Comments for Savage Minds Notes and Queries in Anthropology Wed, 20 May 2015 20:39:47 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on Tending to duties across legal orders: committing anthropology while Indigenous by Ryan Wed, 20 May 2015 20:39:47 +0000 Thanks for this post Zoe. There’s a lot to think about here. Several of your lines from this post have been on my mind all week.

There’s something about an expressed desire by anthros to “create the conditions of the…ontological self-determination of people” that is deeply ironic, if not paternalistic (all things considered). You make that very point when you write, “In North America, it is almost funny to imagine anthropology creating the conditions for self-determination considering the often negative connotations and legacies it carries for so many Indigenous peoples.”

There’s a certain amount of speaking for others (in the name of those others, for their supposed best interests) that has been ongoing for a long, long time in anthropology. The issue of citation practices that you mention gets at the heart of the matter, at least in terms of practices within the academy/anthropology.

Your post also has me thinking back to some of the core issues and contradictions of the whole “ontological turn” in anthropology.

Comment on Savage Minds: First Class by jlmccreery Tue, 19 May 2015 01:42:20 +0000 Congratulations on a great decade. Best wishes for the next.

The network analyst in me has to ask. How was the original group recruited? How, for example, did Kerim Friedman know Dustin Wax?

Comment on Savage Minds: First Class by Glenn Mon, 18 May 2015 21:37:23 +0000 Thank you! I’m glad this blog exists.

Comment on Tending to duties across legal orders: committing anthropology while Indigenous by The We and Them of Anthropology » Antropologia Masterra Mon, 18 May 2015 20:48:55 +0000 […] anthropology, broadly, sees itself describing–never gave away the ontological? As I said in my previous post, indigenous self-determination in my home territory of amiskwaciwâskahikan/pêhonan/Treaty Six […]

Comment on The We and Them of Anthropology by jlmccreery Mon, 18 May 2015 07:39:42 +0000 Zoe, the generosity of your response is much appreciated. You may already know of this piece:


Review of

Laws and societies in global contexts: contemporary approaches BY EVE DARIAN-SMITH
– See more at:

I just stumbled across it. Seems relevant to the questions with which we struggle.

Comment on The We and Them of Anthropology by Zoe Todd Mon, 18 May 2015 03:51:57 +0000 These are great questions….and ones I also struggle with. In the language applied by Canada, it chose the ‘nation-to-nation’ framing through the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) in 1996, but many Indigenous scholars would be quick to add that an Indigenous nation within North America is not analogous to the nation-state as we know it within Euro-American governance and legal orders familiar to us in Internaitonal law {caveat: I’m not a lawyer, so my understanding of law, as such, is by no means expert!}. However, there is still the difficulty of negotiating around the language of nationhood and the baggage that ‘nation’ carries in the english language. This is why, in the piece, I also use the nouns ‘peoples’ and ‘societies’. Val Napoleon explains in this link here why she prefers to use the terminology of Indigenous societies vs nationhood: and Métis scholar Chris Andersen chooses instead to discuss Métis as a ‘people’ ( These alternate framings put the emphasis on relationship, working across relationship, and holding one another accountable. I have to admit I prefer the latter two framings (Indigenous societies, peoples) for these reasons. However, I also acknowledge that the idea of nationhood in Indigenous languages is not the same as we understand it in english. I think we would do so much better, broadly, to shift to understandings of ourselves having reciprocal duties to one another across collectivities. This is the tough work we are all negotiating today, and it is the tough relationship we must lean into as we try to address the great violences and sufferings people experience around the globe.

Comment on The We and Them of Anthropology by jlmccreery Mon, 18 May 2015 02:05:40 +0000 Zoe, I have been thinking about what you have written so beautifully here. The more I think about the questions you raise, the more uncomfortable I feel.

First, a little background. I am neither Canadian nor First Nations. I am a U.S. citizen who has lived and worked in Japan for nearly thirty-five years. Based on statistics for 2011 cited in Wikipedia I am one of just under 50,000 U.S. citizens who make up only 2.4% of the foreigners living in Japan, most of whom are Chinese or Korean. Anthropology is my hobby, not the way I make my living.

When I think about my own mixed, most Scots-Irish-German ancestors and the national mythology and world history I was taught growing up in southeast Virginia in the 1950s and 60s, I think about people who were indigenous somewhere else and chose to emigrate to what they dreamed was a New World, where they could recreate themselves freed from the traditions in which they were raised. As an anthropologist I know that the continent to which they migrated was already populated. I can only imagine the pain and humiliation of those who survived the resulting wars on the losing side. How to ease that pain and demonstrate respect are, to me, important issues. Are they more important than the polarization of income between the 1% and the 99%? Or the likely impact of global warming or artificial intelligence on the lives of my grandchildren? Should the rights of “nations” take precedence over these issues?

