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Where shamans understand colonialism as sickness

“I am here to save the people, to cure the people. In the city they are all sick, they are all domesticated. The shaman has to go together with disease.”

Anthropologist Anders Burman talks to Don Carlos, an Aymara shaman in Bolivia. According to Don Carlos, people are ill from Colonialism and in need of a cure.

“In contemporary Bolivia, the concept Colonialism is used so frequently, and with such distinct connotations by such a diverse set of actors that it demands scrutiny", the Swedish anthropologist writes in his paper Colonialism in Context An Aymara Reassessment of ‘Colonialism’, ‘Coloniality’ and the ‘Postcolonial World’ (pdf) that was published in the recent issue of KULT on postkolonial.dk.

Colonialism is according to Burman on the one hand considered a sickness and on the other hand the source of sickness. Most notions of illness held by Aymara shamans find their equivalents in notions of Colonialism.

As illness, as lived experience and as collective memory, Colonialism is still present in the Andes. To the indigenous peoples in Latin America it is a question of continuous Colonialism; the colonialists have not left. Although the Spanish colonial administration no longer holds power over their former indigenous subjects, Aymara people of the 21st century are subalternized and impoverished in a global system that still has colonial traits according to Burman.

Evo Morales’ victory at the polls in December 2005 did not change that, the researcher writes. There is an imminent risk of the new regime being “infected".

>> read the whole paper

Burman has written a dissertation about this topic.

KULT is a postcolonial special issue series. It began in 2004 as the result of a desire to connect a series of discussion fields about postcolonial Denmark. The recent issue on Contemporary Latin American epistemologies has grown out of a network of Latin Americanists in Scandinavia and the Americas.

In one of the other papers in this issue, Madina Tlostanova and Walter Mignolo introduce what they call decolonial thinking, an approach that - they claim - differs from what postcolonial studies have been doing so far:

As a corridor between the academy and the Political Society, decolonial thinking is transdisciplinary (not inter-disciplinary), in the sense of going beyond the existing disciplines, of rejecting the “disciplinary decadence” (Gordon 2006) and aiming at un-disciplining knowledge (Walsh et. al 2002).

Decolonial thinking, in the academy, assumes the same or similar problems articulated in and by the “Political Society.” Knowledge is necessary to act in the political society. But this knowledge is no longer or necessarily produced in the academy. Living experiences generate knowledge to solve problems presented in everyday living. And this knowledge is generated in the process of transformation enacted in the “Political Society.”

Hence, decolonial thinking in the academy has a double role: a) to contribute to de-colonize knowledge and being, which means asking who is producing knowledge, why, when and what for; b) to join processes in the “Political Society” that are confronting and addressing similar issues in distinct spheres of society.

>> read the whole paper: Global Coloniality and the Decolonial Option


Why was anthropologist and indigenous rights activist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila beaten to death?

Rethinking Nordic Colonialism - Website Sheds Light Over Forgotten Past

Colonialism, Racism and The Five Major Challenges for Anthropology

New book explores female roots of shamanism

Bolivia: More and more indigenous influence on politics

Why anthropologists should politicize mental illnesses

Open Access to Indigenous Research in Norway


Anthropologists ignore Open Access Week - a report from Wellington

What’s the point of science if it’s not publicly accessible? Two weeks ago, the first global Open Access Week was organized. Masters’ student in anthropology Karstein Noremark has written a report for antropologi.info about the Open Access Week at Victoria University of Wellington.

In his opinion, especially anthropologists should be interested in making research available online. But he did not see any anthropologists at the Open Access Week seminars. There was a general lack of interest among academics. Many of the attendants were library staff. He hopes more students will get involved in the Open Access movement – as future researchers, as end-users, and as a group that is in a unique position to advocate for the ‘rights to research’ of students in poorer countries.

Here is his report:

A small report from Open Access Week at Victoria University of Wellington

(including a critical note on anthropological engagement)

By Karstein Noremark - karsteinn (AT) gmail.com -

Victoria was the only university in New Zealand to (officially) celebrate Open Access Week, and the five days at Victoria covered an impressive broad range of subjects: workshops on Creative Commons licences and Open Access publishing, a web conference on Open Education with Wayne Mackintosh from WikiEducator, an institutional repositories roundtable, and, on top of this, a seminar on “Net Neutrality.” (More information on the various seminars can be found here).

