Better late than never, I always say, as the semester starts anew and we all either pack our lunchboxes to go back to school or feel that old pull in a job that runs on a different cycle. Help me stay on top of the links by sending me anything you write or discover at email@example.com
The Alice Goffman controversy continues to provoke critique and introspection about the nature of ethnographic fieldwork. A recent critique by Paul Campos goes beyond the typical claims that ethnographers are unconcerned with fact-checking to suggest that a small percentage are engaging in wholesale fabrication. Paul Stoller addresses this in his column for HuffPost: In Defense of Ethnography. His basic claim, that ethnography can allow us to delve into the messiness of human experience in a way that fact-checkers cannot, reminds me of the time that a researcher from another discipline came to my field site and was met with evasiveness and equivocation.
This post on Somatosphere links Stoller’s post to the practice of giving pseudonyms and changing identifying information: “Ethnography is not about ‘fact-checking,’ Stoller notes, but rather a weaving of personal and professional interactions into fruitful, if not fruitfully frustrating, entanglements. Acknowledging the precariousness of other people’s lives, a precariousness that the writer often does not share, may mean blending the ‘facts’ to protect people’s identities.” What’s in a Name?
Dear readers, either the blogs have been quiet this week or I’m missing some, which you can rectify by sending me links at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most shocking, terrible news in anthropology this week was the Islamic State’s murder of archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad for refusing to reveal the location of artifacts from Palmyra that had been moved for safekeeping. Archaeologist Kristina Killgrove posted a tribute to him on her Forbes blog: Archaeologists Respond to the Murder of Khalel al-Asaad at Ancient Palmyra
An exhibit at the National Geographic Museum uses Indiana Jones as an entry point to dispel myths about archaeology… it even uses the arguably non-canonical fourth installment (#notmyindy) to explore alien astronaut pseudoscience. The Geek Anthropologist’s review: “It Belongs in a Museum”: Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology Review
Apparently it’s National Tell a Joke Day… earlier this week I got to check out a satirical play about electoral politics here in Guatemala called Mi Candidato No Es Chafa (My Candidate’s Not Bootleg/Low Quality) that reminded me that humor is an incredibly complex cultural performance and true immersion is a moving target. Keep me up to date by sending me links to anything I should feature in this space at email@example.com.
In this post on Allegra Laboratory, a South Indian researcher reflects on her feelings of discomfort in doing fieldwork a little too close to home, which has forced her to a new level of introspection about her own relationship with traditional food practices and other overt signs of identity: Dis-orientalizing & Ethnographic Journeys Fieldnotes
As an interesting companion piece, this post featured on Anthsisters, Becoming a Responsible Maori Researcher, points to the fundamental paradigm shift that takes place when the researcher can claim or represent an internal perspective, invoking rich ties to the community.
Happy August! I hope you aren’t going into panic mode looking at your to-do list for summer. Send along any blog posts that need to be featured here at firstname.lastname@example.org!
NPR profiles two cases, an athlete whose levels of testosterone are considered too high for her to compete as a woman and a transgender teen who has caused controversy by seeking to use the men’s restroom at his school: Being A Woman: Who Gets To Decide?
Nautilus explores the Whorf/Kay and Berlin debate in more depth than most blogs: Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language
Happy August readers! Welcome to a month so great they stole a day from another month to make it longer. Let me know about anything cool I should feature here at email@example.com.
It’s a TED Talk! It argues that humans have been successful through our ability to create and believe in abstractions, which facilitate collective action.
A medical student reflects on how her background in anthropology helped her put a patient at ease: A Background in Anthropology Comes in Handy on the Wards
This post on Popular Archaeology introduces Aşıklı Höyük, one of the earliest Neolithic sites ever found: Archaeologists Uncover Human Settlement Dated to the Dawn of Civilization
My social media has been positively blowing up with versions of this story, on four bodies tentatively identified as four high-status members of the Jamestown community. I like NPR’s coverage, which is media-rich: Bones In Church Ruins Likely The Remains Of Early Jamestown’s Elite
Smithsonian Magazine answers the question, Who Were the First People to Eat Chickens? As far as we know: Israeli villagers as early as 400 BCE.
