Around the Web Digest: Week of August 23

Better late than never, I always say, as the semester starts anew and we all either pack our lunchboxes to go back to school or feel that old pull in a job that runs on a different cycle. Help me stay on top of the links by sending me anything you write or discover at

The Alice Goffman controversy continues to provoke critique and introspection about the nature of ethnographic fieldwork. A recent critique by Paul Campos goes beyond the typical claims that ethnographers are unconcerned with fact-checking to suggest that a small percentage are engaging in wholesale fabrication. Paul Stoller addresses this in his column for HuffPost: In Defense of Ethnography. His basic claim, that ethnography can allow us to delve into the messiness of human experience in a way that fact-checkers cannot, reminds me of the time that a researcher from another discipline came to my field site and was met with evasiveness and equivocation.

This post on Somatosphere links Stoller’s post to the practice of giving pseudonyms and changing identifying information: “Ethnography is not about ‘fact-checking,’ Stoller notes, but rather a weaving of personal and professional interactions into fruitful, if not fruitfully frustrating, entanglements. Acknowledging the precariousness of other people’s lives, a precariousness that the writer often does not share, may mean blending the ‘facts’ to protect people’s identities.” What’s in a Name?

HuffPost was on a roll this week… its AAA blog contained this post, whose title is self-explanatory: Cultural Anthropology in Secondary Schools: An Essential Part of a 21st Century Education. It’s hard to disagree that both the general public and anthropology would be better off if the subject were introduced to students earlier.

It’s a little scattered but if you like pop cultural analysis, you’ll enjoy this two-part post (in Spanish) on El Antropólogo Perplejo. It suggests that Superman represents the rural hero against the city itself, which is demonized, whereas Batman is an essentially urban hero from a functionalist perspective, attempting to restore the parts of the city to working order: Superman y Batman Desde la Antropologia Urbana 1/2 and 2/2. It also suggests that superheroes are fascist. features some straight-talking advice for professors: Be collegial, get to know the staff, and be aware of your own privilege. The Tattooed Professor Has Some New Year’s Resolutions for Academics (because, of course, the new year begins in late August).

The New Yorker actually did a long-form article on the shipwreck excavations at Yenikapı. The article explores how the differential valuations of various layers of occupation (Byzantine and Ottoman) relate to Turkish nation-building: The Big Dig:
Istanbul’s City Planners Have a Problem: Too Much History

The NY Times reports on the archaeological discovery of a rich nearly 4,000-year-old archive describing trading activities between Assur (modern-day Iraq) and Kanesh (modern-day Turkey): The V.C.s of B.C.

Food Anthropology continues to slay with interviews on pedagogy; in this case, focused on a service project: “It all comes alive.” Robbie Baer on Successful Service-Learning Projects with Anthropology of Food Students

Now premiering: Syllabus: The Movie. Digital Ethnography reports on a professor who got so excited about his new syllabus he gave it its own trailer. Could this help get students energized on the first day of class? The Syllabus: Trailer for Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Imaginative Ethnography links to a lovely set of hand-drawn fieldnotes by Carol Hendrickson, who suggests that incorporating drawings and ephemera into the notes creates a much richer record of the anthropologist’s experiences. Unlike taking a photo, sketching takes time and requires a different perspective: Ethno-Graphics

See you next week!

Rebecca Nelson

Rebecca Nelson is the executive director of América Solidaria U.S. She recently graduated with a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on volunteer tourism in Guatemala and how it is opening up new avenues for tourists and hosts to develop more cosmopolitan understandings of the world (as well as opening up new forms of friction over the circulation of knowledge).

One thought on “Around the Web Digest: Week of August 23

  1. Stoller’s defense raised more questions than it answered. Just like a police officer says something does or doesn’t happen, so is there a legitimate question whether all ethnographers follow the “deep and profound commitment to ethics”. Campos clearly thinks driving an armed man around a field site who is looking to kill someone fails his ethical standard. I’m not sure the best defense is really that Campos (or Lubet) are lawyers who just don’t understand how we roll …

Comments are closed.