With ‘Cold War Anthropology’ David Price brings his trilogy on anthropology and American power to a powerful conclusion

Price, David H. 2016. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. Duke University Press. 

A few years ago, I had a chance to have lunch with David Price and some other people at the AAA meetings. Back then, he struck me as exactly like the kind of person you’d expect to be a professor at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest. Which is exactly what he is. Graying beard, laid back manner. I couldn’t see his feet but if he was wearing Birkenstocks, I wouldn’t be surprised. But beneath this amiable exterior is one of America’s most impressive historians of anthropology, a radical thinker and untiring author whose relentlessly probes the dark corners of our discipline’s history. In the course of twelve years Price has written three books which have helped redefine anthropology’s understanding of itself. And now, with Cold War Anthropology, Price brings his massive, precedent-make (and -busting) history of anthropology and American power to a close. It’s a defining moment in the history of anthropology, and deserves wide attention.

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Jamala, Eurovision, and Human Rights

[Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Greta Uehling]

Many Savage Minds readers will be aware of the victory of Jamala at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. As part of my current project, I have been following the work of this Crimean Tatar singer, composer, and actor closely, and was among those who greeted her at the Kyiv airport when she returned with her trophy.

The most striking aspect of Jamala’s triumph is not that a singer from a relatively small indigenous group rose to the top. After all, Jamala is a gifted artist whose vocal range spans eight octaves and multiple genres. What is most striking is the sharp contrast between the euphoria that sprang up with her victory in Stockholm, and the terror weighing down on her people in the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea. The joy and the pain are dizzyingly, even masochistically close.  Continue reading

Ramadan Diaries: Week One

Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites. This is the second entry in the series, you can read the Introduction here.

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Oguz Alyanak: On Doing Fieldwork During Ramadan

Ramadan has a different rhythm to it. For those who conduct fieldwork in a very systematic manner—e.g., wake up at 6 to prepare for the day, leave home by 9, get back before sunset and type down fieldnotes before sleep—fasting will pose challenges. For one, there is no coffee or snacks to keep you going during the day. Instead your best friend is your constantly rumbling stomach. The sahur (predawn) meal is in the middle of the night. You can either get up at 3AM or stay awake until 4. Either way, you will end up losing sleep. And try falling asleep with a belly full of food and water! Continue reading

Tools for Dismantling the Master’s House

By Daniel M. Goldstein

“The master’s tools,” Audre Lorde (1984) famously said, “will never dismantle the master’s house.” Her statement was a provocation to Western feminists to question their own racism and homophobia, to examine the “terror and loathing of any difference that lives” inside each of us. “What does it mean,” she asked, “when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow parameters of change are possible and allowable.”

Zodwa Radebe expresses a similar sentiment, using similar language, in her recent Savage Minds post, in which she dismisses the possibility of decolonizing anthropology. Radebe states that “it is absurd to think that anthropology can be used as a tool to decolonise because it was used to colonise.”

All of which raises the question: What are these “tools”? What can they be used to make, or to unmake? And by whom?

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Around the Web Digest- Week of May 5

I apologize for the delay! Here are some readings for this week! Again feel free to leave article suggestions at smechong@gmail.com

With the first week of Ramadan complete, many Muslims are breaking fast as the sun sets. However, Muslims who live with eating disorders face the demands of managing mental health, body image, and a devotion to Islam.

The lack of intervention on sexual harassment within the academy have led prominent feminist scholar Sara Ahmed to resign from her position at Goldsmiths UniversityFeminist Academic Collective asks what needs to be done for universities to stop protecting abusers due to “genius”, but protect those who are harmed.

Speaking of gender politics, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi who is in legal trouble due to her vulva-themed sculptures has been found guilty of obscenity. The decision due to the data on the 3-D printed work being made public, not the sculptures themselves. The case offers insight into the intersections of the legality of art, interrogations of gender norms, and politics of data distribution.

For many low-income areas throughout the U.S., McDonald’s becomes a haven for creating community. The articles depicts the creative ways people interact with the fast-food chain to socialize, find support, and survive under capitalism.

