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Open Anthropology – The Social Life of Health, Illness, Medicine and Health Care: Anthropological Views

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Open Anthropology, a digital-only, public publication of the American Anthropological Association, is proud to announce the release of its third issue. In this edition, The Social Life of Health, Illness, Medicine and Health Care: Anthropological Views, editor Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, CUNY) curates eleven articles and three book reviews of anthropological works that encompass today’s health care debate, access to insurance and quality health care, social inequity, and historical perspectives on medicinal practices and well-being across cultures.

In her prefatory remarks, Waterston reflects on the national health care conversation, noting that “(t)he whole mess – the fights, the threats, the web crashes – was successful in capturing the public’s attention,” and is left to wonder if the cacophony served to distract the public from the key issues around access to health care. Editor Waterston offers a selection of anthropology articles that “help defamiliarize the ‘normal,’ that make strange the familiar, a process that can lead to new insights, understandings, and positions.”

At a time when the issues of health care and insurance are on the national agenda, Open Anthropology provides cross-cultural information and historical perspective to inform national and global health care policy and practice. Anthropologists recognize that when it comes to health care, “We are all in the same frail boat,” as Gerald D. Berreman notes in his article featured here. Others document obstacles to health and well-being as well as success stories in the effort to provide quality health care to all.

Content in Open Anthropology is culled from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and will be freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue is dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications.

Open Anthropology is available at http://www.aaaopenanthro.org

Inside Anti-Crisis

Anti-Crisis-BigMichael Schapira, Interview Editor at Full Stop sits down with Janet Roitman to get an insider perspective on her new book Anti-Crisis. Dr. Roitman, Chair, Department of Anthropology at the New School, examines the cycle of crisis production and thinks critically about the Global Financial Crisis. Below is an excerpt of the interview. Read the entire interview at Full Stop.

Crisis is not a small word. It is meant to raise the stakes of the present moment. We may no longer speak with the grandeur of the Continental philosopher (Rahm Emanuel parroting Winston Churchill —  “never let a good crisis go to waste” — is probably the best known use of the term today), but that doesn’t take any of the immediacy out of the crisis claim. However, what are the grounds of crisis? What allows us to call the 2007-9 economic collapse the “Global Financial Crisis,” and how do we tell ourselves the story of how we got there and where we need to go? As the anthropologist Janet Roitman notes in her excellent new book Anti-Crisis, our telling of events like the Global Financial Crisis has the effect of “permitting and enabling certain narrations and giving rise to certain questions, but not others.” The questions we tend to ask are along the lines of “what went wrong?” (e.g. in our pricing of derivatives or other complex financial instruments), but not “how can one know crisis in history? And how can one know crisis itself?” It is a stretch to say that the Global Financial Crisis has reached any neat resolution, which makes Roitman’s call to think outside of the politics of crisis such an important task for understanding our present moment — in both its limitations and possibilities.

I sat down with Janet on a chilly morning near Lincoln Center to discuss why we need to think crisis differently, why the concept has eluded the critical attention that we give to other terms, and why anthropologists may have something significant to contribute to philosophy and political theory.

Michael Schapira: How did you arrive at the concept of “crisis?”

Janet Roitman: It’s actually a very simple story. I’d published my first book, which was on Central Africa and related to economic anthropology. One of the things that was important to me in that book was to not write about Africa and its pathology. I was very careful not to take the Weberian model of the rational-legal state and then recount the ways that Africa diverges from and doesn’t achieve that model — which is basically what most political science on Africa does. I was teaching in France at the time and got an email from Beth Povinelli at Columbia inviting me to give the Franz Boas lecture. Of course, I was very flattered. So we had this email exchange. Fiscal Disobedience had been out for a couple of years and I didn’t want to just present the book, so I wondered what exactly they wanted me to do. She wrote back saying that the book had been really helpful for thinking about crisis in anthropology. I didn’t know if she meant crisis in the discipline of anthropology or how anthropologists deal with the concept of crisis, but what I did know is that I felt I had failed miserably. In the introduction to my first book, I say why I am not using the terms crisis or failed states, so I thought, “Oh no, I went to all these pains to avoid these terms and here they are asking me to come talk about them.” I was really flummoxed, but I thought about it and realized that Achille Mbembe and I had written this text almost a decade prior in Public Culture called “Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis.” So I went back and reread that text and realized that I was happy when we wrote it, but now totally disagreed with it a decade later. So I wrote the presentation for the Franz Boas lecture that explained why I was in disagreement with it and why my book was supposed to have marked a different direction.

