More and more anthropology videos and documentaries are available on Youtube and Vimeo. Among the more recent additions we find these ones here that I enjoyed watching - and at the same time show the diversity of the discipline:
Run and Become is a film project by the Jon Mitchell, Sam Pepper and Jenni Rose Human from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sussex: What motivates people to carry on training and carry on running? How are people transformed through the act of training and running a marathon – bodily, emotionally, personally? Together with Brighton-based artist Matt Pagett they even put on an exhibition.
In Fashioning Faith, anthropologist Yasmin Moll portrays fashion designers in New York. Her film gives a more fun and everyday perspective on the politized issue of wearing hijabs and other elements of Islamic fashion. Moll grew up in the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Bahrain and Egypt.
On his blog he explains how he combined web and paper, how he set up his own publishing entity, Alert Press including print on demand by Lulu.com. The book consists of 14 papers, written by his students.
I hope more authors will choose similar ways of spreading knowledge.
Paper books lock in knowlegde - they will most likely be read by specialists only. Paper publications have to be ordered and paid for – an often lengthy and expensive process. Web publications are more democratic: They can be downloaded from every location in the world with internet access. They will be read by more people, including casual browsers. It’s obvious, so why not combining both paper and web?
When I recently heard about Keith Hart’s new book The Human Economy, I was thrilled: Finally a book with contributions of a wide range of social scientists (including many anthropologists like David Graeber and Thomas Hylland Eriksen) about one of the most important issues - our economic system. It’s obvious that the current models of economic organisation is not the best one. What alternatives are there?
But why on paper only? Shouldn’t a publication that they call “a citizen’s guide to building a human economy” be accompanied by a web version to ensure a widest possible readership and to discuss and expand the contents of the book?
But the book is new and I’m sure Keith Hart, who shares more knowlege online than most other anthropologists on his website and blog The Memory Bank, is working on this issue of dissemination. I’m looking forward to the book launch in Oslo next week and am going to blog about it.
Inspired by the relaunch of the anthropology repository Mana’o, I have finally finished a first overview over anthropology repositories and archives here http://www.antropologi.info/links/Main/Archives
The overview is far from complete and if you know of some more I should know, leave a comment or sent an email. Not all the repositories are user-friendly and it wasn’t always easy to find anthropology theses and papers, especially in the U.S.
In these archives we’ll find texts like Urban transformation and social change in a Libyan city: an anthropological study of Tripoli by Omar Emhamed Elbendak (NUI Maynooth, Ireland), Reclaiming the past. The search for the kidnapped children of Argentina’s disappeared by Ariel Gandsman (McGill, Canada), The ‘problem’ of ethics in contemporary anthropological research by John Campbell (SOAS, UK) , Inevitable change: an ethnographic analysis of transformation in formerly Afrikaans primary schools by Ingrid E. Marais (University of Johannesburg), Xhosa male circumcision at the crossroads by Ayanda Nqeketo (University of Western Cape), Being in the World (of Warcraft): Raiding, Realism, and Knowledge Production in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game by Alex Golub (mana’o), Everyday life resistance in a post-colonial global city. A study of two illegal hawker agglomerations in Hong Kong by Chi Yuen Leung (Hongkong University) or Depression, the internet and ethnography by Michael Andrew Hawkey (Massay University, Australia), Pastoralists in Violent Defiance of the State. The case of the Karimojong in Northeastern Uganda by Eria Olowo Onyango (University of Bergen, Norway) or a large collection of free books from Amsterdam University Press, the newest one Identity Processes and Dynamics in Multi-Ethnic Europe.
Have a look yourself!
