Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-21

Kevin signing autographs @ the View Askew boot...

Image via Wikipedia

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-14

  • Just came across a wah-wah pedal I have NEVER used before (bought right before a move and forgot about it). Oh my, it just got funky here! #
  • The Publishing Process Explained http://ff.im/-fAU3z #
  • Just came across an “Ethics of ANthropology” syllabus online that’s 129 pages long! Includes 100 pages of bibliography. #
  • NV faces an $882m budget shortfall. Here are 4 solutions and a petition, in lieu of gutting our state. http://bit.ly/cz3zZY #
  • Every now and then I remember that I’m an anthropologist and post at SavageMinds.org. Tomorrow, a cultural analysis of food allergies. #
  • Also, posting Intro to Anthropology “pre-lectures” at dwax.org. Sort of thinking through topics I’m preparing to lecture on. #
  • Super Bowl Ads Star Pathetic Men and The Women Who Ruined Them http://bit.ly/aBKOoL – “Masculinity under attack” is the zeitgeist of our era #
  • Food Allergies and Modern Life | Savage Minds http://ff.im/-fEoEC #
  • RT @MuseumofCityNY: Untitled [Jewish Book Shop on Orchard Street], ca. 1945, Andreas Feininger http://bit.ly/ctSGWM #
  • @PjPerez Public protest is a gateway drug to activism, voting. Most politicians don’t care about young people, so only extremes get attn. in reply to PjPerez # [Continue reading] »

Anthropology and Culture

This is part of  a series of posts I wrote for an Introduction to Anthropology blog I kept for my students. That site got eaten in the Great LeafyHost Collapse of 2006, but I’ve held onto the content backups in the hopes of someday reposting it. Finally I realized that it was unlikely I’d get the whole site back up, so I’m reposting the content here.

Franz Boas posing for figure in USNM (National...
Image via Wikipedia

When we encounter a group of people like the Shakers, there often seems to be an insurmountable wall between “us” and “them”. The practices of other people often seem so incomprehensible that we describe a “cultural barrier” standing between us (or a “language barrier” or a “gender barrier” — differences of all sorts can seem like a wall that prevents any kind of understanding). Anthropologists are, primarily, facilitators of communication across those walls — which, it usually emerges, exist more in our heads than in the real world.

Although anthropology as a professional, academic discipline did not emerge until the 19th century, seeds of it can be found deep in the world’s history. Herodotus, a Greek historian who travelled through the regions conquered by the Greeks in the 5th century BC, wrote about the culture of the verious peoples he encountered in a way that many see as anthropological. Ibn Khaldun, a 14th c. North African Arab scholar, did the same as he travelled through Europe. In a sense, we all do anthropology all the time, whenever we are confronted with difference and try to overcome it (whether between us and the people around the world, or us and our neighbors, spouses, and friends), or whenever we consider the things that hold us together as a community and make us different from other communities. But most of us lack the disciplinary knowledge and methodology to make much sense out of the differences and similarities we come across — this kind of “anthropologising” comes more out of unconsidered biases and prejudice than any real comparison of depth of knowledge. [Continue reading] »

Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction to Anthropology
  2. The Shakers
  3. Anthropology and Culture

The Shakers

Shaker Brother Ricardo Belden, making wooden o...

Image via Wikipedia

In Part 2 of my “Introduction to Anthropology” series, I mention the Shakers, so I thought I’d post some information about them.

My favorite resource is the the absolutely stunning documentary film, Ken Burns’ America: The Shakers. The homepage includes a timeline of Shaker history, links to online resources about the Shakers, and a pair of video clips from the movie.

For further information on the Shakers, visit the homepage of the Canterbury Shaker Village, a museum reproducing life in a typical Shaker village.

The article, “Living A Tradition”, was originally published in Smithsonian magazine, and is available online here. There are three “sidebars” — “I Was A Teenage Shaker”, a gallery of Shaker crafts, and a collection of Shaker recipes.

Introduction to Anthropology

This is the first in a series of posts I wrote for an Introduction to Anthropology blog I kept for my students. That site got eaten in the Great LeafyHost Collapse of 2006, but I’ve held onto the content backups in the hopes of someday reposting it. Finally I realized that it was unlikely I’d get the whole site back up, so I’m reposting the content here.

full photo of Gobustan rock drawing

Image via Wikipedia

Read Horace Miner’s classic essay, “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”. The Nacirema are strange, alien, maybe even a little exotic. For many readers, a sense of superiority is felt — the way the Nacirema live seems inefficient, superstitious, backwards, primitive, even silly. Be that as it may, the thing that stands out for most anthropologists is that no matter how odd the customs of a group of people might seem to an outside observer, somehow the group manages to get along — those customs must , in some way, make sense to the people who practice them. It is our job, as anthropologists, to determine what sense they make: why people do the things they do, why there is so much diversity in the practices, beliefs, and lifestyles of people around the world, how various practices are invented, spread, and challenged in various communities, how societies create a sense of “belonging” in the people who make them up — how people in general live in this world of ours.

