29 February 2016

Feb 29th: Catching a Husband

As you may or may not have heard, Feb 29th is known by some to be the day where it is acceptable for women to propose to their husbands-to-be.

While many sources cite the origins of this custom in Ireland or Scotland, this tradition holds today and continues, what one author calls, the masculine & sexist tradition of marriage proposal:

"Parkin, however, argues that leap day proposals were far from a feminist occasion–she believes the tradition perpetuated the idea that initiating matrimony was an exclusively male right, and harmed female agency. "Leap year, by virtue of its exceptionalism, reinforced traditional gender roles."

This interesting story could help introduce the idea of marriage traditions in history to present day.

Using anthropology in design & business

What does it actually mean to use "Ethnography and anthropology in design" or in business?

Gillian MacDonald interviews two anthropologists for Ways We Work to find out. Nadine Hare is a Resident Anthropologist at Idea Couture and Rebecca Pardo is a Research Director at Normative.

26 February 2016

Third Gender - 'Two Spirit'

“Two-spirit” is how some Native Americans describe people whose gender identity doesn't fit as strictly male or female. Meet Ty DeFoe, who's using traditional dance to take this gender identity back from the negative connotations established during colonization. 

Market exchange, gift economies, and other social contructs

"Even though some anthropologists have long known the barter system was just a thought experiment, the idea is incredibly widespread. And this isn’t just an academic curiosity—the idea of barter may have altered history." ("The Myth of the Barter Economy," The Atlantic, 26 February 2016).

This article quotes and features a number of anthropologists, including David Graeber, who address how the barter economy discussed by Adam Smith has never actually existed. When we refer to the ethnographic record on 'gift economies' in different cultures we can see how the simplified barter economy theorized by Smith is not only a fiction, but one that has deeply shaped our contemporary 'exchange-based mentality'.

25 February 2016

Ethnography Summer Reading List

Why not start a summer reading list with Kelly Ray Knight's addicted.pregnant.poor?

In this ethnography, Knight details her work with pregnant addicts in San Fransisco to explore themes of gender, poverty and drugs"  and maps "changing conceptions of ‘deserving’ recipients of welfare, as well as transformations in understandings of addiction and the rise of pharmaceutical ‘fixes’ for these conditions" (Bell, 2016).

Kristen Bell, who covered this book for Somatosphere, describes its worth as such:

Indeed, from a pedagogical standpoint I could see this being a very valuable book in, say, a methods course, as well as the more obvious contenders (namely, courses on medical anthropology and addiction). 

In sum, if you have an interest in addiction or gender, or just engaging ethnography in general, this book is well worth reading.

Gender & Sexuality Info-graphic

The Gender Unicorn (Trans Student Education Resources) is a handy (cute) info-graphic for helping students get their heads around how gender and sexuality are cultural constructs. The page also contains more specific definitions used in the info-graphic and footnotes.

Anthropology as Theoretical Storytelling

From Savage Minds: Carole McGranahan (@CMcGranahan) makes the case for thinking about "Anthropology as Theoretical Storytelling."

In her essay, McGranahan describes anthropology as a "discipline engaged in explaining, understanding, and interpreting cultural worlds as well as in developing theoretical paradigms large and small for making and making sense of cultural worlds."

Race & racism in Brazil

Stephanie Nolen published an in-depth investigative feature on race in Brazil ("Brazil’s colour bind")  for the Globe & Mail (31 July 2015). The piece tackles issues of inequality stemming from the intersections of race and class in Brazil historically and today, and speaks to the anthropological perspective that race is culturally constructed.

Bonus: A 3-minute video at the top of the article features multiple members of the same family (same parents) who are considered members of different races in Brazil.

Class and the myth of meritocracy in North America

Based on quantitative research, this Washington Post article speaks to how systemic inequality works to maintain the status quo in terms of class mobility and income. As the title says, "Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong" (18 October 2014)

Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. ... Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells.

24 February 2016

From Mutilation to Alteration...

A research article in a medical journal is featuring largely in the news today. The authors, Arora and Jacobs, have argued that "we must adopt a more nuanced position that acknowledges a wide spectrum of procedures that alter female genitalia. (...) Acceptance of de minimis procedures [of female genital alteration] that generally do not carry long-term medical risks is culturally sensitive, does not discriminate on the basis of gender, and does not violate human rights" (here). The authors argue that accepting the 'minor' less invasive procedures is a compromise for those cultures (statically defined) who continue and want to continue these practices.

This discussion is often featured in Anthropology 101 courses as we talk about genital modification and its juxtaposition with cultural relativism (arguing that there is no universal standard and that one should not criticize from outside a culture) and universal human rights.

This is not a new debate however, the fact that the discussion of cultural relativism is occurring in the medical community is a new turn of this long-standing anthropological discussion. In class, I would also ask, what difference does a label make? Mutilation to alteration... 

