Our New Name: Anthrodendum

anthrodendum /anTHrəˈdendəm/ or /anTHrōˈdendəm/ n 1. anthropological annotations of a community’s practices, expectations, experiences, and relationships. 2. an additional text, directing the reader to that which is alongside or parenthetical. 3. that which possesses the power to add or change conditions or contexts, as well as acknowledging the responsibility to do this ethically, and with consideration of shifts in historical and political context. 4. the constant building of anthropological knowledge over the decades resulting in sedimented layers of thinking and activism and writing of those scholars and community members who came before us.

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A new name has been a long time coming. On December 3, 2016, we announced that we would be re-naming this blog. Our primary reason was that we had come to understand that the name “Savage Minds” was harmful or offensive. Two Indigenous scholars were key to this prompt: guest blogger Zoe S. Todd – now a member of our core blogging team – was the first one to publicly state on the blog that a new name was needed; and Savannah Martin, an invaluable provocateur and wordsmith, generously gave us our new name: Anthrodendum. In a discipline with a history of entanglement with empire, and with longstanding commitments to meaning and context, we unanimously decided “Savage Minds” was no longer an acceptable name for us or for our readers. The word “savage” has historically been used to dehumanize non-White peoples and no pun or irony can obscure that reality.

Getting the name right mattered to us, and took much longer than some of us anticipated. Our deliberations were long and somewhat slow, traversing all sorts of terrain for a rethought name—some names endorsed by some, but vetoed by others; other names fell flat on their face the first time out of the gate; some generated initial excitement, then did not work for a range of reasons. The lists we had were long, very long. We now have a name we each feel represents the blog, our goals, and a sense of anthropology, both its histories and its possibilities.

As the name change committee now hands things over the design committee, the next several months will involve transitions in the website, including archiving our old website, and culminating with a name change party at the AAAs this December. We invite you to join us in DC to celebrate the next stage of this blog (which was founded in 2005). What might the next twelve years bring? We have no idea, but are glad to be on the journey with you. Thanks, all, for your ideas, your commitment, your critical feedback, and your encouragement. And, thank you, Zoe and Savannah!

Yours truly,

The Writers of Anthrodendum (formerly Savage Minds)

In alphabetical order: Ryan Anderson, Edward Chong, Caio Fernando Flores Coelho, Adam Fish, Kerim Friedman, Alex Golub, Maia Green, Chris Kelty, Carole McGranahan, Rebecca Nelson, Dick Powis, Uzma Rizvi, Matthew Thompson, Zoe Todd, and Zoë Wool.

Carole McGranahan

I am an anthropologist and historian of Tibet, and a professor at the University of Colorado. I conduct research, write, lecture, and teach. At any given time, I am probably working on one of the following projects: Tibet, British empire, and the Pangdatsang family; the CIA as an ethnographic subject; contemporary US empire; the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet; the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army; refugee citizenship in the Tibetan diaspora (Canada, India, Nepal, USA); and, anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

20 thoughts on “Our New Name: Anthrodendum

  1. So politically correct. The anth/historic play on the original name suited the early development of the blog and now the name represents the full weight of the politics of anthropology on the more fully developed and engaged web. I hope the new direction continues to encourage good discussion and does not get paralyzed in political correctness; stifling observation and analysis.

  2. I thought about the name of the blog as a reference to the history of the discipline, and therefore an ironic comment about its spring from the point of view of anthropological fast development.
    I can totally understand why you chose to change the name, but nevertheless can’t share the reasons.

  3. @LDaVus @Krembegi

    “I hope the new direction continues to encourage good discussion and does not get paralyzed in political correctness; stifling observation and analysis.”

    Great, more problematic reactionary opinions to roll my eyes at. “PC” is a derogatory and reactionary buzz word meant to demonize social movements that seek language that is inclusive. “Political correctness” isn’t about “stifling observation and analysis”, its actually about ensuring that MORE voices and MORE perspectives can contribute to observational and analytical work. It’s a total contradiction to suggest that “political correctness” “stifles” anything – its about opening up space for people to represent themselves through the voices and language that they want to be represented by – it’s about widening horizons, not closing them down. The whole point of this name change was because the name “savage minds” made it uncomfortable for people traditionally labeled as such “savages” to feel comforitable contributing and taking the words written here seriously. It’s totally fine and dandy when settlers and otherwise privileged folks giggle ironically about our history of using the term “savage” (omg tehe we were so silly with our colonial genocides, tehe) – but that ironic humour continues to alienate people, violently.

    Comments like yours continue to exclude fellow human beings from participating in anthropology, a discipline we ALL need the opportunity to participate in.

  4. I like the new name but the reason why the former one was changed is odd. “Pensée sauvage” doesn’t only play on words with the wild flower. As Levi-Strauss explains, the expression “la pensée sauvage”, which isn’t “la pensée des sauvages” refers to the human mind in general and not a particular type of savage human… We should also bear in mind that anthropologists (and affiliated scholars) use some savage thought when acting like “bricoleur”, improvising with the materials coming to their hands (I’m following LS’ metaphor). It is sad to see that a main anthropology blog is imputing motives to previous seminal work, instead of taking a chance to teach “non-anthropology” friends the essence of the expression “savage mind”: there is no savage, or we all are savages! Isn’t it part of our job as well to deconstruct false ideas?

