Written in the first person, “A Season in Mecca” reads like a novel and is filled with descriptions and personal reflections. It follows a narrative structure, starting with journal entries Hammoudi wrote at his Princeton home before embarking for North Africa and the Middle East, and ending with his departure from Saudi Arabia, which is where Mecca and other sites central to the hajj are located.
Approximately 2 million Muslims travel to Mecca annually. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam — along with profession of faith, prayer, fasting and alms giving. It is obligatory for every Muslim man or woman, who has the means, to do once in a lifetime. "According to Muslim tradition, the hajj purifies you from sin, puts you on the right path, and brings the mercy of God in you for a good life here and in the hereafter", says anthropologist Abdella Hammoudi, author of the book which became available in English in January.
Hammoudi grew up in Morocco and moved later to France. He says, he knew that the project would be “problematic” for him because of the tension he felt arose from his dual education (both religious and secular). But, and this is interesting, "it was precisely this cultural and educational hybridity that he saw as integral to his study of the hajj".
"I would not have done this [project] as an anthropologist without that sense of existential risk-taking. I went as a cultural Muslim with empathy, and also with distance. I went also with the openness to take the risk to revise everything I had lived with until now."
>> read an excerpt of the book (OpenDemocracy)
No newspaper in Britain has published the Muhammad-cartoons. "There are some lessons (the British) learned from "The Satanic Verses" that I'm afraid others in Europe still need to learn", anthropologist Pnina Werbner says in an interview with Der Spiegel:
During the Rushdie affair, there was also a major discussion about the limits of freedom of speech. The debate made it clear that despite our invocations of freedom of speech, even in the West freedom of speech is not absolute. After all, limits are set on pornography, for example.
Freedom of speech today is to a large extent exercised through self-censorship -- not only through legislation, but by commercial interests, such as newspapers and publishing houses. They constantly make decisions about what should or shouldn't get publicized -- partly in response to audiences, partly in response to commercial interests, partially in response to the sensibilities of their viewers or readers.
You can say what you like in the privacy of your own home, but if you try to get it published, to get your voice heard in public, you will find that your opinions may be unacceptable for purely commercial or pragmatic reasons.
Their passionate belief is puzzling and alien to us. But we have to understand that, precisely because ordinary Muslims are also deeply offended, for that reason such apparently light-hearted satire will play into the hands of the extremists, the very people whom these cartoons were meant to criticize.
They are the ones who are benefiting most from the cartoons. For them, this is a huge PR coup, which enables them to recruit young people to the radical cause of Islam. In this sense the publication of the cartoons has backfired and that, I think, is the real indictment of the cartoonists. They've mobilized people all over the Muslim world against the West.
MORE ANTHROPOLOGISTS ON THIS ISSUE
Daniel Martin Varisco: Much Ado about Something Rotten in Denmark (My own view, even as a satirist who idolizes Montesquieu and Swift, is that the best public course is one of “freedom of discretion” at a time when there is such misunderstanding on all sides) og Loony Tunes: The War Draws On (It is bad enough that we have a war of bombs and bullets exasperated by a war of words. Do we really need to have cartoonists drawn into the fray?)
Erkan Saka: Danish Media's Representations of Islam by anthropologist Peter Hervik and A call for respect and calm (both posts have many useful links among others Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons and Trampling others' beliefs in defence of yours.)
Kambiz Kamrani: Cultural relativism meets freedom of speech with the Danish cartoons and Muslim protests (He reviews several blog comments and concludes: "With the publication of these cartoons, this distance of understanding and communication is further gapped because we're ultimately fueling an already burning fire.")
www.sorrydenmarknorway.com - Arab and Muslim youth initiative (The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise.)
An old drawing style in Japan is being reintroduced as new in the United States, and USC anthropology research scientist Mizuko Ito presented the development of Anime at the UCLA Faculty Center, UCLA University writes on their homepage. Academics should view anime fan art as its own unique art form, she said: "It is important for academic institutions to acknowledge popular culture (such as anime)."
Ito is known for her research on mobile phones. Currently she is part of the research project Digital kids.
The article also mentions Rachel Cody, a research assistant who works with Ito and studies the interaction of anime enthusiasts on the Internet and in front of the computer in private rooms.
(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..."
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)
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.
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.
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)