“Beyond postsocialism? Creativity, moral resistance and change in the corners of Eurasia” is the title of the new issue of Durham Anthropology Journal.
The authors want to give us alternative views on so called postsocialist societies.
Postsocialist studies, David Henig explains in his editorial, have been dominated by Western perspectives (the East as the “Other") and also by discourses of capitalist “triumphalism” (from socialism or dictatorship to liberal democracy, from plan to market economy).
The reality is different. Anthropologists have found important continuities between socialist and post-socialist eras.
Míriam Torrens has been on fieldwork in rural Romania. Instead of postsocialism or new capitalism", she writes, “what we find in these communities is the prevailing picture of a traditional peasanthood with some ‘innovations’":
(B)oth socialist and liberal economists (…) have failed in taking into account the strength – and the reasons for this strength – of social institutions such as the family and the community, their customary law and the broad impact of communal and cooperative action.
Durham Anthropology Journal is an open access journal
For some reason this journal has hardly been mentioned on anthropology blogs. But Anthropology Notebooks is actually one of the few serious traditional anthropology journals with free access to all articles for everybody (from 2005). And it is an expanding journal: While promising recent open access initiatives like After Culture have shut down, Anthropology Notebooks has started publishing three issues instead of one issue per year.
The journal has an international editorial board, it is peer reviewed, and it is abstracted and indexed in international bibliographic databases. All articles are in English.
The most recent issue was published a few weeks ago and is about Contributions to Anthropology of Tourism. Example: Emilio Cocco: Performing Maritime Imperial Legacies: Tourism and Cosmopolitanism in Odessa and Trieste
A quick look revealed a wide rage of topics and locations, we find articles like:
Five years ago people from all over the world protested against the “African Village” in the zoo in Augsburg, Germany. Now, a new campaign is being planned against “The African Forest“, a $50 million project in the Houston Zoo, where “African culture” is on display together with chimpanzees and giraffes.
The 6.5-acre exhibit is designed “to give patrons the illusion they are strolling through an open landscape populated with chimpanzees, giraffes and other equatorial animals". “Through presentations and artifacts, human cultures of the equatorial forests will be included in the exhibit” , landscape architect Jim Brighton told the Houston Chronicle. “Houses fashioned from tree leaves — a form of temporary housing — will be constructed for children’s activities.".
“This is indeed like the African village in Augsburg - except this is a project that costs tens of millions of dollars and will be permanent - and some of the same anthropologists who protested that human zoo are onboard to protest this one such as Nina Glick Schiller and Data Dea", explains Shannon Joyce Prince, Dartmouth Lombard Fellow and citizen of Houston, in an email to me.
The Zoo is according to Prince “only showing aspects of Africa that fit Western stereotypes of cultural anachronism and primitivism. It “falls neatly into the contemptible tradition of its human zoo predecessors, replicating a non-white village, a place where non-white humans live, in a zoo among the habitats where animals live".
“The African Forest is about exhibiting and teaching inaccurate Western conceptions of African indigenous cultures in a place designed to exhibit and teach about animals. The African Forest is also about making and keeping African indigenous peoples conservation refugees. The African Forest and the practices it promotes are neither about respecting Africans nor protecting animals. They’re about claiming authority over African land, wildlife, and human lives", Shannon Joyce Prince writes in a paper.
In the Zoo’s view, Africans are in conflict with wildlife, she writes. Therefore, African Forest plans to promote ecotourism as a way to “help” Africans and African wildlife. But the consequences of such conservation activities are often devasting specifically for central Africans and pygmies. For in Africa it’s common for conservationists to create refuges to conserve wildlife by simply kicking Africans out. The Zoo is funded by corporations like Exxon, Chevron, Shell that have are involved in this business:
Basically, among the corporations that fund the Houston Zoo are some of the most human and wildlife rights abusing corporations in existence. These same businesses try to clean up their images by creating wildlife refuges – but they create those refuges by forcing indigenous people off their land. Then the Zoo, which receives funding from those corporations, claims that the indigenous people who are getting kicked off their land are the ones who harm wildlife and promotes conservation and conservation refuges.
Shannon Joyce Prince sent a letter to the Houston Zoo several weeks ago which has not received a response.
She asks for “opposing The African Forest, human zoos, and the creation/perpetuation of the conservation refugee crisis in one or more of the following ways":
1. Tell the Houston Zoo you are against The African Forest human zoo and the creation of conservation refugees as well as the continuation of the conservation refugee crisis by contacting the Houston Zoo here: http://houstonzoo.com/contact/. Tell the Houston Zoo that you will boycott zoos that host human zoos and/or make/keep Africans conservation refugees. Please mention your affiliations. Be sure to send a copy of your message to nohumanzoo (AT) yahoo.com so that we have a record of your letter in case the Zoo doesn‚t respond and to prevent the Zoo from deciding to claim that no one is protesting.