  5. A typical result of decision making by committee. On reading “Anthrodendum” I instantly thought of “Duodenum.” Sorry ’bout that. Best wishes, but little hope, for the future.

  6. @Aymeric

    This is what I was talking about, a game between the awareness of the past of anthropology and Levy-Strauss’ metaphor of the “pensée sauvage”.
    I totally agree with an aware use of the linguistic terminology as a tool against discriminations of all sort, but this time, as I said, the title of this blog was totally a different thing; it was not ment to offend, but just an ironic comment on, and an incredibly brief summary of, our discipline.

  7. Hey John: “Savage Minds” was a group decision too!

    I salute the folks who are moving forward with what we started back in the early days of blogging. This is no longer an outlet for a bunch of snotty grad students poking their fingers in the eyes of tradition; it is, for better or worse, part of that tradition, and deserves a publicly identity suited to the role.

    Kudos, Anthrodendrites!

  8. I thought it was called Savage Minds because of the savagery of the colonizers.

  9. I appreciate the reasons for the name change.

    But the new name doesn’t make a lot of sense, I guess it is anthropology + addendum? It makes me think of scholars closed off from the world with musty tomes. I agree with others’ comments that the original name conveyed both engagement with the history of the discipline and today’s politics happening well beyond the university library, at least.

    My first impression was also “duodenum” (+ is this a joke or was the blog maliciously hacked?)

  10. My initial reaction was also “duodenum.” I’ve felt that the blog has been decreasing in quality for some time now, so perhaps a change of names is fitting.

  11. Duodendum. As in ulcer? From the Web: “A duodenal ulcer is usually caused by an infection with a germ . . . ” What might we name that germ as it infects, festers, ulcerates the bowels of anthropology? As it wastes a body of inquiry? Clearly a task for the social pathologist. Self-identified victims embracing their own victimization as a vocational calling. You go, John!

  12. cough I don’t normally comment on posts as I also have to moderate them, which can lead to conflicts of interest. But I wanted to chime in here since you have hit the nail on the head Lee. This blog is the duodenum. As to the identity of the metaphorical ulcer… I’ll leave it to you to speculate as to who I imagine that to be.

  13. The new name is excellent: I immediately grocked its meaning, it’s clever, it’s unique, and it situates the blog firmly in anthropology. It’s unfortunate that some folks commenting here wish to re-hash prior discussions of the name Savage Minds and the reasons why it might need changing: the Minds running the blog have been talking about all this for quite a while and put considerable thought and care into the name change. Of course Savage Minds was a brilliant name for the blog, but the blog’s authors correctly surmised that if they wish to make this space one where a greater public wishes to talk about matters anthropologists care about, then perhaps a more welcoming name, one not quite so couched in restricted code, was necessary.

    As I was typing this comment, however, I realized that perhaps we will no longer be able to refer to y’all as the ‘Minds’ (or do you guys do that? I always have). What will we call the bloggers at Anthrodendum?

    Anyway, power to you.

  14. It’s not because a discussion did happen at some point that one cannot comment again, above all on the internet, and above all when the subject of this post is actually dealing with the change of name… Of course, the authors of the blog do what they want, and the point is not to be rude or to make fun of the new name. Nonetheless, the point of this section is to allow alternative thoughts and maybe some argument/discussion, isn’t it?

    In my mind, there is a deep problem underlying this situation: if one considers that the expression “savage mind” is unwelcoming or offensive to some readers, it means that one gives up on the battle against cultural prejudice by accepting the most recent use of this word (it originally means “of the woods”, from the latin silva).
    I saw the previous name as a scientific counterstrike against ethnocentrism and the judgmental use of “savage” as “barbaric” – “the barbarian is first and foremost the one who believes in barbarism” (Levi-Strauss, 1961). But I realise now that it was all just a private joke on “the intellectual and unruly nature of academic blogging” (as stated in the “about” section of the blog) so I guess it wasn’t meant to be so meaningful…

    Regarding the new name: it is certainly clever but it will hardly be appealing to a larger audience if one also needs a “translation” or an academic background to appreciate it.

    All the best to the authors

  15. Since there are no savages, there is no one to be offended by the old title. Thus I see nothing wrong with it and vote to have it reinstated.

  16. It would appear that [some] anthropologists are leaving irony behind. So goes the end of cle[a]ver word play, mischievous twists, double meanings, and playful prose. Back to the world of painfully sincere neologisms. Oh for the days of post modernist word play & clever obscure titles that relied upon one actually knowing a little bit about one’s discipline. Today Savage Minds has joined the ranks of the New Puritans.

  17. “I realized that perhaps we will no longer be able to refer to y’all as the ‘Minds’ (or do you guys do that? I always have). What will we call the bloggers at Anthrodendum?”

    Dummies, obv.

    I, for one, am glad for the name change, having had this conversation more than once.

    Me: Check out this cool article.

    Well-meaning friend: Ew, “Savage Minds” huh?

    Me: pushes up glasses on nose Well, you see, Claude Levi-Strauss…

  18. I am trying to cite an article and given your name change, I am a bit puzzled. How shall I cite an article that appeared when the blog was called savage minds? Also note, that to this day, the website adress is “savageminds.org” and the header says “savage minds”. So did the name change or not?

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