Category Archives: Blog post

Introducing the Public Anthropology Institute

This entry is part 9 of 9 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.

Continue reading

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 9 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.

Continue reading

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

Tools for Dismantling the Master’s House

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the Decolonizing Anthropology series.

By Daniel M. Goldstein

“The master’s tools,” Audre Lorde (1984) famously said, “will never dismantle the master’s house.” Her statement was a provocation to Western feminists to question their own racism and homophobia, to examine the “terror and loathing of any difference that lives” inside each of us. “What does it mean,” she asked, “when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow parameters of change are possible and allowable.”

Zodwa Radebe expresses a similar sentiment, using similar language, in her recent Savage Minds post, in which she dismisses the possibility of decolonizing anthropology. Radebe states that “it is absurd to think that anthropology can be used as a tool to decolonise because it was used to colonise.”

All of which raises the question: What are these “tools”? What can they be used to make, or to unmake? And by whom?

Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- Week of May 5

I apologize for the delay! Here are some readings for this week! Again feel free to leave article suggestions at smechong@gmail.com

With the first week of Ramadan complete, many Muslims are breaking fast as the sun sets. However, Muslims who live with eating disorders face the demands of managing mental health, body image, and a devotion to Islam.

The lack of intervention on sexual harassment within the academy have led prominent feminist scholar Sara Ahmed to resign from her position at Goldsmiths UniversityFeminist Academic Collective asks what needs to be done for universities to stop protecting abusers due to “genius”, but protect those who are harmed.

Speaking of gender politics, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi who is in legal trouble due to her vulva-themed sculptures has been found guilty of obscenity. The decision due to the data on the 3-D printed work being made public, not the sculptures themselves. The case offers insight into the intersections of the legality of art, interrogations of gender norms, and politics of data distribution.

For many low-income areas throughout the U.S., McDonald’s becomes a haven for creating community. The articles depicts the creative ways people interact with the fast-food chain to socialize, find support, and survive under capitalism.

Sunday’s tragedy in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub follows a history of violence against queer spaces in the U.S. Acknowledging the importance of spaces for queer people in finding community and safety is of critical importance. However, in opposition to the coming Islamophobia, we must not to forget that queer Muslims exist and offer a counter to sensationalized media tearing these communities apart.

See you next week.

What we learned from #anthroboycott

Please join me in reading responsively

We learned that Boycott supporters felt silenced and intimidated by the anti-Boycott sentiment in their departments while on the other hand anti-Boycott supporters felt silenced and intimidated by the Boycott sentiment in their departments.

We learned that the AAA could deal judiciously with a difficult topic or
We learned that the AAA’s curation of Israel’s “World Anthropology” was biased

we learned that everyone cared because turn out was at an all time high or
We learned that no one cared because only half the association votes
(but then again fifty percent is an F
even with grade inflation.)

We learned the other side couldn’t see how far right it was unless
The other side couldn’t see how far left it was.

The boycott was against anthropology’s commitment to relativism, tolerance, and dialogue and
The boycott was part of anthropology’s commitment to social justice.

We learned that the only reason the other side won is that they bought cookies to the business meeting
or
they purchased extra memberships just to vote.

We learned we couldn’t talk because politics is when the time for talking is past and
We learned should have talked more because talking is what politics is.

We learned that Israel is different than some have been told although
We learned the country is gravely misunderstood by others

We learned that we have the same values, just differently ranked or
have the same values, but believe different things are true
or
have different values, and differently rank what we think is true
but we don’t
have the same values and believe the same things
since
that is not the proper role of scholarly associations
unless
this is the most important thing a scholarly association can do.

We learned that never again
means
‘never again’
or might mean
‘never again’
Because Jewish rights are human rights
and human rights are Palestinian rights
which are human rights which
is why never again means
what it does
unless

#anthroboycott matters because we learned
we learned #anthroboycott matters because

Because we learned #anthroboycott matters

Matters learned because we #anthroboycott

we #anthroboycott because learned

learned because we #anthroboycott

we because #anthroboycott

learned matters

because

we

AAA Boycott Vote Postmortem

By now you have probably heard that the boycott vote failed by an incredibly narrow margin:

In the end an astounding 51% of its 10,000 members participated. The resolution failed by exactly 39 votes: 2,423-2,384 (50.4%-49.6%)—a statistical dead heat.

David Palumbo-Liu, Steven Salaita, Charlotte Silver, and Elizabeth Redden have all written excellent postmortems about the vote. Having read all four, it strikes me that there are three important points to be made: The first is that the AAA is still moving ahead with a statement of censure of the Israeli government and other actions. The second is the role played by outside groups that sought to influence the vote. And the third is the status of the BDS movement after the vote. Read on for my take on each of these three points… Continue reading

A Decolonial Turn in Anthropology? A View from the Pacific

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the Decolonizing Anthropology series.

By: Lisa Uperesa

Over the past two decades, non-White and non-Western scholars have posed serious challenges to the politics of knowledge production in anthropology and the academy more widely. In the wake of critiques of Orientalism, the articulation of indigenous methodologies, and the exploration of indigenous epistemologies, not to mention critiques of whiteness and white privilege, we might assume a new, more inclusive time in anthropology has begun. But has it? Drawing on my experience as a scholar trained in anthropology, as well as a decade of experience as a member and four years as board member including one as chair of an international anthropological scholarly organization, in this essay I explore the continuing dynamics of marginalization of indigenous Pacific scholars in and through the claiming of scholarship and scholarly organizations and anthropology itself as white public space.

My time at University of Hawaiʽi-Mānoa has taught me many things about being a Pacific academic trained in anthropology, living, working, and researching in our linked communities. In particular, it has reinforced to me the importance of positionality and the way it shapes our research process and writing. In my work with Samoan communities, I have noted that non-Samoan researchers who work with Samoan communities are not bound by cultural protocols of respect, acknowledgement of hierarchy, and gendered expectations that I had struggled with throughout my graduate research, and remain part of my work as a researcher. They are not bound by community expectations and eventual opinion not only shaping how the work would be communicated to the public, but also in expectations of service to the wider community from one’s position within the university. As I wrote about in our earlier volume on Indigenous Research in/of Oceania (2010), this “weight” of expectation can be particularly fraught for our junior scholars, but remains unacknowledged labor not captured in CVs, contract reviews, or tenure dossiers. Some colleagues are unencumbered by expectations for care work, community work, and service work that are part of the reality for racialized minority and indigenous scholars. In addition to this care and service work, the legitimacy of minority and indigenous scholars’ research is often questioned because it does not fit neatly within canonized frameworks, or is suspect because it does not sustain the fiction of objectivity. All of these are serious structural problems in academia. This is not to say that we should be unencumbered, but rather all researchers in our communities should feel encumbered and act accordingly. Continue reading