Sometimes, readers send call for papers or job announcements to me. Therefore, I've now "relaunched" the forum. After registering, you may post there your announcements if you want.
Now, there are two new posts:
PhD scholarship at the Department of Organization and Industrial Sociology, Copenhagen Business School
Call for entries: European Documentary and Anthropological Film Festival Budapest, Hungary, April 2007
The New York Times called it "Bin Laden's Low-Tech Weapon": Islamic cassette sermons are often associated with terrorism. They are rather a medium for democratic activism and ethical selv-improvement, anthropologist Charles Hirschkind argues in his new book "The Ethical Soundscape. Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics".
There is an book excerpt on the website of Columbia University Press. Hirschkind writes:
To read the cassette sermon primarily as a technology of fundamentalism and militancy reduces the enormous complexity of the lifeworld enabled by this medium, forcing it to fit into the narrow confines of a language of threat, fear, rejection, and irrationality.
On the contrary, cassette sermons frequently articulate a fierce critique of the nationalist project, with its attendant lack of democracy and accountability among the ruling elites of the Muslim world. The form of public discourse within which this critique takes place, however, is not oriented toward militant political action or the overthrow of the state. Rather, such political commentary gives direction to a normative ethical project centered upon questions of social responsibility, pious comportment, and devotional practice.
For those who participate in the movement, the moral and political direction of contemporary Muslim societies cannot be left to politicians, religious scholars, or militant activists but must be decided upon and enacted collectively by ordinary Muslims in the course of their normal daily activities.
These sermons are a key element in the technological scaffolding of what is called the Islamic Revival (al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya), he writes. The cassette sermon has become an omnipresent background of daily urban life in most Middle Eastern cities:
In Cairo, where I spent a year and a half exploring this common media practice, cassette-recorded sermons of popular Muslim preachers, or khutaba' (sing. khatib), have become a ubiquitous part of the contemporary social landscape. The sermons of well-known orators spill into the street from loudspeakers in cafes, the shops of tailors and butchers, the workshops of mechanics and TV repairmen; they accompany passengers in taxis, mini-buses, and most forms of public transportation; they resonate from behind the walls of apartment complexes, where men and women listen alone in the privacy of their homes after returning home from the factory, while doing housework, or together with acquaintances from school or office, invited to hear the latest sermon from a favorite preacher.
During his stay in Egypt, he spent much of his time meeting both with the khutaba' who produced sermon tapes and with young people who listened to them on a regular basis.
One of the central arguments of his book is, he writes, "that the affects and sensibilities honed through popular media practices such as listening to cassette sermons are as infrastructural to politics and public reason as are markets, associations, formal institutions, and information networks."
Charles Hirschkind: What is Political Islam? (Middle East Report)
Charles Hirschkind: The Betrayal of Lebanon (tabsir, 1.8.06)
Why haven't there been such blog posts about the recent EASA-conference (European Association of Social Anthropologists)? Anthropologist Grant McCracken has presented a paper at the EPIC-conference (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) and written three blog posts, among others about his presentation (and the usefulness of ethnography):
In my presentation on Monday at EPIC 2006, I proposed that we might want to take advantage of the "extra data" effect. Ethnography is often most useful when we don't know what we need to know. The method is good at casting the net wide. We ask lots of questions. Collect lots of data. Apply lots of theory and interpretation. Eventually, we begin to see what it is we need to see. At the end of this process we find ourselves in possession of a lot of data we cannot use. This "extra data" is an opportunity.
Now the film has made its way to the International Film Festival in Toronto and to movies across Canada. In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Kunuk tells about how film making has contributed to a revival of Inuit shamanism:
"For our Inuit audience and for our young people, we're showing that we survived 4,000 years under shamanism: Be kind to animals, use only what you need. We had everything -- food, clothes. You had to be a good hunter to be rich. Christianity came, all that was put aside. Growing up, the minister was telling us don't do drum dances, don't tell legends because they're the work of the devil. It's brainwashing. It happened in New Zealand, Australia, Africa. It probably all happened the same.
"I wanted to put it down on record. For 4,000 years of our history, it is only the last 85 years that Christianity came. It doesn't balance. We traded 100 taboos -- laws of nature -- for Ten Commandments, which now I don't have any trust for after looking at where they came from. Love thy neighbour? They're bombing the hell out of each other! But we had to throw away all these rules of the land, taboos we just dumped so we could go to heaven."
"Shamanism was here, and it's going to be here, that's what my elders tell me. After Atanarjuat [an earlier film], the elders started to talk about shamanism more. With this film, because their families are in this community, people learned about their namesakes. We live by namesakes. When I was born, I was given five names, but the government couldn't pronounce them so we were given tags and family names."
Some papers are now freely available:
The online nomads of cyberia (PDF, 337 Kb)
Alexander Knorr (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen)
Foreign correspondents/ foreign news production (PDF, 260 Kb)
Angela Dressler (University of Bremen)
Game pleasures and media practices (PDF, 160 Kb)
Elisenda Ardèvol, Antoni Roig, Gemma San Cornelio, Ruth Pagès and Pau Alsina (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
Finding our subject: media practice, structure and communication (PDF, 240 Kb)
Daniel Taghioff (School of Oriental and African Studies)
First, a few words about No Shame In My Game:
Her major findings are the strong work ethic among these minimum-wage workers and the value they place on personal responsibility; to blame their difficulties on personal shortcomings would be too simplistic.
An excerpt from a review in The Progressive:
In No Shame in My Game, she argues that social science research has disproportionately focused on the plight of the unemployed ghetto-dweller or mothers on welfare. The media, too, depict welfare dependency as the natural state of poverty, while neglecting the majority of inner-city poor people who work.
