Around the Web

Your weekly dose of internet links, blogs and news, with an anthropological twist.

Japan FTW / Japan WTF: Sometimes I come across an amusing link that’s really random and instead of publishing them right away I hang onto them until enough to be considered a theme. This week I’m squeezing off a list of interesting items from Japan.

Oil spill disaster: It seems some conscious consumers are opting to boycott BP, I know my neighborhood store seems less busy than usual. However, may I note that the other oil companies are not exactly paragons of social justice by comparison? Perhaps the most radical action one can make in this instance is to drive less. Much less. I haven’t picked up anything about the Deepwater Horizon from the anthropology blogs yet. I’ll share any such links as I come across them.

War and the social sciences: The blog Zero Anthropology has been running so many posts on the Human Terrain System lately (six this past week), I’ll just direct you to their site rather than link to each posting.

Downloading Culture: The Cranky Linguist turned up a web page from an online degree mill that links to “100 Incredible Anthropology Lectures.” I have enjoyed listening to some philosophy and psychology lectures on iTunes U, and I’ve watched some of David Harvey’s lectures of Marx’s Capital too. Has anyone put their lectures online who cares to offer some reflection about it?
Fishy business and other food posts: For three semesters I taught a popular Food and Culture course, and even though that course is on hiatus (until I’m paid to teach it again) I’m constantly on the lookout for food related internet links.

Visualizing Australia:

Timewaster: Enjoy this video of a woman playing the guitar with some seriously creative handwork on the neck. Not exactly “like never before” as the YouTube headline bills it, but maybe kind of like a lap steel? It’s like her skin is so strong she doesn’t need a slide. I don’t know, how would you describe it? Yep, I could totally do this too, if I wasn’t so busy blogging. Heh.
Seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community? Hit me up at

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Project Cataloger at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and currently working on a CLIR ‘hidden collections’ grant to describe the museum’s collection of early 20th Century photography. He has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in information science from the University of Tennessee.

14 thoughts on “Around the Web

  1. Thanks to all my friends who provided links for this week’s column! It is much appreciated.

  2. A post on the “Culture Smart Card” and the Army’s Arabic language video games that simulate a variety of social encounters with Iraqis (both of which I heard about years ago, but never have I seen them until now).

    My mother received a preliminary iteration of the Smart Card when her Guard unit was activated during the Gulf War. I remember my department’s listserve had a thread going about the Smart Cards a couple of years ago. The tone was generally derisive—”Ha! They didn’t even know that!?!” But I remember that my mother and I were honestly fascinated by the pamphlet when she brought it home. I particularly recall how interesting we found the injunction against offering things with the left hand. In retrospect it was an early encounter with ethnology, though I wouldn’t learn the word for a few years.

  3. @ Seth Wow, that video channel is awesome! Thank you so much!

    @ Rick. Yeah, I’m from Texas too. The first thing I thought was “taco truck.”

  4. “I particularly recall how interesting we found the injunction against offering things with the left hand. In retrospect it was an early encounter with ethnology, though I wouldn’t learn the word for a few years.”

    With a smartcard every soldier can log onto a secure server with every Rosseta Stone course, and cultural briefs you can take towards promotion points. All the courses you completed would add promotion points to your personal record.

    There was an interesting documentary series on PBS called, “Operation Homecoming,” in which visual media were set to essays and various things that soldiers wrote about their experiences as a part of their therapy. I personally think that the series is the future of visual anthropology, but it wasn’t done by anthros. One of the soldiers wrote an essay that blends the things he was taught about the culture of the place by the army, with the things he learned on the ground. It’s titled “What Every Soldier Should Know.” It’s very powerful. The one that relates to this story is here:

  5. Matt,

    One quick comment about the Culture Smart Card. While better than nothing, there is an inherent risk in the oversimplification required to reduce a culture to something that can fit in your pocket. Dr. Rochelle Davis of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University pointed out at the recent TRADOC Culture Summit that the section on Male Dress was so grossly oversimplified as to be completely wrong. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for instance, regularly wears a white keffiyeh, but we certainly wouldn’t want to judge then that he had not made the Hajj.

    These cards demonstrate the military’s long-standing desire to make products that are “soldier-proof”. But as I said, they are better than nothing. The interactive language programs, like Tactical Iraqi, are even better, especially when coupled with live interaction with Iraqis, Afghanis, etc. living in the U.S. These are the best means for equipping soldiers with the basic language and interpersonal skills needed to navigate in a strange environment – at least beyond those skills we hope they developed during their upbringing.

    Whether we want our soldiers there or not–indeed whether they want to be there or not–they are there. Anything we can do to better equip them with the skills that can help them cope with the environment and avoid offenses while allowing them to build relationships as a means of speeding our transition and ultimate departure is better than sending them into a foreign socio-cultural landscape unprepared.

  6. Ok, so I just read that linked BBC story about the history of anth with the military, and the story about the woman that was set on fire. I hadn’t actually read that part of the story, because everyone that wrote about it simply said that an HTS member was killed and another member was charged for manslaughter. It seems like telling the context of the story really matters. It’s pathetic the way such a tragedy is used as someone’s propaganda fodder.

  7. Max Forte, it would be nice if you stuck around to defend your views instead of blocking all the comments of HTS supporters even though we were very polite to you even when you were hurling insults. You then proudly proclaim that we are too cowardly to speak against what your’re saying and that you drove us off your site when in reality some of us responded but you just refused to post our response on your website. Even if you wish any respect from anthropologists involved with HTS and if you wish to get people to change their minds about HTS, you might try talking to them in a civil manner. You might also try not posting Al-Qaeda propaganda videos on youtube and voicing your support for them in a over-romantic view of insurgents that is vastly worse then the National Geographic video about HTS that you recently posted.

  8. I forgot to say, that my offer still stands to discuss HTS here Max if you truly believe in what you say and can discuss the issue in a civil manner.

  9. Chris, there’s really no point. You can’t reason or debate a zealot. Such things are so ingrained within some people’s personality that they literally would not know what to do or how to feel without setting up their lives to something they’ve determined is eternally depraved. A good term for it is “therapeutic alienation.” I imagine its much like talking a jihadist for you.
    It’s like getting into an argument with a former alcoholic that’s found Jesus. You just can’t do it. You’d have better luck buying him a ticket to the Middle East where the people he supports would likely kill him.
    I was an anarchist until I actually started to hang out with anarchists, many years ago.

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