Category Archives: Annual Highlights

A Banner Year for Guest Bloggers

As the Savage Minds leviathan grows to evermore staggering heights in 2012, it’s inescapable pseudopods pulling anthropologists into its its membranes like some creature-feature villain crossed with the Dialectic of Enlightenment, we have had the privilege of hosting some truly excellent guest bloggers.

Garrison used his experience in the anthropology of media to turn a fresh eye on the American Muslim experience and extolled us on the virtues of doing research sideways.

Mary Alice wrote several posts on mentoring and research as a kind of pedagogy. To paraphrase her posts, mentoring is about listening, teaching, and offering up shared experiences — a fitting model for an anthropology that aspires to produce knowledge that excites people to action.

Over the summer a team of six bloggers came together to offer an extensive series of posts all loosely related to one another on the theme of precarity, truly a signifier for our times. Deepa wrote about quitting a tenured position to become an adjunct. Aalok wrote about keeping one’s ethnographic research mobile when professional development necessitates hopping from continent to continent. Ali wrote about being an anthropologist on the sidelines of the tenure track system, bracketing out her work as an adjunct while also serving as managing editor and program director for Cultural Anthropology. Laurel talked about doing ethnography of consumer behavior for market research and Nathan, too, was looking for ways to make his expertise in ethnography pay bills. Finally, Lane wondered how the condition of precarity shapes the kind ethnography we do.

Laura shared her experience of being interviewed and then misrepresented by a journalist. She also broached a taboo topic among anthropologists: what to do when one does not like their field research site?

DJ explained why friendship in the field is not naive, but a virtue. Reflecting on his days in the field in Taiwan from the vantage point of Boston he pined for a different way to move a body through space.

Speaking of bodies in space, Adonia posted a series on the anthropology of bicycling, in particular how people experience disruptions of their transportation habitus.

Finally, Clare put a cap on the year with her series on the Mayan Apocalypse. Her post on the movie “2012” added that feature to other anthropological anti-classics like Clan of the Cave Bear and 10000 BC.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to Savage Minds last year! We look forward to welcoming new guest bloggers in the coming year. If you are interested in writing posts for SM then we’re interested in hearing from you. Principally we’re looking for people who already have experience writing for their own blog. Blogging is free, its fun, and we believe everyone should do it.

Thanks also to our readers and participants in the comments section. Meeting new people and sharing ideas is a big part of what makes blogging so rewarding. If you’ve been a long time reader but never commented we encourage you to leave your mark. We’ll be the richer for your contribution.

Annual Highlights — 2012

Tis the season for list making! Looking back on Savage Minds Annual Highlights past I see that this regular feature is falling later and later with each passing year. So I felt it was in keeping with tradition that I wait until 2013.

Looking back on the most popular posts of 2012 it seems that we here at Savage Minds were preoccupied with professional concerns: grad school, finding a job, getting published, and teaching. We also covered current events and political topics. We had some great guest bloggers featured and we talked a lot about David Graeber.

Commentary
Advocating for Open Access remained one of our core interests at Savage Minds. Rex reviewed HAU: Journal for Ethnographic Theory and Adam interviewed the editor of Anthropology of This Century, which debuted in 2011. Kelty railed against The Archaeological Institute of America which came out against OA and he broke down how much publishing really costs. Rex reflected on the five virtues of peer reviewers. And Ryan interviewed outspoken OA activists Jason Baird Jackson, Open Anthropology Collective guru Keith Heart, and outgoing editor in chief of American Anthropologist, Tom Boellstorff. We also ran an open thread on OA activism.

It was a busy year, 2012, but we even found time to blog about anthropology here at Savage Minds. Rex coached us on the virtues of thinking while conducting research and provided some tips on generating literature reviews. Kerim wrote extensively on learning a foreign language (check out all five installments) and the politics of speaking English abroad. He also provided an overview of how the iPad was changing his workflow. The interrelationships among activism, cultural relativism, and “empathy” in anthropological fieldwork also proved fertile grounds for discussion. Ryan shared some notes from the field on the nature of money, which kindled his ongoing obsession over theorizing value. And I wrote a book review of Freedom in Entangled Worlds.

