"Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary

Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary

While I was busy and mostly stressed in the pre-defense days, I totally missed the release of this new book. I now have a signed copy from Prof. Faubion who kindly gave me as a gift after my defense:) I will be busy with revisions of my dissertation in the next days and maybe weeks, so I may only start reading it in the plane back to Istanbul…

Elizabeth “BJ” Warnock Fernea Has Passed Away………

Elizabeth “BJ” Warnock Fernea Has Passed Away

By Jenny White


I was saddened to learn that the great writer and observer of the Middle East, my mentor and friend BJ Fernea, has passed away. She died with her daughter and husband Bob holding her hands and, it is reported, with a smile on her face. BJ Fernea was a remarkable woman, best known for her classic ethnographic account of her stay in an Iraqi village in the 1950s, Guests of The Sheikh.

In Memoriam Elizabeth Fernea

By tabsi

RIP Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

By Rex on Briefly Noted

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea—BJ to her friends—passed away last Tuesday at the age of 81 (LA Times obit here). I am probably the wrong person to memorialize her. We never met, never corresponded, studied radically different topics, and had little in common beside BA degrees in anthropology from the same school awarded more than four decades apart. Fernea was best known for her short book Guests of the Sheik, which it took me years to read. As a graduate student I saw it lined up the used book racks alongside books by Ashley Montagu and Robert Ardrey—just one more of those many paperback editions published in the 60s to feed the massive waves of boomer graduate students whose detritus became my childhood. It wasn’t until later on in life that I actually bought a copy, sat down, and decided to figure out what all the fuss was about.

The Anthropologist’s Son

By tabsir on Election 2008

The Anthropologist’s Son
by Ruth Behar, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 2008 and History News Network

Anthropologists tackle health disparities at national meeting
SF State Campus Headlines – San Francisco,CA,USA
Anthropology has long provided a rich understanding of humanity, and anthropologists look to apply this knowledge to improve people’s lives

Should anthropologists work alongside soldiers?
USA Today – USA
By John Moore, Getty Images By Dan Vergano and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY SAN FRANCISCO — The military for years has enlisted anthropologists, depending on

Anthropology and espionage (2)

John Gledhill has kindly sent me the transcript of his recent BBC Radio 3 broadcast in which, to quote the BBC, he “charts his long-term research among the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, and discusses the ethics and responsibilities of anthropologists in the field as well as uncovering the overlapping history of anthropology and espionage”. I have pasted the transcript below with many thanks to John G.

“Top 100 Anthropology Blogs”? No, I don’t think so.

Recently a list of the “top 100 anthropology blogs” was produced by a site called Online Universities. I am certain that the intentions behind the listing were purely positive and constructive, and I am not imputing any sinister motive on the part of Patricia Gavins, the site author. Nor do I think it is worth complaining that some sites are listed as a professor’s blog while others are not; that in some cases the professor’s name is indicated, in others it is not; that sometimes the institutional affiliation of the bloggers is noted, in others it is not; or even the tepid description that this blog gets, when others seem much more exciting. It is Gavins’ list and she is perfectly free to write it in the way that pleases her most.

Emily Martin on Anthropology Now!

Emily Martin has generously sent this brief history of how Anthropology Now started… Please be civil.

AnthroNow LogoI am pleased to see that there has been such quick and interested reaction to the launch of Anthropology Now. I wanted to write with a brief history of the long effort that has brought us here. I am speaking from my (spotty) memory here, and some details may be missing. We began as a committee of the AES in 1998 when I was president, Susan Harding was president elect, and Ida Susser was Councillor. The AES has kept us as an active committee ever since, which explains how we were included in the AAA program this year.

Audiences, Artic Men, AnthroNow and other AAAs

Rex and I shared a walk through Rite-AID at this year’s AAA. I forgot to call him on the whole Arctic scent thing (I think it’s a bizarre Hawaiian Costco phenom which doesn’t exist on the mainland), because I was too focused on finding the Perfect Award for our Best two out of three categories contest winner (i.e. Greg Downey and his multiple crews at Culture Matters and Neuroanthropology). During our chats, I asked Rex who he thought our audience was at SM. The discussion was enlightening (for me at least, but I’m a slow thinker). What I found interesting was how he characterized the two moieties making up (at least some of) our audience. On the one hand: borderline academics. Those who are not career anthropologists, but may have degrees at various stages, jobs outside the academy or just a healthy interest in the subject. On the other han
d: professional academics in anthropology. The former are people who do not have broad access to the discipline’s official research (as we repeatedly point out in our discussions around Open Access), and may (mistakenly) view SM as an emissary from the professional center of the discipline. You read the posts and you comments freely. Without you we would be nothing. The latter, however, may read intently, and may also mis-perceive who we are, but are unlikely to ever post a comment. I would never know that such people exist if I didn’t get regular email from them responding to me directly, instead of posting publicly on the blog.

