Categories: "anthropology (general)"
Unfortunately no new content was published here last year. Nevertheless, this blog received lots of visitors. Looking at last year's statistics about the most viewed posts and pages, I find three clear winners.
The three most viewed posts are:
1. The Five Major Challenges for Anthropology (4806 visits)
This post from 2006 is about the book Plausible Prejudice by Marianne Gullestad.To understand the problems of the world today, we need to "decolonize anthropological knowledge", she writes.
2. Yes to female circumcision? (4254 visits)
This is also the most commented post on antropologi.info. It is about Sierra Leonean-American anthropologist Fuambai Ahmadu who attacks Western feminists, media and anti-Female Genital Mutilation campaigns and accuses them for presenting a one-sided, ethnocentric picture of female circumcision.
3. Free Open Access Anthropology Journals (3880 visits)
This is a regularily updated overview over Open Access journals in anthropology in several languages
The following posts and pages have significantly lower page views
A post about a statement by the ASA (Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth) in 2007
5. The Anthropology Newspaper (1128 visits)
This pages provides an overview over the recent blog posts by anthropologists in English, German, and Scandinavian languages around the world.
6. Selected quotes from "On Suicide Bombing" (942 visits)
A post about a book by Talal Asad where he asks questions as: What actually is terrorism? What kind violence is labelled as “legitimate” and why? Is there really a big difference between soldiers at war and suicide bombers?
A review by Tereza Kuldova of "The Power of Looks. Social Stratification of Physical Appearance" by Bonnie Berry
8. Why anthropologists should become journalists (912 visits)
A post about an article by Brian McKenna in Counterpunch where he writes: "We need courses and programs in “Anthropology & Journalism” to help create the critical public intellectuals of the 21st century."
9. Why we need more disaster anthropology (833 visits)
A post about Uy Ngoc Bui's master’s thesis about the role of NGOs, the state and the people themselves’ in the period after typhoon Durian hit Bến Tre province in Southern Vietnam.
10. On African Island: Only women are allowed to propose marriage 759 (visits)
A post about an article in USA Today about negative consequences of Christian missionaries on an island who try to convince the islanders that it is men, not women, who should make the first move and propose.
11. The Anthropology of Suicide (722 visits)
A post after the death of a close friend. Suicide is best approached by getting out of the confines of biomedical sciences and into the domains of anthropology and sociology. A suicide is not primarily a sign of “that there was something wrong with a person", but also that something might be wrong with society as a whole.
12. How racist is American Anthropology? (704 visits)
A post about the book Reversed Gaze by Kenyan anthropologist Mwenda Ntarangwi who conducted an anthropological study of American anthropology. Whereas Western anthropologists often study non-Western cultures, he studies “the Western culture of anthropology".
A post about Shahram Khosravi's journey from Iran to Europe as “illegal” refugee whose life was saved by a human smuggler.
14.Thesis: Hijab empowers women (541 visits)
A post about Siham Ouazzif's thesis “Veiled Muslim Women in Australian Public Space.
A post about an article by Lila Abu-Lughod who critizes the images of Muslim women that are constructed in the "West" especially after 9/11.
Would you like to get an overview over the most recent anthropology blog posts? The old newsticker did no longer work reliably, so I've created a new one. It is still work in progress, but so far it seems to work well. I tried to make it look more attractive, with a newspaper look, images and short excerpts with responsive design that also looks good on mobile devices. It also provides a tagcloud from all the categories that the blog authors assigned to their posts, a probably useful tool for exploring previous posts.
The feeds are updated every two hours. Have a look at the new Anthropology Newspaper here http://www.antropologi.info/feeds/
So far, 100
70 blogs are included, so far only English and German ones. I might add more languages later. Please let me know if there are other blogs that I should add or if things are not working as expected, either here in the comment field or via the contact page.
As mentioned, I'm still working on it, there is a lot more that can be done with the current set up. It was not easy to find a good solution. I was about to go for a commercial solution but then I was so happy to find the free and opensource feed aggregator FeedWordPress by "web developer, student of Philosophy, and sometime political activist" Charles Johnson. The more I more I've used the more fascinated I became by this plugin. I am also very thankful for the smart template Ocomedrev that web developer Antonio Sánchez created. I only modified it slightly.