Sunday’s tragedy in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub follows a history of violence against queer spaces in the U.S. Acknowledging the importance of spaces for queer people in finding community and safety is of critical importance. However, in opposition to the coming Islamophobia, we must not to forget that queer Muslims exist and offer a counter to sensationalized media tearing these communities apart.

See you next week.

What we learned from #anthroboycott

Please join me in reading responsively

We learned that Boycott supporters felt silenced and intimidated by the anti-Boycott sentiment in their departments while on the other hand anti-Boycott supporters felt silenced and intimidated by the Boycott sentiment in their departments.

We learned that the AAA could deal judiciously with a difficult topic or
We learned that the AAA’s curation of Israel’s “World Anthropology” was biased

we learned that everyone cared because turn out was at an all time high or
We learned that no one cared because only half the association votes
(but then again fifty percent is an F
even with grade inflation.)

We learned the other side couldn’t see how far right it was unless
The other side couldn’t see how far left it was.

The boycott was against anthropology’s commitment to relativism, tolerance, and dialogue and
The boycott was part of anthropology’s commitment to social justice.

We learned that the only reason the other side won is that they bought cookies to the business meeting
they purchased extra memberships just to vote.

We learned we couldn’t talk because politics is when the time for talking is past and
We learned should have talked more because talking is what politics is.

We learned that Israel is different than some have been told although
We learned the country is gravely misunderstood by others

We learned that we have the same values, just differently ranked or
have the same values, but believe different things are true
have different values, and differently rank what we think is true
but we don’t
have the same values and believe the same things
that is not the proper role of scholarly associations
this is the most important thing a scholarly association can do.

We learned that never again
‘never again’
or might mean
‘never again’
Because Jewish rights are human rights
and human rights are Palestinian rights
which are human rights which
is why never again means
what it does

#anthroboycott matters because we learned
we learned #anthroboycott matters because

Because we learned #anthroboycott matters

Matters learned because we #anthroboycott

we #anthroboycott because learned

learned because we #anthroboycott

we because #anthroboycott

learned matters



AAA Boycott Vote Postmortem

By now you have probably heard that the boycott vote failed by an incredibly narrow margin:

In the end an astounding 51% of its 10,000 members participated. The resolution failed by exactly 39 votes: 2,423-2,384 (50.4%-49.6%)—a statistical dead heat.

David Palumbo-Liu, Steven Salaita, Charlotte Silver, and Elizabeth Redden have all written excellent postmortems about the vote. Having read all four, it strikes me that there are three important points to be made: The first is that the AAA is still moving ahead with a statement of censure of the Israeli government and other actions. The second is the role played by outside groups that sought to influence the vote. And the third is the status of the BDS movement after the vote. Read on for my take on each of these three points… Continue reading

A Decolonial Turn in Anthropology? A View from the Pacific

By: Lisa Uperesa

Over the past two decades, non-White and non-Western scholars have posed serious challenges to the politics of knowledge production in anthropology and the academy more widely. In the wake of critiques of Orientalism, the articulation of indigenous methodologies, and the exploration of indigenous epistemologies, not to mention critiques of whiteness and white privilege, we might assume a new, more inclusive time in anthropology has begun. But has it? Drawing on my experience as a scholar trained in anthropology, as well as a decade of experience as a member and four years as board member including one as chair of an international anthropological scholarly organization, in this essay I explore the continuing dynamics of marginalization of indigenous Pacific scholars in and through the claiming of scholarship and scholarly organizations and anthropology itself as white public space.

