Living Anthropologically http://www.livinganthropologically.com Anthropology - Understanding - Possibility Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Hartwick Anthropology – The 30 Year Survey! http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/06/15/hartwick-anthropology-30-year-survey/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/06/15/hartwick-anthropology-30-year-survey/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:19:29 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=14785 In the fall of 1987, the Hartwick Anthropology program became an independent department. Fall 2017 marks the 30 year anniversary of Hartwick Anthropology. The 2017-2018 academic year will also be the first retirement from Hartwick Anthropology. Professor David Anthony, acclaimed author of The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World.

Given these overlapping anniversaries and transitions, we thought it would be a good time to launch a survey of Hartwick Anthropology. The survey is aimed primarily for Hartwick alumni who were anthropology majors. However, it is open to anyone who has taken a course in anthropology at Hartwick College. Please click this link to take the survey!

Hartwick Anthropology & the Liberal Arts

The Hartwick Anthropology department is a rather unique place. It is one of a small number of independent anthropology departments at a small liberal arts college. We have professors trained in three of the four fields of American Anthropology: Biological Anthropology, Archaeology, and Cultural Anthropology. We also attempt to offer coursework in language and Linguistic Anthropology.

For me, teaching Introduction to Anthropology at Hartwick College has been a huge motivation for writing the posts on this blog. I have also used this experience to reflect on the Anthropology Major. At the moment, we are living through a time in which anthropological studies are devalued. Part of this devaluation comes from the idea that anthropology is not useful for a career. Another part of this devaluation is political, with anthropology said to be too political.

We maintain that the best way forward is to do rigorous and empirical work. But we also maintain that it is important to be aware of the political context of anthropological statements. As we say on our website: “Anthropology studies the richness and variability of humankind. Hartwick Anthropology is looking for students who want to make a difference in the world. We’ll give you the tools to make an impact.”

So if you ever have enrolled in a Hartwick Anthropology course, please take the survey! Thanks!



Hartwick Anthropology Grads in the News

  • 19 June 2017: Lauren O’Connor ’09 got a plug in the Anthro-in-the-News column: “Take that anthro degree and work as a health educator. Lauren O’Connor is a health educator for pregnant and postpartum women at March of Dimes in White Plains, New York. O’Connor has a B.A. in anthropology from Hartwick College in New York State and an M.P.H. with a concentration in maternal and child health from Boston University.” (And congrats on the engagement.)





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Music of Anthropology http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/06/05/music-anthropology-ethnomusicology/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/06/05/music-anthropology-ethnomusicology/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 13:53:40 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=14514 For the next issue of Open Anthropology I am assembling a list of articles on music. Consistent with the mission of Open Anthropology, these articles will be open for six months. We are hoping to provide useful resources for teaching anthropology, ethnomusicology, and adjacent disciplines for summer and fall 2017.

I enjoy listening and (sometimes) attempting to play music. I also enjoy reading anthropology. However, I confess I am a neophyte for anthropology of music or ethnomusicology articles. What resources on music & ethnomusicology have been most helpful to your anthropological work? And, particularly for Open Anthropology, what articles from the Wiley-Blackwell American Anthropological Association archives would you like to see opened? What have been some of the main research and communication themes in recent years?

So far I’ve found some preliminary resources below. Please let me know what else is helpful! Or what I’m missing. On a related note, would also be great to know if there’s anything that shouldn’t be there.

Articles on Music from AAA Publications

Beeman, William O. 1988. “The Use of Music in Popular Film: East and West.” Visual Anthropology Review 4(2):8-13.

Boudreault-Fournier, Alexandrine. 2008. “Positioning the New Reggaetón Stars in Cuba: From Home-Based Recording Studios to Alternative Narratives.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 13(2):336-360.

Briggs, Charles L. 1993. “Personal Sentiments and Polyphonic Voices in Warao Women’s Ritual Wailing: Music and Poetics in a Critical and Collective Discourse.” American Anthropologist 95(4):929-957.

Bryant, Rebecca. 2005. “The soul danced into the body: Nation and improvisation in Istanbul.” American Ethnologist 32(2):222-238.

Byrd, Samuel. 2014. “‘The collective circle’: Latino immigrant musicians and politics in Charlotte, North Carolina.” American Ethnologist 41(2):246-260.

Cameron, Catherine M. 1989. “Patronage and Artistic Change.” City & Society 3(1):55-73.

Donahue, Katherine C. 2005. “Nomad Souls Across Time and Space: West African Musicians as Ethnographers.” Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe 5(2):2-12.

Dorsey, Margaret. 2004. “The Role of Music in Materializing Politics.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 27(2):61-94. (Note that this article was included in the October 2016 Open Anthropology issue on Anthropology in an Election Year.)

El-Ghadban, Yara. 2009. “Facing the music: Rituals of belonging and recognition in contemporary Western art music.” American Ethnologist 36(1):140-160.

Fachner, Jörg. 2006. “An Ethno-Methodological Approach to Cannabis and Music Perception, with EEG Brain Mapping in a Naturalistic Setting.” Anthropology of Consciousness 17(2):78-103.

Ferguson, Jane M. 2010. “Another country is the past: Western cowboys, Lanna nostalgia, and bluegrass aesthetics as performed by professional musicians in Northern Thailand.” American Ethnologist 37(2):227-240.

Gaunt, Kyra D. 2002. “Got Rhythm?: difficult encounters in theory and practice and other participatory discrepancies in music.” City & Society 14(1):119-140.

Glasser, Jonathan. 2015. “Andalusi musical origins at the Moroccan-Algerian frontier: Beyond charter myth.” American Ethnologist 42(4):720-733.

Heine, Colleen M. 2012. “Scene and Unscene: Revealing the value of the local music scene in Savannah, Georgia.” EPIC: Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference 2012(1):200-216.

Hosokawa, Shuhei. 2005. Review of The Chrysanthemum and the Song: Music, Memory, and Identity in the South American Japanese Diaspora. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 10(1):239-241.

Kapchan, Deborah A. 2008. “The Promise of Sonic Translation: Performing the Festive Sacred in Morocco.” American Anthropologist 110(4):467-483.

Kaplan, Danny. 2009. “The Songs of the Siren: Engineering National Time on Israeli Radio.” Cultural Anthropology 24(2):313-345.

