Savage Minds http://savageminds.org Notes and Queries in Anthropology Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:31:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Where to publish in OA anthropology http://savageminds.org/2014/11/22/where-to-publish-in-oa-anthropology/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/22/where-to-publish-in-oa-anthropology/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 01:45:02 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15446 Below is a list of open access English language cultural anthropology titles with general information about the journal’s policies and website for authors to consider when choosing a venue to publish their work. If you would like to learn more about the various Creative Commons licenses, check this link. Journal titles with some missing descriptive data have been contacted and updates will be ongoing as they respond. Note that the inclusive dates after the title are meant to describe what is available to read freely online, which may or may not represent the true life of the journal.

For a more comprehensive listing of titles, including multidisciplinary journals of interest to cultural anthropologists, see this earlier post. My plan is to update this post with those additional titles in the spring semester.

Africa Spectrum, 2009-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: GERMAN INSTITUTE OF GLOBAL AND AREA STUDIES
Scope: “current issues in political, social and economic life; culture; and development in sub-Saharan Africa”

  • Usage: CC-BY-ND
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: URN
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: ??

Africa Studies Quarterly, 1997-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA CENTER FOR AFRICAN STUDIES
Scope: “original manuscripts on a full range of topics related to Africa in all disciplines”

  • Usage: © UF Board of Trustees
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View Open Metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: University of Florida Library

Anthropoetics: Journal of Generative Anthropology, 1995-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UCLA
Scope:”studies the works of human culture on the hypothesis that language, religion, art, and all things specifically human can be traced to a unique scene of origin”

  • Usage: “The Author shall remain the sole owner of his/her manuscript and the copyright in that manuscript.”
  • Peer review: ??
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data Preservation: ??

Anthropological Notebooks, 1995-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: SLOVENIAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY
Scope: “The journal publishes manuscripts from the anthropological and related fields.”

  • Usage: © Slovene Anthropological Society, reprints allowed with permission
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Slovenian National University Library

Anthropology & Aging, 2012-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: ASSOCIATION FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND GERONTOLOGY
Scope: “We are particularly interested in manuscripts that have cross-disciplinary appeal, that present cutting-edge research and bring creative and stimulating insight to aging studies and the human condition across the life course.”

  • Usage: CC-BY
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: AAGE MEMBERSHIP
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: LOCKSS

Anthropology of This Century, 2011-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: NONE
Scope: “reviews of recent works in anthropology and related disciplines, as well as occasional feature articles” (does not accept unsolicited manuscripts)

  • Usage: © AOTC PRESS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  • Peer review: UPON REQUEST
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Online backup

Anthropology Matters, 1999-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS OF THE UK AND COMMONWEALTH
Scope: “issues of relevance to the learning and teaching of anthropology”

  • Usage: “Individual contributors retain the copyright to their published material”
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: ??

Anthropology of East Europe Review, 1983-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: INDIANA UNIVERSITY
Scope: “to showcase fresh, up-to-date research and to help build a community of scholars who focus on the region [Eastern Europe, Russia, the Balkans, and Central Asia]”

  • Usage: CC-BY
  • Peer review: INTERNAL REVIEW ONLY
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data Preservation: LOCKSS & CLOCKSS

Asian Ethnology, 1942-2013
Affiliation/ Sponsor: NANZAN UNIVERSITY INSTITUTE FOR RELIGION AND CULTURE
Scope: “scholarly research on the peoples and cultures of Asia”

  • Usage: © Asian Ethnology
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI FORTHCOMING
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data Preservation: Institutional repository

Compaso: Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, 2010-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF BUCHAREST
Scope: “Each Journal issue is centered on a specific topic, announced by a Call for Papers”

  • Usage: CC-NC-ND
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??

Cultural Anthropology, 1986-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Scope: “anthropological research, critical analysis, and academic writing of the very highest order”

  • Usage: © American Anthropological Association
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: SCA MEMBERSHIP
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data Preservation: LOCKSS & CLOCKSS

Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 2005-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: TRIBHUVAN UNIVERSITY
Scope: “the areas of sociology and anthropology of Nepal and other regions”

  • Usage: © Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology
  • Peer review: Yes
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: Yes
  • Keywords: Yes
  • Social network buttons: No
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: Yes
  • Data preservation: LOCKSS (forthcoming)

Durham Anthropology Journal, 2004-2013
Affiliation/ Sponsor: DURHAM UNIVERSITY DEPT. OF ANTHROPOLOGY
Scope: “all anthropology topics, including social anthropology, medical anthropology, and evolutionary anthropology”

  • Usage: “The authors retain the copyright”
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Durham Research Online Repository

Global Ethnographic, 2012-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: ORGANIZATION FOR INTRA-CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Scope: “field research and perspectives shaping our social world”

  • Usage: ??
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: SOME
  • Keywords: SOME
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 2011-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: HAU-NETWORK OF ETHNOGRAPHIC THEORY
Scope: “to reinstate ethnographic theorization in contemporary anthropology”

  • Usage: CC-NC-ND
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: LOCKSS

Himalayan Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 2004-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: TRIBHUVAN UNIVERSITY, NEPAL
Scope: “to provide relevant readings for the students”

  • Usage: ??
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: ??

Imponderabilia, 2009-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Scope: “a multidisciplinary student journal on anything anthropological”

  • Usage: ??
  • Peer review: ??
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??

Irish Journal of Anthropology1996-2012 (2013-2014 EMBARGO; 2008-2010 MISSING)
Affiliation/ Sponsor: ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND
Scope: “coverage of Irish related matters and issues of general anthropology”

  • Usage: ©ANTHROPOLOGY IRELAND, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI forthcoming
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Institutional repository

Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 1970-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF OXFORD
Scope: “especially but not entirely research that can be considered ‘work in progress’.”

  • Usage: CC-BY
  • Peer review: INTERNAL REVIEW ONLY
  • Author fee: “These are set at 1p sterling (£0.01), and should be paid in cash when the author bumps into one of the Editors or anyone who knows them”
  • Abstracts: SOME
  • Keywords: SOME
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: University of Oxford Bodeleian Library

Journal of Business Anthropology, 2012-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: COPENHAGEN BUSINESS SCHOOL
Scope: “results of anthropological research in business organizations and business situations of all kinds”

  • Usage: “Copyright for all material published on the journal’s Open Access website remains with its authors”
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??

Museum Anthropology Review, 2007-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: INDIANA UNIVERSITY
Scope: “advancing the field of material culture and museum studies, broadly conceived”

  • Usage: CC-BY
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: LOCKSS & CLOCKSS

Nordic Journal of African Studies, 1992-2013
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
Scope: “African language studies, African literatures, African cultural studies”

  • Usage: ©Nordic Association of African Studies
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??

Omertaa, 2007-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: EXPEDITIONS, RESEARCH IN APPLIED ANTHROPOLOGY
Scope: “the broader field of Applied Anthropology and related issues”

  • Usage: “The authors themselves” retain copyright
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: University of Leuven, Belgium

Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, 2010-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: NONE
Scope: “social-scientific approaches to the study of paranormal experiences, beliefs and phenomena”

  • Usage: CC-BY-SA
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: No
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Archive.org

PopAnth
Affiliation/ Sponsor: NONE
Scope: “translates anthropological discoveries for popular consumption”

  • Usage: “authors retain copyright”
  • Peer review: INTERNAL REVIEW ONLY
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Online backup

Radical Anthropology
Affiliation/Sponsor: RADICAL ANTHROPOLOGY GROUP
Scope: “a forum for discussing the political lessons that can be drawn from anthropology’s knowledge of the range of human possibilities”

  • Usage: “Anti-copyright: all material may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes”
  • Peer review: INTERNAL REVIEW ONLY
  • Author fee: no
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: NO
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: University of East London ROAR

Structure and Dynamics, 2005-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: CALIFORNIA DIGITAL LIBRARY
Scope: “human evolution, social structure and behavior, culture, cognition, or related topics”

  • Usage: CC-BY
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: California Digital Library

Tipiti: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, 2003-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: SOCIETY FOR THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF LOWLAND SOUTH AMERICA
Scope: “high-quality, original anthropological research on lowland South America”

  • Usage: “authors assign to Digital Commons @ Trinity all copyright in the article, subject to the expansive personal use exceptions”
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: NO
  • Abstracts: NO
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: Digital Commons at Trinity University

The Unfamiliar, 2012-2014
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Scope: “featuring not only academically informed articles and book reviews but creative work”

  • Usage: CC-NC-SA
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: NO
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: DOI
  • View open metadata: YES
  • Data preservation: LOCKSS

Vis-à-vis: Explorations in Anthropology, 2008-2013
Affiliation/ Sponsor: UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Scope: “graduate student work from any of the anthropology sub-fields”

  • Usage: CC-NC-SA
  • Peer review: YES
  • Author fee: ??
  • Abstracts: YES
  • Keywords: YES
  • Social network buttons: YES
  • Persistent ID for articles: NO
  • View open metadata: NO
  • Data preservation: ??
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Thinking through the untranslatable http://savageminds.org/2014/11/17/thinking-through-the-untranslatable/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/17/thinking-through-the-untranslatable/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:45:41 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15538 This entry is part 12 of 12 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Kevin Carrico as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Kevin is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for US-China Issues, having completed his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at Cornell University in 2013. His research focuses upon the implications of Han nationalism for ethnic relations in China. He is a contributor to Cultural Anthropology’s special issue on Self-Immolation as Protest in Tibet, and his translation of Tsering Woeser’s Self-immolation in Tibet is forthcoming from Verso Press in 2015.)

I recently finished translating a book, Tsering Woeser’s Self-Immolation in Tibet (Immolation au Tibet, la honte du monde), in a project that combines the two main components of my career path thus far: translation and anthropology. Prior to my graduate work, I was a translator of Chinese and French documents in Shanghai. And now as an anthropologist, I still engage in the occasional translation of texts that I consider uniquely insightful. This brief essay is an attempt to think through the relationship between these two activities via my recent work on self-immolation in Tibet.

Prior to entering the translation industry, the distant and thus romanticized notion of translation conjured images of simultaneous interpreters at the United Nations, talking frantically into earpieces or banging away at keyboards to facilitate communication for a global community. Soon after entering the industry, however, I found that professional translators spend a considerable amount of time sitting at their desks and staring at screens as they translate one inane document after another. Now that I have finished this washing machine manual, should I get started on this blueprint for the annual city carnival’s layout, or just save that for tomorrow? I often found myself leaning towards the latter option.

