In a blog post at AnthroNow, Manissa McCleave Maharawal draws our attention to an important article in the American Anthropologist that was already published in november 2011: Anthropology as White Public Space?
Here, Karen Brodkin, Sandra Morgen, and Janis Hutchinson show that there is still a racial bias in American anthropology. Their online survey among anthropologists of color in the US reveals that anthropology has “not done well when it comes to decolonizing their own practices around race”. A racial division of labor within departments, as well as a range of everyday practices recreate white public spaces. Works by minority scholars and their role in theory building are not reflected in the canon.
(Check also some of her articles on AlterNet)
Inspired by her post, I downloaded and read the paper. Here we find several examples for that anthropologists of color (graduate students and faculty) often are treated as second class academics:
In sum, taken-for-granted practices of racially dividing labor mark anthropology departments as white institutional spaces. They include assigning diversity work to faculty of color, while giving it little value for tenure and promotion, and freeing white faculty from responsibility for it. Informal practices that train students of color for a paraprofessional track reinforce long traditions of treating members of subordinated communities as study subjects and native informants rather than as professional colleagues. The message is that minority anthropologists are not full professionals.
Here are some more quotes from the paper:
Several respondents experienced being actively sought after, only to discover that their most valued attribute was their appearance—so that their university or department could have the look of diversity. One who was so courted discovered that her appointment was tied “to a diversity-related administrative function with little budget or power.”
Those who are held institutionally responsible for the work of creating a more racially diverse faculty and student body are disproportionately minority faculty. As respondents described the amount of time they spent on this work and the consensus of their colleagues that it was their job, we came to think of it as “diversity duty.” –
A racial division of expectations also applies to teaching and advising. Departments often value faculty of color for their ability to teach students of color but not necessarily white students.
Students and faculty of color are often hypervisible as tokens of institutional political correctness but invisible as scholars in their work settings. More specific were reports of white faculty who treated students of color as research assistants and cultural brokers rather than scholars-in-training.
An important conceptual foundation of a secondary track for anthropologists of color is a common assumption that outsider status is the desired norm for anthropological research. This marks insider researchers negatively, most notably marking their knowledge as “folk” or “local” but not“scholarly . ”
Some respondents reported being “valued for my language and cultural insight, not for my intellect”. (…) Another [respondent] described a professor who “wished me to accompany him to Africa to be his go-between with the natives although this would have yielded no advantage to me and would greatly have delayed my ability to complete my program of study… . He wished to exploit me for his gain because of my minority ethnic status.”
(M)any respondents were told that the subject matter of their work, especially studies of U.S. communities of color and patterns of racism, do not belong in anthropology. Several were encouraged to leaveanthropology and move to ethnic studies.
Many departments remain attitudinally white in ownership and decision making about the discipline, undermining what Daryl Smith (2009) calls institutional “mattering and belonging . ” This happens through the continuing pattern of marginalizing the work and theoretical perspectives generated by scholars of color, as well as by seeing proper anthropology and ethnic studies as mutually exclusive. Both practices constitute anthropologists of color as less than full anthropologists. White ownership also happens when a predominantly white department collectively enacts mainstream U.S. forms of race avoidance in dealing with racial issues in departmental practice.
Respondents to our survey encountered resistance similar to that reported in 1973 to scholars of color actively shaping the directions of anthropological thought—and, notably , they mentioned hostility toward critical theoretical perspectives on taken-for-granted aspects of mainstream culture. One faculty respondent reflected, “Neither myself nor my grad school peers of color expected the extreme resistance for paradigm changes … we have all been pushed out of these colleges simply because of this resistance.”
Another [respondent] implicated class bias: “ Tenure requires having no life but [an] academic [one] and a class background that gives you a level of financial support to work.” (…) Class and race bias interact. Students of color are disproportionately from working-class backgrounds, and institutional blindness to the concomitants of class works against them.
