22 June 2017

Academics and their Social Media Presence

Thao Nelson from Indiana University wrote an article for Maclean's entitled Dear students, what you post can wreck your life. In this article, Nelson argues that students should think twice about posting any comment on social media that references (1) illegal drugs, sexual posts; (2) incriminating or embarrassing photos or videos; (3) profanity, defamatory or racist comments; (4) politically charged attacks; (5) spelling and grammar issues; or (6) complaining or bad-mouthing. Nelson admonishes:
Would you want a future boss, admissions officer, or blind date to read or see it? If not, don’t post it. If you already have, delete it because social media becomes part of a person’s brand—a brand that can help you or hurt you. If we ask this of our students, what should we be asking ourselves as anthropologists?

Nelson's set of guidelines follow our recent post about The Relationship between Social Justice & Anthropology that included the following sub-texts: (1) What is the connection between anthropology, social justice, and activism? (2) What is the role of anthropologists in the current context of terror and terrorism as it may affect our interlocuters and field sites?

Arguably the most common outlet for activism is social media which raises the next question: What is the role and where are the boundaries for academics who engage as public intellectuals or, are recognized as academics (working for specific institutions that may receive blow back or which are associated with 'said' academic's opinions) in the public sphere?

In Frank Donoghue's article for The Chronicle for Higher Education: #WatchWhatYouSay, after detailing a few high profile cases of academics losing their jobs on account of their posts on social media, Donoghue argues that:
The originators of the concept of academic freedom could not have imagined Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs. Yet clearly the time has come to recognize the impact of social media on academic freedom — and the bottom line seems to be that it has created an environment in which it is increasingly difficult to differentiate private communication from public speech and to parse how that increasingly blurred line affects a professor’s protection under academic freedom. Those cases, which are far from simple, underscore the fact that professors’ audiences now extend far beyond those who attend lectures and read scholarly articles.
In 2015, Elizabeth Raymer wrote an article 'Faculty in Canada may not need rules for using social media, observers say' for University Affairs which argued that Canada's social media context is different from academics in the U.S.. Raymer interviewed academics SFU’s School of Communication including Peter Chow-White who argued that,
"But social media guidelines are more about public behaviour", (...) adding that an assumed part of professional practice is not saying things that are inappropriate. “I’ve heard of social media guidelines for athletes at universities,” said Dr. Chow-White, "but when you’re in the business of ideas, the way we are, that’s your currency. The benefit you can bring to society is an open exchange of ideas."
Returning to the growing support for AltMetrics, are academics prepared? Has there been a shift since Raymer's 2015 article where Chow-White was also quoted as saying: (I'm) not sure professors necessarily need guidelines. We publish on a regular basis; if we can write articles and books … we probably don’t need to be told how to write a 140-character tweet.

We want to hear from you (on social media):
  1. Are you comfortable tweeting, blogging, and/or vlogging in the absence of a peer review process (that would accompany the articles and books that Chow-White describes)?
  2. Do you think Canadian academics require social media guidelines? Note: some Canadian universities or departments within universities have already adopted such guidelines.
  3. In 2017, is there a distinction between personal and professional social media presence?  
Tweet us @anthrolens

Quick Links

19 June 2017

The Relationship between Social Justice & Anthropology

2017 on a whole has been a deadly year. This post was spurred by the terrorist attacks that we've seen in Western media but on a whole, many people - directly involved in conflict or not - have lost their lives or have been hurt by those labelled as terrorists. For a list of global terrorist incidents (which include those incidents not featured in North American media), you can follow this link.

The relationship between social justice and anthropology has been a topic of scholarly discussion and division within the anthropological community.

As scientists, anthropologists of the past were told to remain as neutral observers in the belief that their presence, if minimized, would not affect the goings-on around them. Yet, anthropologists have long since realized that their presence in the field and with their interlocutors impacts their work. Anthropologists themselves are instruments by which data are collected; as such, we necessarily influence and affect our surroundings and our research.

In addition to this scientific perspective, many anthropologists have been involved with issues of social justice and universal human rights as these topics were and are quite often the fodder for anthropological investigation (i.e. what sparked our research questions and interest). For example, in Deeb and Winegar's dissection of the outcome of the American Anthropological Association vote to boycott Israeli institutions on Savage Minds, they write:
Many anthropologists think that their discipline champions (or should champion) the voices and perspectives of the marginalized, yet some of its practitioners have colluded with colonial and state power. Anthropology has become a heavily feminized discipline since the second wave feminist movement and attracts many non-elite scholars, yet it remains largely white, like academia in general. Anthropology is the most resolutely international of the social sciences in its breadth of research sites and privileging of fieldwork done “elsewhere,” yet anthropologists based in the U.S. mainly cite their colleagues working in U.S. institutions. And anthropologists frequently identify as politically left leaning and critical of capitalism, yet continue to work in increasingly corporatized university environments.
Important themes in this discussion are anthropologists and their role in activism. In a recent discussion, Haley Bryant and Emily Cain provide an Introduction to “Ethnographer as Activist” where they "grapple with ethnography and advocacy in the field". In this piece, the authors discuss ethnography and activism through four lenses: audience, communication, visibility, and care.

When thinking about anthropology being everywhere in the context of recent global events and the increase of media coverage about terror and terrorism in North America and the world, it is at this point that the relationship between social justice, resistance, and the impact of anthropologists in everyday life is a very important discussion to continue.