I thus eventually made the transition to anthropology, a discipline which draws upon many of the same skills employed in translation, such as linguistic competence, familiarity with the sociocultural and political context, and the ability to read (or listen) between the lines… albeit in considerably more interesting settings. Despite my own admitted hesitation to draw a simple parallel between the two activities, there is indeed much that they share in common. Each takes difference and makes it comprehensible, finding commonality. The main difference is that anthropology should ideally employ these skills towards more contemplative ends than translation: an ideal that does not however always match the everyday reality of academic life.

Nowhere have I encountered greater challenges for my translation skills and analytical capabilities than in the study of self-immolation in Tibet. Since 2009, more than 135 Tibetans have chosen to set their bodies on fire in protest against the current situation in Tibet. As these events have unfolded, I have attempted to write on this topic, as well as translating some of Tibetan scholar Tsering Woeser’s thoughts on this phenomenon. Whether writing or translating, this is a topic that has brought me far away from the mundane world of washing machine manuals and blueprints, challenging me to think through and make sense of a most extreme experience.

Self-immolation would seem to be an absolute, even untranslatable form of difference: as I sit here before a computer screen on a November day in the middle of Oklahoma, there are few phenomena in life that could seem more remote than someone’s conscious decision to set their body alight and the unthinkable bodily experience that follows. This remoteness would seem to highlight the promise of both translation and anthropology, which can begin to bring us closer to other people’s worlds, whether through the translation of self-immolators’ final statements, or through the analytical attempt to answer the most pressing questions of why, and where to go from here. Yet alongside this seeming promise, I have found in the process of translating and writing that self-immolation creates fundamental challenges for the articulation of these events in words, which reliably fail in relation to the act under description.

This unique challenge of putting words to this act has however been uniquely productive for recalibrating my perspective on the relationship between writing and thinking. In contrast to the founding assumptions of both translation and anthropology, I have begun to think that sometimes what the world needs is not necessarily more words. After all, how many words have been spoken or written about Tibet over about the years? The discussion is far too often expressed through such abstract and even fundamentally alienated notions as historical sovereignty, economic development, territorial control, or even conspiratorial narratives about the “Dalai Lama clique.” Such concepts provide solace that we know what we are talking about and, one after another, are comfortingly very easy for me to translate back and forth between languages without much thought.

Parallel to the distance between my everyday life and the act of self-immolation, however, we must also note the fundamental distance between largely hollow and self-reproducing modes of communication and the concrete experience on the ground in Tibet producing the act of self-immolation. Self-immolation is an act that is impossible to translate because it requires no translation, taking us beyond words, so many of which have already been voiced on the topic of Tibet. Writings on Tibet often exist in a cycle of polarized and self-reinforcing opinions and accompanying identifications. Instead, self-immolation gives us a very visible and visceral experience of human suffering without vengeance against others, an inerasable image of fundamental humanity beyond language.

What self-immolation and other such extreme experiences require of us, then, is not necessarily more writing, but rather more thinking. Actual thinking, usually the source of initial interest in an academic career, can easily be lost in the realities of this career, with its daily deluge of emails, class preparation, job applications, revisions, and the rush to publish. Leaving the translation industry in search of more room for contemplation, I have ironically found that sometimes in academia there is even less time for thinking. The challenge of self-immolation, and the discovery that anything that one says or writes seems to never fully live up to this act, has produced a unique pause in this flurry of activity that has been strangely liberating, highlighting contemplation not only as an essential part of the writing process but also as a productive end in and of itself.

In his Psychoanalysis of Fire, Gaston Bachelard proposes that contemplation and even the pursuit of knowledge itself originate from the human relationship to fire. This relationship between fire and thought, he argues, can be seen in the hypnotic and contemplative gaze directed towards the relatively mundane embers of a fireplace. The flames that have been ignited across Tibet have provoked and will continue to provoke observation, contemplation, and commentary from scholars and other concerned individuals around the world, to help us better understand the realities of Tibet today. But the challenge of thinking through these flames has taught me an equally important lesson: as scholars in a cut-throat academic industry wherein communication never rests, in the hurry to write or lecture or argue for our viewpoint, sometimes we lose sight of the importance of the fundamental act of contemplation. These remote and untranslatable events on the Tibetan plateau, then, have also helped me to rediscover, in and beyond the act of writing, the place of silent contemplation.

 

 

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Boas and the Monolingualism of the Other http://savageminds.org/2014/11/16/boas-and-the-monolingualism-of-the-other/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/16/boas-and-the-monolingualism-of-the-other/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 12:04:40 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15535 Kwakiutl texts

In my last post on Bauman and Briggs Voices of Modernity I explored their argument that Boas’s notion of culture makes it seem like a prison house from which only the trained anthropologist is capable of escaping. In doing so, however, I only really presented half of their argument. The book has two interrelated themes: One is a Foucauldian genealogy of the concepts of science, culture, race, language, and nation (as seen through the rise of folklore studies). The other is a Latourian exploration of the construction of folklore as a science. This is done by exploring how oral traditions were turned into texts, and thus evidence of traditional culture (however that was defined). Aubrey, Blair, the Grimm brothers, and Schoolcraft were each faced with hybrid oral texts whose own modernity (as contemporary documents) belied their perceived scientific value as authentic remnants of ancient cultures. For this reason the texts underwent tremendous alterations, if not outright fabrication, by these scholars in order to make them suitable for their own purposes. The book traces how these processes of entextualization were shaped by each scholar’s concepts of science, culture, race, language, and nation.

So where does Boas fit into all of this?

One of the legacies of earlier folkloric traditions was a view of contemporary oral traditions as little more than the decayed remnants of a once great culture. Although Boas was able, partially as a result of his linguistically inspired view of culture, to criticize evolutionary perspectives that placed contemporary indigenous people in the past, he still seems to have shared some of these views.

Boas was particularly interested in what he considered to be traditional speech. This quest for the archaic and authentic related to form as well as content; Boas summarized his agenda as an attempt “to rescue the vanishing forms of speech”

This rescuing entailed some of the same reconstruction that earlier folklorists were guilty of. In some cases, such as Blair, this entailed the wholesale fabrication of supposedly traditional folktales. In others, such as the Brothers Grimm and Schoolcraft, it entailed heavy editing and embelleshment (although they each did this in different ways and for different reasons – discussed in depth in the book). Boas, however, was even more concerned than his predecessors about establishing the scientific credentials of his work. But his vision of fieldwork as science usefully served to hide some of his entextualization practices from public scrutiny.

Fieldwork became a complex set of practices that had to be mastered through professional training; like owning an air pump, controlling access to this pedagogical process enabled Boas and those he trained to regulate the obligatory passage points that provided access to cultural knowledge. The analogy begins to break down, however, in that the air pump was designed to produce public knowledge, to open scientific work to scrutiny by groups of observers. Fieldwork placed the locus of observation far away from the center. Since people’s perceptions of their own cultural patterns are shaped by secondary explanations, Boas does not deem “natives” to be credible witnesses.

Here is where the questions of anthropological authority discussed last week become important, for while Boas is famous for having worked closely with indigenous scholars, even going so far as to give them credit for published work, the actual manner in which the texts were constructed still reveals some of the same discomfort with the hybridity of these texts that was shown by his predecessors. To understand this argument we need to know something about one of the scholars most closely associated with Boas, George Hunt:

George Hunt was the son of a high-ranking Tlingit woman and an Englishman who worked for the Hudson Bay Company. Hunt was raised in Fort Rupert, a stockaded outpost and Hudson Bay Company station that brought together not only Kwakwaka’wakw but also English, Scots, Irish, French-Canadian, Métis, Iroquois, Hawaiian, Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida… Hunt was perceived as a “foreign Indian” by the Kwakwaka’wakw, and he never considered himself to be Kwakwaka’wakw; he often re-ferred to his wife’s relatives as “these Kwaguls.” At the same time, Hunt’s noble descent brought him high status, particularly after he married a high-ranking Kwakwaka’wakw woman. Hunt’s rank afforded him exposure to forms of knowledge and discourse owned by elite lineages, and it granted him a strong social position by virtue of the high-ranking lines’ dominance of trade and indigenous–white relations.

So how did their collaboration work?

Hunt did not take down material by dictation, but rather listened to the rendition and then went home and reconstructed – and thus re-entextualized – the discourse; after he had written the text in its entirety in Kwakw’ala, he added English interlineations. As he rephrased the materials in the written version, Hunt wrote in what Berman (1996) refers to as “an authentic Kwakwaka’wakw speech style formerly used in the myth recitations,” even when his consultants are likely to have used less archaic styles. Hunt attempted to locate and document speech styles that he deemed to be particularly traditional and authentic; regarding some of his texts on cooking, Hunt wrote Boas: “These will show you the oldest way of speaking.”

One of the implications of this is that Hunt, as the “native informant” allowed Boas to sub-contract and legitimate the work of re-entextualization, effectively brushing the dirty work associated with creating these texts under the carpet. So while Bauman and Briggs want to give “credit where credit is due” and praise Boas for sharing authorship with Hunt on the title page (see the image at the start of this post), they have reservations about how Hunt’s authorship was framed.

The voice that Boas sought to authorize, however, was not that of George Hunt qua individual, not in terms of the particular features of his complex, hybrid social position. Rather, Boas downplayed Hunt’s background, including his multiracial ancestry in characterizing Hunt as speaking “Kwakiutl as his native language.”

Boas needed Hunt to give scientific authority to his texts, but in order to construct that authority he had to downplay the true hybridity of Hunt’s background.

Foregrounding the cultural and historical complexity of the texts and the circumstances surrounding their production would have challenged the way that Boas was constructing their authority – as a voice that could speak for “Kwakiutl customs” in their entirety… By giving the impression that members of Kwakwaka’wakw communities spoke no English, Boas greatly increased the monologicality and monoglossia of the texts and removed another sort of important evidence with respect to their rootedness in colonial contexts.

So, while Boas deserves credit for granting Hunt co-authorship, we can still question the manner in which he did it and even his motivations. None of this is to play a game of “gotcha” with Boas, but to get us to think critically about our own practices of entextualization and our own contemporary mechanisms of granting ourselves anthropolgical authority.

