Category Archives: Blog post

Situational Awareness

This morning I was taking notes on my laptop as an officer from the NYPD counter terrorism department’s SHIELD unit gave a room full of academic staff ‘active shooter’ training. As the first video was rolling, he walked over and stood behind me to see what I was typing and almost inaudibly asked the young man from IT who was sitting behind me what I was up to. “She’s taking notes,” he whispered back, loud enough for me to hear. My first instinct was to think that maybe buying a bright red laptop was a bad idea, followed quickly by a wish that I had had enough time before the session to run to my office to drop off my stuff and pick up a notebook. My heart was pounding loudly; this person had taken over my safe space rendering it anxious and forced my body to feel defensive when all I had been doing was taking notes. I did not flinch or acknowledge his existence as he paced around me. Even though I like to pretend it does not matter, I know that it was not the red laptop that was the trigger for his suspicion, but rather my hijab. I watched the screen as Derrick O’Dell told us what he did in 2007 during the Virginia Tech mass shooting. I thought of the many students I taught. I thought of the kids in the neighborhood schools. I thought of my young daughter. I thought about what I could do to make it past an ‘active shooter’, and I realized I would have to have a second plan in place as well: how to make it past law enforcement without them thinking it was me.

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The Museum of Corruption

During the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, protestors streamed into the residence of former President Yanukovich at Mezhyhirya reclaimed it. The hat thief who became Head of State is charged with squandering billions of dollars during his years as President. Ukrainians are still asking how to repair the political culture that made it possible to elect this man.

The Yanukovich estate has been turned into a “Museum of Corruption.” Vans with the “Museum of Corruption” placards fill with passengers on the outskirts of Kyiv about every twenty minutes and careen to the estate where visitors can gawk and repent. Like the Museum of Terror in Budapest that explores fascist and communist terror in Hungary, Yanukovich’s estate exposes the idiocies of modern leadership through bizarre inversions. This is a place where animals lived better than many Ukrainians. Museums of corruption may become a thing of the future: one opened in Thailand in June 2015.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/thailand-launches-museum/2136102.html.

Tourists can leave Ukraine’s Museum of Corruption with souvenirs like refrigerator magnets in the shape of a golden toilet (Yankovich reportedly had golden toilet fixtures) or toilet paper printed with the face of the latest political bad boy.

IMG_1158 IMG_1153

A paradoxical layer here is the humanitarian purpose his estate now serves. People who have been displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea were granted permission to live here. Yes. This is a good thing, sort of. Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- Black Lives Matter

Hello everyone.

I woke up this morning feeling heavy with sadness. Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A day after Philando Castile was murdered in Falcon Heights, Minnesota by the police. Social media has become a never ending stream of images and text that position black bodies as a moral panic, an echo chamber of violence. The debates over the structures of racism and the police have reached a national arena; we as anthropologists can no longer stand silent.

Instead of a normal Around the Web Digest, I offer readings by anthropologists and critics about the role of the field in dismantling structures of oppression.

Cultural Anthropology offers many readings from a variety of scholars on the intersectionality of Black life in America. Pieces on the experiences of living in constant violence from the state, survival strategies, gendered aspects of policing, international perspectives, and the role of systemic economic disenfranchisement.

Anthropod interviews Yarimar Bonilla, Laurence Ralph, and Mark Auslander on their views of recent #Blacklivesmatter protests.

Shay Akil on Decolonize All The Things criticizes anthropology on it complacency on anti-blackness in academia. Our research and theory will do nothing if it is not translated into practice.

In 2014, we witnessed anthropology face new crossroads in how we contribute to everyday life with coalitions being built across Gaza and Ferguson. I wonder where our discipline stands today with state violence still encroaching in marginalized communities and counter-movements against Black Lives Matter movements.

Here are some earlier resources for teaching from American Ethnologist  about Black Lives Matter protests. (Here) (Here)

Savage Minds has written extensively on the role of racism and anthropology. I compile a list here to better read through.

Not only do anthropologists research these communities, I believe we have the moral responsibility to practice informed activism for these communities in order to heal.

