19 December 2016

Finding anthropology everywhere in 2016... more posts in 2017!

Jennifer and I want to send our thanks to everyone who has read and shared anthro everywhere! during 2016. With our first posts on this new blog beginning in February, we've shared 130 posts and 4 special topics pages with you over the past year, including:
We'll be taking a break from posting until the new year, but until then here is a round-up of 10 of our favourite/ most popular posts from this past year:
Thanks for reading -- we'll be back in 2017!

15 December 2016

Reading Lists for Decolonizing Anthropology & Beyond

One of the ways that anthropologists and other scholars have responded to recent world events -- from the systemic issues underlying the Black Lives Matter movement and Standing Rock, to Brexit and the rise of Trump -- has been in the classroom. Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of some of the great resources for building a syllabus and classroom discussions around some of these current events. You can also check out our new page that has collected together various posts already published on our blog about reading lists and syllabi.

  • The Decolonizing Anthropology series via Savage Minds, reflecting and building on the work of Faye Harrison, is a good place to start thinking about what it means to decolonize anthropology.
  • In response to the recent events at Standing Rock, an interdisciplinary syllabus was created by the NYC Stands for Standing Rock committee "a group of Indigenous scholars and activists, and settler/ POC supporters": Standing Rock Syllabus
    • Less a syllabus than a resource, the Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness (U.S. National Library of Medicine) is an exhibition that "explores diverse Native Peoples’ concepts of health and illness, past and present." The site provides things like video interviews with indigenous healers, leaders, and biomedical professionals, as well as other activities and suggested readings.
  • We've already posted about Anthropoliteia's #BlackLivesMatter Syllabus. This ongoing project is anthropology-focused.
  • This Decolonising Science Reading List has been put together by Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (#BlackandSTEM theoretical astro|physicist), where "You’ll find texts that range from personal testimony to Indigenous cosmology to anthropology, to history to sociology to education research. All are key to the process of decolonising science, which is a pedagogical, cultural, and intellectual set of interlocking structures, ideas, and practices."
  • And lastly for this post, here is a Google Doc reading list of Ethnographic approaches to understanding Trump/Brexit/new rise of conservativism.

12 December 2016

Add it to the dictionary! Changing language, changing culture

This short article about Merriam-Webster's addition of 'genderqueer' to their dictionary is really useful for thinking about how language changes over time to describe our changing cultural worlds. According to the Hufftington Post, the dictionary's
commitment to adding new queer terms and language to the dictionary, and discussing them on social media, follows the evolution of culture.
“The set of terms relating to gender and sexuality that we’ve added in recent years is like any other; as established members of the language ― we have evidence of these terms in published, edited text from a variety of sources and over an extended period of time ― they meet our criteria for entry,” Emily Brewster, Merriam-Webster Associate Editor, told The Huffington Post. “We would be remiss not to define them.”
What does the emergence of new words tell us about our changing cultural world -- in this case about how we understand and express our gender and sexuality?

Quick links and further reading:

08 December 2016

Mapping the world?

At anthro everywhere! we've already written a couple of posts about how maps powerfully represent certain social realities. Today's post adds a couple of new resources for teaching about the power of maps as a tool of social and political as well as geographic representation:

This video from Vox (via their faceBook page; run-time 6 minutes) gives a brief history of the mathematical problem of trying to accurately represent the three-dimensional world in a nice, neat two-dimensional format -- and the distortions that result from that impossibility:

The "Dymaxion Map," also known as the Fuller Projection Map, seems to be the closest mathematical solution to flattening the globe.

For other resources and links on mapping a representation, check out our earlier posts:

05 December 2016

VPhD career finder

If you are thinking about what you'd like to do with your degree in anthropology (or degrees in anthropology), or are just looking for some good answers to the kinds of questions about career options that grad students habitually dread over the holidays... why not check out this handy resource from Versatile PhD?
The Versatile PhD Career Finder
The Career Finder page is not just for anthropologists, but has organized a number of different types of non-academic careers into those best suited for Humanities & Social Science thinkers and STEM thinkers. Each career possibility listed provides open-access information about what a job in the field entails, where you might start in that field, possibilities for advancement, disciplines that have an edge in certain fields, and how you might shape your professional development strategies to help you enter a particular field. (Some universities that have a subscription with VPhD will also have access to premium content such as real life examples and resumes from people in these fields.)

VPhD also offers other kinds of resources and support for PhD students across the disciplines, such as local meet-ups and a blog.

Quick links & further reading:

01 December 2016

Ethno everywhere! Workshop

The American Anthropology Association's Annual Meeting hosted a workshop on November 16th about Ethnographic Writing. In this workshop, Ruth Behar from the University of Michigan and Marcia Ochoa Univ of California Santa Cruz discussed their tips and tricks for crafting an ethnographic scene, writing this form of data into one's work, and solving such problems as how to harmonize the voices of your interlocuters and weave theory into these stories.

