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.

SocArXiv launched

Michael Oman-Reagan just reminded me about an important open access project that’s been in the works for a while now: SocArXiv (thanks @OmanReagan!).

I agree with Michael about the potential of this repository. And if your work is currently uploaded on a site like Academia.edu, now may be the time to migrate. If you haven’t heard about it, SocArXiv is a green open access digital repository that runs on the Open Science Framework. I wrote about this project back in September here on Savage Minds. Matt Thompson wrote about the wider arXiv framework in May 2016. When I first wrote about this at the end of last year, the temporary version was online. The full beta version went online in December, and it looks great. Here’s part of the launch announcement:

SocArXiv, the open access, open source archive of social science, is officially launching in beta version today. Created in partnership with the Center for Open Science, SocArXiv provides a free, noncommercial service for rapid sharing of academic papers; it is built on the Open Science Framework, a platform for researchers to upload data and code as well as research results.

By uploading working papers and preprints of their articles to SocArXiv, social scientists can now make their work immediately and permanently available to other researchers and the public, and discoverable via search engines. This alleviates the frustration of slow times to publication and sidesteps paywalls that limit the audience for academic research. Since SocArXiv is a not-for-profit alternative to existing commercial platforms, researchers can also be assured that they are sharing their research in an environment where access, not profit, will remain at the heart of the mission.

Since development was first announced in July, researchers have deposited more than 600 papers, downloaded over 10,000 times, in anticipation of SocArXiv’s launch. SocArXiv anticipates rapid growth in that number in the coming year as it establishes a reputation as the fully open repository for sociology and social science research.

Read the full announcement here. So, anthropologists and readers of Savage Minds, what do you think? Are you on board? Skeptical? Well, check it out and get back to me. Post your comments below!

Call for Reader Letters: Trump & Anthropology (DEADLINE 2/20/17)

In December we published our first installment of our new Reader Letters series. This time around, we’d like to hear what you, our readers, have to say about the new US President, Donald J. Trump. What will Trump’s America mean for the country, and for US anthropology? As anthropologists, how can we approach the social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental implications of the Trump era? What does his election, inauguration, and rise to power portend for the coming years? What do you think? Let us know!

Please keep the following guidelines: letters should be no longer than 250 words and should address issues covered in Savage Minds and relevant to anthropology, broadly construed. As with traditional letters to the editor, all letters must include the writer’s full name; anonymous letters will not be considered. For general guidelines refer to our comments policy. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified before publication. Letters may be subject to minor editing for clarity.

Send your letter in the body of an email (not an attachment) to ryananderson@uky.edu. You can also send me a DM via twitter: @anthropologia. Deadline for submission is February 20 and we plan to publish by March 1, 2017.

Amazon Go and the Erosion of Supermarket Sociability

Invited post by: Sally A. Applin (@AnthroPunk on Twitter)[1]

I recently finished my Ph.D. As a present, a friend of mine gave me a hand. Not help, which he had done during the process, but rather a battery-powered automated hand, cut off at the wrist, similar to that of Thing, the Addams Family’s servant from TV and film. In part of my thesis, and my research on automation, I’ve looked to Thing as a metaphor for IoT software automation. Thing, on TV, is a trusted friend who builds relationships with family members and can negotiate with others on their behalf. In fiction, and the representation of fiction, Thing works beautifully and embodies what a smart agent could be. It is aware of its surroundings, it builds trust. It connects people. Thing is a keeper of local knowledge. The Applin and Fischer (2013) Thing agent, is a software construct using deontic logic to encourage and support human agency, building trust in a relationship based context.  The hand my friend gave me moved on a fixed path for several seconds, and then stopped until its button was pushed again. It looked like Thing, but it was only a physical representation, a simulation of physical form. In automation, data collection is not the same as building relationships, and community knowledge cannot easily be derived from quantitative Big Data. This is one of the more serious problem with Amazon Go.