I will return next week with a regularly scheduled digest.

Peace and Love,

Eddie

Reclaiming Detroit: Decolonizing Archaeology in the Postindustrial City

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the Decolonizing Anthropology series.

By Krysta Ryzewski

Detroit moves quickly; issues of scale and pace in a city of this size pose major challenge to contemporary archaeological practice. I’m not sure what a decolonizing archaeology should look like here, but it’s happening nonetheless. It is grassroots. It connects with communities. It shares the skills we have as social scientists with people, places, and collections. The goals are simple – to tell stories that matter, to empower memory, to increase participation, and, hopefully, to spur action against destructive forces of erasure and exclusion. We don’t have the luxury of time and protracted theoretical deliberation on our side; this work is done in a climate of rapid late capitalist development and privatization, where most of places we encounter are at the mercy of irreversible decay from ruination or demolition by developers.
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Around the Web Digest- June 19

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying your Tuesday, maybe still recovering from Pride weekend? I have some light readings for the week to aid in your recovery.

The need for queer anthropology only grows in the shadow of Orlando and growing political discourses on queer people around the world. Tamar Shirinian illustrates the intimate relationship between the nation-state and the lives of queer people.

Stem cells still fascinate biologists for their vast potential in medicine and learning about human development. However, stem cell tourism that promises miracle cures across the world is emerging. An emerging issue among medical anthropologists who study medical tourism.

The EU is in peril as the Brexit situation looks more and more uncertain. Simon Roberts reflects on the importance of anthropology in perilous times and the value of ethnography in public policy.

Surfing as metaphor for ethnographic practice. David Whyte offers parallels between the embodied knowledge of surfing in constantly changing environments to the shifting cultural landscapes within ethnographic field work.

Do you want to mix it up a little bit in the fall when teaching classes? Food Anthropology suggests cooking a meal in the tradition of experiential learning?

Sleep vs. Nap vs. Inemuri. When regular sleep patterns are a virtue; why is sleeping in public so prevalent in Japan?

If you are not familiar with the work of Paul Stoller (earlier announced as an inaugural member of the Public Anthropology Institute), here is a video that illustrates the foundational work of Dr. Stoller.

If you have any article that you recommend, please share them with me at smechong@gmail.com

See you next Week!

Introducing the Public Anthropology Institute

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the Decolonizing Anthropology series.

By: Faye V. Harrison, Carole McGranahan, Matilda Ostow, Melissa Rosario, Paul Stoller, Gina Athena Ulysse and Maria Vesperi

The massacre in Orlando was just two days before we sat together around a seminar table in an idyllic New England college town. A massacre of forty-nine people out dancing, celebrating life in a gay nightclub called Pulse. They were mostly young, queer, and Latinx. Gone. Already stories had turned to focus on the killer’s motivations. Was this primarily homophobic homegrown terrorism or the machinations of the Islamic State? We were meeting at Wesleyan University in Connecticut to discuss the creation of the Public Anthropology Institute (PAI) and contemplate ways to use our scholarly knowledge of cultural difference for greater service globally. Given the disheartening public debate in this moment reminiscent of Dickens’ best and worst of times, we were convinced that this work is necessary in the face of such violence and hate.

Creating PAI at Wesleyan University, June 2016
Creating PAI at Wesleyan University, June 2016

For too long anthropologists have retreated into the minutia of arcane disciplinary debate even when our knowledge can make a difference. It can be intellectually stimulating and important to turn inward, but conversations among ourselves cannot be the only ones we have. We also need to create work with a larger impact and a longer reach. As scholars who have studied across the global south and thought deeply about geopolitics, poverty, social and economic inequality, racism, homophobia, sexism and climate change, we believe it is time to reconnect with the obligation to produce knowledge that makes the world a better place. As the stakes get higher, anthropological perspectives can make critical, unexpected connections and offer direction beyond the logic of dominant assumptions. Continue reading

The Anthro/Zine strikes back!