Anthropologists on deported migrants, unusual bureaucrats, and the thriving solidarity economy in Greece
While I am trying to get back into the blogging business, here three selected pieces that I've written recently for the University of Oslo.
Two of them are accounts on somehow positive change that is happening.
Many anthropologists have contributed to the understanding of the economic crisis in many parts of the world during the recent years, see among others the earlier posts "Use Anthropology to Build A Human Economy" or "Similar to the Third World debt crisis" - David Graeber on 'Occupy Wall Street'. But few studies deal with the ways people tried to create alternatives to the currently dominating economic models.
I found it therefore particularily interesting to talk to Theodoros Rakopoulos who is currently studying the thriving solidarity economy in Greece: an economy based on mutual aid, cooperation, bartering and collective welfare.
Time banks, volunteer-run health clinics and pharmacies, alternative currencies, food distribution without middlemen: People “mostly from humble economic backgrounds” are experimenting successfully with alternatives to austerity policies that have been dictated by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Theodoros Rakopoulos has been on fieldwork among the anti-middlemen movement, one of the most successful solidarity economy initiatives that popped up in Greece since 2010.
Strangely enough, I haven't heard about these developments before. I suppose it's because media was more interested in reporting about the rising xenophobia in Greece. But the researcher explains that the new solidarity economy has "arguably a wider impact on peoples’ daily life than the much talked about rise in far-right parties like Golden Dawn”.
Anthropologist Knut Christian Myhre is currently writing a book about unusual bureaucrats. Instead of reviewing laws and policies in their offices, they tour the country, hold public meetings and communicate with citizens via social media. This initiative, Myhre thinks, can serve as example for other countries wishing to revive local democracy and expand their political and legal repertoire.
His main focus was the so-called Shivji Commission that in 1991 was appointed by President Ali Hassam Mwinyi to inquire into the state of land conflicts in Tanzania. For one year this commission toured around the country, held 277 public meetings in 145 villages and 132 urban centres in all of mainland Tanzania’s 20 administrative regions. Around 83,000 members of the public took part in the process. Local researchers and experts prepared six major studies, while the commission made visits to Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Korea to learn from their experiences.
We are living in times characterized by increasing mobility and transnational connections — or so it seems, at least, for some people in the richer parts of the world. Anthropologist Heike Drotbohm has been on fieldwork among people for whom the opposite is true.
My story about her research begins like this:
"When Jacky was deported from the USA to Cape Verde, his life came to a sudden standstill. Within a short time his face grew deep wrinkles; it looked resigned, exhausted, and drained. Merely at his age of 45, Jacky looked like an old man.
Anthropologist Heike Drotbohm is looking at a recent picture of Jacky and is puzzled. She met him six years ago and now she can hardly recognize him. While peering at more pictures of deported migrants she met between 2006 and 2008 on Cape Verde during her fieldwork, she is compelled to make the same conclusion. All of these people seemed to have aged disproportionally fast.
Their faces, it seems, tell us uncomfortable stories about the transition from a mobile and independent life to the forced immobility on Cape Verde: an arrow-shaped archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean that the men left many years ago."
Lots of new anthropology blogs have been started up recently, most of them have made it into the overviews here at antropologi.info: the anthropology blog newspaper http://www.antropologi.info/blog/ and the - I think - more reader-friendly anthropology blog news ticker http://www.antropologi.info/feeds/anthropology/ (if not, let me know!)
Now, I'd like to mention especially two blogs. The first one is Thomas Hylland Eriksen's blog at http://thomashyllanderiksen.net He is one of the most visible anthropologists in the public, he set up his first website already back in prehistoric 1996 (recently rebuilt and moved to http://hyllanderiksen.net). So finally, we will get more frequent updates about his work and thoughts on his blog.
Some of the recent posts include Fossil addiction: Is there a road to recovery?, Whatever happened to prog? and About Progress, where he dares to criticize the ruling rightwing-populist Progress Party in Norway. Within few hours his post stirred up a bit of controversy in the media.
