Good Anthropology from the January 2013 Anthropology Blogs
Some really good stuff coming across the anthropology blogs in January 2013. I begin with some material from out-of-the-way places, and then proceed to the usual suspects on anthropology blogs. Let me know what else you’ve seen.
How Vodoun Became ‘Voodoo’ and Vodou, Gina Athena Ulysse
The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti is a brilliant book, a nuanced re-mapping of how Vodoun became “voodoo” and Vodou. In the process of her meticulous delineation, Kate Ramsey offers in the world of geopolitics critical insights into the inevitable plight of the “avant-garde,” to use Haitian anthropologist Antenor Firmin’s casting of the first black republic in relation to Africa and its diaspora (95). . . . Ramsey’s account takes a particularly expository turn as it was also during this period of open exchange that anthropology made Haiti its primary social laboratory in the Caribbean. Herskovits, Métraux, Dunham, Hurston and others conducted their fieldwork under the prohibition and as a result, they relied on the “staging of ritual practices” for research.
Ethnography of Trolling: Workarounds, Discipline-Jumping & Ethical Pitfalls (1 of 3), Whitney Phillips
What trolls do is engage in behaviors that are gendered male, raced as white, and marked by privilege. This demographic might not be literal, but it is symbolic–and more importantly, it is verifiable. Also verifiable are the ways in which trolls’ behaviors gesture towards, and in some cases directly parrot, ostensibly “normal” mainstream attitudes and behaviors. For example, trolls’ rhetorical and behavioral tactics–particularly in response to mass-mediated tragedy–echo precisely the sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation routinely deployed by corporate media outlets. Furthermore, their grotesque pantomime of masculine domination and white privilege call direct attention to remaining strongholds of institutionalized sexism and racism.
Book review: Anne Pollock’s Medicating Race, Colin Halverson
Anne Pollock’s new book, Medicating Race, is a meditation on the history and present state of racialized (specifically African American) forms of heart disease. . . .
Race does have a biological reality, apart from genetics. The stress of living in a racist environment is one such effect of the sociopolitical on the biological. “Few things are as consistently stressful as being black,” Pollock (2012:119) quotes Osagie Obasogie. This rings of Fanon’s (2008) sociogeny, the psychosomatic internalization of the Other’s imagined gaze. Pollock also cites Clarence Gravlee’s (2009:53-54) fascinating work on blood pressure, which can be correlated with the “cultural significance of skin color” (i.e., race) but not with biogenetic markers of skin pigmentation.
A Moment for My Soapbox: Anthropology and Undergraduate Education, Beatriz Reyes-Foster
I need to recognize my role in not only awakening the passion and interest in our subject matter in my students, but also in making sure my students know what their options are after graduation.
Anthropologists turn up in the oddest places, Dawn Rivers
Seeing as how I am particularly interested in economic anthropology, it’s nice to know that the possible futures I envision for myself outside academia–in places like corporate marketing departments, think tanks, public policy consulting or even in my own business doing one or more of the above–really is possible.
On Teaching Social Media to Undergraduates [Syllabus As Essay], Alice Marwick
I wanted to do two things with the class: First, give the students some practical skills they could bring to bear in an internship or entry-level job, and second, focus on the sociotechnical, the interplay between technological affordances and social norms, to provide a skill set that would enable students to approach new sites and apps with a critical eye.
Presenting Anthropology – Weeks 1 & 2, Kristina Kilgrove
As I’m requiring students in my graduate seminar on Presenting Anthropology to become (at least slightly) public anthropologists this semester, it’s only fair I should blog about how the course is shaping up and what we’ve been discussing. . . . Feel free to read along with us and use the comment section below!
Spring’s Looking Up, Dalton Luther
Today is “cancellation day” for Spring 2013. That’s the day to meet with the registrar and my immediate administrative supervisor to eliminate any courses that don’t meet a certain enrollment threshold. I’m pleased to report that all the anthropology courses are fully enrolled this semester.
The Highs and Lows of the First Year of Lecturing, Sara Perry
My own experience of the job of lecturing is one of exceptional unsteadiness; of moving from a state of complete confidence and control in one instant, to total uncertainty and debilitating self-doubt in the next. . . . I am also convinced that the experiences of women in academia are fundamentally different to those of men. This subject is one that I’m becoming increasingly passionate about owing to circumstances that I will blog about in the future; but I feel great concern about equipping female academics with the tools necessary to help them better navigate their day-to-day working relationships and plan for their careers in the long term. I’d like to connect with others who are involved in women’s scholarly networks, so any recommendations or contacts you might have would be much appreciated.