Perhaps the biggest attitudinal barrier to ethnic diversification is a belief that being an anthropologist inoculates one against racism (as well as other varieties of social stereotyping). Many respondents urged developing a departmental discourse about race that includes reflexivity. Intersectional thinking is at the heart of reflexivity: for example, recognizing that not all minorities are male (or straight or working class) nor are all women white (or straight or middle class) opens up possibilities for making racial diversity the cutting edge of broader diversification. The lesson is to make critical discourses part of departmental discourse. (…) (D)epartments must hold white faculty equally responsible for improving racial diversity for it to be highly valued.
(T)he heart of our conclusion is embarrassingly obvious. It is this: the defamiliarizing insights and analyses generated from vantage points developed by anthropologists of color are better tools for diversifying departmental organization and culture (among other things) than hegemonic ones, and anthropology departments should embrace them instead of marginalizing them. Alternatively put, anthropology has made its mark on understanding cultures by taking seriously the points of view of those it studies. We suggest it needs to take seriously the points of view of those who are internal others to better understand and diversify itself as well as enhance its theoretical robustness.
Source: Brodkin, K, S Morgen and J Hutchinson (2011) Anthropology as White Public Space? (behind paywall, only available for subscribers)
Some of their findings are also reflected in an ethnography of American anthropology that I blogged about nearly two years ago: Reversed Gaze. An African Ethnography of American Anthropology by Mwenda Ntarangwi - see my post How racist is American anthropology?. I see now that I announced a second post about this book, but it never appeared, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do that soon!
See also a post from 2005: How can we create a more plural anthropological community? and a more recent post The dubious behaviour of Western researchers sightseeing the “Arab Spring”
There has been some discussion on these issues (including the paper) in a post by Jason Antrosio at Savage Minds: Taking Anthropology, Introduction
Antropologi.info is mainly about social anthropology. So, maybe now it’s time to get inspired by a paper from a neighbouring discipline - archaeology. Lukas Loeb has sent me this paper that he’d like to share with others: The Human Burial of the Abrigo Lagar Velho Child. An analysis of human burial and the understanding of social relations and ancient society.
Loeb is currently a student in the Social Science and Economy Department at the University of Agder, Norway. The paper was written as a part of an anthropology course he took at the University of British Columbia, Canada, in 2009/2010. The course, an Introduction to World Archaeology, provided a survey of world archeology from the emergence of humankind to the beginning of state societies.
What is your essay about, Lukas Loeb?
– My essay is about the human burial of the Abrigo Lagar Velho Child, and the introduction of modern humans in Europe. How we can use a single burial to discover ancient cultures and study their social life by the burial itself and the tools and vegetation surrounding it?
In your email to me, you wrote this is an important topic that you’d like to share with others. Why?
– Many say that the Neanderthals disappeared from Europe because the continent were overtaken by modern humans. My essay discusses the important topic of the modern humans and Neanderthals interacted and that there were some sort of gene flow between these two human species.
Is this discussion also relevant for cultural- and social anthropologists?
– I would say that this discussion is both important and relevant for both cultural- and social anthropologists, this essay discusses and analyzes the burial itself and how it reflects to the religion, social life, hierarchy and status that was present 24,500 BP.
As a bonus: Some links for those who want to know more about your topic?
João Zilhão: Fate of the Neandertals (archaeology.org)
Lagar Velho - the Hybrid Child from Portugal (donsmaps.org)
Thanks for this short interview!
Download the paper (pdf, 421kb)
Academic paywalls: No access to knowledge. Photo: noboder network, flickr
30 US Dollars in order to read a single academic article? Why? Is it about making money? No. “The high price is designed to maintain the barrier between academia and the outside world. Paywalls codify and commodify tacit elitism”, writes anthropologist Sarah Kendzior in Al Jazeera.
She gives a good overview of some important issues that restrict the circulation of knowledge. Most academic articles are hidden behind paywalls. People without affiliation to a well-off university that can afford to subscribe to (often overpriced) journals are denied access.
Many researchers would like the public to engage with knowledge, she writes. But many are not able to pursue that goal “due to the tyranny of academic publishers and professional norms that encourage obsequiousness and exclusion”.