Keeler, Ward. 2009. “What’s Burmese about Burmese rap? Why some expressive forms go global.” American Ethnologist 36(1):2-19.

Keil, Charles. 1987. “Participatory Discrepancies and the Power of Music.” Cultural Anthropology 2(3):275-283.

Koen, Benjamin D. 2013. ““My Heart Opens and My Spirit Flies”: Musical Exemplars of Psychological Flexibility in Health and Healing.” Ethos 41(2):174-198.

Lomax, Alan. 1959. “Folk Song Style.” American Anthropologist 61(6):927-954.

Lysloff, René T. A. 2003. “Musical Community on the Internet: An On-line Ethnography.” Cultural Anthropology 18(2):233-263.

Mahon, Maureen. 2000. “Black Like This: Race, Generation, and Rock in the Post-Civil Rights Era.” American Ethnologist 27(2):283-311.

Nettl, Bruno. 1958. “Historical Aspects of Ethnomusicology.” American Anthropologist 60(3):518-532.

Powell, Kimberly A. 2012. “Composing Sound Identity in Taiko Drumming.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 43(1):101-119.

Qureshi, Regula. 2000. “How Does Music mean? Embodied Memories and the Politics of Affect in the Indian Sarangi.” American Ethnologist 27(4):805-838.

Roseman, Marina. 1998. “Singers of the landscape: Song, History, and Property Rights in the Malaysian Rain Forest.” American Anthropologist 100(1):106-121.

Saada-Ophir, Galit. 2006. “Borderland Pop: Arab Jewish Musicians and the Politics of Performance.” Cultural Anthropology 21(2):205-233.

Samuels, David W. 2015. “Music’s Role in Language Revitalization–Some Questions from Recent Literature.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 25(3):346-355.

Shannon, Jonathan H. 2003. “Emotion, Performance, and Temporality in Arab Music: Reflections on Tarab.” Cultural Anthropology 18(1):72-98.

—. 2003. “Sultans of Spin: Syrian Sacred Music on the World Stage.” American Anthropologist 105(2):266-277.

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2013. “Transnational circulation and digital fatigue in Ghana’s Azonto dance craze.” American Ethnologist 40(2):362-381.

—. 2017. “Parody after identity: Digital music and the politics of uncertainty in West Africa.” American Ethnologist 44(2):249-262.

Weidman, Amanda. 2003. “Gender and the Politics of Voice: Colonial Modernity and Classical Music in South India.” Cultural Anthropology 18(2):194-232.

—. 2012. “The Ethnographer as Apprentice: Embodying Sociomusical Knowledge in South India.” Anthropology and Humanism 37(2):214-235.

Wilf, Eitan. 2010. “Swinging within the iron cage: Modernity, creativity, and embodied practice in American postsecondary jazz education.” American Ethnologist 37(3):563-582.

—. 2012. “Rituals of Creativity: Tradition, Modernity, and the ‘Acoustic Unconscious’ in a U.S. Collegiate Jazz Music Program.” American Anthropologist 114(1):32-44.

Anthropology Articles on Music (non-AAA)

Bilby, Kenneth. 1999. “”Roots Explosion”: Indigenization and Cosmopolitanism in Contemporary Surinamese Popular Music.” Ethnomusicology 43(2):256-296.

Blake, Elizabeth C., and Ian Cross. 2015. “The Acoustic and Auditory Contexts of Human Behavior.” Current Anthropology 56(1):81-103.

Faudree, Paja. 2012. “Music, Language, and Texts: Sound and Semiotic Ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology 41:519-536.

Feld, Steven, and Aaron A. Fox. 1994. “Music and Language.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23:25-53.

Flores, Richard R. 1992. “The Corrido and the Emergence of Texas-Mexican Social Identity.” The Journal of American Folklore 105(416):166-182.

Guerrón-Montero, Carla. 2006. “Can’t Beat Me Own Drum in Me Own Native Land: Calypso Music and Tourism in the Panamanian Atlantic Coast.” Anthropological Quarterly 79(4):633-665.

Nettl, Bruno. 2006. “Response to Victor Grauer: On the Concept of Evolution in the History of Ethnomusicology.” The World of Music 48(2):59-72.

O’Toole, Patricia. 2005. “I sing in a choir, but I have no voice.” Visions of Research in Music Education 6.

Palkki, Joshua. 2017. “Inclusivity in Action: Transgender Students in the Choral Classroom.” Choral Journal (57):20-34.

—. 2015. “Gender Trouble: Males, adolescents, and masculinity in the choral context.” Choral Journal (56):25-35.

Samuels, David W., et al. 2010. “Soundscapes: Toward a Sounded Anthropology.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39:329-345.

Senay, Banu. 2015. “Masterful words: musicianship and ethics in learning the ney.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21(3):524-541.

Stokes, Martin. 2004. “Music and the Global Order.” Annual Review of Anthropology 33(1):47-72.

Wade, Peter. 1998. “Music, Blackness and National Identity: Three Moments in Colombian History.” Popular Music 17(1):1-19.

Books on Music & Anthropology

Bannan, Nicholas, ed. 2012. Music, Language, and Human Evolution. Oxford University Press.

Dorsey, Margaret. 2006. Pachangas: Borderlands Music, U.S. Politics, and Transnational Marketing. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Faudree, Paja. 2013. Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press.

Feld, Steven. 1990. Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression (2nd Edition). University of Pennsylvania Press.

Gaunt, Kyra D. 2006. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop . New York: New York University Press.

Grant, Catherine. 2014. Music Endangerment: How Language Maintenance Can Help. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gilman, Daniel J. 2014. Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press. See this review by John Schaefer in American Ethnologist. “Cairo Pop is the best book in anthropology on the Middle East that I have read for some time, and certainly this year. It is appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology and related disciplines” (2015:795)

Glasser, Jonathan. 2016. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Grauer, Victor A. 2011. Sounding the Depths: Tradition and the Voices of History. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Hill, Donald R. 1993. Calypso Calaloo: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad. University Press of Florda.

Keil, Charles. 1992. Urban Blues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Keil, Charles, and Steven Feld. 2005. Music Grooves: Essays And Dialogues. Fenestra Books.