One of our favorite beats to cover is American culture and politics. The big story was the U.S. presidential election and, as anthropologists, we saw everything as slightly askew. Kerim gave the presidential debates the Nacerima treatment, I turned an evolutionary ecologist’s eye on Rick Santorum, and Rex picked apart an Atlantic piece that made use of an obsolete anthropological debate. Then Mitt Romney went and cited Jared Diamond for some goddamn reason. Continue reading

Annual Highlights – 2011

It was a good year for the vibrancy of the Savage Minds community. There were plenty of interesting posts to comment on and issues to debate. Here in our annual year-in-review I’ll point you towards some of our greatest hits, maybe there’s one you missed! The top ten posts of the year are highlighted in boldface.
 
Personally, my favorite posts are in the how-to or ask-the-crowd genres. There was a lengthy list of “exotic” ethnographies (#5) appropriate for undergraduate intro courses and a plea for help on how to best choose intro level textbooks. Ahead of the annual meeting of the AAA there was a post on how to write conference papers. Our resident photographer, Ryan, wrote two handy pieces on cameras in the field. One was on the authenticity of the iPhone app Hipstamatic vis-a-vie the kind of photography done by “real” photographers, the second a call for reflexivity in the use of photographs, typically used without critical reflection in ethnography. Perhaps tangentially visual, Kerim unearthed an early twentieth century method of categorizing skin color based on Milton-Bradley produced spinning tops. On the topic of writing Kerim wondered why established scholars seem to repeat themselves so often and he weighed the benefits of adopting such a style.
 
Some of Savage Minds’ most popular features were original research, notes from the field, and other stepping stones to new publications. Guest-blogger Lua Wilkinson reported on her work on nutrition in China and the intersection of food culture and neoliberalism (#10); there was also a companion piece on breastfeeding and infant nutrition in China. Marking the one year anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake guest-blogger Laura Wagner shared some of the jokes Haitians tell to make light of the situation (#6). Kerim reflected on Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption hunger strike in India based on what he had learned over the course of five years fieldwork there. And nowhere but on Savage Minds will you find posts on Taiwanese parodies of Bollywood music videos posted on YouTube. Continue reading

Savage Minds Rewind: The Best of 2009

Everyone loves end of year reviews, even if they’re a couple days late. And we’re no exception. Here are some of the most popular posts, notable moments, and contributors’ favorites from the past twelve months.

SM picked up on the world of anthropology- from Dustin’s great post on Human Terrain in Oaxaca, Ethnic Studies Under Attack, Tom’s breakdown of the UK anthropology rankings, the burgeoning Open Anthropology Collective and even the youtube hit The Anthropology Song.

Rex gave advice to graduate students, offering them insight into what professors look for in applications, which he updated in December, told grant-seekers to read Michele Lamont’s How Professors Think, and suggested resources for preparing for fieldwork.

We stocked up on our popcorn, either to watch vividly or to throw it at the screen. Of course, the colonial, anticolonial, racist, liberatory, best thing since sliced bread, worst film ever Avatar got both Rex and Kerim going, but let us not forget that there have been other notable movies in the history of cinema. Rex reviewed the Librarian seriestwice! Plus, where to find free documentary films online, Tristes Tropiques, and films for teaching anthropology.

Of course, online technologies constitute our media of choice, and SM had plenty to say about that. From Finding Anthropology on Twitter, to Virtual Worlds as Area Studies, to the profitability of social networking sites and a rereading of Imagined Communities in the digital and multinational age. Plus, Chris gave a rowsing, ‘the internet is dead, long live the internet’ cheer in recounting how his book has faired in the online creative commons.

This year, SM is it unethical to say something about someone that they cannot understand? And could the Henry Louis Gates affair be considered an American rorschach test on race? And there were plenty of opinions. Chris took a dressed-up call for the dismantling of the university to task, while Rex crowned the worst postmodern titlemaker. And Kerim compared Mendeley and other bibliographical tools.

We were lucky to have a number of great guest bloggers this year. Adam Fish wrote on celebrity journalists in North Korea, communes and online communities. Parvis Mahdavi contributed on her work on the sexual revolution in Iran. Anne Allison wrote about precarious socialities of Japanese youth. Ken MacLeish posted on the wounds of war and the dilemmas of stereotype. And Olumide Abimbola wrote pieces on consuming second hand clothing and anthropology in Nigeria.

