Around the Web

One part news, one part blogs, a splash of internet flotsam, shake with ice and strain.

Game changer in Afghanistan: While wars are often sold to the public in ideological terms, underlying these professions of belief are material concerns, namely control over resources. You don’t even need Marx for that conclusion, just go straight to Malthus. But does this hold true if we consider the American-Afghanistan war, for what resources do they have? Opium? Goats? How about recently discovered mineral deposits worth one trillion dollars! What happens next will be very interesting.

  • NYT broke the story about a team of U.S. geologists who followed maps generated by Soviet geologists in the 1980s that revealed huge stores of iron, copper, and lithium, as well as caches of gold and rare-earths used in high tech applications. Could economic growth driven by mining help end the war and ween Afghanistan off opium production? Or will large scale mining operations, as they have in many other places around the world, more closely resemble extractive colonialism leaving the people impoverished and the local environment devastated?
  • Commentary — Foreign Policy is skeptical about the estimated value of the mineral resources, the timing of the story’s publication, and the ability of the Afghani government to develop those resources in any productive way.
  • Could Afghanistan’s future resemble the mining operations in Papua New Guinea where entire villages are dispossessed of their land and corporations distribute compensation to individuals not collectives? (Just last week our own Rex was blogging about PNG, mining, and citizenship.)
  • May I recommend Breaking the Iron Bonds on the subject of American Indian mineral rights. Many of the same exploitative mining practices were overseen by the U.S. federal government on Indian land in the twentieth century.

UC system libraries vs. Nature Publishing Group: The big news in academia this week was the University of California making a stand against journal price increases demanded by NPG, which publishes the uber-prestigious journal Nature as well as many noted scientific and medical journals. UC, like all of California, is under tremendous pressure to make budget cuts and claims that NPG is jacking up the price of its journals by 400%. Baring a return to the lower price, the entire UC system is threatening to drop the journal from their libraries and ask all faculty to boycott NPG by abstaining from submitting publications, resigning from editorial positions on NPG journals, and refusing to conduct peer review for NPG.

More on publishing:

Dean Dad, my new favorite blogger: I’m the newly minted fan of an anonymously authored blog, “Confessions of a Community College Dean”. Under the nom de blog of Dean Dad, the author writes about administrative issues such as budgeting, hiring, and trends in higher ed. Here are two excellent recent posts.

  • Wal-Mart U.: The mega-retailer teams up with the for-profit American Public University to offer discounts to its employees.
  • Is higher ed a bubble economy? The Dadster speculates that schools with high tuition and low prestige, such as for-profit universities, will be the hardest hit when the bubble pops.
  • I wonder what Dean Dad would make of this article in the Washington Post on the interest Congress is taking in regulating for-profit universities, which serve nearly 2 million students.

Foreign Anthropologists in America: Remember being an undergrad and reading “Body Ritual of the Nacerima” for the first time? Or how much fun it is to teach that article when the class really wants to play along? That’s the power of making the familiar seem strange and the strange seem familiar. Strangeness is why I love anthropology and why I am drawn to these two new books.

Timewaster: The satirical web video “BP Spills Coffee” went viral early last week. So if you haven’t already had it forwarded to you twice, here’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon. The website will superimpose the distressingly large shadow of the Deepwater Horizon spill on your hometown.

Seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community? Send the link to

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.

7 thoughts on “Around the Web

  1. Thanks very much to all my friends who contributed links for this week’s blog.

    The next two Monday’s I’ll be on the road with my family. We’re traveling from Virginia to Illinois where I’ll visit with the in-laws, ditch the kids and sneak off to Chicago with my wifey for our ten year wedding anniversary, and reunite my adopted baby with her brother and sister.

    Will I be posting Around the Web? In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, “I can’t promise to try, but I’ll try to try.” 🙂

  2. It’s funny you mentioned Cracked Bell — I’m almost done with it myself. I am a little puzzled by Anthropologywork’s enthusiasm for it (‘startlingly original’? plz). It’s well-turned out in an Oxbridgian way, but not particularly anthropological (occasional mentions of Frederik Barth aside) — in fact it owes more to Tocqueville and a tradition of travel writing than anthropology. It covers the main contours of American life cunningly — the chapter on religion starts with Halloween, for instance — but it is also vaguely presentist (the reader is assumed to want to REALLY know about the effect Obama has on America) and relies heavily on the author’s experience in DC. Its interesting to imagine DC and federal employees as iconic Americans, not the least because of the way it incorporates the south into our national vision. But with so much out there written about American, I’m not sure Riley-Smith would be my first place to go. In comparison Jackson Lears’s new book on gilded age America (or Eric Foner on the American notion of freedom) “Rebirth of a Nation” might be a better place to start — especially if you like venomous screeds against Teddy Rosevelt. But yeah, it is an interesting read and worth taking a look at if you are interested in American culture.

  3. Matt says: “Game changer in Afghanistan: …. How about recently discovered mineral deposits worth one trillion dollars! What happens next will be very interesting.”

    That’s not all. Here’s an update from The Guardian about Khondhs (once labeled Gonds) in India who’ve been studied off and on by anthropologists such as Verrier Elwin, maybe von Fuerer-Haimendorf, and more recently by American anthropologist Roger Begrich in Jharkand:

    Other day the Guardian newspaper published an article by Bianca Jagger on the fight for their lives and culture by the Dongria Khondhs of Orissa. At this point all Indian government agencies except for Forest and Lands have given consent to Vedanta, a global, mostly UK-owned but partly Indian-owned as well, bauxite mining corp., to bulldoze the Khondh’s Niyamgiri Mountain.

    Survival International made a short film about these people’s struggle, and updates have appeared on their site:
    Their film, “Mine” can be viewed on this website.

    The Guardian link for the Khondh story is here:

    The situation has been complicated by the fact that Maoist Naxal groups have been fighting police and special forces on behalf of the tribals in Orissa, Jharkand and West Bengal (also in MP), as well as counter-insurgency by a government- -supported fake tribal group operating to destroy tribal settlements and people.
    The stakes are: huge profits for multinational mining companies. Vedanta is not the only one.

    Suggest that anthropologists on this blog who are concerned by the march of global capitalism against the peoples and cultures that we presume to study, who may also be thinking about the recent announcment (not discovery) of huge mineral resources in Afghanistan, should take note of the Orrisa conflict and see if they can help. If you are inclined, check with Survival International on their website–you can donate there.

  4. A question for those who might know: is there anything in the Open Access landscape that might conceivably serve to turn this UC-NPG thing towards formation a broader-based academic labor movement for mobilizing the entire class of content providers against the tyrannies of the Big Media bosses? Can we stand with UC against NPG today, and with the Humanities and Social Sciences against EBSCO Industries tomorrow?

  5. Prudence, I’d be interested to see whether journal publishers prodded by decreased revenues would start cutting titles. That could lead talented academics associated with deceased journals into Open Access or other forms of information distribution.

    Anyone notice parallels with the music industry here?

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