In a new blog called Anthropology & Publicity several authors discuss the reasons for the underexposure of anthropological knowledge and explore ways to improve its dissemination and application in society. The blog is part of a workshop at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands. One of the organizers is Martijn de Koning, author of the blog Closer
One of the posts is written by Daniel Lende from the Neuroanthropology blog about Public Anthropology: The Example of the Culture of Poverty. Here he explains why he had to respond to a recent article in the New York Times ‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback. “By being timely, building a voice, and taking advantage of online dissemination, anthropologists can engage the public", he writes. “Those are basic lessons I have learned in the three years I have written on Neuroanthropology. The other is that people want substantive content.”
What kinds of theoretical insights have emerged from the anthropology of development? What can anthropologists learn from development work? Anthropology Through Development: Putting Development Practice into Theory is the topic of the new issue of the open access journal Anthropology Matters that was released a few days ago.
This issue, edited by Amy Pollard and Alice Street, consists of four interesting articles.
In Beyond Governmentality: Building Theory for Weak and Fragile States, Priscilla Magrath calls for a better understanding of “weak states":
(A)nthropological theory, drawing on Western European philosophy and political history, appears focused on strong governments, highlighting the potential dangers of excessive government, rather than the challenges of weak government.
Detailed ethnographies of the development encounter, including those undertaken by development practitioners themselves, can provide a foundation for building new theory to address contemporary issues, such as those faced by governments and the governed living in ‘weak and fragile states’. Such studies can enrich our understanding of development processes, while helping to bridge the gap between ‘applied’ and ‘theoretical’ anthropology.
Reconstruction efforts after the tsunami is the topic of Sonia Fèvres paper Development ethnography and the limits of practice: a case study of life stories from Aceh, Indonesia.
Development anthropology has an important part to play in contributing to the design and evaluation of humanitarian aid, she explains. Ethnographers should in her view not limit themselves to a meta-analysis of the development framework itself, or the anthropology of development.
Antonie L. Kraemer explains in Telling Us your Hopes: Ethnographic lessons from a communications for development project in Madagascar why it might be a good idea to turn informants into ethnographers.
She calls for “a more publicly engaged anthropology which does not merely “translate” other cultures, but which opens up for people to conduct their own ethnographic research by asking their own questions and capturing each other’s voices, stories and hopes as ethnographers in their own right.”
The anthropologist’s role should include “giving voice to marginalised people by facilitating access to written and online media, providing the necessary background context, and by translating and communicating joint research findings to key audiences, including the narrators themselves, the media and relevant decision makers.”
It might be fruitful to read her article together with Chris Campregher’s text Development and anthropological fieldwork: Towards a symmetrical anthropology of inter-cultural relations.
Here he questions popular assumptions about “voiceless people” and asks: Do they really need our help?
“Even as a trained anthropologist sensible to questions of ethnocentrism and cultural alterity", he writes, “I relied on this basic imagery of the poor and marginalized when I started to work for the first time in Central America. How not to? Engaging in development work implies that there will be some class of people who need support of some kind.”
Inspired from Science and Technology Studies (STS), he argues that anthropology should strive to become more symmetrical:
The interesting question that STS poses to us as anthropologists is the following: STS scholars state that they need to treat science and its outcomes (“scientific facts”) with the same methodological scrutiny that they use to explain “wrong” statements. So, how can development agents and anthropologists continue to differentiate between scientifically legitimized “knowledge” and culturally constrained “beliefs” of local communities?
Anthropologists should question and study their own methodologies, concepts, and actions in the field in the same way they study their informants. This, he thinks, “will not only lead to a new way of looking at the anthropologist as an actor in the field, but also represents a strategy favourable to those of us who work as applied anthropologists.”
Let’s celebrate and promote open access to academic research! It’s Open Access Week!
There hasn’t been much publicity around this event here in Norway, not in the anthro-blogosphere either.
So, to start with, here some videos!
Here’s a quick, simple and funny introduction to the concept of open access in universities by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and McGill University Library.
A very interesting interview with Vincent Gerbaud (University of Toulouse) about his motivation to publish his papers online in public repositories and his experiences
Several Open Access scholars and editors discuss the benefits of open access publishing
The London School Economics has made a nice contribution - the Open Access Week awards.