To jump over a lot of stuff, I ended this experience of having given the lecture with the question of how to think Africa otherwise than under the sign of crisis, which was a quandary. As an anthropologist, or at least someone associated with the discipline of anthropology, I had to devise an ethnographic project to investigate this question; but first I really needed to think more about the concept. So I started this work of inquiring into the concept. When I arrived at The New School in 2007, I taught two graduate seminars where we really traced the emergence of the concept in the social sciences and its displacements through various disciplines — from Marxist historiography to economic anthropology to post-structuralism, etc.

Read the entire interview at Full Stop.

New American Ethnologist Virtual Issue on “In/Visibility: Projects, Media, Politics, 2012-2013″

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NEW! American Ethnologist virtual issue on “In/Visibility: Projects, Media, Politics, 2012-2013″ – FREE articles for 2 months. Guest edited by Samuel Martínez, organizer of our 2014 AES spring conference on the same theme.

Articles by Wenzel Geissler, Peter Redfield, Francisco Ferrandiz, Aisha Bello-De Jesus, Suncem Kocer, Micaela di Leonardo, Zeynep Devrem Gursel, Heath Cabot, Madeleine Reeves, Robert Samet, Shalini Shankar, Michal Kravel-Tovi, Julie Soleil Archambault, Lilith Mahmud, Keith M. Murphy, Angie Heo, Shaylih Muehlmann.

Articles available here in Wiley Online Library (free for 2 months).

*The articles in this AE virtual issue set the stage for the 2014 American Ethnological Society spring meeting in Boston, organized in collaboration with the Society for Visual Anthropology. Our theme–

“In/visibility: Projects, Media, Politics, 2012-2013”–joins creative contemporary sociocultural engagements in anthropology to earlier questions of method, meaning, and representation.

Articles in this virtual issue explore shadow, alien, and regulated forms within citizenship and the environment; techniques of legibility and surveillance and their evasion; current public controversies about “dark sites” in politics, national security, and law; visual media’s growing influence; and the hopes and fears pinned on emerging technologies.

Indiana Jones is to Anthropology as Fred Flintstone is to Neolithic Life

Below is a copy of the Letter to the Editor of the New York Times Magazine by President Mullings in response to the recent article by Emily Eakin.

To the Editor,

While we recognize that the figure of Indiana Jones is attractive, it is about as useful for understanding anthropology as Fred Flintstone is for understanding life in the Neolithic. Your article perpetuates an outdated and narrow stereotype of our profession. The 11,000 members of the American Anthropological Association alone actually spend their time doing a vast array of things. Today’s anthropologists can be found in such diverse endeavors as leading the World Bank, designing health care for areas devastated by disaster, or researching  the causes of the 2008 recession or the deaths of 100 boys in a defunct reform school in Florida. The  representation of a field paralyzed by  debates about  ‘science, ’ vs. ‘advocacy ’ is similarly inaccurate, given the non-polarized ways most anthropologists today understand ‘science’, ‘advocacy’ and the nature of the field. The article also misses one of Napoleon Chagnon’s lasting legacies to our field: the reminder to engage in constant reflection about anthropological ethics. The American Anthropological Association recently did just that, releasing its new Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility in October 2012. Finally, we consider lively debate neither dangerous nor self-serving: it is a key to knowledge.