In todays’s academic world, academic publishing is not about sharing knowledge:
Publishing is a strategic enterprise. It is less about the production of knowledge than where that knowledge will be held (or withheld) and what effect that has on the author’s career. New professors are awarded tenure based on their publication output, but not on the impact of their research on the world. (…)
One of the saddest moments I had in graduate school was when a professor advised me on when to publish. “You have to space out your articles by when it will benefit you professionally,” he said, when I told him I wanted to get my research out as soon as possible. “Don’t use up all your ideas before you’re on the tenure track.”
This confused me. Was I supposed to have a finite number of ideas? Was it my professional obligation to withhold them?What I did not understand is that academic publishing is not about sharing ideas. It is about removing oneself from public scrutiny while scrambling for professional security. It is about making work “count” with the few while sequestering it from the many.
Sarah Kendzior is a frequent contributor to Al Jazeera and other media. She has received lots of attention for her articles, among others about the elitist American academia and academics with salary below the poverty line (The closing of American academia) and The fallacy of the phrase, ‘the Muslim world’ where she explains why is time to retire the phrase “the Muslim world” from the Western media.
On her blog she keeps us up to date with her new publications and the reactions she has received.
She has recently received her PhD from Washington University in St Louis. The title of her thesis The Uzbek Opposition in Exile: Diaspora and Dissident Politics in the Digital Age.
“At the age of 18, why do I want to settle down and commit myself to Medicine when I can really investigate for example why there are health differences between the different classes and areas in Britain?”
Teenthropologist is the name of a new anthropology blog, written maybe by the youngest anthro-blogger around. She is 19, from Durham University in Britain. In her opening post she explains why she chose to study anthropology instead of medicine (or before studying medicine sometime later as anthropology provides useful perspectives for doctors).
Interestingly, she also asks “How on earth had we never been told of this course [anthropology] at school before? And why were so few people doing it?”
A very promising blog, I think, with so far two more posts: Train Journey – Class, Caste, Kinship…anthropological heaven? and a review of In Search of Respect (one of my favorite ethnographies…).
I also like the way she defines anthropology in her about page. She does not use the standard and somehow outdated views about anthropology = dealing with “understanding foreign cultures”. Instead, she uses Gillan Tett’s work about the financial crisis and her own study about teenage girls shopping to explain what anthropology is about.
PS: I’m going to update the anthropology blog newspaper at http://www.antropologi.info/blog/ soon. Currently, the overview over new anthropology blog posts at http://www.antropologi.info/feeds/anthropology/ is more up to date
“When you write [for us], please remember to write in plain English”, the editors Brian Moeran (Copenhagen Business School) and Christina Garsten (Stockholm University) ask in their editorial of the first issue:
One thing that can be said about anthropology in general is that, as a discipline, it has been blessed in the past by good writing, and by anthropologists who have been good writers. This is by no means the case nowadays, when the monograph is being ousted by the journal article, and freedom of expression by all kinds of restrictions.
In spite of all appearances to the contrary in most academic journals, it is possible to express complex ideas in simple language. Theoretical musings can be intelligible, divested of jargon.
And articles in the JBA, unlike articles in most other journals, really ought to say something that is novel, exciting, stimulating and provocative. They ought to strive to reach across to a variety of audiences. Otherwise, there isn’t much point in publishing them in the first place – unless, of course, we are going to play the citation index game, which we’re not. So there!
The journal is not meant to be interesting for researchers only. According to their selfdescription the journal staff hopes the articles may “guide business practitioners in their day-to-day working lives”. A better understanding of organizational structures and interpersonal relations, they argue, “can help in the management of personnel, workplace design, and formulation of business strategies”.
Business is understood broadly, as they explain in the editorial: Business is done both on a Norwegian oil rig or, a Peruvian craft market, a tea plantation in the Himalayan foothills, a Bulgarian rose field or on a camel train in the Saudi Arabian desert. In all those places, people engage “in practices that form many of the building blocks of anthropological theory: material culture and technology; gifts, commodities and money; labour and other forms of social exchange; (fictive) kinship, patronage, quasi-groups, and networks; rituals, symbolism and power; the development and maintenance of taste; and so on.”
