Around the Web Digest: Week of August 9

 

Apparently it’s National Tell a Joke Day… earlier this week I got to check out a satirical play about electoral politics here in Guatemala called Mi Candidato No Es Chafa (My Candidate’s Not Bootleg/Low Quality) that reminded me that humor is an incredibly complex cultural performance and true immersion is a moving target. Keep me up to date by sending me links to anything I should feature in this space at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com.

In this post on Allegra Laboratory, a South Indian researcher reflects on her feelings of discomfort in doing fieldwork a little too close to home, which has forced her to a new level of introspection about her own relationship with traditional food practices and other overt signs of identity: Dis-orientalizing & Ethnographic Journeys Fieldnotes

As an interesting companion piece, this post featured on Anthsisters, Becoming a Responsible Maori Researcher, points to the fundamental paradigm shift that takes place when the researcher can claim or represent an internal perspective, invoking rich ties to the community.

Continue reading

Summer reading lists vs. What Actually Happened

Ah, summer reading lists: Elaborate plans for personal enrichment and literary sophistication made in the spring and carried out… when? It’s easy to find tons of summer reading lists and recommendations out there every year — especially in the Northern hemisphere, where it’s actually summer (there’s snow falling in Canberra atm, remember). But what happens after those lists are actually made? Continue reading

Around the Web Digest: Week of August 2

Happy August! I hope you aren’t going into panic mode looking at your to-do list for summer. Send along any blog posts that need to be featured here at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com!

NPR profiles two cases, an athlete whose levels of testosterone are considered too high for her to compete as a woman and a transgender teen who has caused controversy by seeking to use the men’s restroom at his school:  Being A Woman: Who Gets To Decide?

Nautilus explores the Whorf/Kay and Berlin debate in more depth than most blogs: Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language

Continue reading

Book proves culture leads to Asian American success, headlines claim opposite

A strong media push by the Sage Foundation has put Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou’s book The Asian American Achievement Paradox into the public sphere in the past couple of days, garnering an op-ed on CNN.com and an interview on Inside Higher Ed. The book — at least what I’ve been able to read of it so far — is excellent. Even better, it pushes back against the embarrassing, amateurish work of Amy Chua, which claims, in essence, that ‘Asians’ are successful because they are morally virtuous. Or rather, since the weird, deeply-seated Anglo-Protestant cultural currents that run the US are often disguised, because of their ‘cultural values’. Lee and Zhou are adamant that cultural values do not cause Asian American success, and should be commended for boiling down their research findings into headline — and then getting people to run it. But their alternate explanation of Asian American success will look to most people, and especially most anthropologists, essentially cultural. The book deserves discussion because of the way it frames the culture concept, studies ‘culture of success’ (and, lurking in the background, ‘culture of poverty’ ) arguments, and attempts to intervene in the public sphere. It is an excellent model for how anthropologists should approach a topic they often shy away from. But it’s an argument for culture not against it. Or rather, for a good understanding of culture rather than an essentialized and inadequate ethnoracial understanding of culture.

Continue reading

Around the Web Digest: Week of July 26

Happy August readers! Welcome to a month so great they stole a day from another month to make it longer. Let me know about anything cool I should feature here at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com.

It’s a TED Talk! It argues that humans have been successful through our ability to create and believe in abstractions, which facilitate collective action.

A medical student reflects on how her background in anthropology helped her put a patient at ease: A Background in Anthropology Comes in Handy on the Wards 

This post on Popular Archaeology introduces Aşıklı Höyük, one of the earliest Neolithic sites ever found: Archaeologists Uncover Human Settlement Dated to the Dawn of Civilization

My social media has been positively blowing up with versions of this story, on four bodies tentatively identified as four high-status members of the Jamestown community. I like NPR’s coverage, which is media-rich: Bones In Church Ruins Likely The Remains Of Early Jamestown’s Elite 

Smithsonian Magazine answers the question, Who Were the First People to Eat Chickens? As far as we know: Israeli villagers as early as 400 BCE.

According to National Geographic, a recent find in Guatemala is provoking questions about the rivalry between Tikal and Calakmul: Maya Shrine Reveals Arrival of “New World Order.” An intriguing quote: “Venerating a vassal of Tikal in an area controlled by Calakmul [would be like] 20th-century Americans […] bringing offerings to a bust of Lenin.”

