Category Archives: Blog post

The Future at Last: Unraveling the Embargo on Cuba

[Savage Minds is pleased to publish this essay by L. Kaifa Roland who is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Kaifa is the author of Cuban Color in Tourism and La Lucha: An Ethnography of Racial Meaning (OUP, 2010) “T/racing Belonging in Cuban Tourism” (Cultural Anthropology, August 2013), and “Between Belonging and the F/Act of Niggerisation” in Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice: Writing Wrong (Sense Publishers, 2014). Currently, she is doing ethnographic research with Black women entrepreneurs in Havana.]

CUBA, Havana- Photographer Unknown, 'Cuba' - RESIZED

Just for the fun of it—in the aftermath of President Obama’s announcement that relations between the U.S. and Cuba were thawing—I decided to revisit the conclusion to my now ten year-old dissertation in which I had done the academically forbidden: I gazed into my “crystal ball” to imagine the future. I laid out a couple of scenarios involving Fidel Castro’s dying in office or relinquishing the position while still alive. Then I outlined another scenario that resonates with today: Continue reading

Revolutionary Time: First Thoughts on a Concept

[Savage Minds is pleased to publish this essay by Melissa Rosario who is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at Bowdoin College. Melissa is a cultural anthropologist interested in the politics of autonomy for Caribbean peoples and marginalized U.S. groups, particularly Puerto Ricans. She is currently writing a book tentatively titled Revolutionary Time: A Treatise on the Cultural Logics of Resistance in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.]

These days, I have been thinking a lot about revolution. Names of places—Ayotzinapa, Ferguson, Staten Island—now immediately trigger an affective response in me as evidence of the unbroken chain of state repression against black and brown and indigenous bodies. I don’t want to rehash all the extremely apt analyses of all that has remained the same—women’s bodies remain marginal to our collective outrage; the prison industrial complex operates as the new Jim Crow; we are waking up to the violence of the status quo; there is an ironic distance between Obama’s position on Mexico as a uncivil state who must be held responsible for killing innocent youth while remaining silent on the murders of unarmed black youth—but rather to think about what has changed. To do that, we have to turn to the mass mobilizations themselves, the creative responses, the emotional outcry and think about how they move us towards another way of imagining our present predicament and our collective future. As a Diasporican and scholar of the Caribbean, I know that others have been spending their time trying to unthink concepts like revolution and sovereignty. While I agree that the way we understand these concepts need to be redefined, I want to push us in another direction, and ask, what might it mean to reclaim them through communal presence even amidst today’s radical uncertainty? Continue reading

Digital Anthropology: You could get with this, or you could get with that

Last week I reported from #AAA2014 on the emergence of digital anthropology as a growing theme in our discipline and one in need of some legitimacy relative to anthropology’s traditional domains. Readers posed questions interrogating the worth of digital anthropology. What is it good for? What does it add? How should we define it?

I’ve been mulling over this question of what digital anthropology can do that is different from digital sociology or digital communications studies and the answer I came up with is problematic because it points back to these questions of jobs and disciplinary legitimacy. The next frontier for digital anthropology should be participatory design with the added challenge of translating participatory design into conventionally valuable works of scholarship.
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When Peoples Meet

Here’s an SM mini-quiz: Given your knowledge of anthropological fads, what year would you expect to see a book published which had section headings like “Power, Politics, and Dominance”, “Tactics of Survival and Counter-assertion”, and “The Problems of Contemporary Imperialism”? Take a guess and click below the jump for the answer.

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Sources on St. Clair Drake

Since so many readers were interested in Faye Harrison’s piece here on SM and Karen Brodkin’s challenge to Boas’s supremacy as the exemplar of anti-racist anthropology I thought I would provide a quick walkthrough of some aspects of this alternate canon in anthropology — what Harrison has called the ‘DuBoisian’ stream in the history of anthropology (there is a whole special issue of Critique of Anthropology on this topic).

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Reflections on the AAA Die-in as a Symbolic Space of Social Death

[Savage Minds is honored to publish this essay by Faye V. Harrison who is currently Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and President of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including the landmark volumes Decolonizing Anthropology: Moving Further Toward an Anthropology for Liberation (American Anthropological Association, 1994) and Outsider Within: Reworking Anthropology in the Global Age (University of Illinois Press, 2008).] Continue reading

“The Digital” as major theme at #AAA2014

As I settled in to browse the conference program for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (just hours before I was scheduled to leave, natch), I was immediately struck by a common thread running through a slew of paper panels and workshops. This year anthropologists convincingly demonstrated that they have wholly embraced the Digital, it was everywhere from topics to methodological choices, technologies and communications.

