As some of you may know, in my free time I’ve created a timeline of anthropology using the program Aeon Timeline (I’d highly recommend it). As I’ve plugged more and more dates into it I’ve become increasingly convinced that 1974 is the year that anthropology took on the form that it currently exists in today.
Last night I received an email announcing that Gerald Berreman passed away on December 23rd. I never met him, and his work on India and the Himalayas was far outside of my fieldwork in the Pacific. But I — and everyone else — deserve to remember Berreman not only because of his ethnographic work, but because he was one of the first generation of anthropologists to politicize anthropology in the late sixties and early seventies.
If you are interested in learning more about Berreman, you may want to check out two of his better-known articles, both of which have been posted online at his website: “Anemic and Emetic Analyses in Social Anthropology” and “Is Anthropology Alive? Social Responsibility in Social Anthropology“. We have a new generation of anthropologists who know not Berreman, not this influential work doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.
Recently Kieran Healy posted a link on Twitter to a co-citation graph he’d made to try to understand what philosophers “have been talking about for the last two decades?” He also posted a nice poster he made from this data [PDF]. I reposted these and mentioned that it would be great to have something similar for anthropology. The internet being the wonderful place that it is, I shortly had my wish, courtesy of Jonathan Goodwin.
This chart isn’t as clean as Kieran’s – and probably has too much data (four journals going back to 1973), but Jonathan has helpfully provided instructions for how he did it in case anyone is interested in pursuing it further. I’d love to be able to create separate charts for each of the various sub-disciplines in anthropology, but that might be harder to do since they often appear in the same journals. Still, hopefully some interesting insights can be gleaned from this kind of data. If you are able to do anything with this, let us know in the comments!
UPDATE: Jonathan made a new, lower-density, chart for just 1998-to-the-present.
UPDATE: And a new one, with a chronological slider.
I don’t ever teach an Intro to Anthropology, a fact for which I wake each day thankful and perform several ritual ablutions and say long meandering prayers to as many culturally specific deities as I can remember. But if I did, I would start with Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. In fact, I might even make it the only text for my awesome four-field anthropology class.
Economists think the book belongs to them–or those few evolutionary and/or institutional economists who take the book seriously (Geoffrey Hodgson leads this ragtag bunch of misfits and loyalists yearly into battle). But the book is anything and everything but economics. In fact, the book is a weird and wonderful combination of anthropology, economics, psychology, sociology and speculative phenomenology. One of the reasons people might not grok the fundamental wackiness of this book is Continue reading
Big expensive conferences cost too much and offer too little return. Fine, I’ll give it to you. Conferences are acceptable for professional development, almost good for networking, OK for your CV, and decent for being exposed to new ideas. I think some are well worth attending. But just stop paying the extortion fees for big conference. Only go to fee free or all expenses paid conferences. Yes, you’ll go to less but you’ll be better for it. Conference as they are at present are a relic from the patronage pre-neoliberal academy where universities accepted responsibility for their staff, faculty, and students. In those halcyonic days, travel and lodging were less expensive, conference fees were smaller, and most importantly, the university would foot the bill. Today, the extortion conference systems remain in place while the university has dropped its patronage responsibilities while the costs associated with conference attendance have skyrocketed. We must break the back of yet another exploitative system. Stop paying conference fees.
Conferences are of a very limited utility but a utility nonetheless. You should still go but only to select, useful, and economically fair events. Let’s break it down. There are three economic types of conferences: Continue reading
In this post, I’ll consider the 2012 phenomenon in relation to time and otherness. Naturally, I’m hedging my bets and posting this before the potential end of the world. Although no one can seem to decide when the Maya are, they appear to be sometime between Aug 11, 3114 BC and Dec 21, 2012 AD.
This time frame has less to do with the Maya themselves than with how they are invoked by Westerners (both believers and debunkers). I realize that “West” and “Westerners” — just like “the Maya” — is an overambitious gloss, but indulge me for a moment. For the record, my perspective is based largely on the American, British, and Spanish public spheres in the press and internet. (While there seems to be 2012 interest in Russia and China, I’m not in a position to comment on that in any detail. Please leave a comment if you can.)
