend to be spatially and temporally detached from the immediate impacts of climate change (Norgaard, 2011). While simply knowing about climate change is a laudable educational goal, it is also not enough to merely know. Actually moving someone to action—that is, knowing what to do about climate change and why to do it—necessarily entails bringing one’s worldview and values into account, including the possibility that they might need to change. When change asks you to evolve your values, there is often anxiety and resistance. Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: Why do we need to teach climate change in anthropology?

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

Our next installment in the climate change series comes from Katherine J. Johnson, who is currently a PhD candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Maryland. –R.A.

College students have acquired a lot of useful information, but a limited ability to utilize that knowledge–and sometimes a surprising lack of perspective on real world problems. Many of the students I have taught in Anthropology and Climate Change courses seem to have little factual and context-specific understanding of climate change, despite growing up in an era of public contestation around this issue. Anthropology has a lot of strengths stemming from core theoretical tenants such as holism, reflexivity, and concern for marginalized populations. We can easily leverage these strengths to aid students in better understanding of climate change issues within relevant contexts, and to build on their weak knowledge of accepted science.

Lisa Bennett makes several important points in her Grist article: “10 things you want to know about human nature if you’re fighting climate change.” A key point (and I think all of them are relevant) is #2: “We can be blasé about the most important issues in the world because the global perspective is way beyond ordinary human scale”. She argues that we need “human-sized” stories to teach lessons around climate change. This is something at which anthropologists excel. Many ostensibly well-educated students have no sense of the scope of human history on Earth, our interrelationship with our environment through time, and the dramatic effect we have had on our planet. There are a lot of ways that climate change intersects with real life and our understanding of our human past and present. Making sure that we are developing these lessons into cogent and easily understandable stories (ahem, case studies) will provide students with information they can latch onto and remember. Continue reading