Finally, we remembered the lives and contributions of Dell Hymes, Epeli Hau’ofa, and of course the one to whom we will always be in debt for our name, Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Savage Minds Rewinds…The Best of 2008

As we ring in the new year, let’s take a fond look back at the SM posts that made you laugh, the ones that made you think, and the ones that didn’t do much for you at all but that we really like. Join us, won’t you?

The Issues: While anthropologists and the military and open access were again SM’s favorite causes, other events ‘out there’ made it onto the blog. Kerim wrote about violence in the Indian state of Rajasthan and its relation to denotified tribes. And how could we not talk about those uncontacted folks in Brazil, and the fact that they were not so uncontacted as first reported?

Savage Minds Invades AAAs: Taking San Francisco by storm hasn’t been so much fun since the 1970s. When AAA left Chris heartbroken over the lack of love on collaborating with AAA, he hatched a plan. Even though a glimmer of hope emerged that AAA had (maybe, in a kind of way) seen the light, we knew it was too good to be kinda true. So in November, while Montgomery McFate was busy avoiding her peers, the SM crew announced the winners of teh excellents blog.

Finding Anthropology: In the time honored tradition of anthropologists’ anxiety over their craft, some of the most popular posts this year have been about whether other disciplines do or don’t do ethnography/anthropology (and how well they do or don’t do it). In the spirit of equal opportunity, Rex decided to first piss off cultural studies proponents and then proclaim them the new anthropology. Chris was fascinated by the philosophers who actually talk to people. Other thoughts pondered… whether anthropology is a kind of connoiseurship, and the possible benefits to slow writing,

The Year in Reviews: Kerim’s dog Juno shared some thoughts on Donna Harraway’s When Species Meet. Strong asked whether the Wire is the best ethnograpy of the U.S. of our times? Both Kerim and Rex wrote reviews of Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life, which prompted Boellstorff to post a response of his own. Speaking of reviewing your own book, Chris announced the birth of his new book, Two Bits. And we couldn’t have been prouder.

New Minds to the Fold: This year, we had some fantastic guest bloggers. Majorie Harness Goodwin wrote a response to a New York Times article on teasing. Jon Marks wrote on E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and other schumcks who speak for Darwinism. Culture Matters blogger Lisa Wynn jumped over to write a series of posts on reproductive health technologies in Egypt (posts 1, 2, 3, 4). Tom Boellstorff discussed his recent ethnographic work in Second Life. And last, but probably not least, yours truly brought you the topical, not so topical, inane and otherwise events around the web.

And, of course, the many other favorite posts that refuse categorization.

Stay tuned for more edge of your seat deep contemplation in 2009!

2007 Highlights

Happy New Year! I’m a bit late with this, but I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of our best material from 2007, as I did in 2006.

Open Access

I think 2007 was a great year for the open access movement. The open access anthropology blog is going strong and we have a lot planned for it in the year ahead. Most exciting, and not yet reported here, on December 26th President Bush signed the OA mandate for NIH-funded research into law! And in October Rex announced Mano’a, an OA repository just for anthropologists. Since CKelty offered his own round up of OA news for 2007, just a few weeks ago, I’ll send you over there for the rest of the news.

War and Anthropology

The other big story for 2007 was the AAA executive board’s statement opposing the participation of anthropologists in the US Military’s Human Terrain System (HTS) project. By far the highest traffic post of the year was the letter we posted by Marshall Sahlins on the subject. Equally noteworthy, Strong’s post on “Human Terrain and the IRB Puzzle” was picked up by Inside Higher Ed. And Oneman discussed the process of getting my forthcoming edited volume, Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War published (continued here). The role of anthropologists in war is a topic we’ve been discussing on Savage Minds for over two years. I rounded up our older posts here, and all recent posts are archived in our “anthropology at war” category.

Information Overload

Another popular theme was information overload. There was CKelty’s post on “how to read a good book in one hour,” Strong’s post about “how to attend a conference in a couple of hours,” and my post about how not to read a book at all.

Visual

For those who don’t like reading, Strong gave us some good diagrams to look at: here, here, here, and here. I wrote about Wedding Photography. And former guest blogger Mike Wesch won a Wired Magazine Rave award for his hit YouTube video essay on Web 2.0.