Anthro/Zine, a venue for undergraduate publication from the team behind Anthropology Now, has entered its second year of publication. The premise behind the project is to provide a space for college students to reflect on how anthropology, in all its myriad forms, has touched their lives. As editor I have been completely blown away by the quality and creativity of our submissions which have included not only essay, but also art, poetry, photography, fiction, and what I call “briefs” — very short pieces. There are now four issues, open access and CC-BY, available at the link above. Check out our latest issue below!

Anthro/Zine publishes April, September, and December coinciding with each new issue of Anthropology Now. If you are a student or recent college graduate and would like to make a submission of some sort that is relevant to anthropology then we would like very much to see what you have to offer. We are most interested in seeing work that is creative, personal, and short. Original research is welcome but we do not publish term papers. Do not submit to us what you have given your professor, your peers are your audience here. Reflect on what you have already accomplished and tell us about your experience of encountering anthropology.

A/Z is not a venue for graduate students, however it is appropriate for grads to submit their work directly to Anthropology Now, please see their guidelines here.

Students or faculty with questions can reach me at mthompson@marinersmuseum.org, if you would like your work considered for the September issue than make your submission by August 1.

Click on the cover or the hyperlink below to download a pdf of our latest issue:

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Anthro/Zine | April 2016Anthro/Zine | April 2016

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Vale Edith Turner

Edith Turner — Edie as she was universally known — passed away on 18 June 2016. Perhaps the quickest and least accurate way to describe Edie is “Victor Turner’s wife”. But her importance in anthropology is pretty much totally erased by that description. Edie was a tremendous influence on Vic, and all of his work should be read with the recognition that there is a silent second author on the piece: Edie. But even reducing Edie to merely a co-author of some of the most important anthropology ever written doesn’t do her justice. Edie outlived Vic by 33 years, producing her own brand of anthropology with flair and originality. Edie produced around five books between Vic’s death and her passing — that is to say, after she was sixty-two years old, an age when most people are on the verge of retirement! In them, she crafted an audacious, unapologetic anthropology of religion that parted ways with secularism, science, and over-seriousness… and never looked back.

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Participant Observation and PTSD

One of an ethnographer’s most important instruments is his or her body. What has been called an “affective turn” in the social sciences has entailed thinking of the body as more than a set of significations in the performance of an identity. Writing in anthropology along these lines has provided a refreshing appreciation of how discursive approaches do not adequately capture the body that lives, moves, and senses. “From a phenomenological perspective, the living body is considered the existential null point from which our various engagements with the world—whether social, eventful, or physical—are transacted.” 1

Doing fieldwork with people displaced within Ukraine this summer has taught me a lot in this regard. When I most fully appreciated this was last night. I noticed as I was going to sleep that it was raining. Then, as I was dozing off, I heard what I thought was bombing. Gunfire. Then car alarms in my neighborhood began going off.

With my heart pounding, I leapt out of bed, and started to climb under it. Then I thought better of that idea, threw on my clothes, and grabbed my wallet and passport with the thought that I do not want to die in pile of rubble here and now. I ran around the room in circles a few times thinking about what else to take before deciding my belongings were, at that moment in time, irrelevant. Then, as I was breathing rapidly and turning the key in the lock, I stopped to think about what I was hearing. Continue reading

Ramadan Diaries: Week Two

Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites. This is the third entry in the series, you can read the Introduction here and Week One here.

Oguz Alyanak: On Ramadan Diet: A Vegetarian’s Perspective

Without a doubt, one of the challenges of doing fieldwork is dietary. While some may be open to dietary change, and willing to experience new dishes, others, like myself, may be less inclined in giving up on dietary restrictions. Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- June 12

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying the first days of summer, I am sweating in the Chicago humidity as I type this. Anyways, here are some readings for this week!

Join Vincent Crapanzano and an autoethnographic exploration of the meaning of ritual through the daily routine of animal slaughter. If you do not like the thought of dead rabbits, read with caution. 

University administration and student activists are seen to always conflict with each other. Does it have to be this way? The Chronicle of Higher Education offers new ways to find collaboration between students, faculty, and administration.