My time at University of Hawaiʽi-Mānoa has taught me many things about being a Pacific academic trained in anthropology, living, working, and researching in our linked communities. In particular, it has reinforced to me the importance of positionality and the way it shapes our research process and writing. In my work with Samoan communities, I have noted that non-Samoan researchers who work with Samoan communities are not bound by cultural protocols of respect, acknowledgement of hierarchy, and gendered expectations that I had struggled with throughout my graduate research, and remain part of my work as a researcher. They are not bound by community expectations and eventual opinion not only shaping how the work would be communicated to the public, but also in expectations of service to the wider community from one’s position within the university. As I wrote about in our earlier volume on Indigenous Research in/of Oceania (2010), this “weight” of expectation can be particularly fraught for our junior scholars, but remains unacknowledged labor not captured in CVs, contract reviews, or tenure dossiers. Some colleagues are unencumbered by expectations for care work, community work, and service work that are part of the reality for racialized minority and indigenous scholars. In addition to this care and service work, the legitimacy of minority and indigenous scholars’ research is often questioned because it does not fit neatly within canonized frameworks, or is suspect because it does not sustain the fiction of objectivity. All of these are serious structural problems in academia. This is not to say that we should be unencumbered, but rather all researchers in our communities should feel encumbered and act accordingly. Continue reading

Why are conferences in Africa excluding African scholars?

Savage Minds is excited to present this invited blog from Ellen E. Foley, an Associate Professor in International Development, Community, and Environment at Clark University. She was also the Program Committee Co-Chair of the recent #DakarFutures2016 conference, which was co-sponsored by the African Studies Association (ASA), the American Anthropology Association (AAA), the West African Research Center (WARC), and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

The recent AAA and ASA joint conference in Dakar, Senegal was recently highlighted on the True Africa blog under the headline “Why are conferences in Africa excluding African scholars?” As the US academy turns its gaze inwards to questions of diversity and inclusion (sanitized terms for racism, sexism, cis-patriarchy, white settler colonialism, capitalism, heternormativity, transphobia, Trumpmania, xenophobia) it is fair to ask: do American academic organizations take their colonial legacies and institutionalized inequalities on the road when they travel beyond the United States?  Drawing attention to the politics of knowledge production, particularly about Africa, is important if not new.  Francis Nyamnjoh (then head of publications at CODESRIA) nailed it in his 2004 critique of the politics of publishing on Africa.  He highlights “the epistemological imperialism that has facilitated both a Western intellectual hegemony and the silencing of Africans even in the study of Africa.” Continue reading

Ramadan Diaries: Introduction

Ramadan Diaries takes you into the Ramadan experience of two students of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Oguz Alyanak and Dick Powis. They will be fasting amongst Muslims in two Francophone contexts, Strasbourg, France and Dakar, Senegal, respectively. By sharing brief notes on the fasting experience, the aim is to provide a reflexive account of participant observation as it is undertaken by two scholars with distinct backgrounds and field sites.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the month when the Devil (Shaitan) is chained, many Muslims around the world undertake the practice of fasting. Fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is first and foremost a practice where Muslims rediscover the importance of self-restraint. As an individual is deprived of bodily intakes such as food, water, and cigarettes, the mind goes through a journey of self-discipline. The fasting individual is also asked to watch his/her manners, such as restrain from being foul-mouthed, gossiping or staring at the opposite sex with bad (i.e., sexual) intentions. One of the aims of this month, then, is to discover that one’s will can overcome his/her physical weaknesses, and to tame the ego (nefs). Another aim is to be reminded of the bounties that Allah provides year-long, to be thankful of His grace, and to help those who may not be as fortunate by sharing one’s wealth (a practice known as the sadaka-i fitr). Sharing is not only monetary. During this month, Muslims come together, attend communal dinners, after dinner prayers specific to Ramadan (known as the tarawih/teravih), Quran recitations (known as muqabala/mukabele) and other conversation circles. Another aim of Ramadan, then, is to teach Muslims the importance of fraternity and community (ummah/ummet). Continue reading

Around the Web Digest- Week of May 29

Hi everyone! My name is Eddie and I am the new Around the Web/Social Media Intern! I am a recent B.A. from Loyola University Chicago; flailing through post-grad life in the city. I am excited to scour the web for some fun reads that really tickle your anthropological imaginations. If you have links for articles and pieces that you would like to share or promote, please send them to me at smechong@gmail.com.

The controversy surrounding Harambe the Gorilla and the Cincinnati Zoo has sparked a flood of opinions among the public, primatologists Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal weigh in the incident.