According to National Geographic, a recent find in Guatemala is provoking questions about the rivalry between Tikal and Calakmul: Maya Shrine Reveals Arrival of “New World Order.” An intriguing quote: “Venerating a vassal of Tikal in an area controlled by Calakmul [would be like] 20th-century Americans […] bringing offerings to a bust of Lenin.”
Live Science reports the discovery of an American Revolution-era shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina: Accidental Find: Scientists Stumble on Centuries-Old Shipwreck
As Savage Minds celebrates the official demise of the Human Terrain System, Foreign Policy decries it: The Army Needs Anthropologists
Finally, the Global Social Media Impact Study suggests that Italians attempt to make their Facebook appearances reflect their real lives (to the extent of “curating” their everyday lives by selecting attractive outfits for parties where they expect to be photographed). This doesn’t necessarily square with my intuitive sense of U.S. Facebook use, in which a disconnect between self-presentation and “real” life seems to be expected and accepted: Facebook as a Window: Managing Online Appearance. What do you think?
See you next week!
Happy Sunday, pansies! Please write in with links to include here at firstname.lastname@example.org… or just to say “¡Hola!”
An interesting debate is forming surrounding uncontacted groups. In an editorial in Science, Protecting Isolated Tribes, Robert Walker and Kim Hill argued that it is unfeasible and patronizing to maintain the current “hands-off” approach to uncontacted groups. Stephen Corry has responded in Truth Out – Uncontacted Tribes Don’t Need the “Protection” of Western Anthropologists – and Survival International – Defending Tribes’ Right to Remain Uncontacted, arguing that contact has been universally detrimental to groups and that their ways of life can be viable in today’s world.
Hakai Magazine on coastal science featured this post about the material remains of sea otter tool use, drawing from primatology and archaeology: The Quest for an Archaeology of Sea Otter Tool Use
It was my birthday weekend, so I’ll just say “Here are some blogs. Enjoy!” Send me anything you’ve written or read at email@example.com.
The blog Sex and Psychology breaks down this American Anthropologist article: Is Kissing a Universal Sexual and Romantic Behavior Among Humans? The answer? No. Of course.
Archaeodeath actually vindicates the TV show Vikings in showing grave robbings (although of course they got the details wrong): Vikings Season 2: Floki Digs Up Dad
This post on Phys.Org, Anthropologist Leads Global Effort to Improve Climate Change Models, features such a classic anthropologist quote: “The models are over-simplified,” [archaeologist] Morrison explained. “They are based on mathematical equations relating how many people were in a particular area and what they think that did to transform vegetation. But, they don’t integrate evidence […] about how people organized agriculture—differences such as dry versus wet crops, like rice paddies—that show the same number of people can have a very different impact on the land.”
I’m brimming with conference energy from the Guatemala Scholars Network meeting this last week in Antigua, Guatemala, so this post will be longer than usual. Thanks for reaching out with links and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Language Log featured this Open Letter to Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air, that I found useful as a reminder that just because privilege goes unmarked, it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as the norm or default. (In other words, it’s not “speech” and “gay speech,” it’s “straight speech” and “gay speech”).
Along similar lines, thank you, Society for Linguistic Anthropology, for pointing out that young women are blamed for creating “annoying” vocal aberrations like uptalk and vocal fry, just as women are blamed for not “leaning in” in the workplace: (Socio-)Phonetics in the News. (Also, as an aside, radio host Ira Glass exhibits more vocal fry than anyone I’ve ever heard).
Savage Minders, was your Sunday ruined by the absence of the Around the Web Digest? I’ll have to cast the blame on my intermittent Internet access here in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Thanks to those who’ve sent me links for the digest at email@example.com! (For those who haven’t, make this your resolution for next week).
