I was reading recently in Weiss’ book Learning From Strangers, and was struck by one simple passage. It stated that the goal of any research, ethnography included, was to answer a question - to provide some information that wasn’t previously known. I think ethnography is different.
Anthropologists have developed the habit of delivering the final ethnography to the group under study, and gathering their reactions as a sort of postscript. When I have done this, I have encountered a reaction that I think many ethnographers have: the study participants all say ‘Duh! We knew that!’
In the context of ethnography I consider this the mark of success, not of failure. Here’s why >> continue
Anthropologist P. Kerim Friedman, Temple University
Concerns over the ethnical dilemmas involved in producing knowledge about the “other” have, in the past few decades, radically changed how anthropologists conduct research and write ethnographies. Unfortunately, they have not changed how we publish.
While it is true that many anthropology journals never recoup their publication costs, the system of barriers which serve to protect their meager revenue comes at the expense of accessibility. These barriers make it all but impossible for those outside of well-endowed academic institutions to access that knowledge, undermining the lofty goals of producing a “shared anthropology.”
Anthropology lags behind other disciplines, especially the medical sciences, in adopting new models of financing and distributing peer-reviewed journals, known as “Open Access” which allow everyone to access journal articles freely online.
If anthropologists are serious about sharing knowledge, it is essential that we begin thinking not just about the nature of the knowledge we produce, but also how we publish and distribute that knowledge. Do we want our intellectual contributions to be hidden in dusty archives, or available to anyone who can Google? >> continue
He also wrote a text on Citations and why anthropologist should use wikis
SEE ALSO EARLIER ENTRIES
UPDATE (31.10.04): Comment by Alex Golub: He proposes - here an excerpt from his blog - "... to make the electronic text cannonical. Rather than produce the book first and then worry about getting it online, make the online article the definitive version of the text and then publish the book form wherever needed." >> continue
UPDATE: (1.11.04) See my special on Open Access Anthropology (multilingual)
The filmmaker and ethnographer Jean Rouch died in northern Niger on February 19, 2004. He was 86 years old. He left behind a legacy of over 120 films - the bulk of which were recorded in West Africa.
Rouch's work in Africa is characterized by what is referred to as "shared anthropology" and "ethno-fiction." Rouch's films illustrate a keen rethinking of the practice of both ethnography and filmmaking. Rouch's practices blur the distinctions between subject and observer, reality and fiction.
Rouch elaborated a style of filming through which he not only recorded events, but also participated in their creation. According to Rouch, the relationship between the filmmaker and his subject reaches its creative zenith when the filmmaker "can really get into the subject"- when he slips into what Rouch called a ciné-trance. >> continue
- The landmark court case against Botswana's government by evicted communities of the San people is to recommence next week. The case was adjourned in July. The San communities are fighting for their right to return to their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
While authorities in Gaborone quote the need to protect the environment and to develop the San people, activists claim that the real reason behind the eviction is the reserve's potential for diamond mining and safari tourism. During the July hearings, the court was told by anthropologist George Silberbauer that the San indeed were the indigenous inhabitants of the extensive Central Kalahari Game Reserve >> continue
Alex Golub, who recently interviewed Marshall Sahlins on the future of academic publishing on the internet for Creative Commons (see here) , discusses alternative licencing on his own blog:
"I’m firmly convinced that alternative licensing and electronic distribution of texts is the future of academic publishing, and I’m truly gratified to see Prickly Paradigm and Creative Commons are working together to move us into a world where academic ideals of the free flow of information are reflected not just in the practice of research and debate, but in the realities of publishing and distribution."
You can even download his essay "Copyright and taboo" and all the other articles in Anthropology Quarterly's issue on "Culture's Open Sources". >> continue
Myra Appel and Brita Servaes, Anthropology News (AAA)
Recently libraries have begun to assume another role, that of publisher, and to provide new opportunities for scholars to disseminate their research freely, inexpensively and fairly.
In response to the growing crisis of unsustainable access to scholarly content, the California Digital Library (CDL) developed the eScholarship Repository that offers free access and permanent electronic archiving for working papers and peer-reviewed articles alike. Other institutions, such as Cornell University or Indiana University with its Digital Library of the Commons, have developed similar venues.
Anthropologists have the opportunity to take part in shaping a new culture of sustainable access to scholarly information. In fact, anthropologists with their cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary interests are especially well-poised to take a significant role in charting the directions for change in the systems of scholarly communication. >> continue
Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Anthropology News, AAA
What is an anthropologist-expert to do in this highly charged international political situation where an anthropologist’s understanding of realities conflicts with the major media and political analysis of events?
A Darfur Task Force was initiated by UCLA anthropologist Sondra Hale at this year’s Sudan Studies Association annual meeting. This task force has drafted resolutions calling for consideration of the complexities and advocating an African solution lead by the African Union. >> continue
I have come back around finally to the reason I came to School of Information Management Systems in the first place: a belief that the tools and perspectives of anthropology are useful and needed.
In the face of all the new technologies and applications today it’s easy to forget that behavior drives technology. If culture drives behavior, at least to some degree, then it ought to be essential, not only to the way we understand the uses and contexts of technology, but to its design.
It’s not useful to take for granted that there is something fundamentally new about the informational, technical world in which we live. I have a sneaking suspicion that a great deal more is the same than is different. Culture is too important - too pervasive and immutable - to respond on a whim to the development of new technologies, even if they fundamentally change the way we live. >> continue