Savage Minds Notes and Queries in Anthropology Fri, 24 Oct 2014 23:25:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Strategy of Condescension Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:46:29 +0000 That Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview in Chinese was big news this week. You can see the start of the interview here:

As you can hear, Zuckerberg’s performance was greeted with “repeated cheers and applause by the assembled students and faculty members.” I don’t want to pick apart Zuckerberg’s Chinese – he only started learning a few years ago, but still did better than some people I know who have lived in Taiwan for over a decade. Nor do I want to focus on the mixed reactions he got on the internet later on. Rather, I want to engage in a thought experiment. Can you imagine a Western audience cheering and applauding a Chinese CEO for speaking in English?

Pierre Bourdieu uses the term “strategy of condescension”1 to refer to the “act of symbolically negating” the power relationship between two languages. He argues that such a strategy ultimately serves to strengthen the hierarchy between the two languages in question. He compares the excessive praise given to a mayor speaking “good quality Béarnais” with much more fluent Béarnais coming from the mount of a peasant. Unlike the Mayor’s speech, that of the peasant would not only be “totally devoid of value” but “would be sociologically impossible in a formal situation.” Indeed, a Chinese CEO speaking English in public at the level displayed by Mark Zuckerberg in Chinese would be a source of considerable embarrassment to all around.

What is interesting about this, however, is that Chinese is not Béarnais. China’s economy is on the verge of surpassing the size of the US economy and the Chinese language is one of the most important world languages, with the number of Westerners studying Chinese as a second language rising fast. So what is happening? I think there are several factors at work here. One is China’s self-image as the underdog. Pointing out insults to China’s “national dignity” is a frequently used tactic in Chinese foreign policy. Another is the extent to which access to English-medium higher education in the UK or America is still a status marker for the Chinese elite. And a third is a legacy of thinking about Chinese language ability in racial terms. This last one is true in Taiwan as well, as I documented in my tongue-in-cheek post on “Seven Ways to Talk to a White Man.” I haven’t been in China recently, but from what I’ve heard, it is even more unusual for foreigners to speak Chinese well there than it is in Taiwan.

In this regard it is interesting to compare Chinese to French. French was once the language of international relations and the cosmopolitain elite. It still holds on to that status in certain realms, but not to the same extent it once did. French people still expect foreigners to at least make an effort to speak some French, and don’t bat an eye if they speak it well. They certainly don’t cheer and applause. French attitudes towards English may have changed over the years, but a rather blasé attitude towards foreigners speaking French still seems to be the norm. One comparison I like to make is between the Taipei and Paris metro systems. While both the Parisian and Taipei systems have multilingual announcements2, with one of the languages being English, the English announcements in Taiwan are unusual, to say the least. Many of the stops have no official English name. Instead, the announcements deliberately mispronounce the Chinese name the way they guess a non-Chinese speaking foreigner might. I certainly can’t imagine the French mutilating their own language to make it easier for Americans who can’t be bothered to pronounce it correctly! Again, this is Taiwan, not China, but I think there is a shared insecurity about the status of Chinese in the two countries, especially with regard to English as a global language.

It is true that Chinese is a hard language for non-native speakers to learn, but it is also hard for Chinese speakers to learn English. I think we can imagine a day when Chinese-speakers expect foreigners to display competence in Chinese equivalent to that they are expected to display in English when abroad. A day when fluency in Chinese goes without cheers and applause. But, for all of the reasons I’ve listed above, it probably won’t happen anytime soon.

UPDATE: Completely re-wrote the section on the Paris metro to reflect the corrections in the comments. (I don’t recall hearing multilingual announcements in Paris this summer, but the sound system on the metro isn’t always working that well.)

  1. Bourdieu, Pierre. “Price formation and the anticipation of profits.” Language and symbolic power (1991): 66-89. (p. 81) 
  2. See comments for fuller discussion of multilingualism on the Paris metro. 
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Academic life is a trapeze, and librarians are the safety net: SM is now archived Fri, 24 Oct 2014 07:07:43 +0000 This open access day I wanted to officially announce some good news — Savage Minds is now being archived at the University of Texas at Austin. Thanks to the initiative of Pat Galloway and her students Brian Douglass, Kathleen O’Connell, Josephine Ragolia, and Rachel Winston, an archive of our blog now lives on UT Austin’s Dspace install(Update: I TOTALLY forgot to give Kerim credit for the incredible amount of work he did communicating with the UT Austin crowd to get the archive set up. In fact, he does ridiculous amounts of work on the back end of the blog all the time which few people (me included, apparently) understand, but that everyone benefits form. So thumbs up to Kerim as well.)

It’s a real mark of accomplishment that someone has taken the time to preserve the blog in a format that ensures that future generations will be able to read our poorly-spelled, hastily written blog entries. In some small sense — and I mean ‘small’, I’m not getting a swelled head here — SM really has become the blog of record for the sociocultural anthropological internetosphere.

The archive itself is just one part of a process to get SM more fully archived both now and in the future… but I’ll leave out details of our future plans since, frankly, they may never materialize.

SM started with no long-range plan for archiving, or indeed for pretty much anything, and over the years we’ve suffered a variety of data loses, ranging from minor to catastrophic. The lesson for open access week is this: back up your data. But at the same time, if you feel the urge to write, write. Start new projects when you feel you have the energy and opportunity to start them, even if all the pieces aren’t in place yet. Archiving is important, but don’t let scholarly apparatus have a chilling effect on your innovation. If academic life is a trapeze, librarians are the safety net. Thanks to UT Austin, Pat, and the whole crew for doing their job so that we can do ours.

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Old Web City Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:16:45 +0000 Old Web City

Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington are posting a series of writings that are theoretical and activity extensions based on their recently published book Networked Anthropology (Routledge).

Just like his colleague Sam Collins in Seoul walking the New App City, Durington meanders the streets of downtown Baltimore and downloads the Baltimore Heritage app in the neighborhood of Marble Hill.  It is across the street from the neighborhood of Bolton Hill and the street Eutaw Place is a symbolic and literal dividing line of race and gentrification in Charm City.  Baltimore Heritage is an organization that attempts to tell stories about Baltimore’s past through buildings and key sites throughout the city.  Their app is a replica of the organization’s website and after geolocating himself through the menu on the app, a marker appears on the screen and once clicked an historical tidbit about an individual named Howard Atwood Kelly is accessible.  Information about this historical figure who lived on the street where Durington is standing appears on his dated iphone.  Hmmmm.  Dr. Kelly was the first professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University, the ‘wizard of the operating room’ for his innovative surgical techniques.  He was also renown for his groundbreaking use of radium to treat cancer. The urban anthropologist now knows something about the past of this neighborhood in Baltimore before white flight.  What about the fact that the zip code where this historical location is marked is now also noted for a different phenomenon by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as a neighborhood with one of the fastest ascending rates of new HIV infections in the United States?  The app provides a connectivity to the past, but not necessarily to the present…that is the continuing project of the researcher.  The app facilitates historical information, but not engagement in the now.  It would be interesting to see what someone living there now thinks about this dilemma.  Could an app oriented toward an applied and engaged anthropology provide it?


For such an under recognized city, Baltimore is tragically overrepresented.  Alongside many other small cities in the United States, it has suffered from the throes of post World War II deindustrialization and the loss of a manufacturing economy while watching a segment of its urban population disappear to the suburbs, exurbs and Sun Belt.  Jobs go away, the tax base erodes, education becomes underfunded, services disappear when needed most, and a demographic shift occurs as white flight reshapes the racialized perception of the city.  As the formal economy dissipates, the informal economy that undergirds all capital flows rises in prominence, as it is one of the few ways in which many are able to literally survive.  One of many consequences of the informal economy related to illicit drug distribution (now being formalized in many sites within the US as a legitimate industry) is a public health problem as addiction creates further strains for social services and is one factor leading to a rise in a particular type of crime.  The concomitant rise in crime from these economic and public health issues creates an over leveraged attention to a particular population resulting in biased incarceration rates and perceived criminality.  All of these factors inform a view of the city as a dangerous space and become the fodder for what we call the ‘representational burden’ of Baltimore in popular culture as seen in shows such as Homicide, The Corner, and the now famous landmark series The Wire.

While many have used The Wire in academia as a quasi-ethnographic treatment of urban life in the United States, we have taken the slant that it represents an overwrought representation of one aspect of a diverse Baltimore…and that it is the best show ever produced for television.  Our National Science Foundation project Anthropology by the Wire has attempted to create alternative representations of Baltimore and its population through collaborative media produced between students, researchers and various groups and entities throughout the city.  After four years we have a substantial media archive of somewhat aesthetically challenged media representing our efforts.  We produce media in the visual anthropology tradition with our collaborators, but quickly became more interested in how media in the project began to be utilized. How was our media linked and shared vis-à-vis social networking sites? This provided a window into reception enabled by the analytics of applications within this burgeoning technology.  As Sam Collins has detailed, the majority of these applications are accessed through smartphones creating a series of networks in the ‘Latent City’.  As our students and collaborators walk the city as of late, they are not necessarily viewing the city itself or its citizens first hand, but are nose down in their smartphone apps immersed in their networks.  Still in the city, but engaging it differently.