Leith Mullings
President
American Anthropological Association
Distinguished Professor
Graduate Center, City University of New York

Anthropology in The Miami Herald

Yesterday writer Mary Jo Melone wrote an op-ed piece in The Miami Herald in response, or lack there of, by Governor Rick Scott of Florida and the recent findings by forensic anthropologists at the Dozier School for Boys. The piece, entitled Gov. Scott, anthropology and Dozier School for Boys is below:

When it comes to bad news, the truth is always inconvenient. And so it was last week, when forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida reported on the expanding horrors at the now-shuttered Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, where, in the state’s name, boys in trouble were sent for over a century.

The anthropologists found that 96 children and two adults died, including two 6-year-olds. Fifty graves have been found on the property, not the 31 that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported two years ago. Nothing remarkable about its number, FDLE said then.

Hooey, said the men who still bear the scars of being there.

Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam has asked the FDLE to review the anthropologists’ claims and report to the governor and the Cabinet.

Although the Juvenile Justice Department has said it will cooperate further with the University of South Florida researchers — who suspect the existence of a second burial ground at Dozier — the current occupant of the governor’s mansion has been silent as a stone on the subject.

It may be that Gov. Rick Scott still doesn’t understand that much of a governor’s most important work is symbolic, and that it is vital that the man who represents the state represent its highest moral standards in both action and speech.

Or it could be that Gov. Scott knows that if he speaks about the University of South Florida investigators’ findings about Dozier, he’ll get tongue-tied when it’s time to utter the word anthropology.

Last year, the governor complained about how useless the subject was. He was talking about his desire to shift state university spending away from the liberal arts and put the money into science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM fields — because that’s where he believes all the jobs are.

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Scott asked. “I don’t think so.”

There has been much speculation that the governor singled out anthropology because his daughter holds an undergraduate degree in the field. Perhaps he disapproved and extended his ideas of being a dad and of pleasing a dad to state policy.

Whatever it was, Scott earned the wrath of the American Anthropological Association and anthropology faculty across the state.

Moreover, what came off as his disdain for the liberal arts in general created fear over the future of liberal arts.

Those are the so-called mushy fields, like history, English and psychology, in which people reflect on who we are and what and where we’ve been — on other words, on the human condition.

It’s a subject that also affects the governor, who sometimes needs to be reminded of his own humanity. (Remember testing welfare recipients for drugs?)

Now the University of South Florida department website includes a video response to the governor, in which numerous graduate students detail the kind of work they do in all kinds of fields: healthcare for veterans and farm workers, attendance at state parks, homicide investigations, consumer use of technology, and, the grad students said, the development of statistics he has used to support his argument on behalf of STEM education.

With the Dozier investigation, you could also argue that anthropologists peer into the darkest corners of the human experience and Florida history.

Gov. Scott probably won’t send anthropologists any more money. However, given the work the anthropologists did at Dozier, at least he should send the researchers at the University of South Florida a thank-you note.

Mary Jo Melone, a former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.

To read the original article, visit The Miami Herald.

Experienced Meeting Goer Provides Presentation Tips To Newbies

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Kirsten Bell. Bell discusses how to present a paper at an anthropology conference.

How to deliver a paper at an anthropology conference

By Kirsten Bell

Academic conferences, as several observers have noted, are a singularly understudied phenomenon.  One of the more profound insights on this topic is to be found in an article by Jacobs and McFarlane published in, of all places, the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.  They note that conferences are sites where inexperienced neophytes learn how to become professionals – how to (quite literally) walk the walk and talk the talk.   While we learn from the practices and attributes of our individual teachers, it is only at our discipline’s most cherished events that we get to see The Anthropologist as a larger species of academic in all of his or her glory.  Thus, more than any other academic pursuit, be it fieldwork, writing or teaching, it’s at conferences that we learn how to inhabit an anthropological habitus.

At some level, we’re all aware of this.  Certainly, for those budding anthropologists who have never previously presented at an academic conference, they can be a nerve-wracking affair.   If not careful, one can become the academic equivalent of a gauche guest at a dinner party, or the Nigel-No-Friends on the playground ignored by other students and picked last for team sports.

