The Anti-Boycott Resolution: Entrenching the Status Quo, Denying Justice

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions rejects the anti-boycott resolution put forward for a vote at the AAA meetings. While claiming to support peace and justice for Palestinians, it reproduces the very structural inequality that drives the conflict.

Vote No on the Status Quo, Vote No on Resolution 1

Vote Yes for Real Change and Justice, Vote YES on Resolution 2

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote on Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2, for the boycott.


The Anti-Boycott Resolution: Entrenching the Status Quo, Denying Justice

At this year’s American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meeting, anthropologists will vote on two resolutions concerning Israel’s systematic violations of human rights.

Resolution 2 endorses the Palestinian call for boycott as an effective and nonviolent means to pursue their fundamental rights. By contrast, Resolution 1, submitted by the group, “Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel/Palestine” (ADIP), rejects the boycott in favor of “dialogue.”

Anti-boycott Resolution 1 must be seen for what it is: a thinly disguised vindication of an unjust status quo. Last year in Washington, D.C., the AAA’s membership voted overwhelmingly against a remarkably similar anti-boycott resolution. This year, boycott opponents are attempting to achieve the same goals – only this time they have added a mild reprimand of the occupation, boilerplate diplomatic talking points, and a vague charity program. Despite its perfunctory references to Palestinian human rights, Resolution 1 does not propose any concrete actions for pressuring Israel or its academic institutions into ending their discriminatory practices. Instead, it proposes “focusing research, debate, and teaching in and about the region,” as if the many anthropologists of Israel/Palestine who support an academic boycott have not been doing precisely this for decades. In restricting its criticism of Israeli policy to empty words, Resolution 1 disregards the unanimous conclusion of the AAA’s Task Force on Engagement with Israel/Palestine that censure alone would “be an insufficient course of action.” Continue reading

Around the Web Digest: Week of November 8

Are you going to the AAAs? If so, I hope to meet you! Let me take the opportunity to rep a few sessions, the Savage Minds panel at 8 am Saturday, my panel at 10:15 am Thursday, and the panel I co-organized at 4 pm on Thursday. Savage Minds is also hosting a gathering with HAU on Saturday evening. As always, send me any links at

The mass resignation of the editors of Lingua over a disagreement with Elsevier reignited the conversation about Open Access, and many anthro blogs picked up the topic. The Chronicle of Higher Education breaks down the costs of Open Access publishing with publisher the Open Library of the Humanities, as well as some of their funding models (ranging from the use of volunteer labor to grants): What Open-Access Publishing Actually Costs

Allegra Laboratory examines different models attempting to make Open Access economically viable: Are There Alternatives to Traditional Academic Publishing? #OA

This post on Aidnography suggests that Open Access may not automatically lead to meaningful engagement with scholars’ work: The Answer to Academic Publishing Challenges is Not Always Open Access

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Stand in the Place Where You Live

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents this compelling statement of support from the perspective of Latin Americanist anthropologist Diane Nelson.  She connects the struggles in Guatemala to those in Palestine via US empire and colonial processes of enclosure and dispossession. Just as the AAA has acted in the past to affirm that Guatemalan lives matter, it is time to assert that, in Nelson’s words, Palestinian lives matter too.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2.


Stand in the Place Where You Live

Diane M. Nelson

I support the AAA boycott resolution because I have spent 30 years as a gringa (North American) working in Guatemala amid the detritus of US support for genocidal military governments.  Working with Guatemalans struggling for equitable conditions of life, justice, and redress I have learned that a large part of my role is to bring that struggle back to the US because “we” are such a potent player in blocking, materially and ideologically, the efforts to make other worlds possible.  Guatemalan lives matter. Mayan lives matter.  Once I acknowledge this basic claim, I have to ask, Who gets away with murder?  Who gets away with theft?  Who gets away with destroying the ability to live and continue to generate life?  In Guatemala it is national oppressors with transnational banks and geopolitics and respectability (and some folks with crazy visions of apocalypse) backing them up.  Academics tend to have rather weak weapons against such foes.  Yet the intensity of the negative reactions to the BDS movement suggest we’ve found a finger in the wound, a way to catch the beast’s attention.  A way to bring struggles back to one of the many sources of injustice.  Claude Levi-Strauss suggests there is a mutilation inherent in the vocation of anthropology, that we tend to be critics at home and conformists abroad.  The BDS movement is precisely about criticizing at home, attempting to level the playing field so Israelis and Palestinians can work out possibilities without the enormous weight of an imperial power backing only one side. Continue reading