Amazon Go is a grocery store concept that allows people who have activated the Amazon Go app on their mobile phone, to walk through an “authentication” turnstile into an Amazon Go supermarket. Once inside, people can “grab” what groceries they want or need, and walk out the door, without needing to check out, because Amazon’s “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning” will calculate what people take, and charge them accordingly via the app. Amazon Go has a video on their website that explains all of this, and shows people “grabbing and going” with their groceries, stuffing them into bags or just holding onto them, and walking out. In the Amazon Go video, no one is shown talking to each other. Continue reading

Reader Letters #2: Call for Submissions (Due 12/20/16)

A few weeks ago we published our first installment of our new Reader Letters series. We want to hear more. Send us your letters! Please keep the following guidelines: letters are to be no longer than 250 words and should address issues covered in Savage Minds and relevant to anthropology, broadly construed. As with traditional letters to the editor, all letters must include the writer’s full name and anonymous letters will not be considered. For general guidelines refer to our comments policy. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified before publication. Letters may be subject to minor editing for clarity.

For this second installment of Reader Letters we invite you to send us your thoughts about the Savage Minds name change, the impending end of the semester, or the upcoming winter break. If you want to write about Levi Strauss’s take on Father Christmas, or perhaps Panopti-claus, we would not object. Otherwise it’s up to you. Write about anthropology and what’s on your mind, and send it to us. No stamp necessary.

Send your letter in the body of an email (not an attachment) to ryananderson@uky.edu. Deadline for submission is December 20 and we plan to publish between December 25 and January 1, 2017.

Of Quinoa, Agricultural Science, and Social Change

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Adam Gamwell rounds out the anthropologies #22 issue on food. Gamwell is a public anthropologist and PhD Candidate at Brandeis University working across food, design, science, and markets. His research is based in southern Peru on quinoa. He is also Creative Director and host for This Anthropological Life Podcast. Connect with Adam on academia.edu or linkedin.com –R.A.

Specters of the Dead

Aymara legend has it that some 5000 years ago there was a massive drought across the land, across what would become known as the Andean Altiplano spanning southern Peru and Bolivia. During this years-long drought harvests were lost, there was hunger, and many people and their animals died. Farmers, llamas and alpacas, travelers subsisting on the hospitality of locals all ran out of stores and eventually starved. There was virtually no food to be found, save for two plants that grew wild: quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), and its cousin cañihua (Chenopodium pallidicaule). These two species grow primarily in the Lake Titicaca basin and are remarkably resilient in the face of drought and frost, and can grow in salty, sandy, and acidic soils that kill most other plants. People quickly realized the nutritional qualities of these plants, and quinoa became famous for sustaining those who ate its seeds. The plant was named jiwra in Aymara which translates in Spanish to “levanta moribundos” or that which raises the dying (Canahua y Mujica, 2013).

This legend was recounted to me in perhaps an unusual place by an unexpected storyteller: a plant geneticist told the tale in-between explaining the orthomolecular and nutraceutical qualities of quinoa. Continue reading

Reader Letters #1: Post-election edition

Last week we put out a call for letters from our readers. Here’s our first installment. If you’re interested in submitting a letter to Savage Minds, please keep the following guidelines in mind: letters are to be no longer than 250 words and should address issues covered in Savage Minds and relevant to anthropology, broadly construed. Some months we will invite letters on specific themes. As with traditional letters to the editor, all letters must include the writer’s full name and anonymous letters will not be considered. For general guidelines about tone and content refer to our comments policy. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified before publication. Letters may be subject to minor editing for clarity. For the next installment, please send us your letters by December 15th, 2016. We will publish the next round by December 22nd. If you want to write about Levi Strauss’s take on Father Christmas, or perhaps Panopti-claus, we would not object. Otherwise it’s up to you. –SM Eds.

