“Anthropology should have changed the world, yet the subject is almost invisible in the public sphere outside the academy”
–Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Engaging Anthropology (2006:1)
The aspiration of Living Anthropologically is to promote world-changing anthropology through the moral optimism Michel-Rolph Trouillot describes in Global Transformations (2003:139):
At the end of the day, in this age where futures are murky and utopias mere reminders of a lost innocence, we need to fall back on the moral optimism that has been anthropology’s greatest–yet underscored–appeal. But we need to separate that optimism from the naïveté that has been liberalism’s most convenient shield. We need to assume it as a choice–whether we call it moral, philosophical, or aesthetic in the best sense. We need to hang on to it not because we are historically, socially, or politically naïve–indeed, as social scientists we cannot afford such naïveté–but because this is the side of humanity that we choose to prefer, and because this choice is what moved us to anthropology in the first place. We need to assume this optimism because the alternatives are lousy, and because anthropology as a discipline is the best venue through which the West can show an undying faith in the richness and variability of humankind. [See In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot 1949-2012.]
Living Anthropologically launched in 2011 and has had 100,000 people visit by 2013. Check out the most-viewed Anthropology Posts 2011-2013 below, with references to the anthropological inspirations. If you like what you see, please share or consider Donating to Living Anthropologically.
This post deals with the attacks on anthropology as a valuable major–see Great Year for Anthropology! The world-changing anthropological message is perhaps best described at the college undergraduate level, and is also why I attempted to write a succinct statement, What is Anthropology. The post draws on an economic and political analysis of education and neoliberal capitalism, inspired by works like David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
This post is a cornerstone statement of Moral Optimism and Living Anthropologically. There is also a striking convergence with what Tim Ingold, one of my favorite and most inspirational anthropologists, writes in Being Alive: “The truth is that the propositions of art and architecture, to the extent that they carry force, must be grounded in a profound understanding of the lived world, and conversely that anthropological accounts of the manifold ways in which life is lived would be of no avail if they were not brought to bear on speculative inquiries into what the possibilities for human life might be. Thus art, architecture and anthropology have in common that they observe, describe and propose” (2011:ix). See also the January 2013 round-up on Anthropology Beyond Capitalism. Para hispanohablantes ver la entrevista con Tim Ingold, La antropología en crisis.
This post launches a critique of one of Jared Diamond’s first and still most successful essays overblowing a revisionist hyperbole that agriculture was a watershed worst mistake for humanity. This critique–and the as yet unfinished follow-up pieces on hunting and gathering, horticulture, and agriculture–were again inspired by Tim Ingold’s essays in The Perception of the Environment. Ingold’s essays ask us to re-examine some fundamental assumptions about plant and animal domestication and the place of human beings in the world.
Living Anthropologically must include a feminist perspective. This post attempts an overview of how anthropology has investigated issues of sex, gender, and sexuality. I am still inspired by Gayle Rubin’s essay The Traffic in Women (1975), and recognizing that anthropology’s most effective popularizers have been women. Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture, first published in 1934, remains a worldwide bestseller–see also Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture: From Culture to cultures.
This post attempted to defend and re-describe some basic anthropological ideas on race which have been much misunderstood in the genomic age. Since I wrote this piece, I continue to think about how these anthropological perspectives on race have been mobilized to attack anthropology and anti-racist efforts–see Social Construction of Race = Conservative Goldmine. I continue to be inspired by Jonathan Marks and his Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology as he keeps working on these issues in the face of adversity.
Like many anthropologists–see Ryan Anderson’s 2013 investigation of Anthropology: The landmark books–Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History was a revelatory account of human interconnection and retelling global history. My central claim is that the real problem with Jared Diamond is how his incorrect and imperialist-justifying Guns, Germs, and Steel replaced the much more accurate and inspiring work of Eric Wolf. For more, see Eric Wolf, Europe and the People Without History – Geography, States, Empires.
It is impossible to understand what anthropology is all about without understanding what anthropology was slotted to explain: Human Nature. Anthropology still needs to address these questions. I’ve been grateful for the work of Agustín Fuentes, Busting Myths about Human Nature, as he tacks between academic anthropology, interdisciplinary endeavors, and the public sphere (see also Race, Monogamy & Other Lies They Told You–Fuentes as Anthropology 101).
Strangely enough for someone trained as a sociocultural anthropologist under Sidney Mintz, Living Anthropologically launched with ideas about Denisovans and Neandertal admixture, and how contemporary findings should be interpreted for Introduction-to-Anthropology courses. These documents have become the stable webpages and are also available as a Kindle e-Book, Anthropology I: Human Nature, Race, Evolution in Biological Anthropology.