Quick Links:

15 June 2017

An Anthropologist In Situ: Canadian Engineering Education Association 2017 Conference

As mentioned in our previous blog post, I recently spoke about the potential of bringing anthropological ethics into Engineering classrooms (as per my current teaching role).

I was accepted to speak at the CEEA conference which had Innovation and Diversity in Engineering Education as its theme.

As part of a special symposium on diversity, I wrote a paper on the role of team work workshops in developing a tolerance for diversity and self-reflection.

Below is the paper abstract:
In their quest to find work-ready graduates, employers are increasingly prioritizing graduates with so-called transferable skills. These transferable skills include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication skills, and the ability to work in diverse teams. With the plethora of engineering education literature on the topic of developing undergraduates’ teamwork abilities, there are numerous suggestions and little consensus on the best way to develop these skills in engineering classrooms. This paper adds to this literature and provides an overview of group work workshops for first-year undergraduates. The hope for these workshops was to better equip students for future group work activities by providing them easy-to-remember teamwork tools that were first learned and practiced in low-stakes workshop environments. Following their participation in these workshops, students participated in focus groups and feedback demonstrated an appreciation for these workshops as well as the opportunity to self-reflect on their role as a team member. Further, there appeared to be a shift in the awareness and tolerance of the diversity found among group members, which demonstrates a potential area for further investigation. The authors conclude with a call for more research in order to better understand the role of teamwork as a means for developing tolerance toward diversity among first-year undergraduate students. 

Important to Monday's post, these workshops incorporated:
  • The importance of using a holistic perspective to understand how all the parts of Engineering students' come and work together. 
  • Self-reflection to understand the power and privilege of their role and how that role is perceived with the community.
Quick links and further reading:

12 June 2017

Anthropological Ethics Outside Anthropology Classrooms

In line with Monday's post on alt-ac careers for anthropologists, I wanted to further explore the role of Anthropology (its knowledge, methods, approach, etc.) outside its home discipline. If you follow the blog, you'll know that Rhiannon and I attended the most recent Annual Conference of the Canadian Anthropology Society. We got too caught up in blogging and tweeting about the release of our joint article and we were missed out writing about our presentations.

In my paper, I reflected on the ways in which the anthropological lens could illuminate ideas and meanings between different academic disciplines and broader publics. To do this, I asked, how does my current program (McMaster's Bachelor of Technology Program) prepare its students to work with community members (as supposedly work-ready graduates in the Faculty of Engineering)?

This struck me as an interesting topic because I believed there to be an opportunity to create a shared language around ethics and ethical conduct in classrooms of anthropology and engineering. One which focused on context and seeking representative perspectives.

I'm interested to learn how instructors, students, and professionals who advise the curriculum teach and learn about ethics in engineering classrooms.


I was not the first person to look at the application of anthropological ethics in other disciplines, let alone Engineering. Mustafa Babiker compared engineering & anthropological codes in 2011. Unfortunately, his conference presentation is no longer available online; however, here are my notes outlining his comparison:
  • Babiker compared anthropological ethical codes of conduct (AAA 1998 version of the code of ethics & Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth 1999) to engineering codes (US Society of Professional Engineers and International Federation of Consulting Engineers) 
  • He found that these codes originated through different motivations – for engineering it was a reaction to disasters and scandals versus anthropology – reaction to work during imperialism and issues of deception (among other things)
  • Regarding avoidance of harm: (1) Engineering codes focused on avoiding harm through physical development and not data collection; (2) anthropological codes concerned with effects of knowledge collection and dissemination or data misuse
  • Regarding informed consent: Informed consent was all but absent in the Engineering code. Further, lack of awareness concerning unequal impact(s) of their work against vulnerable peoples, important especially when projects call for public consultation
  • Regarding confidentiality: Babiker found evidence of the differences between accountability to stakeholders; Anthropologists often prioritize (theoretically/ideally) rights of the marginalized whereas Engineers prioritize many stakeholders (clients, professional engineers, and the public good). The definition of the public good includes descriptors such as humanity’s cultural, historical and archaeological heritage; health and well being of current and future generations, environment.
  • Similar to codes found on our PEO (Professional Engineers of Ontario – licencing body where I work) in which a practitioner is called to “regard the practitioner's duty to public welfare as paramount” (Code of Ethics 2013)   
Babiker wrote about the important similarities and difference between codes as an opportunity to integrate codes and practices.

In an educational setting -- where by we might prepare future engineering students for ethical challenges in the workplace -- I argued that those teaching ethics might also be interested to add the following to Babiker’s list:
  • The importance of using a holistic perspective to understand how one's work may impact the greater community 
  • It is important to consider as well, how some people might be uniquely and/or adversely affected due to their social location or historic inequalities and systemic exclusion (or inclusion). I suggested that engineering students do not receive training on systemic inequality couched in terms of social justice or learn how systems thinking as it applies to human experiences, more often machines.
  • Self-reflection to understand the power and privilege of their role and how that role is perceived with the community.
  • I asked about the potential role engineers could play in seeking out, what anthropologists see as “representative and representational voices” of a community. Asking who is not here, what voices have we not yet heard from, in public consultation
  • I also thought engineers could question one’s relationship with that community, what is the legacy of engineering work beyond a professional code of conduct? This opens up questions of advocacy and answering the question: why and for whom when participating as a consultant.
I've just come back from my first Engineering Conference. I will write more about the paper I gave here, in the next post.