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Anthropology: It’s still white public space–An interview with Karen Brodkin (Part I) http://savageminds.org/2014/11/15/anthropology-still-white-public-space-brodkin/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/15/anthropology-still-white-public-space-brodkin/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 17:33:01 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15527 The following is an interview with Karen Brodkin, Professor Emeritus in the UCLA anthropology Department.

Ryan Anderson:  You co-wrote an article back in 2011 with Sandra Morgen and Janis Hutchinson about anthropology as “white public space” (AWPS).  What’s your assessment of the state of anthropology three years later?  If you could add an “update” to this article, what would it be?

Karen Brodkin: The short answer is that anthropology is still white public space, especially in the consistently different ways that white and racialized minority anthropologists see race and racism in anthropology departments and universities. This is my reading of results of the 2013 online survey of the AAA membership (more on that in a minute). What I’ll do here is summarize the findings of the article, and then survey findings that buttress, complicate or contradict them.

AWPS was based on a survey of about 100 anthropologists of color about how they experienced anthropology. We used “white public space,” to sum up attitudes and organizational patterns that told anthropologists of color that they and their ideas were not real anthropology.

The 2013 survey (referred to hereafter as TFRR) was developed by the Task force on Race and Racism appointed by AAA president Leith Mullings (full disclosure, Raymond Codrington and I were its co-chairs). More than 15% of the membership, 1500 people, mostly white, took it. Half were faculty. We reported findings to the AAA Exec Board June 2014.

What follows is my personal take. We analyzed a LOT more data that I’m not dealing with here. There’s even more data still in this survey that we did not have time to analyze. I feel strongly that the survey database should be made available to anthropologists, and that we should use it as an opportunity to engage in a deeper conversation about race/ism in the discipline.

AWPS’s conclusions are below in bold italics, followed by information from TFRR that expands on each point.

  1. Anthropology departments collectively enact mainstream forms of race avoidance by not seeing racism, and by refusing to acknowledge that race matters in its practices. White anthropologists think their departments and universities are serious and effective in racial diversity efforts; that grievance procedures work; that their departments and schools took advantage of diversity incentives for minority students and that the overall racial climate is good. Racialized minorities disagree on all counts. The survey also asked two similar, multi-part questions about fairness in departmental relations. One question made no reference to race; the other asked explicitly about racial equity. We did the same thing with multipart questions about departmental support for advancement and promotion. On the general questions white faculty and students saw more fairness than did racialized minorities. And when the questions were phrased as about racial fairness, those differences were even sharper. Interesting contrast: practitioners’ perceptions of their workplace relations and racial equity and support did not differ by race, so maybe it’s something specific to the atmosphere of anthropology departments/academe?
  2. Departments marginalize the work and theoretical perspectives generated by scholars of color. White faculty and students thought that their required courses were quite inclusive of works by and theoretical perspectives developed by scholars of color, while racialized minorities thought there was little real inclusion.
  3. White anthropologists see ethnic studies as incompatible with anthropology, and don’t see the study of race as a legitimate topic for anthropology. White anthropologists don’t seem to know much about race. Proportionately fewer whites than racialized minorities reported knowing the scholarship about race, conducting research on racial ethnic issues, or teaching courses on race issues (many faculty neither taught nor conducted such research). Differences between white and racialized minority departmental homes also suggests that anthropology devalues the study of race: White anthropology faculty are clustered in anthropology and departments with anthropology as part of their title, while racialized minority faculty are more likely to be in ethnic or gender studies departments and in departments without anthropology in their title.
  4. Expecting faculty of color to be responsible for diversity duty while encouraging their white colleagues to develop their own research and not held equally responsible. We didn’t find any differences between white and racialized minority faculty in publications, or course loads. The committee work differences were by rank more than race in that higher ranked faculty did more committee work and taught more graduate courses. But we didn’t ask about specifically diversity committee work. Nevertheless, racialized minority faculty did engage in more service and community projects than white; and racialized minority tenure track faculty at all ranks had more racialized minority advisees than whites at the same rank.

AWPS found signs of: a significant rise of anthropology faculty of color in the 1980s; stagnation in the 1990s; and a revolving door for a limited number of minority faculty positions within anthropology departments. But TFRR is a snapshot of 2013 so can’t speak to those points, but it did give us some miscellaneous information on the state of departments that I think suggest differential racial treatment.

Among tenure track faculty:

  • Whites are less likely than racialized minorities to be in departments whose students, faculty and chairs are other than white. Outside diverse departments (and we don’t know how many of these there are because for confidentiality we didn’t ask for respondents’ schools) racialized minorities are also numerical minorities.
  • Racialized minority faculty are younger and more female than white, have fewer years since PhD, and have been in their departments a shorter time than white. They are concentrated at the assistant and associate ranks, but the women are less likely than men to be at associate rank.
  • Full professors are mainly white males. White women are less likely to be full professors. White men have more years since their PhD and they have also been in their current department for more years than racialized minority full professors. But anthropology has had a growing majority of women PhDs since at least 1986 which suggests that white women should prevail in the most senior ranks, except they don’t.

The situation of temporary faculty had some surprises:

  • Regardless of race, they are not new PhDs; they received their degrees an average of 10.3 years ago.
  • Women make up a larger percentage of the temporary faculty than of the tenure track faculty.
  • White faculty teach more courses per academic year and teach more core courses than racialized minority temporary faculty or tenure track faculty of both race groups.

This last has racially discriminatory implications. In contrast to tenure track faculty, for whom a lower course load is an advantage, for temporary faculty, who are paid by the course, this imbalance suggests that white temporary faculty may be receiving priority in course assignments, for more courses and for core and introductory courses.

The final race-related surprise is about students and practitioners
around support for writing and publication.

  • Against a cross-race background of equal mentoring, racialized minority students reported less faculty mentoring than whites in developing their research proposals and preparing their research for publication.
  • Racialized minority practicing anthropologists were less likely than white to have had co-writing research and technical reports as part of their professional development; and were less likely than whites to have writing research or technical reports as part of their work duties. However, racialized minorities had more support for research travel and research assistance than whites.

There are also indications of gender by race differences that need checking out: Women in general have been a majority of anthropology PhDs for almost 30 years. Shouldn’t this give women (of both racial groups?) a proportional slice of senior positions by now? Yet it looks like women of color are tenured less than their male counterparts. And that white women, get tenure but not promotion to full professor equally to their male counterparts.

(To be continued)

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Anthropology Fluxx http://savageminds.org/2014/11/13/anthropology-fluxx/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/13/anthropology-fluxx/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 19:26:36 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15472 I’m a big tabletop gamer and my wife has supernatural card playing abilities inherited from her mother. When our schedules synch up and we have a night off together we’re liable to put away a couple of bottles of wine playing Ticket to Ride after the kids go to bed. In my search for new games I happened upon the Fluxx series and now we’re hopeless addicts. I conceived this anthropology themed version of Fluxx in the haze of summer. It was printed and beta tested in the fall. Now I’m bringing it to the AAA’s. If anyone wants to play, hit me up!

Fluxx is a humorous card game of winning tricks that is very chaotic because the rules of the game are constantly changing. So there is a fair amount of luck involved, but the more you play the game skill can become involved as you learn how to navigate around the obstacles that randomly pop up along the way. Obviously you can get them on Amazon, they also carry them at Barnes & Noble and Target so run out and get a pack if this sounds like fun to you. There’s a bunch of titles in the series and they’re all great in their own way, but the best one to play with little kids is Monster Fluxx.

The core game concepts go like this. You have a draw pile, a discard pile, cards in your hand, and Keepers which are (green) cards played on the table in front of you. The object of the game is to match Keepers to (pink) Goals. There are also (blue) Action cards which give you different advantages and allow you to change the rules or attack your opponents. There are (purple) Surprise cards that you can play whether or not it is your turn. Finally there are (yellow) New Rule cards which define how each turn is played. The New Rule cards dictate how many cards you draw, how many cards you can play in a turn, how many Keepers you can have in front of you, and how many cards you can hold in your hand. There are lots of other weird things along the way that I’m skipping over for the sake of brevity.

To make this deck I borrowed cards from our Fluxx collection. Fanboys will spot cards and concepts taken from the original Fluxx, Eco-Fluxx, Space Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx, and Monster Fluxx. I’ve also stolen New Rules and Actions from Pirate Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx. This is supplemented with cards of my own creation.

Anthropology Fluxx Keepers:

This first set of Keepers are all meant to represent archetypes of fieldwork: The Shaman, The Grandmother, The Artist, a Tourist, Mushrooms, a Ghost, a Fetish, a Monument, a Tomb, an Angry Mob, and the Unseen Force. Note that some of these cards have special abilities. If you play the Shaman and your opponent has Mushrooms or the Fetish you can steal them. The Grandmother cures Nightmares, which is a special bad card we will see bellow. You can give away the Angry Mob of Villagers and cause your opponent to loose a Keeper. And the Unseen Force allows you to steal a card from your opponent’s hand.

001 002

This next set of Keepers are all tropes of academia and academic life. There’s the Professor, the Dean’s Office, a Grad Student, the Librarian, a cup of Coffee, a Party, a Computer, “Quotation Marks,” Mimesis (for theory), and a Book You Haven’t Read Yet. Again you see how some cards are ordinary and some have special powers. A player who has the Professor can steal from another player the Grad Student, the Librarian, or the Coffee. If you have the Dean’s Office then everyone at the table has to call you Dean. The Grad Student is an important defensive piece because if anyone ever attacks your Keepers the Grad Student will take the fall (think the Red Shirts on Star Trek). The Librarian was borrowed from the Cthulhu deck, unfortunately the Necronomicon is not in play in Anthropology Fluxx. If you have the Computer then you can exceed all rules limiting card play, a very powerful card. Quotation Marks can be used to protect yourself against Creepers (defined below). And Mimesis is the most powerful card in the game because it allows you to win with other people’s Keepers.

