Monthly Archives: April 2013

Celebrate the Sol Tax Action Anthropology Legacy for only Four Dollars Today!!!

For the price of a ridiculously fancy cup of coffee (or a cup of coffee in Sydney) a digital copy of Action Anthropology and Sol Tax in 2012: The Final Word? can be your from amazon or other fine online book sellers. The book represents the perfect storm of applied/activist anthropology and open access in one package: Tax’s version of action anthropology  was decades ahead of its time and this new volume, lovingly prepared by his intellectual heirs, is priced to move.

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Against Signposting

One of the main techniques by which writers create drama is by withholding information from readers. Unfortunately, it is difficult to use this technique in academic writing due to the nature of the peer review process. I frequently deal with reviewers who demand more “signposting.” They want everything to be revealed up front. No surprises. I resist because I believe that overuse of signposting is one of the main reasons so much of academic writing is so boring. Instead, I interpret these demands as a signal that I haven’t done enough to gain the reader’s trust.

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Become an Expert in Less Than an Hour

As a professor of anthropology one frequently has to advise graduate students whose work is, in some key aspects, far removed from one’s own area of expertise. It makes sense that a graduate student interested in child labor in India would want to work with me. I’ve published on India and teach a course on economic anthropology, but that doesn’t mean I know very much about child labor issues in India. What I can do is steer that student in the right direction.

Multiply this by a number of related scenarios (e.g. book reviews, manuscript evaluations, discussing a conference paper, etc.) and you see why anthropologists frequently have to learn how to grok an entire subfield in under an hour. Yes, real expertise takes years of hard work, but identifying the key works and ideas that define a subfield can be done quickly if you know where to look. A good analogy might be the difference between having grown up in a city and knowing how to use a good travel guide with Google maps.

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Go read my review of "World Until Yesterday" at The Appendix

This announcement went out yesterday over social media, but I wanted to blog it here just to make sure as many eyeballs as possible saw it: my review of World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond is now available at The Appendix. The Appendix is an interesting new magazine with a lot of energy behind it, so give a few of their other pieces a try while you are at it.

I had originally planned to live blog my entire reading of Diamond’s book here on SM, but as time went on Diamond’s claims got increasingly vague and difficult to handle — it became too hard to turn them into concrete questions that could be answered and evaluated. At some point I would still like to explain, at length, what does and doesn’t happen in Papua New Guinea when people go to ‘war’. But until that unlikely event, take a look at my review and let me know what you think. I worked pretty hard on it, so hopefully that will show.

You Too Can Have Mixed Results with Blackboard

Every semester I switch up my Introduction to Anthropology class a little. The big change this spring was that all the graded assignments were online. I tried this through a couple of different methods, one of which was Blackboard test course tool. It is relatively easy to figure things out on your own on Blackboard but the system itself doesn’t really invite one to explore. And it’s so unattractive. There’s all this stuff you can do with Blackboard that I’ve never tried before! I decided to give the test course tool a shot after my officemate gave it a hearty recommendation.

Overall, I’d have to say it’s been a net plus. It’s weird, but I actually missed some of the physicality of grading paper assignments, but maybe not enough to go back to analog assignments. Continue reading

Update: There was no change of heart (open access + a little satire)

I know this is a while after the fact, but I just wanted to make something very, very clear.  The last post I wrote about open access, in which I supposedly had a “change of heart,” was 100 percent complete, absolute balderdash.  It was satire.  A joke.  For April Fool’s Day.  I realize that I never put a big “GOTCHA” in the post, so it could still be a little confusing.  So, there you have it.  Just wanted to make that nice and clear.  Just to make sure that nobody takes that argument seriously.  Thanks.  As you were.

Dove Ideology

The latest Dove advertising campaign, “Real Beauty Sketches,” has already garnered its share of well-deserved criticism: That “Dove is owned by Unilever – the same company that owns Axe, king of misogynistic ads.” That “the real take-away is still that women should care whether a stranger thinks she is beautiful.” That the women in the ads don’t look like the women one sees “on the subway, at highway rest stops, in suburban malls.” That the “main participants” are mostly Caucasian, blonde, thin, and young. Etc.

All that is true. But my interest in the ad is pedagogical. For me it is the perfect illustration of what I call the “bent-stick theory of ideology.”

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anthropology, race & racism III: oops, wrong guy edition

I have three links for you:

  1. The Saudi marathon man:

What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?

What happened next didn’t take long. “Investigators have a suspect—a Saudi Arabian national—in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.” That’s the New York Post, which went on to cite Fox News. The “Saudi suspect”—still faceless—suddenly gave anxieties a form.