Quick links and further reading:

08 June 2017

2017: An Ethnographic Renaissance?

I recently read an interview between Smithsonian's Steven Beschloss and sociologist Matthew Desmond. This article detailed Desmond's fieldwork in a trailer park and a rooming house in Milwaukee between 2008 and 2009. There, he conducted fieldwork with eight families and two landlords and, in the words of Beschloss, "captur[ed] how the toxic mix of extreme poverty and economic exploitation can leave individuals unable to keep a roof over their heads."

This article is a series of questions and answers by Desmond whose new book Evicted is recently published. In one question particular to ethnography, Beschloss asks:

What about [...] ethnographies [that provide] not only insights but were part of a progressive tradition to influence social problems?

Desmond responds (this is a selection here):
"If I get down onto the ground with this problem, try and see it as closely as I could and write about it with complexity and humanity, maybe that would make a difference in and of itself.  I am heartened by the fact that we have this wonderful tradition of ethnography and in-depth journalism that’s focused on these moral questions and made a difference."

How accessible is the 'wonderful tradition of ethnography' AND in-depth journalism? Are these supposed to be read as one in the same? Something of a very similar tradition? Is this too traditionalist of a perspective (asking oneself...but is your method informed by ethnographic theory?!?!)?

Deepa S. Reddy, Ph.D. wrote about Ethnography (is) Everywhere! in 2013. Four years ago, Reddy wrote that "ethnography seem[ed] to have acquired a new cachet in the last decade."

She goes on to pose a problem that was originally behind Desmond's answer:
"The trouble is that ethnography has also become industry jargon, used to describe quite a range of qualitative consumer research approaches, often diluting ethnography to simply another way to generate a “real-world understanding” of consumers. The other trouble is that ethnography, classically conceived and thoroughly executed, requires some fairly intensive field studies. Its focus is on studying people and practices in their native contexts. But does this mean that those who cannot immediately commence extensive field studies are stuck at the shallow end of research? Not necessarily."
Reddy then goes on to list a number of ways in which we can draw from ethnographic approaches in a deep (as opposed to shallow) way. Follow the link below to see Reddy's list.

Quick links and further reading:


05 June 2017

#AltAc Anthropology Careers - The draw of experiential design firms

Paul Heartly, a Toronto native and anthropologist, gave unique insight into his hiring PhDs for an 'alternative' career.

In a 2015 interview for Alt-Ac Advisor, Heartly stated: it is interesting how many post-ac/alt-ac job seekers I talk to have struggled just getting the courage up to inquire about the job. The willingness to try may be the single most important characteristic of a successful post-ac/alt-ac job search.

Idea Couture is an international experience design firm. Idea Couture may be unique among other market and experience research organizations for its focus on hiring anthropology PhD graduates as market researchers.

Having worked as a contractor for this firm in the past, one of the most interesting outcomes was to see how applied anthropologist used and packaged anthropological knowledge, theory, methods, and their approach into the field of market and experiential research. It was also insightful to learn how we as anthropologists worked to gain deep understanding of situations, people, and the greater context despite our truncated time in 'the field'. I think I was most shocked to see anthropological and ethnographic concepts that I learned long ago weave their way into client documents.

Does the existence of Idea Couture, and research firms like it, signal an ever growing awareness of anthropologists practical skills? What's stopping you from stepping out into Alt-Ac territory?

Quick links and further reading:

01 June 2017

More on racist mascots

In my house, we are already two months into baseball season -- which also means the resurgence of critical blogs, news articles and discussions about racist mascots. We posted last year about Racist Mascots (11 April 2016), and this post adds to that earlier and ongoing discussion.

Native Mascots Perpetuate Racism Against Indigenous People
Last April as the Toronto Blue Jays battled through the American League Championship Series, Cleveland's team arrived in Toronto for Game 3 of the series amidst a legal challenge to ban the use of that team's racist mascot and name. Where many of the Cleveland fans interviewed by Canadian media feel that "the team's nickname and logo are not offensive and should not be changed," well-known Indigenous architect, activist, and officer of the Order of Canada Douglas Cardinal filed an injunction against the team's name and mascot as offensive and discriminatory. Douglas argued
that the logo reflects stereotypes and misunderstandings about indigenous cultures, lumping diverse groups of First Nations into one offensive, homogenous cartoon.
“It’s much deeper and more profound than a logo being offensive. It’s really an indicator of why that relationship (between First Nations peoples and society at large) is so flawed. Because there’s this lack of recognition of what the true conditions of native peoples have been over the last 500 years.”
The last-minute injunction was overturned by the Superior Court and Cleveland proceeded to wear their racism on their sleeves throughout the series.

The challenge to ban the broadcast of the name and mascot was successful, however, in raising this discussion again in mainstream media, and highlighting ways in which people in relative positions of power are already acknowledging the connections between this imagery and institutional racism against Indigenous peoples. For instance, much was made of how the long-time radio announcer for the Jays, Jerry Howarth, stopped calling Cleveland and Atlanta by their offensive team names since a 1992 letter from an Indigenous fan. This announcer has also made a concerted effort to stop using "terms such as tomahawk chop and powwow on the mound." Local teams with similarly offensive team names or mascots have also recently been called upon to change because of how these symbols perpetuate racism in the everyday.

Indigenous artists are also using these kinds of moments to speak back to and challenge these sports symbols of institutional racism. See for instance, Artists Respond to Cleveland Team’s Racist Logo (Canadian Art) or Culturally Appropriate Chicago Blackhawks Logo by First Nations Artist Goes Viral (Indian Country Today).

