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Primitive Racism: Reuters about "the world's most primitive tribes"

(via ethno::log) Looking for another example of everyday racism? Read reuters story about "the worlds most primitive people":

Members of one of the world's most primitive and isolated tribes have killed two fishermen who strayed on to their island in India's Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, a senior government official said on Monday.


A group of about 20 Sentinelese tribes people were surrounding them, Negi said. "They (the tribals) were naked and carrying bows and arrows," he told Reuters by telephone.

The Indian government has banned anyone from going near Sentinel Island where about 250 tribe members live a hunter-gathering lifestyle little changed since the Stone Age.

UPDATE: Story no longer online. >> Read the same story in The Times where the India correspondent even dares to write "Described by anthropologists as a lost tribe of Stone Age aborigines, the Sentinelese..."


What Is An "Ancient People"? - We are All Modern Now!

Our obsession with the notion of the primitive society

"Stone Age Tribes", tsunami and racist evolutionism

Ten Little Niggers: Tsunami, tribal circus and racism

The Anthropology of Biopolitics and the Laboratory for the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Judd Antin at TechnoTaste recently informed us about two new anthropology centers. One of them Laboratory for the Anthropology of the Contemporary seems to take knowledge sharing more seriously than other research centers. You can click on and read every article on their list over publications.

The introductory paper Steps toward an anthropological laboratory by Paul Rabinow starts promising:

The challenge is to invent new forms of inquiry, writing, and ethics for an anthropology of the contemporary. The problem is: how to rethink and remake the conditions of contemporary knowledge production,
dissemination, and critique, in the interpretive sciences?

They continue explaining the background for their research methods at the new center, dedicated to the invention of new modes of collaborative work among and between social and natural scientists:

Given that the social sciences and humanities disciplines in the U.S. university system are essentially those of the nineteenth century, and there is little motivation from within the disciplines to abolish themselves, we are not optimistic that new work can be exclusively based in the university. The university (or restricted parts of it) remains a source of employment, of resources such as libraries, and of pedagogy. In that light, we imagine new hybrid organizations, adjacent to and in many parasitic on, the university.


It is quite remarkable that the contemporary self-understanding of anthropology includes few examples of collective work. (...) New forms of collaboration and coordination among and between anthropologists (and other knowledge workers) is unquestionably going to be required to adequately address the scope, complexity, and temporality of contemporary objects and problems.

>> read the whole text by Paul Rabinow (pdf, 19pages)

>> overview over all publications (much on biosecurity)

"The White House should hire an anthropologist"

Anthropologist Fazia Rizvi points to an article by Maureen Dowd where she argues that the White House should hire an anthropologist:

Corporations have begun hiring anthropologists to help them improve product designs and interpret markets. And clearly, the Bush foreign policy team doesn't understand any of the markets where it is barging around ineptly trying to sell America and democracy.


It's stunning that nearly four decades after Vietnam, our government could be even more culturally illiterate and pigheaded. The Bushies are more obsessed with snooping on Americans than fathoming how other cultures think and react.

One smart anthropologist reinforcing the idea that "mirroring" - assuming other cultures think like us - doesn't work would be a lot more helpful than all of the discredited intelligence agencies that are costing $30 billion a year to miss everything from the breakup of the Soviet Union to 9/11 to no WMD to Osama's hiding place to the Hamas victory.

>> read the whole story in the SGVTribune

Book review: Claiming the Stones, Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of Identity

It's "a strong volume and potentially an excellent teaching text for those interested in exploring case studies in cultural heritage and representation", anthropologist Jamie Brandon concludes in his review of the book Claiming the Stones, Naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethic Identity by Barkan, Elazar and Ronald Bush .

He writes that the book attempts to cross-cut multiple disciplines (including archaeology, physical anthropology, literature, cultural studies, ethnomusicology and museum studies) and offer perspectives regarding disputes over the definition and ownership of cultural properties.

This part of the review caught my eye

In the United States, Ross tells us, “to belong to a particular race is to possess copyright in that race; the right to turn a profit—or not—on the reputation credited to that race; the right to image the race in particular ways; the right to hold property, invest in, and profit from one’s racial “stock” (p. 260). Ross charts the struggle over these rights through efforts of African-Americans to challenge and control popular images of blackness.

