Tag Archives: education

TAL + SM: The Stories Bones Tell

This Anthro Life – Savage Minds Crossover Series, part 4
by Adam Gamwell and Ryan Collins

This Anthro Life has teamed up with Savage Minds to bring you a special 5-part podcast and blog crossover series. While thinking together as two anthropological productions that exist for multiple kinds of audiences and publics, we became inspired to have a series of conversations about why anthropology matters today. We’re sitting down with some of the folks behind Savage Minds, SAPIENS, the American Anthropological Association and the Society for American Archaeology to bring you conversations on anthropological thinking and its relevance through an innovative blend of audio and text.

In our fourth episode of the TAL + SM collaboration Ryan and Adam chat with Dr. Kristina Killgrove about her strategies for engaging popular, interdisciplinary audiences through writing.  We also explore Kristina’s strategies for choosing content to cover in her blog, Powered by Osteons, and end by considering some ways research has been changing in terms of crowdfunding and open access data.

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TAL + SM: Anthropology has Always been Out There

This Anthro Life – Savage Minds Crossover Series, part 2
by Adam Gamwell and Ryan Collins, with Leslie Walker

This Anthro Life has teamed up with Savage Minds to bring you a special 5-part podcast and blog crossover series. While thinking together as two anthropological productions that exist for multiple kinds of audiences and publics, we became inspired to have a series of conversations about why anthropology matters today. For this series we’re sitting down with some of the folks behind Savage Minds, SAPIENS, the American Anthropological Association and the Society for American Archaeology to bring you conversations on anthropological thinking and its relevance through an innovative blend of audio and text. That means each week for the month of June we’ll bring you two dialogues – one podcast and one blog post – with innovative anthropological thinkers and doers.

You can check out the the second episode of the collaboration titled: Anthropology has Always been Out There, here.

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Education, Experience & Output: Sharing Neoliberalized Space

The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest urban university system in the country and ranks alongside the California and New York State systems for total enrollment. Until 1976, CUNY was entirely tuition-free. While remaining significantly cheaper than other private universities in New York, CUNY has increasingly pursued a neoliberal business model reflective of for-profit institutions. This is hardly surprising. The financialization of CUNY has occurred in tandem with the financialization of New York City itself, and indeed much of the nation and world economy. Today’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education promises to continue and exacerbate this trend.

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Notes on peership: A conclusion

This post follows a few ideas I expressed last year, as I started the second year of my MA in anthropology here at Leuven. It was a moment when most of us in my program returned from our respective field sites; reeling from the intensity of ethnographic fieldwork, dealing with copious amounts of field notes, emotions and reflections, wondering if we have enough for a thesis.

I wrote then of the need for ‘peership’ in classrooms: a sense of ‘taking care of our own’ in educational spaces – ‘a crucial support network that enables many of us to get around.’ We called this endeavor, with seriousness and a lot of jest, ‘Peers and Beers.’ We met every couple of weeks, presented our thoughts, spoke of creative ways to write and think through our notes, shared references, helped develop tables-of-content (for a large part!), and of course drink wonderful Belgian beers. Continue reading

Anthropologies #21: The Challenge of Motivated Reasoning: Science, Education, and Changing Climates

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

Next up we have an essay about climate change and education from Joseph Henderson and David E. Long. Henderson is a Learning Sciences Researcher at the University of Delaware. Trained as an anthropologist of environmental and science education, his research investigates how sociocultural, political and economic factors influence teaching and learning in emerging energy and climate systems. You can find Joseph on Academia.edu here, and on Twitter: @josephenderson. David Long is Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Restructuring Education in Science and Technology at George Mason University.  Long examines how religious faith and political ideology mediates the U.S. cultural relationship toward evolution, climate science, and genetic engineering in educational settings. You can find more about his work on the George Mason University website and on Academia.edu. –R.A.