The other new blog is by Sindre Bangstad at http://www.sindrebangstad.com/ I am glad he finally set up his first website. I've been following him on facebook for a while where I enjoyed his daily comments about the state of the world and the numerous interesting links he posted. His main focus is islamophobia and racism.
Photo: Cíntia Regina, flickr
During the recent (nearly) two years, I've been interviewing researchers that are part of the research project Overheating. The three crises of globalisation: An anthropological history of the early 21st century at the University of Oslo, starting with Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Anthropologists to study humanity’s biggest crises.
I also interviewed most of the researchers that were invited to hold seminars. One of the texts that for me was most fun to write was about the research by sociologist Caroline Knowles. For seven years, she has been following a pair of flip-flops around the world. This flip-flops taught her a lot about the biggest migration streams in history, inequality and the difficulties of "studying up".
The text starts like this:
The woman, who is sinking up to her knees in rubbish in the middle of the huge landfill in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, is not one of the hundreds of scavengers who are searching for things they can use or eat like old airline food and plastic bottles.
The woman is a sociologist.
She has travelled all the way from London to this giant, murky, grey-brown raised area of partially decomposed rubbish. For her, it is the end of a long journey that started several years ago in the world's second largest oil field in Kuwait.
"Second Life is their only chance to participate in religious rituals": This seven year old post about the research by anthropologist Tom Boellstorff on the virtual world Second Life came into my mind when I heard about the new special issue "Religion in Digital Games" of the interdisciplinary Open access journal "Online. Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet".
The journal is published by the Institute of Religious Studies at the University of Heidelberg and has just been relaunched and redesigned.
Religion in online games seems to be still a new topic in the university world.
"Until now this certainly huge field of research remains mostly untapped and digital games have only recently been declared an interesting object for scholars of religion", Simone Heidbrink, Tobias Knoll, and Jan Wysocki write in their contribution "Theorizing Religion in Digital Games- Perspectives and Approaches".
As universities generally are conservative institutions, Simone Heidbrink and Tobias Knoll start their introduction with an apology for leaving established paths:
When researching a rather new, unusual or controversial topic in nowadays academia it seems to be a new kind of “tradition” to apologize in great length for doing something the scholar thinks the readerships thinks he is not supposed to study (or something equally confusing along those lines), based on the assumption that it is scientifically unworthy, insignificant or plain nonsense. That was our experience with the topic at hand. (…)
In order to follow the apparently mandatory academic ritual of apologizing and legitimizing, we would herewith like to express our deepest regrets for publishing this special issue of Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet topics on “Religion and Digital Games. Multiperspective and Interdisciplinary Approaches”.
Religion plays a role in many games, as Simone Heidbrink, Tobias Knoll, Jan Wysocki show. This is also true for religious stereotypes that might be reproduced in "neglected media" like video games in more explicit forms - partly because these media are considered to be less relevant in cultural discourse and thus less subject to media critique.
They refer among others to Vít Šisler who in his research shows how Muslims are being stereotyped in different video games. The topic of the Middle East as war zone and virtual battleground has become even more significant in the post 9/11 era. Not only have the numbers of games with an objective of fighting terrorism increased significantly according to him. The stereotyping, the “othering” of the (virtual) Muslim counterpart have become even more racist as well.
Anthropology emerged in a relatively high scientific level in the wider Middle East before it existed as a discipline in the West. Therefore, the label of colonialism often coupled to its emergence must be removed.
This is the main point of an article by Hassen Chaabani in the recent issue of the International Journal of Modern Anthropology.
Although the beginning of the development of anthropology as a discipline is originated in colonial encounter between Western people and colonized peoples and, therefore, coupled to its use in favor of extremist ideologies such as racism, this must not diminish the scientific value of anthropology, he writes.
You won't find many anthropology departments at universities in the Middle East, and its reputation might not be the best. So therefore this article mind be a timely reminder that anthropology has not been a dubious invention by the West. Chaabani sees "the prestige and hegemony of some editors and publishers in some powerful countries" as "one of the factors that could inhibit the development of a real global anthropology".