2. Send your name and affiliation to nohumanzoo (AT) yahoo.com if you want to be put on a petition stating, „We, the undersigned, do not support The African Forest human zoo, the creation of conservation refugees, or the continuation of the conservation refugee crisis.”
3. Raise awareness about The African Forest through your blog and encourage others to write the Zoo and sign the petition.
Please be aware that, naturally, the letter you send or your signature on the petition may be made public.
“The racialization processes facilitated by the Augsburg zoo and other zoos are not benign because they can lay the ground work for discrimination, barriers to social mobility, persecution, and repression", anthropologists Nina Glick Schiller, Data Dea and Markus Höhne wrote in their report African African Culture and the Zoo in the 21st Century: The “African Village” in the Augsburg Zoo and Its Wider Implications (pdf)
Such “ethnological exhibitions” or “Völkerschauen” have a long history, linked to colonialism. For more than half a century - from the beginning of the 1870s to the end of the 1930s - the exposition of so-called exotic peoples in zoological gardens** and international expositions attracted a huge public.
UPDATE: Interesting debate and round-up at ZooChat: Cultural Zoo Exhibits = Racist? » Houston Zoo
Public anthropology does exist. There are lots of anthropologists who write for the wider public and not only for other anthronerds. Here’s another example: The Polynesian Tattoo Today by Tricia Allen, doctoral candidate in anthropology at the university of Hawai’i.
In an interview with Honolulu’s Star Bulletin, she explains:
“The first book did well; it is now in its third printing. Its primary readership was those with a specific interest in Hawai’i and history. The new book will reach a larger audience, as it is far more general – covering all of Polynesia – and is primarily photographs. Anyone can enjoy looking at beautiful photos of artful bodies!”
The book was not launched in a traditional academic way with a seminar. The publishers hosted a “Tattoo Contest". Tricia Allen and several Polynesian tattoo artists were “on hand to autograph books – or your arm".
Allen is by the way not only anthropologist but tattoo artist herself and has tattooed over 8000 members of the Polynesian community. She completed her Master’s thesis at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 1992 on the early practice of tattooing in the Marquesas Islands. For her doctoral thesis, she is researching the revival of the arts in the Pacific. “In the last few years a pan-Polynesian style has gotten incredibly popular", she says.
“Many tattoos featured in the book are a mixture of styles… Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan. Polynesian tattoos are increasing in popularity and many traditional designs have been revived", writes M.L. Sanico i his review in the Hawaii Book Blog:
What I especially liked about the book is seeing the diversity of people who have these tattoos, and who are tattoo artists themselves. Each photo has a short caption with the person or tattooists name, where they’re from and a little bit about the tattoo or what it means to them.
In an earlier interview, Tricia Allen tells us more about the revival of Polynesian tattoos:
There is a revival of all of the ancient arts: tattooing, tapa making, weaving, carving, dance, chanting and firewalking. There is a whole resurgence of Polynesian culture, and tattooing is just a part of that. In my mind it is one of the most significant parts of the revival because it’s such a permanent statement: “I’m Polynesian.” And to some degree in many cases it is a political statement, or a statement of allegiance to the traditional culture.
Also check her own website with more tattoo infos and pictures.
The recent example of public anthropology was my blog post Anthropologist uncovers how global elites undermine democracy and one of the most read posts ever.
The first issue of the Popular Anthropology Magazine is out. It was meant to bridge the gap between academia and the public and between anthropologists and continents. Cool, we needed that. But the result is - in my opinion - disappointing. For it was made with outdated paper journals as ideal. The editors were thinking paper, not web. They do provide a downloadable version on their website but the flash animated paper-look-like version is a pain to navigate and read (the automatic scrolling is very irritating).
I finally tried to download the whole journal. It took ages and Firefox was about to crash. When the file finally was saved, it turned out to be 151 MB heavy. The pdf consisted of image files! Which means it is partly hard to read and you cannot copy and paste its content, and the links are not clickable. Fail! Can’t anthropologists do better? The articles deserve better. The table of contents looks promising, especially the sections on social science around the world.
Bad News. Photo: Stitch, flickr
The time is right for more anthropologists to engage with news media - with their creation, reception and content, writes S Elizabeth Bird in the recent issue of Anthropology News that was published today.
Anthropological engagement with media was long rare and discouraged - and in some quarters still is, Bird criticizes. The main focus has in her view been on topics like the role of television in family life, or the maintenance of diaspora connections through digital media but not on news production or reception.
This neglect is according to her important because “news is the one popular genre that claims to describe reality for the public". Most of what people know about the world is mediated in one way or another:
Throughout the world, people argue, fight and die for stories in which they believe. So it is important to dissect and interpret them: the use of language, the choice of words, the images, the entire frame of the news coverage.