Another way to engage a city is through a walking tour.  It can be discovery through commands of others in apps like Dérive or the use of apps like the ones our colleagues at Baltimore Heritage have designed.  We love urban walking tours.  But, there is something about walking around as a sore thumb in a sea of deindustrialization that lends itself to a voyeuristic touristic experience.  We don’t show up in an emblazoned bus as a group, but once we start walking around like a suburban amoeba a dynamic is inevitably created.  Still, walking tours provide our students and us with a sensory ethnographic experience that enhances a textual understanding of the urban.  We also love our partners at Baltimore Heritage who have tried to usurp some of these dynamics by following a participatory ethos in creating walking tours of Baltimore that highlight alternative tropes of the city and its citizens.  In fact, we have provided data for these tours.  These are not the same as tourist-based ventures such as ghost tours and star-spangled banner guided expeditions highlighting historical landmarks and an image of the city frozen in a past time.  Yet, the representation of Baltimore on the Baltimore Heritage website is an ‘Old Web City’.  It’s a reference point that provides a map and context, but not necessarily engagement.  Durington’s stroll around Marble Hill has only a few markers to contend with.  Navigating the green markers on the website and clicking on one connects a series of historical landmarks with various details.  It doesn’t necessarily provide context for getting lost down an alley or stumbling into a mosque representative of the changing demographics of the neighborhood in the last few decades.  The app is a facsimile of the same functionality of the website albeit with the ability to be geolocated to start finding those sites connected to the multitude of green markers.  But, it’s just a starting point for anthropologists and an opportunity to think of the creative misuse of apps even more.

 (A screenshot of the Baltimore Heritage Website)



(Screenshot of the Baltimore Heritage App from a smartphone)


As Collins detailed in our previous post, we are exploring apps as ethnographic speculation and the creation of apps themselves for anthropological research.  We continue to ponder why anthropologists appear to be hesitant to engage this technology that theoretically provides a means of organizing data, arranging space and the possibility of engagement through geolocating capacities.  As one colleague noted on a twitter exchange from our last post, perhaps it is because of the inability of some communities we work with to have access to that technology.  Our sense is that the ‘digital divide’ is eroding quickly.  Moreover, we contend that apps are more accessible than the academic alternatives: articles, books and ethnographic film, all of which present formidable obstacles to publishing, distribution and (paywalled) consumption.  For that reason, we challenged students in Anthropology by the Wire in 2014 to use the Baltimore Heritage app to explore the city.  Through dialogue and analysis of their various self-guided tours they enjoyed the aspect of ‘stumbling upon’ historic sites, but when asked about how they would use it for contextual anthropological research around those sites, they were stumped.  It provides markers, but not the capacity to necessarily go beyond that.  So, how to design an urban anthropology app that does?

We are using an app wireframing tool called Prototyping on Paper, or POP, to start the process of designing an app.  As the POP website and introductory video portends the tool is for entrepreneurs, ad agencies, designers and students “to gain a more solid understanding of UI + UX design”.  Why not anthropologists too?  This tool is tragically simple.  One thinks of an app idea, you draw or ‘wireframe’ what each screen will look like in the app, take pictures of those drawings with a smartphone or tablet and then upload them to the POP design tool in your device.  Once uploaded a variety of functions allow you to highlight different portions of each drawing that is now a screen and create connectivity between pages within the design.  While it does not take the prototype to programming and implementation of an app, it starts the process of how to translate an idea like designing an urban anthropology app to the design phase…in one class.  It literally took about 15 minutes for our fledgling ethnographers to grasp the idea of designing an app that would emulate what we do in Anthropology by the Wire.  How does one design an app that collects information such as notes, photos and videos while also providing contextual information about spaces and places engaged in fieldwork?  And, even more so, provide a means of engagement for the users of the app and collaborators?  Check how one of our students imagined it below:

(Shot/Link of POP Prototype for Anthropology by the Wire)



Play around on the POP prototype for Anthropology by the Wire above via the link.  In addition to a note taking function, mapping capacity, links to social media such as Tumblr and Flickr that we use, and community groups we work with our student included the ubiquitous ‘contact us’ prompt in their imagined Anthropology by the Wire app design.  The scenario we want to create in our anthropological mobile app has the fledgling fieldworker geolocated in a place where they ‘check in’ to do research and the ‘contact us’ function really becomes contact in real time.  The app would enable contact with interlocutors and collaborators who may be available to speak with researchers at any given moment.  This wouldn’t be nuisance anthropology like A Man Called Bee, or bothersome survey takers pounding on a door.  An anthropological collaborator would only be available if they are on the app platform themselves and have checked in ready for dialogue.  Sound a bit like foursquare but not quite?  Well, we were inspired not by personal usage but what we saw happening with geolocating apps like Tinder and Grindr being used for not so anthropological reasons.

 So, why not creatively misuse geolocating apps?  We don’t imagine an ethnographic foursquare review, we imagine an anthropological hook-up in the most platonic sense of the word.  (Disclaimer: we are not advocating the use of Tinder and Grindr for students enrolled in anthropology courses in case you were wondering that).  We want our students to connect with members of the community we are all working with.  We have realized, as many others have, that it is difficult for students to initiate ethnography in the course of a semester.  Our research design for Anthropology by the Wire is based on established rapport and our app would be grounded in that same mode moved to a digital environment beyond social media tools we already employ.  Dare we dream of an app that connects our students and anthropologists with potential collaborators and stakeholders in real time?  Why not?  Could you imagine the applied capacities?  We are.  The possibilities are endless and as we begin to program this app and bring it to beta testing with our computer science friends and community collaborators we will see how it goes.  In the meantime, our next prototyping exercise will connect Sam’s students in South Korea and Matthew’s students in Baltimore in the next few weeks.

Our next post #HanyangTowson will detail that collaborative activity for a networked anthropology and some further speculations.


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Pacific Anthropology Open Access Resources Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:04:29 +0000 Open access scholarship faces a lot of challenges, and sometimes we focus on those so much we lose sight of how successful the movement for open access is. Just take a look, for instance, at the absolutely ridonculous amount of open access resources there are out there for the Pacific.

Pacific anthropology is a small subfield of Pacific Studies, which is itself not that large compared to, say, the study of China or South Asia. But we’ve made incredible progress opening our writing.

Consider the serials: The grand-daddy journal of our discipline is the Journal of the Polynesian Society, which now has over a century of content available open access. Pacific Studies, another key journal, has over thirty years of material available. In Europe the Journal de la Société des Océanistes and the Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde also have extensive open access offerings, much of which is in English. The cutting-edge journal The Contemporary Pacific has twenty years of material. SITES, a Kiwi journal for anthropology and cultural studies, has around a decade of material available. There are also newcomers like Pacific Asia Inquiry and ISLA: The Journal of Micronesian Studies which have been open access from the start. Ianaal (I am not an Australian lawyer) but I believe that early editions of Oceania are now also entering the public domain — someone who isn’t a giant for-profit publisher should start digitizing them.

Museums and archives are making their collections available as well. The National Library of Australia has developed Trove, a handy search engine to allows you to look through Australia’s massive collection of digitized materials. Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, also has a massive image search available, as does their National Library. I don’t even understand what this Melanesian Encounters website is about, but it looks like a great resource for finding pictures.

Did you say you want maps? Texas’s always-excellent map collection includes a large selection of Pacific maps. There is also a great collection of open access early European maps of the Pacific. And these are just the user-friendly front ends.

The Pacific is also blessed with numerous online open access books. For Hawai‘i Ulukau has digitized a large number of books in Hawaiian and English. The Bishop Museum also has a small number of digitized publications. ANU Press has been leading the way on open access scholarship for some time now and has numerous offerings about the Pacific. Mānoa’s Center for Pacific Island Studies has an open access occasional paper series, many of which are book length. The University of Hawaii‘i Press’s Pacific Island Monograph series is also making some of its volumes available. Sydney University Press also has a repository of titles, some of which are relevant to Pacific anthropology. The Melanesian Collection at the University of California San Diego has images, dissertations, and pretty much anything else you want available open access.

And then there are one-off monographs like Susan Hemer’s open access ethnography of personhood in Papua New Guinea from the ambitious University of Adelaide Press. And if you want to dig through the common domain material, works like The Melanesians by Codrington and Argonauts of the Western Pacific are available on with scads of other, earlier pieces.

I could go on forever: the ANU’s digital theses collection, Margaret Mead’s pieces at the American Museum of Natural History’s DSpace install… the list goes on and on. But I hope even this highlight of the stuff that I know best indicates how successful open access initiatives have been in my area.

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The end of Open Access Anthropology (.org) Wed, 22 Oct 2014 07:05:26 +0000 Open access week is a time to celebrate new projects and look back at the success of old ones. However today (yes, it is still Tuesday in Honolulu) I also want to look back at one open access project that I recently said goodbye to: the website

OA Anthro was founded back in the heady days of 2006. Back then, open access was a movement that was just beginning to gain recognition in the social sciences, and the blog was meant to be a central location for anthropologists interested in open access issues. The blog continued for a number of years until, basically, we all got too busy doing other things. After a years of inaction, we recently finally decided to pull the plug.

So: was a success?