One of the awards went to anthropologist Deborah James. She has written the most downloaded book chapter in 2009/10: ‘I dress in this fashion’ transformations in sotho dress and women’s lives in a Sekhukhuneland village, South Africa (1996).
The lucky winner of The Departmental award for most improved full text deposit is the Department of International Development, who saw an increase from less than 3 full text open access papers per member of staff in 2008/09, up to 8 per member of staff in 2009/10.
The London School of Economics has an impressive number of anthropology publications in its online repository, but most of them cannot be downloaded, and open access articles are not highlighted.
See also a guest post from the Open Access week 2009: Anthropologists ignore Open Access Week - a report from Wellington and check antropologi.info’s overview over open access anthropology journals
Can studying religious movements give us new insights into globalisation or even cosmopolitanism? Anthropologist Tulasi Srinivas thinks so.
Antropologi.info book reviewer Tereza Kuldova has taken a closer look at Srinivas’ new book Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism Through the Sathya Sai Movement.
Book Review: Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism Through the Sathya Sai Movement by Tulasi Srinivas, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010
Tereza Kuldova, PhD Fellow. Museum of Cultural History, Department of Ethnography, University of Oslo
Tulasi Srinivas draws us with her book into the intriguing world of a transnational religious Sathya Sai movement, a movement that crosses regional, national, religious and cultural boundaries and thus creates something that she labels ‘engaged cosmopolitanism’.
Through the focus on this religious and cultural movement that has its roots in India and that has managed to grow into a huge global movement with millions of followers and devotees, she tries to resolve what ‘cultural globalization’ might mean in contemporary world. At the same time, she addresses the questions of the nature of transglobal economies of spirituality, affect and religio-cultural identity and the meanings and forms of new pluralism, as they can be exemplified through this movement.
Her detailed ethnographic study based on nine years of fieldwork, makes it clear that processes of globalization cannot be perceived in terms of westernization, as some would like to have it. They must be understood in terms of interactions, flows and movement between variously localized cultural centers and in terms of the resulting variously spatially and culturally localized translations of these interactions, images, ideas and discourses. To put it simply, flows are multidirectional (though I would say, this has never been different).
Tulasi Srinivas is throughout her work making an appealing argument for a ‘dynamic ethnography’, which operates with the concepts of mobile description and multi-sitedness. The problem she tries to resolve in her writing is how to comprehend mobility and how to deal with translocal phenomena and that within a discipline so ill equipped to understand them. Hers is a critical hermeneutic study of religious globalization, where concepts such as complexity, relationality, networks, interaction and affectivity play a crucial role.
Even though this type of logic is generally appealing and without any doubt trendy, there is still something that disturbs me in her work. It might be the constant concern with ‘cultural globalization’ and ‘cultural translation’, even after reading the book I still find myself wondering what exactly does that mean, where does one culture begin and the other end, what is borrowed, what authentic, what reinterpreted? Maybe we are just looking here for artificial isles of safety in a sea of constant flux… The question is - can we not do without these isles?
Hinduism-Muslim culture of saints, Christian teaching + indigenous healing rituals
Let me now provide you with a brief sketch of the book and then discuss one of the chapters in more detail.
Throughout her book, Tulasi Srinivas introduces us to the story of the Sathya Sai movement. This movement is sixty-five years old and draws on a Hindu-Muslim culture of saints and mystics and on several strands of religion in the subcontinent, from Sufi mysticism, popular Hinduism, and Buddhism to indigenous healing rituals, Zoroastrianism and contemporary Christian teaching. The movement is centered on the charismatic personality of Shri Sathya Sai Baba (b. 1926).
