I recently went a conference where I had a chance to meet Nikolas Rose recently. I’m always interested to meet Famous Professors to see how they do it — what unique combination of personality traits got them, well frankly, tenure. Isn’t that something every academic should start keeping track of?
I’m pleased to say that Rose’s success –as far as I can tell — is due to his genuine pleasantness and keen desire to keep his nose down in the weeds and keep producing substantive ethnographic/historical work. Its always a pleasure to meet someone who has managed to become a success without turning into an bad person or cutting themselves loose from the lived reality we are supposed to be studying.
One thing I learned about Rose, rather than from him, came from an excellent interview with him in Public Culture. It was about his early career in the 1970s. This is what he said:
Everybody was running little magazines in those days. That infrastructure was actually rather crucial to us. Our journal was completely self- produced, and we all contributed time to a cooperative that distributed it to bookshops across the country. And we mailed it out across the world. We actually had a very wide circulation and gained many subscribers: we ran readers’ meetings, where there was intense discussion. It was a hopeful time — we believed that how you thought made a difference to what you would and could do.
Having read many of these seventies journals, I know exactly the sort he is talking about. They were insightful, brimming with life, and produced (through their own production) scholars like Rose who would go on to do great things. Why? They were produced by a small group of committed people, run on enthusiasm, and guided by a communal vision. What didn’t they have? Professional copyediting, scrupulous metadata, redundant backups, and a large nonacademic secretarial staff.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for professional copyediting and the rest of it. But in these days, when publishing is so easy, I’m afraid that anthropologists have drunk a little too much of librarians’ kool aid. Fears about appearing ‘unprofessional’ or having ‘low standards’ can have a chilling effect on academic’s decision to Just Get On With It and publish their ruthless critique of everything existing. We should indulge our urge to make exciting ideas and share them with the world, even when doing so makes work for librarians and gives grammar nazis headaches.
After all, it worked for Nikolas Rose.
I recently did a peer review for American Anthropologist, and was surprised (and delighted) to receive a note for them thanking me for my work and telling me that decision the editor made regarding the manuscript and — this is the new part — attaching all the feedback all the other peer reviewers gave the article as well. I’m familiar with this model, which is widely used in the biosciences, and I think it is great . Peer review is central to what we do but we rarely teach it to our graduate students, and the process itself is wrapped in a secrecy which makes learning on the job difficult.
At times peer review is like some sort of kinky Victorian sex act that Foucault would dissect: secret, unmentionable, but totally central to our academic/libidinal economies. People speak of it in hushed tones, afraid of the terrible secrets that will be disclosed if their behavior ever became public. Opening it up like this will help increase the quality of peer review by making review more transparent. I think it will also encourage peer reviewers to not act like total assholes when they review pieces. Which, let’s be honest, is something that needs to be encouraged.
I was curious about how this change was made so I reached out to Michael Chibnik, the editor of AA, and asked him how it came about. Thanks to Mike for answering these questions so thoroughly. Continue reading
A doomed genius taken before his time. One of the last line of ancient Roman noblemen revealing his secrets. Hidden writings once known only to an elite few, now revealed for all to see. It sounds so much like a Dan Brown novel that you mistake it for an April fools joke, but it’s not. There were so many fake announcements and releases on April first this year that one thing got lost in the shuffle: the actually really real release of the second monograph in HAU’s “Classics of Ethnographic Theory”, Rites and Annals: Between History and Anthropology by Valerio Valeri. Valeri’s work deserves to be widely read today because of its own intrinsic quality, as well as for the kind of rigorous, sophisticated, and humanistic approach to anthropology it exemplifies. Valeri’s work combined ethnographic erudition with high-level theorizing, wrapped up with a sophisticated prose style and a commitment to scholarship that exploded American binaries of science versus the humanities, objectivity versus subjective expression. For that reason, the release of Rites and Annals gives us a chance not only to read Valeri’s work, but to think about how it fits into the current approaches our discipline is taking.
