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France: More and more muslims observe Ramadan

Ramadan is being increasingly observed by France's Muslim community - but also for a few French non-Muslims, afp reports. "I do it sometimes to show my support for my Muslim friends," said Lorie, a schoolgirl in the eastern suburb of Montreuil.

The trend is especially prevalent among young adults. 88 percent of all Muslim adults in the country fasted for Ramadan - and 94 percent of those aged under 30 did, according to a recent survey in a Catholic weekly, La Vie.

French anthropologist Malek Chebel, said that the surge in interest in Ramadan "is a phenomenon we've been seeing for 15 or so years".

"Essentially, it's a phenomenon of cultural identification - French Muslims have the feeling of belonging to all other Muslims around the world," he said. The physical rigor of observing daily fasting for a month made Ramadan a sort of macho competition among boys and young men.

Abdel Rahman Dahmane, the president of the Council of Democratic Muslims in France says that Ramadan has become a month of identification for all a community.

>> read the whole story in the Middle East Times (link updated)


Blogger Anthrogal (yes, an anthropologist in France and Muslim) has done some Ramadan-blogging

On OhMyNews, Fiza Fatima Asar gives in My Ramadan. From Pakistan to California and back again a nice description:

Ramadans are really so special in Pakistan. It is a different feeling altogether -- an entirely different world. All the restaurants are closed during the day and open right before sunset when people start pouring in for iftars at their favorite restaurants, the ones that stay open all night until five in the morning. (...) When we hear someone say "the city never sleeps" we really needed to visit Karachi during Ramadan to know what that phrase really meant. Boys and young men arrange night cricket matches out in the streets with lights fixed along the street light poles and the neighborhood collected to watch the matches. These matches end right before suhur during weekends.

And she explains:

Ramadan is not just about starving and fighting your thirst. Well, I knew that before too. But in the past I thought, fine, Ramadan is also about charity, about perseverance and about patience. This year I learned more. Ramadan is really about bringing one closer to the other. Ramadan is about sharing and missing people. Ramadan is about loving the other and thanking God they are there to be with you.

>> read the whole text in OhMyNews

On GlobalVoices we learn that during Ramadan there are much more beggars on the street. These people would like to exploit this holy month as much as possible and play on the high level of religious emotions of people during this special time, Tunisian blogger Zayed writes.


  23:32:44, by admin   . Categories: culture traditions, Europe, music, websites

Multimedia Music Ethnography of Yodelling and Alphorn Blowing

A new interactive multimedia-website was launched about Swiss folk music including an Alphorn Tune Composer. On www.swissalpinemusic.ch you can read about alphorn music and yodelling, on alpine traditions and so on but the best thing is that you can listen to the music and then there is the Alphorn Tune Composer: It allows you to create your own tunes and send them via email. The Composer is made up of 17 notes – all the tones possible on the alphorn – as played by André Scheurer, music editor at Swiss Radio Swiss Classic.

The texts are written by music anthropologist Brigitte Bachmann-Geiser. She writes:

"The alphorn was dying out after 1800 because it was no longer necessary as a communication tool of the alpine cowherds. Increasingly, the individual dairies in the alpine chalets were replaced by big cooperative cheese-making companies in the villages. The whole tradition of alpine dairy production was breaking down; on many alpine pastures beef cows had replaced dairy cows."

But recently the alphorn has undergone a revival and is now used in both classical and pop music, and jazz.

>> read more at Swissinfo

>> visit www.swissalpinemusic.ch


Play as research method - new Anthropology Matters is out

In the field, anthropologists spent lots of time playing football or learning to dance: Could such enjoyable pastimes be considered a kind of work? Could play be used as a research technique? The new issue of Anthropology Matters is out. Its topic: From Play to Knowledge.

Seems to be a very interesting issue. Here some excerpts from the editorial by Susanne Langer, Emily Walmsley, Hannah Knox, and Mattia Fumanti:

In the first article Jonathan McIntosh reflects on his research with children in a Balinese dance studio. (...) Without a degree of linguistic competence he would not have been able to understand the children's songs and games he was interested in, let alone able to join in (...). Being able to participate did not only add an important embodied dimension to McIntosh's research, but also changed his relationship with the children. Balinese adults tend to be figures of respect, who may initiate games, but tend not to play themselves. By being an atypical adult, McIntosh was able to let the children take the lead and become his teachers, allowing him to learn about their everyday games and the role music and dance play in their lives.


Lucy Atkinson (...) played with children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were living in a refugee camp in Northern Zambia. (...) [H]er aim was to create a space for the children to express themselves freely, using a variety of creative media, such as drawing, drama, or film, as well as techniques derived from participatory consultation and decision making processes to achieve this. (...)