The Journal of Business Anthropology adopts “a critical stance towards the commercial exploitation of academic research through the publication of overpriced journals that take advantage of under-budgeted university and educational libraries”:
By adopting a multiple format approach, it also takes a stand against current administrative evaluations of ‘academic quality’. It does not believe in the value of, although it may be obliged to take part in, citation indices. It also makes its contents entirely free. Copyright for all material published on the journal’s Open Access website remains with its authors, who may use it elsewhere as they wish.
Multi-format means there will be both traditional articles (published in traditional issues at specific intervals - two issues in 2012) as well as case studies and field reports that will be published separately as they become available. They will also be supported by blogs to enable the journal’s readers to engage in ongoing dialogues about issues arising from these writings. They also intend to run a news and information section.
One of their aims is also to counter what they describe as an “unfortunate development in the discipline of anthropology” - US-centrism.
“During the past two to three decades”, the editors write, “it seems to us that American anthropology has turned in on itself; its proponents have talked mostly to themselves and often ignored the work of those who live and work elsewhere”:
It is our abiding impression that the anthropological study of business is an American development, and that the businesses studied are themselves either American or located in the United States.
But other anthropologists in other parts of the world have also been conducting research on different aspects of business relations: for example, Norwegian herring fleets (Barth 1966), labour migration in Uganda (Elkan 1960), family firms in the Lebanon (Khalaf and Schwayri 1966), and transnational mining and the ‘corporate gift’ (Rajak 2011).
Their aim in launching the JBA is “to bring together fragmented anthropologies”. In the future, they intend to include an essay on one national or regional anthropology in each of the early issues of the JBA. “It is not simply in its methodology, but in its general approach and attitude, that anthropology needs to be holistic”.
Articles in the first issue:
Among the case studies we find A Funky-Formal Fashion Collection: Struggling for a Creative Concept in HUGO BOSS (pdf) by Kasper Tang Vangkilde.
The book review section also contains an extensive bibliography.
So far, there has been little innovation in the field of open access journal publishing. Most of them are based on traditional paper thinking. One of the few exceptions is Anthropology Reviews: Dissent and Cultural Politics (ARDAC).
I’m about to upgrade the blog engine (antropologi.info is powered by b2evolution) and I hope everything will work fine, but you never know, upgrading can get tricky. In any case, the blog will be unavailable for at least for a few minutes during the upgrade process.
I hope I’ll resume blogging shortly afterwards, it has been quiet here too long already!!
PS 18:06 - Upgraded! And everything seems to work as it should, yeah!
Book Review. Consuming Space: Placing Consumption in Perspective edited by Michael K. Goodman, David Goodman & Michael Redclift. Ashgate, 2010.
Tereza Kuldova, PhD Fellow, Department of Ethnography, Museum of Cultural History, Oslo
Chicken industry in UK, the violent history of luxury teak wood in Burma, boutique hotels in New York, chewing gum and the ‘tropical paradise’ of Cancun, seduction and commodity fetishism, ethical local and organic food, Chilean wine in UK, internet and consumption…Wondering what they have in common? The answer is: they are all amazingly catchy cases for developing a theory of consumption, production and the role of space – and they are all to be found in one edited volume - Consuming Space: Placing Consumption in Perspective.
This edited volume is one of those in which one finds something new and valuable every time one returns to it. It is literally packed with both interesting facts and great theoretical insights. Even though most of the contributors work within the field of social geography, I believe that the volume contains many interesting perspectives for anthropologists.
The focus of the volume is on understanding the ways in which we produce and consume space, as much as ways in which we produce and consume nature – the various case studies all relate to this topic. It looks at the space of social practice, which is “occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of imagination, such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias, which describe and contain consumption cultures” (xi). It looks at how space is made and remade along the trajectories of the social relations of production and consumption, in other words, this volume is an exploration into diverse contemporary capitalist political economies.
