Lots of interesting stuff going on for this anthropology blog update. The featured book is Race: Are We So Different, complementing other blog-posts on race and anthropology. Interesting entries on healthcare, reproductive technologies, anthropology and the internet, youth movements, linguistic anthropology of supersigns, and more.
Anthropologists to study humanity’s biggest crises, Lorenz Khazaleh
A new research project looks at how some of our world’s most serious crises are interconnected and what can be done about them. “It is about time that anthropology begins to address the large issues confronting humanity”, says Thomas Hylland Eriksen. Eriksen is Principal Investigator for Overheating: An anthropological history of the early 21st century or The Three Crises of Globalisation. The EU-funded research program at the Institute for Social Anthropology (SAI) at the University of Oslo has just started up.
Diamonds and Clubs, Jonathan Marks
Anthropology holds a special place among anti-intellectuals, because it has been from its very inception, “a reformer’s science”. That is the concluding thought of effectively the first book on the subject, E. B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture. Nevertheless, a century or so later, the segregationists had developed a unique anti-intellectual slander against anthropology, which they inherited in some measure from the eugenicists decades earlier.
Archaeology and African Descendant Communities, Blair Starnes
The archaeology of African American communities is a pretty popular topic especially as the field of historic archaeology expands into the lives and histories of people frequently left out of American narratives. Very little historic work can be done in the U.S. without encountering issues such as race, gender, and class and we can see this through recent topics in archaeology as a whole. The professional landscape of African American or African Diaspora archaeology is an exciting place that contributes to a deeper more textual understanding of the lives and contributions of African descendant communities throughout the world.
New Book Synthesizes and Reorients Ideas About Race, American Anthropological Association
In the new book, Race: Are We So Different, authors Alan H. Goodman, Yolanda T. Moses and Joseph L. Jones explore how the central idea of race has been challenged and changed throughout history. The book mirrors the nationally recognized public education project and museum exhibition of the same name by the American Anthropological Association (AAA). RACE: Are We So Different? casts a critical eye on race and racism in the United States through the lenses of history, science and lived experience. The book explains how human variation differs from the idea of race and conveys three central messages: 1) Race is a recent human invention, 2) Race is about culture, not biology, and 3) Race and racism are embedded in institutions and everyday life.
How racist is American anthropology?
Why does anthropology tend to focus on “exotic others”? Why this obsession with Africa? How come calls by well-known anthropologists such as Paul Rabinow to “anthropologize the West“ seemed to have not brought forth much fruit? How racist is American anthropology? Kenyan anthropologist Mwenda Ntarangwi discusses those and other questions in his new book Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology. Yes, Ntarangwi has conducted an anthropological study of American anthropology! An important undertaking. He has studied textbooks, ethnographies, coursework, professional meetings, and feedback from colleagues and mentors. He “reverses the gaze”, he stresses: Whereas Western anthropologists often study non-Western cultures, he studies “the Western culture of anthropology”.
When humanity trumps race: Changing relationships in fieldwork, Erin B. Taylor
I was forced to rethink my identity in this new context so that I could explain to people why I was not really who they thought I was: not American, not rich, not even middle class. I grappled with cultural relativism as I attempted to build a model that incorporated my experiences at home with my new situation. Was I wealthy as Dominicans assumed? No–but yes, in this context. Was I gente que tienen la manera [a person with means]? After all, I could leave the Dominican Republic at any time, I had an Australian and a British passport, and I certainly had mobility. Was I privileged? I didn’t really feel at home in this role. My whiteness would certainly open doors, but my different dress, my lack of a business card, and other social mores might work against me. I was unsure how to balance my relationships with other people, based upon an honest presentation of myself, with research in which I might well benefit from being perceived as privileged.
Assisted reproductive technologies: reviewing recent perspectives and addressing research gaps in medical anthropology, Jessica Grebeldinger
The review that follows presents a survey of some of the most recent anthropological literature on reproductive technologies, focusing on those published in the last 5 years (2007 and forward). The review demonstrates the breadth of this field of research, which has produced important insights on such topics as infertility experiences, the commodification of reproductive bodies, the phenomenon of international reproductive travel, new kinship configurations, among others. However, the review reveals that this research area has also suffered from a narrowed field of focus resulting from certain gaps in the literature along racial, socioeconomic, geographic, and gender lines. These imbalances problematize our ability to document the varied uses and impacts of reproductive technologies at global and local levels. I discuss this problem after the review section and underscore some recent studies that point the way toward a more inclusive and complete field of reproduction-focused medical anthropology.
Can Health Care be a Human Right?, Douglas Reeser
Given this situation, policy change in favor of human rights–especially for poor people and immigrants–remains a difficult if not impossible challenge to achieve. In short, health care as a human right is not a widely supported concept, and thus finds little integration into state policy. Universal access to health care is not likely to occur until the public discourse on the subject changes. This discourse likely needs to revolve around issues of deservingness and citizenship, and the polarizing rhetoric that maintains such divisions in the popular mind must be discounted as the neo-racist, classist arguments they are.