As a political activist whose politics have been shaped by the pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty, my aims are to minimize suffering and, as far as possible, ensure equal opportunity for every human child. I am aware that, as Rorty argues, national pride, coupled with a sense of shame when the nation with which one identifies does evil things, is essential for effective political action. The alternative is political apathy and a future in which things fall apart. At the same time, I am deeply uneasy about romantic concepts of nationhood, in which blood, soil and language not only exclude “the others” but also become traps for individuals who might wish to live different lives. The bloodiest and most intractable conflicts on earth are rooted in these concepts. So I have some questions for you.

How do you feel about African immigrants dying at sea in desperate, illegal efforts to reach Europe? Or would-be immigrants from South or Southeast Asia to Australia confined to what are, in effect, concentration camps on Nauru? What about Israel and Palestine? The aspirations of Kurds or Chechens? Or the competing claims of China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan to islands in the South China Sea, in a resource-hungry world where who controls the maritime resources within the 200-mile economic exclusion zones around those islands is a very big deal, indeed?

I am not for a moment expecting you to have ready answers for any of these questions. These are, as current jargon puts it, “wicked problems.” No one has ready answers for them. What I am suggesting is that your work has a global context and that those who search for solutions to problems that may look straightforward when the focus is restricted to First Nations versus the Canadian state may need to broaden their perspective, both to better understand resistance to what they propose and to find allies with whom common ground can be found.

Comment on The We and Them of Anthropology by Zoe Todd Sun, 17 May 2015 15:15:03 +0000 Hi Liana,

Thank you! The workshop looks like it was very interesting. I hope that readers see this link to your project site and add their thoughts!



Comment on The We and Them of Anthropology by Liana Chua Sun, 17 May 2015 13:36:24 +0000 Zoe – these thought-provoking questions chime with some of the discussions that took place at a recent workshop (September 2014) on who ‘we’ anthropologists think ‘we’ are. The online version of the project is still open, so do feel free to add your voice to the conversation! For more details, see We’re currently putting together a special issue/edited volume on the theme and would love to hear from you and other interested parties.

Comment on Tending to duties across legal orders: committing anthropology while Indigenous by The We and Them of Anthropology | Savage Minds Sat, 16 May 2015 19:22:40 +0000 […] anthropology, broadly, sees itself describing–never gave away the ontological? As I said in my previous post, indigenous self-determination in my home territory of amiswaciwâskahikan/pêhonan/Treaty Six […]

Comment on The hills of Nepal are crying, but why aren’t we listening? by cathy lowry Sat, 16 May 2015 13:00:55 +0000 Many prayers to Nepal you are indeed in our hearts and prayers hang in

Comment on small photographs forgotten by Matt Thompson Sat, 16 May 2015 02:40:55 +0000 Clearly, I have not given enough thought to photography practice as culture. Soon this may be a priority for me as my next project will be cataloging WWII era photos documenting the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation. I think there’s something like 48,000 of them, so… yeah. Your post is giving me something to think about!

Comment on Dataverse: an open source solution for data sharing by Matt Thompson Sat, 16 May 2015 02:24:12 +0000 I am so glad you asked an ethics question. The best way to answer this is to return to the anthropologist’s role as creator of representations of others: we have multivalent obligations to those peoples and histories. This is (ideally) reflected in how we represent them in film, ethnography, government reports, etc. Each of these communications packages information in a particular form, or if you like, genre. The data repository is just another such form. Think of it as a type of publication.

Assuming you have informed consent from the subject then they are aware that your research is going to result in publication. I think best practices should include making explicit the genre or form of those publications, including digital archives. In the case of old research it would be appropriate to make a concerted effort to find the subject in order to make clear that this publication form would be used. Failing that I would advise the anthropologist to use their own best judgement in making public any files about someone who granted informed consent, but is not aware of the digital archive.

What about a case where you do not have informed consent? Such as when making observations or engaging in informal conversations. Pseudonyms should be used except, I think, in the case of public officials. If the setting were in public then I think that would be acceptable. For observations and informal conversations made in private, I would think twice about making that public even if pseudonyms were used. Again, I would advise the anthropologist to use their own best judgement. If the representation was such that you could maintain the confidentiality of the people as if they had given consent then I would consider it. But if it were the case that a local would see through your pseudonyms and identify the people you’re writing about, then there could be some unintended consequences in which case I wouldn’t advise making it public. Keep in mind that in Dataverse the author has administrative control over who can view the files.

In sum, I don’t believe that data repositories really challenge our professional ethics in any new way because it is just an extension of what we’ve been doing all along: creating representations that result in publications.

Comment on What We’re Teaching This Semester: Ethnographic Theory by Lowie Fri, 15 May 2015 19:18:33 +0000 This is very thought provoking. Thanks.

Comment on Around the Web Digest: Week of May 3 by Michael Thomas Fri, 15 May 2015 16:26:44 +0000 I can’t take credit for the reality tv show analogy, but I think it worked. At least better than my suggestion regarding the participatory driving-thoroughness of en-roading [auto]mobyllic imaginaries.