What does it mean to know climate change? A recent study on the global awareness of climate change found that nearly 40% of adults did not know about climate change (Lee et al., 2015). Among those who did, formal education proved the biggest individual predictor of awareness, with more education leading to greater awareness. The researchers also discovered that awareness levels increased in so-called “developed” nations, where access to formal education tends to be greater. They also found that each nation had a risk perception dynamic unique to their particular context. For example, “developing” countries are more likely to experience the local effects of climate change in their daily lives, even though they rate lower official knowledge of abstract climate change concepts. This shaped perceptions of risk accordingly, toward the more tangible and concrete impacts of already existing climate impacts. Conversely, “developed” countries tend to be spatially and temporally detached from the immediate impacts of climate change (Norgaard, 2011). While simply knowing about climate change is a laudable educational goal, it is also not enough to merely know. Actually moving someone to action—that is, knowing what to do about climate change and why to do it—necessarily entails bringing one’s worldview and values into account, including the possibility that they might need to change. When change asks you to evolve your values, there is often anxiety and resistance. Continue reading

Savage Minds Reader Survey Results Part 2: Education, Work & Debt

Earlier this year we conducted the Savage Minds Reader Survey. Kerim described some of the demographic results in this post. Here I’ll provide a very brief recap. The majority of the responses came from readers in North America (62.8%) and Western Europe (16.7%). In terms of gender, 57% chose “female,” 43% chose “male” and two chose “other.” About 70% of the responses came from people in their 20s and 30s. Seventy six percent have either a PhD or a Master’s degree. Finally, to add one demographic detail to Kerim’s summary, when asked about their ethnicity, about 81% of the respondents chose “white” (244 out of 302 respondents).* For the rest of this post I’ll be talking about education, work (employment), and debt. Continue reading

Building Intellectual and Professional Bridges

One of the questions we asked in our survey of post-adjuncting anthropologists who are now gainfully employed was ‘what steps did you take to make yourself a desirable job candidate?’ Overwhelmingly, respondents identified publishing as the key thing they did in order to land a tenure track job. Among other common responses were networking (especially in the form of attending more than one conference each year), and being willing to move to an ‘undesirable’ location (which is pretty subjective). For those who ended up being employed in a non-academic job, acquiring new skills was the most important thing respondents identified. And this was the case for some who landed in academic jobs as well – which isn’t something that we often talk about, but, it seems, many people do.

One of the responses I found most interesting was this one (which I’m excerpting a bit):

I’m currently TT in a Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology–but I was hired via the Criminology portion. My ethnographic research was on police, and I was hired as part of a search for someone whose research focused on policing. I don’t know what steps I can say I took to make myself desirable–I feel pretty lucky. I didn’t have any real background in Crim, but my application caught the eye of the search committee just enough for them to imagine the creative possibilities of hiring an anthropologist to teach their policing classes.

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Finding Time for Professionalization, or, Grading Less Isn’t Caring Less

One of the things that jumps out from our two surveys on the life of adjuncts and life after adjuncting is that most respondents who currently serve as adjuncts only spend 1-5 hours each week on their own professionalization (which we define like this: ‘publications, conference papers, etc.; i.e. things that ostensibly count towards tenure’ outside of teaching). This is surprising because the majority of respondents also claim to only be teaching two courses per term and spending 40 or fewer hours in all teaching-related activities (with most people responding in the 30-40 range, and some reporting as high as 60 hours each week). Which leads me to this question: What are people doing with their time?

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Stop Paying Conference Fees

Big expensive conferences cost too much and offer too little return. Fine, I’ll give it to you. Conferences are acceptable for professional development, almost good for networking, OK for your CV, and decent for being exposed to new ideas. I think some are well worth attending. But just stop paying the extortion fees for big conference. Only go to fee free or all expenses paid conferences. Yes, you’ll go to less but you’ll be better for it. Conference as they are at present are a relic from the patronage pre-neoliberal academy where universities accepted responsibility for their staff, faculty, and students. In those halcyonic days, travel and lodging were less expensive, conference fees were smaller, and most importantly, the university would foot the bill. Today, the extortion conference systems remain in place while the university has dropped its patronage responsibilities while the costs associated with conference attendance have skyrocketed. We must break the back of yet another exploitative system. Stop paying conference fees.

Conferences are of a very limited utility but a utility nonetheless. You should still go but only to select, useful, and economically fair events. Let’s break it down. There are three economic types of conferences: Continue reading

The first MOOC was a book

There is some interesting discussion happening right now about Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. I think a lot of it conflates education with universities as an institution of learning. To better untangle some of this it is helpful to think about earlier changes in communications technology and how they changed learning. To that end, I’d like to discuss an article by my thesis advisor, F. Niyi Akinnaso (1992): “Schooling, Language, and Knowledge in Literate and Nonliterate Societies.”