Anthropology and Science

The relationship between anthropology and science also came up a lot. CKelty argued for the importance of science studies for anthropology, I discussed Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, why bad science happens, the future of biological anthropology, and economics, while Rex took on Steven Pinker and neoliberal genetics.

History, Theory and Ethnography

Rex grappled with the nature of anthropology (part II), methodology, the history of anthropological theory, and the use of history as theory. I explored the continued effects of colonial ethnography in India.

Plagiarism

The definition of plagiarism got stretched as we discussed citation plagiarism and accusations of plagiarism in the army’s counter-insurgency manual.

Guest Bloggers

Last, but certainly not least, this year’s guest bloggers included Rena Lederman who wrote about IRB issues, Michael Brown who wrote about intellectual property rights and bureaucratic rationalization, Fuji Lozada who wrote about sports and fieldwork, Laura McNamara who wrote about the anthropology of interrogation, Kimberly Christen who wrote about the relationship between Australian Aborigines and the state as well as her work on indigenous archives (the fallout from Australia’s Little Children are Sacred report deserves its own mention), and Gretchen Pfeil whose excellent posts on modern kinship were wiped out by an unfortunate malicious attack on our site. Hopefully they will be restored soon.

2006 Highlights

It has been a very good year for Savage Minds. We are blessed with a vibrant community of readers and commentators.

Here is a roundup of some of 2006’s most noteworthy posts to take you into the new year:

  • Anthropology of the Spirit: “everybody’s got a body, and it is surprising and interesting to learn about how the taken-for-grantedness of that body is historically/socially/culturally constructed. But not everybody has a spirit.”
  • What is good anthropological writing?: “Which were the texts that made an indelible impression on you, and why? Any answer to this question has to be biographical.”
  • The Invention of the World: Islam in the West: “the importance of Muslim scholarship to Columbus’ voyage cannot be overestimated”
  • Found Mag meets Savage Minds: “Sometimes it’s better to have a hand-scratched, seat-of-the-pants expression of deep knowledge over a real-time, social software, scale-free, really simple, ajax-enhanced, web 2.0 instant access to scholarship.”
  • World Simulation: Part One: Constructing the World: “In my last post, I described my ‘anti-teaching’ philosophy that led me to experiment with different ways of teaching cultural anthropology in very large introductory classes. So far, the most radical and intensive experiment I have tried is the ‘World Simulation.'”
  • Technology in the Classroom: PowerPoint Alternatives: “Power corrupts: PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”
  • Reading circle: let’s do Friction: This page archives all of our posts from this summer’s discussion of Tsing’s popular experimental ethnography, Friction.
  • The American Anthropological Association’s lobbying against open acess is so, so misguided: “In other words, in order for publishers to argue that it will become unprofitable for them to run a journal because of competition from open access repositories, they must argue that they provide very little value to a journal as a product.”
  • 30 Days of Cinétrance: “Despite the fact that one of the prime motivations for producing reality TV is saving costs on writers and actors, it does seem to draw heavily from the social sciences.”
  • In the Flesh in the Museum: “From the first European contact with the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere onward, Indians had been exhibited in royal courts, traveling shows, circuses, and world fairs and expositions.”
  • Junking the Nature/Culture Divide: “Pharmaceutical projects and products redefine the horizons of possible human being.”
  • Places and Frames: Reading Bruno Latour on Holiday: “Latour proposes that there is nothing intrinsically contextual about place, that place is simply a staging or framing for traces and associations, near and distant, past and present. Context as such does not exist as a factor which explains or accounts for a place.”
  • Conspiracy Theory and Social Theory: “in many ways conspiracy theories are like social theory”
  • Is motherhood natural?: “Many introductory kinship texts begin by pointing out that while fatherhood is frequently non-obvious, motherhood never is.”
  • Book Review: The Politics of the Governed, Part 1: “‘Political society’ is the politics of subjects who wish to have the same rights as citizens, but are excluded (by dint of their very marginalization) from civil society.”
  • You Only Link Twice: Spying 2.0: “an article about the US and defense intelligence agencies’ attempts to generate as much useful information as the blogosphere and wikipedia.”