003 004

The Creepers are like bad Keepers because they prevent you from winning and they each hurt you in their own way. When you draw one you must play it right away. Nightmares attach themselves to any of your Keepers that are people which then turns off any of their special abilities. Nightmares can be cured by the Grandmother, unless your Grandmother has Nightmares in which case you’re fucked. The Flood prevents everyone at the table from winning as it moves from person to person causing them to discard their hand. At a small table the Flood passes quickly, but at a big table it can take many turns to get rid of. War is probably the worst Creeper because unlike Nightmares it doesn’t have a cure and unlike the Flood it doesn’t go away on its own. Any of the Creepers can be hidden behind Quotation Marks, there are a few Action cards which will let you discard them, and there are a few goals which require Nightmares. Otherwise, they’re bad news.

005

Anthropology Fluxx Goals

So the point of the game is to make a match between your collection of Keepers on the table (Keepers in your hand don’t count, they haven’t been activated yet) with the requirements of the ever changing Goal card. Usually there’s only one Goal although there is a New Rule card which allows the game to have two. Zombie and Cthulhu Fluxx are unique in that they have Ungoals where everybody looses and the Zombies or Cthuhu wins, but that game concept didn’t translate well to anthropology. Rather than scan in all the cards, which aren’t as pretty as the Keepers anyway, I’ll just list them for you here.

Goal………..Requirement
All-nighter = Computer + Coffee
Altered States = Shaman + Mushrooms
Annual Conference = Coffee + The Party
Bad Trip = Mushrooms + Nightmares
Cultural Tourism = Tourist + Monument
Database = The Computer + Librarian
Folklore = Grandmother + Artist
Ghost Dance = Shaman + Ghost
Happy Hour = The Party + Either Grad Student or Professor
Interview = Quotation Marks + Any Two of Artist, Grandmother, Shaman, or Tourist
Local leaders = Grandmother + Shaman
Magic = Fetish + Unseen Force
Memory = Tomb + Monument
Possession = Nightmares + Ghost
Power as Knowledge = Quotation Marks + Unseen Force
Preserving Traditions = Artist + Fetish
Publication = Professor + Book You Haven’t Read Yet
Reference = Librarian + Book You Haven’t Read Yet
Ruin = Ghost + Monument
Seminar = Grad Student + Professor
Service Obligation = Dean’s Office + Professor
Souvenir = Tourist + Fetish
Unnecessary Citation = Quotation Marks + Book You Haven’t Read Yet

So there are 21 Keepers and 23 Goals. Plus Creepers, Actions, New Rules, and Surprises. You start the game with three cards in your hand and the rules are draw one, play one. Over the course of the came the rules become more chaotic as you and your opponents amass a collection of Keepers. Eventually by hook or by crook somebody wins a Goal, then you can start over or play best two out of three. Usually this takes 15-45 minutes.

It’s a lot of fun. Go out and buy some Fluxx decks so you can practice, then find me Thursday or Friday night at the AAA’s and we’ll order some beers and cocktails, claim a table or some floor space, and geek out.

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When life hands you a coffee plantation, make espresso http://savageminds.org/2014/11/12/when-life-hands-you-a-coffee-plantation-make-espresso/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/12/when-life-hands-you-a-coffee-plantation-make-espresso/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 01:35:51 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15426 I started a new article recently on the life and thought of Bernard Narokobi, one of Papua New Guinea’s most influential thinkers. The paper grew out of my book, which has a significant section on Narokobi at the end. Expanding the material in the book into a whole article has involved digging deep, deep into the stacks and has gotten me thinking about what a funny thing research is, and what its goals are. I look at it this way: When life hands you a coffee plantation, make espresso.

Life is, after all, like a huge coffee plantation — perhaps one left fallow and running wild — and our articles about it are like espresso: distilled, highly processed condensations of the real thing.

When I teach my research design class, I often use the metaphor of a bag of leaves to describe research: dissertations (and dissertation proposals, and funding applications) are like huge bags of yard waste. You stuff them full of stuff and the shake shake shake them down until, suddenly, they’re half empty. By the time the bag is actually full, you’ve got like a yard worth of stuff in one bag.

But this metaphor of compaction doesn’t quite capture what research in the field or library is really like. As Andrew Abbott has shown us, most research is mostly about processing information: Was Michael Somare Bernard Narokobi’s sixth or seventh grade teacher? Which of the 61 occasional papers of the Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea were written by Narokobi? When, and how long, precisely, was Narokobi involved in drafting the constitution of Vanuatu? This kind of scholarly grunt work is less like shaking a bag and more like picking, washing, roasting, shipping, and grinding coffee… a process of refinement of sources.

Steve Coll describes this daily work as ‘one stroke of the oar’. Elsie Clews Parsons described each of her small articles as ‘grains of sand’ that added up to one big monograph (Pueblo Indian Religion). You have to like doing this work and not being done with it because there’s a lot more doing than finishing. I envy journalists their short-term, accumulative genres — a small piece every day or week that eventually builds into a career with expertise on a particular beat.

Research involves reduction, and I suppose some people would say that there is something unethical in principle about reduction. There’s something to this idea — library work can lead to pedantry, fieldwork to butterfly counting, and (maybe?) both can lead one to tune out other ways of knowing and experiencing. But in general, I’m not too convinced that there’s something pathological about doing violence to reality by providing a detailed scholarly bibliography of the work of Bernard Narokobi. On the contrary, for people who care about his legacy this sort of work is important and timely. And, after all, all life is a process of reentextualization — humans live their lives together by deciding to talk about one thing and not something else.

The main problem with processing information is having the guts to (to borrow a phrase from Gerald Graff) ‘dare to be reductive’. It’s hard to jettison that small, irrelevant news clipping you fought so hard to find. An even more common problem is that you can’t tell what’s signal and what’s noise. Usually this results when you yourself aren’t clear on what precisely your point is, or what sort of story you’re telling.

In the end, our books which summarize decades of history begin to pile up, and then someone writes a book to summarize them up. And then time passes and someone… you get the idea. It’s comforting to me to know that research never really ends, it just keeps on going. We put in our oar or pile up our grains of sand to answer questions which matter to us and, hopefully, to the people we study.

Turning coffee plantations into espresso: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

 

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Risk and Blame in L’Aquila http://savageminds.org/2014/11/12/risk-and-blame-in-laquila/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/12/risk-and-blame-in-laquila/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:36:59 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15500 Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Elizabeth Angell.

Yesterday an Italian appeals court reversed the convictions of all but one of seven scientists and experts charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to provide adequate warning before the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.  (The conviction of Bernardo De Bernardinis, former deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, was partially upheld, but his sentence was reduced to two years instead of six.1) As an anthropologist studying disaster and risk, I’m doubly interested in the L’Aquila story, both as an example of the search for accountability in the aftermath of disaster, and for what it tells us about the ways knowledge, particularly knowledge about risk, circulates between expert communities of scientists and officials and broader publics.

If you’re not familiar with the L’Aquila case, the short version of the story goes like this: in the winter and spring of 2009, Italy’s Abruzzo region experienced a swarm of small earthquakes. The tremors prompted public anxiety in a place with a long history of deadly earthquakes—particularly after a local technician who claims to have developed a method for predicting earthquakes based on radon emissions suggested that a big one might be on the way (and was subsequently served with an injunction forcing him to remove his warning from the internet). Concerned about the potential for panic, members of Italy’s National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks called a meeting on March 30 to respond to the public’s fears. The scientists and civil protection officials at the meeting struck a note of calm—pointing out that no method has yet been found to accurately predict an earthquake before it occurs, and there was no evidence to support the idea that the swarm of small earthquakes meant a bigger one was imminent—although, as they noted, the possibility of one couldn’t be ruled out, either.

Six days later, on 6 April, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck L’Aquila, Abruzzo’s capital, killing 297 people, and injuring at least a thousand. In the aftermath, many locals blamed the commission for downplaying the risk, leading residents—some of whom had taken to sleeping outside or staying elsewhere because of the earlier tremors—to return to their homes. Abruzzo’s public prosecutor charged seven scientists and experts who had attended the meeting with involuntary manslaughter—not for failing to predict the earthquake (as some media accounts later suggested) but for giving the public a sense of false reassurance. On October 22, 2012, all seven were convicted and sentenced to six-year prison terms, pending the appeal process that led to the judgments today.  (For a fuller account, see this NYT article, or David Wolman’s longform story at Matter, which is excellent.)

My research deals on earthquake anticipation in Istanbul, and many of the seismologists (and earthquake engineers, and disaster preparedness professionals) I’ve spoken to over the past few years, both in Turkey and the United States, have brought up L’Aquila as a particularly fraught example of the challenges of public discourse on risk. Their anxieties are not only about being blamed for failing to warn of a future disaster—particularly since they’re sometimes called upon to comment on the claims of self-declared earthquake predictors like the one in L’Aquila—but also about the problem of how best to communicate risk in a way that persuades both policymakers and public audiences to take precautionary measures. For example, as a senior researcher at Istanbul’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute explained to me, is it better to tell people that the probability of a major earthquake in Istanbul within the next 30 years is 65%, or that the current annual probability is 2%? Which combination of percent and time frame is more likely to prompt action? How do you strike the balance between preventing panic, and getting people to take the problem seriously?

The dilemmas of science in public, especially around questions of risk and uncertainty, are hardly unique to earthquakes—they crop up in all kinds of contexts, from the recent fracas over Ebola quarantines to the problems posed by anti-vaccine movements and climate change denial. The example of L’Aquila hovered in the back of my mind as I read a recent Chronicle of Higher Ed story about Yale law professor Dan Kahan, and his argument for an approach to science communication that takes into account the way politicized worldviews might shape perceptions of climate science in the United States. Kahan’s “cultural cognition” framework turns out to have been inspired by Mary Douglas’s cultural theory of risk—which he discovered as a result of conversations with a then-graduate student in the department of anthropology. (The Chronicle piece hints at the tragicomic complications that often ensure when anthropological arguments are transmuted into behavioral science—Douglas herself apparently had some reservations about the way Kahan adapted her appraoch.)

Douglas’s theory has come under plenty of fire from subsequent anthropological scholarship, particularly for its functionalist understanding of risk as simply the “modern” equivalent of taboo or sin, a social mechanism for defining and regulating culturally determined sources of danger. But what continues to interest me about her work on this topic is the emphasis she places on the relationship between risk and blame: in their 1982 book Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers, Douglas and co-author Aaron Wildavsky write that “risk, like worldliness, is an ideal target for criticism. It is immeasurable and its unacceptability is unlimited….there can never be sufficient holiness or safety” (194). (Douglas’s subsequent volume of essays was actually titled Risk and Blame). What’s key here, I think, is the suggestion that these controversies are not just about failures of communication or a mistrust of science—they’re also about the moral context in which communities understand and confront risk.