In an obvious sense, the answer is ‘no’ because the site is no longer around. Although, technically, this is not true: even after we pull the plug on the live site, it will still be archived on among other places. Still, if someone came to me and said: back in 2006 you had grand plans to change anthropology, and now all you’ve got is a backup of your website on, I think it would be a lot of truth in that.

I think this point of view seems even more reasonable when you look at the anthropology landscape today: There are major open access journals now, such as HAU and Cultural Anthropology. Even the AAA is getting into the game with their occasionally-not-disappointing semi-OA journal Open Anthropology. alumns like Chris Kelty and Jason Jackson have played major roles in  projects such as the University of California’s open access policy and And turned into… what?

On the other hand…. There are major open access anthropology journals and OA anthro alumns have played major roles in OA projects. If that isn’t a sign of success then I don’t know what is. To me, this is a sign of the success of the website, and the early OA anthropology movement. Open Access is now widely simply the default ethical option in anthropology today — something that is not true in all disciplines. It’s not the default publishing model for anthropology… yet. But the ideas do have a fundamental legitimacy now that they didn’t eight years ago — and the website was a big part of that.

Indeed, by around 2008 it was clear that OA projects were not going to be restricted to small-scale, homebrew grassroots efforts, and that the discipline was open to wide-spread change. The site fell apart partially because people got sucked up into much bigger, larger projects — which is certainly a sign of success and not failure.

Another reason that the site fell apart was social media and the increasing amount and velocity of information out there. We could expect people to read two or three (or ten) blogs a day. Savageminds had more eyeballs than and it made more sense to double down on this blog as a project and focus eyeballs here, rather than force casual readers to search out content across three or four blogs.

Early OA blogging was not the sole, or perhaps even the main, cause of the widespread uptake of open access ideals in anthropology. But it did have an important role to play. I’ll keep on playing that role to the best of my ability by publicizing important OA initiatives and projects. For a while, was the best way to do that. Now, thankfully, open access anthropology is too big for the website once designed to discuss it. I’m super proud that now, eight years later, the first stages of the movement are obsolete. I can’t wait to see what the next eight years bring.

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It’s Open Access Week! Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:40:32 +0000 It’s Open Access Week! This week the Internetz celebrates and affirms our scholarly ideals of openness: the right of readers to know, of authors to be known, and for our research to be reused to keep the Knowing More And Knowing Better train rolling right along.

Anthropology, like much of the social sciences, has a more complicated view of openness than some other disciplines. We recognize the culturally-specific nature of our ideals. We also recognize that a commitment to openness doesn’t mean we have the right to compromise the privacy of the people we study and learn from. Indeed, open access is deeply to the ethics our fieldwork, because it is important that we openly share our research with the people who made it possible, whether that be in original, peer-reviewed form and in other, more accessible forms. Indeed, openness means trying to produce, as much as possible, scholarly work that a broad audience can find readable. Openness means, in other words, lowering the bullshit quotient as much as possible.

My personal goal this week is to do an entry a day on Open Access related issues to help celebrate this week. I will almost certainly fail. But let’s see how I do. And more importantly — let’s see what other great open access projects are our there this year!

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Mourning, survival and time: Writing through crisis Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:11:37 +0000 This entry is part 8 of 8 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Adia Benton as part of our Writer’s Workshop seriesAdia is an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University. She has worked in and studied the fields of development and global health since 2000, and is a contributor to Cultural Anthropology’s recent special issue on Ebola in Perspective. Her book HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in 2015).

“Everyone identifies with the survivor.” The man, whose name I have yet to learn, wore a sage-colored newsboy cap. We were sitting next to each other at my neighborhood café. A half-hour before, he was several feet away, sketching, occasionally eyeing my copy of The Wretched of the Earth. “Pardon me,” he said, as he approached my table. “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re reading…” Within minutes, our conversation about radical anti-imperialist writing and secret societies had devolved into a meditation on how humans cope with tragic and sudden death.

“Everyone identifies with the survivor,” he repeated, as he adjusted his sketchpad in his lap.

“I don’t,” I said.

The man paused for a moment and raised his eyebrows as if he didn’t believe me. I recounted the story of an old work buddy, James (a pseudonym), who had died in a helicopter crash in West Africa about ten years ago. At the end of the story, I repeated a peculiar tidbit I had heard from a mutual friend about the last moments of James’ life:

“He was so committed to the organization that he threw his papers and laptop out of the window so that no important documents would be lost.”

As I talked, the memories of working with James at an international NGO in Sierra Leone came flooding back: James demanding that we consume beers at “the last station” during his field visits from the capital; all-employee chats on the staff guest house roof; and sober meetings in the dust-covered office on the main floor of our rural office building. And there were memories that were figments of my imagination: a frightened and determined James tossing office memos, reports and contracts out the window of a rapidly descending aircraft. It didn’t matter if the memories were real or not; they haunted me. For far too many nights in those weeks after his death, I was startled awake by dreams that placed me on the helicopter — dreams that had me convinced that I had been substituted in his place.

The man in the newsboy cap smiled sympathetically. I had proven that I identified with the dead. He said I had told a “great story.” But I felt embarrassed and self-conscious. A decade had gone by, and I hadn’t raised a glass in James’ memory. I think he would have liked that. I had not really even told this story — not in this way. Perhaps I had shied away from retelling this story and from the rituals of memorialization because the circumstances of his death felt too raw; they reminded me of my vulnerability, that thing I wanted to forget and denied daily as I toiled away, psychically and spiritually impaired, in a place haunted by war. It occurs to me that the man in the newsboy cap had nudged me toward an uncomfortable truth. Although I was at first convinced that I didn’t strongly identify with the survivors, my uneasy relationship to James and his place in my story revealed a hitherto sublimated, but profound, discomfort with being a survivor.

But it was only in writing this, just now, that I was able to get to the point of processing and acknowledging this discomfort, of interrogating my insistence that I didn’t identify with the survivor, that I wasn’t like everyone else. It has taken me years to write about James’ death — though he has appeared in my writing in allusion to other, mundane things — and it has taken weeks to extricate meaning from the chance café encounter sparked by a shared interest in Fanon. In some ways, I remembered something that I have known for quite a while: certainly we can all write things on the fly, and those things might even be smart, insightful, or poignant. In fact, sometimes we are compelled to write in the moment, driven by an ethnographic sensibility and knowledge. This writing-in-the-moment is motivated as much as by anger and grief as it is informed by ethnographic encounters. It is not the same as the slow ethnography to which so many of us have become accustomed.

Time, especially for the ethnographer, can help to tease out uncomfortable truths and challenge deeply held notions of others and ourselves. The passage of time can encourage fuller reflection on the chance encounters that move us to think differently about the human condition. With time, intimate encounters and significant moments are relived and reimagined. They are reinvigorated as they are transformed from field notes and faint recollections into words on a page or coalesce into an argument. For me, this is what gives ethnographic writing its potential. Writing is reflection and presents an opportunity to do things with time. Ideas and images can bounce around in my head for weeks, months, or even years, making connections to each other, before I can finally write them down. Once the ideas, people and places are there in front of me, vividly described and thoroughly undressed, they gradually regain their materiality. These figures, places, things and their evocation in the written word, smooth a path for identification with survivors and survivals, both real and imagined.

As an ethnographer who has conducted fieldwork in Sierra Leone and previously worked in the region where Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea meet, it is probably no coincidence that the memory of James resurfaces here and now; this is the place where James died. It is also a region that is experiencing the worst outbreak of Ebola in the 38 years since the disease was first identified. As I write essays about Ebola in West Africa and the US — and watch my twitter feed fill up with news about Ferguson, Gaza and Syria — I find myself drawn to arguments about whose deaths are grievable, whose lives matter and how such calculations are made manifest in the actions of an international ‘community.’ I am reminded of how writing, no matter the tempo, has helped me to remember the dead, and the conditions of their living, in a way that settles uncomfortably between identifying with and being a survivor and empathizing deeply with the oppressed, the dispossessed, the policed.

There has been little time to reflect and write about the unfolding events in the slow motion ethnographic writing often requires. Yet I continue to write, supported not by the luxury of time, but by the desire to make use of grief and anger. Writing lets me, for just a fleeting moment, pin down — perhaps, even slow down — and make sense of an unfolding crisis. It may also help those of us who identify both as survivors, and with the dead, come to terms with our own grief.

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New App City Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:37:48 +0000 Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington are posting a series of writings that are theoretical and activity extensions based on their recently published book Networked Anthropology (Routledge).

The Man of the Crowd–Android Version

Collins downloads a free app from the Chongno District Government in Seoul, “Chongno Alleys” (종로 골목길).  The app is an extension of the Chongno tour series (of the same name), each course highlighting lesser known places of interest in Chongno, the central district in Seoul that is home to the lion’s share of Seoul’s national treasures, including palaces, countless museums and architectural landmarks.  But these tours are different.  Developed with neighborhood residents and community groups, these alley courses highlight significant places that are generally overlooked by large crowds of tourists.  It is targeted specifically at Korean tourists (that is, the app is only in Korean).  The app (which appears to have been released in 2011-2012) transforms 9 of the alley tours into a mobile experience using mapping, GPS and gamification.