I learnt this lesson the hard way at the Australian Anthropological Society conference in 1997, where I presented my first paper.   Having never previously attended a conference, much less presented at one, I turned to my older sister, a geologist, for advice.  Amongst her several pearls of wisdom were the instructions to ‘use PowerPoint. Everyone’s doing it’.[1]  She then gave me her own personalized template (blue background with yellow writing, fashionable amongst scientists in the mid 1990s and heartily despised by the time it finally went out of fashion a decade later) and I diligently made up my slides, paid to get them transferred onto actual slides[2] and took the slide box with me to the conference.

The conference paper was an abysmal failure.  While my unfortunate mispronunciation of the word ‘cacophany’[3] didn’t help matters, I blame the PowerPoint slides for the paper’s poor reception.  Afterwards, the academic who chaired the session politely informed me that while the use of PowerPoint might be de rigueur in scientific circles, it wasn’t at all the thing amongst anthropologists, as our complex and abstract ideas didn’t lend themselves well to bullet points on a slide.  Clearly, my fatal error was asking a geologist for advice on how to communicate at an anthropology conference, which, as it turned out, was rather like asking an ice hockey player what strategies suit competitive netball.

In light of the upcoming AAA Meeting in San Francisco, and in the spirit of offering collegial advice to a new generation of anthropologists forced to navigate the shark-infested waters that constitute the typical academic conference, I’ve compiled a list of how to present papers at anthropology conferences.  However, before I outline these tips there’s one fundamental piece of advice I need to impart.  You must disabuse yourself of any naïve notion that conferences are about disseminating knowledge and sharing intellectual ideas.  It’s precisely these sorts of pie-in-the-sky fantasies that will get you into trouble.  As Erving Goffman pointed out in Forms of Talk, if one’s goal is merely to transmit information, an academic talk is an extraordinarily ineffective way to do it.  We don’t attend talks to actually learn something new but to imbibe the essence of the speaker’s identity. To quote Goffman, “To the degree that the speaker is a significant figure in some relevant world or other, to that degree this access has a ritual character, in the… sense of affording supplicants preferential contact with an entity held to be of value” (p. 187). Continue reading

Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda

Did you know that AAA’s Online Store offers a variety of works and books on anthropology?

Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda is a guide for anthropologists researching the topic. Edited by Mary Margaret Overbey and Kathryn Marie Dudley, this work is described in the preface:

The Research Agenda marks the final step of a project spearheaded by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to stimulate interest and inquiry among anthropologists in middle class working families and to strengthen this area of research within anthropology. The ending of project we see as a new beginning and resurgence of anthropological studies on the conditions and concerns of middle class working families.

To review the table of contents and place your order, click here.

The Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda is available for purchase at a special rate of $5.00 for AAA members. Order your copy, today!

For The Love of Anthropology

Valentine’s Day is one of those tricky holidays that people either love or love to hate. Which ever camp you side with, one thing is certain – your love for anthropology. What is it about anthropology that drew you to the field?

Were you one of those students who started college as an Anthropology major? Or did you have a professor that shared their contagious passion for anthropology with you? Perhaps you now are teaching the next generation of anthropologists or a practitioner leaving your anthropological mark in the most unusual place.

Whatever your love story may be, we want to hear it. Jot down your lines of love for anthropology in the comment section. On Friday, we’ll re-post the compiled love stories here on the AAA blog.