On the exceptionality of the election

Melissa Harris-Perry’s keynote “What just happened?” at the most recent AAA in Minneapolis was a captivating appeal to stop viewing the U.S. election results as exceptional, shocking, or out-of-order. To her, Donald Trump’s election reaffirms the United States’ century-old hatred towards minorities. Whatever white anthropologists consider extraordinary, posits for many Black Americans and Black Anthropologists the ongoing fight against an everyday reality of discrimination and violence – and she is right. Yet Harris-Perry’s advocacy for denying the exceptionality in this year’s election complicates strategic political protest. Protesters need the semantics of the exceptional to show that Trump breaches a new set of rules that were introduced by Americans electing their first Black (even if male) president. For many on the ground, Obama’s time in office hasn’t changed the world profoundly. Yet it introduced better policies for the disenfranchised, and the poor. This progress is now at risk of being overturned by a nationalist demagogue who clearly articulated his intentions of returning America to its old racist and sexist self. This return needs to be framed as the extraordinary for two reasons. Firstly, referring to the exceptionality of the situation helps advocates to mobilize protest. They use the exceptional to display their disavowal of Trump’s new order. Secondly, however, allowing anthropologists to use the exceptional as a refusal of the status-quo hopefully induces more ethnographically grounded research on the causes and effects of this regrettable political degeneration in the ‘land of the free’.

Melanie Janet Sindelar, Vienna University Continue reading

The social role of anthropology’s racist uncle

There’s a certain trope that has been going around for years, and it has hit a peak these days as many people express their collective shock and surprise at recent events here in the USA. The narrative uses a family metaphor to talk about the problems of race and racism—and specifically the difficulties of confronting racism.

The narratives center upon the figure of the stereotypical family member, like the old racist uncle. This narrative goes something like this: White liberals think of themselves as progressive and they condemn racism, etc. They “get it,” you know, and want to do something about the issue, and are definitely not racist. But, there’s a problem. They have a lot of family members who don’t think this way, and it’s often uncomfortable to deal with them and talk about issues of race and racism. It’s those family members who are the bigoted, racist, 19th century leftovers, and, therefore, the real problem. The racist uncle personifies this conflict:

One response to this trope is that white liberals need to just get over it and confront their collective racist uncles (read: the older generations who still hold onto strong prejudices and hatreds). This is perhaps not a bad starting point. But there’s something deeper to think about here. Another response critiques the whole scenario, arguing that the trope of the old racist uncle is just an excuse people use to avoid talking about and dealing with the broader causes and conditions of racism. That hypothetical family member is a rhetorical device that people use as a point of comparison to say “Hey, at least I’m not like that.” Continue reading

Anthropology after November 8th: On race, denial, and the work ahead

For some people, the election that just took place might seem like just another choice between the lesser of two evils. One more election that we all learn to deal with, but that won’t fundamentally change much about their daily lives. But this isn’t everyone’s reality. For many people around the country the results of this election, which was fueled by messages of hate, bigotry, racism, and intolerance, has devastating implications. It’s not a matter of if it will affect their lives, but when and how. It is a privileged position to see this as “just another election” that we lament, accept, and endure. Many people here simply do not and will not have this choice.

Shaun King’s Twitter timeline this past week was just one indication of what these election results portend: a surge of racist, bigoted attacks across the country. This election has empowered and emboldened many people to express their contempt, disdain, and hate. According to local news reports, a Muslim woman at San Diego State University was attacked and robbed by two men who made comments “about President-elect Trump and the Muslim community.” This incident took place at 2:30 pm on Wednesday (November 9th). In a separate incident on the same day, a swastika and the words “Heil Trump” were painted on the sidewalk at a UC San Diego bus stop.  Continue reading

Veganism, conversion, and adequation: How to make a strange diet seem familiar

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Continuing with the Anthropology #22 Food issue, this next essay is from Aimee J. Hosemann, who is currently ABD at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Hosemann’s work focuses on linguistic and sociocultural anthropology. -R.A.