The person behind most of the organising was Sigi Jöttkandt from Open Humanities Press. During the week, she also introduced the attendants to an open source publishing tool that can be used to create Open Access journals. An informative seminar on copyright and licences provided an introduction to various legal tools for Open Access, and in the spirit of the week, this seminar is also available as a webcast (get ogg player).

Still a room for professional publishers?

One of the more exciting topics during the week was the workshop on Open Access publishing. Interestingly enough, a representative from the ‘business’ – Fergus Barrowman from Victoria University Press – had agreed to sit in the panel. Barrowman gave a face to Open Access publishing that is often overlooked: the implication for publishers who are interested in Open Access, but who are not sure how to get involved. He gave an account of the realities that publishers face, the cost of publishing, the problems with ‘unprofitable’ Open Access models for publishing, and all the work that actually goes in to the publication of a text. As he told us, “we also like to get paid for our labour.”

Although Barrowman saw Open Access was “the right way forward,” he also told us that publishers would not embrace Open Access until a profitable business model was in place. Barrowman’s speech spurred a discussion around the themes of publishing and self-publishing, especially on the ‘craft’ side of publishing and how this knowledge could become lost in a transition to online publishing and Open Access. Most of the attendants agreed that there should still be room for professional publishers, but that more individual freedom was needed, especially for academics, whose access to specific articles might be crucial for their work.

All in all, the seminar was interesting, and had an edge to it, given that there were different stakeholders present (all honour to Barrowman for attending such a conference, and showing that he had given consideration to Open Access). I for one, who had come to the seminar with ideas about ‘evil publishers’ left with a more nuanced view on the publishing business – still thinking that a change was needed, but also with a feeling that ‘change’ does not just mean replacing ‘the old’ altogether. Of course, a webcast is also available for this seminar.

Anthropological absence

There did not seem to be any anthropologists at the seminars (although, there could have been some – I am not a student here myself). In fact, there seemed to be a general lack of academic interest altogether; many of the attendants were library staff, worked in digital repositories, or (like me) had an interest in Open Access as a ‘phenomenon’.

An example might reflect the awareness of some anthropologists of Open Access.

Roughly one week before the OA Week, I attended an anthropology student seminar held at Victoria. In the seminar, one of the lecturers from the university talked about her experiences from an international anthropology conference, complaining about the ‘elitism’ that she saw in much of the discipline.

I felt like I should make a comment to her presentation, and asked if Open Access could not be a way for anthropology to overcome ‘elitist tendencies’, by making texts and research more publicly accessible. She did not seem to understand what I was talking about (I am not sure if she didn’t know about OA, or just didn’t have an opinion on the topic), and wandered off on a metaphorical detour before resuming her complaints of the seemingly unbridgable ‘gap’ between ideal and practice in anthropology.

I started to think: which discipline should have vested interests in promoting and understanding Open Access if not anthropology, whose practitioners are constantly drawing on other fields of study, complains about not getting their message through, and maintain linkages to a number of academics in poorer countries where access to high quality articles is, to put it mildly, limited. And yet, many anthropologists seem more content to focus on a critique of existing ‘knowledge systems’ rather than looking for promising alternatives to this situation.

A student movement?

Open Access has become associated with a student movement (at least in the USA), but where were the students here in New Zealand?

I am currently writing an article on Open Access for a Norwegian anthropology student magazine called Kula Kula, and comparing my experiences from New Zealand to those of Norway. It might seem as though a lack of student involvement is related to the degree of institutionalisation that Open Access has been subjected to in both countries.

In Norway, the Research Council has agreed to sign the Berlin Declaration, and the University of Bergen has followed up by trying to persuade their researchers to make articles available in online repositories and Open Access journals. Still, ‘recommendations’ might be a far cry from actual implementation (article in Norwegian / English translation by Google).

A ‘technical’ approach to Open Access seems to have taken over an initiative that might otherwise have come from students – as future researchers, as end-users, and as a group that is in a unique position to advocate for the ‘rights to research’ of students in poorer countries.

In fear of violating a “wait and see – and then possibly write about it” attitude that is often taken to Open Access, I would urge more students to get involved. And more of them should come from anthropology.

The Open Access Week website has a lot of information, including videos and webcasts, among others an interview with Mr. Open Access, Peter Suber from Open Access News:


SSOAR - The first Social Science Open Access Repository is online

2006 - The Year of Open Access Anthropology?

For Open Access: “The pay-for-content model has never been successful”

antropologi.info survey: Six anthropologists on Anthropology and Internet

Kerim Friedman: Are anthropologists serious about sharing knowledge?