Rewind and Fast Forward, Part 5

I’m grateful to the many savage minds for making room for Rewind and Fast Forward. Our deal was two weeks as a guest blogger and four to five blogs. My assignment was to say what I thought anthropology is today, and I decided to anchor the assignment  in the long-ago unexpected shift from a South Indian village to a U.S. drug treatment center. The best review would be if the concepts I’ve described put words to what looks obvious to an anthropological reader, but words that at the same time look reasonable to anyone, even someone who gets acid reflux whenever they hear someone say “social science.”  So now here comes Part 5, the last picture show.

As I look at the Savage Minds page right before I upload this final blog, it strikes me how many contemporary political issues animate it at the moment. As a veteran of anthropology in the 60s and 70s and a lifelong anti-war-on-drugs activist, I’m tempted to change course and make some general comments about anthropology, ideology and activism from my experience–the good and the bad–and, more to the point, what the fundamentals I’ve talked about in these blogs have to do with them. But I think it best if I stay with the original plan and write about the different wings of anthropology and how they all belong on the same bird, at least as far as on the ground professional perspective goes. First, though, a summary of the previous blogs:

After setting up the village/treatment center plot device in the first blog, the second described one part of an anthropological perspective that stayed constant across the change, namely, acquiring communicative competence in the tasks that people do. The third blog added another part, modeling the competence by crafting patterns that showed how something of interest connected up with other things of interest, both inside and outside the task. And the fourth blog added one more part that didn’t change, go with the emergent flow rather than forcing what you learn into structures that you started out with, be they professional or personal. Emergence worked across the change, but it also foregrounded a difference between a research setting that was part of traditional anthropology and another that was most decidedly not. In the end, I think these three fundamentals are parts of a perspective that anthropologists use, whatever their specialty, whatever kind of work they do. I stopped with just those three, a common Western structure for discourse, because of Savage Minds limits and personal fuel capacity.

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Making Black Lives Matter: Reflections on the Declaration and the Movement (Introduction Part II)

[Savage Minds is pleased to run the second part to the introduction for the “Making Black Lives Matter: Reflections on the Declaration and the Movement” series. Here, Bianca Williams continues with her keynote address from the #WeResist community summit, which took place in Denver in March 2015.]

I paused and looked around the room to see if people were still engaged. I saw my partner-in-resistance Amy E. Brown, a local community organizer nod her head as if to tell me to keep going, and so I pressed forward.

“I read a phenomenal expression of collective resistance and community-building in a statement from the People of Color Caucus at my alma mater, Duke University. This past week a Black woman on Duke’s campus was taunted by a group of white men who sang the racist SAE fraternity chant that has gone viral because of the video from the Oklahoma. Students of color got together and released the following statement, which I believe is a powerful and clear demonstration of how intersectionality and community-building work:

They write,

‘We know that racism does not exist as a lone system of oppression. We know that what happened to the young black woman on March 22 is connected to the institution’s decision to include a LGTBQ box for high school students to check on admission applications without addressing the gay bashing, absence of gender neutral accommodations, and general psychological violence that LGBTQ people confront as students upon arrival. We know that the racism entrenched in the institution is connected to the institution’s failure to make accommodations of accessibility actually accessible as the institution often makes deliberate decisions to invisibilize people with disabilities, such as making ramps difficult to find by placing them in the back of buildings. We know that the institutionalized racism that we face is connected to the victim-blaming and other mechanisms of silence that further traumatize survivors of sexual assault. We know that the institution’s racism is connected to the university’s failure to financially support the Office of Access and Outreach that was supposedly formed out of a commitment to support first generation and low-income college students.