Manovski, Miroslav Pavle. 2014. Arts-Based Research, Autoethnography, and Music Education: Singing Through a Culture of Marginalization. Sense Publishers.

Merriam, Alan P. 1964. The Anthropology of Music. Northwestern University Press.

Netti, Bruno, and Philip V. Bohlman, eds. 1991. Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music: Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seeger, Anthony. 2004. Why Suyá Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People. University of Illinois Press.

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2013. Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stokes, Martin, ed. 1997. Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place. Bloomsbury Academic.

Taylor, Timothy D. 2017. Music in the World: Selected Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Turino, Thomas. 2008. Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Weidman, Amanda. 2006. Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India. Durham: Duke University Press.

Anthropological Blog-posts and Blogs on Music

2017. “Musicofilia: música y cerebro.” Una antropóloga en la luna.

Filterrauschen. A blog about music and anthropology, at the moment mainly in German, with translation in process. How to do music, mediumship, infogenetic linkages, digitalization, constructivism music.

Ted Swedenburg’s hawgblawg often features relevant posts.

Debra Jopson, Songlines that criss-cross Australia televised as a series for the first time (June 2016). Thanks to Helga Vierich on Facebook for the link, plus click there for lots of YouTube links!

Also see Anthropology Blogs 2017 for more on current anthropology blogs.



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Hackonomy http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/04/17/hackonomy/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/04/17/hackonomy/#comments Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:37:33 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=13870 In April 2017 at Hartwick College, award-winning e-commerce marketing executive and television personality Bonin Bough discussed “Hackonomy: Lessons from the Largest Brands in the World.” Bough is the author of Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk about It.

One of the things that interested me in Bough’s lecture was his take on digital devices. Bough “breaks down the often counterintuitive ways mobile devices and digital data are reshaping the way we experience, consume, and think.” It’s something that I’ve been thinking about in the classroom and in daily life.

Hackonomy and Anthropology

Bough’s lecture on “Hackonomy” is also interesting to compare with the anthropology brand, which has been one of the themes of the blog. Interestingly Bough’s lecture also converges with some of the questions we are tackling in my classes. For Introduction to Anthropology, we have been pondering Is Capitalism the Best Economic System? and Why Does Politics Matter? For Cultural Ecology, looking at Will Machines Replace Humans?, Will Technology Save Humanity?, and Too Much Time on My Hands?

A video of Bough’s talk is also now available:

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The CIA and American Anthropology: Tracing Funding, Tracing Impacts http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/03/20/cia-and-anthropology/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2017/03/20/cia-and-anthropology/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 01:25:02 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=13661 Sponsored by the Hardy Chair Lecture Series, the Hartwick College Department of Anthropology presented a public lecture by Dr. David H. Price, Professor of Anthropology at Saint Martin’s University. Titled “Tracing Funding, Tracing Impacts: The CIA and Anthropology,” the lecture outlined what Price called an accidental project he has now been working on for over 20 years.

David Price’s latest book Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology (2016) is part of a project on anthropology, the intelligence community, and the military complex. The series began with Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (2004), continued with Anthropological Intelligence: The Use and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War (2008), and includes Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State (2011).

As anthropologist Alex Golub writes:

If Price’s work was merely a history of the political economy of our discipline, then that would be enough. But more importantly, Price demonstrates that our discipline’s theories of power, economics, and ethnicity were shaped by its interaction with American intelligence agencies. That is to say, the intellectual content of our discipline itself, he argues, was shaped by the history he describes in ways that are essential, not tangential, to our central theoretical concerns.

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The Discovery of Sidney Mintz: Anthropology’s Unfinished Revolution http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/12/26/mintz-anthropology/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/12/26/mintz-anthropology/#comments Mon, 26 Dec 2016 22:24:02 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=13428

Paper delivered at the 2016 meetings of the American Anthropological Association. The panel was titled “The Legacies of Sidney Mintz: Discovering Poblitical Ecosonomy from the Evidence of Fieldwork.” My thanks to fellow panelists for inspiring papers and to a very encouraging audience. An alternate title: One year without Sid. (See also the earlier In Memoriam, 1922-2015.)

Sweetness and Power is still Sidney Mintz’s most famous publication. Type “Sidney Mintz” into Google and the next thing that pops up is “Sweetness and Power.” Then comes “Sweetness and Power pdf,” “Sweetness and Power summary,” “Sweetness and Power pdf download,” surely search suggestions brought to us by tuition-strapped students.1

Although Sweetness and Power in 1985 seemed the culmination of Mintz’s academic life, it can now be seen as a kind of mid-point to Mintz’s academic engagement. It emerged three decades after his debut publications, but Mintz’s work and academic engagement continued in various forms for three more decades.

But more than a chronological mid-point, Sweetness and Power has been seen as a watershed. Sweetness and Power would launch what Mintz became most famous for in the public sphere: the Father of Food Anthropology. In George Baca’s memorial article, with Sweetness and Power Mintz “broke free from anthropological and Caribbean circles” taking his ideas “beyond the specialized audiences who had consumed his scholarship for three decades.”

Sweetness and Power as Breaking Away?

Not everyone was happy about how Mintz “broke free” from his traditional scholarly base. Micaela di Leonardo has argued that when Mintz was discovered by a public audience, it structurally buried his work on political economy so that he “appears most often in American print media as the foxy old expert on Our Fascinating Foodways” (Exotics at Home 1998:352).

In some sense, two versions of Mintz emerged. To put it too crudely, it was the Gritty Ethnographic Marxist Mintz versus the Wine-and-Dine Foodie Mintz. For the Wine-and-Dine Foodie crowd, the Marxist Mintz provided just enough grit and ethnographic gravitas to make it palatable without choking. But the admirers of Marxist Mintz worried that either Sid had lost his way or that his message was being lost in the trendiness of ethnic gastronomy. (See the 2012 post when Mintz won the Franz Boas Award in Anthropology for a selection of anthropologists inspired by various aspects of Mintz’s work.)

But there is little evidence Mintz himself felt or endorsed this watershed division. In some ways, he perhaps felt food was a way to eventually sell a more radical agenda. If people became interested in food, then they would inevitably learn about global interconnection; about history; and about power. And Mintz never really left the Caribbean behind. His final published book from 2010, Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations based on his Du Bois lectures at Harvard, takes us deep into ethnography and history as a personal story that also illuminates larger structures.