Live Science reports the discovery of an American Revolution-era shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina: Accidental Find: Scientists Stumble on Centuries-Old Shipwreck 

As Savage Minds celebrates the official demise of the Human Terrain System, Foreign Policy decries it: The Army Needs Anthropologists

Finally, the Global Social Media Impact Study suggests that Italians attempt to make their Facebook appearances reflect their real lives (to the extent of “curating” their everyday lives by selecting attractive outfits for parties where they expect to be photographed). This doesn’t necessarily square with my intuitive sense of U.S. Facebook use, in which a disconnect between self-presentation and “real” life seems to be expected and accepted:  Facebook as a Window: Managing Online Appearance. What do you think?

See you next week!

VISUAL TURN IV: People and Stuff– A Conversation with Keith M. Murphy (2/2)

In a previous post, I described the process of an ‘Ethnocharrette’ – essentially a strategy that incorporates aspects of design methodology into anthropological practice. As part of a longer series thinking about how art/design modalities are increasingly commonplace in anthropologies that aren’t designated as visual anthropology. I wondered if this attention to art and design in anthropology is ‘new’ or simply new to me given my recent collaboration with two artists? Is there something of a “visualisation of anthropology” underway? I discussed these questions with Keith M Murphy, author of Swedish Design: An Ethnography. This post is the second half of our conversation. Continue reading

Hactivists aren’t terrorists – but US prosecutors make little distinction

[written with Luca Follis, Lancaster University]

Activists who use technology to conduct political dissent – hacktivists – are increasingly threatened with investigation, prosecution and often disproportionately severe criminal sentences.

For example, in January 2015 self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison for hacking-related activities including linking to leaked material online. Edward Snowden is currently exiled in Russia after leaking the global surveillance operations of the NSA and GCHQ.

Prosecutions of hacktivists intensified in 2013, when Andrew “weev” Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months after exposing a vulnerability that affected 114,000 iPad users on AT&T’s service. Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after hacking and releasing documents about military subcontractor Stratfor. Aaron Swartz, who was facing a prison sentence of 25 years after hacking into JSTOR – a database of academic articles – committed suicide in January of that year. Chelsea Manning leaked secret military documents to Wikileaks and was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment in August.

Long arm of the law is getting longer

While these are US citizens subject to US laws and punishments, the Obama administration has recently indicated that it will also aggressively pursue hackers located overseas for alleged criminal activities. Continue reading

“Waiting” in the Neoliberal University: The Salaita Case and the Wages of an Academic Boycott

This essay by anthropologists Martin Manalansan and Ellen Moodie at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides an updated account of the fall-out from their institution’s un-hiring of Steven Salaita for his tweets critical of the state of Israel during its 2014 war on Gaza. It argues for a broader campaign against the revanchist state and neoliberalization of the university.

“WAITING” IN THE NEOLIBERAL UNIVERSITY:  The Salaita Case and the Wages of an Academic Boycott

Martin F. Manalansan IV and Ellen Moodie**

The crisis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has become known as “the Salaita case,” or just “Salaita.”  In common parlance the surname refers not so much to the Palestinian American literary scholar who signed a contract with the university in the fall of 2013 as to the choleric situation that emerged from the efforts of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, in collusion with other Illinois figures, to prevent Steven Salaita from coming to campus to join the renowned faculty at the American Indian Studies (AIS) Program. The decision came after Wise began receiving complaints from alumni and donors, as recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal. By now, few people doubt that a campaign against this staunch critic of Israel and author of several books was orchestrated by well-funded political lobby groups. Continue reading

Summer Writing: Units of Time

In the 2002 rom-com About a Boy, Hugh Grant plays a well to do bachelor who lives off the royalties of a song his deceased father produced. With no need to work, Will Freeman (Grant) spends most of his time engaged in leisure pursuits: taking bubble baths, playing pool, getting scalp massages and looking for attractive women to rendezvous with. I can relate to the character. Not so much that I spend most of my time taking bubble baths and looking for attractive women (I do this only in moderation) but in that I live alone and have a flexible schedule. Like Freeman (Grant) I feel I need to impose order on my time. There is a scene early on the film where Freeman narrates his “units of time” theory.

Continue reading

Dying in the Age of Facebook

We crave sincerity as much as scholarship

-Michael Jackson 2012: 175

How many dead people do you know on Facebook? I know three. Well, maybe two because one was aware that she was dying and took her page down. For the others, death was a surprise, even though in one case it was planned. Plans can be surprises of sorts.

Many people worry that social media is changing the world for the worse. It is pretty common to hear people lament the lack of face to face communication these days or worry that people are ‘disconnected’ in the age of digital connection. I don’t worry about this. If the undergraduate students I teach have shown me anything, it is that the medium of communication doesn’t over determine its purpose or possibility. Plus, I am a linguistic anthropologist and a human being so I know face to face interaction isn’t a connective walk-in-the-park. One thing I have been dwelling on is how social media alters how we know death. Continue reading

Welcome Libraria!