Thus, we understand that struggle against racism is connected to and reinforced by other systems of oppression such as sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and classism. We cannot stand against racial injustice without acknowledging that all systems intersect to perpetrate violence against marginalized bodies. The same racial oppression that affects Black bodies is connected to the cis-heteropatriarchy that variably oppresses any and everyone whose masculinity is not fully accepted. The same racial oppression that affects Black bodies is connected to the systematic exclusion and invisibilization of non-able bodied or non-neurotypical peoples. The same racial oppression that affects Black bodies affects other minority bodies, including racial and religious minorities.  The same racial oppression that affects Black bodies is connected to the displacement and erasure of queer and non-normative bodied people.’

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Dialogue as Diversion

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents this incisive critique of the dialogue approach to ending the Israeli state’s occupation. Fida Adely and Amahl Bishara reveal how calls for dialogue mask a grossly asymmetric power relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2.


Dialogue as Diversion

Fida Adely & Amahl Bishara

What types of engagement are needed to end decades of occupation and repression of Palestinian human rights? Some call for more dialogue and argue that if only those interested in peace on “both sides” talked to each other more, this conflict would end. However, dialogue by itself will never end occupation. Across academic, cultural, and political fields, calls for dialogue obscure the tremendous asymmetries between Israel and Palestinians. In this way many dialogue initiatives disguise the real issues of settler-colonialism, oppression, and occupation, and act as a kind of marketing tool rebranding the reality of separation and apartheid as a fantasy of “coexistence.” Continue reading

The Erasures of “Thank you for your service”

Here in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day (in Canada it’s Remembrance Day, in England it’s Armistice Day, and it’s worth thinking about what those differences mean). The utterance you’re most likely to hear is “thank you for your service.” As an anthropologist who works with injured soldiers and their families, that has become one of my least favorite utterances (I’m hardly alone). This year, thanks to a provocation from my new institutional home, I find myself particularly committed to getting us to think about the experiences, and the violence, that well meaning platitude erases. To help us do that, here is an excerpt from my new book,  After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed.

One summer night James and I stand smoking near McGinty’s small patio that spreads across the sidewalk, his two prosthetic legs protruding from his khaki-colored cargo shorts. They catch the eye of a middle-aged man, slightly drunk and ambling along with a few friends. He stops and turns to us, ribbing James by asking, “What happened to your feet?” James replies with one word and a slightly smug smile: “Bomb.” The man, still standing there in front of us, unignorably close although he ignores me entirely, nods slowly with sincerity and says, “I believe it. Thanks, thank you for what you do.” Then he moves along and rejoins his waiting friends.

We go back to our cigarettes and conversation, but whatever ease or unselfconsciousness or ordinary sense of being in common James might have had upstairs at McGinty’s has been perforated by that sentiment and its implicit fictions. An encounter that begins with a recognition of the glinting traces of horrible violence and pain, traces that James makes more present with his one chosen word, bomb, are unspoken and perhaps unspeakable within this frame of gratitude. Instead they are spoken as a conspicuous vagueness: “Thanks, thank you for what you do.” Continue reading

Making Black Lives Matter: Reflections on the Declaration and the Movement (Introduction Part I)

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Bianca Williams. She provides the first contribution to the series “Making Black Lives Matter: Reflections on the Declaration and the Movement.” Bianca is the author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism, under contract with Duke University Press. Dana-Ain Davis, her co-editor for this series, is an Associate Professor at Queen’s College and the CUNY Graduate Center and co-author of Feminist Activist Ethnography (2013) with Christa Craven.]