Hassen Chaabani, who is is president of the Tunisian Anthropological Association, draws our attention to two scholars: Abu Rayhan al- Biruni, a Persian scholar (973-1048) and Ibn Khaldoun, a Tunisian scholar (1332-1406).
Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, he writes, "is considered as one of the greatest scientists not only of the 11th century but of all times". He is most commonly known as a mathematician, astrologer, and historian. But he has also been an anthropologist:
He founded the science of anthropology before anthropology existed as a discipline, and therefore he is considered as the first anthropologist. He was an impartial writer on custom and creeds of various nations and was the first Muslim scholar to study Indian populations and their traditions. In addition he wrote detailed comparative studies on the anthropology of religions and cultures in the Middle East, Mediterranean and especially South Asia. (…)
Living during the high period of Islamic cultural and scientific achievements, Al-Biruni placed a focus on modern anthropological interests including caste, the class system, rites and customs, cultural practice, and women’s issues (Akbar, 2009). Through this modern practice, Al-Biruni used the concepts of cross cultural comparison, inter-cultural dialogue and phenomenological observation which have become commonplace within anthropology today (Ataman K., 2005).
Biruni's tradition of comparative cross-cultural study continued in the "Muslim world" through to Ibn Khaldoun’s work in the 14th century, Chaabani writes:
Some of his books cover the history of mankind up to his time and others cover the history of Berber peoples, natives of North Africa, which remain invaluable to present day historians, as they are based on Ibn Khaldūn's personal knowledge of the Berbers. In fact, he presented a deep anthropological study of Berbers before anthropology existed as a discipline.
Chaabani also writes that the general idea of biological evolution was advanced more than 1,000 years before Darwin by the Iraqi thinker Amr ibn Bahr Al Jahis (800-868) in his book "Book of Animals".
Who was the first anthropologist? Really al-Biruni? A tricky question. Others might point to Classical Greece and Classical Rome, see more in Wikipedia: History of Anthropology (where al-Biruni is mentoned as well). The main point as I see it is that anthropology was developed in many parts of the world, and not only in the so-called West.
Regularily, new initiatives are launched to make anthropological knowledge more accessible to the general public. A few weeks ago, PopAnth was launched - a highly ambitious project that “translates anthropological discoveries for popular consumption” as they explain:
We take anthropology’s collective knowledge and translate it for mainstream audiences, much in the way that popular science books, tv shows and trivia quizzes make even the hardest of sciences accessible. We strive to provide you with the best of anthropology in a format that makes you go, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that!’ Our cross-cultural stories aim to help you discover things about yourself and the world you live in.
That sounds - apart from the corporate PR-language - good and is exactly what we need more of in the social sciences. And already after a few weeks, there are a lot of articles about a wide range of topics about everything from backpacking, human emotions and Japanese consumers. And yes, they are all written in an easily understandable language. Yeah!
This also applies to the book reviews, where they also chose to focus on books that might be able to attract a wider non-specialized readership like Watching the English by Kate Fox or Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer.
And they’ve also set up a discussion forum.
But as a look at their first articles also reveals, this project suffers from similar shortcomings as many others we find online. It is a rather Western / US-centric endavour in the sense that the “we” that is invoked and articulated in many articles means “We Americans” or “We in the metropolitan West”. Most of the authors have an US- or Britain-based background.
In my opinion a thematic focus and stronger connections to current issues and bigger questions would benefit the site and attract more readers. The content of the articles seems to be somehow arbitrary, and their focus sometimes too narrow.
Maybe more articles are needed who ask such big questions as Edward F Fischer does in his interesting piece Can reducing our choices increase our happiness?
Another thing that struck me as typical for our time is the cry for attention, the cry for being shared and liked. Big sharing buttons everywhere, one of them even covers parts of the text, and makes it unreadable. And when we are approaching the end of the article, we get attacked by a huge popup with the message “You’ll probably get a kick of these too”.
Two years ago I looked at a similar initiative with a very similar name, and as the title of the post I chose Popular Anthropology Magazine = fail. This journal does not seem to exist anymore. All we see is a post called Welcome to Popular Anthropology Relaunched, but all the articles are gone. But there are ads for firewood and business intelligence software… …