AAAs 2008 wrap up

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times, it was the age of ostentatiously displayed Ethnic Bags, and it was an age of frumpy, rumpled corduroy, it was a time of middle-aged women wearing chunky jewelry, and it was a time of emo-haired job-marketing grad students crammed into ill-fitting suits—in short, it was an AAA conference so like every other AAA conference that it is high time for yet another AAA roundup.

Media apprentices and practitioners

Post to EASA Media Anthropology Network mailing list discussion following the Barcelona workshop on cultural producers and media practices

When speaking of practitioners within a given professional or occupational field I think it’s important to distinguish between what we might call apprentices (e.g. PhD students, or trainee journalists) and established practitioners. Perhaps my use of the phrase [in a previous mailing list post] ‘establish and maintain a foothold’ was misleading. I should’ve spoken of individuals who want to develop a dual career and earn a living as both media practitioners and international academics, which strikes me as a very difficult thing to do.

Elisenda Ardevol on cultural producers workshop


The EASA Media Anthropology Network’s mailing list discussion on media practices and cultural producers, which takes off from the recent Network workshop on this topic in Barcelona, is now under way. Elisenda Ardevol  (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) opened the session with the following reflections on the workshop:

The field of residential affairs

Local leadership and personal media: a practice-theoretical approach
Dr John Postill
Paper to the Media and Communication research seminar
Sheffield Halllam University, UK
Furnival Building, Room 9005, City Campus
10 December 2008, 4-5 pm

Introduction (work in progress)

In recent times a number of scholars have turned their attention to the potential uses of practice theory for media research and theorising (Bräuchler and Postill forthcoming). In this paper I want to extend this approach to a little explored question: the implications of the rapid proliferation of digital media technologies for local-level politics around the globe (Coleman 2005). More specifically, I investigate the significance of the seeming ‘personalisation’ of the media landscape (email, Facebook, iPods, blogs, mobile devices, etc.) for local leadership. This is an area of inquiry that lies at the intersection of two subfields that have to date studiously ignored one another: political anthropology and media anthropology (John Gledhill, personal communication), so the topic has the added value of establishing a link between these two subfields. To develop my argument I draw from field research among internet activists in a suburb of Kuala  Lumpur (Malaysia), borrowing from the practice theories of Giddens, Bourdieu, V. Turner and Warde to build a practice-theoretical model of local leadership and personal media. The aim is both to avoid some of the hyperbole and conceptual muddles that surround notions such as ‘networked individualism’ or ‘network society’ (Wellman, Castells) and to sketch the outline of a comparative model for the study of local leadership and personal media.

Balance between cultures: equilibrium training

Way back in January, I posted ‘Equilibrium, modularity, and training the brain-body.‘ At the American Anthropology Association annual meeting, I presented my current version of this research, significantly updating it with ethnographic material from Brazil, a comparative discussion of different techniques for training balance, and a series of graphics that I hope help to make my points. The title of that paper was ‘Balancing Between Cultures: A Comparative Neuroanthropology of Equilibrium in Sports and Dance.’

I’ve decided to post a version of this paper here, with the caveat that it’s still a work-in-progress. I’d be delighted to read any feedback people are willing to offer.


General Petraeus’ Favorite Mushroom: The US Army’s Human Terrain System

As promised, whenever a new article on the Human Terrain System is released, I am advertising it and copying it for this blog. This latest article is John Stanton’s eighth on the Human Terrain System, and has been republished by Pravda and, as usual, will appear on several other sites as well. The previous seven articles by John can also be found on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). It is great to read John on the question of sources, which is what makes his reporting unique in comparison with all other articles published thus far by other media outlets, from the mainstream to the aspiring-to-mainstream. In addition, John’s reporting is clearly independent of HTS, which itself reproduces on its site the photographs supplied to it by another journalist, whose independence can only be alleged.