In the classroom, these team names and symbols provide fruitful examples for discussing how banal imagery comes to support the status quo of institutionalized racism, as well as more general questions of representation, cultural change and the invention of tradition.

Quick links:

29 May 2017

Indigenous fire management

Indigenous knowledge and practices are increasingly recognized and incorporated by non-Indigenous governments, businesses, and others into their own projects. While these engagements may often take the form of cultural appropriation or theft, we also see collaborations that generate benefits for allproduce new shared knowledge and opportunities, as well as new questions and tensions.

Prescribed Burn in High Park, Toronto, Canada
In the news recently we read about local governments in Australia and Toronto, Canada incorporating Indigenous fire-management into forestry management. Known in forestry management as "asset burns" or "prescribed burns," these selective and controlled burns of dried vegetation in savannah ecosystems help to reduce dry-season wildfires. In Australia, "Indigenous rangers are collaborating with Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife rangers in Nitmiluk National Park to manage its savanna burning program, in an Australian-first agreement." This collaboration helps park and Indigenous rangers protect cultural artefacts like rock art in these areas, as well as creating carbon credits.

Historically, in the area that is today the City of Toronto's High Park, "Indigenous groups maintained fires when hunting and clearing riparian areas. European settlers suppressed the fires from the 1870s to 2000 due to safety concerns as houses were built in closer proximity to the park." In recent years, prescribed burns have been reincorporated into the human-plant relationship in this park, opening up space for anthropological interrogations of these relationships.

Anthropologist Natasha Myers's current project with Ayelen Liberona, "Becoming Sensor in Sentient Worlds" explores the possibilities of decolonizing ecology in urban park sites like Toronto's High Park. They write
Fire is of course not just a “natural” force; people all over the world use fire to sculpt lands. Oak savannahs depend on people with knowledge of fire and the skills to care for the lands. Toronto’s remnant black oak savannahas, including those in High Park, are millennia in-the-making.  These lands are the traditional territories of the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe Nations. Toronto stands on the lands of the Mississauga’s of the Credit River. Indigenous peoples cared for this land with fire for millennia before colonization. Many thousands of Indigenous and Métis peoples live and move through this region today.
Oak savannahs do not survive without people. After years of settlers’ grazing sheep and lawn mowers, Toronto’s Urban Forestry team have brought back the fires in an effort to save the oak savannahs.  Here “nature” is valued more than the Indigenous cultures that gave this land its contours and significance. In this sense, restoration efforts participate in an ongoing colonial project that continues to enforce the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands. Can we do ecology otherwise?
How do these examples of Indigenous ways of caring for the plant-people relationship suggest other ways for thinking about "nature" and "natural environments"? How might these examples contribute to or provoke classroom discussions about systemic inequality, epistemology, and decolonization?

Quick links and further reading:

25 May 2017

Teaching Resource: Social Inequality and Teaching in the Academy

As anthropologists, we frequently teach about power dynamics and social inequality in our classrooms. Especially in the context of efforts to decolonize anthropology, many of us reflect on these relationships within our classrooms, within the university, in our relationships with our students, and the course content/ materials we teach.

In this vein, we offer this five-part series (2017) in which sociologist Elaine Coburn explores "Social Inequality and Teaching in the Academy." Coburn writes that "We live in an unequal world; these inequalities do not stop at the university classroom door." In this series, she considers "some ways unjust inequalities are (re)produced in the classroom" and through our relationship with our students.

Part I: Pedagogy is Not (Just) About Technique
Part II: The Problems with the Conscientious Pedagogue
Part III: The Practical Challenges of Broadening the Scholarly Canon
Part IV: As Professors, We are Not All Equal Before Our Students
Part V: “Imagine Otherwise” – Ways Forward

How might Coburn's reflections and suggestions be useful for how you plan your next class?

Additional resources:

22 May 2017

Undergrad & MAs career paths

If you're familiar with anthro everywhere! you might know that we have a special page addressing where and how people are Applying an anthropological perspective outside of university. Most of these links profile folks with PhDs in (sociocultural) anthropology making careers outside of the academy in "alt-ac" or applied careers.

Anthropology Major Fox
In my department, most anthropology majors or Masters students also follow career paths that take them outside of the university. A growing number of anthropology departments do offer some information on where their grads find jobs (e.g. University of British Columbia, York University, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University). Yet, it can still be difficult to find these examples and other hard data to share with our students -- or prospective students who aren't quite sure how a background in anthropology will serve them well after they graduate. There isn't a clear career path from anthropology major to anthropology job! It's with this in mind that this post offers a few links directed specifically toward undergraduate and MA-level anthropologists and their career choices and possibilities.

In 2016, the AAA Blog published this post to answer the question, What exactly are Anthropology MAs doing with their anthropology? You might also want to check out the (2010) report “Changing Face of Anthropology” from the AAA’s Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA), which provides some data regarding length of time to employment, types of jobs and tasks, the role of anthropology in respondents' workplaces/ work, and skills training.

For undergraduates who don't plan to pursue graduate studies, there are still many ways in which your anthropological training and perspective matter. Jason Antrosio's post Anthropology Major Jobs: Advice for Undergraduate Majors (Living Anthropologically, 2015) is a good place to start (re)thinking what majoring in anthropology might mean for your career prospects. Professional anthropologists offer a lot of great advice in the comments on this post, and on the FaceBook post for undergrads. You might also want to check out the AAA page Antrosio links to providing some more data on the kinds of careers (American) anthropology majors pursue.