Call for Papers: Association for Feminist Anthropology Sessions

The Association for Feminist Anthropology welcomes sessions to be considered for inclusion in AFA’s programming for the 111th AAA Annual Meeting, to be held November 14-18, 2012 in San Francisco. The AAA meeting theme this year is “Borders,” so AFA particularly welcomes panels that take up “borders” from a feminist anthropological perspective. Various approaches to the theme include papers and sessions that might explore:

  • Borders/collaborations/intersections between feminist anthropology and other scholarly spaces from within and beyond anthropology: critical race studies, queer studies, and/or women’s studies; linguistics and genetics; political science, geography, environmental, and/or policy studies; migration and immigration studies and/or economics and archaeology and/or ethnography; biology/history/cultural studies; masculinity and/or gender studies; educational psychologies and social work; etc., etc., etc.
  • Existing or potential conversations/alliances/engagements between scholarly anthropology and everyday activism
  • Geographical, political, and ecological borders and the people who move across and re-define them: histories/archaeologies/economies of trade, trafficking, and/or transnationalism; refugees, resettlements, and asylum seekers; multiple and multiplying citizenships; migration, immigration, and diasporas; etc.
  • “Borders” and “borderlands” in terms of identities: liminal; queer; mestizaje; mixed-race; transgender
  • The “in between” scholar working across/between/among disciplines; conducting research and participating within communities; “insider anthropology”; Lorde’s concept and Harrison’s theorizing of the “outsider within”

We are especially interested in sessions that take advantage of the meeting site of San Francisco by involving local activists, practitioners, and policy makers, whether they are anthropologists or not. If you have questions about the details of registration for non-anthropologists, please let us know.

Also, if submitting for AFA invited or sponsored status, please consider whether your panel could be co-sponsored by AFA and either one or multiple other sections of the AAA. This allows AFA to maximize its presence in the program, gain a potentially greater audience for your panel, and cross the “borders” among AAA sections.

Deadlines:

February 1: Online abstract submission system opens on AAA website
March 15:
Deadline for submitting proposed sessions for section invited status consideration and public policy forums via www.aaanet.org
April 4:
Results of section invited session proposals announced by section program committee chairs
April 15:

  1. Proposal deadline for volunteered sessions, individual paper and poster presentations, media submissions and special events via www.aaanet.org
  2. Participants must be registered for the meeting by this date for inclusion in 2012 AAA Annual Meeting program

April 16-May 31: Section program co-chairs review and rank paper and session proposals
July 1-15:
Program decisions emailed to applicants

For more information, and to submit a proposed session, please contact 2012 Program Chairs: Susan Harper (sharperbisso@twu.edu) and Jennifer Patico (jpatico@gsu.edu).

Please also consider student-focused workshop ideas for AFA sponsorship. To learn more, or submit a proposal, contact Sophie Bjork-James, at (sbjorkjames@gmail.com).

What Anthropologists Do, and What They Do Wrong in Business

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Ashkuff. Read more posts on Ashkuff’s blog: http://www.ashkuff.com

Put simply? Sociocultural anthropologists specialize in describing one group of people, to other groups of people. Obviously, with such a broad yet elegant specialization, sociocultural anthropologists should find themselves awash in more political, business, and consultancy opportunities. So why don’t we?

We sometimes get lost in communicating with our research subjects, and forget how to communicate with our audiences. Unsurprisingly, research creates little opportunity, if nobody understands it. Take, for example, the communication habits of American sociocultural anthropologists (abbr. “anthropologists”) versus mainstream American businesspeople (abbr. “businesspeople”).

Anthropologists communicate via thick description and comprehensive ethnographies, based on extended field research. By contrast, businesspeople communicate concisely, in terms of deliverability and value generation (i.e. “the bottom line.”) Although businesspeople certainly need “other” groups explained to them — foreign labor forces, new market segments, multiculturalism within their own workspaces, et cetera — businesspeople usually cannot process what anthropologists have to say about those other groups. Therefore, it’s on us job-seeking anthropologists to understand businesspeople just as deeply as we understand our own research subjects, and communicate our research accordingly.

Remember, of course, communication breakdowns between anthropologists and businesspeople are only one example. Anthropologists also communicate with politicians, lawyers, jurors, grantors, activists, home viewers and readers. I urge anthropologists to prioritize communication with any audience, just as they prioritize communicating with their research subjects.

— Ashkuff | www.ashkuff.com | How to venture out of “armchair” scholarship and into action? One anthropologist tackles business, occultism and violence! He gets spooked and roughed up a lot.

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