For Mintz, food would be the ticket to introduce wider audiences to his discovery. Mintz demonstrated how the colonies, and especially the sugar plantations in the Caribbean, both fed and fueled the emerging working class as well as provided a template for factory organization. Mintz believed this revisionist history had become firmly established. As Sarah Hill quoted his 2013 e-mail in the Boston Review, “My point–it is now absorbed into what is called ‘common knowledge’–was that Western civilization really first ‘rose’ in its colonies; and of all those colonies, the first were the sugar colonies.”2

Whose Common Knowledge?

But like the slippery slope of “common sense” it is crucial to inquire about “common knowledge.” Whose common knowledge was Mintz talking about? It does seem that Boston Review readers have a peculiarly wonderful access to this common knowledge. In addition to Sarah Hill’s justly-touted Boston Review retrospective, there was Colin Dayan’s Remembering Trouillot from 2012, which echoes Mintz’s own Remembering Haiti, one of the most insightful pieces written after the 2010 earthquake. In October 2016 Boston Review readers were treated to Walter Johnson’s To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice which features an extended discussion of how Du Bois “scuttles the orthodox separation of slavery and capitalism.”3

So, I’m not sure exactly what is going on at the Boston Review, but I want the whole country to be there. Alas, if we take a few steps beyond Boston, we find a very different common knowledge. In a 2016 interview with The Nation, Donald Trump aide Milo Yiannopoulos puts it bluntly:

It seems to me inarguably true that Western civilization—by which we mean the modern Western liberal capitalist democracies that we live in in Europe and America—has produced all of the best stuff. It has done that through a combination of freedom of speech, capitalism, property rights. Those things created the conditions for the best art, for the best financial systems, for the best ordering of society.

So much for common knowledge. Perhaps the only consolation is that he couldn’t say the modern West has produced the best food. As Mintz told his introductory anthropology courses, all the best domesticated plants were from outside Europe: “What did Europe contribute? The Brussel Sprout.”

Now, you could tell me these types of Republican are morons. I don’t disagree. Moreover, direct confrontation is a lost cause. They don’t care. The facts are irrelevant, bowing before what is “inarguably true.” They are trolls, and it is not a good idea to get into an internet argument with overgrown adolescent boys on keyboards.

Common Knowledge & Anthropology Textbooks

What disturbs me more is that we can turn to the anthropology textbooks and find pretty much the same thing. Or, better put, undergraduate anthropology textbooks either elide or misrepresent the crucial points Mintz was making about colonialism, capitalism, and slavery.

A recent Cultural Anthropology textbook by Welsch and Vivanco is a prime example. They get colonialism wrong, saying it “flourished from the 1870s until the 1970s” (7) thus missing the most crucial moments between say 1500-1800. Consequently, they also get industrialization wrong, portraying it as the rise of American and European factories which subsequently “affected peoples in European colonies” (5). When Eric Wolf finally enters the scene, it is mostly to say that people in the periphery have “resisted” capitalism (142). And there’s no mention of Mintz at all. While obviously these authors do not share the values of the Trump Trolls, there is really little in their textbook to tell a different story. [See also my critique in How Did Anthropology Begin.]

My plan at the 2016 anthropology meetings was to visit the booksellers and do an analysis of four field textbooks. I would look at each textbook and evaluate them on two items: First, Colonialism. Did they mention the Iberian Reconquista? Spanish and Portuguese empires? The American silver mines that were so crucial to creating the first global trade networks? The Caribbean? Sugar? Second, Industrialization. Did they mention slavery? Plantations? Again, Sugar? Textile production in India?

What I found was worse than I anticipated. First, the biggest textbook sellers of four field anthropology aren’t even here. I could only find three four field textbooks. One is from University of Toronto press, Through the Lens of Anthropology. It is very accessible, I love these authors, but they have zero on these issues. There are two titles from Oxford University Press: Lavenda & Schultz, which I use, which is OK but not great on these issues.

Oxford University Press now has a brand new four-fields offering: Agustín Fuentes has joined the Welsch & Vivanco team to produce Anthropology: Asking Questions about Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture. Unforutnately, this team completely reproduces the follies of the original Cultural Anthropology textbook I’ve just described. So I am mighty worried now that this will become the four-field flagship, which effectively takes a step backward from Lavenda & Schultz.

But at least these two presses are here. The true empires, McGraw-Hill & Cengage don’t even bother. Now, Kottak’s textbook empire, perhaps because of Kottak’s rooting at the University of Michigan, has been a bit better on these issues. Still, Kottak’s world systems chapters occur at the end of his textbook. And I think if we consider that Michigan is both at the epicenter of the three states which gave the election to Trump, and that Michigan is the epicenter of the Kottak model of Introduction-to-Anthropology, we do need to wonder how effective this version of anthropology has been (but see the postscript below).

For those of us who have the privilege of teaching anthropology, this is a dire issue. I was going to say it is our most dire issue. But for November 2016 I qualified that statement to echo Melissa Harris-Perry that the very most pressing issue is for academic anthropologists to consider whether our colleges and universities might become sanctuary campuses. After that, we need to look at the textbooks.4

This may seem too modest, but it is the responsibility that comes with our positions in academic institutions. As Michel-Rolph Trouillot wrote in 2003, “Anthropology’s primary response as a discipline cannot be a political statement, however tempting or necessary that solution is in critical circumstances. While the primary context of our practice as professionals remains the academic world, the ultimate context of its relevance is the world outside, usually starting with the country within which we publish rather than with those that we write about” (114).