The centenary of Claude Lévi-Strauss
Asian Tribune – Bangkok,Thailand
Claude Lévi-Strauss, the last giant of French thinking, the founder of structural anthropology, the "astronomer of the human constellations"

Recommended Reading
ThomasNet Industrial News Room – New York,NY,USA
.A compelling blend of cultural anthropology and business journalism." -Andrea Sachs, Time Magazine "An often startling tour of new cultural terrain

Chemehuevi Myth as Social Commentary

By Carobeth Laird on Anthropology — Research — California — Periodicals

We are told that in pre-contact times, when the stars in the heavens and the seasons on earth revolved changelessly and with no hint of coming destruction, the Chemehuevis sometimes held great gatherings. The knotted string was sent out, indicating the number of days that would elapse before the approaching festival; food was prepared in abundance; and the People came from near and far, to eat, to rejoice, to decide matters of consequence, and to hear the words of the High Chief.

Second Life archaeological event: Burning Çatalhöyük (Dec. 10)

By Francis Deblauwe on social networking

I got this in my inbox and thought DDIG readers might be interested (in case you didn’t know about it already):

2PM-4:30PM Pacific Standard Time (10PM-12:30AM GMT or Universal Time)
December 10, 2008
Location: Okapi Island
(You must have the free Second Life browser)

Join us for Burning Çatalhöyük, a project developed by OKAPI, the Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük, and the UC Berkeley DeCal program. Çatalhöyük on OKAPI Island, in development since 2006, is an exploration of the past and present of a 9,000 year old site located in present-day Turkey. In this demonstration we intend to burn the existing models down in order to better understand the use of fire in Neolithic settlements. In consultation with fire experts Karl Harrison and Ruth Tringham, and architecture expert Burcu Tung, a team of undergraduate apprentices have replicated the burning sequence of Building 77, a structure excavated in the summer of 2008. OKAPI island also hosts reproductions of modern developments present at the site, including a water tower, Sadrettin’s café, the Chicken Shed and the nightly bonfire.

Remixing Activities:

Open access to all doctoral dissertations at Temple University

By Lorenz

(via Open Access News) Temple University has decided to provide open access to all its doctoral dissertations, starting with those completed August 2008 as Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian announced only a few days ago.

You can browse and search the archive on the Temple University Electronic Dissertations website. A quick search revealed that there are already two anthropology dissertations available:

McFate: HTS offers ‘more granular baseline knowledge of the societies in which operations were to be conducted’

By Strong on Anthropology at war

USA Today yesterday published a new piece about the human terrain system.  The article, which consults familiar experts such as Roberto Gonzalez and Kerry Fosher, would be completely unremarkable except that it reads almost like the last year did not happen.  Reporting no new information, the article fails to even mention many alleged weaknesses in the conceptualization and execution of the HTS idea, weaknesses that have been amply reported over the last several months (see for example John Stanton’s articles, linked to by Open Anthropology).  If the article contains no new information, and indeed if it ignores much information that has come to light about HTS, it does feature a sidebar with Montgomery McFate doing a familiar song and dance about the program’s virtues.  McFate, who skipped the AAA panel she was meant to be on, is still selling the program.  She is perhaps also offering an explanation of why HTS has so far proven a failure:

New Reproductive Health Technologies in Egypt

By L.L. Wynn on viagra

Thanks to Kerim and Savage Minds for inviting me to contribute. I thought I’d write something about a new research project I’ve recently started on new and emerging reproductive health technologies in Egypt. This project looks at Egyptian interpretations of four technologies: emergency contraception, medication abortion, hymenoplasty, and erectile dysfunction drugs.

“Top 100 Anthropology Blogs”? No, I don’t think so.

By Maximilian Forte on Patricia Gavins

Recently a list of the &amp
dquo;top 100 anthropology blogs” was produced by a site called Online Universities. I am certain that the intentions behind the listing were purely positive and constructive, and I am not imputing any sinister motive on the part of Patricia Gavins, the site author, or Christina Laun who authored the specific page in question. Nor do I think it is worth complaining that some sites are listed as a professor’s blog while others are not; that in some cases the professor’s name is indicated, in others it is not; that sometimes the institutional affiliation of the bloggers is noted, in others it is not; or even the tepid description that this blog gets, when others seem much more exciting. It is Laun’s list and she is perfectly free to write it in the way that pleases her most.

The Encultured Brain – Part Two on the San Francisco AAA Conference

By dlende on general

The question of What is neuroanthropology? arose for me in thinking about the Encultured Brain session. This query harkens back to Naomi Quinn’s comment that we lack a common language. I think a common language will come; at this point I am more focused on agreement about the endeavor itself. So what is it?

Is neuroanthropology the consideration of neurobiological mechanisms, within a biocultural framework, as Ryan Brown approaches his work?

Is it the critical take on neuroscience, a frequent theme on this blog? Or going further, and building frameworks through evolution or culture to provide critical input to the human sciences?

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