I have selected several of the book chapters for the review. It is those chapters that I enjoyed reading the most and that also shed some light on the red thread that goes through the edited volume: the conceptualization of space in relation to consumption and production.
Michael Redclift looks at the ways in which the histories of production and consumption are tied to histories of particular locations in his chapter Frontier Spaces of Production and Consumption: Surfaces, Appearances and Representations on the ‘Mayan Riviera’.
He shows how a place, its nature and social relations were transformed first as a result of the emerging popularity of chewing gum and later on as a result of transforming this place into a globally popular tourist destination. He brings the reader to the Mexican Caribbean Coast and looks at its layered histories that point to the hybridization through which nature and society meet and refashion space.
Redclift weaves together a narrative of chicle – the raw material from which chewing gum was derived – a story that transformed the landscape and ecology of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. He shows that “the boom of chicle production eventually gave way to other forms of production and consumption, notably in the development of international tourism on an altogether more ambitious scale” (86). He then goes on to tell the story of how Cancun, the ultimate tropical ‘artificial’ paradise, was created, how it emerged as a major touristic destination and how it lost its appeal in the 90s.
This chapter shows the importance of setting the space which is consumed in a historical context. He reveals also how the “fortunes of New York are closely linked with those of the Mexican Caribbean, and those of the Caribbean are linked with generations of people elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America, whose daily life depend on connections that they were usually only dimly aware of” (94). The story that Redclift tells is complex and interesting and I encourage anyone with interest in Mexico, Caribbean or the workings of tourist industry, to look into it.
A brief video on the history of a chewing gum:
In The Cultural Economy of the Boutique Hotel: The Case of the Schrager and W Hotels in New York, Donald McNeill and Kim McNamara deal with another kind of space, namely the ‘boutique hotel’. The ‘boutique hotel’ has been one of the biggest stories in the hotel industry since the 1980s and its popularity has spread worldwide. The chapter maps its cultural economy and the processes of the ‘economy of qualities’, where the boutique hotels are perceived as having a life, or a career.
They show how the hotel’s lifecycle is “closely related to the specificities of local markets, the urban economic sectors that dominate central business districts, and the physical structure of existing buildings” (151) and thus how creation of particular spaces is always part of larger processes. They look in particular at the development of Ian Schrager’s boutique hotels in New York, which coincided with the transformation – from the 70s onwards – of the city into a fashion capital and the hub of music, art, design and disco-lit nightlife.
This chapter nicely portrays the shifts in aesthetics and design as much as in consumer demands and the ways in which desires are manufactured. It also portrays how the boutique hotel concept was appropriated by competitors and boutique hotels suddenly emerged all around the globe. I have stayed in many boutique hotels in India and this chapter definitely sets them into perspective for me.
A brief video on boutique hotels:
In Manufacturing Meaning along the Chicken Supply Chain: Consumer Anxiety and Spaces of Production, Peter Jackson, Neil Ward and Polly Russell look at a different dimension of space. They analyze spaces of production in relation to consumption to understand how meaning is manufactured in this process.
They reexamine the contemporary trends of re-connecting producers with consumers, where consumers increasingly wish to make qualified choices, where for instance – those with capital – prefer eggs from free roaming hens, or meat from small local producers. This chapter focuses on “identifying where and how the distinctive cultural meanings of food are created and negotiated” and it argues that “this process of ‘manufacturing meaning’ has direct economic consequences in a commercial climate where food is increasingly ‘sold with a story’” (164).
They thus set out to explore “role of subjective ideas, like myth and memory, within contemporary understandings of food industry” (164). They map the terrain of the intensive (broiler) chicken industry, an industry which epitomizes the recent industrialization of agricultural production.
The interesting question they ask is when and under what conditions chicken becomes perceived as either a sentient living being or as commodity - a question of the commodification of nature. They show how the “food producers are not simply manufacturing a product (broiler chicken) but they are also simultaneously attempting to manipulate the meanings which consumers attach to that product” (169).
