Category Archives: Blog post

Octopuses can see in the dark: Theme and variation

The original:

New York Times: For an Octopus, Seeing the Light Doesn’t Require Eyes

Which in other formats would be:

Scientific American: Octopuses Don’t Require Eyes To See

American Ethnologist: Visibility of Surface and Surface of Visibility: Octopuses Don’t Require Eyes to See

Cultural Anthropology: Entangled Skin and Vibrant Light: New Surfaces for Anthropology

Twitter: 4 realz! http://nyti.ms/1AmvllU #for #an #octopus #seeing #the #light #doesn’t #require #eyes

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

The We and Them of Anthropology

I think about the ‘we’ and ‘them’ of anthropology quite frequently. I have always found the royal ‘we’ a bit of funny notion. Who is included in this ‘we’? Such a simple word, all of two letters, and yet it has an ambivalent presence. It can be an act of loving kinship—we are here together. We look out for one another. Or it can be an act of violence through the denial of difference: ‘we’ are just like you, so your concerns are invalid. We know what’s best. We are not amused.

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Savage Minds: First Class

 

Savage Minds: First Class

 

Just over 10 years ago, Kerim contacted me with an idea. I’ve long since lost that first email but the gist was “Hey, this blogging thing seems to be going places, but there don’t seem to be many anthropologists doing it. We’re young and stupid, wouldn’t it be cool if we started a blog about anthropology?”

It would be cool.

The idea was simple: we’d collect a bunch of anthros, given them logins, and let them post whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, so long as it was somehow about anthropology. Interestingly, none of us had ever met, and wouldn’t for several years — this was all organized by email. Within a week or so, we had our first lineup: Kerim, Nancy, Ozma, Rex, Tak, and myself. Our freshman class, so to speak.

And on May 15, 2005, 10 years ago today, Kerim posted Welcome to Savage Minds and Savage Minds became a reality.  Continue reading

You can help stop drastic cuts to NSF funding for anthropology

Paid-up AAA members got an unusual email in their inboxes the other day from Monica Heller, the president of the American Anthropological Association. It’s unusual to get AAA direct mailing, and those of us who do often are halfway to hitting the delete button before we even get around to reading the subject line. This is one email, however, that we should all take seriously: Next week the House of Representatives will be debating the ‘COMPETES’ Act (H.R. 1806), which will, in essence, cut NSF funding of anthropology in half. This is one to worry about, folks.

I’ve argued in the past that the NSF already radically underfunds the social sciences. This new bill cuts the budget of the SBES (social, behavioral, and economic sciences) 45%, and targets a third of funding for one units (the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics) while leaving the other units to fight for the scraps.

Luckily, it is easy to tell your representatives what a lousy idea you think this is — head over to Vox Pop and follow their simple and easy process to send an email to your representative letting them know that you think anthropology and the social sciences deserve better.

Not all anthropologists practice a version of our discipline that is scientific — that’s why we also apply for funding from agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities. But for many of us, anthropology is a STEM discipline: an evidence-based research science interested in generating generalizable models of cultural and social process. It may not always look this way to non-anthropologists, mostly because hypothesis formation in inductive, qualitative field research looks a lot different from the version of the scientific method you are taught in high school. But that’s ok — numerous studies of bench science have shown that lab work doesn’t look very much like high school version of the scientific method either.

Consider, for instance, the winner of the 2015 Bateson Award,  Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think. The Bateson award is given out by the Society for Cultural Anthropology, the section of the AAA most likely to be named as anti-science by people who consider themselves pro-science. Kohn’s book is widely viewed as a part of the theoretical turn towards ‘ontology’, which is in turn seen as being the most anti-scientific approach imaginable. In fact, Kohn is quite frank in emphasizing his debt to Terrence Deacon, a biological anthropologist who does interdisciplinary work in neurobiology and human evolution. As counterintuitive as it may seem to  some, books like How Forests Think are tied to a scientific project which the NSF currently supports — but might not for much longer.