In the rhetoric of the West, “the Maya” appear to take quantum leaps between historical moments. In my previous post I focused on the “otherness” of U.S. spiritualists in the eyes of apocalypse debunkers. It goes without saying that the Maya are also “other” in ways that anthropologists have long objected to. The precise relationships between The Maya (abstract) and the Maya (ethnographic, historic) is a matter of debate, but regardless they are invoked constantly when it comes to apocalyptic expectations for 2012. Continue reading
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Clare A. Sammells.
My thanks to the editors of Savage Minds for allowing me to guest blog this month. Hopefully I will not be among the last of Savage Mind’s guests, given that the End of the World is nigh.
You hadn’t heard? On or around Dec 21, 2012, the Maya Long Count will mark the end of a 5125 year cycle. Will this be a mere a calendrical turn, no more inherently eventful that the transition from Dec 31, 2012 to Jan 1, 2013? Will this be a moment of astronomical alignments, fiery conflagrations, and social upheavals? Or will there be a shift in human consciousness, an opportunity for the prepared to improve their lives and achieve enlightenment? Continue reading
friendship? I know. it does seem too obvious and perhaps disingenuous for an anthropologist to pose friendship as one of the internal, constitutive goods of ethnographic practice. but that’s the virtue i want to invoke here.
back in chicago, home of the haskell hall totem pole, there was–i wonder if anyone could tell me if it’s still there–a world map around which our administrator affixed fieldwork photographs of students and faculty of the department. back in those snail mail days before social media, this was about all the contact we could get with colleagues in the field. the map looked down from the stairwell up to the mezzanine, but was not without contention: was it part of a strategy of representation that reproduced anthropology’s complicity with colonial discourses? an attempt to employ images of rapport to shore up ethnographic authority? what the critics seemed not to get was that the map actually was a token of our friendships with our colleagues, focused on our common practices of fieldwork and writing.
but, right, critics of the map would likely consider friendship naive. there’s a history i could sketch here, but i’ll just go for the beginning and end points. if malinowski claimed in argonauts that through shared residence and daily activity the ethnographer could at least become “a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by donations of tobacco,” the discipline has long since shed the illusions we have of reaching even such a limited state of rapport: take marcus’s typically programmatic 1997 statement that even an assumption of the desirability of rapport had been displaced, with no replacement in sight. that marcus ushered “complicity” onto the runway as the new rapport might relegate friendship to some dusty haberdashery. i even hesitate to call it last season.
curiously, however, i had written about complicity unaware of the marcus article and came to see complicity in a positive light, as a means for sustaining a shared project in conditions of political opposition and entrenchment. because i’ve a book on that subject, i’ll just go back to bronislaw (whew!).
How do you know when you are reading an ethnography? What makes a book or article ethnographic? This past semester I taught a new undergraduate course titled Reading Ethnography in which the students and I asked these questions as a means of appraising the specificity and content of ethnographic knowledge. Our first challenge was to articulate what the term “ethnographic” meant. What are those qualities that make a piece of scholarship ethnographic rather than simply descriptive or anthropological?
Etymologically, the ethnographic comes from ethnography. Following from its Greek origins, ethnography is the writing of people, of society, of culture: ethnos means “folk/the people” and grapho is “to write.” In noun form, ethnography is no longer tethered just to writing. Instead, it is often used to refer to a type of research; it is not only non-anthropologists who use the term this way. We do it too. We talk about “doing ethnography,” using it as a shorthand for fieldwork, saying ethnography when we mean ethnographic research. Continue reading
It’s been an exciting month on Savage Minds, from a great new open access and digital anthropology effort to a reading of foundational texts to a discussion of contemporary scholarship, with a lot of stuff in between. And all the while a glance at the right-hand column opens onto a window of often fiery comment exchanges. I haven’t guest-blogged as much as I wanted to, in part because things came up, in part because I wanted to keep priority on the main discussions, and in part because I’m afraid of that comment stream. Although I’m sensing this post is headed toward an “epic fail,” I would like to register a plea to find our way beyond internet conventions that encourage people to tear each other limb from limb. These conventions can sometimes be exacerbated by anthropological training, making anthropology a “field of stumps” as each generation cuts down the work of the previous (I think Eric Wolf said that, but can’t locate the reference; [update, thanks Ryan and see this comment for full reference]).