Opening course number 8, “Sejong Village,” takes Collins down narrow alleys to 1). a white-barked pine tree that is a descendent of a former “natural national monument” (천연기념날), down a maze of modest hanok (한옥)  homes to the former residence of a resistance fighter against the Japanese (Shim Ik-hee), and past government buildings, art galleries and boutique coffee houses to a tiled mural of student art from the National Seoul School for the Deaf and Blind.


(Student art and sign language instruction in front of the National Seoul School for the Deaf and Blind.  Photo by Samuel Collins.)

As he closes in on each site, the GPS in his smartphone highlights the location on his map.  When he gets within 1 km, he can get a “stamp” that confirms that he’s visited the site.  The ultimate goal: getting all of the stamps for all of the courses.  Finally, a link to his phone’s camera app means he can also create a “gallery” of images from his tours.  He can also post comments to Twitter and Facebook.  And he can see comments from other people who posted about these sites.  One of the people who found the White Bark Pine Tree wrote “I almost died trying to find it”.

All in all, this is a fairly typical app: the combination of pre-existing content (descriptions, signage and photographs from the Chongno District government) combined with mapping, GPS, photo apps and social media.

But Collins found several things in this “alley tour” that departed from usual expectations and experiences of urban tourism.  First, Collins’s GPS (on his second-hand, Samsung Galaxy phone) didn’t always accurately update his position and, in order to get his bearings in the narrow alleys of Sejong Village, he crossed back and forth several times before getting his phone to geo-locate correctly.  In other words, he really did “tour” the alleys, crossing and re-crossing a narrow warren of streets and, in the process, taking in a good deal more of the neighborhood.

As structured as the tour may have been, the interface between different parts of the app, together with the limitations of Collins’s smartphone, made even this pre-packaged experience into a “dérive” that brought him to dead-ends and unexpected gardens.  While “dérive,” as “the search for an encounter with otherness, spurred on in equal part by the exploration of of pockets of class, ethnic and racial difference in the postwar city” (McDonough 2009:  would seem to be the exact opposite of tourism (with its commodified and canned experiences), the interstices between the interfaces meant that Collins wandered over into encounters with the “other” whether he planned to or not, including a memorable moment when he walked down a dead-end alley into a group of elderly men gambling in the street.

And there was another sense that the app exceeded its own goals of taking the tourist along the road “less taken”: the encounter with sites and agencies that undermined the vague patriotism that animated the rest of the tour.  For example, Sejong Village (known as “Seochon” before 2010), abuts the complex of buildings surrounding the home of South Korea’s President (청와대).  It may look like a charming, idyllic neighborhood, but Collins noted scores of men with sunglasses and studied, casual dress (shirts untucked!)–the secret service protecting the Blue House from threats to national security.  Two of them asked him where he was from–but it wasn’t in order to make conversation.  Here, the political realities of a Korea still grappling with the legacy of colonialism and the Cold War intrude on the touristic.


(The front-page to the “Chongno Alley” app from the Chongno District Government)


(A series of available courses and a toolbar that features geo-location, a photo gallery, and possibilities for social media)

Anthropology in/of apps

We find it curious that anthropologists have paid relatively little attention to apps.  Yes, there are certainly apps that help in our ethnographic research (we have been big fans of “Evernote” for years), and apps have long been utilized by artists, folklorists, community activists and many others to encourage people to “read” and experience the city in ways that may contravene the commodified spaces of the neoliberal city.  We’re fans of the “Dérive” app, a series of commands that a user scrolls through as they wander a city, the intent of which is to literally lose you in the streets you thought you knew: a deeply subversive exercise that may be as close as the digital world comes to the Situationist project.  And yet, when the ethnographic begins to look too much like tourism (as in the above), anthropologists have not been as academically interested, even though they may work on these same projects in their applied projects.

But there are many things for our work here:

First, apps offer a coherent, purposeful ideological structuring of space, narrative and practice.  They facilitate embodied ideologies, and they mark the exact point of interpellation where structure and symbol meet practice and bodily hexis.  Apps show how institutions and other powerful agents are trying to structure the meaning of cities by combining mobile media and social media through organizing embodied narrative experiences.  Even when apps reproduce already existing content, they do so by structuring experiences in ways that are illustrative of networked power: the city as a series of connections and disconnections that bring some spaces and meaning together while effectively cutting off vast parts of the city from urban practice.  In other words, apps are technologies of inclusion and exclusion, and following their trail can tell us exactly how things like segregation work in an era of the actor network.

Second, these powerful tools are not perfect.  In fact, they’re riven with errors–one of the reasons we like Android-based apps is for all of these lumps and bugs.  But these are more than simply programmer’s errors–we think of them more like Freudian parapraxes.  That is, apps show where there are contradictions, tensions and possibilities for alternative meanings in the interstices of interlocking media platforms.  Like the GPS system that can’t keep up with spatio-temporal shifts of neoliberalism, apps can show us fissures where the exercise of power is still incomplete, the space between symbol, structure and practice that allows for the articulation (or at least the evocation) of difference.  By definition, geo-locatonal apps introduce a gap between structure and practice. For scholars like Jason Farman, they are a clarion call for “creative misuse”.  For us, they remind us that utopia lies in the interstices of the urban fabric.

Third, apps allow anthropologists unparalleled opportunities to organize our multimedia, ethnographic data.  We’re used to working (and re-working) our notes, transcripts and recordings for written ethnographies, or editing (and re-editing) audio and visual recordings for ethnographic film, but what happens when we’ve got all of the above?  Increasingly, anthropologists are leaving the field with a panoply of media: recordings, notes, photos, digital records, etc.  Apps suggest one way of integrating this into ethnographically intended experiences for users.  And there are multiple platforms for anthropologists to use in their own research.  We’ve been experimenting with ARIS, an open-source editor for making multimedia apps for the iPhone, but there are other possibilities out there, including MIT App Inventor.

Moreover, forcing ourselves to organize maps, film, photos, archives and interviews into a (semi)coherent user experience is not just a difficult exercise, it’s a form of ethnographic analysis.  Apps take ethnographers to task for assuming that meaning “inheres” in objects or spaces–with a geo-located app of an urban neighborhood, meaning comes from the ethnographic practice of the user.  Can the user interact with your site in a way that is consonant with your own conclusions?  And if they don’t, isn’t that a problem for you to consider?  Unlike more traditional forms of dissemination (ethnographic and film), apps offer anthropologists a level of feedback (through user-generated content, app analytics or exit interviews) we usually don’t receive until months after our work is published (if at all).  This feedback is itself data–where people go, where they don’t go, what they saw and what they failed to see.   If we dismiss this as ephemeral to our research, we’re missing the point: this is where the ethnography (literally) hits the road.

Finally, apps suggest an ethnography that is collaborative, engaging, open and fluid.  Working with people to produce multiple media, prototyping apps with our interlocutors, testing apps with students, collecting data from usage, and then re-working what we’ve done to reflect our new understanding, all under the auspices of an open-source, open-access platform that people can utilize on even a cheap, 3G phone (like Collins’s).  Is this the future?  Maybe not–but it is one more proof (as if Savage Minds readers needed more) that monographs and articles may not be the best path towards an engaged, public anthropology.


McDonough, Tom (2009).  “Introduction.”  In The Situationists and the City, ed. by Tom McDonough, pp. 1-31.  NY: Verso.

Hit us up on twitter: @mdurington @samuelcollins43 @networkedanthro

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Today is Indigenous Peoples Day Mon, 13 Oct 2014 23:09:42 +0000 Today we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, to remember and celebrate the heritage of indigenous people everywhere. There is a lot to say about IDP: is it too American? Does it elide the particularity of the American Indian experience? Is Dora The Conquistadora, perhaps, a bridge too far? And of course, there’s always this frequently-retweeted little morsel:

I don’t have a lot of insight at the moment into what IDP means of should mean. Since I feel that SM should mark this day, I will punt the ball with a random list of Indigenous Anthropologists (you’ll notice I’m biased towards the Pacific) who I’ve learned from over the years, and suggest you celebrate IDP today by making it a point to read something by them this week. So without further ado:

Native Men Remade, by Ty Kawika Tengan

Ty’s office is next door to mine, so I should probably start with him. I’ve learned so much from him I don’t even know where to start… so why don’t you learn something from him too?

Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba, by Katerina Teaiwa

Katerina is beyond anthropology now and I’m not sure she’d appreciate being labeled an ‘anthropologist’, but her work is amazing and her Ph.D. is in anthro so I will continue to insist that our discipline, in some way, gets part of the credit for her amazing work.

Waterlillyby Ella Deloria

An ethnographic novel by a woman who pursued anthropology even when she was so poor she ended up having to live out of her car (iirc). This handsome new edition is a great way to learn about Deloria’s life.

Learning to Be an Anthropologist and Remaining Native: Selected Writings, by Beatrice Medicine

Beatrice Medicine’s life spanned literally the entire course of anthropology — and SM blogged her passing in 2006.

We Are The Ocean: Selected Works, by Epeli Hau‘ofa

Another scholar who started in anthropology and went totally beyond it, Hau‘ofa is one of the key influences on Pacific Studies today.


I could go on listing names, but I will call it quits here because, frankly, I need to get back to work. I am sure that there are many many additional people who should be listed here… perhaps you could list them in the comments? Who am I missing? I’m sure there are many other authors that I still have left to discover on this Indigenous Peoples Day.

