Savage Minds Around the Web

Minerva Discussion Site: Social Science Research Council has just launched a new, really great site dedicated to discussing Minerva. The site has about twelve essays up, among them Catherine Lutz and Hugh Gusterson, with more promised by Michael Hardt, Joseph Masco and many others. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a place for comments (odd, given that the ostensible purpose is for discussion). [Update:  My mistake.  You CAN leave comments after articles.]  But all in all, a great contribution to discussing Minerva. Check it out.

It’s a Sin. Daniel Lende at has a great thought piece on studying ‘vice,’ the nature/culture, mind/body dichotomies that persist inside academia and outside of it and the ambiguous and sometimes dangerous relationship between academic study and real-world application. Lende writes, “So the leap from lab to real life can be perilous. It’s a leap that I think anthropologists are better equipped to make than most.” Hmm, maybe we should be careful, lest we give anyone more bright ideas about how applicable anthropology is (see above).

Exploring the Library: Tony at writes a piece on eye-witness vs. library forms of knowledge. Tony suggests that the library may give the researcher a broader vision of a place than being limited to the world views of one’s ethnographic interlocutors. Of course the breadth of perspectives in the works available in a library begs the question, where did those writers get the first-hand information for their books?

Kind of Facts? I just came across Daniel Little’s blog, Understanding Society, where he posts short pieces on the philosophical underpinnings of social sciences. In this entry, Little defends a social realism (no, not Soviet-era art) that centers around (Durkheimian?) social facts, but rejects social kinds. Thoughts?

Condescending Language: On Linguistic Anthropology, Peter Haney provides a really smart analysis of what turned out to be a not-so-smart choice of vice-presidential candidate. Hanley writes:

What is clear is that Gov. Palin exposed the perversity of what passes for populism in U.S. political discourse. The idea that “anybody” could become president is such a powerful cliché in U.S. politics that smart writers devote entire books to refuting it. But Palin inspired even some populists to wonder whether opening up the White House to just anybody was a good idea. All this suggests that her fall from political grace can be seen as a failed example of what the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls a strategy of condescension.

Read more for Hanley’s comparisons of the different gendered populist identities invoked by Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

How you like ‘dem Bones? interviewed Russel Shorto, author of a new book Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason. In the interview, Shorto recounts what is presumably the story-arc of the book. Of course we must also consider the possibility that the world doesn’t exist, that God is playing one big trick on us, and that Descartes never had bones.

3 thoughts on “Savage Minds Around the Web

  1. bq. Tony at writes a piece on eye-witness vs. library forms of knowledge.

    The important question here is “Why vs.?” Why not see the fieldworker’s eye-witness account and what can already be found in libraries as complementary sources of information?

    To me, Clifford Geertz’s account in the introduction to _Islam Observed_ nails the critical issue. We go into the field in search of insights that only first-hand experience produces–but their value can only be assessed in conversation with scholars pursuing other approaches. That conversation starts in the library (or, nowadays, on line).

  2. Thanks, Tom. I guess I didn’t notice the blank comments form, and many of them don’t have comments yet. Whoops.

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