Captain America: Civil War has inspired The Geek Anthropologist to relate the Avengers to global systems of diplomacy, peacekeeping, policy and security. However, with the controversial release of the new Captain America series where SPOILERS Steve Rogers is revealed to be an agent of Hydra, Captain America as a symbol of American Exceptionalism is now in question.

Lindsey Bell explores the podcast as a tool for teaching ethnography for undergraduates on University of Toronto’s Teaching Culture blog! Check out This Anthropological Life podcast on for a taste of what podcasts can do for anthropology!

Join me in a journey deep into the uncanny valley with masks designed to fool facial recognition software. “Data Masks” intervening between the body, digital surveillance, and political activism. If these make you uncomfortable, maybe this analysis of Snapchat faceswaps might help you confront your disgust?

With the American Anthropological Association announcing the election decision on BDS in a few days, here is an activist perspective surrounding anthropology’s colonial past and a review of Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East by Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar by Stanford University Press.

Come back next week for more!

We’ve already got the robes: Of monks and us

This is the last post in a six part sequence called Strange Rumblings in the Meritocracy.

In this series I’ve written a lot about education, its constraints, the pressure we all feel to compete in the meritocracy, and some possible ways out. Much of this came from my reflecting on the fact that the financiers I study make use of university credentials to speak to their own worth in ways that are far from what we would like to do in our classrooms and in our research. I’ve distinguished assessments that are supposed to speak to essential parts of a person (GREs, SATs, GPAs and so on) and mark them as special, from feedback on particular work that is often offered open-endedly and in a pass/fail format (on, say, a thesis), as in a model of apprenticeship. I’ve also suggested that the more we get in the business of assessing the worth of someone’s character or the potential of someone’s soul from our various course and research offerings, the less we know what we’re doing, and the more we play into our current, meritocratic modes of anointing elites. In this last post I want to offer some thoughts on what academia might look like if somehow we were able to strip away the meritocratic ranking, the obsession with grades and league tables, and focus on the substance of teaching and growing what we know. So in the grand spirit of comparison I want to compare the student’s path in a university to the novice’s path in a Catholic monastery.

To reiterate I’m not saying academia is a monastery, or the monastery is a college (though there are similarities). What I am suggesting is that, insofar as we want to get out of the soul-weighing business, and into the work of teaching what we know, monastic formation is worth considering.

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A Letter to the AA Regarding its World Anthropology Section on Israel

[Savage Minds welcomes the following invited post by Matan Kaminer. Matan is a doctoral candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is working on his dissertation, an ethnographic exploration of the conjunction between settler colonialism and global migration on the farms of Israel’s Arabah region, where the majority of the workforce is made up of migrants from Northeast Thailand (Isaan). He has been active in the Israeli conscientious objectors’ movement, in national and municipal politics and in migrant solidarity work in Israel for the past fifteen years.]

The Spring 2016 issue of American Anthropologist carried a World Anthropology section on Israel. Unlike previous installments, this issue featured a series of written interviews with former and current heads of the Israeli Anthropological Association, many of which used the opportunity to weigh in against the academic boycott of Israeli universities. Matan Kaminer, a young Israeli anthropologist, wrote the following response, which was rejected for publication by Anthropology News. It is reproduced here verbatim. Continue reading

Held in Suspension: Reflections on “After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed”

Savage Minds is delighted to present this invited book review by Lauren Cubellis, a Ph.D. student at Washington University in St. Louis.

In this engaging first book, Zoë H. Wool takes on the density of daily life after war for young veterans recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed (2015), is a timely contribution to the growing anthropological literature on precarity, ordinary ethics, and care, as well as ethnographic accounts of soldierly life and PTSD in the wake of US military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wool’s theoretical framework, of queering masculinity and experiences of the extra/ordinary, challenges long-held assumptions about violence and suffering, and masculine roles in the United States. And it trains a critical eye on the experience of ordinariness as it is both coveted by former soldiers, and persistently postponed by the complexity of their post-war existence. Continue reading