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Ethnographic Fiction: The Space Between Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:16:06 +0000 This entry is part 7 of 8 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Roxanne Varzi as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Roxanne is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Irvine. She is author of Warring Souls: Youth, Media, and Martyrdom in Post-Revolution Iran (Duke University Press, 2006). Her ethnographic research in Iran spans multiple genres, from the ethnographic monograph to ethnographic fiction to the film Plastic Flowers Never Die (2008) and on to the sound installation Whole World Blind (2011). Her current research is on Iranian theater.)

Fiction, for me, like ethnography, has always melded with a deep desire to understand and explain the world around me. As an eight-year old in Iran I wrote stories to either escape or explain the Revolution that had turned my country into an Islamic Republic and had turned my single identity as a dorageh, or two-veined Iranian, into half-American, half-Iranian, forcing me to either choose one identity or to stay in-between. Writing helped me to make sense of the in-between, to make sense of my new life while holding on to the one that was already becoming a dream — unreal.

The past was a place where “Bombs were flying through the air, the sky was ablaze, there was no night.” My American high school teacher read this opening of one of my stories and said, “Write what you know.” She smiled at me and told me to try again. I explained that I had seen bombs and that the sky was ablaze and night or not I couldn’t sleep for days as a child because I was so scared about what was happening in the streets. At least that’s how I remembered it.   I came to see early on that we cannot fully replicate reality—even and especially in ethnography—in film, text or sound (the mediums I work in), nor is fiction purely a figment of its writer’s imagination. Was I writing fiction or ethnography and did the distinction really matter?

After college I returned to Iran for a year and then spent the following year back in the States writing about it. To live meant to write about it. Sometimes if I didn’t write about it, it was as if the event had not happened, or was somehow unreal and unbelievable, like ethnographic notes jotted down a few hours too late.   I thought I was writing a memoir, but it was really something in-between fiction and ethnography (which I knew little about but gravitated toward instinctively). It was 1994 and the onslaught of memoirs of Iranian returnees, and of Iranian women in particular had not yet arrived. There were few publishers interested in non-dramatic narratives from Iran, especially one like mine that had no near-escapes, imprisonments or beatings. My account concentrated on the quotidian, which I thought offered a downright exotic view of Iran compared to the American news coverage: angry raised fists and anti-American slogans.

A Booker prize novelist who read some of my work told me I was shifting between literary non-fiction and fiction and suggested I choose a genre and stick with it. Had I listened to her, that book may have been published as a whole rather than as essays in some venues, short stories in others (including Anthropology and Humanism, which gave it a prize) and parts of my ethnography Warring Souls.

After the ultimately fragmented memoir, my next project was my dissertation on Iran where I experienced a very new and intense form of writer’s block, which was really self-censorship in disguise. The writing was no longer about me, which meant I had the enormous responsibility all anthropologists have of faithfully and respectfully writing the intimate lives we are privy to. This was coupled by the responsibility of being the first anthropologist of my generation to do fieldwork in Iran, a state with all sorts of rules about what one can and cannot talk about. If I messed this up, the door would close for others. I wanted to continue to work in Iran, and to protect my family and my anonymous interlocutors and future researchers. The parts of my work that I found the most difficult to write about were the lives of people whose worldview was so different than my own and so contested, especially those men who wanted to martyr themselves for the State.

I was advised to “just write” which I was attempting to do in my little carrel on the roof of Butler Library at Columbia University on September 11, 2001 when further downtown two planes flew into the World Trade Center. The world again felt unreal and so I turned to fiction. Fiction allowed me to bring the tone, the feelings, the atmosphere of the Iran-Iraq war and what it was like for those who fought it to the fore without making any judgments about their project or what it meant in light of my current situation as a Middle-Eastern American living and writing in New York City. In the end, one of my mentors encouraged me to leave the fiction in the dissertation, which I did while secretly bemoaning the destruction of my budding war novel. Next time, I promised myself, I’ll write a novel.

As I found out, the choice wasn’t mine. My ethnographic material demanded a particular genre: a film, when I was working on visual war culture in Iran and a sound project, when I was working on international war photography.  Despite the change in mediums, what remained the same were the hours of research and even more hours of writing. As my five year-old would let you know, without research I wouldn’t have a story to tell because I’m just not any good at making them up or at refraining from analyzing and educating alongside narrating. In my latest eight-year long attempt at writing a novel based on fieldwork on underground theater, I couldn’t bear not to throw in my analysis and theorize or to stick to an omniscient narrative. I finally broke down at year six and explicitly added the ethnographic back in to the novel through the addition of a first person voice which analyzes and theorizes the ethnographic material. I simply stopped trying to choose between a novel and ethnography and embraced the in-between: a novel or neo-ethnography.

This latest ethnography on Iranian theater is akin to Italian neorealism, in which real people played themselves with lines scripted by a writer toward the goal of creating social change, a new reality. Whether I’m writing the script or writing about the play, what I’m doing or trying to do is to play with ethnography in a very serious way. I believe ethnography is the genre that is most malleable, most inspiring, most in-between. It gives my loose meanderings a purpose, it gives just living a vocation, it gives gossip and nosiness legitimacy. Ethnography makes me feel twice alive, in person and then on the page. It allows me to analyze, to overthink, to take refuge in that place where I feel that everything is explainable and controllable … and then it explodes. My ethnographic notes are a dictionary, a book of short stories, a litany of mistakes and misunderstandings. My ethnographic writings are soon filled with the opposite of ethnography, and yet are still filled with life and then when life needs protection, needs cover, needs space to breathe and to change, there is fiction. Fiction allows me to write about Iran uncensored, allows me to play and to change the ending. The thing about ethnography is there isn’t an ending. No one writes The End at the end of an ethnography. Instead it’s the beginning of discussion, of thought, of change and it’s where as a writer I’ve found my home, my identity.

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A Networked Anthropology Wed, 08 Oct 2014 20:30:11 +0000 Students capturing media in Baltimore for their Networked Anthropology
Students capturing media in Baltimore for their Networked Anthropology

A Networked Anthropology

“Networked Anthropology” is suspended between a theoretical and methodological program, on the one hand, and a critique and engagement with the network society we’re enmeshed within, on the other.  How can we possibly justify using social media in our applied anthropology?  And how can we afford not to?  Our book, “Networked Anthropology,” lays out the the premises of this ongoing inquiry, contextualizing it within a public, media anthropology.  But the promise and the problems of a networked anthropology hardly end there; each new wrinkle in our socially networked lives suggests new problems for anthropology–and for any scholarly inquiry that purports to engage communities of people.

(Over the next four weeks Sam Collins and Matthew Durington will post blogs related to social media, mobile applications in anthropological research and the idea of a Networked Anthropology…post 1 of 4  below is an excerpt from their recent book.)

Who wouldn’t find social media compelling?  For anthropologists interested in “everyday life and typical behavior,” it’s wonderful and amazing to look at the record of ordinary (and extraordinary) lives that are documented in different ways on social media.  And while food blogging is not anthropology, we still believe that the multitudes of ethno-documentarians uploading their quotidian and extraordinary lives display an anthropological sensibility.  Moreover, people value these self-presentations in a way that is qualitatively different than they did decades ago.  While our interlocutors might have asked for a copy of a photograph of a film two decades ago, now they ask when they can post media up on their Facebook for their networked relations to see.  We would suggest that this means more than just a technological update, a matter of degree.  People realize that their online “selves” can (and should) be regularly maintained and augmented with additional media, and they apologize when they haven’t updated their facebooks or blogs.  They feel an obligation to emote their lives through media platforms, a sentiment shared by non-profits and organizations around the world, who have all—regardless of their primary missions—become media producers, precisely in order to effectively manage their identities on social media that have become steadily more important to their fund-raising.

So shouldn’t anthropologists be part of this?  It is ripe ground for incredible possibilities in research but also represents a minefield of ethical and moral dilemmas.  These manifestations of a networked anthropology could be new incarnations of the kind of hermeneutic violence that anthropology has perpetuated for many decades. Just because social media documenting people’s’ everyday lives is readily available doesn’t mean that those lives should be transparent to anthropologists.  In other words, just because we can “pitch our tent” in Facebook doesn’t mean that we should parasitically lurk there.  This challenge to privacy is a concern to many people, including civil liberties groups.  For anthropology, social media could be just another weapon for us to slot the Other into “savage” categories, one that would allow the unscrupulous to “scrape” data off of media and tell stories about people and their lives without any input from people themselves.  In this dystopian vision, we would become cultural spies on par with the National Security Agency, tracking people’s movements through their posts and spying on the worlds they construct.