I have a suggestion for Copyright Week: Let’s ask the AAA to release their books and monographs into the public domain. After all, one of the easiest, most important, and least risky things the American Anthropological Association has ever done is to put into the public domain all of its journal articles published prior to 1964. By doing so, the AAA took our heritage as anthropologists and made it available to the world — exactly as it should be. The decision making behind this move was a little complicated (I can tell you about it later), but the decision making behind our next one doesn’t have to be. Let’s do the same for all the books and monographs the AAA hold copyright for — regardless of when they were published.
Anthropologists like to say that we cover the whole world, the entirety of human experience in all places and times. But that doesn’t always translate into global conversations about anthropology and its findings. Questions of access to published research often get in the way, as do language barriers. As we close 2013, we take an inside look at who is reading Savage Minds—this U.S.-based, English-language group anthropology blog.
Our #1 audience is in the U.S.A. While this is no surprise, the global list of readers does include some surprises, and offers a particularly situated view into who is reading anthropology around the world—from Argentina (#35 on our list) to Zambia (#113). Continue reading
*North American Dialogue; with apologies in advance for acronym abundance
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Lindsay A. Bell
I recently became the Associate Editor of North American Dialogue (NAD). Part of the AAA Wiley-Blackwell basket of goodies, NAD is the peer reviewed journal of the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA). I was brought on to help with the journal’s “brand issues”; namely its recent conversion to a peer reviewed publication and its history as being, um, well CUNY-centric. I am pretty excited about working with SANA on NAD. As a relatively recent section of the AAA, SANA has done much in the way of establishing anthropologies of North America as politically and theoretically important. As the incoming Associate Editor, I am hoping to pick your savage minds about publishing, social media and related issues. In particular, for those of you whose work is North American (and we mean that as broadly as possible), what would you like to see from this publication? From the digital gurus in the crowd, I want to hear about how or if social media should be used to draw a broader public to scholarly work?
“The long, dark night of the end of history has to be grasped an enormous opportunity. The very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.”
—Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism
Sarah Kendzior’s interview from the summer over at PolicyMic started making rounds again on my facebook feed recently. If anything, it seems to resonate more now.
I spent this past Thanksgiving with a bunch of orphaned activists and grad students. At some point, I foolishly started asking people for advice on grad school, assuming I’d find similar sympathies with more perspective. But I was shocked: several people told me it wasn’t that bad, that they enjoyed it, that it was better than anything else they could be doing—and even that finding jobs wouldn’t be that much of a problem.
In late October we marked the 6th International Open Access Week and in honor of the occasion the Perry Library at Old Dominion University (my employer) invited copyright attorney Kimberly Bonner to give a talk on negotiating agreements with scholarly publishers. The talk, “Scholarly publishing agreements: what you don’t know can hurt you, your university, and your peers,” fell ironically on Halloween day.
Bonner, who has 15 years experience in copyright law, presented a jokey easy going demeanor which helped deliver a rather dry topic. She was also kind enough to permit me to record her talk and post it to the Savage Minds blog. Now granted this is not a complete introduction to the vagaries of copyright as it pertains to scholarship, but if you currently know zip then you’ll know slightly more after listening to the talk.
In the space below I provide a chronology of the different topics Bonner touched on. I will place some bookmarks on the Soundcloud page later, that will help in case you don’t won’t to listen to the whole thing or want to come back to your favorite part. Continue reading
Erin Taylor recently posted this thread over at the Open Anthropology Cooperative:
It’s long been my belief that anthropologists can increase their public visibility and engagement by working together, especially cross-promoting each other’s work. The PopAnth website has been using social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn) to bring attention to articles written by anthropologists in newspapers, on blogs, in books, and so on.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with Tricia Wang (Ethnography Matters), Matt Thompson (Savage Minds / DANG) and Ryan Anderson (Anthropologies Project / DANG) about furthering collaboration. We agreed that it would be a great idea!