When twitter lit up last week with the news that PKP and SPARC had partnered with EASA, SCA, and 4S your response was probably “WTF?” The new project is called Libraria and is an important development in open access publishing for anthropologists. So important, in fact, that it deserves a bit of explanation for those who are not insiders into the acronym-filled world of the open access movement.

Continue reading

Around the Web Digest: Week of July 19

Happy Sunday, pansies! Please write in with links to include here at rebecca.nelson.jacobs@gmail.com… or just to say “¡Hola!”

An interesting debate is forming surrounding uncontacted groups. In an editorial in Science, Protecting Isolated Tribes, Robert Walker and Kim Hill argued that it is unfeasible and patronizing to maintain the current “hands-off” approach to uncontacted groups. Stephen Corry has responded in Truth Out – Uncontacted Tribes Don’t Need the “Protection” of Western Anthropologists – and Survival International – Defending Tribes’ Right to Remain Uncontacted, arguing that contact has been universally detrimental to groups and that their ways of life can be viable in today’s world.

Hakai Magazine on coastal science featured this post about the material remains of sea otter tool use, drawing from primatology and archaeology: The Quest for an Archaeology of Sea Otter Tool Use

Continue reading

The four hundred dollar fish

fishmarket_1
Mercado de Mariscos-Ensenada by Flickr user Rebeca Anchondo. Creative Commons 2.0 License.

When you see piles of fresh fish in a market, do you ever ask yourself whether or not the listed price accurately reflects the actual value of those now-lifeless creatures? How much is one fish really worth? I never thought much about that question until I attended a community meeting in the coastal pueblo of La Ribera, Baja California Sur. Who knew it would be a lesson in value?

The meeting itself was hosted by a group of marine scientists and other scholars from the nearby university in La Paz. The goal of the meeting was to change some minds. You see, fishermen from La Ribera weren’t exactly elated about the nearby Marine Protected Area in Cabo Pulmo (aka the Cabo Pulmo National Park), despite its immense national and international support. Some surrounding communities were not completely sold on the idea of a no-take fishing zone. La Ribera was among them; many residents felt that Pulmo’s MPA only benefited the residents of Cabo Pulmo. A group of marine biologists, economists and other scholars from the nearby university in La Paz (UABCS) arranged a community meeting to try to convince residents of La Ribera otherwise. Continue reading

The new AnthroSource is fantastic! Here’s why I won’t be using it.

I haven’t yet seen any official announcement from the AAA about the change,1 but if you now click on the “Login to use AnthroSource now” link from the top of the AAA website, you will get directed to this glorious webpage. Those who know me will be surprised to learn that I am not being the slightest bit ironic when I say the page is glorious. It truly is. Not only does it look great, but at long last searching through the back catalog of AAA journals is simple and easy. Even better, when you find something you can quickly access the content you are looking for without any hassles. If you are an AAA member you will have access to that content as part of your membership fee and won’t have to use your school’s VPN to get the content you want. Bravo to Wiley and AAA for pulling this off, it really should make AAA membership that much more attractive for everyone.

Having said that, I probably won’t be using this portal for my own research purposes. The first reason for this is that AnthroSource limits you to just two search options: you can search an individual journal, or you can through the entire catalog of all AAA journals. I almost never want to conduct either of these searches. The AAA archive is great, but I prefer to conduct narrower searches. For instance I might want to exclude archaeology journals, and journals focusing on Latin America and Europe, without confining myself to just one journal. Secondly, there are a number of Wiley anthropology journals not included in the AAA’s catalog that I would like to search along with the other cultural anthropology journals. These include: Anthropology Today, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Oceania, and Social Anthropology. Third, AnthroSource doesn’t currently offer an advanced search interface. That means you can’t limit the date range for searches or restrict your keyword search to the abstract or title of articles, etc.

Fortunately, it is already possible to conduct such a search via Wiley’s Advanced Search Page. Continue reading

Vale Jack Goody

Keith Hart recently announced on social media that Jack Goody passed away. He was just a few days before his 96th birthday. Goody had a long and productive life and was a model of the successful anthropologist: Born in England at the end of the one world war, he spent much of the second as a prisoner of war. After the war he joined the anthropology program at Cambridge, where he was a junior partner to Edmund Leach and Meyer Fortes. He ended up becoming the William Wyse Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge, taking up the mantle from Fortes, who was the first person to capture Cambridge for social anthropology. Given his institutional centrality, it’s not surprising that Goody is remembered by British anthropologists. But he deserves to be remembered by American ones — and by everyone, really — both for being a role model of successful scholarship and an indirect influence on authors we read today, such as David Grabber and Tanya Li.

Continue reading