This solution is also completely in accord with what Mintz would urge that we do. And so in the spirit of my “What Would Sid Do?” bracelet, here are three recommendations:

1. Teach Introduction to Anthropology

Teaching a four fields comprehensive introduction to anthropology was important to Sid from the beginning of his teaching career at Yale to his last courses at Johns Hopkins. Sid taught Intro when he was an assistant professor, at mid-career, and after he had reached the super-distinguished heights.5 This is an example we should all follow. We must resist the temptation as we rise through the ranks to teach fewer courses, fewer students, and only sign up for the upper-level seminar. And it may be worth noting that although the adjunctification of higher education makes this more possible and more tempting, this has long been an issue in anthropology. Sid told about how in the late 1960s he was going on sabbatical from Yale and couldn’t recruit anyone in the department to teach Intro, which at that time had grown to a 700-student lecture. As he put it:

My department was not at all interested in what I was doing; they seemed blissfully unaware that it mattered, even to them. I read it as my colleagues thinking that it was an indication of my intellectual limitations if I could talk intelligibly to so many young people twice a week. (Thomas 2014:8)

Mintz asked Margaret Mead to come up from New York City and teach the course. Mead at that point would go anywhere with a podium and a crowd, but she didn’t want anything to do with the grading: “I’m going to give them all As” she said. Sid agreed.

Now, legend had it (as did I in my original paper) that this was the only course that George W. Bush got an “A” in during his Yale years. But Jackie Mintz messaged to correct the historical record:

The course that George W. Bush took was not Sid’s Anthro 20 course; it was Anthro 25-Archaeology. . . A notorious gut. It’s true Margaret Mead taught Anthro 20 the year we were away and true that she gave everyone B+ or A- but that was not the course W took. (e-mail 12/28/2016)

2. In that introductory course, provide a dose of global history, and especially of the interconnected history of colonialism, capitalism and slavery

This is a history that people do not seem to be learning or comprehending. They are not getting it in high school. They are not getting it from the other social sciences, which have always bought their own nation-centric self-contained myths. And they are not getting it from history courses anymore, since the requirement of a survey course has mostly gone away and the history curriculum has in general become just a scattershot selection of narrow topical seminars. So if we don’t do it in Anthropology 101, no one is going to do it.

3. Write outside of anthropology (the Mintz secret)

This will flow naturally from the first two points. If we are teaching Introduction to Anthropology, and writing textbooks for that class which convey global history, then this experience provides us with the tone and style to write for public audiences. Teaching Intro I believe was a key secret to how Mintz’s writing was so accessible.

To return to Sweetness and Power, here is Mintz’s own assessment of teaching undergraduate introductory courses as compared with his book:

Sweetness and Power has affected a lot of people, but it’s really for adults. When you teach an introductory course, the students are at a much earlier point in their lives, and the kind of impression you can make on them about thinking is much more fundamental–and, ultimately, possibly much more useful. (Thomas 2014:9)

But in the end I find myself unable to conclude on a completely optimistic note. Although many of us feel that Sidney Mintz and Eric Wolf forever reoriented or changed anthropology, it does not seem to be a change that was deep enough or complete enough. It does not seem to have affected Mintz’s favorite class, Introduction to Anthropology. As a discipline, we had the potential for a pretty big megaphone, as Mintz showed us at Yale. But we neglected what may have been anthropology’s biggest public outreach. We now seem to care so little about Intro-to-Anthropology that the two largest textbook companies don’t even come to the anthropology meetings. I have to wonder what next: will we also lose the privilege of teaching Intro to Anthropology?

So, first task, think about the possibility of sanctuary on your campus. Second task, think about the possibility of sanctuary for Anthropology 101. It’s our only chance to teach about the co-production of colonialism & capitalism in the sugar colonies.


Resources and Postscript

May 2017: See the comment below from Professor Alessandro Angelini who recommends the Ken Guest textbook Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age. The Guest textbook sounds like an ideal way to introduce these issues, especially for a Cultural Anthropology course.

April 2017: For an attempt to convey these themes in an Introduction to Anthropology course, see Is Capitalism the Best Economic System? and When did Globalization Begin?

Postscript December 2016: At the time of the November anthropology meetings, voting analysis had not yet been completed. When I wrote this paper, I honestly wondered if some anthropology courses had the opposite of their intended effect. This is something I always wonder about my own courses. However, at least in terms of the effect on voting for Trump, it looks like education in general, as distinct from class-measured-as-income, is a key factor. So it seems that college-education does have an effect. Although it would be impossible to sort out the anthropology effect, I’m guessing it would be stronger than college-in-general. See: Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump.




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Electoral College and the Constitutional Duty to Block Trump http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/12/12/electoral-college/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/12/12/electoral-college/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:26:39 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=13411

Update May 2017: This post was written at a time when the Electoral College should have exercised a duty that they did not. Although the evidence was available at the time, by May 2017 it has become clearer with every day that The experts were right: Trump isn’t fit to be president. Meanwhile an anthropologist who once seemed to be lauding Trump, has put out a long screed Donald Trump, Empire, and Globalization: A Reassessment. I stand by my contention that the evidence was already available in December 2016. The Electoral College should have fulfilled its constitutional duty and block Trump’s presidency.

For most of its modern existence, the US Electoral College has been a mere formality, a procedural endorsement of each state’s popular vote winner. However, the original intent of the Founding Fathers was for the Electoral College to have a deliberative function. This deliberation should matter to the vote. If the votes were simply automatically pledged, then we should just do the math and skip the formalities.

The Federalist Papers are quite clear on the matter. In Federalist No. 68, The Mode of Electing the President, Alexander Hamilton specifies the purpose of the Electoral College:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

Electoral College: Consider Requisite Qualifications, Ability, and Virtue

Donald Trump eked out a slim Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton. Since that time, Trump has repeatedly exhibited that he does not have the requisite qualifications to hold the office of President. He has rather shown that he excels at “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” For evidence, just look at his Twitter feed, where he has suggested upending the Constitution; engaged in potentially abusive behavior attacking private citizens; spread misinformation about voting rights. That’s just for starters. He has proved he is not someone “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”

Electoral College: True Test of Good Administration

In addition to the obvious lack of requisite qualifications, Hamilton attests that the Electoral College should be able to “estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration.” In his post-election picks for Cabinet positions, Donald Trump has shown that he is failing this “true test of a good government.” Charles Blow’s Patriotic Opposition to Donald Trump takes the tally of controversial appointments: “Furthermore, he is stacking these jobs with people who have given him cash.”

Both Charles Blow and Paul Krugman’s The Tainted Election read as if the election is a done deal. But the real election takes place when the Electoral College meets. Before then, Donald Trump was not the president-elect. The Electoral College had a constitutional duty to block Trump from becoming the president elect.