More resources:
  • Our ability to conduct qualitative research -- including interviewing -- is an important part of the anthropologist's toolkit. So, it only makes sense that students use these skills in gathering information about potential future careers! One way to do this is through "informational interviewing," which we wrote about earlier this year. Informational interviewing is also a good way to begin networking with professionals working in fields that you might be interested in working in after graduation.
  • It's also important to learn how to think and talk about your anthropological training in a way that makes sense to people who might never have heard of anthropology. Have a look at our post on Articulating the Anthropological Toolkit to Non-Anthropologists for some tips on how to do this -- and also how to rethink what it is that you learn as an anthropology major or MA.
  • Our Advice for Grad Students page covers a lot of ground, but you might want to check out the "Professional Development Strategies" section for tips on how to start thinking about and preparing for life after university.
  • Check out this post (reviewing Field notes: A Guided Journal for Doing Anthropology) for a discussion of some of the insights that ethnographic methods training and experiences in the field allow anthropologists to develop.
  • Although a resource created by VersatilePhD, this Career Finder contains a lot of really useful information about careers in different sectors for Social Sciences & Humanities grads. Click on the "General information" tab to read a summary of what careers in a wide range of fields are like, including Business, Finance, Government, Institutional Research, K-12 Education, Law, Marketing, Nonprofits, Policy, Publishing, Technology and more.

Quick Links:

18 May 2017

Islamophobia is Racism Syllabus

Adding to the impressive list of open access teaching resources, the Islamophobia is Racism Syllabus provides texts for "Teaching & Learning about anti-Muslim Racism in the United States."

The authors identify the following goals of their Syllabus:

  1. Define anti-Muslim racism as an alternative to the concept of Islamophobia
  2. Understand the relationship of race and religion to white supremacy through the racialized figure of the Muslim
  3. Provide an intersectional and comparative analysis to anti-Muslim racism
  4. Strategize ways to challenge anti-Muslim racism and resist white supremacy
  5. The syllabus is organized by the following themes and topics, which move from broader framing issues to more specific examples. Later readings may benefit from the contextualization provided by earlier sections.  

Bringing into conversation a wide variety of interdisciplinary texts -- both scholarly and popular -- this syllabus interrogates the relationship between Islampohobia and Racism through the following sections:
I. Race, Empire and Islam
II. The Production and Reproduction of Anti-Muslim Racism
III. The Impact of Anti-Muslim Racism
IV. Policing, Security and Anti-Muslim Racism
V. Resisting Anti-Muslim Racism
VI. Further Reading and Resources
While this syllabus provides a valuable resource for teaching on these topics, what further reading suggestions would you like to add to this collection? Do you have additional ethnographic or anthropological texts you would like to propose? Or perhaps texts that interrogate this relationship in non-American contexts? If so, email (anthrolens@gmail.com) or tweet us (@anthrolens) with your suggestions and we'll add them here!

Quick links and further reading:

15 May 2017

Promoting publications behind paywalls... or anthro everywhere! in Anthropologica

Jennifer and Rhiannon at CASCA-IUAES
with Vol. 59, Issue 1 of Anthropologica (May 2017)
What a nice surprise to arrive at the CASCA-IUAES intercongress last week and see our new journal article "Agency and Agendas: Revisiting the role of the Researcher and the Researched in Ethnographic Research" published in the most recent issue of Anthropologica! This article was co-authored by the authors of anthro everywhere! (Rhiannon Mosher and Jennifer Long) as well as Elisabeth Le and Lauren Harding.

This is also an opportune moment to reflect on how we can best communicate about our new article through social media. During CASCA the publisher (University of Toronto Press) had made this latest issue open access, but now that the conference has ended, our article is once again behind a paywall. So, as Aidnography suggests in Don’t post direct links to your new journal article! (17 April 2017), here's a brief description of our latest publication. If you have access to Anthropologica as a CASCA member, or through your institution, we hope that you download and read the full text.

"Agency and Agendas"
"Agency and Agendas" came out of the discussions we had as members of a panel during CASCA 2015 with the late Pierre Maranda (1930-2015) on the researcher as starting point for ethnographic research. Growing out of that early discussion, this article focused in on how ethnographic research is an essentially collaborative project between the researcher and the researched, all of whom exert agency in how they choose to engage with the ethnographic project (or not), and in the service of their own agendas -- which may align or differ from those identified by the researcher in their project. This article doesn't focus on explicitly collaborative research approaches -- like PAR or activist approaches -- but thinks about how ethnographic knowledge is created more generally. In thinking through the diversity of moments that comprise what we come to know through this approach to social research, we find Anna Tsing's notion of "friction" useful, as it "engages not only the ‘‘awkward zone of encounter’’ but also the potentially generative results of diverse, even divergent, agendas and agencies coming together" (Mosher et al. 2017:154). As we write,
Tsing’s friction refers not to conflict or poor relations among the researcher or researched. Instead, friction refers to the idea that our interlocutors are agentive individuals who wilfully take part in, and influence, our research. How our interlocutors participate (or refuse to participate) deeply affects our work as ethnographers (Mosher et al. 2017:146).
In this article, we wanted to try to move beyond simply discussing reflexivity and positionality, and instead consider how the people who participate in our research co-create what we consider 'the field' -- how this interaction deeply "enables, shapes, redirects, and limits the kinds of research we may ultimately produce." Through drawing on our own research experiences, we argue that what we come to know through ethnography "is in no small part due to the agency and agendas of those we recruit as participants in our studies" (Mosher et al. 2017:147). As authors, we tackle these questions and hope to open up this discussion through addressing considerations of:
  • how our potential participants shape and direct our access to data. Our interactions with the people, places, and issues that we seek to understand are deeply entangled in the iterative process of ethnography.
  • what might be called the "observed" effect on our research. In what ways are we and our research agendas/ approaches shaped by becoming an object of scrutiny among our research community/ participants/ informants? 
  • the adaptation of ethnographic methods to non-academic research contexts. With the growing interest in ethnographic methods in industry, how can anthropologists pursue "thick" ethnographic relationships and insights in the context of rapid, industry research timelines (including where our research contacts have been pre-arranged by a third party)?
  • the afterlives of research. How do the reputations of past researchers among the communities we study impact or frame the kind of research we do in the present? How might our own research findings become incorporated into yet unimagined future projects and agendas, including among our former research communities?