  19:10:11, by admin   . Categories: anthropology (general), persons and theories

Claude Levi-Strauss is dead (updated)

A month before his 101st birthday, Claude Levi-Strauss, one of the most influential anthropologists, died at the age of 100. He died over the weekend, according to the office of the president of the School for the Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, in Paris, Bloomberg reports.

See also my collection of articles on Levi-Strauss’ 100th birthday

UPDATE - Obituaries: / Lots of posts about his death - here a selection

Greg Downey: Thinking through Claude Lévi-Strauss (Neuroanthropology.net)

Richard Price: My Teacher, Claude Lévi-Strauss (AAA Blog)

Kevin Karpiak: Claude Levi-Strauss on police (Anthropoliteia)

Scott Atran: A memory of Lévi-Strauss (Cognition and Culture)

Maurice Bloch: Claude Lévi-Strauss obituary (Guardian)

Claude Lévi-Strauss as Museum Ethnologist (Jason Baird Jackson)

Alex Golub: Remembering Claude Lévi-Strauss (Savage Minds)

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologist, Dies at 100 (New York Times)

Claude Levi-Strauss: Intellectual considered the father of modern anthropology whose work inspired structuralism (Telegraph)

Robert Mackey: The Influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss (New York Times News Blog)

Heather Horn: Remembering Claude Lévi-Strauss, Academic Giant (The Atlantic Wire)

Claude Lévi-Strauss (Telegraph)

Maximilian Forte: Claude Lévi-Strauss: à la prochaine fois (a collection of videos, Zero Anthropology)

I have also scanned the German (lots of articles) and Scandinavian media (only short notices, almost ignored).

Two months free access to AAA journals!

From now on until the end of December, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is offering free access to a large number of its journals.

Why not free all the time? asks Kerim Friedman. Good question. The AAA has often been criticized for its restrictive publishing policies.

But maybe things are changing. Here is a selection of journals with free access in november and december 2009. I’ve picked a sample article from the most recent issue as well. Very interesting stuff and many catchy titles! For the full list of journals, visit the AAA Blog


Free access to the 25 most popular Anthrosource articles!


SSOAR - The first Social Science Open Access Repository is online

(via media/anthropology and Open Access Anthropology blog) Where can I publish my papers online? A few weeks ago, I wrote about ResearchGATE and other initiatives. Now, SSOAR - the Social Science Open Access Repository is online. It is according to Kerim Friedman from the Open Access Anthropology blog, “the first general Social Science Open Access repository we’ve found".

The repository is multilingual with texts in English, Spanish, German, Polish and many other languages. There are already around 5000 papers available, around 84 of them are listed under Eth­nol­o­gy, Cul­tur­al An­thro­pol­o­gy, Eth­noso­ci­ol­o­gy (84), whille searching for anthropology gives 96 hits.

SSOAR’s goal is to provide free electronic access to journal article preprints and postprints. Master’s theses are not included here, it seems. You can deposit the following types of documents:

Copyright permitting, you can deposit in SSOAR all quality-assured scholarly contributions which have already been published or have been accepted for publication in journals, collective volumes or journal-like series.
Journal contributions include scholarly articles, reviews, interviews and conference proceedings. By collective volumes we mean all text compilations such as handbooks, conference readers or proceedings. Contributions such as research reports, discussion papers and working papers from, for example, institutes’ series or research networks can also be deposited in SSOAR, and are, indeed, becoming increasingly significant. Such contributions can be monographic in nature or comprise several documents. Actual monographs (books, dissertations) may also be deposited, ideally in full.

SSOAR is a German initiative, “operated jointly by the Center for Digital Systems, the Institute of Qualitative Research (both are part of the Freie Universitaet Berlin), and by GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Open Access Anthropology gives an overview over other repositories.

A few weeks ago, the Open Anthropology Cooperative (OAC) has launched the OAC Press


Selv-archiving repositories: Is ResearchGate the solution?

essays.se: Open access to Swedish university papers

Open Access Anthropology in Africa - an introduction

Open access to all doctoral dissertations at Temple University

How can we create a more plural anthropological community?


Interview: Meet Dai Cooper from The Anthropology Song!

Dai Cooper’s Anthropology Song has fascinated people all over the world. Around 10 000 39 000 people have seen the video on YouTube so far, it was sent around via facebook, twitter, mailing lists, and was already shown in many anthropology classes. Maybe nobody has better explained what anthropology is all about.