However, the incorporation of these incredibly rich sources into standard academic accounts has presented Atkinson with a challenge. (...) In particular the children's drawings, she contends, are not mere illustrations of the writing, but should be seen as more akin to quotes. However, she admits that this new status of the pictorial will require a major change in the conventions of how ethnographic writing is received.


In his research, Will Gibson was interested in the intersubjective knowledge involved in the production of improvised jazz performances (...). Dissatisfied with the degree of detail that conventional interviews produced, he decided to record incidents when he was playing with experienced performers. Gibson then played the recordings back to them, inquiring about their motivations and decisions when playing a sequence in a particular way.
This approach allowed him to learn about conventions, a player's personal preferences, and the considerations concerning the skills and experience of other players that had influenced their improvisations. This innovative approach enabled Gibson to tease out the ways in which players orient themselves to each other and to the conventions of jazz improvisation.

>> read the whole Editorial

Articles in this issue:

Jonathan McIntosh: How dancing, singing and playing shape the ethnographer: research with children in a Balinese dance studio
"In this article I contribute to the debate on research methods in ethnomusicology. To do this I illustrate how active engagement in the activities and learning processes of children better enables the ethnographer to gain insights into children's musical worlds."

Lucy Atkinson: From play to knowledge: from visual to verbal?
"This article relates my experiences using playful child-centred research techniques whilst undertaking research with Congolese refugee children in Zambia. Such techniques generate rich and varied information, and often in unexpected ways."

Brett Lashua: The arts of the remix: ethnography and rap
"In this paper I take note of 'the arts of the remix', in which techniques of producing hip-hop music with First Nations young people in Canada involved remixing both music and research practices."

Will Gibson: Playing in the field: participant observation and the investigation of intersubjective knowledge in jazz improvisation
"I describe an approach to participant observation in which recordings of the researcher and research participants improvising musical performances together were used as 'texts' for framing discussions."

Katrín Lund: Making mountains, producing narratives, or: 'One day some poor sod will write their Ph.D. on this'
"This paper looks at ways of narrating mountaineering experiences in Scotland. What anthropologists can learn about their own ways of organising and abstracting their experiences from examining the material culture of mountaineers."

>> front page of Anthropology Matters 2006, Vol 8 (2)

  00:53:37, by admin   . Categories: Us and Them, Africa, Europe, migration, history

An exhibition and a movie: The French, colonialism and the construction of "the other"

The first temporary exhibition at Paris’s Quai Branly museum takes an ambitious look at how the West constructs its ‘other’, Mary Stevens writes in her research blog about the reconfiguration of national identity in French museums:

In the permanent exhibition it is the aesthetic qualities of the objects on display that are foregrounded; what is missing is a critical reflection on how the western aesthetic criteria which visitors are encouraged to apply have developed over time. What makes us see something as art, and why do we now judge as art objects that in the past might have been seen either as silent witnesses to social customs or indeed as curiosities? These are the questions that D’un regard l’Autre sets out to explore.


[H]airy savages carved in wood bear witness to Renaissance man’s desire to position his superior self firmly on the side of culture against nature. However, it is interesting to be reminded that in this period real-live people from other cultures were sufficiently rare in Western Europe to command wonder and a degree of respect. A life-size portrait of an Inuit couple, painted during their visit to the Danish court in the late seventeenth century provides a subtle reminder: the names of these two travellers – Pock and Kieperoch – were carefully noted by the artist. It was only in the nineteenth century that their successors would become ‘types’, documented and classified for the new sciences of anthropology and phrenology and displayed for public instruction in the new museums.

>> read the whole review of the exhibition

See also earlier on antropologi.info: Indigenous? Non-Western? Primitive? The Paris Museum Controversy

Mary Stevens has blogged a lot about multiculturalism and nationalism in France. One of the interesting recent posts is about the integration of foreign students: What image of France is presented in the introductory courses about French society?

(...) Day 2: the gastronomic map of France (lots of camembert and choucroute - not a lot of couscous and brik) place names (all Greek, Roman, Celtic or religious), family names (every single one of them belonging to the Français de souche, whoever they might be) and - to top it all - "languages, ethnic groups and cultures". Aside from the fact that I thought ‘ethnic’ was a taboo word in French, only regional minorities get a mention and we are told authoritatively that cultural diversity has been in decline since the Revolution, or at least until a ‘recent’ upsurge in regional movements (e.g. Coriscan, Breton, Basque).

So here we have it: ‘le mythe national’ condensed into two short days. Above all the course seeks to inculcate a closed, exclusive definition of national identity that fails to take into account any of the demographic developments of the last 200 years and indeed before.