Here’s a sample of what conference goers had in store:

  • ACTIV(IST) DIGITAL SCREENS: THE POLITICS OF DIGITAL IMAGING ACROSS CULTURAL BORDERS
  • DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGY GROUP (DANG) BUSINESS MEETING
  • DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL ETHICS
  • DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY, TRANSPARENCY, AND EVERYDAY FORMS OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
  • CONFLICTED FANTASIES: ANTHROPOLOGY AND AFRICAN MEDIA CULTURES IN THE DIGITAL AGE
  • DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND CAREER MOBILITY: DO THESE GO HAND-IN-HAND?
  • SEEING ARGUMENTS: VISUAL ARGUMENTATION AND PRODUCTION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
  • DIGITAL DIASPORAS: AFRICAN MIGRANTS, MEDIATED COMMUNICATION, AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES
  • DIGITAL MEDIA AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGY: A DISCUSSION ON VISUAL ETHICS (PART 1: PRIVACY, ACCESS, CONTROL, EXPOSURE)
  • ANTHROPOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE: ACCESS, CREATION AND DISSEMINATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
  • DIGITAL MEDIA AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGY: A DISCUSSION ON VISUAL ETHICS (PART 2: ANONYMITY, VISIBILITY, PROTEST, PARTICIPATION, IDENTITY)
  • PRODUCING STORYTELLING IN THE DIGITAL AGE: NEW CHALLENGES
  • ON THINGS IMMATERIAL: DATA, USERS, AND PARTICIPATION IN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
  • THE LIFECYCLE OF ETHNOGRAPHIC INFORMATION – CHALLENGES IN THE PRESERVATION AND ACCESSIBILITY OF QUALITATIVE DATA
  • NAPA Workshop: (FREE) Software for Writing and Managing Fieldnotes: FLEX DATA Notebook for PCs
  • RESEARCHING ANTHROPOLOGY AND ORIENTALISM IN THE ERA OF BIG DATA: ROUNDTABLE ON THE ARAB STUDIES Institute’s KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION PROJECT
  • SMALL-SCALE, BIG DATA: A NETWORK SCIENCE APPROACH TO PRODUCING ANTHROPOLOGY IN SMALL-SCALE FOOD SYSTEMS
  • PRODUCING DATA, CRACKING DATA CULTURES
  • THE BIG DATA REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIOCULTURAL WORLDS
  • MAKING ISLAM IN MULTIPLE MEDIA: INTERNET, THERAPY, ROMANCE, AND SCHOOLING IN THE FORMATION OF MUSLIM IDENTITIES
  • TEACHING ANTHROPOLOGY ONLINE: BEST TOOLS AND PRACTICES FOR E-LEARNING
  • Writing Ethnography: Experimenting on Paper, Experimenting Online
  • CASTAC BUSINESS MEETING (COMMITTEE ON THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTING)
  • SOCIETY FOR HUMANISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY WORKSHOP ON UTILIZING FACEBOOK FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH
  • SOCIETY FOR HUMANISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY WORKSHOP. BLOGGING BLISS: WRITING CULTURE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

Add to this the #AAA2014 tweet-up, constant updates on social networks and blogs (not to mention the email and instant messaging we all take for granted) and it is clear — there is no part of our professional lives that is untouched by the online. Research, fieldwork, methods, teaching, scholarly communications. Digital anthropology is a major development in our discipline and rightly so, humanity, our bread and butter, is potentially redefining itself in relation to these technologies. We can’t not study this stuff!
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Learning from Stuart Hall: the Limit as Method

(Here’s a guest post from Sareeta Amrute. Sareeta is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Washington. She is currently completing her first book, Encoding Race, Encoding Class: an Ethnography of Indian IT Workers in Berlin (Duke U. Press). You can read more about her scholarship on her website)

Stuart Hall’s work is notable for the way it links biography, critique from within and of the ‘Left’, and a Marxian analysis of capitalism and popular culture. Hall passed away in February 2014, and is the subject of a series of talks on his life and work ongoing here in Seattle at the University of Washington. These remembrances inspired me to think more closely about Stuart Hall’s specific contribution to research methodology. Hall uses two sense of the limit to ground his research. First, he thinks through limit cases to question a given theorization. Second, he thinks at the limit to uncover what is not yet know about a particular case. The limit as research methodology has, to my mind, a very anthropological sensibility about it, since it uses empirical cases to talk back to establish categories, and at the same time, keeps newly developed conceptualizations open-ended. Continue reading