One very useful outcome (as there were many) of this workshop was a list of ethnographies used to teach others (and learn more) about the various possibilities for ethnographic writing. Below is a(n incomplete) list of ethnographies and suggestions as to their unique approach to this writing genre.
  • Ruth Benedict's (1936) Patterns of Culture  –  Classic ethnographic text that weaves in poetic prose (written as under the pseudonym Anne Singleton)
  • Zora Neale Hurston's (1935) Mules and Men  – Uses conversational style writing to describe the context, setting and relationship with her interlocuters.
  • James Agee's (1941) Let Us Now Praise Famous Men –  A literary journalist who comes across as ethnographic in the amount of detail he gave
  • Claude Levi-Strauss' (1961) Tristes Tropiques ­– Levi-Strauss' use of irony
  • John Langston Gwaltney's (1980) Drylongso: A Self-Portrait of Black America – Black American anthropologist (who was also blind) introduced each person he met with as an epigraph to introduce a chapter or scene
  • Kevin Dwyer's (1982) Moroccan Dialogues: Anthropology in Question – includes dialogue (like Zora Neale Hurston) in the text
  • Svetlana Alexievich's (1997) Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster – the manner in which she formats her ethnographies keeps the poetics of her interlocutors. 
  • Renato Rosaldo's (2013) The Day of Shelly’s Death: The poetry and ethnography of grief  – "Anthro-poetry"

28 November 2016

Anthropologists & Their Worlds (Les Possédés et leurs mondes)

The Université Laval in Quebec has launched a new series of interviews with (francophone) Canadian anthropologists: Les Possédés et leurs mondes (Anthropologists and Their Worlds). The audiovisual project has been made possible through a partnership between Laval, Anthropologie et Sociétés, the Canadian anthropology journal Anthropologica, and CASCA (the Canadian Anthropology Society/ la Société canadienne d'anthropologie).
This series presents audiovisual testimonies and reflections of Canadian anthropologists. Guests share their field experiences and their intellectual trajectories as well as the knowledge they have accumulated over the years. The films are open access ... and directed by Frédéric Benjamin Laugrand. (CASCA)
You can check out these French-language films via Laval's website, or the Anthropologie et Sociétés FaceBook page.

24 November 2016

Serious academics & managing your digital identity

One of the things that we try to do on the blog besides offer interesting examples of anthropology everywhere, is to try to highlight advice on professionalization for anthropology graduates and graduate students.

This past August, the Academics Anonymous column in The Guardian's Higher Education Network published "I'm a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer"

For the young PhD 'serious academic' author of this piece, their concern seems to stem from the seemingly new demand that academics participate in social media to demonstrate their enthusiasm, engagement, impact, etc. The article closes with this lament about one more obligation in the busy life of a graduate student/ scholar:
But surely the dedication I show in the lab, and the subsequent data I collect, should speak for itself. I do not – and should not – have to parade myself online to please my employer or to stake my claim as a good researcher. Can’t we save the showing off for where it’s really needed, in the dreaded grant applications?
#SeriousAcademic backlash
Not surprisingly this article sparked an interesting discussion about what it means to be a "serious academic" today. Later that same day, The Guardian published a response from Dean Burnett in the science section, "I’m a non-serious academic. I make no apologies for this." The Chronicle of Higher Education responded with their own piece, "What Is a ‘Serious Academic’? Social-Media Critique Provokes a Backlash." And other responses followed from across social media platforms, such as The Tatooed Prof's "I’ve Got a Serious Problem with “Serious Academics.”"

Given that even the most serious academics working their way through graduate school at the moment wont end up in the traditional (or their anticipated) serious academic job -- a tenure-track professorship -- thinking about the role of social media in academia is an important issue.

More than just self-promotion, social media can offer a way to network beyond face-to-face encounters at annual conferences. It can be a way of learning about interesting work being done by professionals in areas of interest to you, pointing to career paths you might never have otherwise encountered. It can also be an opportunity for engagement beyond the ivory tower by using social media as a platform to translate your research and perspective into accessible, public discussion.

But for the many of us who will not end up working in the university for the rest of our careers, managing our digital identities through social media is actually a smart way to help build your professional identity. While the anonymous 'serious academic' noted above sarcastically acknowledges the possibility (pushed by 'career-advice gurus') that "potential employers could be Googling your name right now," the reality is that your digital identity is a factor for many potential employers.