But that is not the only possibility for anthropology in the age of the network.  It is also possible that we utilize the global fascination with social media to build more collaboration with communities and to help those communities share their concerns on media platforms.  And it offers the possibility that anthropologists might enjoin new communities—collaborators that are generated through the networks of media content we form.  While there has always been the call for wider access of anthropological research to collaborators and extended communities, the majority of anthropologists show little inclination to do so having already moved on to another segment of research or a new project once a manuscript is published or ethnographically intended media created.  What results of the ethnographic research encounter becomes a static representation of an engagement frozen in time, or, perhaps worse, the anthropologist becomes an advocate for a position or community that has already moved on or been decimated by the processes the anthropologist documents in the first place. Nevertheless, the immediacy of social media, and its rapid propagation, means that we have the potential to make measurable interventions with our collaborative partners.  Unlike academic publishing, or even newspaper editorials, social media can be rapidly disseminated to a strategically selected public.  As a collaborative tool, we believe the “network” is the appropriate metaphor for what we hope to do: creative effective connections between different groups—including anthropologists, interlocutors, students and an emergent “public”—in  order to collaborate on the production of meaning.

These evolving efforts constitute what we believe to be an emerging, networked anthropology.  Over the past 5 years, we have developed a working definition:

“An anthropology undertaken in the age of multimedia social networks, one in which all of the stakeholders—ethnographers, interlocutors, community, audience—are all networked together in various (albeit powerful and unequal) ways.  Networked anthropology generates ethnographic data in multiple media.  Here it overlaps with similar advances in different subdisciplines, including visual anthropology, public anthropology and action research.  The difference is that a networked anthropology produces data that is simultaneously media to be appropriated and utilized by the communities with whom anthropologists work in order to connect to others (other communities, potential grantors, friends and family).  And the opposite is also true—anthropologists are only generating data for their research in the space of their commitments to communities to assist in their efforts to network to different audiences.”

What we’re calling networked anthropology has 7 central components.

  1. It’s about process.  The point behind a networked anthropology is to articulate your work through the network, and that means posting up data, ideas and theories that are still in motion.  The moment the book is printed, or the article published, then that process stops, and your work has been ossified—reified—into a singular, static text.  Instead, networked anthropology takes a sometimes terrifying step into revealing ideas that are not fully formed.
  2. It’s connected.  What does it mean to be connected?  It means more than just putting something up online.  And it means more than your video going “viral”.  In other words, being connected is entirely different than the 20th century media paradigm of either a) no one seeing your work; or b) everyone seeing your work.  Instead, “connected” refers to the deliberate formation of a network of followers and sites you follow.  It refers to the tagging and creation of metadata you use to delineate and interpret your content for search engines and to attract new nodes and new connections.   Mass media measures “audience” by demographic blocks; a networked audience is never undifferentiated, even if the number of page views scales into the millions.  Each node delineates a particular quality of connection in a connected cluster of similar nodes.
  3. It’s cross-platform.  One of the biggest antecedents to networked anthropology is multimedia anthropology.  A networked anthropology, however, is more nomadic, with the same material being used and re-used across different platforms, restlessly re-mixed and re-posted in different configurations. By crossing multiple platforms, meaning inevitably changes, and a networked anthropology seeks to take advantage of that while still admitting the shortcomings (and biases) of commercial platforms.
  4. It’s collaborative.  Once you’ve decided on a networked anthropology, then you’ve given up some control and autonomy over your work.  Your immediate collaborators (which include co-researchers, interlocutors and mentors), together with future collaborators (people who have connected to your work in some way through the networks you’ve formed) have measurable impacts on your work.
  5. It’s recursive.  What do you gain from a networked anthropology?  One of the most important benefits is immediate feedback, which is not to say that people are necessarily commenting on content you’ve uploaded.  But they are giving you feedback, even if it’s just in the form of site analytics.  In return, that is data you need to incorporate into your research—it’s part of an emergent interpretation of your networked anthropology.
  6. It’s about the long-term.  Given the ephemerality of web content, the insistence on the long term seems disingenuous, but this is exactly the difference between viral media that makes the rounds of social networks over the course of a week and disappears (KONY 2012 anyone?) and the anthropology we’re advocating.  A networked anthropology establishes long-term connections for the benefit of everyone in the network.  Premised on reciprocity, collaboration and recursivity, it only works if connections have an opportunity to develop over time.
  7. It’s Not for Everyone.  And this may be the most important point. It would be absurd to say that we expect (or even hope) for people to all start practicing networked anthropology.  We can think of many, many field sites where these methods would be entirely inappropriate.  We’re working in some of them right now, and there would be hell to pay if the data we’re collecting for those non-networked projects made it on to Facebook or Youtube.

Some central questions for networked anthropology.

  1. Networked ecologies   How are people networked already?  Who are the collaborators?  Is the social media platform you plan on using appropriate for that community?  Networked anthropologists need to elicit people’s networks—both online and offline—before they develop a networked anthropology with that community.  Doing this reveals structures of networks and the gaps in those networks that socially networked media might redress.
  2. How do anthropologist enjoin existing networks?  When we plan interventions, we do so in a crowded field of social media and representation, some of which will be familiar to our collaborators.  And some of which might be objectionable for numerous reasons.  People are already uploading videos, photos, and recordings of themselves and their neighbors.  It’s important that we not only acknowledge these other efforts, but also incorporate both the media and the intent behind the media into our work.  This is similar to the concerns all of us bring to fieldwork, but with a difference: not just when do we take out a camera, but when and where does that media get uploaded?
  3. Networked publics.  Who are the publics for networked media?  What are the connections?  The disconnections?  Anthropologists and their interlocutors need to ask themselves who is supposed to see media content, and how they are supposed to respond?  Will it be people from the neighborhood?  Will it be potential grantors?  Government agencies in a position to provide services?
  4. Networked media.  What kinds of media do we make?  How is that serving diverse publics?  Various media may be tagged differently and may move through social media in different ways.
  5. How do networked media change over time?  Media change as they’re networked.  YouTube videos collect comments, views, subscribers, cross-posters who embed the videos on their blogs.  How do we incorporate those features of social media?  Ultimately, how do we treat social media as social and protean rather than fixed texts?  And how can we use those characteristics to the advantage of the communities with whom we work?
  6. Networked ethics.  What are the ethical considerations?  Undertaking a networked anthropology imbricates the fieldworker in ethical dilemmas that are unique to social media.  What kinds of ethnographic data can be shared?  Under what circumstances?  How should you incorporate data from networked collaborations (e.g., posted comments)?  How do ethical challenges arise or change over the course of a social media project?  What restrictions need to be placed on networked data?  If creative commons licenses are used, what limits should be placed on these?  Can people change content for their own purposes?  Can they sell it?

Next Steps

Part of the pleasure (and the danger) of networked anthropology is that each new connection opens up new directions and new dilemmas.  In the weeks since we finished the manuscript for Networked Anthropology, we’ve been alternately excited and concerned over different developments in social networks.  But we would argue that each new connection changes the meaning of the whole, and even now we find ourselves linking with different constellations of social media practice.

Our next three posts will outline some of those directions, beginning with the world of app design and gamification, with special emphasis on our continued work in both Seoul and Baltimore theorizing the utility of mobile apps in anthropological research in posts that follow.

Hit us up on twitter: @mdurington @samuelcollins43 @networkedanthro

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HAU and the Malinowski Monographs: An Interview with Giovanni da Col Tue, 07 Oct 2014 22:58:14 +0000 I recently sat down (virtually) with Giovanni da Col, the founder and editor-in-chief of HAU, to talk about the latest developments surrounding open access and HAU’s new monograph series, the “Malinowski Monographs”. Here’s what went down. (transparency: I’m on the editorial board of the journal HAU)

AG: Recently HAU unveiled a new partnership with the University of Chicago Press. It sounds like there are two parts to this: first, HAU’s existing open access books will be available for purchase in paper. Second, you will be publishing “The Malinowski Monographs,” which is a new line of books. Is that right?

GdC: Over the past three years, HAU has grown far beyond its initial ambition (and successful achievement) of being a world-class, open access journal in anthropology. In 2013, we become formally a Learned Society: The Society for Ethnographic Theory, which publishes HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and now HAU Books (founded in 2014). With support from our sponsors (such as ISRF) and partners in the HAU Network of Ethnographic Theory (HAU-N.E.T.), HAU has become the first full-fledged open access press in anthropology, with current and future initiatives in both publishing and digital anthropology expanding on an ongoing basis. 

In 2014, HAU Books is making a shift from an annual release of 1–2 Masterclasses and Classic Monographs to a standard production schedule of 7–8 titles annually. Starting in January 2015, each book will be released in both open access and print versions via a deal we have secured with the University of Chicago Press, who will distribute and market our series for sale in hardcopy. HAU remains the publisher (with production spearheaded by our Managing Editor, Sean Dowdy), Chicago prints and pushes the product. Our initiative to make the entirety of the HAU Book Series available in both open access formats online and in special hardcopy volumes is a business strategy for income generation that will showcase the (increasingly evident) fact: open access is not antithetical to profitability or quality, and can be self-sustaining for the long term. Based on our predictions and analysis of scholarly niche, competing markets, and a scheduled release of at least twenty titles between 2015 and 2016, we project financial self-sustainability of the book series by 2017.

The Malinowski Monographs is one of the newest initiatives for HAU Books: a new Open Access monograph series in anthropology. We are trying to fill a major OA market gap: the one for new monographs. We plan to publish senior, mid-career, and junior authors whose manuscripts will be selected through an annual competition, similar to the one we launched for our Special Issues (which will be available soon both online and in paperback). It is our hope that The Malinowski Monographs will offer as good a deal for authors who want their more lengthy intellectual engagements distributed in both traditional and OA formats.