Post-Electoral College Update: Although I believe this Electoral College effort was worth the attempt, see Anthropology’s Unfinished Revolution for thoughts from academic anthropology.

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Coalition of the Diverse: Racially Mixed Crowd in the November Rain http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/11/06/racially-mixed-crowd/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/11/06/racially-mixed-crowd/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 02:53:05 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=13327 United States, November 2016. There was a lot of ugliness, not a lot of beauty. A lot of hate, not a lot of love. A lot of terrified fear, not a lot of hope. And yet, there was something poignant, something beautiful about this:

“We are seeing tremendous momentum, large numbers of people turning out, breaking records,” Mrs. Clinton said here in Pembroke Pines before cutting her remarks short when torrential afternoon rain began falling on the racially mixed crowd. Before taking the stage, she greeted voters at a heavily Cuban early voting center in West Miami and then stopped in at her storefront field office in Miami’s Little Haiti.
–Jonathan Martin, Hillary Clinton Appears to Gain Late Momentum on Surge of Latino Voters

Emphasis added. Who knows what led Jonathan Martin of The New York Times to mark this as a “racially mixed crowd.” He could have just said “rain began falling on the crowd.” Was it a racially mixed crowd in relation to the racially unmixed crowds of other campaigns? Did Florida feature a racially mixed crowd in ways that other states did not? Or did November Rain evoke a racially mixed crowd like the racially mixed Slash?

Whatever the reason, it seemed a sign of something beautiful coalescing. In 2003, Michel-Rolph Trouillot speculated about the future of race relations in the United States:

What matters here is how the changing construction of whiteness intersects with the maintenance of a white/black divide that structures all race relations in the United States. Whether significant numbers of the people now called Latinos or Asian Americans–or the significant numbers of their known “mixed” offspring with whites–will become probationary whites and thus reinforce the structure is an important indicator of the future of race relations in the United States. (Trouillot 2003:151, Global Transformations)

For a good while it looked like the predominant theme was that “probationary whites” would reinforce the structure. See for example my 2011 Race Remixed? Probationary Whites and a Racism Reality Check. And yet, perhaps due to the virulence of 2016, maybe it’s better to be in the racially mixed crowd than to be a probationary white in the white crowd.

The Racially Mixed Crowd as “Coalition of the Diverse”

Also at The New York Times, Op-Ed columnist Ross Douthat lamented the decline of the large white family. Sarah Kendzior called it “one of the most overtly racist things I’ve read in NYT” (h/t Discuss White Privilege). In Douthat’s lament and rant, the racially mixed crowd cannot last. “A post-familial society may unleash tribal competition within the coalition of the diverse, as people reach anew for ethnic solidarity and then fight furiously over liberalism’s spoils.”

No way Douthat. Your fantasies of tribal competition are unsupported by anthropology. Saying “tribal” betrays you slept through Introduction to Anthropology.

It may have been a brief moment, a glimmer of hope in a torrential afternoon rain. But we voted with the beauty of the racially mixed crowd, feeling the love in a coalition of the diverse.

Pre-Election Prediction November 2016

Anthropologist Greg Laden predicted Hillary Clinton would win with 310 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 228 electoral votes. As I commented, I believed the “Coalition of the Diverse” had been underestimated. I predicted 358 electoral votes for Clinton:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com




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Anthropology Boycott: Supporting BDS, Voting Against AAA proposal http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/05/17/anthropology-boycott/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/05/17/anthropology-boycott/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 18:39:48 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=12739 After a long time thinking about it, I’ve decided that I support the BDS Movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. But I plan to vote against the anthropology boycott.

Until 31 May 2016, members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) are voting on a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As a AAA member who hasn’t voted yet, I’ve been getting lots of e-mail from both sides. The latest urged: “It is crucial for us to take a stand on this issue on the side of human rights for all.”

I do believe in human rights for all. I was at the Denver AAA meetings in November 2015, and I voted to put the resolution on the ballot so it could be considered by the entire AAA membership. This has been a good time for reflection and resulted in substantial exposure for the BDS movement. But while my political leanings favor human rights and BDS, the specific anthropology boycott in fact makes it far too easy for me to “take a stand,” using other people’s money and privileged academic professional affiliations. In essence, the boycott would obligate one parastatal institution, the American Anthropological Association, to boycott another set of parastatal institutions, Israeli universities, because they are not taking a sufficiently strong political stance against their own government. As an institution, this would be a hypocritical stance. By such logic, academic organizations around the world should immediately boycott the AAA and US academic institutions.

I am also worried that the result of an anthropology boycott would be the precise opposite of what we would hope. It would probably be harmful to academic anthropological research, which depends on taxpayer and government-funded research grants. More importantly, it would be detrimental to the independent political stances anthropologists wish to take. Anthropologists are already marginalized whenever they attempt political intervention. The linking of the American Anthropological Association to BDS would only accentuate that marginalization.

Anthropology Boycott: Having my job and eating it too

When I think about the issues around anthropology boycott, I keep going back to a seminar with my graduate school mentor, Michel-Rolph Trouillot. While the exact wording is difficult to capture, Trouillot said something like:

Academic anthropologists should have a political commitment. Anthropologists need to have political commitments. And we need to understand the larger politics of our work. But those political commitments are independent of your workplace and your tenure-track job. Just “being an anthropologist” isn’t your political commitment. Your job is not your politics. It’s not enough. You can’t have your job and eat it too. (see also my 2012 post on Obama-Romney)

For me, voting for the anthropology boycott would be like having my job and eating it too. The only reason I am a member of the AAA is because I was one of the lucky ones who landed a tenure-track job in the academic lottery. And Hartwick College pays for my AAA membership and subsidizes my presentations at the AAA meetings. With thanks to Hartwick, the only reason I was able to fly to Denver to “take a stand” at the November 2015 AAA meetings is because of my academic institution. And so although I realize that not all members of the AAA have such support, for many members it is because of their academic affiliations that they have such a voice.