Wolman suggests that “what happened in L’Aquila is a window onto how we think about, communicate, and live with risk, and about impediments to clear thinking that afflict us all.” It’s also a window into how people reckoning with disaster try to make sense of the devastation they have experienced by determining responsibility and apportioning blame. In my next post, I’ll talk about the debates over accountability in the aftermath of another disaster—the 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey—but for now, I want to suggest that anthropologists have something useful to add to these conversations by focusing on how the politics of risk and responsibility play out in specific cultural contexts. Sometimes, these debates focus on the broader social and economic structures that create vulnerability to certain hazards—think of the rhetoric of “unnatural” disaster surrounding Hurricane Katrina—but they often also target particular groups or individuals as scapegoats for the failures—political, ethical, or otherwise—that made the disaster possible. The verdict in the L’Aquila appeal comes as a relief, but in the words of one of the defendants, Giulio Selvaggi, the former director of Italy’s National Earthquake Centre, “There is nothing to celebrate — because the pain of the people of L’Aquila remains.”


  1. The court partly upheld the conviction of De Bernardinis—a hydrologist by training who had inaccurately suggested, in an interview before the meeting, that the ongoing earthquake swarm might have reduced hazard by releasing pent-up energy—on the grounds that his was the only case in which a clear link existed between the inaccurate statements and the behavior of the victims. 
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Boas and the Culture of Racism http://savageminds.org/2014/11/11/boas-and-the-culture-of-racism/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/11/boas-and-the-culture-of-racism/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:42:32 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15487

The question is not that Boas was wrong about culture. It is rather that he told anthropologists that they are the only ones who are right.

This quote is from the conclusion to the penultimate chapter of Bauman and Briggs’ award-winning book Voices of Modernity. The book employs a Foucauldian genealogical approach to trace the development of folklore studies from its roots in the Scottish Enlightenment, through its development under German Romanticism, ending up with Boas and the birth of anthropology. In doing so the book focuses on a number of interrelated ideas about culture, language, and modernity as well as methodological issues in the creation of texts from oral traditions. When they awarded the book with the Edward Sapir Book Prize the Society for Linguistic Anthropology wrote:

Bauman and Briggs argue that contemporary efforts to make schemes of social inequality based on race, gender, class and nationality seem compelling and legitimate, rely on deeply rooted ideas about language and tradition. Showing how critics of modernity unwittingly reproduce these foundational fictions, they suggest new strategies for challenging the undemocratic influence of these voices of modernity.

While these themes run throughout their book, they sometimes seem to have only historical importance. After all, scholars like Herder or the Grimm brothers are associated with the rise of nationalism and so there doesn’t seem much that is “unwitting” in their reproduction of these ideologies. It is only in the penultimate chapter on Boas, a scholar known for his critiques of racism and nationalism, that the relevance of these earlier scholars (and the importance of the genealogical method) really becomes clear to the reader. In this genealogy Boas is “ego,” but before this chapter he has been absent from the story.

To understand their critique of Boas it is necessary to first understand Boas’s theory of culture and this is best approached (they argue) by understanding his theory of language. Boas in many ways presaged contemporary Chomskyan linguistics. He made charts showing the articulation of vowel sounds, and was one of the first to anticipate the distinction between phonemic and phonetic analysis (from which the terms “emic” and “etic” come from). Just as it is hard to learn to distinguish the phonemes in a foreign language once one is already an adult, Boas came to think of culture as a set of practices into which people are socialized early in life, able to deploy at will but largely unaware of the underlying rules.

This view of language, grounded in his “universal, objective phonetic grid” and internalized as a set of subconscious practices was an important step in moving Boas away from Herderian evolutionary approaches which saw contemporary language as a degenerative form of a once-pure folkloric forms.

Folklore enabled Boas to attack evolutionism by rejecting degenerative bias of traditional philological approaches and countering E. B. Tylor’s view that each folk element is a survival from a previous social form, one that was rational in its origins but became increasingly irrational. For Boas, folklore was deeply embedded in culture, and it was irrational all the way down.

In his view of language and culture as irrational (non-rational might be a better way of putting it) Boas nonetheless held on to another evolutionary theory, one “inherited from Aubrey and Locke” in which “tradition limits progress towards enlightenment and rationality”

He accordingly constructed culture as a force that limits individual freedom through the pervasive influence of “the fetters of tradition.”1

Racism, nationalism, colonialism, etc. were, for Boas, not so much political-economic phenomenon as they were the result of culture and tradition. This created a contradiction for Boas, for while culture defined the object of anthropological study, it was also an obstacle to the cosmopolitan form of knowledge anthropologists hoped to produce.

Anthropologists must indict a phenomenon that only they can represent authoritatively, and they stake their claim to authority on the broader public and political stage by promising to help rationalize the very cultural (traditional, unconscious) patterns of which they are supposed to be the visionaries and spokespersons. Fully realizing Boas’s utopian vision of cultural enlightenment would eventually put anthropologists out of a job…

For Boas, only anthropologists could cultivate “a ‘purely analytic’ approach to the study of particular languages and cultures” which enabled them “to circumvent the natural tendency to project one’s own categories onto others.” Bauman and Briggs find this view particularly troublesome. Not only do they see it as promoting forms of inequality in which anthropologists and other experts know best what is in other people’s best interests, but they also see it as legitimating certain forms of neo-racism.

Boas’s theoretical move thus dehistoricizes and depoliticizes imperialism by reducing it to general effects of a universal process of reifying unconscious categories when applied to cross-linguistic and cultural encounters. Balibar (1991) argues that this sort of reasoning provides neo-racists with a cultural logic that naturalizes racism. Although he seems to suggest that this trope constitutes a neo-racist distortion of anthropological constructions, we would argue that it follows from Boas’s own culture theory.

This is not to say that Boas was a racist. Too often (especially on the internet) there is a tendency to oversimplify any argument which discusses the links between racism and certain representational or theoretical practices, boiling it down to “X was a racist.” This would be especially unfortunate in the case of Boas whom the authors acknowledge as a champion of anti-racism. As they conclude:

Boas’s attempt to fashion anthropology as a cosmopolitan discipline deserves broader appreciation. The difficulty is that the fundamental modernist move of claiming consciousness and rationality for oneself and one’s followers and denying it to others was embedded deeply within the concept of culture that lay at the heart of this project.

I would like to think that contemporary anthropological theories of culture, especially those grounded in practice theory avoid many of these problems, but I think that this view of culture is still widespread outside of anthropology. The proponents of the New Atheism movment and their ilk strike me as especially prominent examples of this modernist move, especially when they talk about Islam. It seems strange to me to associate Boas with Islamophobia, and I think he would be more careful not to pick out any particular culture for derision, but in the way he dehistoricized and depoliticized these issues, he would perhaps have had a difficult time articulating a coherent critique.


  1. I feel I should point out (because if I don’t, Rex is sure to do so) the extent to which, throughout this chapter, Bauman and Briggs rely upon George Stocking’s work on Boas
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On Ethnographic Unknowability http://savageminds.org/2014/11/10/on-ethnographic-knowability/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/10/on-ethnographic-knowability/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:39:12 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15468 This entry is part 11 of 12 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Catherine Besteman as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Catherine is Francis F. Bartlett and Ruth K. Bartlett Professor of Anthropology at Colby College. She is author of numerous books and articles, including Unraveling Somalia: Race, Violence, and the Legacy of Slavery (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), Transforming Cape Town (University of California Press, 2008), and co-edited with Hugh Gusterson, Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back (University of California Press, 2005) and The Insure American (University of California Press, 2009). Her most recent book Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine is forthcoming from Duke University Press.)

What if I told you to write what you don’t know?

I ask this because I find the oft-offered advice to “write what you know” both alarming and silencing. Isn’t ethnography at least partially about unknowability? If we acknowledge that textual recording is a form of fixing knowledge, how does one write what one doesn’t know? How can our writing play on the edge between knowing and not knowing, refusing to fix the unknown by writing it into existence? Exploring this playful and vexing tension in ethnographic writing is my current preoccupation.

A story might help illuminate my query.

A few years ago, some friends in the Somali refugee community in Maine with whom I do ethnographic work rekindled an old dispute. Tensions over leadership and representation plagued their relationship, and in the latest eruption people with knives broke through the apartment wall of my good friend Khalar. Khalar and his family fled the apartment and filed charges with the police. He and another man took out protection orders against each other. A defamation lawsuit filed by one against the other began making its way through the court system. A few days later, another friend, Ahmed, told me that this newest fighting was generated by Khalar’s first wife’s rage against his new second wife. The problems between the two women were radiating out through their respective kin groups, provoking small but violent eruptions between family members.

“Wait,” I said to Ahmed. “Khalar has a second wife?”

I was spending countless hours every week with Khalar on community projects. I understood the tensions over leadership and representation between Khalar and the other men as emanating from things that happened back in their country of origin, things that happened in the refugee camp, personality clashes, and the particular contextual politics of diasporic community building. My understanding did not extend to include marital disputes. How did I not know that Khalar had married again? A few months previously, Romana had begun attending social events with Khalar. Reading their interaction as marital, I had then asked if they were recently married but Khalar insisted they were siblings. I recalled him telling me a few weeks prior that Zeynab, a local community leader, was negotiating a payment from him to his wife, which is what usually happens when a man marries a second wife. Stunned by my conversation with Ahmed, I phoned Khalar and asked, testily, “You’re married to Romana?” I was hurt he had felt the need for obscurity with me. How had I managed to miss this?

“No!” he retorted. “She’s my cousin [cousin” and “sibling” are often used interchangeably]. She was married but never had any children. My mother [who still lived in Khalar’s natal village in Africa] arranged the marriage. She insisted on it. How could I say no? So Romana and I will have children and I will register myself with DHHS as their father.”