They approach this through life history interviews with people who have been for years involved in the chicken industry; some of these interviews are certainly interesting and point to the ambivalent relationships between these people and chickens, which are often understood in terms of profit, as a commodity, but still – a special type of commodity, a living commodity.
These life histories show that “the ‘invisibility’ of chicken production has direct consequences for the way consumers relate to the product” (173) and that “the mechanization and acceleration of poultry production creates a distance from any emotional connection with live chickens intended for slaughter” (174).
They argue that “in managing the risks associated with chicken production, (…) the food industry is faced with a number of tensions most readily apparent in the desire to justify premium prices through revealing more about animal welfare, quality and provenance without making consumers ‘squeamish’ by providing too much information” (184). According to them, consumer anxiety is “an inevitable consequence of the intensification of the industry, a direct result of the commodification of nature and the increasing distance separating consumers from producers” (184).
For an interview with broiler farmers see this video:
In Consuming Burmese Teak: Anatomy of a Violent Luxury Resource, Raymond L. Bryant looks at how space as much as people’s lives have been transformed and even devastated by the desires of elites for luxury wood.
This chapter brilliantly uncovers how the history of the premier world luxury wood – the teak tree – has been implicated in a history of violence, oppression, exploitation, and civil war. He shows the dark side of the story of this luxury commodity which nowadays adores the yachts of the wealthy.
In Burma, “political interests centered on controlling teak forests and their inhabitants. Burma’s rulers – pre-colonial monarchs, British officials, post-colonial civilian and military elites – have all grappled with this problem, even as forest residents – shifting cultivators, villagers, timber traders – have sought to evade central control. In short, teak has been a perennial focus of struggle” (240).
His version of the story of the teak is certainly not the ‘official one’. He calls the Burmese teak a blood timber – “a resource whose record of exploitation can be viewed as a bad thing” (240). The accounts he argues against in this chapter are those “written by and/or for elites”, accounts that “present one particular version of history that is ‘factual’ in tone, partial in scope and de-politicized in presentation” (240).
In pre-colonial Burma teak tree was preferred by the Burmese royalty and nobility; it was used in ship-building and the 18th and 19th century were marked by a thriving export trade. “As a valued timber, there was a royal monopoly on teak from at least the eighteenth century that was enforced in the forests by specially appointed guards empowered to fine or arrest anyone involved in its illegal extraction” (241).
The British in search for new timber supplies to build war ships discovered the potential of Burma, the home to the largest teak forests in the world. And so “from the mid-nineteenth century to the Japanese invasion of Burma in early 1942, the consolidation of British control went hand in hand with the elaboration of the world’s leading export-oriented teak industry.
As such, teak became prime imperial resource” (242).
Teak was shipped to markets in both Europe and British India, where it was used in everything from park benches, railway sleepers to warships. After 1900 the forests in Burma were ‘privatized’ and became dominated by foreign companies, a fact that generated considerable local resentment. “Official revenue earned from the lucrative teak industry was used to sustain the British Indian colonial administration (of which Burma was a part)” (243).
After Burma gained independence, the situation has not changed much, it in fact worsened. “As in pre-colonial and colonial times, post-colonial teak production generates enormous profits that are not reinvested in the economic improvement of the country, but are rather used to improve the lives of those who control Burmese State as well as their political and economic allies” (243):
“Even as teak wood contributed to imperial grandeur and post-imperial fine living by providing a marker of distinction for both the already well-to-do and the socially up-and-coming, it was also the focus of vicious strife in the forests from where it came. (…) Burmese teak extraction has been a brutal and tawdry tale of state repression, local displacement, popular fear and loathing, and out-and-out murder” (248). This story of production of teak, is a story of production “whose anatomy combines extinction and distinction in a way and to an extent that perhaps only violent luxury goods can do” (253).
An interesting older video:
The last chapter which I have selected is – paradoxically – one of the introductory chapters. These chapters are all theoretically oriented and are definitely a must read. Yet one of them stands out in my view and that is The Seduction of Space by David B. Clarke.