Quick links:

01 May 2017

At #CASCAIUAES17 in Ottawa!

This week (May 2nd-6th) we are attending the CASCA/IUAES2017 Conference in Ottawa! This year, the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) is having a joint Conference/InterCongress with the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES). This year's theme is Movement, with thematic streams including:
  • Worlds in motion,
  • Living landscapes,
  • Moving bodies, and 
  • Relational movements
If you can't join us at what promises to be an interesting meeting, you can follow some of the conference over Twitter using #CASCAIUAES17.

In the past, we've seen some great commentary (in 140 characters or less) from particular anthropological Twitter accounts during CASCA. Accounts to follow during (and after) the conference for some anticipated live-tweeting of panels and events include:

27 April 2017

Applying an anthropological perspective in health

We recently came across this interesting article about "Teaching medical students to challenge ‘unscientific’ racial categories." Anthropologists and other critical social scientists have long known that even though race is a social construction, it can have very real impacts in people's lives -- including in accessing health and healthcare.

This article explores how medical students continue to be taught to use racial stereotypes based in biology as shortcuts for diagnosing and treating illness. It also follows the work of Dr. Brooke Cunningham, a physician and sociologist, who challenges these harmful practices in teaching medicine. For Dr. Cunningham and others, the point of these reforms is to push medical students and future health professionals to think critically about race, and how these social categories impact individual health through lived experiences and structures of inequality.

“It’s not that race is irrelevant to health, but it’s not relevant to health because of innate differences. It’s relevant because racism affects people’s health.”


Although medical students are often repeatedly told throughout their education that race should be approached critically and understood as a social not biological construct, what's telling are the reactions of students to Cunningham's lecture based on the authority of medicine over social science:
Students who attended her recent lecture on race said Cunningham’s medical degree gave her added credibility.
“I think if she was just a social scientist, I would be more skeptical of whatever perspective she would bring to the conversation,” said Mac Garrett, a first-year medical student.
These insights raise some important questions to consider in how anthropologists and other social scientists might consider communicating their findings in applied contexts. How might we think about how social science evidence and arguments are interpreted by those we wish to influence, in order to be more persuasive? In order to create social change in applied contexts -- like medical students' training -- should we draw more on the the authority of critical social scientists who also have the clout of a medical degree?

Quick links and further reading:

24 April 2017

Bringing anthropological ethics into the classroom

With the Canadian Anthropology Society Conference next week comes CASCA's Spring issue of the network's newsletter, Culture.

One item that caught our eye in this issue was Eric Henry's description of a case-study discussion activity he created for students to work through some of the potentially thorny issues anthropologists and linguists face in the field: Targaryen Ethics: A Case Study in Linguistic Appropriation Using “Game of Thrones”

Henry writes that in his linguistic anthropology course,
language appears to students to be a relatively uncontroversial topic of research – in what possible way could listening to an oral history or eliciting verb conjugations harm someone?
I wanted to get students thinking about some of the thorny ethical issues surrounding linguistic heritage, appropriation, and ownership.
In this short piece, Henry provides the short text of his case study, where the linguistic anthropologist is approached by the producers of the hit television program about adapting a local (endangered) language to fit one of the show's mythic peoples. Henry also reflects on the outcomes of working through this case-study with his students, including some of the unanticipated issues that students themselves raised about the case, and the role of the anthropological expert in terms of language revitalization, representation, development, and what ethics means in these moments.

Henry's case-study is a great example of an activity to bring an experiential learning element into the classroom through role-playing. How might you adapt this style of case-study exercise in your own teaching?

Quick links and further reading:

20 April 2017

Media, language, and social relationships

In teaching anthropology, I always find students to be exceptionally interested on the days that we talk about media. Many of my students consider social media to be an important part of their lives and social interactions, from how they connect to others to how they spend their leisure time. And, in many ways this engagement has actually changed the ways through which students interact with us, as well as the language and forms of address we see in email communications.

To many of us who really care about writing well (and try to teach this skill and sensibility), these shifts are occasionally taken as doomsday signals of the downfall of the English language, or even the future of society in general (when we're being melodamatic, anyway). Yet, to take an anthropological approach, it's interesting to think about how these different forms of media actually mediate social relationships... including between ourselves and our students.