I got curious and asked her if I may interview her for antropologi.info. I’m glad, Dai Cooper, who is now doing a Masters in Anthropology at University of Toronto in Canada, said yes. So here is the (email-) interview:

- What a great song! Sounds like you’re a professional musician, do you sing in a band?

- Hah far from it! I bought my guitar for $60 at a second-hand shop in Vancouver about two years ago and taught myself to play a little, mostly watching YouTube tutorials and with occasional insight from guitar-playing friends. I’ve always loved singing just as an expression of self. I think everyone can sing, and it’s great when people feel empowered enough to do so. But I don’t think you need to be professional to create or appreciate music.

- How did you get the idea to writing this song AND uploading it to YouTube?

- I just started grad school in a new city, and to be honest, I came up with the first two verses of this song one morning after a long night of writing and little sleep. I was kinda charged up (and a tiny bit caffeinated), it was just before class, and the words just came to me. I got all excited and started playing around on the guitar with them. The tune got stuck in my head, and it quickly became almost an obsession to write down and work out all the new lines. I wanted to be able to express all the reasons why I love and am inspired by Anthropology. A day and a half later I sat down in my room in my new little apartment and turned on the camcorder.

- YouTube just seemed like the best way to make that expression of awesomeness available to whoever was interested in seeing it; I originally wrote it with mostly my family and my Anthro professors and friends from my alma mater back at University of British Columbia (UBC) in mind, but it seems to have really resonated with a lot of people beyond that.

- Why do you address your parents in the song?

- I love my parents, and they’re definitely the people who have supported me the most through my education. They always pay really close attention to the things I’m passionate about, and I’m really grateful for that. At the same time, it’s challenged me to ask myself some of the same questions that they’ve had so what exactly is Anthropology, anyway? Why are you studying it again? and I think in many ways the song addresses some of those same questions. So the song is sincerely dedicated to them.

- I also think it adds a humorous element to frame the song in a way that insinuates coming out as an anthropologist to your family having to dispel some misconceptions and explain some new ways of thinking.

- What kind of reactions did you get?

- Really inspirational ones! I was just expressing happiness and inspiration through the song, and apparently that’s made a lot of other people happy and inspired too, which is wonderful. Anthropology to me is all about human connexions, and it’s been so amazing to feel like people from all over the world have been feeling those connexions with each other through the song. I’ve had profs in my new Toronto department come up to me and exclaim, you’re the girl on YouTube! So apparently it’s a great way to meet people, too! In addition to strangers, I’ve also heard a lot of positive comments from people back home; old friends and people in my old department, who I felt really close to, and its great to renew those links as well.

- It sounds that you could be invited to sing your song at conferences. What do you think?

- Hah actually several people have suggested that by now. I’d be super flattered if that happened! I did actually offer to play it at the AAA conference in December, it was half-joking, because I don’t think they’d take me up on it - but I’d just love to share the song and the sentiments behind it with anyone who likes it. It makes me happy.

- More ideas concerning music in anthropology, Public anthropology, and web 2.0?

- It’s interesting that you ask that actually, because one of the (many) inspirations that led up to me writing the song was watching Michael Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, which is all about web 2.0 and thinking about internet forums as social spaces that allow people to connect and communicate in new ways. I think an anthropology of those networks and online spaces is something were hopefully going to see much more of in the near future, as it’s a fascinating subject.

- In maybe a similar way, music is probably one of the more powerful (and older) ways people communicate their ideas and humanity across culture and space and time as well. I know there’s a whole field of study called ethnomusicology that I don’t know much about, but it sounds like it would be great to write a song about :)

- Your interestes in anthropology and research plans?

- My own research throughout my undergrad came to focus on the production and significance of social spaces. I’ve also been focusing largely on an indigenous group called the Toba in northern Argentina, and especially their movements toward urbanization in barrios or shantytowns surrounding the big cities, where I actually got to spend some time living last summer. If anything has taught me about love, humility, poverty, generousity, and my own life here in Canada, it’s been that experience. I’m hoping to return there to conduct some fieldwork for my Master’s as well.

- Why did you choose to study anthropology?

- I think a lot of the reasons why I study Anthropology now come out in the song: seeking peoples stories, rethinking perspectives, and a common humanity. But as far as how did I get started, probably 95% of the credit goes to my first-year introductory anthropology professor back at University of British Columbia (UBC), Gaston Gordillo (who later became my advisor there), who is just an amazing person, passionate about the discipline and students and encouraging people to (un)think, and who continues to inspire me to this day especially as I’m now a teaching assistant (TA) and taking on that educational role myself, I find myself engaging my own students in many ways that I learned from him.