To do that, anthropologists have divided their work into four subfields, each of which looks at humans and human behavior from a different perspective, but all of which are, ultimately, necessary to fully understand who we are. Physical anthropologists are concerned with the biological make-up of the human body — how did it evolve, what are it’s limits and possibilities, what do we have in common as a species, and what variations exist between various populations? Linguistic anthropologists are concerned with the use of language to create and convey meaning between people. Archaeologists look at the material traces humans have left — their bones, ruins, and artifacts — to understand our past and, increasingly, our present.

The fourth subfield, cultural anthropology, is the subject of these posts.  [Continue reading] »

Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction to Anthropology
  2. The Shakers
  3. Anthropology and Culture

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-07

  • Awesom skater just told me “you’re not looking so good out there.” Thanks, guy. #
  • Any skaters have advice on how to stop my left foot from curving inward? Seem to have picked up some bad habits in 28 yrs off roller skates. #
  • Roller skating was great fun! After nearly 30 yrs, it all came back pretty well. I guess it’s like they say, it’s just like falling down. #
  • Magazine “The Beaver” Changes Its Name to “Canada’s History” because of Internet filtering. http://post.ly/Lar1 #
  • Transcription Made Easy (Easier, Anyway) http://ff.im/-fcPKh #
  • 1099s due to contractors today. Find out more and automate your bookkeeping with Ouright http://bit.ly/bgq6mA #
  • @JennEscalona Don’t think I ever read Kage Baker. Ralph McInerny of the Father Dowling mysteries, which I also have never read, died Friday. in reply to JennEscalona # [Continue reading] »

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-31

  • @SonjaFoust Book catalogs/bibliography managers are an obvious match for handheld devices, but rarely have mobile versions. It’s a mystery. in reply to SonjaFoust #
  • @ritubpant I am one busy, oversubscribed beaver! I need lifehacks for my lifehacks! in reply to ritubpant #
  • OK, enough fun – time to go teach stuff to people about things! (Which is its own kind of fun.) Today: the social construction of gender. #
  • Just out of class. What’s going on at #bnblv Are people heading out or is it worth it to show upin about 45 mins? #
  • @mikeyvegas okie dokie boss. Gordon bierch at Rampart and Charleston, right? in reply to mikeyvegas # [Continue reading] »

Testing Poster on Palm Pre

I’m posting this to test out Poster, an app that lets me post to WordPress blogs from my Palm Pre.

I can add images, bold text, underline, and italicize. Also, add links like this: Don’t Be Stupid. And that’s it – will be interesting to see  how useful it is. So far seems easy enough to use.

(Update: The image didn’t insert right, although it did upload. It had to be resized significantly, of course, to fit the post. I must have done something wrong, because there’s no reason to have thie upload in the app if you can’t do anything with the image from your phone.)

My New Look – More Than Skin Deep

XIAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 13:  Visitors walk past...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

After a couple years of fretting, I finally figured out how to transfer this site from it’s old Drupal install to a shiny new WordPress install. If you’re a Drupal evangelist, believe me, I know: it’s a great system, but way too much power — and too much work — for a single person’s blog.

All the content’s here (although a picture might be missing here and there, and I’m still trying to figure out to do with some longer essays that were posted as special pages on the old site). I’ve also posted a fairly thorough portrait of my academic self in the Portfolio section. Most of the links from the old site will still work, but an odd link here and there will be broken, and for that I apologize. (On the other hand, the search function on this site works much better than on the old site.)

I’m hoping to get to posting more often, but between teaching and freelance writing and maintaining some kind of human-like social life, I’m kept pretty busy. We’ll see what I can do…

More Positive Press for Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War

Another positive review of Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War has appeared, this time in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford (JASO). The reviewer, Iain Perdue, sees the book’s discussion of Cold War McCarthyism and militarism as a timely intervention in today’s debates, writing:

The issues of ethics and the ramifications of anthropologists performing government work are being revived in a renewed and vigorous debate in the American Anthropological Association on this very subject. The debate arises from social and political circumstances extremely similar to those presented in this book, and this does not go unremarked by its contributors.

Perdue also notes that the book’s “solid contribution” towards addressing the deficit in the current historiography of Cold War American anthropology. The full review section from the journal can be downloaded in PDF format here; my review starts on the third-from-last page of the file.

As an aside, this review coming out a mere 18 months after the book’s U.K. publication is considered “timely” for an academic review. I’ve had reviews of books that were over a year old when they were assigned to me take over two years to appear in print — after the six months I was given to write the review! This review marks the first critical response to the book in an academic journal, which gives me hope that more academic response can be expected in the months ahead.

An academic book is a lot of things, but one of the most important things it is is an entry in an ongoing conversation about one’s discipline. Waiting two, three, or more years to hear back from your colleagues is almost unbearable (though, I suspect, not as unbearable as waiting forever and never getting a response…) so it’s nice to see that the ice is finally starting to thaw a bit.