So take the time to click through this link and help support federal funding for anthropology. Thanks.

savageminds and anthropology.info meet in person

Back in the day when the original group of Minds first got this blog all stood up, the anthropology scene was in a different, pre-Twitter phase of deeper engagement and longer entries. We knew each other. Since then some blogs have given up the ghost, others have moved on to bigger and better things, and two (or three!) generations of anthropology blogs have replaced them.

Throughout all this time, there has always been antropologi.info. Founded in 2004 by Lorenz Khazaleh, this multilingual blog has been covering anthropology for longer than SM. Lorenz’s pace on the blog has slowed down and sped up (and slowed down again) over the years, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the most experienced anthropology bloggers around.

I was so pleasantly surprised, therefore, when I ran into him at a recent conference in Oslo. For the first time in eleven years of blogging, we were face to face for the first time! It was a genuine pleasure — especially when someone explained to me that ‘Lorenz’ was actually the true name for the blogger I knew as  ‘antropologi.info’!

We were so excited we took a picture. Here it is for the record books:

Rex and Lorenz in Oslo
Rex and Lorenz in Oslo

This picture comes just in time for SM’s tenth anniversary, which we’ll be marking in less than a week from now so… look forward to more self-satisfied nostalgia from middle-aged white guys in the near future :S Don’t worry — we’ll be back to normal after that.

Around the Web Digest: Week of May 3

¡Hola chicos y chicas! Next week instead of the weekly digest I’ll be sending you all a “Wish You Were Here” postcard from the Yucatán. As always, you can bring blogs to my attention at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com .

In my ongoing search for anthropologists in the private sector, I came across this piece in MetroNews Canada on Ford’s cultural anthropologist. A fun excerpt: “How does one gather cultural anthropological data? By shadowing people, from the time they get up to the time they’re done for the night, for several days in a row, much like a reality show, just without the cameras, fake drama, and C-list celebrities.” Yes, Ford Motor Company Has Its Own Cultural Anthropologist

In high school, I did a report on cannibalistic practices around the world… so of course I was a sucker for this sensationalizing piece in The Conversation. One good thing about the Paleo Diet is that it’s opened a space to talk about the human past:   The “Other” Red Meat: On the “Real” Palaeodiet

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small photographs forgotten

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A box of photographs. Disheveled, sitting in a corner in our garage. Left behind by previous residents. Nobody seems to know where it came from or who it belongs to or whose faces are mixed in there. There are more than just photographs in this plastic box–receipts and old checkbook ledgers and even things like high school diplomas. There’s no order to any of it. But the photographs dominate. It’s as if somebody just threw these things into a pile and maybe someone else threw that mess into a box and after several rounds of this process they ended together in this disorderly, dusty cemetery of artifacts. All of those years and eyes and faces and moments just sitting there, cut off from the social lives that produced them. What strange objects, photographs. Continue reading

Tending to duties across legal orders: committing anthropology while Indigenous

In October 2014, I wrote a piece about citation practices and the relationships between Indigenous people, Indigenous scholars and contemporary anthropology more broadly. The piece went viral and has received well over 28,000 hits from around the world since I posted it. I never thought that my own personal reflections on what it is to be Indigenous and working within Anthropology would garner that much attention.

Since writing the piece I have returned to Canada, where I currently am living and writing within unceded Katzie First Nation territory along the Lower Pitt River, which snakes its way south from Pitt Lake towards from the mighty Fraser River in the province known by the profoundly settler-colonial name British Columbia. Within this territory, much like my home territory in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), live fish. Many fish. Specifically: sturgeon, salmon, trout and many others.

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Hegel on Physiognomy and Phrenology

For those of you who actually read Hegel’s Phenomenology in its entirety it will not come as news that there is a chapter on physiognomy & phrenology, but if you are like me and never made it that far on your first try, discovering his unique approach to criticizing these pseudosciences for the first time is quite an eye opener. I have been listening to Jay Bernstein’s two-semester course on the Phenomenology ever since Ann Stoler mentioned it in her conversation with Rex and I absolutely love it. In his lecture on this chapter Bernstein draws on Alasdair MacIntyre’s essay “Hegel on faces and skulls” which can be found in the book Hegel on Action and I thought Savage Minds readers would be interested in a summary of MacIntyre’s argument, especially since he makes an important comparison to the kind of neuroscience reductionism which is still so popular today. (And which is the whole raison d’être for the wonderful Neuroskeptic blog.)