A recent study conducted by researchers at York University underscored this reality:
The study found that those job seekers who did actively manage their digital image were more likely to be looked on favorably by employers. Budworth and Harrison found that employers paid attention to verbal as well as non-verbal information. Verbal information includes a listing of accomplishments, stories that shed a positive light on abilities, and suggestions of competence in various areas. Non-verbal information includes things like professional photographs.
Interestingly, the researchers found that for women conscientious management of your digital presence mattered even more than for men, and could have higher rewards:
What surprised the researchers is that women who deliberately manage their digital presence were rated higher by potential employers than men, and that extended to verbal self-promotion and the posting of professional photographs.
For more advice on how and why to cultivate your own digital presence, you can check out the links on our Advice for Grad Students page. Scroll down to "Developing an online professional identity" in the Professional Development Strategies section.

Quick links & further reading:

21 November 2016

Naming and place: What Do You Call the Corner Store?

Depanneur in Quebec
This is a fun little piece from Atlas Obscura that teachers might want to bring into a discussion of language: What Do You Call the Corner Store?
Every city has something like this, the anchor tenant in many city-dweller’s mental maps of their neighborhood. But in many places, you’d be laughed out of the building for calling it a “convenience store”. It’s a bodega. It’s a packie. It’s a party store. What you call the store on the corner says a lot about where you live. 
Bodega in New York City
Instructors might ask students to unpack these examples and to think about how this social institution, and the name that we have for it connects to local contexts. How do histories (such as of migration), geography, and politics come together to shape urban spaces?

17 November 2016

Where to find Alternative News Sources

Check out Simon Fraser Universities Alternative News Sources page.

As described at the top of the page:
For the purposes of this guide, "alternative" means that which does not represent society's mainstream or dominant ideology.  However, some alternative media sources are widely read and could be considered mainstream. Both progressive and conservative resources are included, as both are arguably excluded from the mainstream media.
Reasons for seeking out alternative sources?

  1. To gain a holistic understanding of a particular event or happening. In theory, this understanding should guide you to a more representative perspective through its multiplicity
  2. To question the Western perspective that holds priority in academic and media due to our Canadian geographic and historical location.

Happy Alt reading!

14 November 2016

Doing anthropology everywhere

In August we had posted about anthropologists doing work in dangerous contexts, highlighting the imprisonment of Dr. Homa Hoodfar in Iran. While Hoodfar has been released, her story highlights how anthropologists can find people and issues to study everywhere.

Hoodfar is an anthropologist and professor emeritus at Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). Her research has long focused on issues of gender, Muslim women, and feminism in the Middle East and North America. Hoodfar holds Canadian, Irish, and Iranian citizenships. In February this year, Hoodfar travelled to Iran to visit family and conduct archival research. However, before her departure in March, the Counter Intelligence Unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard confiscated her personal documents (including passport and research), and subjected Hoodfar to lengthy interrogations that resulted in her imprisonment in June 2016 in the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran. Hoodfar was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "dabbling in feminism" and "trying to undermine the Iranian government." After being held in prison for 112 days, the 65 year old Hoodfar was finally released on humanitarian grounds.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Hoodfar's story is shown in her resilience, and her ability to find and do anthropology everywhere. After her release, Hoodfar discussed in interviews how she began to treat her detainment as an opportunity for ethnographic research in the infamous women's prison.
 “I decided, I’m an anthropologist and I’m here, so I can use this as a method of doing anthropological fieldwork,” she told the Guardian. “It wasn’t fieldwork that I had chosen, it was not a project I wanted to write, but there I was.”
The research recast the 30 interrogations she was put through while imprisoned. As she sat facing a wall or a one-way mirror while her interrogators screamed and yelled at her, Hoodfar analysed their choice of words. When they hurled threats at her – “They were telling me, ‘You’ll get 15 years here and we’ll send your dead body back to Canada’” – she contemplated the power dynamics at play.
Although without a pen or paper at her disposal, Hoodfar carefully scratched her notes onto her cell wall using her toothbrush. Following her release, she meticulously wrote out these fieldnotes on the long flight to Oman. Her choice to turn this brutal experience into a research project not only allowed her to express her agency in this highly constraining situation, but also proves that any social context can be a site for anthropological research.

Quick links:

10 November 2016

Why the world needs anthropologists

We've been seeing some good discussions lately around what anthropologists can do - and why our perspective on the world is valuable, such as this Huffington Post Blog about why Universities Need Anthropology Now, More Than Ever, or this discussion on why scrapping A-levels anthropology in UK universities is short-sighted.