We are also proud that HAU is now offering the best deal for special issues out there: open access, paperback, with the journal version published within a year from submission. No other publisher or top-tier journal can match that

AG: It sounds like there’s going to be two kinds of Malinowski Monographs — regular full-length monographs and a much shorter series. What sort of topics or approaches do you hope to see covered in the longer monographs? Are these ethnographies, or…?

GdC: Put simply, we are searching for prime examples of what we call “ethnographic theory,” a term which Malinowski employed in Coral Gardens and their Magic (1935). There’s no need to repeat here our definition and extension of the term (David Graeber and I’s inaugural foreword to HAU remains the best guide). Suffices to say that we are seeking out sharp ethnographies capable of producing original conceptual repertoires. With all due respect to philosophers, we are not seeking Deleuzian-inspired monographs of religious concepts, or ethnographies of the political inspired by Ranciere or Badiou. As David and I wrote in 2011, the current malady of name-dropping reduced the discipline to the embarrassing situation of considering themselves hip for recycling French theorists from a period (1968 to 1983), analogous to what we now call “Classic Rock.” In other words, the problem is not that we are still listening to Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin, it’s rather as if the discipline never really got around to discovering punk or hip-hop. We are more interested in ethnographers capable of developing grounded, bottom-up concepts, which should be of value to thinkers within and beyond anthropology (e.g., in the same guise of Bateson’s “plateaus”).

AG: Why did you want to go with this shorter format? In many ways, HAU is committed to old-school anthropology, including the old-fashioned ethnographic monograph. Does moving to a smaller format indicate a change of direction for you?

GdC: The shorter monographs are inspired partly by the French tradition of the essai (from Montaigne to Mauss). Indeed, something like The Gift is a great model for what we are envisioning. But back to Montaigne—it’s that sense of “test,” “trial,” “attempt” that is at the heart of the essai. So, in the end, length really has nothing to do with the intellectual approach we seek in the two formats. We want both kinds of “trials” — short books and long books. A short book, however, is more pragmatic for mid-career or senior scholars. Consider a 40,000 word reflection on something like “inheritance” — it need not be thoroughly historical, thoroughly philosophical, or richly ethnographic in detail, but a brilliant mix of the three that attempts to make sense of the concept experimentally without sacrificing sincerity and erudition.

AG: It seems like a lot of presses are experimenting with shorter books — there is the Oxford Very Short Introduction series, and I know Toronto is developing an “anthropological insights” series of a similar length. Are there other presses out there doing what HAU is doing?

GdC: There is Prickly Paradigm Press, which established its own niche for “pamphlets”—a rather specific genre. But we are not in competition with them; they have their own scholarly niche, market, and format. In the short book section of The Malinowski Monographs, we are hoping to publish essays that attempt to provide conceptual clarity on classic anthropological concepts (like a kind of introductory text on theories of taboo, translation, sacrifice, etc.) or that unpack and clarify muddled catchwords in today’s disciplinary landscape, such as imagination, worldview/cosmology, affect, love, luck, happiness, etc.

AG: How did you settle on the name Malinowski Monographs?

GdC: The name “Malinowski” might certainly raise the eyebrows of many American anthropologists (see: the diary fiasco, racism, womanizing, functional/utilitarian analysis, etc.), but the name “Boas” would do the same for many European anthropologists. Indeed, we could have just as easily named it the “Boas Monographs.” But we wanted the series to indexically iconize both the negative and positive value of ethnography; Boas was a full time anthropologist, part time ethnographer. It was Malinowski who made ethnographic anthropology a career (and coined the phrase “ethnographic theory”). So we should also point out that the title is neither a nod to a specific “national” tradition in anthropology nor to the spirit worship of ancestral “heroes.” It’s a call for ethnography that is anthropology.

In effect, we wish to reopen the possibilities of Malinowskian-style ethnography, without ignoring its contentious issues and problematic politics/analysis. The title offers a reminder of our origins and the necessity to be critically aware of those foundational tropes and their continued existence. You could cite the point in Argonauts where Malinowski is standing on the beach, setting the scene for all the hopes and pitfalls of the ethnographic imagination….no matter what direction anthropology takes its critical reasoning, every ethnographer finds herself in that same position at one point or another when doing fieldwork.

AG: Since I’m American, I hope you won’t mind if do something many Europeans consider rude and ask about the bottom line — how can this possibly work? Isn’t it popular opinion that no one will pay for open access monographs?

GdC: First of all, HAU is a charity, a Learned Society. Our network members and sponsors financially support the Society and its publications. It’s not that different from the SCA, which now supports Cultural Anthropology’s activities through their resources and membership fees. With the introduction of the HAU book series, however, any individual could do the same: “Buy a book from HAU and keep open access anthropology alive.” We are also confident that libraries will buy our books. Plus, no one at HAU is seeking to make profit. Our goal is to keep the production process highly professional (we have a fully functional team of top-notch copy editors, typesetters, IT people, graphic designers, editorial assistants, and managing editors) and get square with the costs. We also have evidence that books which are available online and for sale do not seem to effect sales that much at all (in some cases, it even seems to improve sales as a marketing strategy—if the price is right, of course). There are two other factors to keep in mind. First of all, our books will no longer be released in PDF format, but in HTML/XML formats only. Ease of reading on your computer (or in our upcoming mobile app – to be released by the end of October) will not be sacrificed, but there’s more incentive to buy a book alongside it. Second, you already have plenty of pirate repositories which now even hold the latest anthropology ebooks or pdfs released by the major presses. I’m not sure who would actually like to print the classics books that we aim to release and deal with printing and storing a few hundred sheets of paper, instead of buying a cheap paperback that you can read on the bus (without need for a Kindle). Our aim is to keep the sales price low, $14.99 – $24.99. If the author is popular enough and the book both useful and intellectually important, then people will still want to buy the hardcopies because of the kinaesthetic experience of reading them. Moreover, scholars are collectors, they like the sensuousness of books, the cover, the graphics, the collective objets de prestige on their shelf or desk. Like the new vinyl + mp3 rennaissance. People buy (and want) both.

AG: What does this mean for the future of open access anthropology? And university presses? What trends are beginning to take shape?

GdC: As I mentioned above, I could name several websites where you can acquire the latest Duke, California, or UChicago Press pirate PDFs. Certainly, all presses are encountering financial hardships but they are not out of business yet. There is definite space for open access anthropology presses, although I doubt they will ever become true commercial enterprises. Open access anthropology may become the domain of learned societies: the SCA, the SET (Society of Ethnographic Theory), the EASA (I’m part of a task force established to explore the possibility and costs of moving Social Anthropology to OA). I also think there is a return to reading books in hard copy alongside the digital versions. In the 1970s, Umberto Eco reflected on the role that photocopiers were beginning to assume in academia and warned about the dangers of what he termed “xeroxcivilization,” the intellectual alibi provided by photocopies, and the resulting “vertigo of accumulation.” Large amounts of accumulated photocopies, Eco argued, would eventually become unusable. Yet despite this, he continued, students had the strange feeling to somehow gain possession of the content of those books by copying them.

Most of Eco’s insights could be applied today to the large volume of available PDFs. In my opinion, we are facing an “Adobization of academic life” and accumulating thousands of PDFs that will never be read. Sure, they are useful when writing a book or an article on a beach in Thailand—where there’s a lack of access to a good library (or a stable proxy server). Yet Google Books or Amazon search engines already do a good job of filling in the gaps. Whatever the destiny of digital files, people still love buying books (paperback that is), and the kinesthetic experience of flipping pages and feel the paper with their fingers. That’s the point. There is no good reason why paperback book sales cannot be used toward maintaining the financial longevity of their open access counterparts. See again the vinyl+mp3 dual packaging in the world of music publishing.

Still and all, the future is uncertain and it depends on the way open access will be funded. HAU doesn’t charge author-fees or user fees; we offer free publications to all authors and free reading for users, and we are currently able to do so because we rely on the goodwill of a limited number of well-off or very enthusiastic institutions who are supportive of HAU’s mission. A few institutions thus pay for thousands of others to benefit from HAU’s work. As anthropologists, we know there are no really free beers or lunches. Someone has to pay for running a professional journal and press, even if it is a charity. Eventually, however, it’s the anthropological community who will decide whether open access should succeed or die. We’ll see then whether people will ultimately put their money where their mouth is.

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Writing to be Read Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:06:54 +0000 This entry is part 6 of 8 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to run this essay by guest author Mary Murrell as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Mary is a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently writing a book about books entitled The Open Book: The Entanglements of Digitization. Formerly, she was the acquisitions editor for anthropology at Princeton University Press.)

In the midst of my fieldwork into the “future of books,” I encountered an equally familiar and unfamiliar character: the academic author. Certainly, I knew a thing or two about such a figure. During my many years as an acquisitions editor at a university press, I had published an awful lot of them, and, as a graduate student doing dissertation fieldwork, I was in preparation to become one myself. As they say, some of my best friends are academic authors! Yet, at the same time, this new academic author, this ethnographic datum before me, was curiously distinct.

