"Anthropologists Toughen Ethics Code

Inside Higher Ed reports

Anthropologists Toughen Ethics Code

By an overwhelming margin of 87 to 13 percent, members of the American Anthropological Association have approved changes in its code of ethics that are designed to strengthen its protections of people who are studied, and to promote the values of free dissemination of scholarship.

But the degree of consensus among anthropologists may not be reflected by the lopsided outcome: At least some who backed the changes said that they did so because they view them as a step in the right direction, but nonetheless believe that the association ducked some important issues.

At a press briefing on the vote Thursday, association leaders in fact said that the language approved was intentionally ambiguous on the question of classified research, and that some scholars will read the code as barring such studies while others will not. The association has been in an intense debate about the ethics code for several years — a debate prompted in part by highly publicized programs in which some anthropologists have worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, while far more quietly a growing number of scholars have started doing proprietary research for companies.

 And more from the world of anthropology…



The Relevance of Anthropology – Part 2 on the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008

By dlende on Best of Anthro

Here I continue to build on all the passion other anthropology bloggers have put into their writing, their sites, and their preferred media. In Part One I covered how anthropology blogging is relevant using three different categories: Public Relevance, Anthropological Vision, and Being Human.

In Part Two I will cover four more themes: (a) Controversy, Commentary and Critique; (b) Empiricism and Scholarship, (c) Language; and (d) Blogging. As before, these are the categories that came to me as I read the submissions and represent one way to parse the great work others have done. I hope it proves useful for exploration, teaching, fun, and sharing with others what anthropology is all about. 

Some HTS updates

By llwynn

A couple of news items about the Human Terrain System have crossed my desk in the past week and I’m finally getting around to writing about them.  First, there’s an extended article in the Boston Globe about Paula Loyd, the HTS anthropologist who was killed in Afghanistan by a man who set her on fire (she died after 2 months in the hospital).  It gives more details than had previously been available about the man who killed her, suggesting that it wasn’t a spontaneous act of rage but something a bit more premeditated:

Learning an Endangered Language (Part 1)

By Kerim on Language

In Maxwell Owusu’s classic article, “Ethnography of Africa: The Usefulness of the Useless” he criticizes anthropologists for ignoring the importance of local languages. A situation which forced many of the most respected anthropologists to rely on interpreter-informants. He argues that this reliance on interpreters has been a source of error and confusion in the field (he then blames the excesses of structuralism on such inattention to details). As I wrote in my dissertation, “language skills are something that Anthropologists rarely discuss in their ethnographies.” One exception is Stevan Harrell who wrote the following in the introduction Ploughshare Village:

Dissertation: Why kids embrace Facebook and MySpace

By Lorenz

After 30 months ethnographic fieldwork on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites, danah boyd has finally completed her PhD-thesis and put it online. Although she is no anthropologist, she seems to have worked like an anthropologist. Her thesis is relevant reading for anybody who is interested in the anthropology of childhood – especially in children’s relations to adults.

Open Access Anthropology in Africa – an introduction

By Lorenz


Heard of the Sudan Open Archive? Already taken a look at the recent anthropology papers of the University of Pretoria? Many universities in Africa have set up digital libraries, repositories for papers and theses that are freely accessible for everybody.

What anthropologists and artists have in common

By Lorenz

In the new issue of American Ethnography, we’ll find these words by anthropologist Martin Hoyem:

Artists, like ethnographers, train their eyes to see things other people don’t see. They try to present what they see so that we, the audience, can glimpse something where we have looked a thousand times and failed to find anything noteworthy.

Humain Terrain anthropologist attacked in Afghanistan has died

By Lorenz

(via ‘Ilm al-insaan) An anthropologist embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan to help soldiers understand local customs has died more than two months after she was doused with fuel and set on fire, according to ap.

Anthropologist Paula Loyd, 36, had been chatting with an Afghan man about fuel prices when he suddenly attacked her. She worked for contractor BAE Systems in a Human Terrain Team, in which social scientists and anthropologists are embedded with combat brigades, according to court records.

Update: Expansion of Use of Anthropologists at Air University

By Pamthropologist

Inside Higher Education reports that in a bid to create a more "Cross-Culturally Competent Air Force", according to their SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation report. Their intent is to start a sort of clearing-house training center headed by a psychologist (!) to reinforce efforts to create culture-based content courses for all their educational branches from their Community College operations on up. Here is a sample of their intent:

Cross-cultural investigation of Smileys

This post, written by Karim N’Diaye, was first published in 2006 on the Alphapsy blog. I republish it here because it is relevant to the discussion I was having with Helen de Cruz, on the cultural specificity of cartoon faces. Below the posts are some comments posted on the Alphapsy blog in 2006 – Olivier


By Sara on TRIBE

Written by Anthropologist Dr. John Mao

The Apatanis are settled agriculturist inhabiting the valley around Ziro – headquarters of Lower Subansiri distirict. The Apatanis comprises a population of about 26000 approximately in Ziro in the Apatani plateau of Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh There are seven villages and their settlements are often permanent in nature. There are two types of Apatani tribes – (i) Gyuchii and (ii) Gyuttii who do not intermarry. The Apatanis belonged to the Tibeto-Mongoloid stock. Their language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family.