DANG are already bringing together all kinds of people who are interested in open access, digital anthropology, blogging, and so on. For this reason, I suggested that the DANG website might be a good place to put information that can help anthropologists in their public engagement: stuff on open access, guides to writing for the public, ideas on how to get published in newspapers, and so on.
But that’s just one idea. My question is: how do we best coordinate?
There are indeed a lot of us out there who are thinking along similar lines, and we’re often off on our own doing our own things. This is good, on many levels. But I also think we could use a bit of collaboration, working together, and finding ways to move the idea of a more public anthropology toward a reality. Continue reading
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Rachel Newcomb.
Many of us find the transition from graduate school to the world of the gainfully employed to be a challenging one. One moment, you’re happily ensconced in a library carrel, surrounded by your beloved field notes and cranking away at your dissertation. The next moment, you’re lecturing to two hundred first year university students who may be in the room solely for a general education credit, and who could care less about your deep and abiding affection for kinship theory. Or maybe you’re sitting across the table from a nonprofit interviewer who wants to know whether your experience studying the effects of globalization on Ilongot gender roles will make you a good candidate to work with a team of social entrepreneurs promoting fair trade coffee in Indonesia.
How are graduate students trained to make the transition from the apprenticeship model of academia to settings that may be very different from our expectations? Since receiving my PhD in 2004 from a research university, I have wondered how other graduate schools prepared students for Life After PhD. During my graduate school years, my professors were always generous with their knowledge whenever I approached them with questions about academia. Yet at that time, there was no formal instruction on what happened once the dissertation was defended, bound, and stored away on acid free paper in the university library.
A now dearly departed friend of mine was a living archive of Iroquoian linguistics. The first hour I sat down with him consisted of me asking questions, him reeling references off the top of his head, and my pencil trying desperately to keep up. To one of his suggestions I responded, “I’ve seen that one, but I had a hard time reading it.” To which he replied, “Well, you should have seen it before I rewrote it for her!”
My first semester in graduate school my Linguistic Field Work professor was asked if there was a difference between an informant and a collaborator. His answer, as I remember it—an informant is someone from whom you gather data, a collaborator is someone who really should be listed as a co-author.*
A link to Ian Bogost’s recent ten point Twitter microrant (his term!) regarding the world of academic publishing popped up for discussion on CE-L today. Number three especially caught my eye.
I am not an artless enthusiast for the open access journal HAU. I didn’t post a fawning blog entry when they released the first number of their Masterclass Series, “Cosmological Perspectivism in Amazonia and Elsewhere” by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro” because, frankly, the meat of it has been published elsewhere and I don’t think perspectivism will have a big impact on anthropologists outside of VdC’s circle of trufans. I didn’t make a big deal of their reprint of Prytz-Johansen’s 1954 “The Maori and His Religion In Its Non-Ritualistic Aspects” because, despite my enthusiasm for the piece as a Pacifist, I don’t think (alas!) that tons of people were interested in it. But the latest issue of HAU deserves attention.
Most graduate programs in anthropology require us to take a course in methods to prepare us to “do anthropology” on our own. In class, we discuss what makes a good research question, the trade-offs between qualitative and quantitative data, and the importance of taking good field notes. Sometimes we even get to conduct research and experience firsthand how to enter a community, recruit informants, transcribe interviews, and code data. This practical training allows us to try out the methods we are learning in class and troubleshoot any problems we have along the way with our professors and peers. In this post, I want to talk about the benefits of this model for cultivating a related, necessary, but often neglected skill-set in graduate school – digital literacy.
Digital literacy is loosely defined as the ability to understand and use a range of digital technologies. For an anthropologist, these are specific tools such as social media, digital repositories, or web design that can significantly augment our success as scholars. Most of us have heard about the benefits of using Twitter or have figured out how to post lecture slides onto our online course management systems. However, I have found from personal experience that it is not enough to know that these tools exist – we also need to understand and navigate the complex digital cultures which they (and we) are bound up in.