All the above case stories suggest the omnipresence of the commodity and the saturation of space with commodity. There is literally no escaping commodity and the market. In this situation, it is most appropriate to reexamine Marx’s notion of commodity fetishism, and that is what Clarke does in his chapter.
This notion has become over time unpopular among many social scientists that tend to favor the idea of full consciousness of the consumer eliminating thus any traces of false consciousness. Yet Clarke shows that Marx is “undoubtedly far closer to acknowledging unconscious effects than many recent theorizations of consumption” (57).
Taking this as a starting point he then goes on, using Lacan, to focus on the alignment of the pleasure principle and reality principle. In the final section he looks at the way in which “the reality principle and the pleasure principle have been deflected by their due alignment”, which manifests itself in the “deregulation of the reality principle and the consequent emergence of an unprincipled reality” (58).
To reach to this point Clarke uses Baudrillard’s notion of seduction – seduction, and not consumption, is here opposed to production. Seduction diverts, takes aside, it is everywhere and at all times opposed to production. Clarke then argues that “fetishism has come to saturate social space in its entirety” (59), and looks at the shift from the scene of consumption to its obscenity, from the production of space to the overexposure of pornogeography.
Clarke nicely shows through his chapter that “it is simply not the case that these polarized positions – either full consciousness or false consciousness – are the only alternatives on offer. Indeed the particular framing merely reproduces the terms of a longstanding idle debate – by beginning with the unquestioned premise of a pre-given individual who may or may not be duped, and coming down on one side of the argument or other” (63).
He shows the potential of approaching the issue of fetishism through psychoanalysis, which “acts transversally to this misleading opposition by refusing to begin with a pre-given subject. For psychoanalysis, the subject is constituted as much as it is constitutive and it is never fully present to itself” (63).
This discussion then goes on to attack the core of consumerist logic, in which, as Zygmunt Bauman pointed out, “a satisfied consumer is neither motive nor purpose” (66) and at which “heart lies a fundamental contradiction between the promise of satisfaction and the persistence of unfulfilment, the proffering of pleasure and its withdrawal” (68).
He then goes on to talk about the desire, which is created through the creation of something that the subject supposedly lacks – to repair this lack the subject has to go and shop – for Lacan desire is the metonymy of want-to-be. Clarke argues that the fundamental importance of fetishism lies in its “seductive potential, which relates purely to its form” (74) and so as Baudrillard puts it ‘fetishism is actually attached to the sign-object, the object eviscerated of its substance and history, and reduced to the state of marking a difference, epitomizing a whole system of differences (Baudrillard 1981: 93)’. “It is this characteristic that is responsible for the seductive power exerted by consumerism” (74).
This chapter is all in all a great mixture of Marx, Lacan, Baudrillard and Bauman, and though this little tasting does not do it full due, I hope that it at least draw your attention to it.
Here is a nice video on commodity fetishism:
Baudrillard, J. 1981. For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign St. Louis Telos.
Tereza Kuldova has written several book reviews for antropologi.info. Some of her recent ones are Lookism: Why we don’t want to be perceived as “ugly” or “different”, No fashion outside the “West"? and Religious globalization = Engaged cosmopolitanism?
Antropologi.info was recently voted as one of the best anthropology blogs.
Jason Antrosio, editor of Living Anthropologically and Anthropology Report asked his readers to pick their three favorites among 120 anthropology blogs. I’m especially happy about the result as I haven’t told anybody about the survey and I don’t use facebook og twitter to “promote” this blog. And his list included also several popular blogs within physical / biological anthropology and archaeology.
So, thanks a lot to everybody who voted for antropologi.info!
It has been quite quiet recently here on antropologi.info. The main reason is that I’m still in Cairo, and this city etc has consumed most of my mental bandwith.
Now, my time in Cairo is about to finish, I will be back in Norway next week. There, I will have to spend most of my time on finding an affordable flat and getting back in my freelance business. Nevertheless, I’ll try to resume blogging and hopefully will be blogging more frequently than last year, including more shorter posts.