As many prepare to attend AAA 2015 in a couple of weeks, some of us are remembering the variety of emotions and sentiments we brought to the meetings last year. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. A longing for justice and peace. A desire for change. A willingness to fight. An inability to proceed with business as usual. We watched Ferguson, Missouri erupt in rebellion on our televisions and computer screens the week before showing up in Washington, D.C. And then we gathered together during the meetings, simultaneously astonished and unsurprised by the news that those responsible for the death of Eric Garner would not be brought to justice. Numerous anthropologists made their voices heard at the AAA 2014 business meeting, demanding that the AAA Executive Board actively search for ways the discipline could intervene and push against the anti-Black practices and racist ideologies disproportionately affecting Black communities. Subsequently, the Working Group on Racialized Brutality and Extrajudicial Violence was created.

The Working Group has been charged with making efforts to track racialized police brutality and develop resources that will assist in reducing this form of state-sanctioned violence. As members of the Working Group, me and Dana-Ain Davis edited this series of essays centered on stories from the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. These short essays offer an ethnographic and/or self-reflexive lens on activities connected to the organizing and activism taking place in multiple communities and cities. While all the contributors do not identify as anthropologists, all use the tools of participant observation, auto-ethnography, and/or narrative to provide a snapshot of the #BLM Movement during the past year. Through their stories, we begin to understand the complexities and emotional toll of organizing and resistance, while also getting a sense of how new forms of connection and community can reinvigorate and feed the soul, even in the midst of crisis. We offer these essays as a way for anthropologists and all to reflect on where we were a year ago, and as a call to keep pressing forward. The struggle continues.

As the first contribution to this series of essays, I offer remarks I gave in a keynote address at the #WeResist community summit in Denver, Colorado in March 2015. After weeks of planning the summit with community members (who would eventually become members of Black Lives Matter 5280, a chartered chapter of the national BLM organization), I was asked to give  attendees a brief introduction to the strategies we were using to resist anti-Black racism. On this Sunday, I stood nervously at the altar of the First Unitarian Society of Denver, wondering if the multi-racial crowd would pleasantly receive my attempt to blend our group’s ever-evolving organizing tactics with the fierce analytics of Black feminist activist-scholars. I quickly glanced at the “Black Lives Matter” sign hanging behind me, took a deep breath, and began to speak: Continue reading

Rewind and Fast Forward, Part 4

In Part 3, pattern-seeking was added to the list of fundamentals of an anthropological perspective, following on from Part 2 where task-based communicative competence was proposed. I’m now on the fourth installment of this five-blog run. Since #5 is stuck with the conclusion job, #4 is the last one where I can try out another fundamental. The problem is, more than one comes to mind. Too many things crawled up into consciousness after I opened the doors of perception and stepped into the hall of mirrors, to mix Aldous Huxley with the Palace of Versailles.

But as I think back on the original plot device—the shift from village to treatment center—another characteristic comes to mind that was then, and probably always will be, a fundamental of an anthropological perspective. It plays an important part, like the previous two characteristics, whether it’s traditional or contemporary anthropology, academic or applied or practice. We call it “emergence.” In this case, though, the transition from village to joint was rocky because it alienated most of my new non-anthropological colleagues in the treatment center. It turned out that “I dunno yet” was not an acceptable answer to the question, “what’s your hypothesis?” Continue reading

Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist SM?

Hey folks, Kelty here, Savage Minds blogger, demeritus. The AAA is coming up and with it several celebrations of ten years of Savage Minds! It is also about ten years of Social Media. It’s an Era! It’s a Decade! It’s time for reflection! Which we will do at the excellently early hour of 8am on Saturday morning, on the panel “Teh Internet and Anthropology: Ten Years of Savage Minds”, organized by Alex Golub, chaired by Alex Golub, and with Alex Golub as a discussant.

I know all my fellow Alex Golubs are excited (as are Kerim Friedman, and Carole McGranahan, and Ryan Anderson and Gabriella Coleman), but I have a problem they do not have: I have nothing interesting to say.

Fortunately, this is not the same thing as there being nothing to say–because what I’d rather do is channel the beast itself: I think Savage Minds should be on the panel! How can we bring SM to this small, closed, early morning panel and rub the publics of SM up against the private parts of the AAA. Oh. That sounds weird. I don’t want it to be weird.