She writes, "The nation's working poor do not need their values reengineered. They do not need lessons about the dignity of work. Their everyday lives are proof enough that they share the values of their mainstream, middle class counterparts."
She talks in very positive way both about the workers and the employers ("Newman sees everyone she meets in a similarly flattering light, as if she is afraid to make any judgments", The New York Times remarks). She is asked if there have been conflicts between "illegal" immigrants and native-born Americans at the work place. She answers that the work created both tension and friendship:
But the thing that I found most striking was that people created a community of friends out of the people they worked with. Workers had friendships or relationships with each other; they went to the movies together. The workplace is a great generator of cross-racial contact and friendship.
The employers, she writes, were "more honorable people than most readers would ever think":
Now, I don’t want to say that they were saints. They were business people, and they were looking to make a profit. But they were much more invested in the lives of their workers then most people realize. They helped people get eyeglasses; they helped people get ID; they cosigned leases; they were offering young people money if they got good grades; they paid for their schoolbooks. (...) Very often these employers were the only ones who were paying a good deal of interest in the school performance of these kids.
So one of the things that I argue in the book is that really contrary to common wisdom school and work are not antithetical to one another. These young people were doing better in school than the young people who weren’t working, because the discipline that they learned on the job and the oversight the business owners and mangers exercised over them was having a positive effect on their school performance.
(...) I must say that I was surprised at what I found in the businesses that I did study. And that has taught me as a social scientist that you shouldn’t prejudge anything. It's all open for investigation.
It was also important to me to show how qualitative research could give us a deeper understanding of the daily lives and real values of inner city workers. Most of the information we have on labor markets and the workforce naturally comes from economists or sociologists who work with large data sets.
That research is crucial, especially for explaining the big picture. But it doesn't help us understand how ordinary people in poor communities view their lives, their options, or how they put the resources together to survive, to raise their kids, to balance going to school and keeping a job.
You need a different approach for that and it seemed to me that anthropology has something important to add to the picture. Besides, a good anthropologist can communicate with a larger audience that won't sit still for statistical arguments, but will listen to a well-crafted account of real lives.
MORE ON "NO SHAME IN MY GAME"
The theme [Europe and the World ]encourages us to consider the global dimensions of particular ethnographic encounters. The wider interconnections, the spread of ideas, the dynamic relationships and processes which shape the everyday activity of social life; these lie increasingly at the centre of our methodological and theoretical preoccupations as anthropologists. Mediated by individual, institutional, national developments of enormous complexity, this link between global interchange and local creativity deserves our systematic attention and analysis.
Around 1000 anthropologists from many countries in Europe (and other continents?) might have been there. I've searched the news and blogs but haven't find any information on what has gone on there.
I only found EASA-related posts on two blogs - on Erkan' Field diary (on lost luggage on his way home) and on Savage Minds (notes by Maia who is going to present a paper there). No newspaper has mentioned the largest European Anthropology conference about a topic that is in the news every day...
UPDATE: I've found this blog entry:
Things I learned at an anthropology conference in Bristol:
1) Apparently it is not important to say anything in conferences as long as you are talking.
2) There is nothing more depressing than a passionless tango. Especially when it is done to honor someone who has passed away. If I die, please do not ask to anorexic British anthropologists to dance the tango in honor of me. Or maybe do. It would be my last laugh as you would have to endure it and I wouldn't/
3) The surest way to not keep my attention for an hour long presentation is to begin with a paragraph overflowing with alliterations. You will think you are clever. I will not.
Workshop based organization and network meetings in the evenings seem to be productive. However, I could not escape from thinking that compare to AAA, EASA has a really long way to go. I wasnt't thrilled with any theoretical development. AAA seems to be heading what is the newest in the field. EASA is yet working on the organization and deciding for near future research strategy.
As many of us know, Yale anthropologist David Graeber has been fired for his anarchist activism. He's not the only one who was punished for leaving the academic ivory tower. More and more academics have started blogging, exposing their personal opinions to the world. The Yale Herald has an interesting story about "how profs' political advocacy outside academia can threaten their success within it":
The recent explosion of professors using their academic bully pulpits to expound on everything from federal sentencing law to the need for a Palestinian state raises questions of responsibility and consequence. Every year, more professors join the blogosphere, expanding into a medium that lets them write anything about anything and makes them advocates as well as teachers.
Mazin Qumsiyeh for example was hired by the Yale School of Medicine:
He had advocated locally and nationally for Palestinian rights under his title as a Yale professor. Five years later, he was looking for a new job.
Qumsiyeh is the editor of Qumsiyeh: A Human Rights Web.
Last year, Yale decided to woo Professor Juan Cole away from Michigan. Then it changed its mind:
The provost’s office refused to comment on the reasons for his rejection; Dr. Cole refused to comment on this story. But many eyes turned toward Cole’s blog as a factor in the decision, one that may have raised his profile and polarized opinion on his candidacy. On his site, “Informed Comment,” Cole has provided commentary on the news coming out of the Middle East since 2001.
And the popular anarchist anthropologist David Graeber was invited to give this year’s Malinowski lecture, an honor given only to the world’s most promising young anthropologists. His contract went up for renewal last year:
He had been a controversial figure, but now finds sleeping on couches in his friends’ New Haven apartments after giving up his lease.
When Graeber returned from a one-year sabbatical in 2002—having joined forces in the interim with anti-war and anti-globalization groups such as the Direct Action Network and Ya Basta — he said he found his welcome back much colder than his farewell. “I thought a ‘hello’ would have been reasonable,” he said. “All of the sudden, no one was talking to me.” He continued to be a prolific writer and researcher, but his future no longer looked so rosy.