The mainstreaming of nerd politics and other social movement trends, John Postill
What do you see as the most effective way of mobilizing young people today? Is media an integral or even necessary part?
That’s a tough question. First, it depends in part on how you define ‘young people’, i.e. in Spain a 35-year old person is often described as being young, while in England they’ll be lucky if they’re not called middle-aged! I would say that whatever the age group, mobilisation is most likely and effective if it’s organised around a galvanising issue that affects that target group directly. To use another Spanish example (I did fieldwork in Spain in 2010-2011), in February 2012 students from the secondary school Instituto Lluís Vives in Valencia led protests against government cuts in education. These were repressed with characteristic brutality by the local police, which in turn helped to mobilise not only other high school students but the wider population. Meanwhile in Chile, mobilisations started among high school students for very much the same reasons, and later moved up to university students (in Spain it was the other way around, it was university students who mobilised first).
On Legitimacy, Place and the Anthropology of the Internet, Sarah Kendzior
Today anthropology is facing a crisis of place, representation, and legitimacy similar to what journalism experienced a decade ago. Like journalists at the turn of the millennium, anthropologists have dealt with the challenges posed by the internet by ignoring them, downplaying the importance of the medium, and discounting its impact on the lives of the people they study. Despite the importance of the internet to people all over the world, there are few ethnographic studies of internet use conducted by anthropologists, and the anthropologists who do conduct this kind of research are marginalized and dismissed.
Supersigns, Susan D. Blum
I have been thinking a lot lately about money and grades. Not for the reasons you may think: that I want more and better of both (or to “give” tough grades). But because they share interesting qualities. My thinking is analytical rather than greedy. Money and grades, I propose, are both supersigns.
Leisure Class as anthropology class, Christopher Kelty
I don’t ever teach an Intro to Anthropology, a fact for which I wake each day thankful and perform several ritual ablutions and say long meandering prayers to as many culturally specific deities as I can remember. But if I did, I would start with Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. In fact, I might even make it the only text for my awesome four-field anthropology class. . . . The book is anything and everything but economics. In fact, the book is a weird and wonderful combination of anthropology, economics, psychology, sociology and speculative phenomenology. One of the reasons people might not grok the fundamental wackiness of this book is that it, like most of Veblen’s work, contains 0 (zero) citations or references, despite being built on a kind of elaborate scaffold of everything the late 19th century had to offer.
Islam: The Chinese Connection, Anouar Majid
The author’s intent in his magisterial sweep of history, Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World, is to restore Muslims to their proper place in the making of civilization. For without the use of paper, Europeans would have been unable to do much. But what this reading also confirms to me is that without paper, Islam would not have been what it is today. That’s because everything we know about Islam and its Prophet from Muslim sources date more or less to this Abbasid period. We have almost no independent means of corroborating the Sunna. Bloom himself hints at this when he says: “The eventual success of the text-focused Sunni society that evolved under the patronage of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad in the ninth century has encouraged scholars to paint a monolithic picture of early Islam at variance with the evidence gleaned from other sources.” The few non-Muslim literary sources that are available do suggest a different picture of the rise of Islam.
Early urbanization in Europe north of the Alps, Michael E. Smith
The old view of Iron Age Europe was that this was the setting for warlike barbarians who constantly fought one another until the Romans brought peace, civilization, and cities to the area. This view was based more on Classical authors than on archaeology. Julius Ceasar conquered many of these “barbarian” groups when he conquered Gaul in the 50s BC, and he described the larger settlements as “Oppida,” meaning a large fortified settlement. Over the past century archaeologists excavated many Oppida sites, and many of these have urban functions that justify their classification as urban settlements.
AAA Panel CFP! Eating in the City: Foodways, Publics, and Urban Transformation
Eating has become a provocative and political element of urban contestation. Through food, publics are effectively (re)defined and urban futures popularly (re)imagined. As cities transform, the ways that people eat and procure food also change, along with the sociocultural meanings of food itself. This panel will explore the relationships between these contemporary urban processes and changing food habits. These shifting patterns of consumption and production can be linked to a variety of intertwined processes at global and urban scales — from cycles of de-industrialization and gentrification in the global north to the rapidly urbanizing megacities of the developing world. Food studies scholars have noted the impact of such urban transformations on diets, from the (post)Fordist homogenization of industrially produced food to the highly differentiated food landscapes of today’s gentrified cities.
A Darwin Day Dose of Inspiration, Patrick F. Clarkin
At the end of On the Origin of Species, Darwin wrote what is one of the most cited passages in science:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
It is a wonderful world, and Darwin’s ideas help make nature’s diversity comprehensible to us. Like many others, I definitely have found inspiration in his ideas, which I’ve tried to put into words in various posts on this site. Happy Darwin Day, everyone.