>> read the whole review on the blog "Farther Along"

Book review: Who owns native culture - A book with an excellent website

Indigenousness and the Politics of Spirituality: "Cultural ownership may lead directly to essentialization and racism"


  03:00:30, by admin   . Categories: politics, Middle East, ethics

"Tribal Iraq Society" - Anthropologists engaged for US war in Iraq

No good news: In France, they shut down anthropology, in the US, we see the sell-out of our disciplin: "U.S. analysts are starting to apply anthropological models to trying to understand and fight the Iraq", according to United Press International.

Anthropologist Montgomery McFate (we know her from previous debates on ethics) works at the Institute for Defense Analyses and cooperates with the US government in their so-called "war against terror". Speaking at a conference, she argued for an "increased understanding of the tribal nature of Iraqi society (!)" as this would "benefit the U.S. forces by enabling them to adapt to the enemy"

McFate has suggested that knowledge of Iraqi tribal groups is useful because it can provide an insight into the reasons for insurgency. In tribal societies, honor is a measure of status. Traditionally, challenges to group honor have been met with violence, and thus the current bombings are a response to the coalition presence.

By working within the Iraqi cultural framework, coalition forces may be able to forward their strategic goal, the creation of a stable society. McFate said blood feuds regulate tribal balance in Iraq. Upon the death of a clan member, it is the duty of the kin to seek violent retribution. This rudimentary justice system provides all groups with an incentive to restrain members, and acts to constrain inter-tribe conflict.

>> read the whole story (link updated)


Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of Their Curious Relations

"War on terror": CIA sponsers anthropologists to gather sensitive information

Two Books Explore the Sins of Anthropologists Past and Present


New Open Access Journal: After Culture - Emergent Anthropologies

On the website of the American Anthropological Association, medical anthropologist Matthew Wolf-Meyer announces a new anthropology journal called After Culture: Emergent Anthropologies:

The first issue is planned for release in September 2006, and thereafter will be published semiannually (in March and September) and made available free through the internet (URL forthcoming).

This is good news for all of us who promote open access to scientific knowledge!

There will be no paper version of the journal "as this steeply raises costs", he explains on his own homepage.

It doensn't seem to be that much expensive to run a online journal. The total cost of one year’s worth of publications (2 issues, 200 pages), he writes, is approximately $3200 (based on University of California Press figures and including the costs of formatting, online storage and publicity).

Currently, they are seeking article manuscripts which focus on the interactions between nature, culture and society, or are in the general thematic areas of science and technology studies or critical studies of medical knowledge and practice.

Given AAA approval, the journal will be published by the University of California Press and made available through AnthroSource, he adds.

>> continue reading on Matthew Wolf-Meyer's homepage

>> Call for Papers

  12:11:35, by admin   . Categories: anthropology (general)

"Anthropology not less scientific than physics"

It might not be something new to us that anthropology is as scientific as physics. But it's as Steve Gilday writes in the Cavalier Daily:

Most people make the strongest connections between science and subjects like physics, chemistry and biology. Anthropology is notably absent from that list.

But, he adds, that doesn't make anthropology any less scientific. He gives us two nice quotes from an anthropologist and a physician:

Anthropologist Richard Handler says:

"Cultural Anthropology is a social science that systematically engages cultural worlds in order to learn about them. Using a Western definition of science, cultural anthropology is scientific in that it systematically creates and organizes empirical data, drawn from the anthropologist's interactions with the people studied, and uses that data to attempt to answer fundamental questions about culture and human life. So for all the people who would just as soon get rid of anthropology, there are others who see it as a useful tool for understanding a global world."

Physician Blaine Norum says:

"My principal field of study is nuclear physics, the study of the atomic nucleus, its properties, and its constituents. I think most people identify nuclear physics with its most visible applications: nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Fewer appreciate its role in cancer therapy, medical imaging, homeland security and a myriad of other spin-offs. Fewer still appreciate its role in understanding the behavior and evolution of stars and how the elements that comprise us and the universe formed in the beginning."