I often like to show the first 12 minutes or so or Michael Wesch's lecture "An anthropological introduction to YouTube" to students when we first discuss media. Wesch really brings home this idea that media is more than just content, and that media mediate social relationships.

So, really, it shouldn't be surprising that engagements through new forms of media have lead to interesting (if annoying) cultural changes in language use and meaning. An interesting example of this is observable in this piece from Newsweek: "What it means when you end your emails with a period." Here, David Crystal opens by remarking how "Regular emailers will have encountered the new styles, and may use all of them. The omission of punctuation marks, avoidance of capitalization, and the use of nonstandard spelling is commonplace." Yet, this kind of language use is also part of our learned cultural context:
These styles are characteristic of informal e-communication. The more formal the interaction, the less they are likely to occur, and the more they will be construed as inappropriate. So it's important for youngsters experimenting with internet styles to realize that breaking the conventions of the standard language is dangerous in certain settings.
Another interesting example of shifting meanings -- this time within and across social media platforms -- comes from this The Sociological Imagination piece, "“Liking” it on Facebook." Javier de Rivera explores the sensibility and standardization of feeling connected to the "like" function on platforms like FaceBook and Instagram. Consider the following statement about the shifting and standardizing meanings associated with functions such as the "like" or "fav" across these different platforms:
The evolution of Twitter seems to be going in the same direction, by experimenting with the Favs and changing them to Likes, establishing the trend – that started several years ago – for using this feature to show appreciation rather than for archival purposes. Here, overlapping is not possible, by choosing Hearts as a mean of social interaction we are deploying its value as an archival resource: our list of bookmarks would be flooded with the less memorable tweets we chose to mark as an expression of appreciation.
How might you bring these examples into your classroom discussions of cultural change, community, meaning, and language?

Quick links and further reading:

17 April 2017

Water Politics Syllabus & Resources

We have been seeing some very interesting discussions and resources emerging around water politics recently.

Image from "The Rights of the Whanganui River" (Peeps)
In addition to the many discussions happening in relation to #NODAPL and the importance of water to indigenous communities and ways of life in North America, the struggles for access to clean and safe drinking water in places like Flint, Michigan and across reserves in Canada, in March, you may have read the news that a Māori community has been successful in their battle to have New Zealand grant the Whanganui River the legal rights of a person. (The anthropological magazine Peeps published a beautiful photo essay on "The Rights of the Whanganui River" in their second issue earlier this year -- unfortunately, not available online.)

In response to these shifts and public spotlights, we offer readers a couple of interesting resources for thinking and teaching about water politics.

First, we'd like to draw attention to the thematic issue of the Canadian journal of anthropology, Anthropologica, published this past fall (Volume 58, Issue 2): An Amphibious Anthropology: The Production of Place at the Confluence of Land and Water, guest edited by Karine Gagné and Mattias Borg Rasmussen. Contributors to this issue draw on their ethnographic research to share insights into water politics and issues in the Himalayas, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Peru, and North America.

Each of these articles from Anthropologica would be a valuable addition and anthropological contribution to this already well-rounded (anthropology, geography, environmental studies) syllabus: "Water Rights and Social Protest: Politics, Governance, and the Meanings of Access" designed by Jake Blanc and Stepha Velednitsky (graduate students at the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). 

Quick links and further reading:

13 April 2017

Anthropology against white​ supremacy

In this post from the AAA's Anthropology NewsLuzilda Carrillo Arciniega offers "Six Ways Anthropologists Can Challenge White Supremacy" (27 March 2017).

  1. Create purposeful students
  2. Critique identity politics
  3. Create brave spaces
  4. Break the Silence
  5. Push back against hierarchies
  6. Remain politically engaged

While many of us as anthropologists consistently strive to be critical of identity politics, power inequalities and structures, I think it is really valuable to consider here the banal (but powerful!) work we already do addressed in points 3 and 4 -- as Jennifer wrote about earlier this week.

One of the things that anthropologists are known for is asking those "dumb" questions about things that are otherwise taken-for-granted and common sense and allowing ourselves to feel uncomfortable as we learn in new cultural moments and contexts. In our classrooms and beyond, it is important for us to make this space not only for ourselves, but for our students and interlocutors as Carillo argues: "Critical dialogue cannot occur unless individuals are open to being vulnerable. Creating a safe space should not be conflated with comfort, convenience, or personal satisfaction."

Quick links and further reading:


10 April 2017

Building Vocabularies for Everyday Discussions about "Race", racism, and Inclusion/exclusion

I was recently contacted by a student who had taken my Intercultural Competencies course last Fall.

In their email, they asked for clarification on the following topic:
Is it alright to use the terms Afghani or Pakistani or, if I wanted to refer to individuals from these countries, should I say "Afghanistan citizens or Pakistan citizens" respectively?

Their reasoning: I look at other nations such as Australia and Israel which are commonly labelled as Aussies or Israelis and understand that those are accepted in North American society.

They ended with: I would like a professional opinion as to whether I can use a shortened term (even if only in an educational conversation!).

I love getting these requests because as an instructor of Anthropology (and its concepts) and an intercultural competency facilitator, I find that lacking appropriate vocabulary is one of the biggest deterrents from having conversations about "race", racism, exclusion, and the like.

I responded to the email as follows:
Short answer: Yes, you can use these shortened terms is certain situations.
Long answer: In my opinion, and based on the research I conducted, the terms Afghani or Pakistani are absolutely acceptable terms.