By Sara on TRIBE

Written by Anthropologist Dr. John Mao

Arunachal Pradesh, the Land of Rising Sun, is much celebrated for its natural beauty, but has a great cultural background too. Its god-fearing people celebrate numerous festivals round the year, together with their own set of rituals, music and dance. It covers an area of 83743 sq kms. It is situated between latitude 26030′N and 29030′N and longitude 91030′E and 97030′E. Itanagar is the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh is divided into 16 distircts, each administered by a district collector, who sees to the need of the people. The districts are: Anjaw District, Changlang District, East Kameng, East Siang, Kurung Kumey, Lohit District, Lower Dibang Valley, Lower Subansiri, Papum Pare, Tawang District, Tirap District, Upper Dibang Valley, Upper Subansiri, Upper Siang, West Kameng, and West Siang.  It has a population of 1,091,117 people and the literate population numbers 487,796.

“An Anthropologist Digs Into WoW”

By Rex on Virtual Worlds

WoW Insider recently ran a longish interview with me about my research in the massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft (hence ‘WoW’), and the story has sense gotten picked up by other fine news sources. It’s been interesting to see the reaction that I’ve had from other people who play the game.

John Stanton: Hamas’ IT Tops Human Terrain System IT in Internet Capability, Savvy

By Maximilian Forte on Steve Fondacaro

Below, following my comments, you will find the latest article from John Stanton, the tenth in a series on the Human Terrain System, this time focusing on the information technology aspect of the Human Terrain System. Stanton noticed that while Hamas is able to almost immediately launch a memorial page for each of the fighters it loses, the Human Terrain System is unable to even edit a web page in order to post a notice in memory of Paula Loyd, the third HTS employee who died, succumbing to her injuries last week. Early on, HTS had also informed the press that a report on the attack on Loyd would be released, and that too has not yet been produced. An anonymous writer posted a message on this blog, explaining why and noting the shortcomings of the program’s administration. This came in response to questions from other commenters who wondered if there would be an attempt by HTS to minimize the number of its dead as they began to mount.

Translated Anthropological Abstracts [From German to English]

By Sara on Social Anthropology

In its site, the German Anthropology Online provides various abstracts about publications in cultural/social anthropology that are written in German Language areas (Austria, Germany, Switzerland) and translated into English. According to their site,

Blog: Islam, Muslims, and an Anthropologist

By Jovan

It’s always great to see anthropologists engaging in contemporary debates and attempting to give their perspectives some sort of public dimension.  Although, as Pal mentioned in a recent post, this is not all that easy in Australia, there are some out there trying.  One example I came across recently is a blog written by Italian-born anthropologist Gabriele Marranci, who is currently Associate Professor in the Anthropology of Islam at the University of Western Sydney National University of Singapore.  Called “Islam, Muslims, and an Anthropologist”, the blog takes a broad focus on Islamic issues, from writing about recent fatwas in Malaysia trying to ban Muslims from practising yoga,  to recent posts on the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza (here and here — warning, the posts contains some graphic images).

Anthropologists in the Dutch public sphere

By Third Tone Devil

There appears to be a lull on
the blog, as my colleagues at Macquarie are (I guess) off to do fieldwork. So, as I have been silent here for a while, I’ll take the opportunity to share my first impressions of anthropology in the public in the Netherlands, as I experience it having just arrived at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam.

The relevance of cognitive relevance for students of culture

Last month I posted "A case for the Cognitive principle of relevance" on this blog, and Dan Sperber expressed the wish that I had given readers some idea how that discussion was itself relevant to the discussion of cognition and culture, for indeed, I don’t think I mentioned culture at all.  So, here goes. . .

Virtual ethnography and online fieldwork

By John Postill on virtual ethnography

This is a comment I posted on Friday, 6 Feb 2009, to the The Air-L@listserv.aoir.org mailing list (Association of Internet Researchers, http://aoir.org). See their archives for further contributions to the “Virtual ethnography and online fieldwork” thread. (NB – In his response to this post, Don Slater raised the issue of comparative ethnography).

Virtual ethnography and online fieldwork (2)

By John Postill on virtual ethnography

This is a further comment on virtual ethnography and online fieldwork I posted on Tuesday, 10 Feb 2009, to the The Air-L@listserv.aoir.org mailing list (Association of Internet Researchers, http://aoir.org). See their archives for further contributions to this thread.

Unhappy New Year for Counterinsurgency’s Social Scientists

By Maximilian Forte on Steve Rotkoff

So, the Human Terrain System, as we have known of it, is finally imploding. The “proof of concept” program, that got three of its young researchers killed, has apparently proven itself beyond repair.

In the latest installment of reporting on the Human Terrain System, John Stanton continues to outline the transition of the program as it becomes a government-owned and operated program, rather than one contracting the private transnational military corporation, BAE Systems.

One of the points of contention is whether the Status of Forces Agreement signed between the U.S. and Iraq has anything to do with de-contracting HTS. I believe that it does. As explained here previously, the SOFA stated the following:

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