A May 7, 2015, piece on the website Science of Us, entitled “Diets are a Lot Like Religion”, cites Alan Levinovitz, a James Madison University professor who describes numerous parallels between religion and dietary regimes. Among reasons why dietary and religious practices are so similar is that both reduce complexity; play into nostalgia about a pastoral utopic past; engage discourses of morality using similar discourses of “good” and “bad”; and provide a sense of community (Dahl 2015).

I got interested in this as I was reading stories by people who have converted to vegan diets and share stories through blogs, books, and podcasts that detail their journeys through this new lifestyle (the Happy Herbivore Lindsey S. Nixon and No Meat Athlete Matt Frazier are but two examples). The stories often have all the elements of good conversion narratives – the teller is going about their business as usual, perhaps burying recognition of the ways they were cruising toward disaster at their own hands. Some series of increasingly threatening vignettes leads to a crisis in which it becomes clear that an immediate intervention is required for survival, and control is given over to some external power.  This higher power may be God, Alcoholics Anonymous, or the ethic behind a particular way of eating. Continue reading

Evangelizing in the Garden: Conservative Christian efforts to Convert Non-Believers via Urban Agriculture in US Cities

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

Up next for the Anthropologies #22 Food issue we have this essay from Chhaya Kolavalli, who is currently a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests center on the raced and classed impacts of US socioeconomic policy, US cities, and the alternative agrifood movement. Her dissertation research explores the racialization process at the center of food justice work, through investigation into differential understandings of racialized urban space, understandings of hunger and ‘food desertification,’ and racially restrictive urban development. –R.A.

“In faith work, you want your faith to fuel you, personally, and it will shine out in what you do—you won’t have to try to convert anyone. We don’t want to tell people what to believe. But we do want to beg the question, ‘Oh my gosh, why are things going so well for them?—Well, let me tell you! It’s because of the light of the lord. And you know I’ll answer questions if people ask, but I won’t push it. And lots of times people start asking these questions in our garden”

– Carly Smith, co-founder of a Midwestern urban-agriculture centered faith based organization (FBO).

Federal welfare rollback has made nonprofits and faith-based organizations like Carly’s increasingly responsible for urban governance and welfare provision in the United States (Morgen and Maskovsky 2003; Swyngedouw 2005). The 1996 Personal Work and Responsibility Act (PWORA), specifically, ushered in drastic policy changes—PWORA’s “Charitable Choice” provision opened up funding for religious nonprofits, allowing them to retain religious identity while competing for government contracts (Nagel 2006). Concurrent with these policy changes has been the rise of new, youth-led conservative Christian movements—championed by former mega-church attendants, disenchanted with what they see as “consumer Christianity” and outmoded methods of evangelism (Bielo 2011b; Clayborn 2006). Many of these movement participants, largely white, upper-middle class Americans in their 20s and 30s, attempt to enact their faith through simple living and social service—an increasing number are moving to urban areas, staying in Catholic Worker houses, neo-monastic intentional living groups, forming non-profits, and working in service of the urban poor (Bielo 2011a; Bielo 2011b).

A dominant trend among these “new” Christians has been to utilize urban agriculture and community gardening as a means of feeding and creating community with the poor (Carnes 2011; Clayborn 2006; Roberts 2009). The garden, however, is also emblematic of new methods of domestic evangelism (Elisha 2008)—as outlined by Carly, above. For the evangelical urban gardeners involved in this study, the garden served as a site to recruit new church members and to ‘model’ several aspects of their conservative religious ideology—most notably, as I’ll argue, a heteronormative patriarchal family structure and gendered division of labor. Continue reading

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

This entry is part 7 of 10 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.

sansai
Sansai. All photos by Christopher Laurent.

Continue reading

Local Food, Process, and Social Change

This entry is part 6 of 10 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 10 in the Anthropologies #22 series.

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

Introduction

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 10 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