23 February 2016

Qualitative versus Quantitative Research - from a business perspective

What can qualitative research offer that quantitative can't? "How Not to Talk to Customers: The Secret to Meaningful Customer Relationships" (24 March 2010)

In this piece for the Harvard Business Review, Roger L. Martin (Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto) makes a compelling argument in favour of qualitative research, underscoring how even rigorous quantitative data is also subject to the biases many associate with qualitative research.

22 February 2016

Anthropologists on Wall Street

Back in 2011, American Gov. Rick Scott sparked the discussion about the market value of STEM over liberal-arts education. The Economist featured this piece in their blog's Education Policy section about what anthropologists can bring to the table, including in the field of finance: "More anthropologists on Wall Street please" (24 October 2011)

Free Office Suite Alternatives to Google Docs: Changing the way students work together online

I came across a great news article today from Digital Trends about alternatives to Google Docs when working together online.

The article discusses the pros and cons of such alternatives as Zoho, Only Office, Dropbox Paper (what? I know...check it out), Etherpad, and Office Online.

Importantly, these office suites are FREE therefore working toward accessibility (like google docs before them) but presenting these options could also diversify students educational experience and understanding of online platforms; e.g. Zoho is made by an India-based company.

Note: some of these alternatives are only text-based (Etherpad and Dropbox paper).

If your students can't get enough of Google Docs...send them here for more information on tips, tricks and best practices

Culture is medicine

In this short Q&A article, Dr. Mehl-Madrona discusses his "aims to incorporate the traditional knowledge of indigenous cultures into contemporary medicine and psychology." Although Dr. Mehl-Madrona's background is in psychiatry and psychology rather than anthropology, his views speak to anthropological approaches to understanding health and well-being.

Changing ideas of race in the US

The Washington Post's "Mixed marriages are changing the way we think about our race" (17 February 2016) illustrates how race is a dynamic cultural construction that changes over time and through contact with others. The article shows how statistical information on race gathered through the US Census tells a different story than qualitative data from children of of racially-mixed marriages.

Cultural appropriation versus appreciation

This post from anthropologist Michael A. Brown (michaelfbrown.net) adds nuance to discussing the sometimes confusing lines between cultural appreciation and appropriation, using recent cases that have made headlines in North American media.

The Spectrum of Cultural Appropriation: Recent Cases

17 February 2016

User experience, design, & business

Applied anthropologist Amy Santee (Anthropologizing.com  |  @amysantee) shared her AAA webinar about her work "Practicing Anthropology in User Experience, Design and Business" (14 January 2016). Santee has this to say about this talk (from her blog):
There are ample career opportunities for anthropologists in this field, but I’ve realized over the past couple years how obscure it is among academics and students within the discipline. My goal was to illustrate what this might look like based on my own career path and experiences.
   During the presentation, I talk about how I got into this line of work, how I think about applying anthropology to design in terms of perspective, approach, skills, tools, and project examples, and how I’m able to do meaningful work that aligns with my values. I provide an explanation of user experience and user-centered design and share what’s been most useful for transitioning from anthropology into this field from a professional development perspective. At the end, there is a 30-minute Q&A session.

Tracing the erased histories & diaspora traditions in Southern cooking

Michael Twitty is an independent researcher and teacher whose work explores the impact of the African roots and traditions of American Southern cooking -- which have been largely erased from history. He has a background in African American studies and anthropology from Howard University. Twitty is the founder of The Cooking Gene project, and blogs about "Culinary Traditions of Africa, African America and the African Diaspora" on Afroculinaria.com.

The Washington Post's Michaele Weissman wrote about Twitty and his work here: "His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn’t done yet." (16 February 2016)

16 February 2016

What can you do with anthropology?

EDIT - This post has a permanent home on our page titled "Applying an anthropological perspective outside of university." This page is regularly updated with new links related to anthropologists who work outside of the university.

At university, a lot of students may find anthropology interesting as a course, but not really be sure what you can do with an anthropology degree or what your anthropological perspective can bring to a workplace after you graduate. 

The Anxious Anthropologist has already written a couple of great posts about the value of an anthropological perspective in general:

Here are a few more links that help explain what an anthropological perspective can add in various fields:





The Gift & Mardi Gras

from Sapiens (http://www.sapiens.org/  |  @SAPIENS_org)
“Throw Me Something, Mister!” Hal Phillips (9 February 2016)
"Mardi Gras is much more than a debaucherous party. The exchange of gifts in parades and parties binds New Orleans’ diverse communities together."

Intro to Anthropology

Over the past few years I have been engaged in introducing university students to sociocultural anthropology -- which means that I have constantly been book-marking interesting articles, tweets, blog-posts, etc. that connect in some way to the key issues and perspectives that anthropology engages in everyday life. These are articles that explain what an anthropological perspective can add to a workplace, to understanding a social issue, or examples of public issues that we can better understand if we apply an anthropological lens. Rather than keeping all of these great pieces to myself, I am sharing them here for other teachers, students, and anyone else who sees anthropology everywhere!