- And now you’re - according to your song - soon on the way to Vietnam and Peru?

- To be completely honest, Vietnam rhymes with Barack Obamas mom :) But I’m glad it does, because one of my best friends is from there, and I actually would love to experience Vietnam. Peru I love. It’s a land of mystery to many, and also includes many stereotypes, but it has loved and challenged and embraced me in my travels through many highs and lows in my life. Perú te amo.

Thanks a lot for the interview! :)

UPDATE 24.10.09: Dai Cooper was asked to play this song at the AAA meeting in December!

UPDATE 27.10.09: Good question by a PhD student:

I wonder if a second part to this song isn’t needed? One that takes on board the critiques that have been written about anthropology and the types of knowledge that we produce about people. I am (…) aware of the problems of our discipline and having worked with people who have had to and who continue to live in the shadows of anthropological knowledge about them, I wonder if you don’t gloss over that slightly.

Dai answers:

That’s awesome and possibly the best constructive critique that’s been said. I agree that, being from a pretty personal perspective, the song really romanticizes the discipline, and you’re right, the effects of the production and dissemination of anthropological knowledge are more complex. If you want to nurture a creative streak, you’re MORE than welcome to write a new verse (as it says in the comments ^^) and post it as a video response, that’d be AWESOME!

And here is The Anthropology Song and below Michael Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube


Interview with anthropologist Michael Wesch: How collaborative technologies change scholarship

Via YouTube: Anthropology students’ work draws more than a million viewers

antropologi.info survey: Six anthropologists on Anthropology and Internet

Play as research method - new Anthropology Matters is out

What anthropologists and artists have in common


The Anthropology Song!

(via facebook and Savage Minds) What is Anthropology? Why is it important? Forget about all definitions, here is the Anthropology Song by Dai Cooper!

UPDATE: See interview with Dai Cooper


  19:31:26, by admin   . Categories: technology, Europe, media, cyberanthropology, internet

Digital Anthropology Report: Attitudes to technology = basis of future class divides

How do people in Britain use the internet? How do they behave online? The new Digital Anthropology Report. The Six Tribes of Homo Digitalis gives some answers.

The British communication company Talk Talk sent researchers from the University of Kent into the homes of people around the UK to ask them questions about their attitudes towards digital technology and to watch them use it. They also commissioned anthropology professor David Zeitlyn to analyse the findings.

They found that “homo digitalis” consists of Six Tribes with very different attitudes, usage patterns and modes of behaviour. Some of these tribes have embraced technology and put it at the centre of their lives. For other tribes, “the internet” is a rather frightening jungle.

The E-ager Beavers are the largest tribe by quite a distance, with 29% of the UK adult population. They use the internet heavily, but they are more passive users. They lack the confidence or the drive to get involved with uploading their own content or producing their own blogs.

The Timid Technophobes are the second largest group (23%). They have only limited internet skills and will only use it when they really need to. They still prefer to use pen and paper and prefer to send and receive letters. They don’t read blogs and are not interested in facebook either.

The tribe of the Digital Extroverts (9%) consists of people who are “always-on". They are active bloggers, use twitter, flickr etc. “Regularly updating their online profile is as much a part of their daily routine as eating.” The ability to interconnect and share data is a prerequisite.

According to Zeitlyn, your willingness to embrace technology and integrate it into your life will dictate your success in life far more than your social class will. As class structures change quickly, he writes in his analysis, the extent to which people use social networking and promote themselves online will become more important in determining their careers than what school or university they went to.

>> read the whole report (nice presentation with quiz and videos!)


Dissertation: Why kids embrace Facebook and MySpace

Ethnographic Study: Social Websites Important For Childhood Development

Ethnographic study: Social network sites are “virtual campfires”

Interview with Michael Wesch: How collaborative technologies change scholarship

John Postill on media anthropology and internet activism in Malaysia

Cyberanthropology: “Second Life is their only chance to participate in religious rituals”

How internet changes the life among the First Nations in Canada

On fieldwork: “Blogging sharpens the attention”

Microsoft anthropologist: Let people be online at work or risk losing stuff!

From housewife to mousewive - Anthropological study on women and Internet

Ethnographic Study About Life Without Internet: Feelings of Loss and Frustration

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