The context was the proposed conclusion to litigation over Google’s book digitization program, announced in 2004 and quickly the object of legal dispute. In 2005, author and publisher trade groups had banded together into only large class-action lawsuit, charging Google with massive copyright infringement. For two years, author and publisher representatives negotiated and, in late 2008, they revealed a settlement that resolved their differences. Their plan was essentially to turn Google’s database of digitized books into a commercial product sold by subscription to libraries. This way there would be money for everybody: authors, publishers, and Google—in what was called a “win-win-win.” Despite their confident sense of achievement, opposition to the settlement slowly grew, from expected and unexpected quarters until, in February 2011, the judge in the case finally rejected it. Despite its defeat, the maelstrom it put into motion was productive, and one just product was the “academic author.”

Speaking for the “author class,” the Authors Guild had sought to represent the book authors Google had harmed. According to its website, the Authors Guild is “the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers,” and it understands an “author” to be a commercially motivated writer. According to its membership requirements, one must earn writing income “of at least $5,000 in an 18-month period,” and have book contracts that “include a royalty clause with a meaningful advance.” In fashioning a settlement in the Google Books dispute, the Author Guild’s foremost goal was to seek forms of compensation from Google as well as mechanisms for controlling the company’s use of authors’ books. In sum, the “author” of the Authors Guild is an author primarily concerned with the economic exploitation, and legal protection of, his or her copyright.

Perhaps, however, a book author has concerns other than those of the 8,000 or so members in the Authors Guild? A group of academics, primarily from the University of California system, started from that assumption. They wrote letters and testified against the Google Book Search Settlement, arguing that the Authors Guild had failed to represent the interests of “academic authors,” and in fact could not represent such authors because they had different motivations, interests, and reasons for being authors in the first place. Moreover, pointing out what should be obvious, scholars had written the majority of books in research libraries (where Google got its books to digitize) so that, in this case, their concerns were not marginal but central.

Behind their assertions lay the as-yet unspoken need for a new author advocacy group: an Authors Guild for academic authors. What would a settlement with Google have looked like if academic authors had been at the negotiating table, representing themselves, in addition to and alongside the Authors Guild? Would there have been provisions for greater public access? For making the more books available with Creative Commons licenses? For accelerating the entry of older books into the public domain? For text-mining research, for reader privacy, annotation features, library user rights, and sustainable pricing?

Earlier this year, this advocacy effort took concrete, organizational form when a new non-profit called the Authors Alliance officially launched. Spearheaded by the same academic authors who spoke against the Google settlement, the Alliance’s stated mission is “to promote authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read” (emphasis mine). Certainly Authors Guild members, too, must believe themselves to be writing so as to be read, but, in the Alliance’s usage, the meaning of the phrase “write to be read” is meant to draw an distinction between writing to earn money (that is, to exploit a copyright) and writing otherwise (that is, “to be read”).

The appearance of the Authors Alliance—with its interest in advocating for authorship in the public interest and with its description of academic authors as writing “to be read”—invites our reflection. Do we write to be read? And what would it mean to each of us, individually, if we did?

There are many reasons that we find ourselves at the keyboard writing. We write to be published. We write to get a job (or, less, a job interview). We write to beef up our resumes. We write to get promoted. We write because we have something we want to say. We write so that people know we are working. We write because we are fulfilling a funder’s request for “deliverables.” We write to change the terms of a debate. We write to gain prestige. We write to increase our salary. We write because an editor or colleague cajoled us into doing so. We write to elevate our status. We write to stay in the game. We write because we did valuable research and it needs to be recorded. We write because we know stuff. And so on.

But do we write to be read? Perhaps, to some, it’s too simple a question, but I find it both complex and provocative. What difference would it make to our work, to our profession, to the institutions we inhabit, if we proceeded under that self-understanding? Indeed, how should we understand the phrase?

Whether or not you join the Authors Alliance—which, by the way, costs a mere $25—it’s worth a pause to reflect on what it would mean, to you, to “write to be read” and then to see what difference it makes—or not—to whatever you do next.


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Around the Web Digest: Week of September 28 Sun, 05 Oct 2014 16:47:24 +0000 After a couple rather dry months on the anthroblogosphere, it seems that this week anthro-bloggers have rallied (and conspired against me?) to give you, dear reader, so much content. There are so many blog entries (this doesn’t include anthropology-related news) that I can’t even read them all. I just can’t – it’s not gonna happen. We’re going to try a (‘nother) new format for cases like these – author name, title, and blog – and please let me know how you feel about it. If you have a blog article that you’d like me to share next week, please don’t hesitate to hit me up at or on Twitter at @dtpowis.

First, some business:

Most importantly, the AAA Webinar on Ebola and Anthropology. If you missed it, do yourself a favor, watch it, show it to your classes, and talk with them about it.

Next, a petition: Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

And then: A Letter to the AAA in Response to IAA’s Letter of 28 August 2014

And now your digest awaits.

Ben Belek – Anti-Psychiatry and the Neurodiversity Movement – (The Autism Anthropologist)

Amy Santee – “Fixing Culture”: The Case of Olive Garden – (Anthropologizing)

Emma Louise Backe – Contemporary Folklore in the Digital Age – (The Geek Anthropologist)

Matthew Timothy Bradley – Descola’s Ontology Illustrated – (The Human Family)

Maximilian Forte – The Visual Imperium (An excerpt from “Good Intentionds: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism) – (Zero Anthropology)

Eva Bartlett – Road to Victory: Syria’s Zenobians Stand to Win International Rugby Tournament – (Zero Anthropology)

Anthony Stavrianakis – Withering of Critique: Vulnerable Victims – (ARC)

Patricia G. Lange – 2014 Diana Forsythe Prize Winner: S. Lochlann Jain for Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us – (CASTAC Blog) [Well deserved!]

Nichola Khan – Teaching ‘Mental Disorder’ – (Somatosphere)

Crystal Biruk – Ebola and emergency anthropology: The view from the “global health slot” – (Somatosphere)

Marcus Jordan – Mental Welfare in the Field: A Neglected Subject? #fieldwork – (Allegra Lab)

Joseph Pearson – How Worried Should We Be About Russia? #ukraine – (Allegra Lab)

Allegra Lab – Hail to the Pioneer: Interview with Alex Golub from Savage Minds – (Allegra Lab)

Scott Catey – Confinement, Surveillance, Control: Renewing Anthropology’s Relationship with Criminal Justice Systems – (Anthropoliteia)

Paull Stoller – Global Politics, Global Health, and the Anthropological Moment – (HuffPo)

Sarah Kendzior – The Job Market Recovery that Never Came – (Chronicle Vitae)

Dady Chery – Biodiversity and Sustainability are Closely Linked to Language and Culture – (Counterpunch)

Vincent F. Ialenti – Embracing ‘Deep Time’ Thinking – (NPR)

Eric Silverman – Obama’s Mother, the President of Afghanistan, and the Importance of Anthropology – (On Campus)

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OA anthropology, at a glance Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:10:19 +0000 I’m starting a research project on open access publishing in anthropology, specifically on the kinds of metadata different venues use to make their material findable by users. Along the way I’ve collected a running list of English language titles of interest to cultural anthropologists. The original list was started by but it had a number of broken links and also included moribund journals I am excluding from my research. The link also lists a number of multilingual journals that I haven’t gotten to yet but am working on currently.

In the meantime, check these out. The following titles have been updated at least once since 2013. Parenthetical notes are included to describe the titles if necessary.

Anthropology for a General Audience

American Ethnography
Journal of Indigenous research
Radical Anthropology

Anthropology for Scholars

Africa Spectrum (politics and economics)
Africa Studies Quarterly
Anthropoetics: Journal of Generative Anthropology (humanism)
Anthropological Notebooks
Anthropology & Aging
Anthropology of This Century
Anthropology Matters (student journal)
Anthropology of East Europe Review
Asian Ethnology
Compaso: Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology
Cultural Anthropology
Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology (Nepal)
Durham Anthropology Journal
Global Ethnographic
HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
Himalayan Journal of Sociology and Anthropology
Imponderabilia (student journal)
Irish Journal of Anthropology
Journal of Anthropological Society of Oxford
Journal of Business Anthropology
Museum Anthropology Review
NatureCulture (STS)
Nordic Journal of African Studies (language and literature)
Omertaa (applied anthropology)
Paranthropology (paranormal studies)
Structure and Dynamics (quantitative studies)
The Unfamiliar (student journal)
Vis-à-vis: Explorations in Anthropology (student journal)

Multidisciplinary journals of interest

Approaching Religion
The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies
Cosmopolitan Civil Societies (social change)
Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research
Current Conservation (ecology)
Diversities (UNESCO)
Environmental Humanities
European Journal of Turkish Studies
Folklore Forum (book reviews)
Glocalism: Journal of Cultural, Politics, and Innovation
International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies
International Journal of Intangible Heritage
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics
Journal of Identity and Migration Studies
KULT (Postcolonial Denmark)
Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Science (bilingual)
New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry
Nordic Journal of migration research
Online Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet
Oral Tradition
People, Place, and Policy
Popular Musicology Online
Practical Matters (religion)
Semiotic Review
Shima: The International Journal of Research Into Island Cultures (Oceania)
South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal
Sri Lanka Journal of Advanced Social Studies
Studies of Tribes and Tribals (India)
TD: The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa
Valuation Studies

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