Thank you to Mella Baker for reminding us that not all anthropologist heroes are white and male. Welcome to anthropology! I haven’t looked at the demographics of our field recently, but I assume we still have a ways to go before the American profession better reflects the general population.
American Presidential Politics
Our last post looked at possible anthropological explanations for the popularity of Donald J. Trump, Republican presidential nominee. Reader Carie Little Hersh, Northeastern U., points us to an article by Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford U., reflecting on how Mary Douglas would explain Trump’s rule-breaking as a source of power, not disqualification.
My Twitter feed brought me to anthropologist/journalist Sarah Krendzior‘s articles on how Trump’s campaign has already changed America and what happens if Trump loses, versus the more popular—until now—“what happens if he wins?”
And the NAPA Facebook page reposts a 2015 article suggesting that French philosopher Roland Barthes (known to many cultural anthropologists) would explain Trump’s appeal as similar to the appeal of professional wrestling, while the rest of the political establishment is boxing around the ring.
What else do you see out there? And, are there any “anthropological” approaches to election year activity among progressives (#FeeltheBern) or centrists (#ImWithHer)?
“Popular Anthropology” a thing? As we noted in our last post, CNN continues a series on “political anthropology,” but without any anthropologists. This is not meant, however, to disparage the writing of Popular Anthropology Magazine or the online community PopAnth.com. Rather, I’m drawn to how popularizing our discipline inevitably opens us up to a version of anthropology that is closer to “popular psychology” than the academic version. Are we ready for this trade-off?
On a related note, fiction author Tessa Handley comments on the boundary between ethnographic writing and fiction from her side of the fence, “…where writing is a bit like anthropology, I suppose—using all the cultural layering of detail and nuance and perception to construct a world of significance.”
Olympic medals, Sport, and Identity
Yes, anthropologists will write about current events to catch the media wave, just like anyone else! This summer Anthropology News features stories on “sport,” from soccer as ethnography to cricket narratives, doping in sport, and being a Kenyan athlete in Japan. Sapiens.org posts the first of a five-part series on culture and context of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic games.
Gregory Mitchell, Williams College addresses fighting sex-trafficing at large sporting events, such as World Cup and Olympics. The Tehran Times publishes a brief interview with William Beeman, State U. of Minnesota, on sport as nationalist competition.
Tools of the Trade
Times Higher Education reports on D-PLACE (Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment), a new public access database covering 1400 societies. One caveat, the database is composed of field observations prior to 1950.
U. of Cambridge Social Anthropology Ph.D. candidates Cornna Howland (working in Peru) and Christina Woolner (working in Somaliland) advocate for better protection for fieldworkers in risky environments.
Breadth of the Field
- Cultural anthropologists study climate change.
- Theodore Bestor, Harvard U., is a informant and inspiration for a new documentary film “Tsukiji Wonderland” about a famous Japanese fish market, which Bestor studied and wrote about.
- Initial observations from fieldworker & Ph.D. candidate Alex Taylor, U. of Cambridge, “28 ½ things of anthropological interest about the data center industry.”
- In The Chronicle of Higher Education a discussion of the research controversy about the frequency of police shootings involving blacks vs. involving whites in America relies on research by graduate student Cody T. Ross, U. of California, Davis. Ross uses county-level data to understand the social context of police violence.
- Anthropologists study nationalist movements … in Scotland.
- A cultural anthropologist writes about the National Park Service‘s 100th anniversary and their role pereserving history and culture, not just ecosystems and wildlife.
- Characterized as research on “human kindness” in the media, data on how humans reach across group boundaries resonates with research & development professionals and journalists reflecting on a summer of terrorist attacks and online trolling.
- If it is in the textbook, it is true: fire had positive effects on human evolution (increasing caloric intake and social interaction). Are there any negative effects of fire on human evolution?
- The pubic also learns about our discipline at museums such as Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology, featured in an article for tourists heading to Mexico City.
Of Interest to Anthropologists
An interview with ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna about how, in his view, “Ayahuasca is changing global environmental consciousness”.
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