(This guest post by Nina Brown, Thomas McIlwraith, and Laura Tubelle de González announces the launch of what I believe is the first open access textbook for an introduction to cultural anthropology course. I’ve blogged about this textbook before so I’m very excited that it is now available!)
The Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC) is pleased to announce the publication of Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology (ISBN 978–1-931303–55–2), an open access, peer-reviewed cultural anthropology textbook. The initiative to create this book took shape in 2012 when several SACC members identified a need in our community college classes for less expensive teaching materials. From our inception in the 1970s, SACC has supported lower income and first generation college learners and this book fits with that orientation and concern. We believe strongly, however, that this is a good introductory textbook and that it is suitable for first year classes in cultural anthropology at any post-secondary institution.
In my last post I argued that rather than choosing between overly narrow (“closed”) or overly broad (“open”) definitions of ethnographic film, it would be better to follow Uberto Eco’s model of listing a “family of resemblances.” This would consist of a list of features that make a film “ethnographic” but without any two ethnographic films necessarily sharing the exact same list of features. When I wrote that I had a draft list of about sixteen features I had been working on. I had planned to prune it down a bit and sharing it with you today; however, upon further reflection it occurred to me that the longer list could be grouped into four broad categories, or “dimensions,” as follows:
- Discipline: features related to the discipline of anthropology (e.g. films made by anthropologists)
- Norms: features related to the norms and practices of ethnographic research (e.g. research ethics)
- Subject: features related to the topics and peoples discussed in the anthropological literature (e.g. films by or about nomadic peoples)
- Genre: features related to the various styles associated with the genre of ethnographic film (e.g. “reflexivity”)
Charlotte’s* tattoo, a black etching of a feather, is strikingly beautiful—but it also evokes sadness. She got it as a reminder of her devastating miscarriage, when she lost a baby seven weeks into her pregnancy. The idea for the tattoo came after she was picnicking with her sister and niece, she told me. “I had a very strong sense of the baby, like my sister and I were in the park with our babies as life should be. A little while later a feather went by,” she explained. When she Googled the symbolism of feathers, she found something about how the bird once needed the feather but now flies on without it. “I sort of feel like it’s important to be okay with feeling attached to things I can’t touch, hold … and for the feeling to be enough.”
The Anthropology of Body Art: Tattoos past and present
Anthropologist Dr. Kristin Krueger from Loyola University joined the conversation to talk about the deep historical significance of the tattoo and how tattoos past compare with those today. Audio Player.
What is it we fear most in our food supply in the post-industrial West? Food shortages? Industrialized food? Genetic manipulation? Ecological disaster? Globalized food systems? The idea that we are either in or rapidly approaching some sort of food-related dystopia is certainly widespread, yet relatively hard to define. Wandering the aisles of American and European supermarkets, overflowing with astonishing plenty, it is hard to imagine what fuels our fears. Yet there is no doubt that many people have at least a nagging sense that something is deeply awry. There is a huge literature to reinforce those fears, of course, and a filmography to stoke our imaginations.
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
We hold in our mouths the legacy of our evolution. We rarely consider just how amazing our teeth are. They break food without themselves being broken, up to millions of times over the course of a lifetime; and they do it built from the very same raw materials as the foods they are breaking. Nature is truly an inspired engineer.