Sathya Sai Baba. Source: Nebbie2006, photobucket|
Sai Baba was born in a remote village of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh and “after suffering a series of seizures and falling into trances, he declared his greatness at the age of thirteen and proclaimed that he was Sai Baba, a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, a Muslim saint from Mahara who had died in 1918” (p. 9). He substantiated his claims by performing miraculous acts, such as materializations of sacred ash that devotees apply on their foreheads. These materializations continue to be central to his practice and are a matter of dispute among the members of anti-Sai movement.
Spiritual travel and “sexual healing”
Tulasi Srinivas maps the way this movement of his following has grown and became popular with people all around the world. She devotes a part of the book to the discussion of the nature of contemporary spiritual travel to the ashram in the village of Puttaparthi and the viewing and experience and magical encounter of darshan (witnessing of divinity) of Sai Baba. She takes us into the world of the global Sai community that stretches from the village of Puttaparthi to Tokyo, London, Hollywood, Mumbai, Bangalore and many other places around the globe and tries to grasp what it means to be and become a part of this global Sai community.
The chapter 4 is noteworthy because of its controversial nature. Tulasi Srinivas poses here the questions considering democracy, transparency and theology within the Sathya Sai Organization and focuses on the discussion of the allegations of ‘sexual healing’ and the ‘strategies of secrecy’ that according to her pervade this organization. In this respect, it is instrumental to read the reactions of the Sathya Sai Organization to her book, and in particularly to this chapter on http://www.saisathyasai.com/tulasi-srinivas/.
This controversy might be of interest to anyone possessing deeper knowledge of the movement and studying it, and it is up to the reader to make any conclusions. However, such critical comments are possibly the result of the fact that Srinivas dared to include the perceptions and views of the anti-Sai movement and did not only restrict her ethnography to the experiences of the committed devotees. On the other hand, how accurate any of the data is, is very hard to judge for anyone outside the movement and without its deep knowledge.
Further, she includes an interesting discussion on the encoded bodily prescriptions in the ashram and the problems they pose to the devotees from different cultures. She understands the failure of certain devotees to abide by the ashram rules as illuminating the “differential understanding of embodiment, salvation, desire and discipline” and believes that it speaks to “problems in cultural translation” (p. 19).
Branding of religious goods
However, the most intriguing chapter is according to me, being keenly interested in material culture, the last one dealing with the paradoxes of the teaching of resistance to the material world on one hand and the excessive consumption of religious objects on the other. In this context, “the material object is rejected as ‘unreal’ and a distraction from the truth of divinity, but the objects themselves become a significant signpost indicating the road to self-transformation” (p. 290).
Tulasi Srinivas shows us nicely how the consumption of these religious objects, be it gifted sacra or bought ephemera, has the power to directly transform the selves and the habitus of the devotees.
The gifted materializations (rings, necklaces, talismans, sacred ash, ambrosia etc.) from Sathya Sai Baba are the most important of the religious objects. “The reception of a materialized object instantly raises one’s standing among the community of devotees, as it is read as a sign of divine favor and an index of one’s active piety” (p. 285).
The materialized objects gifted by Sai Baba are believed to be transformed by the contact with him and thus possess a magical transformative power within them, “capable of transforming people’s bodies and minds from sick to well and from skeptical to devotional” (p. 294). “The gifting of the materialized objects to the faithful is the key element of transformative interaction between deity and devotee, as it is believed to be the material form of the much hoped for transference of the divinity’s grace and power as a blessing to the devotee” (p. 297).
Though gifts are the most important religious items for the Sai devotees, most of them never meet Sai Baba and are thus dependent on the global distributive network of Sai Baba goods, that can be purchased almost anywhere in the world. However, the further from the village of Puttaparthi, the less ‘authentic’ and powerful these objects get.
This chapter thus draws us also into the world of branding of religious goods, and the branding of the movement as such. What began as small business in touristic souvenirs in the 60s was turned into a bigger business in religious souvenirs in the early 70s mostly for spiritual tourists. By the beginning of 80s a huge business in religious objects of international scale, dealing in all kinds of objects, ranging from images, photographs, CDs, books, to jewelry, all featuring Sai Baba, was in place.