Anyways, I’m issuing a small challenge to those who still gather here in and around Savage Minds… pretend it’s 1784, and Savage Minds is called Der Berlinische Monatsschrift, and the question goes like this:

“What difference has SM made to the discipline of Anthropology?”

Some rules for answering this question:

1) I deliberately say SM, because I mean both Savage Minds specifically and Social Media generally. Both issues are on the table, since it is “The Internet and Anthropology.” You can, if you wish, also read Sado-Masochism for SM, but that’s weird, and we are trying to stay away from that.

2) by discipline, I mean the core pedagogical values of the discipline; the way anthropology’s problems and methods are talked about, taught, and performed now, as opposed to 10 years ago. (Not so much the departments, the money or the people, the journals or the scholarly societies, relevant though they may be).

Answers can come in any form–from 140 characters to a comment to a poem to a snapchat that I will probably never see, to a 10,000 word excursus (no, actually, that would be weird, cf. above). But my goal is to collect them and to make the opening 15 minutes into monstrous, anthroporific, wake-up extravaganza by a collective subject called Savage Minds/Social Media. Do you have an answer? Kant you say what it is? Represent yourself Savage Minds!

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Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents Jemima Pierre’s powerful critique of anti-Black violence in Israel and its connections to the oppression of Palestinians. This essay is a very important anthropological contribution to the renewed U.S. Black-Palestinian solidarity sweeping the academy and beyond.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see: Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to KnowVOTE YES on Resolution #2.


Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine

Jemima Pierre12

The video begins mid-action. A Black man sprawls on the ground. He seems injured. He tries to move but his efforts are slow, labored, slight. There is blood beneath him, fresh and bright against the polished white floor. On the edge of the frame, people move frantically. The Black man is encircled. Someone holding a gun – he looks like a soldier – steps forward and kicks the Black man in the head. From the bottom right of the screen, an orange bench is thrown, smashing into the head of the Black man. Someone – another soldier? – waves the others back and lifts the bench from the Black man’s head. Another man carrying a book bag quickly walks towards the Black man and swiftly kicks him in the head. His body spins across the floor, leaving a large smear of red blood. The man with the book bag walks away, unhurried. The Black man tries to lift his arm. A large White man places the legs of a tall stool over him. The man appears to be shielding the man on the floor from further attack; he yells at the crowd, flailing his arms, waving people away as they try to advance on the Black man. He is actually trying to keep the Black man from escaping. A person from the growing mob gets in another kick at the almost lifeless Black man on the ground, and the stool is briefly knocked away. The large man quickly replaces the stool over the victim while frantically screaming at and waving away the enraged mob.

I can no longer watch. Continue reading

Ethnographic Poetry and the Leaping Bilingual Mind

[Savage Minds is pleased to run this essay by guest Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor as part of our Writers’ Workshop series. Melisa is Professor of TESOL and World Language Education at the University of Georgia. Winner of the 2015 Beckman Award for “Professors Who Inspire,” she is the author of a forthcoming poetry manuscript “Imperfect Tense,”(Cahnmann-Taylor, In Press), and co-author of two books on bilingual education and artful research: Teachers Act Up! (Cahnmann-Taylor & Souto-Manning, 2010) and Arts-Based Research in Education (Cahnmann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008).]

Acquiring Spanish as a second language led me to poetry, and becoming a better poet helped me become a better bilingual. I had been a good high school and college student of Spanish and had studied abroad in Spain and Mexico. After college, I wanted a way to give kindness back to the many Spanish speakers who tolerated and nurtured my emerging bilingualism. As a Spanish major with coursework in theatre and creative writing, it made sense to become an elementary school teacher. I was quickly overwhelmed. I struggled to teach third grade math, science, and California history in my new classroom in South Central Los Angeles.