Back to Work! Autonomy and the Stress of Being a Professor, Kate Clancy
Unless politicians and taxpayers understand that pushing more kids than ever into college without an equal rise in higher education funding leads to an education with less meaning, unless they understand that laboratories are closing and only certain kinds of scientists willing to put up with the harsh realities of this environment, unless they realize we are giving young people very little to aspire to and dream about when we don’t put money into science and education, whatever it is that higher education is going to morph into in the coming years is not going to be rich, engaging, meaningful or produce research or students that change the world.
Jared Diamond, A New Guinea Campfire, And Why We Should Want To Speak Five Languages, Barbara J. King
“Bilingual patients,” Diamond concludes, “suffer less cognitive impairment than do monolingual patients with the same degree of brain atrophy: bilingualism offers partial protection against the consequence of brain atrophy.” The reason? The brain of a bilingual person “is constantly having to decide” to speak, think, or comprehend sounds in one or the other language. If speaking two languages gives the brain an extra work-out, what must be going on in the heads of the extreme multilinguals who clustered around that campfire with Diamond in New Guinea?
How can we explain human variation?, Alex Golub
Despite claims that Diamond’s book demonstrates incredible erudition what we see in this prologue is a profound lack of thought about what it would mean to study human diversity and how to make sense of cultural phenomenon. Instead, what we have is someone with a very basic, text-book answer about what constitutes an acceptable study of human variation. Diamond seems unable to comprehend other answers to this question and doesn’t understand the difficulty of taking his answer, developed in one field (life sciences), and applying it to another (social sciences).
#overlyhonestmethods or, Telling the Truth in Science, Anne Buchanan
Especially in an era when funds are limited, any avoidable dishonor in the system should be avoided, and we have to hope that the result of systematic misdemeanors we smile about will not become so accepted that we cannot untangle our weaving. That could lead to science becoming just another shaky belief system, on which much of our lives rely. Hasn’t human history had enough of those already?
Starting my descent through The Descent of Man: Introduction
One of my goals is to read and comment through the entirety of Darwin’s The Descent of Man. That project I debut today. I haven’t done a similar close reading of the Origin, for several reasons. The Origin has something for every biologist but is read by startlingly few. Despite this deplorable lack of Darwin literacy, biologists read the Descent much, much less. So many historians of science and biologists have commented on the Origin that there remains little of value for me to add to its interpretation. By contrast Descent is uniquely interesting from an anthropological perspective.
Man….or Superman?, Ken Weiss
Maybe our idea of what makes for higher fitness doesn’t match up with what the artists, intellectuals, musicians, scientists and other professors tell us. Maybe, just like other justifications for inequality, it is those ‘experts’ who are mainly manipulating things to fit their particular interests and their world, as they see it from their tower of privilege, and doing so in the name of their particular theory (in this case, science, not religion).
I Have A *cough* Bone To Pick with the Neandertal Interbreeding Advocates, Rob Gargett
Taken together, the 1000-genome project’s African sample may in fact be sampling a very narrow portion of the original, ancestral African, genetic diversity. Unfortunately for the project, when you include the modern African Americans that comprise a portion of the sample, another 150 or so, almost 75% of the entire sample representing Africa could be seen to derive from a single, geographically circumscribed ancestral population in western Africa. I can’t even begin to calculate the effect this would have on the claims made so far for African input into the parts of the genomes shared between modern humans outside of Africa and those darned Neanderthals.
Put Your Program on the Map, Oona and Emilia
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is offering a free copy of a prior year’s print AnthroGuide to international organizations who complete a new listing.
Man the Toolmaker or the Tool?, Barry R. Bainton
A gun is a tool. . . . The problem we face with guns is that they are easy, relatively cheap, and require minimum training to operate (like a hammer or a remote control). (And very profitable for those who sell and market them). . . . It is for this reason that this particular “tool” needs to be regulated, the operator qualified and licensed, the liabilities of ownership (legal control over the tool) specifically assigned and those responsible made accountable for the results of the use and misuse of the tool. We do this for automobiles, construction equipment, airplanes, medical devices, manufacturing equipment,etc.
Anthropology and Gun Violence: New Guns or New Gun Control?, Jason Antrosio
Will the gun violence of 2012 lead to new gun control resolve or to new guns? Anthropology can join a push for sanity on gun violence and control.
Note: This essay recently updated to include Charles Blow’s Reframing the Gun Debate and also as an update to the previous Gun Violence Anthropology: AAA and the NRA.