Akinannso’s article questions the casual equation of formal learning with literacy. He shows how Yoruba traditions in Nigeria associated with Ifá divination have many of the same features we associate with formal learning, even though it is an entirely oral tradition. There are schools, exams, and, importantly for the present discussion, a process of socialization into the use of texts (whether those texts be written down or memorized). He compares the training of diviners to Peter Burke’s description of the training of Catholic priests in early modern Italy:

During the course of their training, these professionals develop special exegetical abilities and become speakers of the appropriate language of authority.These attributes and the specialized knowledge they have acquired become the chief source of their power in society.

The point being that these functions of the university (or seminary) as an institution can be fulfilled separately from the technology of literacy.

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advocacy and the informed outsider

an experience that many have had and that some have written about has been providing expert opinion. I’m sharing here to see what people’s experience might be like.

last weekend, I attended a conference of ethnic Chinese professional people of various political identities, but all living in the United States. The conference made me anxious for several reasons: first, public gigs of this sort always give me the willies; second, the organization seemed tied to political interests and organizations toward which I am at best ambivalent; and finally the organizers wanted to have several talks on “indigenous education”—an issue that has been highly politicized and contentious on Taiwan. And I found myself both as a token “American” (meaning, in Mandarin Chinese white person) and as an anthropologist who has worked in Taiwanese indigenous communities, a token indigenous voice. Continue reading

False Egalitarianism and Illusions of Inherent Good

Before jumping into some cautions about mentoring as part of critical pedagogy and anthropological practice, I want to point out that I updated my last post to reflect two specific references:

  1. John McCreery’s discussion of teaching/learning as “fellow travellers on a great plain” comes from Stanley Cavell’s book Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism.
  2. I also added a link and reference to the Willen, Mulligan and Casteneda’s article (see full reference at the end of the post).

Although this will be my last post as a guest blogger on Savage Minds, I’m planning to continue writing and thinking about this idea of mentoring. I hope to start a bibliography and maybe continue to write here if anyone is interested for future reference – maybe someone out there will want to do anthropological research on mentoring that captures some of the multiple ways such relationships might develop and play out as John McCreery suggested in comments on my previous post. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

While there are numerous ideas, critiques, and issues that commenters brought up in the last couple of posts, I want to focus here very briefly on what those interested in mentoring and/or teaching and learning as critical praxis might want to be careful about in engaging this kind of practice. Continue reading

Mentoring in Anthropology: Thoughts on Praxis, Anthropology, and the Teaching/Learning Process

My last post considered some questions about mentoring in anthropology and whether we as anthropologists have anything specific, particular, or unique to add to a discussion that is happening in many places, including the scholarship of teaching and learning, undergraduate and graduate research, schools of education, and specifically in anthropology. The comments on the post provoked a lot more thinking about mentoring on my part, so here I want to pull out some of the comments and questions to elaborate further. I’ll post on one or two questions at a time this week.

Mentoring and Anthropological Praxis:

In my last post, I suggested that mentoring might be something to consider as part of anthropological praxis, which led to questions about what exactly I envision to be anthropological praxis as well as how mentoring might or might not fit in. I’ll elaborate on mentoring more below, but first just a kind of simple explanation of praxis and how we might think about a specific anthropological praxis: Continue reading

Prey into Hunter? Thinking (temporarily) Like a Neoliberal

Matt’s recent post about  the survival of disciplines like anthropology in the post neo liberal future was, like all the best sci- fi stories, simultaneously fun and scary with distinct elements of , if not truth exactly, possibility.  We recognise the narrative and see ourselves in it because of  how we are experiencing these kinds of changes in our respective locations. These are not merely geographic, although place becomes increasingly important, but encompass  our situation within the global political economy of knowledge  production and reception, and the global  education market place.

The extent to which the scorched earth scenarios will actually unfold is uncertain. The mass expansion in higher education globally over the past decade, not just in the global north,  is after all a combined product of private and public spending.  What the sector is experiencing is, as Matt shows,  increasing differentiation.

The niche occupied by anthropology is changing. Some of this is cataclysmic, as departments shrink and others are faced with closure. But anthropology  and ethnography are struggling to find  new territories outside the academy and at different sites within it.  This is of course leading to debates about what `real’ anthropology is – that is the extent to which anthropological knowledge should stay as inaction research constituted from a position of criticism.