If anyone was ever in any doubt that there is still work to be done in France in rethinking the ‘collective memory’ - or what I prefer to call the collective or social ‘imaginary’ (the latter after the philosopher Charles Taylor) - then here (with apologies for the poor quality) is the proof.

>> read the whole post: Integrating the elite: peddling national mythology

Related topics are touched in the French movie Indigènes. Mary Stevens explains:

The film tells the story of a group of North African soldiers, fighting on French soil for the liberation of France from 1943. It is explicitly geared toward the re-evaluation of national collective memory; its aim is to address the way these soldiers, who played a major role in the Liberation have been written out of (the Gaullist account) of history. And it looks set to have a major impact.

>> read the whole post: The « Indigènes » effect ?

Anthropologist Cicilie Fagerlid is back in Paris and has also seen the film:

Indigene is the shameful juridical assignation used for Muslims in French North Africa. Muslims, being indigenes and not citizens like the Christians and Jews, didn’t enjoy equal rights until 1945. It’s incredible, isn’t it, in the country priding itself with the slogan libérté, égalité, fraternité?

>> read the whole review


Visual ethnography and Kurdish anthropology by Kameel Ahmady

The first part of the paper Media consumption, conformity and resistance: a visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan by anthropologist Kameel Ahmady has been published on KurdishMedia. Ahmady wanted to examine the factors which shape a sense of belonging among young people in Mahabad, a town on the north-west periphery of Iran.

His methodological approach is interesting:

I used reflexive visual methods, asking them [the young people] to take their own photographic pieces dealing with themes they saw as relevant to local current events and their place within these processes. The works they produced were then placed in a week long public exhibition in Mahabad, where further data was gathered in a Guest Book of reactions to the event, as well as participant observation notes taken at the time.

Kameel Ahmady has an interesting website with an image gallery and we also can read some of his articles and papers, mostly dealing with Middle East issues.

UPDATE (15.10.06): Part II of his paper Media consumption, conformity and resistance: A visual ethnography of youth culture in Iranian Kurdistan is out

  20:10:16, by admin   . Categories: culture traditions, interdisciplinary

Neuroanthropology: "Different cultures produce different brains"

It might sound deterministic (and essentialising - maybe one should replace "cultures" with "societies"), but Juan Dominguez, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, believes "different cultures" produce "different brains" and that cultural differences reflect different neurological functioning. He discussed the effects of 'enculturation' on the human brain at a recent anthropology conference in Cairns, according to ABC Australia. He said:

In certain societies and cultures there are certain patterns of behaviour, people may make certain evaluations, have certain opinions, there are certain tasks that are culturally specific. We should be able to find that ... the brain would have some sort of bias acquired through exposure to culture.

Douglas Lewis, a senior lecturer at anthropology who is supervising the work, acknowledges this is a controversial area. He explains that the emerging science of neuroanthropology suggests that brains within a group can be 'wired' by common experience, just as individual brains become 'wired' by individual experiences. "What we're looking for are correlates in the brain that anthropologists have in the past thought of as being cultural or culturally mediated," he says.

>> read the whole story in ABC

>> coverage in the Neorophilosopher's weblog

John Walter, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Saint Louis University comments:

This kind of work makes some of us in the liberal arts really nervous, but that’s because we don’t understand cognitive studies and neuroscience well enough. (...)

My sense is that there’s a fear that if we accept or find that difference is part of our neurological wiring we’ll be taking a step back to past racist practices of essentializing and differentiating groups. This fear is, I think, rooted in the assumption that there’s some kind of culture-biology duality, that if something is wired into us it is unchangeable, because (...) wiring doesn’t change. Those familiar with cognitive science, however, know that brains are adaptive.

>> read the whole comment in Machina Memorialis


Social Neuroscience - Psychologists neuroscientists and anthropologists together

  19:04:22, by admin   . Categories: anthropology (general), media, University / Academia

Media: High school sports more popular than academics

A local news story that might say something more general about why anthropology isn't more present in the news? The results of University research between April 1 and June 30 show high school athletes often get 4 to 8 times the media coverage of an academic all-star, Minnesota Daily reports.

"We're not ignoring good stories; we're not being told good stories," Maureen McCarthy, Star Tribune education leader, said. "It's unrealistic to expect two reporters to know what is going on in all area high schools."

>> read the whole story in the Minnesota Daily


"Discuss politics!" - How anthropologists in Indonesia engage with the public

More and more anthropologists, but they're absent from public debates - "Engaging Anthropology" by Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1)

Why anthropology fails to arouse interest among the public - Engaging Anthropology (2)


  23:11:42, by admin   . Categories: internal notes

If you want to post announcements / call for papers etc...

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.

>> visit the antropologi.info-forum

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

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