After all, the “Sathya Sai movement is known to be the largest faith-based foreign exchange earner for India, earning approximately Indian Rs. 881,8 million (approx. $5 million) for the year 2002-2003” (p. 12). Srinivas draws us also into the intricacies of the trade in the Sai Baba goods, where the SSSO claims to be the only ‘authentic’ source of ‘blessed’ goods by Sai Baba and where the struggle for perfection of the purchased goods is central.
Engaged cosmopolitanism or Hindu superiority?
To conclude, we can contrast the idea of ‘engaged cosmopolitanism’ which Srinivas uses with a statement of one of my informants, a lady who has been a spiritual tourist for the last 20 years and managed to escape her obsession: “After seeing all these babas and the way they treat people, you realize that most of what is happening is about power and money, the one who gives most gets those materialized gifts, the one who pays most gets to sit next to Sai Baba, in the end it is only a huge money-making industry and highly hierarchical one. And what is worse, the whole agenda of this money-making business is not a peaceful message of acceptance and equality of all religious beliefs, but rather the opposite, namely the superiority of Hindu thought and the Hindu dominance in a global sphere, after all India is shining. And magic, they can do no magic, why don’t they treat the lepers waiting outside their ashrams?” (Interview, 18. august 2010).
Engaged cosmopolitanism? Depends on what you imagine under this term.
This book on its all appears to be well-researched and is without doubt well-written, though at times it might seem too chaotic and the arguments unnecessarily literally twisted. A struggle for more clarity would be advisable. That does not diminish the contribution of the author to the studies in transnational religious phenomena. The book would be of interest to any scholar or student of globalization, religious movements, India, and to anyone interested in the methodological challenges posed by multi-sited fieldwork. And I would say, it is a must read for any Sathya Sai devotee!
>> Information about the book by the publisher (Columbia University Press)
>> Review by Peter Berger (The American Interest, 3.8.2010)
>> Interview with Tulasi Srinivas (Lokvani 3.2.2006)
See more reviews by Tereza Kuldova, among others The deep footprints of colonial Bombay and Hindi Film Songs and the Barriers between Ethnomusicology and Anthropology or Colonialism, racism and visual anthropology in Japan: Photography, Anthropology and History and my look at her master’s thesis That’s why there is peace
I’ve stumpled upon a rather new Open Access Journal called Practical Matters. This publication of Emory University is both interdisciplinary and “intermedia", i.e. multimedia.
The most recent issue (nr 3) is called Ethnography & Theology.
In their introduction, Lerone Martin and Luke Whitmore write:
Many scholars of religion who did not begin their scholarly careers as anthropologists now count themselves ethnographers, or at least state that they employ ethnographic methods.
Many scholars of theology have arrived, and continue to arrive, at the view that to better understand how human subjects experience their lives, rituals, and religious/cultural practices “it is necessary to observe people in everyday life and see how cultural meanings are brought by them to bear on their actual, practical concerns.”
This issue aims to push forward the interdisciplinary conversation around the intersections of ethnography and theology.
This issue includes a 12 minutes video by Melissa D. Browning about theologists on fieldwork with a corresponding paper Listening to Experience, Looking Towards Flourishing. Ethnography as a Global Feminist Theo/Ethical Praxis.
Issue 2 focuses on youth and includes an twelve-minute documentary by Sonia Narang that examines how the practice of the visual arts can involve the religious identities of young people.
In the first issue (topic: imagination), you’ll find a lot of photography, for example Imagining Antarctica by Sandra F. Selby or Luther’s Wedding: How One Town is Rebuilding its Convivial Culture through Imagination and Tradition by Barry Stephenson.
I hope we’ll see more journals of this kind. Another innovative journal I wrote about is Anthropology Reviews: Dissent and Cultural Politics (ARDAC)