Despite Khalar’s attempts to define the relationship as a sort of extra-wedlock favor and filial duty, and although there was no community ceremony, and although Khalar cannot have a legal polygynous marriage to Romana in the US, it is clear that to others in the refugee community Romana is his second wife and not just a duty to Khalar’s mother. The rancor between her and Khalar’s first wife continued to animate community divides, reaching a climax when each woman took out a restraining order against the other.

I know that because polygyny is illegal in the US it is usually not announced outside the community. I know that Khalar wants to be viewed as an American-style community leader and (rightly) suspects non-Somalis are judgmental against polygyny. I know that Khalar is trying to find ways to assuage the anger of his first wife by minimizing the emotional significance of his second marriage. Is his translation of his marriage as filial duty an attempt to maintain an unknowability about his marital life not only to me, but to others in the community as well?

This incident reminded me to question what I have a right to know and what ‘knowing’ actually means. When I write about internal tensions within the refugee community, which knowledges do I include and which do I leave unrecorded? How do I claim to ‘know’ the relevance of Khalar’s marriage to intercommunity tensions if he insists otherwise? At moments like these I feel the enormity of what I don’t know, of what my interlocutors (quite reasonably) don’t want me to know, and, sometimes, of the things I don’t actually want to know. Decades ago James Clifford wrote about ethnography’s partial truths, reminding anthropologists that ethnographies, as crafted texts, are inherently incomplete efforts to impose tidy boundaries on untidy subjects. But recognizing the partiality of our accounts is something different than recognizing unknowability—those things that are never fully understood, feelings that remain untranslatable, the incommensurabilities encountered in fieldwork. How should our writing reflect respect for the things we do not know and do not have the right to know? How do we do this without domesticating the unknown?

 

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The kids from other neighborhoods http://savageminds.org/2014/11/04/the-kids-from-other-neighborhoods/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/04/the-kids-from-other-neighborhoods/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 05:00:33 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15432 Halloween is a big deal in my house. Honestly it wasn’t anything I cared much about until I had kids. Having kids makes all the holidays more fun! Things really got out of control when we moved to Hilton Village, the “destination neighborhood” for trick or treaters in Newport News, Virginia.

People come from all over town to bring their kids to our neighborhood for Halloween. When folks move here I warn them: It’s like a street carnival! When we lived on a side street I’d go through 300-400 pieces of candy. We had a friendly rivalry with the retired couple across the street for most outrageous yard. A holiday I never cared about became one of the highlights of the year.

After my wife earned tenure and we bought a bigger house on Main that really upped the ante. It’s the first house on the right as you come into the neighborhood, making it ground zero for the Halloween onslaught. We are literally the gateway to the neighborhood. This year the party fell on a Friday, that only encouraged more folks to come out and stay longer. Last week I gave out 30 lbs of candy, 100 glow sticks, 200 stickers. It was a mob scene.

Gentle reader, this is an old post. I wrote it last year and hesitated for whatever reason. I quickly remembered it once I read this letter to the popular advice column Dear Prudence in which the correspondent feels put upon by the obligation of passing out candy to the kids from other neighborhoods. The original inspiration for the post came from this image, collected from my Facebook newsfeed via the reliably righteous Latino Rebels. I no longer have the link it came from (sorry), but my notes say it was first shared by ABC 15 Phoenix.

Kids from other

I know just what’s going on in this sign and in the crabby letter to Dear Prudence. The kids from other neighborhoods are brown and black.

I live in a white neighborhood. Chances are if you live in a city in the United States it is, to a greater or lesser degree, racially segregated. Here in the South the black part of town is literally on the other side of the tracks. Downtown is the shipyard and the coalyard, cross the railroad to the low lying land that floods in the hurricanes and its mostly black families. But upriver, past the bridge to pricy Isle of Wight and Smithfield where they make the bacon, is Hilton.

Why take your family to Hilton on Halloween? A federal housing project from 1918 for the shipyard workers that built the navy that sailed to Europe in WWI, Hilton boasts sidewalks on both sides of the street. The houses are all close together and the streets are narrow. Hilton is safe and well lit. Its recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the “Great Places” in America. I tell people its like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. And the city bus passes right by.

The middle class families in Hilton can afford to put on quite a show for the holiday. Me? I go all out. Decorating my house for the holidays is my favorite bourgeois indulgence. Each year I drop cash on decorations, candy, costumes, and beer. It took hours of leisure time to get that all set up and hours of leisure to take it all down last Sunday. Say you don’t want to go all out. Even if you want a few jack’o’lanterns and to pass out candy you’re going to drop seventy bucks or more right there.

Does this sound a little noblesse oblige? Kinda?

Let me tell you it is an honor to be the first white neighborhood, buffering the million dollar waterfront homes from the shipyard and railroad. And it is a joy to see all the kids enjoying the role reversal of Halloween/ Samhain/ Misrule/ Dia de los Muertos. You have your princesses and ninjas. The twelve year old girls with long, skinny legs and the toddlers scared by the weird faces and macabre lights.

Minecraft was big this year for boys, Ella from Frozen for girls.

You also see the kids with no costume at all and a pillowcase or grocery bag to hold the loot. Or the boys who come in their football uniforms and the girls in their cheerleader outfits.

And for them we had a group of teenagers putting on an choreographed dance routine in their front yard. A girl popping out of an open grave to pass out candy. Somebody with a high end digital projector broadcasting horror-themed animations onto a window screen. Fog machines! Inflatables! The old man with the license plate “GSTBSTR” who passes out cheap toys from Oriental Trading. The Presbyterian church had hot coco.

We have a thousand people, laughing, smiling with their kids, out in the street at night and no cops. No. Cops. Open container? Nobody cares. I’m drinking beer and eating chili in the cool autumn night outside with my front yard full of strangers.

Ever throw a party but nobody came? Those parties suck. Thank God for the kids from other neighborhoods. At least one night out of the year kids rule and get to stay up late, eating candy, playing dress up, and telling the adults what to do, structural racism or no.

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Writing to become… http://savageminds.org/2014/11/03/writing-to-become/ http://savageminds.org/2014/11/03/writing-to-become/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:37:21 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15428 This entry is part 10 of 12 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Sita Vekateswar as part of our Writer’s Workshop seriesSita is a Social Anthropologist at Massey University, Aotearoa/New Zealand. She is Associate Director of the Massey chapter of the recently established New Zealand India Research Institute (NZIRI). Her ethnography Development and Ethnocide: Colonial Practices in the Andaman Islands (2004) is based on her Ph.D. fieldwork in the Andaman Islands and her co-edited book, The Politics of Indigeneity: Dialogues and Reflections on Indigenous Activism (2011) is published by Zed Books. Her current research on the implications of climate change for food production takes a political ecology approach to follow the fortunes of millet cultivation in India.)

I write to become.

Through writing, I accumulate more being since I am more than I was when I materialise the ephemeral.

I wear the traces of various Englishes, strung like so many iridescent pearls within the necklace of language adorning me. The lilting singsong of Anglo-Indian first granted me tongue, irrepressible, undaunted by the pristine elegance of Queen’s English. As I collided with the unabashed assertiveness of American idiom, I learned the discipline of anthropology. I discovered my place in the world from the antipodes, in encounter with the laconic, self-deprecating humour of New Zealand vernacular. A clamour of tongues finds expression through me to constitute the anthropologist I have become.

Writing requires an act of will or a leap of faith that I will find what I need to reach where I want to be, yet no direct route exists from thinking to writing – a spiralling path often littered with impediments. Immersed within the spinning cobwebs of my own thought, I am tempted to linger unless an externally imposed imperative channels the steady stream of words to a medium read by others. The yawning pit of terror triggered by such a prospect requires considerable effort to evade no matter how habituated I am to its presence. Despite the testimony of many accomplishments, the act of writing exposes an unvoiced vulnerability that I, like others, prefer to mask. To be judged and found wanting: to not find the right words, render intelligible or offer something original, considered valuable by academe.

My entry into the world of words is primarily as a reader. I remain enraptured by others’ writings, the magic and precision of words a lure to escape the exigencies of the present. Yet, anthropology compels confrontation with those very same exigencies! A necessary discipline to craft a self and sensibility only manifest through writing, anthropology engenders a mode of being inseparable from writing. Always already in process, entwined, anthropology as/in writing feed each other, yet are at a standoff when the immediacy of extended fieldwork drives writing underground. Until, like a dam breaching its walls, the accumulated weight of words become an urgent torrent – unstoppable – as insights reached through fieldwork compel communication whether catalysed by ‘intelligent rage’ or commitment to research participants and field site.

Conversely, what modes of writing emerge untethered from the intensities provoked by fieldwork? What felicity conditions enable instauration of anthropology as writing, without the boost of fieldwork to unleash its potential? I pose these queries to address my own current predicament in which a combination of factors curbs my ability to transport myself ‘elsewhere’ at will. When Tim Ingold distinguishes between ethnography and anthropology, he suggests crossing a threshold not necessarily reached via fieldwork. By shifting focus to encompass the spectrum of human and (more recently), non-human condition, we enter a calmer more measured space concurrent with anthropological labour. Instead of fieldwork, I engage in ‘memorywork’ nourished by imagination to the shifting sands of times past and lives lived. Such writing up occurs in the absence of documentary artifacts and hence, is fabricated entirely from ‘headnotes’ to be summoned as I do in the segment below:

“Tangled skeins of narrative possibilities plunge me into Ammam’s stories during long, hot afternoons in Calcutta spent lying beside her in the shaded cool of her bedroom. The whirring ceiling fan picks up the occasional gust of warm breeze from the shuttered windows to settle on my increasingly heavy eyelids. I listen to her reveries of a distant village in Kerala, her reminiscent voice casting a dream-like spell, sowing the seeds that have remained buried for decades to finally find fertile ground and germinate at this conjuncture in the antipodes. I recall two stories in particular, both sending a sharp thrill through me at the time, reverberating through the marrows of memories haunting me ever since.

The first is an incident from the pioneering journeys of my great-grandfather through the dense jungles of Palaghat during the last quarter of the 19th century. A player in the futures market of that conjuncture, my great-grandfather’s mission entailed identifying and marking jungle tracts rich in spices for auction. It was a dangerous venture through a wilderness teeming with predators. On one of these trips, his path through the jungle intersected with that of a leopard, indolently stretched across a rocky outcrop of the Western Ghats. His eyes locked with the amber, unblinking gaze of the magnificent feline, camouflaged by the dappled shadows cast by the sylvan surroundings. My great-grandfather stood stock still, then bowing his head and drawing his palms together, he intoned: “Revered elder, if it pleases you, grant me permission to cross your path.” The leopard’s amber gaze burnished his face, then, in a fluid movement, the animal stretched, yawned and disappeared into the surrounding jungle. My great-grandfather went on to make a fortune trading in spices, but never forgot to give homage to the leopard that permitted him to grow old to tell his tale.