Such refrains may be  muffled  in the longer term by the roar of rising water over the sinking ship.  One  established  version of  what we think of as social anthropology evolved in the nineteen thirties and forties and  was distributed widely through the expansion of academic posts and departments in the nineteen sixties and seventies.

The objects of study have changed  radically since then, of course, but  the ways in which the knowledge categorised as anthropological is organised and obtained hardly at all.  At the same time, cognate disciplines, human geography for example,  claim to use ethnography as one among many methodological possibilities while also being open to more explicit modalities for the  co-production of  disciplinary knowledge, not only with colleagues within the discipline but actively with informants.

Something is lost as well as gained through such endeavours.  The paradigmatic ethnographic research experience  of working through interpretive frames of emergent understanding is  not only unique to  a particular way of doing anthropology. It  yields unique insights.  It is also ethically problematic.  Debating its limitations as well as potentialities  is urgent, as is the rethinking of new approaches to  ethnographic practice and to anthropology.  If,  as we reiterate endlessly to our readers and students, culture and social practice are constituted relationally, we should pay more heed to how the relations within which we are embedded are changing and to our possible role in effecting their transformation. As, Matt suggests, resistance is  a strategy but it is not the only one.   In the game like scenario he outlines, some communities carve out new spaces for themselves and adopt new weapons and strategies for survival.

Whether the game of academic survival is more analogous to Pokémon, with its public private partnerships providing health resources to the battling creatures  under the supervision of titled professors,   or to  the blood and thunder of World of Warcraft,  probably depends where one is situated.  In the UK, teetering on the brink of economic crisis amid huge cuts in public spending and a government imposed value for money  agenda through which all spending is assessed, the pressing issue is not  simply the marketization of higher education, but what level of  public investment can be justified.  In this climate, it is not surprising that disciplines like ours feel extremely vulnerable.

At Manchester, we are exploring ways of addressing  the changed situation by actively engaging  it.   Instead of simply bemoaning neo-liberalisation, although we do that too, we  perceived it  as an opportunity. If neo-liberalisation has changed our universities and the kinds of students we attract, what could this mean for our discipline?   How could  we  generate demand and attract different kinds of students to our courses?    One experimental answer was to offer a different kind of course aimed at a different kind of student.

Our first year course in business anthropology is designed  to be accessible and relevant for  undergraduate students taking degrees in business and finance disciplines.  It attracted several hundred students in its first year of delivery, students who would not normally have selected an anthropology option.   Trying to think in market terms enabled us to situate ourselves differently but it also placed us in a  relation of competition with other departments from whom potential students were drawn.  Responding to markets may in practice mean shifting the burden of vulnerability.  We as a formerly protected species are being  forced out of the reserve. Is there an alternative to this world of Prey into Hunter?  What other options might we  have as anthropologists working in and outside the academy to  restructure this particular conjuncture?

Paolo Freire, Critical Knowledge, and Anthropological Mentoring

I’ve gone around and around about how to write this post because I have too many ideas running around in my head. Rather than prolong the agony for myself I decided on the brain dump approach, which makes for a long post. So here’s the brief outline of each segment: a response to a couple of comments on my last post about anthropology and exploitation/power, a discussion of Freire’s critical knowledge grounded in my own youth participatory action research experience, then some musings on and questions about mentoring as part of anthropological praxis.

A response
Before I jump into the next discussion of my current thinking about anthropological praxis, I want to generally address a couple of comments and critiques that folks brought to the table concerning my last post to clarify a little bit what I was trying to lay out and to maybe connect a little more clearly to where I’m going next.

I do not think that most anthropologists necessarily experience fieldwork in the same way that I did in my first fieldwork experience or in the way that Behar’s quote from my last post suggests. In fact, I’ve had two very different experiences of fieldwork that, in their contradiction, really support the idea that anthropology doesn’t have to be this exploitative relationship between researcher and research participant (see discussion of Speaking Out project below). However, as Rex pointed out in his comment, thinking through unequal relationships of power in whatever research context seems to me to be central for many anthropologists…and not just thinking through unequal relationships of power, but also thinking about relationships (between teachers and students, mentors and mentees, researchers and research participants, etc) as potentially humanizing rather than dehumanizing – in other words, a more positive reflection that focuses on capacities. Continue reading