Gilday concludes that "although nuclear physics and anthropology may seem completely unrelated, Norum's view of science as a process parallels that of Handler".

>> read the whole story: What is Science?


Success in publishing defined by quality? Anthropology Matters on "The Politics of Publishing"

The new issue of Anthropology Matters - one of the few anthropology online journals is out. The topic is "The Politics of publishing" - a topic that has been widely debated on anthropology blogs: Mostly, the internet was discussed as an alternative (or additional sphere) to publishing in journals because it's easier and (generally) cheaper to share knowledge online.

The three papers on the culture, cosmology and social organisation of the publishing industry are fascinating reading. One of the main points are summed up in the introduction by Ian Harper and Rebecca Marsland. We often take for granted that only the best articles are published in academic journals. This is wrong, they argue. Success in publishing is not so much defined by academic quality, as your ability to network:

Access to publishing is highly dependent on personalized networks - a situation that can leave postgraduate anthropologists out in the cold. The chances of your paper being published are dictated by two or more peer reviewers, in a peer review process entangled in personal connections and agendas, and shrouded in personal opinion and perhaps some mysticism.

Therefore, Ronnie Frankenberg, tells in an interview, stressing the social aspects of publishing:

Publishing a paper requires the same kind of research as when you apply for a job actually. Then you would find out about the department, and the other people there, and what their interests are, and what they've done. You stand a much better chance of getting a paper published if you've read at least one issue of the journal, if you've looked at what the editor's interests are, if you've looked on the internet at what the aims are.

And it's of course important which journals you're going to choose. There are hierarchies, dominated by the US publications. An anthropologist colleague who wanted to publish in a journal produced in Nepal was told by his supervisor not to waste his time, and to start thinking about publishing in serious journals, Harper and Marsland write ( >> read more on the experiences of running a journal in Nepal)

About the US, Daniel Miller writes:

The US system is heavily biased towards giving tenure to academics who have published in a few key journals rather than publishing per se. (...) With books the situation can be even worse. The same tenure system prioritizes certain publishers rather than others.

Additionally, the US system is "incredibly insular" according to Ronnie Frankenberg in an interview with Christine Barry:

I mean they are quite likely to publish articles from Eastern Europe and Latin America as a matter of principle, but unless a paper is by someone very famous from England or France it's not going to be given very top priority.

So you mean even if it gets favourable reviews they still might not publish it.

Ronnie: Absolutely

Miller points in his paper Can't publish and be damned to the issue of commercialisation of knowledge. He criticizes that "academic reputation has been outsourced to commercial interests". The market is dominated by few publishers. The number of independent UK presses that twenty years ago published anthropology either no longer exist or have been bought out. He continues:

The problem is that there are far more manuscripts that can properly claim to be worth publishing on academic grounds than can be sold as commercial successes. Berg, as most presses today, including university presses, is essentially a commercial organization that survives only to the degree to which it remains profitable.


Some absolutely brilliant scholarly and wonderful books simply have not sold. There are plenty that are successful, but the evidence is that the sales often do not correlate with scholarly quality or originality. A textbook without much of either may outsell an exemplary monograph. So the bottom line is that there are many manuscripts that on academic grounds ought to be published but are not commercially viable, and that may include your intended masterpiece.

The response on the call for papers for this special edition on the politics of publishing was low, the editors write and wonder:

We pride ourselves on our disciplinary self-reflexivity, yet it is odd that these issues have not been unpacked more.

This reminds me of an earlier article by Kerim Friedman on Open Access Anthropology:

Concerns over the ethical 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. Do we want our intellectual contributions to be hidden in dusty archives, or available to anyone who can Google?

>> continue to Anthropology Matters 2/2005: The Politics of Publishing


Open Access Anthropology - Debate about the Publishing Industry on Savage Mind

Open Source Anthropology : Are anthropologists serious about sharing knowledge?

Marshall Sahlins wants to make the Internet the new medium for pamphleteering

How can we create a more plural anthropological community?

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

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