This post on Cotton Belt Journal connects recent debates about the Confederate flag to the archaeology of African American history: This Place Matters: Remembering African American Heritage Sites
I’m becoming a big fan of Food Anthropology… their posts on “food pedagogy” always make me want to revisit my syllabi and push myself to engage more with the local environment: “You Can’t Talk About Food Without Talking”: Aimee Hosemann with a Professor’s Perspective on the Course “Food and Culture”
It’s been a rollercoaster week in US politics! Hope that, no matter where you are in the world, something in the news made you happy this week. Send me any blog links at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to this post on Media/Anthropology, bilingualism has a different social valence in Spain (where it signifies upward mobility) and Denmark (where it signifies loss of competency in Danish): Educating “Bilingual” Children in Spain and Denmark
At Raving Anthropology, a student is chronicling her fieldwork on drug use and harm reduction in electronic dance music halls in Toronto. In Eat, Sleep, Anth, Repeat, she discusses entering the field, and follows up with excerpts from her field notes in Field Notes: This Data Collection is Interfering with My Dancing. (There’s strong language in case you’re squeamish).
This AAA blog post points out that white middle-class parenting standards should not be taken as the norm, with any difference seen as a lack: White+Word Gap=Wrong!
This week either the anthroblogosphere was quiet, or I was too distracted by the hoopla surrounding Rachel Dolezal to keep up… help me out by sending me links at email@example.com!
As you might have expected, anthropologists weighed in on the scandal surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the academic who was outed as “passing” as black. In this interview on the AAA blog, Patricia Sunderland points out that strategic racial repositioning has a long history: Race and Rachel Dolezal
And on Anthropology While White, The Rules That Rachel Broke discusses “racecraft” and Dolezal’s negation of the continuous social processes that go into creating racial identity, in favor of a personal, psychological narrative.
Continue reading Around the Web Digest: Week of June 14
I love when good online content finds me! Keep submitting links to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to feature them on here.
The title of this Washington Post article is pretty self-explanatory: Why Congress Should Not Cut Funding to the Social Sciences. Takeaway? Aside from having any intrinsic value, understanding social phenomena is important for shaping public policy.
My friends and I were just comparing notes on Ph.D. research with some people we know from the biology department, and they couldn’t understand our view of research as a basically solitary activity in anthropology. This post on the Global Social Media Impact Study Project Blog addresses that very perception: A Methodological Case of Comparative Anthropology
It’s unofficially archaeology week here at the headquarters of the Around the Web Digest… Send me anything I need to feature on here at email@example.com.
Past Horizons: Adventures in Archaeology features this attractive post about the excavation of a drover’s track and inn from the 18th-19th centuries: Ancient Routeway Revealed in Argyll
The crew at DigVentures obviously loves and hates clickbait as much as I do… Check out these 7 Medieval Medicines Dug Up By Archaeologists – the third one will change the way you see medieval medicine forever!
Happy Sunday! Did you know the Spanish word for “pansy,” pensamiento, also means “thought,” just as in the French? I bet you did; you’re all so clever. If there’s anything you want me to share with our readers, send me the link at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In A Hobby Anthropologist Dissects the Tribes of the Upper East Side, the New York Times pans Wednesday Martin’s new quasi-ethnography on the elite women of the Upper East Side, Primates of Park Avenue. The Othering tone of the title calls to mind “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” but without the famous article’s self-conscious awareness of this tendency in anthropological writing. While she appears to have more of an anthropology background than the NY Times gives her credit for, the work sounds superficial and, according to the review, gender-biased in singling out women for criticism.
Yahoo! News featured this story, New Species of Human Ancestor Found in Ethiopia, with the claim that Australopithecus afarensis (represented by the famous “Lucy” skeleton) may not be humanity’s ancestor. Anthropology.net also profiled this discovery, with a link to the original study, but focused only on the claim that a new species has been discovered with characteristics distinct from A. afarensis: Say Hello to Australopithecus deyiremeda, a Newly Discovered 3.4 Million-Year Old Hominid.
It’s that time of year that makes you grateful for good students and good moments throughout the semester… we just had a great review session that helped put the whole course into perspective. If anything is happening online that I need to know about, send me the link at email@example.com.
This post on Brain Pickings is a little older but a reader just brought it to my attention (thanks!). It describes a broad-ranging public conversation between Margaret Mead and the writer James Baldwin that touches on issues of the extent of our moral responsibility and the formation of American racial/ethnic identities: A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on Forgiveness and the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility
For this week’s piece of shameless self-promotion, here’s a post I wrote for Anthropology News about a tour I took of a Guatemalan archaeological site that took a post-colonial turn: Welcome to the Jungle: Touring Tikal