Undocumented immigrants face growing challenges in the US as Trump continues to create animosity among the right and more recently DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) being placed on hold due to a lawsuit. Please read a Savage Minds interview (Part 1) (Part 2) with Dr. Ruth Gomberg-Munoz for more background.

Fieldwork is an unpredictable time in the anthropologist’s life and that is the beauty of it all. How to Anthropology illustrates the serendipity and nuance it takes to do fieldwork and why it enriches ethnography.

Relive your first cultural anthropology class in undergrad with “Insulting the Meat”. If you are a recent graduate like me and need a pick-me-up when capitalism has you down, this reminds us why we study what we study.

If you have any article that you recommend, please share them with me at smechong@gmail.com

See you next week!

Decolonizing Anthropology Textbook Covers

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the Decolonizing Anthropology series.

By: Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall and Jennifer Esperanza

As young anthropology students in the 90s we heard Dr. Faye Harrison call: decolonizing anthropology is about “working to free the study of human kind from the prevailing forces of global inequality, and dehumanization…” As professionals, one way that we—anthropologist Dr. Jennifer Esperanza and design anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall—have chosen to decolonize anthropology is to critically (re)examine the North American introductory anthropology textbook.

As Dr. Joyce Hammond and team discussed in their analysis of 47 introductory anthropology textbooks published between 2001 and 2007, the images chosen for the covers are largely comprised of people of color, specifically non-Western and/or Indigenous people. Our examination of textbook covers in subsequent years shows little change, which means that textbook images continue to infer that to study culture is to study a non-“white, middle class, capitalist-based” Other (Figure 1).

Fig 1 anthro_exoticism

Figure 1: Group of covers resulting from Google Search “anthropology textbooks” Continue reading

With ‘Cold War Anthropology’ David Price brings his trilogy on anthropology and American power to a powerful conclusion

Price, David H. 2016. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. Duke University Press. 

A few years ago, I had a chance to have lunch with David Price and some other people at the AAA meetings. Back then, he struck me as exactly like the kind of person you’d expect to be a professor at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest. Which is exactly what he is. Graying beard, laid back manner. I couldn’t see his feet but if he was wearing Birkenstocks, I wouldn’t be surprised. But beneath this amiable exterior is one of America’s most impressive historians of anthropology, a radical thinker and untiring author whose relentlessly probes the dark corners of our discipline’s history. In the course of twelve years Price has written three books which have helped redefine anthropology’s understanding of itself. And now, with Cold War Anthropology, Price brings his massive, precedent-make (and -busting) history of anthropology and American power to a close. It’s a defining moment in the history of anthropology, and deserves wide attention.

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Jamala, Eurovision, and Human Rights

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Greta Uehling]

Many Savage Minds readers will be aware of the victory of Jamala at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. As part of my current project, I have been following the work of this Crimean Tatar singer, composer, and actor closely, and was among those who greeted her at the Kyiv airport when she returned with her trophy.

The most striking aspect of Jamala’s triumph is not that a singer from a relatively small indigenous group rose to the top. After all, Jamala is a gifted artist whose vocal range spans eight octaves and multiple genres. What is most striking is the sharp contrast between the euphoria that sprang up with her victory in Stockholm, and the terror weighing down on her people in the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea. The joy and the pain are dizzyingly, even masochistically close.  Continue reading

Ramadan Diaries: Week One

Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites. This is the second entry in the series, you can read the Introduction here.

DSC_0046 - ps

 

Oguz Alyanak: On Doing Fieldwork During Ramadan

Ramadan has a different rhythm to it. For those who conduct fieldwork in a very systematic manner—e.g., wake up at 6 to prepare for the day, leave home by 9, get back before sunset and type down fieldnotes before sleep—fasting will pose challenges. For one, there is no coffee or snacks to keep you going during the day. Instead your best friend is your constantly rumbling stomach. The sahur (predawn) meal is in the middle of the night. You can either get up at 3AM or stay awake until 4. Either way, you will end up losing sleep. And try falling asleep with a belly full of food and water! Continue reading