For example, "I'm of Afghani or Pakistani origin" is fine.

These terms would also be appropriate if, for example, you talking about larger demographic trends.

For example, "One of the largest refugee group to come to Canada were Afghani refugees..."

The issue is when you start using these terms to stereotype a group of people.

For example, "I think all Afghani (or Pakistani) people are...".

How would you have responded? Tweet us at @anthrolens or email us at anthrolens@gmail.com.

06 April 2017

The Return of Support for Acquiring a Liberal Arts Degrees: An Anthropological Perspective

There have recently been a spate of news articles discussing the importance of liberal arts degrees and graduates' chance for success:
In a recent article by Brock scholars, Norton and Martini (released 2017) argue that: "Canadian university students tend to endorse employment-related reasons for attending university ahead of other reasons such as personal satisfaction or intellectual growth." In their study, first- and fourth-year students placed "a greater emphasis on benefits related to career preparation and economic advancement than those associated with learning and self-improvement." However, when asked to evaluate the importance of a comprehensive list of degree-related benefits both groups of students endorsed the value of many of them, including those related to learning and self-improvement. When discussing why students might focus on so-called employment-related learning, the authors argue that "harsh economic realities and high unemployment rates for young adults, coupled with large increases in the perceived cost of a degree, may also underlie the fact that students endorse career-related benefits above all others" (Norton and Martini, 2017:10).

I read Norton and Martini's work as part of this larger discussion of the usefulness of liberal arts degrees of which anthropology finds itself included, if not closely related. 

As advocates for the use of anthropology and its lessons, literally everywhere, the requirement to prove the usefulness of anthropology as a discipline that makes students ready for the workplace seems ridiculous. But in thinking back to my own education, I was rarely told (if ever) about the skills that I gained through my degree (beyond critical thinking). While we're talking about an education that at the undergraduate level ended just over 15 years ago, neither my Masters or Doctoral training provided me with the ability to articulate these skills either. 

Follow this link to Simon Fraser's page on Skills in Anthropology which you might want to feature on your next resume and cover letter.

Quick links and further reading:

03 April 2017

When Cognitive Mapping and Life Histories Meet

Anthropologists use life histories as a means to shed light on larger systems through the eyes of one individual, over time. Atlas Obscura author Lauren Young recently reminded readers of Michael Druks work, called Druksland. This portrait captures Druks' life story through cartography.
Detail of <em>Druksland</em>, Michael Druks cartographic self-portrait.

Young writes: Outlining the shape of his head, Druks’ conceptual map incorporates features you would see on a topographical map, including coordinates, bodies of water, and a map legend. Yet the map also serves as an unconventional self-portrait, the coordinates corresponding to major life events, significant people, and important institutions. Druks shows how the contours of a face could be a more complex terrain than any geology on Earth.

This is an interesting example of a medium where cognitive mapping and life histories may meet.

30 March 2017

Book Report Entry #3: Taking Notes from Field notes: A Guided Journal for Doing Anthropology

In our continued feature of Fieldnotes: A 'guided journal' for doing anthropology by Luis A. Vivanco, we're delving into his fourth chapter on Taking Notes in his Doing Fieldwork section of the book.

Vivianco documents the principles of good note taking which he's adapted and modified from Emerson et al. 1995. Some of these principles include:
  1. Show, don't tell or summarize events and experiences
  2. Avoid generalizing or impressionistic words
  3. Avoid projections of emotions
  4. Keep a running list of questions
Vivianco's list includes other important principles and reminds me of another blog post I read a while back on Writing Live Fieldnotes by Tricia Wang.

Wang defines live fieldnoting as: 
a blog post that is intended to provide an on-location and synchronous visual and textual coverage of an instance from the ethnographer’s fieldwork. The live fieldnote is created with a image sharing app on a mobile phone that is then shared to other social networking services. Images are accompanied by a description of the image and can also include a brief analysis of what the interaction means to the participants in the image and/or to the ethnographer. 
As part of this process, Wang highlights how these materials are accessible on the internet (although, this may be an issue in certain countries where participants can't reach some social media sites), time stamped and include locating data. Wang argues that live fieldnoting combines what she calls
two activities that are central to ethnographic research: 
  1. the ethnographer’s participation in a social world
  2. the ethnographer’s written account of the world through her/his participation. 
Live fieldnotes are typically comprised of a one to five sentences. The accumulation of many live fieldnotes works towards producing a “thick description” along with other long form fieldnotes.  Live fieldnotes are not intended to replace the entire fieldnote writing process, rather it is just one of many ways notes can be jotted down for reflection at a later point in time.
Both authors of this blog kept blogs during their PhD research (see for example, When in doubt... Map the city and make kinship charts. An Anthropologist in Amsterdam) yet, this live field notes is something different, perhaps something more 'raw'. 

To bring this discussion back to Vivianco, he writes of the importance of converting "raw" to "cooked" fieldnotes. He writes that this process of returning to the scene and adding details missing in the first "raw" take helps create a more holistic picture, what Wang (from Clifford Geertz) identifies as thick description.

**Jennifer, the author of this post, is reviewing this book from front to back; however, as she flipped through the text after having completed the first draft of this post, she came across Vivianco's own reference to Wang's work in his chapter on 'Going Digital'. Wang's post on ethnographymatters.net definitely has some fans...**

Quick Links:
Other posts from anthro averywhere!'s ongoing Book Report on Vivanco's Field Notes: