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Biggest Anthropology Update Ever

Biggest Anthropology Update EverOne consequence of trying to promote real anthropology online–using Search Engine Optimization and Link Building Strategies–is that I sometimes read articles like Get Hundreds of Links to Your Next Blog Post, Guaranteed. It appears I just haven’t been putting out the proper headlines, like

  • Anthropology: The Only Update You Need

  • Anthropology Blogs: The Ultimate Guide

  • The Very Best Anthropologists I’ve Ever Read

So it seems while it is difficult enough to adopt academic writing for even a trade press, to really make it on the internet the claims have to be over-the-top exorbitant!

Now that we have the search engines here with those headlines, as it turns out this is the Biggest Anthropology Update Ever, at least from me. Sadly, that’s because I started compiling items for this update back on 5 July 2012, when I learned of the passing of Michel-Rolph Trouillot. Since then, I’ve been working on a Trouillot bibliography and helping with the American Anthropological Association statement published 16 July 2012.

So here’s a lot of stuff to catch up on, beginning with what Daniel Lende and Greg Downey shared as a conversation about how anthropologists could develop more Thomas-Friedman-like formulas. And then a whole lot more anthropology.

Thomas Friedman’s Lessons for Anthropologists, Daniel Lende and Greg Downey
Have a lead, something to grab readers attention. Then tell readers what your post is about. Go through a series of clear points or illustrations (your argument). Wrap it up, generally by providing the reader with some sort of pay-off for sticking with you for so long – a good conclusion, some funny final thought, a personal note, and so forth. I don’t follow this approach every time, but it’s still there, in the back of my mind, as something I can play with. And I think anthropologists could do more with that. . . .
In our attempts to make anthropology more relevant or more public, a lot of energy has gone into open-access discussions of late. But there is a flip-side to open access. Creating material that people will care about, will like, will find interesting and compelling.

Neuroanthropology, 13 July 2012

The Mark Regnerus Controversy & Social Science, Ryan Anderson
For the purposes of the study, anyone who EVER had at least one romantic relationship with a member of the same sex counts as a member of the same-sex parent category. This is certainly casting a wide net with the data, something that Regnerus seems to acknowledge on Slate when he writes, “I realize that one same-sex relationship does not a lesbian make, necessarily. But our research team was less concerned with the complicated politics of sexual identity than with same-sex behavior.” Despite his reservations, Regnerus went forward with his argument and conclusions anyway. That’s a problem. . . .
The best rebuttal to dodgy, ill-conceived, faulty argument is, of course, a strong, solid, well-reasoned argument. If social science–from sociology to anthropology–is going to “go public,” then we have to learn how to handle things when debates get heated and tempers flare.

Savage Minds, 16 July 2012

Doing the Work, Jeremy Trombley
If scientists and others interested in “behavior change” were to shift their attention to “negotiation,” and attend to the work that needs to be done, I think a lot more significant change would get accomplished. But even “negotiation” is no silver bullet–it’s always prone to failure as is any social change method–but it puts us in a much better position to pick up, dust off, and start again with a new negotiation.

Financialising Development, Maia Green
al growth rates for African economies have averaged six or seven percent for much of the decade. The extent to which growth is a consequence of political stability and sound macroeconomic management is open to question. A more pressing explanation for the recent transformation in Africa’s economic fortune is the global increase in demand for its natural resources enabled by regimes of economic management which are increasingly open to foreign investment and partnerships.

Savage Minds, 16 July 2012

Towards a diachronic ethnography of media and actual social changes, John Postill
In this paper I address the question of how to study media and social change ethnographically. To do so I draw from the relevant media anthropology literature, including my own research in Malaysia and Spain. I first sketch a history of media anthropology, identifying a number of key works and themes as well as two main phases of growth since the 1980s. I then argue that anthropologists are well positioned to contribute to the interdisciplinary study of media and social change. However, to do so we must first shift our current focus on media and ‘social changing’ (i.e. how things are changing) to the study of media in relation to actual social changes, e.g. the suburbanisation of Kuala Lumpur in the 1970s to 2000s, or the secularisation of morality in post-Franco Spain. This shift from the ethnographic present continuous to the ethnographic past tense – a move from potential to actual changes – does not require that we abandon our commitment to ethnography in favour of social history. Rather, it demands new forms of ‘diachronic ethnography’ that can handle the processual, finite logic of actual social changes.

media/anthropology, 14 July 2012

Hillary Clinton in Laos, Patrick F. Clarkin
I know that there are dissenting opinions out there, and many people subscribe to the belief that there are more pressing matters for U.S. interests than a small country like Laos, that the war is part of a distant past, and that the bombs the U.S. dropped there fall under the notion of “all is fair in love and war.” Still others feel that the U.S. should never waver (or apologize), since that shows weakness. However, there is also the idea of the Pottery Barn Rule, attributed (perhaps apocryphally) to another Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in reference to Iraq. Though Powell may not have used that exact language, he did say that “once you break it, you are going to own it.” If Laos is broken, then the U.S. has an obligation toward helping to clean it up.

Going Rogue?, Nathan Fisk
In this post, I want to start to unpack what I meant by “selling out” through a discussion of some of my own experiences on the job market. Specifically, I’ve chosen the two positions I’ve applied for that most clearly evoked the stigma of selling out. None of this is to say that I think there should be a stigma attached to leaving academia in all cases, or that people who have taken jobs outside of academia have “sold out,” but rather that leaving academia comes with baggage that deserves at least some attention.

Savage Minds, 13 July 2012

Early (and I mean early) Immigration and Genetic Testing: Why Isn’t Everyone On Board?, Dalton Luther
Scientists do not engage in a transparent, completely objective, apolitical activity that works only for the accumulation of the collective knowledge for our species. They may strive toward those goals, but what scientists do is a human endeavor and like any such project, it is infused with power relations. In the case of Native Americans and anthropology, it’s been shaped by the many times exploitive, post-colonial relationship of the descendants of Europeans studying the ancestors of Native Americans.

Torso and Oblong, 13 July 2012

Earliest Americans, Battle of the Bones, Anthropology, Nicholas Wade, Jason Antrosio
The 2012 research from David Reich et al., “Reconstructing Native American population history,” provides a fascinating genetics update, and many Introduction-to-Anthropology courses will see the accessible coverage by Nicholas Wade, “Earliest Americans Arrived in Waves, DNA Study Finds” as a good summary of the investigation. Wade’s coverage may be a convenient starting point, but for those interested in anthropology as science, it’s also important to be on the lookout for problematic interpretations.

Hook-ups, Horror, and Human Evolution, Agustín Fuentes
Anyone reading my blogs and articles immediately notices that I think being human is messy…and this is not a bad thing. Humans have amazingly rich lives and ridiculously complex social and evolutionary histories that structure the way we see the world: we are simultaneously biological and cultural. There is no such thing as nature versus nurture: we are naturenurtural. . . .
I am excited by a recent issue of the Review of General Psychology. The articles in the issue have the goal to “analyze popular culture, thereby finding an ample variety of psychological principles and insights into human character.” Generally, I would shudder at this premise as it is often an invitation to do one-dimensional analyses of popular ideas (frequently myths of human nature) and use simplistic selectionist logic to “support” them. However, this is not the case for many of the articles in this volume.

The hows and whys of human attraction, Barbara J. King
Review of Robin Dunbar, The Science of Love and Betrayal
In The Science of Love and Betrayal, Dunbar, who is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford, asks seductive questions about love and friendship. Why do men and women pair-bond when so many other animals don’t? How do biology and sociality intersect in explaining human attraction to others? . . .
Dunbar flings study after study like this into the text, no matter how limited its sample size, how weak its evidence or how severe its potential consequences for people’s lives. On the basis of a single study summarized in a single paragraph, he tells us that “we can judge a habitually violent person by his face”. . . .
The Science of Love and Betrayal may contribute successfully to this summer’s cocktail party chatter about human biology and brain scans. It neither meets standards for good science writing for the public, nor increases anthropology’s grasp of human relationships.

Open access introductory anthro courses?, Ryan Anderson
I wonder if at some point there will be such a thing as an open access intro to anthropology course, where all of the texts and articles are not only current, but readily available. Just an idea.

Savage Minds, 11 July 2012

It’s Camping Season, Don’t Forget to Menstruate! Or, Man the Hunter and Woman the Menstruator, Kate Clancy
At the end of the day, there is little mechanistic or evolutionary support for the hypothesis that deer avoid menstrual odor, or that the gendered division of labor seen in forager societies has anything to do with it. Menstruation is far too infrequent – 50 to 100 times across the reproductive life span of a forager woman, compared to the 400 of industrialized women (Strassmann, 1997) – for it to make sense as a pheromonal signal to predators or prey of humans in the first place.
Men certainly hunt more than women among hunter-gatherers, but the simplest and most common biological explanation – that women, being the childbearers, are more likely to be busy with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the raising of small children – is the best one. This explanation also allows for variation – it is possible for women to choose the hunt if they aren’t poisoning it with their lady stink. Further, the variation we see in how much women hunt seems to be environment- and culture-dependent. If more hands are needed, women step up. And if men are clinging to their higher status, they might push women down.

Context and Variation, 10 July 2012

Re-branding Anthropology Part 2 — Heart, Mind, and Pocket Book, Barry R. Bainton
The basic guidelines for American anthropology were laid down by Franz Boas and taught to his students and passed down as the American anthropological culture. These traditions are a powerful force within the discipline and its organization and create a set of contradictions that have plagued the profession for three quarters of a century. The conflict can be summarized as in four words: Heart, Mind and Pocket Book. . . .
Re-branding anthropology means identifying anthropology as a practical discipline, instead of the egghead eccentric hunter of rock and bones, the comic Indiana Jones, or the overly rationale and emotionally distant forensic anthropologist. Anthropology, as a practical discipline, can lead students to become more critical in their thinking and their approach solving everyday problems. It can help them to adapt these critical thinking skills to whatever career they chose. To re-brand anthropology we must recognize the three dimensions in the life of an anthropologist – heart, mind and pocket book.

The Superorganic, 9 July 2012

You should pay $$ for open access. Help the AAA figure out how., Christopher Kelty
AnthroNews at the AAA has a post about the challenges facing it’s publications program. It doesn’t suck. Here are five things to think about:

Savage Minds, 9 July 2012

A new approach to the Prisoner’s Dilemma
Personally, I think the Prisoner’s Dilemma has been overemphasized in the discussion of the evolution of human cooperation, as many kinds of social interactions in ancient hunter-gatherers would not have fit that dynamic. Nevertheless, we should revisit the literature and revise the assumption that cooperation emerged according to the Prisoner’s Dilemma dynamic. In this regard, the most interesting aspect of Press and Dyson’s work may be the clear demonstration that short-term and long-term strategies bear a different relation than traditionally thought. Cognitive resources for individual discrimination, tracking of reputation, and memory of previous interactions have evolved over millions of years in primates, and their elaboration in humans may have happened in a very different context than imagined before last month.

John Hawks Weblog, 7 July 2012

Sociedades igualitarias: el q’ipi que se inati
Algunas sociedades actuales tienen su propia línea evolutiva distinta a la nuestra, y aunque conocen nuestro modelo socio-económico, han decidido prescindir de él, e incluso huir de él. En las primeras teorizaciones sobre las sociedades primitivas, éstas eran representadas como sociedades incompletas, poco evolucionadas. Estos antropólogos han demostrado que esto no es así, simplemente es una opción estratégica. No es que no exista el poder en estas sociedades: es posible una sociedad sin dominación, pero no sin poder. Pero un poder-hacer en contraposición al poder-sobre. Un “puedo hacer esto o lo otro para mi y para los demás que al final recaerá en mi”

Una antropóloga en la luna, 7 de julio de 2012

Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm, Rene Almeling
The Diana Forsythe Prize was created in 1998 to celebrate the best book or series of published articles in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, and technology, including biomedicine. Each year the committee, composed of members of GAD, CASTAC, and SAW, chooses the book that best exemplifies Diana Forsythe’s creative work on the cultural production and consumption of science and technology. Rene Almeling is the 2012 winner of the SAW/GAD Forsythe Prize for her book, Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm (University of California Press, 2011). Almeling’s book is an original account of gametes and their donors and how they are scientifically and medically managed. The book is a deep, yet accessible analysis of the gendered work of gamete donation, among both young women and young men in America, who are responding to a commercial market for their sex cells. The book is theoretically framed, ethnographically compelling, and accessible to broad audiences. The prize will be awarded at this year’s AAA meetings at the General Anthropology Division (GAD) business meeting and distinguished lecture on Friday, November 16, 2012.

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Feminist Formations, 2013, 25(2), Jill Bystydzienski, Jennifer Suchland and Rebecca Wanzo
This special issue will take up the concept of “states of emergency” as an object of feminist analysis. We seek essays that will interrogate the ways in which a “state of emergency,” whether it be about economic scarcity, morality under siege, sexual violence or national security, is politically constructed and (re)produced through myriad technologies of power. How do political actors define a moment as a state of emergency in order to mobilize publics, re-define citizenship, or deploy political machinery? At the same time, we invite scholarship that names states of emergency made invisible by existing public discourse. In addition to essays that analyze the role and power of difference in framing narratives of emergency, we invite papers that question what can “count” as a state of emergency. For example, how can the racialized, sexualized and gendered exigencies of the everyday be seen as constitutive of affected “states”? How are so-called “natural disasters” of environmental calamity or contamination dependent on variable distinctions between “natural” and “unnatural”?

Sin género de dudas: mitos sobre los sexos
En una columna publicada en The Huffington Post, el antropólogo y el autor de “Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature” (Raza, monogamia, y otras mentiras que te han dicho: Derribando mitos acerca de la naturaleza humana”, en español), Agustín Fuentes, asegura que muchas creencias populares en torno a hombres y mujeres son falsas.
“Sí, las mujeres dan a luz y amamantan y los hombres no lo hacen. Y sí, los hombres son, en promedio, son ligeramente más grandes que las mujeres y por lo general tienen más fuerza. En la parte superior de su cuerpo también tienen diferencias básicas biológicas, pero ¿por qué siempre se centran en las diferencias biológicas y de comportamiento, y no en las similitudes?”, manifestó Fuentes.

Una antropóloga en la luna, 4 de julio de 2012

Greg Downey on Introducing Anthropology, Daniel Lende
I just came across the video of Greg providing an overview lecture of anthropology, which he delivered to an audience of Australian students interested in anthropology at Macquarie University. Greg will probably be pained at the low-tech video, which doesn’t include all his fabulous slides. On the other side, you get to see him talking all the time!

Neuroanthropology, 6 July 2012

Intro to Physical Anthropology: The Core Concepts, Rebecca Dean
I’m completely overhauling my intro to physical anthropology class. The result will be a class that covers fewer topics, but in greater depth. Which topics are so critical they should remain in the course, and which topics can be allowed to slide?

Old Bones, 6 July 2012

The Purpose of Anthropology II, Jeremy Trombley
Contact is only one of many possible ways that anthropologists can use their practices to build a better world. However, by focusing on the production of knowledge as we tend to do, we diminish our ability to see these potential avenues for making a difference. A large part of my goal as an anthropologist is to encourage us to look at the effects of all of our practices, and to make us attentive to the ways we might use those practices to better ends.

On “Activism”, Judy Auerbach
In the end, most of us engaged in the struggle against AIDS are, in one way or another, activists. Scientists are members of communities, too, and we carry our histories, identities, and personal connections to the epidemic no differently than so-called “community” activists. Our tactics and venues may be different, but we all share a goal of shaking things up in the arenas in which we engage, to enable change to occur that we believe will have the greatest impact on ending the epidemic and the social disparities (including within the organization of science) it makes visible.

Somatosphere, 3 July 2012

Update: About Those Recent Temperature Records, Rob Gargett
It’s said that records were made to be broken. Perhaps that’s true. Don’t be buoyed by the idea. Despite the near absence of unusually high numbers of June temperature records since the 1950s, what we’re seeing in these data is evidence of a steady [and inexorable] advance in the maximum daily temperatures in the US and its territories. In a world that was metastable climatologically, you’d expect data such as these to hover around zero–some years positive, some neutral (since you wouldn’t record lower temperatures if you’re tracking higher temps).
I see nothing hopeful in these data.
Thanks to Iain Davidson for forcing me to look more closely at the data on record-high temperatures. It’s much clearer to me now that we’re in real trouble. And, from the slope of the trend line, we’re nowhere near equilibrating the world’s climate. It’s gonna be really bad down the road.
As I said previously, wish us luck.

In Rousseau’s footsteps: David Graeber and the anthropology of unequal society, Keith Hart
Our world is still massively unequal and we may be entering a period of war and revolution comparable to the “Second Thirty Years War” of 1914-1945 which came after the last time that several decades of financial imperialism went bust. Capitalism itself sometimes seems today to have reverted to a norm of rent-seeking that resembles the arbitrary inequality of the Old Regime more than Victorian industry. The pursuit of economic democracy is more elusive than ever; yet humanity has also devised universal means of communication at last adequate to the expression of universal ideas. Jean-Jacques Rousseau would have leapt at the chance to make use of this opportunity and several illustrious successors did so in their own way during the last two centuries. We need an anthropology that rises to the challenge posed by our common human predicament today. No-one has done more to meet that challenge than David Graeber, in his work as a whole, but especially in this book.

The Memory Bank, 4 July 2012

Inconsistent values: some thoughts about money, Ryan Anderson
One question that always gets me thinking is this: what exactly upholds the value of money? State power? Trust? The symbolic meanings that people attach to money? Habit? A big global conspiracy? All of the above!?!

Savage Minds, 3 July 2012

Talking With Our Hands: The Significance of Gestures, Krystal D’Costa
Gestures mean something because we define them, so they reflect our nuances. This happens on all levels from the larger social order to the individual with personal motions that are a part of our personality. In this way, the smallest motion can have meaning as long as we agree on it.

J. Barnard Davis and the variation within races
Large samples destroy the typological description of races by showing that no character uniquely typifies any human race. The effect of large samples on the range is often the key evidence that populations share common biology.
Statistics is fundamental to population biology–so much so that population geneticists like R. A. Fisher and Sewall Wright invented many statistical concepts. Until they understand statistical concepts, people seem inevitably drawn toward essentialism. Essentialism in the history of biology led to typological concepts of species, race, characters, and developmental stages, all of which explained variation in terms of deviation from the ideal type. We now appreciate that populations transform according to statistical rules, not typological rules.

John Hawks Weblog, 2 July 2012

Anthropology coming back from the dead at FSU, Doug Blackburn
Reports of anthropology’s demise at FSU may be greatly exagerated. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s quip that Florida doesn’t need any more anthropology majors–the comment came as the governor was pushing science and technology degrees–FSU trustees are expected to approve reinstating the anthropology major at their next meeting in September, paving the way for it be back on the books in time for Spring 2013.

Tallahassee.com, 13 July 2012

University of Birmingham Closing Archaeology Department
The staff and students are fighting back.

We would like to bring to the archaeology communities attention the imminent closure of The Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham, an IfA Registered Organisation which encompasses archaeological research and teaching staff alongside project and grant funded staff under the headings of Birmingham Archaeology, VISTA and Birmingham Archaeo-environmental (BAE). Following a rapid (and staff believe flawed and prejudicial) review of the department it has been recommended that the IAA be dispended.

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