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)
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.
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".
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.
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?
In a new book, Gregory F. Barz, professor of ethnomusicology at Vanderbilt University documents the effective role music and the arts are playing in the fight against AIDS in Uganda. It's according to the official press release the first book of an emerging research field – medical ethnomusicology – that seeks to combine efforts of anthropologists, music specialists, public health policy makers and doctors and other health care workers to fight disease.
The book is called Singing for Life: HIV/AIDS and Music in Uganda. It collects lyrics to songs and performances inspired by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in that country, and includes a CD sampler of Ugandan music.
"Music and medicine, when they’re coupled together, bring about the greatest effect in many parts of the world in combating disease. While Americans tend to think of music as entertainment, people in countries like Uganda consider it as being life itself."
According to the press release, HIV infection rates have fallen from 30 percent to 5 percent in Uganda in the past decade, and Barz argues that efforts to convey good information by storytellers, dancers, musicians and other artisans have played a prominent role. The typical mass media options don’t work in a country where many people have no access. "Music is often education in Africa, passing along information. I call it ‘dancing the disease’", Barz says.
In an article in the Vanderbilt Register, we read that Barz originally went to Uganda to document native drumming patterns. But:
"The more I listened to songs and observed dances, I began hearing that people were making meaning out of the disease and out of the virus through music and dramas and dancing. They were singing about social problems caused by AIDS – children not having parents, a missing generation – about the sickness that was everywhere.
When I came back, I decided I could no longer close my ears and turn off my fancy recording equipment to these voices anymore. I don’t want to just document the exotic and the local and the indigenous. There has to be some kind of intervention."
Looking at my travel schedule for the next few months I'm left wondering what can I expect to learn from the relatively short amounts of time spent the field in different countries? At what point does spending a few days in a culture become nothing more than tour bus ethnography?
When I read posts like the one above, I remember being taught how the discipline of anthropology really only emerged when we gave up the colonial past-time of "armchair" anthropology and actually got out in the field ourselves.
But spending too much time analysing data outside the field might have some other implications:
When scholars were tasked with making sense of all the data brought back from the colonies, they had plenty of time to reflect on it. (In fact, I've always suspected that the sheer amount of "down" time and distance from the people studied actually encouraged anthropologists to come up with those complex hierarchies of cultural traits that became so instrumental in the administration of the colonies and the oppression of so many people. You know, idle hands and all...)
Cicilie Fagerlid provides a nice explanation on why she has started blogging while she's on fieldwork. Her working title for her research is Communities in the making: Identity and belonging in postcolonial Paris and London.
After I started I have noticed that blogging sharpens the attention, just like taking a lot of photos (and probably painting) does; One starts to see motifs everywhere, and then one has to reflect on how to make the motif into a story so other people can understand what you want to tell them.