2. Meet the two immigrant runners who were wrongly fingered as “possible suspects” in the Boston Marathon bombing:

Barhoum, a Moroccan immigrant who attends Revere High School outside Boston, apparently became aware yesterday that his photo was being linked to the bomb plot. In a Facebook post he assured his 1776 friends that “u will see guys I’m did not do anything.” Noting that “Shit is real,” Barhoum reported that he was going “to the court rightnow,” adding later that, “I’m just going to tell them that it was not me.”

3. Jezebel: It took two whole days for a random Muslim to get assaulted in Boston:

A Palestinian woman said she was assaulted while taking a late morning stroll with her baby daughter and friend by a man who accused her of being a terrorist. We thought someone would’ve been publicly attacked and berated for secretly planning the Boston Marathon bombings within hours of the explosions, but nope — racists managed to contain themselves for two days. Bravo. Continue reading

Writing about Bad, Sad, Hard Things

Writing is not always easy. Sometimes the writing flows and sometimes it doesn’t. But writing about things that are emotionally weighty, heavy, and disturbing is a different kind of not easy.

Monday morning I wrote a political asylum report for a victim of political violence in Nepal. Monday afternoon, bombs exploded near the Boston marathon finish line, killing several people, injuring hundreds, and stunning many (including this Massachusetts native, runner, and former Boston resident). The next day, I read about a twenty-year-old Tibetan mother who self-immolated and died in Tibet, and I wrote two more Nepali political asylum reports, one especially gruesome, and then collapsed on the couch, paralyzed in a sort of grief and shock and despair at the bad things human beings do to other human beings.

Writing felt necessary but debilitating. I could only write about the particularly horrific asylum case in short increments, writing a sentence or two, then turning to something that would allow me to breathe freely, breathe in some goodness and hope, and then exhale the horror. Write the horror down. Make sense of the horror for a judge. Or at least try to. Continue reading

The Paradox of Publicity

(I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while but recently talked about it with my colleagues in the anthro department here at UH Manoa who really added a lot, so thanks to them for that!)
When David Weinberger wrote that the Internet was “a world of first drafts”, he wasn’t specifically thinking about academic publishing, but he should have been. There is a paradox at the heart of how scholars (or at least anthropologists) communicate with each other: the more time and energy you spend trying to write something true and important, the less people will read it.

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When "culture" erases history

Sure, sometimes “culture” can tell us a lot about human behavior and differences.  But there are also times when arguments based upon the concept of culture can obscure just as much as they reveal.

Right now I am in the middle of going through all of my interviews, making notes, and looking for themes I can draw from for my dissertation.  Things are coming along.  I figured I’d share some of what I am doing…sort of let you in on the process as I work through it.  If you don’t already know, my research is about the conflicts over tourism development on the East Cape region of Baja California Sur.  These conflicts are, in part, about development.  Or, more specifically, about what type of development people want to see happen in the region.  Some of the area’s residents are in favor of large scale development, some root for something along the lines of “sustainable development,” and still others basically don’t want to see anything change at all.  I worked in a small coastal community in the heart of the East Cape, a place where land ownership is one of the most critical issues. Continue reading

Readings, here and there, plus comments

Lots of things to read, but not much time to post about each one.  So, why not post some snippets, links, and comments?  Ok, I will then.

  1. Check out this important post by Kate Clancy about harassment and abuse in anthropological fieldwork.  Here’s the intro:

It was getting late, the student center all but deserted. My old friend and I had a table to ourselves, awkwardly wedged among the chairs that had been set in a circle for an invited talk I had just given to some undergraduates about issues for women in science.

My friend alluded to having a challenging field site. Her face, which was usually open and bright, with a smile so infectious and delighted and thoroughly optimistic you couldn’t help but love her, was subdued, careful. She talked around it for a while. Then she told me of her sexual assault in the field.

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Around the Web Digest

There hasn’t been an Around the Web Digest since the Savage Minds home site went down and we had to set up its temporary digs here. That means we’re over due for a round-up of February and March! You can receive (semi-)daily links via our twitter accnt @savageminds or by liking our Facebook page. If you’ve seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community, mention us in a tweet with the link. You can also email me at [].

Here’s a sample of what we’ve been reading. To the links!


Sarah Kendzior on life after a PhD in anthropology

Check out this interview with Sarah Kendzior about life after the PhD.  A lot to think about.  And a lot that many people do not want to talk about.  Here’s my favorite quote:

What I realized during my year on the job market is that having a traditional academic career is not as important to me as participating meaningfully in public life—and that the former actually precludes the latter. If I had an academic job, all my work would be behind a paywall. I would lose my audience and my integrity—because I would be working only for myself, only to meet tenure requirements, and I like to engage with the world. I speak to the public.

Read it.