The second story emerges from the context of Ammam’s household responsibilities as a daughter, and the daily round of chores allocated to her. At the centre of the courtyard, the household well provided for the family’s day-to-day water needs. Ammam’s morning routine began with replenishing the water for the family kitchen. At daybreak, as she drew water from the well, she thought she heard a hissing sound. Ammam’s mother also noted the same susurration as she drew water for her morning ablutions. As the murmurs of apprehension among the women in the household grew louder to reach the ears of my great-grandfather, he took it upon himself to investigate the matter. Peering carefully into the crevices of the large well, he spotted a King Cobra hidden in the mossy gloom of the walls. Drawing his hands together and bowing his head low, he addressed the cobra. He said, “Revered elder, I live in this household with many children. Why have you come here to live among us? This is not a suitable home for you.” He filled a cup of milk and left it by the well then ordered everyone indoors. The cobra uncoiled itself to slither sinuously away from the well, never to be seen again; the well was emptied then left to replenish itself from the aquifer that fed it.

I tap into the ‘black milk’ of memories and return to the scene of encounters with predators in Malabar. Whether in the “wild” spaces of the jungle, or the “domestic” space of his house, my great-grandfather’s mode of address to the two creatures is striking. In those contact zones, he displays an unwavering assumption regarding the possibilities for communication. Ammam’s narratives confront the predators’ ability to take human life head-on. Yet, the mutuality of humans and animals, their entitlement to survive, thrive and co-habit the spaces where both humans and animals range is never in any doubt.”

I have fashioned a narrative to conjure alter worlds that were precursors to my own and foreground my trail of connections to contemporary anthropological discourses.

I write to enter a world where I stand tall among others of my ilk, and know I keep good company.

 

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“This brings me to another thing: the danger of kissing on the mouth” http://savageminds.org/2014/10/30/this-brings-me-to-another-thing-the-danger-of-kissing-on-the-mouth/ http://savageminds.org/2014/10/30/this-brings-me-to-another-thing-the-danger-of-kissing-on-the-mouth/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:50:31 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15401 This semester I am at the College of William and Mary completing a practicum in archives and special collections primarily focused on digitization, the whole point of which is to make items such as manuscripts accessible to users online. As is the nature of special collections the material is one of a kind and that means along the way I occasionally find treasures that catch my eye through the blur of metadata creation. I’ve already shared with you the pleasures of huffing nitrous oxide at Yale College in 1821 and today I have a new one, the dangers of letting people kiss your baby.

My current project is the digitization of a collection of romantic correspondence between a young couple in a small Virginia town in the early 20th century. First they are friends, then they are dating and engaged, and once they are married the correspondence stops and the remainder of the collection is Christmas cards. It was here that I found a three page form letter from the Women’s Home Companion Better Babies Bureau dated September 1939.

Initially I interpreted the moniker “Better Babies Bureau” as a play on the WPA alphabet soup of agencies, but according to this encyclopedia entry this series from Women’s Home Companion dates back to 1913 and links the to eugenics movement.

After warning against the use of home remedies for whooping cough instead of seeking a doctor the “counselor” Sarah Francis Logan writes:

This brings me to another thing: the danger of kissing on the mouth, which many women regard lightly. Do not allow anyone to kiss your baby on the mouth or hands. Many people who seem perfectly well and healthy have an insidious disease that may be communicated to your baby by a kiss. It is the most direct way of transmitting infection.

Of course some people will laugh at you and say you are fussy, but then these same people are amused at “system” in the feeding of babies. They are like farmers who continue to raise poor cattle and poor crops because they scorn new methods. Do not let anyone’s ridicule of your ideas effect you, because you are doing the wisest and best thing for your baby.

In retrospect the eugenics connection comes across clear in the the farming metaphor.

As an American I think of kissing on the mouth and the kissing of hands as a greeting that is quintessentially European. I was never raised to kiss my parents or any relative on the mouth. Aunts and grandmothers got kisses on the cheek, uncles and grandfathers got hugs. Kissing on the lips is only ever a romantic gesture and I never did it until I was an older teenager. At any rate, it was far too intimate to share with a stranger and inappropriate to do with family. On the rare occasion when a misinterpreted turn of the face did result in accidentally kissing my mother or father on the lips it was always a mild shock. Whoops!

It’s interesting to reflect that gestures of intimacy and affection have a history. Maybe in the past Americas did greet each other with kisses like Europeans? What caused this practice to fall out of favor? Then in the early twentieth century there was a great influx of eastern and southern European immigration to the US. Did they bring their dangerous kisses with them? The science of eugenics stood ready to defend Americans against this unhygienic practice much as early nutrition science was marshaled to prove the unhealthy consequences of mixing A + 2B into goulash.

I should be done creating links from the finding aid to Dspace next week and will share the link to the document here. With a click you will be transported through the magic of the Internet to W&M and see what I’ve been up to.

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#HanyangTowson http://savageminds.org/2014/10/30/hanyangtowson/ http://savageminds.org/2014/10/30/hanyangtowson/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:24:11 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15384 Networking Media Anthropology

Samuel Collins is teaching a seminar at Hanyang University (ERICA campus) as part of his Fulbright grant in South Korea and, as luck would have it, Matthew Durington is doing the same in Baltimore. The two of them resolved to network their courses together using some of the principles they espouse in Networked Anthropology (Routledge, 2014), combined with some new directions for their research. Among other challenges? The 1 day + 13 hour time difference.

#HanyangTowson

It’s hard to find 2 cities more different than Seoul and Baltimore. Baltimore is a tertiary city, caught between larger, more affluent cities in the U.S. northeast. Seoul is by all accounts a global city–huge, awash with people and capital–a staggeringly complex phantasmagoria. And yet, both of these cities have been profoundly shaped by what we might call advanced capitalism. For Seoul, massive investment and government support have transformed the city into a kaleidoscope media space, a constantly online assemblage of images and spectacles where culture is already “culture content”: text, narrative and media to be bought or sold. Underdevelopment is already pre-packaged as “nostalgia”; labor migration and precarity as “multicultural tourism”. This is the terrain facing anyone who might want to present alternative visions of the city. For Baltimore, a massive lack of investment and government support have transformed the city into a space where entities attempt to navigate their way in the wake of a neoliberal malaise. That condition combines with a tense racial and socioeconomic landscape that produces an array of representations that often border on the stereotypical. Images and spectacles found in mass media historically and in networked media today create a representational burden of the city.

In this context, we determined our media anthropology needs to confront these hegemonies and start to work on presenting alternatives. Moving a media anthropology to a networked anthropology provides a further extension of possibilities. Collins decided to work with local understandings of place. Many of the students in his Media Anthropology course are originally from Seoul or Gyeonggi-do (the province that surrounds Seoul like a donut) and, for them, the area is more than varied spaces for consumption. Even if students find Seoul’s phantasmagoric spaces pleasurable, the goal here is to complicate those representations–to disturb them with community activism, with contestations over urban development. In Durington’s Media Anthropology course he decided to elaborate on multiple years of research in Baltimore City conducted by the Anthropology by the Wire project and past cohorts of students in urban anthropology courses at Towson University. A popular expression by the anthropology faculty at Towson University is to tell students that there is a great place just a few miles south of the campus called ‘Baltimore’ where the conditions of neoliberalism and the social issues they create are impacting a citizenry that they can actually engage through research. There is also the distinct possibility that they may have the opportunity to contribute to social justice issues by creating alternative representations of urban life in Baltimore through media they produce collaboratively.

Collins/Hanyang

First, Collins started with some of the technical questions: doing a tech survey to see what people had access to, opening up new accounts in social media, and running through the basics of a networked anthropology–including social network analysis. The class started with students’ own social networks.

(A smartphone network from a Hanyang student with labels removed. Made with Gephi.)

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And then Collins started to interrogate the media that transects their personal networks–those popular or manufactured media practices that overdetermine presentations of the city by limiting them to exchange values: shopping districts, scenes from movies, tourist spectacles, bottled experiences of urban pleasures. Collins tried tag clouds of Flickr images in order to demonstrate these powerful inequalities. Doing searches for one neighborhood in Seoul (neighboring the long-contested U.S. military base in Yongsan)–Itaewon–yields very different associations if you search for “이태원” rather than “Itaewon.”

(A Flickr tag cloud made up of terms that are linked to “Itaewon”)

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In order to help students assess the powerful media representing neighborhoods in Seoul as spaces for consumption, Collins had the class use “Storify,” a flexible platform for importing diverse social media and adding your own commentaries.

(A Storify presentation of media images of a prominent neighborhood in Gangnam, Seoul)

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Since Storify is linked to Twitter, Collins had them tweet their stories.

(Tweet from Hanyag Media Anthropology student)

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With the work of media assessment underway, Collins had the class begin building alternative representations. Then, Collins had the class work on mapping their own daily rounds through urban spaces through “sound maps” designed to defamiliarize routine spaces (and routine assumptions) by removing the spectatorial dimension of urban life in Seoul.

(Sound Mapping through pinning audio files to a Google Map)

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Along with sounds maps, students interviewed each other and juxtaposed those recorded media to the mass media they were discovering.

(Life story interviews of Hanyang students)

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So–After 8 weeks, Collins’s Media Anthropology class has collected media (television programs, newspapers, public relations), made media (videos, audio, maps), and circulated this through social media and analyzed some of this media through social network analysis and web analytics.

But how to put this together into a more ethnographic multimedia? Collins started a Tumblr blog for the media the class was making:

(http://mediaanthropologyhanyang.tumblr.com)

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But there’s still something missing: a blog may be a place to collect and display a variety of multimedia, but the pieces remain unintegrated and the result mirrors the cacophony of media swirling around student’s lives. Moreover, how can Collins’s class communicate these ethnographic insights to their counterparts in Durington’s class?