She suggests following research questions:
High profile issues like war, she continues, illustrate these questions dramatically:
We all know, for instance, that the story of the Iraq war is deeply contested. If we have a lot of time, we can scour the Internet, sift through multiple accounts, and reach a conclusion. Most people have neither the time nor the resources to do that; they have little choice but to attend to the stories that predominate.
If we understand better how journalism works, she concludes, not only will we better understand our mediated global cultures, but we will also become more adept at working with journalists to tell anthropology’s stories more effectively.
I have to admit I’m a bit surprised about her analysis. Is the study of news really so much neglected? But that’s maybe because I tend to read more anthropology blogs than journals? It’s in blogs this kind of media anthropology is happening?
There are six more articles on anthropology and journalism online, among others Reviewing Books in Popular Media Anthropologists as Authors and Critics by Barbara J King.
“Merging book reviewing with journalism", she writes, “opens up a space in which we may fling our fierce book-engagement out into the wider world, and see what comes back to us:
When reviewing, the single greatest joy for me is the oppor- tunity to showcase our colleagues’ brilliance. I look for books that bring alive people’s patterns of meaning-making as they flourish and struggle in their daily lives, books that make us see with new eyes behaviors familiar and strange to our own society or at times even to our own species.
There have been many debates on the similarities of anthropology and journalism in the blogosphere, both here on antropologi.info and on Savage Minds (see Why is there no Anthropology Journalism? and Anthropology Journalism HOWTO)
In Divergent Temporalities. On the Division of Labor between Journalism and Anthropology, Dominic Boyer shares some interesting observations about the borders between anthropology and journalism that seem to overlap more and more.
The contemporary market and labor conditions pressure anthropologists to adopt faster modes of research and writing than ever before:
Even doctoral candidates report feeling enormous pressure to publish their research findings well in advance of receiving their PhDs. Not unlike the desk journalists of old, we find ourselves increasingly concerned with “getting the story” (Peterson in Anthropological Quarterly 74), that is, with chasing the next publication opportunity to keep up with market expectations and the demands of institutional audit cultures.
A good example of an anthropology of news can be found in the february issue of Anthropology Today (free access!!). In Heart of darkness reinvented? A tale of ex-soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sindre Bangstad and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen analyze Norwegian media’s representation of Congo.
Janine Wedel has done something that far too few anthropolologists do: She studied powerful people. Those who rule the world.
In her book “Shadow Elite“, she shows how a new system of power and influence has taken hold globally, one that undermines democracy, government, and the free market.
Why went America to war against Iraq? More and more “government work” is performed by “shadow elites": consulting firms, companies, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks etc, rather small circles of powerful people (she calls them “flexians") who use their interlocking relationships to control public policy without public input. “Flexians” work often for private interests, academia and government at the same time.
The flexians form “Flex nets". They cannot be reduced to lobbyists or interest groups. They are according to a review in the Financial Times defined by four features:
1) personalizing bureaucracy, or using personal connections and loyalties to realize goals;
2) privatizing information while branding conviction, or branding the information available only to insiders in this game;
3) juggling roles and representations, or changing spots frequently, wearing the pelt of military leader one day, analyst the next, and concerned citizen the next;
4) relaxing rules at the interstices of official and private institutions, or adjusting accountability and rules that apply to one or more of their pelts from the safety of a seemingly non-aligned position.
One of those flexians is the retired US general Barry McCaffrey, who has been simultaneously a commentator for the media, a consultant to the defence industry and professor. According to a 2008 exposé in the New York Times, he was one of several former military men who helped to shape public opinion on the Iraq war, while simultaneously having undisclosed ties to the Pentagon.
Wedel’s book has received quite a lot of media attention since it was released earlier this year. It was book of the month at Huffington Post (where she has started writing a weekly column) and was also reviewed in mainstream media. She was interviewed both by BBC, Russia Today, MSNBC and Al Jazeera.
It would be interesting to know how she studied the “shadow elites". Has she been on fieldwork? I haven’t read all her texts. But in her newest article in Huffington Post, she explains how she came to understand the game: through her experience studying the mechanisms of power and influence in post-Cold War eastern Europe for about 30 years:
(E)xamining eastern Europe up close–through its transformations away from communism over the last quarter century–has been excellent preparation for making sense of how a small group of power brokers helped engineer the invasion of Iraq, and more broadly, how a new system of power and influence has taken hold globally, one that, as I write in my book Shadow Elite, undermines democracy, government, and the free market.
In communist Poland, the necessity of getting around the state-controlled system created a society whose lifeblood–just beneath the surface–was vital information, circulated only among friends and trusted colleagues, information that was not publicly available. Under-the-radar dealings that often played on the margins of legality - this was the norm, not the exception.