#BlackLivesMatter and #AAA2014: Die-In, Section Assembly Motion, and the ABA Statement Against Police Violence and Anti-Black Practices

On Monday, December 8, 2014, the Association of Black Anthropologists issued a Statement Against Police Violence and Anti-Black Practices. The Statement followed from recent events in the USA discussed and acted upon at last week’s annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC (#AAA2014): a die-in held on Friday, December 5 at 12:28 pm in the main lobby of the conference hotel, and later that same day, a section assembly motion on Michael Brown and Eric Garner, racialized repression and state violence was presented and approved by the AAA membership at the AAA business meeting. The die-in was planned and motion drafted Thursday by a group of anthropologists at special sessions on Ferguson, racism, and violence; this organizing work continues at the #BlackLivesMatterAAA website. Both the Statement and the Motion are published in full below.  Continue reading

The Wellspring of Zora Neale Hurston’s Creative Imagination

In her stories, plays, poems and songs, Zora drew the words out of her Eatonville memories, the wellspring of her creativity, elevating dialect to new literary heights. As early as 1919, well before her first short stories were published, she wrote poetry in dialect (“In de evenin when I’m alone/ And thinkin jes o’ you…) as well as standard English (“I do not grieve that I no more behold thee,/ Nor press thy lips, nor lie upon thy breast;…). In elevating rural Black culture to the heights of literature, Zora was moving against the grain of writers who would eventually become her urbane contemporaries, and whom she dubbed the “Niggerrati.” In choosing to write in dialect, almost six years before she would venture to Harlem and seven years before she encountered anthropology, Zora demonstrated in her own work the linguistic innovations she later concluded (after much research) was illustrative of a core aspect of Black culture. As her niece Lucy Hurston writes in her book, Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston: Zora wrote stories [and poetry] the way she’d heard them all her life –in the idiom of the black American South.” To Zora, Black language, Black dialect, was not “poor” English, it was an example of Black ingenuity and Black folk’s ability to not only modify the language imposed upon them by slavery, but to invent something completely new and unique. Zora would return to Black language later in her research and view it through a linguistic anthropological lens; she would come to view it not only as a rich resource for her literary works, and certainly not poor mimicry of whites as some scholars argued,  but as evidence of  the cultural adaptive capabilities of  Black folk.

By the time Zora arrived in Harlem in 1925, at the urging of Charles S. Johnson, then editor of Opportunity Magazine who saw promise and talent in her , the Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. In her autobiography, Dustracks…, Zora described the moment this way: “So I came to New York through Opportunity, and through Opportunity to Barnard.”

Zora’s admission to Barnard College and her subsequent introduction to Franz “Poppa” Boas and Ruth Benedict as professors would have a profound impact. It was not the end of her life as a writer, but the beginning of a new chapter, one best characterized as “the making of an anthropologist.”

Visit my “Zora Corner”

 

Zora Neale Hurston(1895-1960) and Anthropology

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger IRMA MCCLAURIN

Beginnings:

I have been a practitioner of the literary arts since the ripe young age of eight—both a poet and a voracious reader. Fortunately for me, I had elementary school teachers who introduced me to Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Yet it was not until I was in graduate school (for the first time, completing a Masters of Fine Arts in English) that I encountered the writings of Zora Neale Hurston. I learned who she was through reading her short stories, novels and plays. I also caught glimpses of the rural Black southern culture that my parents had escaped when they left rural Mississippi and Alabama for the city lights of Chicago where I was born.

As I developed into a literary critic and delved into the history of the Harlem Renaissance, I was left with the distinct impression that most of the modern-day Black critics (mostly men) writing about the Harlem Renaissance cared little about (or for) Zora. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that with minor exception, most have described her with disdain and tolerance and not admiration, despite her note-worthy contributions and the “color” she added to the culture being created at that time.

Many viewed Zora as a person of considerable literary talent during the Renaissance;  she was also noted for her distinctive personality and a flair for drama that sometimes grated on her Black compatriots. Whites found her amusing, much to the chagrin of  some Blacks. Richard Bruce Nugent, a Black writer and painter, and Zora’s contemporary during the Renaissance once remarked: “Zora would have been Zora even if she were an Eskimo.”