I have looked for something by Trouillot in print that might correspond to what he said in the seminar classroom. I think the closest thing is when Trouillot spoke of confronting liberal naïveté:

[Anthropology’s moral optimism] comes with duties, responsibilities, and some personal discomfort. We cannot bury it under weak social analysis flavored by political optimism, the way we sometimes do in studies of resistance that any semi-illiterate dictator in the Caribbean or in Africa can easily dismiss as exemplars of liberal political naïveté. When we do that, we add insult to injury for we merely aestheticize the natives’ pain to alleviate our own personal uneasiness. (Global TransformationsTrouillot on Anthropology Boycott 2003:136)

My take is that although the individuals supporting anthropology boycott are not exhibiting liberal political naïveté, as a collective action by the AAA the anthropology boycott would structurally be just that: a feel-good moment which will be quickly and easily dismissed.

Again, this is not to say anything about the individuals supporting the anthropology boycott. For the most part, I have found the statements by supporters to be more eloquent and well-reasoned than the over-heated rhetoric against the anthropology boycott, which at times has been so over-the-top that it makes me want to vote “yes.”

One great example of an argument in favor of the anthropology boycott is Ghassan Hage’s Why I have voted in support of BDS. Hage argues against the idea that one can “maintain the autonomy of academic life from political processes.” I completely agree. However, it is precisely because of the specific political processes of current US academic life that I plan to vote against the anthropology boycott.

Hage continues:

As it happens, in Israel’s universities, the very idea of being pro-indigenous is quasi impossible, expressed only by a negligible minority. What there is instead is an academic indifference and obliviousness to the deadly, remorseless and excessive colonial violence directed at the Palestnians and their universities, the very violence that makes such indifference possible in the Israeli universities: so much for autonomy.

Again, this is a powerful statement, but if we turn to the university system in the United States, how much “academic indifference and obliviousness” do we see when it comes to speaking out against US support for colonial violence? As mentioned above, by this measure there should be a global boycott of US university systems, and we in the US academy do not have the right to be boycotting anyone.

How will the symbolism of an anthropology boycott play out?

Should the American Anthropological Association vote with BDS, it is difficult to know how this will all play out. Some supporters like Kerim Friedman say “it is largely symbolic, but you’d think that of all people anthropologists would understand the power and importance of symbolic action.” But what if the symbolic actions play differently than intended? This possibility seems worth pondering.

Others say it is more than symbolically effective:

No one is arguing that an AAA boycott resolution, or that of another scholarly society, will by itself change international conditions. But every such measure concretely–not only symbolically–builds towards that end. These efforts multiply. Each one sends a signal that can progressively get harder to ignore. It is impossible to know in advance which will tip the scales and lead to a massive shift in how Israeli politicians, and those who elect them, calculate the effects of the state’s actions. But every moment of generating that signal, of generating substantial criticism, is effective in of itself.

But here again, given the current state of anthropology in the US academy, as the marginalized wing of “way far too liberal” within a US academy already characterized as “far too liberal,” is this really going to be seen as multiplying efforts? As generating substantial criticism? Or is the backlash going to be worse than the intended effect?

While it is indeed impossible to know in advance, the backlash implications seem potentially enormous. This is likely to be the only headline that most university administrators and politicians read about anthropology this year. In the Myths and Facts About the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions we are assured that

at least six U.S.-based academic associations have endorsed the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, including the American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association of Asian American Studies, and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association. After endorsing the boycott these organizations have seen stable or increased membership numbers and revenues.

This may be true. But how many of those academic associations rely on the kind of funding that anthropology does from the National Science Foundation? To what extent will joining with these academic associations reinforce the already-prevalent view that anthropologists are too political to be in the academy at all? As one comment on Friedman’s “Squirrel!” piece notes, this is a time when US anthropology departments are being asked to justify their own existence.

Perhaps most importantly, and linked to the above, I fear that a vote in favor of anthropology boycott will actually undermine the anthropological position when we seek to make a political intervention. Given that anthropologist Maximilian Forte has already told us Why Donald J. Trump Will Be the Next President of the United States, it seems important that we maintain credibility to speak as anthropologists.

I began this blog because I hoped the lessons from anthropology could be more present in public debates. I fear a vote for the anthropology boycott of Israeli academic institutions would do more to stifle anthropology’s role than it will to further it.

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Defending Anthropology 101 and the Mega-Class: Relevant Teaching for the 21st Century http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/02/04/defending-anthropology-101/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2016/02/04/defending-anthropology-101/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:04:41 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=12707 In February 2016, honored to participate in several sessions around the theme “Defending Anthropology 101 and the Mega-Class: Relevant Teaching for the 21st Century.” The idea of Defending Anthropology 101 was sponsored by the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Many thanks to Professor Charles Price and Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld for organizing. Professor Thomas Chivens joined us from the University of Michigan. This post summarizes the initial people and sessions, and then with some notes.

Anthropological Analysis, Teaching & Recitations

A juxtaposition of story-pairs that develop critical concepts for anthropological analysis and a discussion of the role of recitations or discussion sessions. What is the role of graduate student sections, especially with interactive large classes? A gathering over coffee where we share creative ways that we match the familiar and the strange in order to help students see connections and learn to think with diverse examples drawn from broad sample of cultures.

Defending Anthropology 101

Psych 101, Econ 101, Anth 101: Does Anthropology need to offer an entry-level synthesis of the field to stay relevant in a general education curriculum? As a “101” course, Anthropology 101 suggests an opportunity for learning not just foundational ideas for the discipline but a set of concepts that can be put to work in the real world by any student to generate a basic anthropological understanding of the contemporary world. However, are topical courses such as Medical Anthropology or Culture and Globalization more suited to the task? Does the commitment to four fields actually undercut the pop-culture power of ANTH 101?

Notes: This conversation was a particularly interesting look at different curricular models for an Introduction to Anthropology course. On one extreme Thom Chivens talked about the University of Michigan mega-sections of Anthropology 101, ranging from 250-450 students fulfilling a Race and Ethnicity requirement and sustained by the Conrad Kottak textbook empire. In this curriculum, Anthropology 101 explicitly does not count toward the anthropology major. At UNC, the Anthropology 101 sections are generally smaller (around 120 students), and while it is not required for the major, it can count as part of the anthropology major. Finally, the Hartwick College model is of small 30-person sections, and Introduction to Anthropology is very much required as the building block course for the major and is a prerequisite for other courses.