This was 1992. Rodney King. Race riots. Continue reading

Around the Web Digest: Week of November 1

Ben Carson made our week by opining about Egyptology, a topic he has clearly researched extensively. Help us all stay equally informed by sending me links at to include in the digest.

Material World reviews the new 9/11 memorial and museum, suggesting that while it may have suffered from a certain degree of curation by committee, it’s more nuanced than other reviews have suggested in its treatment of radical Islam and the bombers: Some Thoughts About the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Don’t read this post on Harris-Jones Anthropology while eating breakfast… How Do Beliefs About Pollution and Dirt Relate to Systems of Classification? Apparently the Hua are so far from viewing vomit as dirty (as long as it comes from a real or classificatory father) that they rub it into their skin.

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Official #AAA2015 #tweetup planning thread

Ok trying to plan the tweetup for the AAAs on twitter is getting ridiculous because by the time you mention everyone who is involved in planning it there is no room for an actual message. So here is a thread where we can plan the time and date of the tweet up.

I am happy to coordinate this and provide enough structure that the discussion doesn’t flop around like a fish out of water and never reach a conclusion.

The only thing I’d like to emphasize is that the best day to have the tweetup is friday and usually we have had good results having it in the late afternoon/early evening so people can grab a bit and then head out to other events.

Usually what happens is we set a time and then when I arrive at AAAs I scout a location and then let people know where to meet on twitter. I’ll be arriving on Wednesday so I’ll have plenty of time to have a look around.

Things You Might Be Inclined To Say That People Say Every Year We Try To Organize This:

  1. “Why have it on Friday? Why not Saturday? (Or Thursday or Sunday)?”

Answer: Because Friday is the middle of the conference. It is actually less busy that Saturday, which is when most of the main parties are. Thursday not enough people have arrived. Sunday no one is around. And Wednesday? It’s like Thursday, but with even less people.

  1. “We can’t have it at that time because it overlaps with [something]!”

Answer: The tweetup will overlap with something. That is because the AAA schedule is ridounculous. Inevitably it is going to overlap with something. The goal is to have it overlap with the least number of things, not nothing. When planning the tweetup, if you don’t like a time, please demonstrate that it’s a bad time slot because it overlaps with many things, not one thing.

  1. “Why don’t we just have the tweetup at [some other event someone else is already organizing]?”

Answer: 1) Because no one will be able to hear a damn thing at that event anyway (Wenner-Gren I’m looking at you) 2) The purpose is to meet other anthropology tweeters and get to know them, not wander around a room full of people asking “do you tweet or are you just here to watch Marisol de la Cadena hand out drink tickets?” 3) It will be more intimate and allow real conversation with people  and 4) I sort of believe anthrotwitter flourishes when it isn’t coopted by some other organization.


I am thinking Friday evening/late afternoon. Theoretically it could be at lunch. What do you think?

My plan is to let this thread run for about a week and then see if we can reach agreement. If not, I’ll try to figure out what the closest thing is to agreement and then I’ll start broadcasting that as the date of the tweetup.

Rewind and Fast Forward, Part 3

In the previous blog, Part 2, a first building block of an anthropological perspective was proposed,  awkwardly named “learning task communicative competence from those who actually do it.”  This part of the perspective makes it easy to see, in retrospect, why the shift from a traditional Indian village to a U.S. treatment center for heroin addicts  wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be. I just kept doing the same thing in Lexington, even though by the anthropological rules of the times I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wondered what “patients” and “staff” were up to and how they got it done. I spent time with them in “the joint”—the residence, the dining hall, the chapel, the gym, therapy groups. I was still looking at things anthropologically, even though Lexington was out of bounds as a traditional  “field site.”

Here in Part 3, I’d like to suggest a second building block, this one with the much simpler name of “pattern.” Pattern will be a second part of the argument that this perspective—I’m still not sure whether to call it an “epistemology” or an “ontology” (or possibly a “pathology”)—works the same once you learn it no matter what kind of anthropology you’re doing, including applications where you’re not actually doing research at all. Continue reading