The App Project

After conversations with Durington, Collins decided to make the class project in his Media Anthropology an app-building exercise. The ultimate goal is to make an app that is consonant with Collins’s and Durington’s vision for a networked anthropology, i.e., one that 1) links these media together; 2) while at the same time implying a public; 3) in such a way that this public can a) give their input; and b) ultimately shape the course of the app itself. As Durington and Collins discussed in their earlier posting, app development is following 2 stages: a wireframing phase where students are trying out a number of ideas and a prototyping phase involving ARIS, a flexible architecture for app development from University of Wisconsin at Madison.

As the class is entering the app prototype phase the two classes were introduced to one another. The gauntlet is thrown to Durington’s class through dual introductory videos where students are providing their twitter accounts and names while also ‘performing’. Let’s just say the Hanyang dance moves are much more advanced than the Towson repertoire at this point in the networked anthropology experiment.

(Screenshots of introduction videos made by the Hanyang and Towson classes)

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Durington/Towson

Now that the challenge of which class can create the best app prototypes has been delivered from the Hanyang group, Towson students are beginning their exercises for a networked anthropology app building project. They are using the same background work as the Hanyang group by conducting a tech survey, creating social media accounts, running analytics and exploring various representations of Baltimore. This is primarily done through a content analysis of various media such as storify, google maps, flickr and the collective media archive of the Anthropology by the Wire website. Predominant imagery in this mediascape more or less confirm many of the dominant elements of the representational burden of Baltimore…pictures of trash, dilapidation and contextual comments on urban blight. There is also some dialogue about the Baltimore Ravens to top it off. The predominantly suburban population of Towson University embodied by the students has to confront their sentiments about these representations. Do they confirm or perhaps complicate perceptions of the city? Whereas many social media platforms become spaces for problematic representations of Baltimore to be found, there are subordinate media that lean toward a more nuanced view. Blog posts throughout the process are spaces of reflexive analysis for these opportunities.

(Storify search using term ‘Baltimore’)

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(Exploring research maps made with Google maps and YouTube media)

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(Flickr analysis of ‘Baltimore’ Tag)

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(Representations of Baltimore through the Anthropology by the Wire project.)

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(The Towson course blog site)

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The Baltimore group is now undertaking the same final project of app development using POP and Aris that are discussed in previous posts this month. Both classes have started to ‘follow’ one another on social media as they develop their app projects posting their thoughts and exercises using the hashtag #HanyangTowson. The next phase is to map the contours of the shared analytics of the app building project as it develops and is shared between the two groups and beyond. So what do we hope to see from this burgeoning networked anthropology? The pedagogical aspects are obvious as the students in both classes build cross cultural communication, awareness of globalization,understanding how city spaces are interpreted and, perhaps, an acknowledgment that the college student demographic in both countries shares an ambivalence toward assigned coursework in college. Beyond pedagogy, we are also trying to demonstrate that a skill set of research methods, technology utilization and analytical skills can be gleaned from networked anthropology activities that are infinitely marketable for an anthropology degree. Finally, the opportunity to move this experience to an applied ethos and engagement of social justice will often emerge in work beyond the classroom in the urban space. Does the app building process enhance that even more? We shall find out. #HanyangTowson

This app building project is the latest ‘activity’ related to the book Networked Anthropology. Although it is not part of the published book, our website networkedanthropology.com is meant to serve as an ongoing extension of the book and a resource for our collaborators. We welcome you to join us as we forge ahead @networkedanthro

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Writing Anti-Racism http://savageminds.org/2014/10/27/writing-anti-racism/ http://savageminds.org/2014/10/27/writing-anti-racism/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:28:57 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15372 This entry is part 9 of 12 in the Fall 2014 Writer’s Workshop series.

(Savage Minds is pleased to post this essay by guest author Ghassan Hage as part of our Writer’s Workshop series. Ghassan is the Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne. He is author of numerous books include White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (Heibonsha Publishers, 2003), Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society (Pluto Press, 2006), Waiting (Melbourne University Press, 2009), and with Robyn Eckersley, Responsibility (Melbourne University Press, 2012). His most recent book is Writings in Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Racism (Australian Society of Authors, 2014) and forthcoming in February 2015 is Alter-Politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imagination (Melbourne University Press).

 To the people of the bus.

In my recent work on racism I have differentiated between the ‘racism of exploitation’ (e.g. towards slaves and migrant workers) and the ‘racism of exterminability’ (e.g. anti-Semitism). I argue that the latter is prevalent in the racist modes of classification of Muslims in/by the non-Muslim West.

Inspired by certain dimensions of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s multi-realism, and the teaching of a seminar around Mauss’ The Gift, I have tried to show that the racist experience of the other as exterminable involves the projection of complex layers of affective and existential angst that takes us beyond the dominant domesticating mode of existence in which we live, and where instrumental classification thrives. It invites us to perceive the experience as pertaining to a multiplicity of other realities or human modes of existence. The first is the reciprocal mode of existence classically explored in the work of Marcel Mauss on the gift. I read The Gift as pointing to a whole order of existence where people, animals, plants and objects stand as gifts towards each other. The second is what I will call, after Marshall Sahlins, the mutualist mode of existence. It highlights an order of existence where others are ‘in us’ rather than just outside of us. Central here is Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s work on ‘participation’: a mode of living and thinking where the life-force of the humans and the non-humans that surround us are felt each to be contributing to the life-force of the other.

Despite some facile claims to the contrary, neither Marcel Mauss nor Lévy-Bruhl claimed something as simplistic as ‘look at us we are modern, instrumentalist and rational, and look at those others who are so different from us living in a world of gift exchange, or a world of participation’. Both emphasised that the logic of the gift and the logic of participation were more pronounced in those societies than they were in our own, but they were not as foreign to us as we might first think. They continue to be present along with, sometimes in the shadows of, the dominant domesticating mode of existence. They exist as minor realities. Thus, everything in our environment that we relate to is always simultaneously for us (domestication), with us (gift exchange) and in us (mutuality) even if we are less conscious of our enmeshment in the last two of these forms of relationality. I might decide to cut a tree on my property because I need its wood or simply because it is in the way. In so doing I am letting instrumental exploitative reason prevail. But does that mean that this instrumentalist relation of domestication is the only relation I have with the tree? What Lévy-Bruhl and Mauss encourage us to think is that even when a relation of domestication has prevailed, other forms of relationality between us and the tree are still at work. I might still feel that the tree and I were in a relation of ‘gift-ness’ towards each other. I wake up in the morning and thank it for being there and I might even feel that the tree itself is happy to see me there too. I might even experience a mild relation of mutuality with the tree, feel that not only is it a gift but that it is actually enhancing my existence: something about the way it is growing and deploying itself in the world actually pumps life into me.

In my work, I have shown how important it is to see that the racism of exterminability is itself enmeshed in these three modes of existence. To classify someone as exterminable is not only to see them instrumentally as harmful and useless. It is also to want to have ‘nothing to do with them’, thus negating their ‘gift-ness’. It also involves a ‘negative participatory’ experience: rather than seeing in the other a life-enhancing force, the racist sees in them something that sucks their life away.

Since its articulation to this multiplicity of worlds is what makes racist exterminability what it is, anti-racism itself needs to work at this multi-realist level. Up till now anti-racism has been far too centred on combatting racism at the level of domestication by deploying rational arguments and statistical knowledge that try to show the empirical falseness of the racists’ assumptions. This is so despite a long history that shows how immune racists are to rational and empirical argumentation. Consequently, I argue that anti-racism, without vacating this empirical/rational ground, should also move to think of itself as affective, and even as magical, in ways that speak to the racist sentiments and affects generated in the realm of reciprocity and mutuality.

It is here that we come to the question of anti-racist writing. For what is true about anti-racist practices in general is also true of anti-racist writing. Writing is also enmeshed in a multiplicity of worlds with their corresponding forms of otherness. One can write ‘about’ the racialised, treating them as passive subjects of analysis. There is no doubt that such a form of anti-racist writing can be over-analytical, treating racism, racists and the racialised as objects of what amounts to analytical domestication. This is when all writing aims to do is to ‘capture’ reality, a concept with an impeccable domesticating pedigree. But this is not all that anti-racist writing does or can do. One’s writing can take the form of a gift to the racialised. There is a long tradition of sociological and anthropological writing reflecting on how to write ‘with’ rather than just ‘about’ one’s informants. This is particularly true of ethnographies of indigenous people, where anthropologists have an established history of being sensitive to questions of reciprocity. Anti-racist writers can learn a lot from these ethnographies. Finally, a piece of anti-racist writing can be in itself a form of life that participates in enhancing the being of the racialised aiming to speak to them in the sense of speaking into them and participating in their being. Sometimes this can be a question of style: it is hardly a revelation for anti-racist activists that one can write something like ‘1 in 3 African Americans will go to prison’ as either a mere ‘depressive’ confirmation of marginalisation or as an invigorating call to arms stressing the racialised’s agency and capacity for resistance. I think that the poetic/phenomenological tradition, such as what one finds in the work of Michael Jackson, can offer an inspiration for a more consciously mutualist writing in this domain.

The question then becomes: what does it mean to become more conscious of anti-racist writing as enmeshed in this plurality of modes of existence? I would like to think that, at the very least, such consciousness would widen the writer’s anti-racist strategic capacities and render anti-racist thought more efficient at combatting racism. This opening of the strategic horizon is crucial as anti-racist political forces face the lethal neo-liberal forms of exclusion meted out on the racialised today. For example, the ease with which asylum seekers are radically expelled and disallowed to set a footing in society appears at one level as a form of instrumental/rational/bureaucratic decision making, even if judged as extremely harsh. Yet such extremism is impossible without a culture of disposability and extrerminability in which this exclusion is grounded, and that is far from being entirely instrumental/rational/bureaucratic. It goes without saying that from a disciplinary perspective it is this culture that is by definition the appropriate domain of anthropological investigation and writing. It so happens that, politically and ethically, it is also the most important to address, understand and struggle to transform.

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Strategy of Condescension http://savageminds.org/2014/10/24/strategy-of-condescension/ http://savageminds.org/2014/10/24/strategy-of-condescension/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:46:29 +0000 http://savageminds.org/?p=15363 中文翻譯 Chinese translation

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.)

UPDATE II: Added a link to an interview with Zheng Wang about his book Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations.


  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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