Illustration in a 19th-century book about physiognomy
Illustration in a 19th-century book about physiognomy
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Tansi! Tawnshi!

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Zoe Todd. 

Tansi! or Tawnshi!

These are, respectively, the nehiyawewin and Michif greetings of my home territory.  I grew up in amiskwaciwâskahikan/pêhonan in Treaty Six territory in central Alberta, also known by the colonial name Edmonton. Michif and nehiyawewin are two of several Indigenous languages spoken in my hometown, which is the traditional territory of Cree, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Dene, Nakoda and Métis peoples. I am finishing my PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and will begin a position at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada in July.

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The hills of Nepal are crying, but why aren’t we listening?

[Savage Minds is pleased to publish this guest essay by Galen Murton. Galen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research examines of questions of identity, development, and material culture in the Himalayan borderlands of Nepal and Tibet. He is currently in Nepal conducting research on roads, borders, and trade in Mustang district.]

It is for the living paradox of Nepal that so many of us love this country. The sacred spaces of Kathmandu in the profanity of an overwhelmed, polluted city. The beautiful smiles and namastes of a village within communities for which the government could hardly give a damn.

Yesterday the children of Pokhara returned to school while mass burials and cremations continued in Gorkha, Lamjung, Nuwakot, and elsewhere. This return to normalcy in Nepal’s most scenic city is essential, and yet nothing is in fact normal. Tourists are in short supply and yet the shopowners of Lakeside sit in vacant showrooms, eagerly awaiting their return. Everyday conversations tend towards the mundane again – the price of petrol, the pre-monsoon weather – and yet the specter of disaster looms everywhere – where were you when IT happened?; are you and your family and your home alright?; what about the village?; did you lose anyone? Everywhere there is a big elephant in the room, or better yet, a makara in the shadows. Continue reading

Gone: The Earthquake in Nepal

Gone. This one word is in heavy use right now. Heavy as in frequent, and heavy as in weighty. Gone are homes. Gone are temples. Gone are entire villages. Gone are animals. Gone are the thousands of people who died in the 7.8 earthquake which rocked central Nepal midday on Saturday, April 25. Felt across Nepal and into Bangladesh, India, and Tibet, the earthquake is still not over. There are people being rescued alive in rubble. There are still tremors and aftershocks. There are landslides and avalanches. There are still entire regions from whom we have not heard, about which we do not know their status. We do not yet know. It is not over.

Langtang village, now gone
Kyangjin Gompa in the Langtang Valley survived the earthquake.
Before the earthquake this was Langtang village. Now gone.
Before the earthquake this was Langtang village. Now it is gone.

What we did know was that a big earthquake was coming. One had long been predicted for Nepal. Despite this, emergency preparedness mostly took the form of prayer, of hoping it wouldn’t happen or that it wouldn’t be too bad. It did happen and it was bad. Continue reading

Between the Anthropocene and Neostructuralism

Over the weekend I read the book symposium in Hau on Philippe Descola’s Beyond Nature and Culture; then I perused the Open Anthropology current issue on the Anthropocene, recently highlighted by Rex. The experience was somewhat jarring—Descola’s ontological perspective renders up an almost placid view of humanity via fairly timeless schemas such as totemism and naturalism; while Jason Antrosio and Sallie Han’s curation of anthropological writings depict humans (finally?) confronting the precarity of our species-being in the face of climate change. Strikingly, though, they both share a confidence in the relevance and purchase of “classic” concerns of anthropology—conceptually, methodologically, and theoretically. And it’s this shared confidence I want to tap in thinking about how multispecies analytics are percolating up in anthropology. Continue reading