In a recent post, Kerim does excellent work tracing the Savage Minds engagement with Jared Diamond, which dates to the establishment of this blog as a scrappy band of Davids taking aim at Goliath.
These days, Diamond gets criticized mostly for not reading or potentially libelous composite misreadings. But I want to dial this back to Diamond’s 1987 article “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” when Diamond obviously takes anthropology from Richard B. Lee–mongongo nuts with no acknowledgment–and also reproduces Lee and Irven DeVore, again with no credit for what almost any professor would call plagiarism.
Did people challenge Diamond for this taking of anthropology in 1987? Could a more forceful response have cautioned Diamond from appropriating anthropology with impunity and “diluting the brand“? Would Jared Diamond have become… JARED DIAMOND?
Recent comments on Hau and the opening of ethnographic theory remind me of what I always think of when I hear about the Bongobongo:
The time is gone when anthropologists could find solace in the claim that our main civic duty–and the justification for our public support–was the constant reaffirmation that the Bongobongo are “humans just like us.” Every single term of that phrase is now publicly contested terrain, caught between the politics of identity and the turbulence of global flows. Too many of the Bongobongo are now living next door, and a few of them may even be anthropologists presenting their own vision of their home societies, or studying their North Atlantic neighbors. The North Atlantic natives who reject them do so with a passion. Those who do accept them do not need anthropologists in the welcoming committee.
–Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Global Transformations (2003:137)
Trouillot is then outlining a vision of anthropological duties and risks, include making native voices more full interlocutors, identifying the ultimate targets of anthropological discourse, and publicizing the stakes of anthropological exchange.
To what degree do Open Access efforts–specifically Hau–move us in that direction?
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Jason Antrosio.
[I realize the irony of prominently citing American Anthropologist during the Open Access debates--I do end with a call to support Rex's proposal to read and talk about HAU]
–Andre Gingrich, Transitions: Notes on Sociocultural Anthropology’s Present and Its Transnational Potential, December 2010:555
–Karen Brodkin, Sandra Morgen and Janis Hutchinson, Anthropology as White Public Space?, December 2011:545
I’ll be honest: reading Ken Wissoker’s liveblogging of the Writing Culture conference was the first time I’ve ever understood why anyone bothers to live blog, and I’m looking forwarding to reading more of Matt’s coverage of the conference. It’s exactly the sort of ‘high table’ event that a small amount of anthropologists use to reproduce their elite culture and which is unavailable to most people – unless others ‘cover’ it. In this post, I wanted to encourage conversation about this historical moment by discussing how I learned to detest Writing Culture.
When I was growing up (scholarly speaking) Writing Culture and postmodern anthropology were the enemy. The problems were legion: the navel gazing, the narcissistic obsession with one’s own subjectivity, the reduction of the politics of fieldwork to the writing up of ethnography, the neurotic worrying about one’s one epistemological responsibilities that led the authors to the same sort of straining nervousness that you see in overbred show dogs, a pretension to theoretical sophistication that masked a lack of deeper erudition (especially of the actual ethnographic record), and of course the coup de grace: authors obsessed with prose who were themselves terrible writers.
The more I read about political economy and economic anthropology, the more I have wondered about the discipline of economics. What, exactly, are those economists up to, how do they approach their field of study, and why? I have read a good amount about modern economics, and how it differs from anthropology, but I haven’t really read all that much from economists themselves (especially about method and theory). Sure, I read Krugman’s blog, and I follow sites like Calculated Risk, Economist’s View (Mark Thoma), and Economics and Ethics. One of my favorite econ blogs was written by the late Alison Snow Jones (aka “Maxine Udall”). She had a real talent for writing about and exploring the implications of economics in a very personal and fascinating way.* Still, I wonder why there isn’t more of a conversation between anthropologists and economists. Especially considering our overlapping interests. So why is there such a chasm between the two disciplines? Is it because our ways of thinking about and analyzing human nature are soooooo different that there is no room for dialog, or what? Continue reading