Blogs, Tweets, Classes: How can social media draw from teaching? with Jonathan Weiler

Defending Anthropology Social Media WorkshopThe seminar brings together two writers, Jason Antrosio, Department of Anthropology, Hartwick College and Jonathan Weiler, Curriculum in Global Studies, UNC – Chapel Hill, who have developed successful blogs that have relevance to classes they regularly teach. The workshop will be an opportunity to hear about their blogs, what they have learned as bloggers, and what it takes to sustain a rewarding digital presence.

Lecture, Story, and Imagination with Molly Worthen

Students have long written “I wish the professor talked more/explained more/lectured more” on course evaluations in smaller classes, feeling discussion based learning did not cover the material properly. In those smaller format classes, we often set aside those desires for a lecture. Students in flipped or active classrooms also talk about wanting more lectures. Why shouldn’t we set these aside as well and be more tolerant of the open-endedness that happens in a smaller class? Alternatively, instead of dismissing these desire’s for lectures as a kind of laziness or false search for simplicity, what do students want in a lecture?

In the response to Molly Worthen’s Lecture Me. Really., many who challenged her position also said that lecturing was “one tool in a diverse tool box,” but few explain where that tool matters most. Can we pinpoint that? And in doing so do we clarify when active learning is the sound alternative? Are there particular reasons in an Anthropology 101 course when we are trying “To make the strange familiar” that we do indeed have one of those moments when the lecture is the right tool in the tool box?

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Gun Control Podcast – Bring Sanity to Gun Violence http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2015/12/06/gun-control-podcast/ http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2015/12/06/gun-control-podcast/#comments Sun, 06 Dec 2015 15:27:07 +0000 http://www.livinganthropologically.com/?p=12547

Update 14 June 2017: Re-releasing this Gun Control Podcast from 2015 as the stories break on Alexandria and the San Francisco UPS. I support gun control and a ban on the weapons used in today’s shootings.

I recorded this gun control podcast October 2015 for a Natalia Reagan project titled “Science for Social Change.” At the time, the gun control podcast responded to the campus shootings and laws permitting concealed carry on campus. Reagan’s project was postponed. I released the gun control podcast in the light of ongoing mass shootings. This gun control podcast is part of a series on gun control. There are links after each question as well as links to the complete series at the end of the post.

1. Why do you think America is more gun obsessed compared to other first world nations?

For this answer I draw on analysis from Gun Violence: New Guns or New Gun Control? and conversations with anthropologist Daniel Lende. Regarding the issue of race and gun control laws, see The Slave-State Origins of Modern Gun Rights (thank you to Discuss White Privilege for the link).

2. How can anthropologists be of use in the gun control debate?

I have long-running concerns about the public stereotyping of anthropology. I previously noted that arguments against gun control are “shoddy anthropology.” Some anthropologists also deploy a misguided notion of cultural relativism. On the issue of cultural relativism, Hugh Gusterson’s Making a Killing is worth reading. In the end, we need to seize the four field and comparative cultural strength of anthropology. Anthropologists are the best equipped to talk about gun control in a cross-cultural and historical perspective.

3. Are humans inherently violent? Do you think focusing on this idea that Americans have a “Culture of Violence” is oversimplifying human nature?

In this answer I plug the very accessible War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views. I revisit my first blog-post on the topic, Gun Culture and Anthropology on Culture. Brian Ferguson’s work is useful to debunk one of the most-cited anthropologists claiming a natural human tendency to violence. See History, explanation, and war among the Yanomami: A response to Chagnon’s Noble Savages.

4. Imagine if there were no guns in our country. What would you imagine America would be like?

My proposal is not for a no-gun utopia. In this respect, the emphasis on access is similar to what Nicholas Kristof writes in On Guns, We’re Not Even Trying. I am still interested to investigate the feasibility of a Semi-Automatic Weapons Buyback. In fact as of 2015, 58% of Americans support a ban on semi-automatic weapons. However, a more feasible idea is to make gun regulation much more like automobile regulation. Just like automobiles, there should be Mandatory Gun Insurance:

Gun insurance would work very much like car insurance. You would need it to buy a gun, and the policy would have to include liability coverage in case that gun injures someone. If a gun owner has no accidents, his premiums go down. Someone who wants to “open carry” his weapon would pay more than someone who keeps it locked at home. Assault weapons would be more expensive to insure than hunting rifles because they they have a greater capacity to do harm. But it wouldn’t be government making these decisions, which would be unconstitutional–it would be insurance companies, competing with one another to keep premiums reasonable. (Jean Ann Esselink)

5. What are your thoughts about allowing concealed firearms on university campuses? As a professor, how does that make you feel?

Schools and campuses can become targets for gun violence. These issues emerged in my first post-Newtown observations, Semi-Automatic Anthropology: Confronting Complexity, Anthropologically.

6. What do you think it will take to finally push through increased gun control legislation (i.e. more mass shootings, someone significant dying, etc.)? Will a gun control podcast help?

Here I borrow from what Frank Rich wrote in December 2012:

So let’s see what happens when the circus folds its tent and we are back in the bitter winds of January, redirecting our attention to the Inauguration and the Super Bowl. By then, we may have a better idea as to whether this is actually a tipping point in the history of our enslavement to the gun culture, or whether it’s just another chapter in the modern history of America bingeing 24/7 on the pornography of other families’ grief, declaring “closure,” and then moving on. (America’s Other Original Sin)

The same words can equally well be applied to all of the high profile mass shootings since then. While the 2012 Newtown seemed like a possible tipping point, it now seems completely futile to suggest Congress will take up anything like gun control after a mass shooting. Here’s the New York Times from 19 January 2017:

“We’re beyond the place where Washington responds to mass shootings,” said Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who led an angry filibuster a year ago demanding more than “unconscionable deafening silence” from Congress after the shock of the Orlando nightclub gun massacre. Similarly frustrated Democrats had staged a protest sit-in in the House, but this time they were muted about renewing the debate over the nation’s gun carnage.

But let’s not allow the issue to fade. Please share this Gun Control Podcast and bring some sanity to American gun violence.

Gun Control, Gun Reform, Gun Violence: The Series

This gun control podcast is the culmination in a series of linked blog-posts about the need for anthropology to directly address gun control and gun violence. The series includes:




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