I began to recognize a familiar (to me) architecture of power and influence. I started to follow the networks and overlapping connections in government, foundations, think tanks, and business of a tiny set of neoconservatives - just a dozen or so players I call the “Neocon core".
The playbook of the Neocon core seemed to come straight from that of the top players of transitional eastern Europe. In both cases, players who already knew each other set up a host of organizations–organizations that seemed more like an extended family franchise than think tank, populated by the same set of individuals. (…) And despite a new administration in Washington, not to mention the damage done to their credibility since the Iraq invasion, the Neocon core lives on, because networks like it are self-propelling, multipurpose, and enduring.
And she adds that as a social anthropologist, her “focus is not on whether the U.S. should have invaded Iraq, but rather how that decision was made, who made it, and what mechanisms of power and influence were used to make it".
And in Anthropology News february 2010 (pdf) she explains why we need an “ethnographic focus” on power:
I have concluded that an ethnographic focus is indispensable to sorting out power and influence amid transforming federal governance in the United States, not only under change-of-system conditions such as those found in transitional eastern Europe.
The ethnographic sensibility that enabled scholars of communist and post-communist societies to deal with the complexity, ambiguity and messiness of political and policy processes is ideally suited to examine the interactions between public policy and private interests and the mixing of state, nongovernmental, and business forms that are increasingly preva- lent in the United States and around the world.
By focusing on players and their networks as drivers of governing and policy decisions, these ethnographers have laid the groundwork for badly needed critiques of social science categories such as “state” versus “private,” “top-down versus bottom-up,” and “centralized” versus “decentralized.” They have provided a basis for reexamining conventional models that guide so much thinking about politics, policy and power, and yet obfuscate, rather than illuminate, the real system of power and influence.
Her work is a good example of public anthropology. Her website is really impressive. There you find a great amount of her publications, both newspaper articles and papers (even back to pre-internet and pre-computer times), a collection of book reviews, TV and radio interviews, interviews related to Shadow elites etc
It is popular to lament about the lack of public anthropology, but anthropologists have been highly visible in matters regarding global financial and power issues, see earlier posts Anthropologist Explores Wall Street Culture, Financial crisis: Anthropologists lead mass demonstration against G20 summit and Used anthropology to predict the financial crisis.
Studies on elites are still not as common as studies on marginalized people, though. This is not only true for anthropology. I have to think of a series of great programs at BBC Thinking aloud about white collar crime - a rather neglected topic among sociologists and criminologists as well.
My post Pecha Kucha - the future of presenting papers? received much attention and inspired others to arrange such sessions where papers are not read but presented through 20 images displayed for 20 seconds each. But I’m no longer sure if I would recommend Pecha Kucha after having received this email a few days ago:
To Lorenz Khazaleh,
This is Jean from PechaKucha HQ here in Tokyo. It has come to our attention that you recently organized a PechaKucha event without our consent.
The PechaKucha name, logo, and format are all trademarked concepts, and as we clearly indicate on our site, we ask that anyone who is interested in running a PK event get in touch, as we have a review and agreement process that we go through.
We do support one-off events as well, but again, they are all officially sanction.
We hope to hear back from you very shortly to prevent this from happening again.
founded by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in Tokyo
I first couldn’t believe what I read. A review and agreement process? Trademarking an idea? Is there a dubious commercial corporation behind Pecha Kucha? (And apart from that - I did not arrange a PK session, but only interviewed two participants.)
As I learnt on their website, you will need to go through a lot of bureaucracy, especially if you intend to arrange Pecha Kucha Nights. You’ll have to meet a lot of requirements and be prepared for providing lots of details about yourself and your team.
As we are now inundated with similar requests from across the world, we would love to know more about you!!! - your design background, design connections, events experience, ideas about venues, designers you would approach to present their work etc….Once we receive [your background/plans] we can review everything and get back in touch! KDa own the Registered Trademark for Pecha Kucha Night, 20 x 20 in the UK, Europe and US and if we decide to proceed we can provide you with the logos, templates and formats and our standard handshake agreement in order for you to get started!
As the Pecha Kuchs trademark owners explain on their website, they “sometimes say yes and sometimes say no - so be prepared for both answers". And normally it takes them “a month or so” to grant PKN “handshake” agreements.
Nevertheless, the Pecha Kucha format is great. So the best thing might be to call it something different, like speed presentations or so, a term that Greg Downey introduced last year at Neuroanthropology.net, create your own logos etc Good luck!
See also Greg Downey’s brilliant round-up Thoughts on Conference Organizing
UPDATE First reaction on this post: Marc Oehlert: Pech* Kuch* (evidently Japanese for “full of yourself"). He analyses and comments the Pecha Kucha website more thouroughly than I did and has already received lots of comments! Great post!