What made Zora unique during this period was the way much of her writing was deeply rooted in rural southern Black culture; her literary outpouring reflected a preoccupation with the life ways and folklore of Black rural people. This fascination with “de folk” and rural Black culture was largely fueled by Zora’s experiences growing up in Eatonville, the oldest incorporated Black township in the United States, not to be mistaken for, as Zora flaunted in her autobiography, Dust Tracks, “the Black side of a white town.” In Eatonville Zora had grown up listening to culture in the making—people swapping lies on Joe’s porch, symbolic and metaphoric improvization and the creation of  new meaning with language through storytelling and music.

 

 

Racism is Real, and Colorblindness is Racism: Truths from a Black Feminist Anthropologist

(Savage Minds is pleased to run this essay by guest author Bianca C. Williams. Bianca is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, and holds a PhD in anthropology from Duke University. She is the author of “Guard Your Heart and Your Purpose: Faithfully Writing Anthropology,” and of the forthcoming Duke University Press book Exporting Happiness in which she examines how African American women use international travel and the Internet as tools for pursuing leisure, creating intimate relationships and friendships, and critiquing American racism, sexism, and ageism.)

After weeks of traveling for conferences, and finally getting to my sister’s home for the holiday, I’ve been trying to relax. To peacefully give myself over to this season of thanks. Even now, after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, there is plenty for which to be thankful. However, watching the coverage of the protestors on television and observing conversations on social media has been anything but peaceful. I spent a day and a half trying to find an effective way to communicate the pain, frustration, anger, sadness I was feeling to my friends, peers, and colleagues online, particularly those that seem to live in an alternate reality. They live in a reality where privilege, or at least blissful ignorance, keeps them from seeing how racist institutions and a “race-neutral” criminal justice system continues to oppress their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Below, I include a modified excerpt of the message I wrote to my Facebook community, and then I offer how my thoughts might be relevant to my beloved discipline of anthropology: Continue reading

Tear Gas, Ferguson, and Anti-Black Racism: Interview with Kalaya’an Mendoza, Amnesty USA Senior Organizer

“Rage. Tears. Grief. Rage.” These are the words of Kalaya’an Mendoza, Amnesty USA Senior Organizer. Kalaya’an was on the advance team supporting the work of Human Rights Observers in Ferguson since Michael Brown was shot in August. On the night of the no-indictment verdict in the Michael Brown shooting case (Monday, November 24), Kalaya’an and other members of the Amnesty staff wore bright yellow shirts that were clearly marked “Human Rights Observer.” Around 1:30 am, they were with community members and protestors in MoKaBe’s coffee shop when they were tear gassed by police. Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Kalaya’an about the rage and tears and grief. And the rage. With gratitude and respect, our conversation: Continue reading

What Really Happened on Thanksgiving

(This Thanksgiving I’m posting a short, edited snippet of pages 55-66 of Charles Mann’s   1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. In it Mann describes the history of Indian-European relations that existed before the arrival of the Mayflower by following the story of a single Indian, Tisquantum, and the role he played in the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving. This fair use reproduction is just a small chunk of Mann’s 500+ page book. If you’d like to read more about this topic — I’d recommend buying and reading all of 1491. It’s  excellent. Happy Thanksgiving.)

I had learned about Plymouth in school. But it was not until I was poking through the scattered references to Billington [the author’s ancestor] that it occurred to me that my ancestor, like everyone else in the colony, had voluntarily enlisted in a venture that had him arriving in New England without food or shelter six weeks before winter. Not only that, he joined a group that, so far as is known, set off with little idea of where it was heading. In Europe, the Pilgrims had refused to hire the experienced John Smith as a guide, on the theory that they could use the maps in his book. In consequence, as Smith later crowed, the hapless Mayflower spent several frigid weeks scouting around Cape Cod for a good place to land, during which time many colonists became sick and died. Landfall at Patuxet did not end their problems. The colonists had intended to produce their own food, but inexplicably neglected to bring any cows, sheep, mules, or horses. To be sure, the Pilgrims had intended to make most of their livelihood not by farming but by catching fish for export to Britain. But the only fishing gear the Pilgrims brought was useless in New England. Half of the 102 people on the Mayflower made it through the first winter, which to me seemed amazing. How did they survive?

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