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.

Now, go read the rest.  In the mean time, here’s one of the most powerful points from Clancy: “Too many of us, the authors of this study included, have told ourselves and others that we just need to “suck it up,” just endure one more day, to keep our heads down and power through. Survival in field-based academic science can’t just be about who can put up with or witness abuse the longest – that is not an appropriate metric to measure who is the best at their science.”  Clancy is absolutely right.  Read it.  Time to stop this trend of enduring abuse, of turning the other way, in order to “make it” in the academy.

  1. Sarah Kendzior speaks out about Academia’s Indentured Servants.  Yes, she’s talking about adjuncts, right on the heels of this recent interview.  One quote:

Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.

No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?

A good question.  Why do so many people accept these conditions?  Because there aren’t any alternatives?  What I’m wondering is how long folks are going to keep putting up with all this before they decide to band together and make some changes.  Anyone?

  1. Economic historian Jerry Muller “explains” the reasons for inequality over on  He says it’s really not a matter of politics, and that politics are “not likely to reverse it.”  Instead, his argument is based upon his ideas about the role of the family, the rising status of women, and something he calls “assortive mating.”  Hmmm.  Let me know what you think about this one, Savage Readers.

  2. Simon Batterbury asks: Where have the radical scholars gone?  Toward the end of the post he talks about what being a “radical” means these days:

Academic radicalism is now situated in an altered social context from the period of its formation. In the context of the mainstream neoliberal university today, assisting others in and outside  the sector and doing your share, is actually progressive, even radical.

While research and writing  is a vital part of what we do, and provides the evidence to support social change, it does not make you a progressive or radical scholar to behave unpleasantly while carving out the time and space to do it. If this hurts others, or leads you to ignore them or any sense of obligation to them. This  is the case even if your substantive research is ‘radical’ or progressive  in its content. If you are rude and selfish, drop the radical label. You don’t deserve it.

I have seen a few of these sorts of calls asking where the radicals have gone.  I don’t know.  I’m not sure about this one.  Mostly because I don’t think we should consider people “radicals” if they are concerned with looking out for others and working toward social change.  Is that really all that radical?  Should this be a radical position?  And when it comes to a lot of the issues that face the university today, I wonder less about where the radicals have gone and more about why more everyday, decent anthropologists and academics aren’t speaking up.  You don’t really have to be all that radical to see that things have gone awry. /soapbox

  1. Speaking of radicals, this famous anthropologist can’t get a job in the USA.  Is this a sign of deep problems in the academy?  You decide.
  2. Did you know Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has a degree in anthropology?  Well, now you do:

It was 1984, and Goodman had just graduated from Harvard with a degree in anthropology. She was living with her parents on Long Island, contemplating graduate school in biochemistry, when she happened to station-surf across WBAI. “I was just completely shocked by this place I stumbled on,” she recalls. “It was just raw. It was all the beauty and horror that is New York in all of its myriad accents. And I said, What is this place?”

Not long after, Goodman landed an apprenticeship at the station. She started out making documentaries, then moved to covering local news stories, and two years later she was running the WBAI newsroom.”For the first couple of years, Amy was the person I learned everything from,” says independent radio producer David Isay, who got his start in 1987 when Goodman encouraged him to produce his first radio piece and who went on to win a MacArthur “genius” award. “She was fired up. We would stay up all night working on stories. She was basically exactly the same as she is now.”

That’s a pretty good use of an anthro degree, if you ask me.  Goodman gives me hope.  For a life outside of the academy.

  1. Lastly, if you haven’t read this piece by Faye Harrison, you should.  From the intro:
Despite the history of Boasianism (Baker 1998) and Du Boisian (Harrison and Nonini 1992) and other antiracist legacies … racism’s academic sites include the institutions, activities, practices, and discourses that comprise anthropology as a discipline and profession. This is often acknowledged from time to time without undergoing the thorough self-criticism and antiracist actions required to improve the situation and solve the problem. Antiracism has to be more than intermittent intellectual abstraction. (my emphasis)

Ryan Anderson is an environmental anthropologist. His current research focuses on the social dynamics of coastal development and conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the department of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

One thought on “Readings, here and there, plus comments

  1. Band together and make some changes? Easier said than done but thank you for this excellent synopsis/anthology of the problem, which I think is just getting worse. Consciousness and dialogue are the first steps in any movement for change.

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