But, why does the world need anthropologists?
‘The bad news is that anthropology is never going to solve the global crisis,’ professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen provoked, ‘but the good news is that without us, nobody is going to because our knowledge is a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle.’ (EPIC, 2016)
This question, and its unfolding answers, are the subject of what is now an ongoing symposium hosted by EASA's Applied Anthropology Network. EPIC (which is all about advancing the value of ethnography in industry) has written a nice piece about the 2015 meeting (Ljubljana, Slovenia) here. But even better, if you were unable to make it to Slovenia last year, or Estonia this year, you can watch the 4 hour symposia on YouTube!


Quick links and further reading:

07 November 2016

The Anthropology of Trump: turning an ethnographic lens on Trumpland

Way back in March we posted about The Anthropology of Trump: It's getting political in here (16 March 2016). In this earlier post, Jenn reviewed Paul Stoller's analysis of Trump's popularity.

Recently, an ethnographer working for ReD Associates, Morgan Ramsey-Elliot, has provided some nuanced insight into Donald Trump’s support in small-town America. (Perhaps underscoring George Leader's argument that Universities Need Anthropology Now, More Than Ever, Huffington Post Blog, 20 October 2016).

"Trump Towns" (Quartz, 22 September 2016), highlights the incredible value of ethnographic research in making sense of social worlds. The insights that Ramsey-Elliot shares about people in small towns across America -- for instance in Texas and Colorado -- help to illuminate how Trump has gained such a vibrant base. What is striking from a methodological perspective, however, is that Ramsey-Elliot wasn't doing working on a project about political values when he learned these things. He was actually working as "an ethnographer with the consulting group ReD Associates, studying the lives and values of truck owners on behalf of a major US auto manufacturer." But, through his daily immersion in all aspects of his research participants' lives, he was also able to arrive at more complex understanding of why this ongoing American election cycle has taken on the character it has. Unsurprisingly, (to an anthropologist, anyway) this has to do with culture.

For instance, in teasing apart why so many Trump supporters oppose minority rights (e.g. "homosexual” and “feminist” agendas") as 'selfish', Ramsey-Elliot argues that the answer is actually not as simple as prejudice alone:
It is true that fundamental prejudice plays a role in some conservatives’ attitudes toward minority groups. It is also true that, to Robby’s family and others like them, groups of people who are actually fighting for basic human rights look like individuals who have decided to elevate their own identities and needs and appear to be calling for special privileges. This idea is anathema in communities that value, and in many ways are structured around, subsuming individual needs and desires for the good of the group. For many I met in rural America, “minority” agendas and the individualism they are seen to represent are a manifestation of a larger problem: the vanishing respect for duty and self-sacrifice for the sake of the local community.
Cultural and structural changes in small-town life have deeply affected long-standing relations of mutual-help and community obligation. In this context, the discourse that Trump employs and his cultivated 'authentic' persona (not unlike that of Toronto's former Mayor Rob Ford) -- even when it is riddled with contradictions -- "feels far more authentic than that of more polished political elites."
[Trump's] frequent appeals to loyalty are a great example of how this works. Loyalty is, by definition, a deeply personal and contingent thing, and it’s a trait he has systematically attempted to build into a pillar of his personal brand (his proven track record of disloyalty is beside the point).  ...
The logic of such appeals to loyalty—contingent, personal, experiential—taps into a deeper reality about how many people relate to each other in rural America.
Ramsey-Elliot, a New Yorker, concludes by arguing that people living on the "coasts" wont be able to understand the appeal of Trump until they gain a more nuanced understanding of everyday life across rural America. In other words, in order to understand these political divisions in America, we need to think like anthropologists about the social divisions.

Quick links and further reading:

03 November 2016

Climate Change Resource for the Classroom

Leonardo Di Caprio has given open access to his environmental documentary on climate change. Entitled Before the Flood, Di Caprio wants to engender a sense of urgency regarding climate change and to show us the role we can play.

Important to note is that there may be a time limit in which this documentary is available for free (perhaps this is just its availability on cable); however, according to EcoWatch.comfrom Oct. 30 through Nov. 6, you can also watch it on just about any website or device where you regularly stream online videos. The exhaustive list includes: Natgeotv.com, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Sony PlayStation, GooglePlay, VOD/Video On Demand (through MVPD set-top boxes), MVPD Sites and Apps, Nat Geo TV Apps (iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, Roku, Android phones, Xbox One and 360, Samsung Connected TVs) and more.
You can watch it right here.

Check it out with your classes for those in need of something timely and important.

31 October 2016

Hallowe'en & Racism

LSPIRG's (Wilfred Laurier University)
I am Not a Costume campaign

Hallowe'en is a rich holiday for anthropologists to dig into for how it brings together many different social phenomena such as ritual and liminality, layers upon layers of changing tradition, and social justice in questions of cultural appropriation and racism in costuming.

Every year in recent memory, my social media feeds have been chock-full of snappy posts and often well-considered reactions to racist Hallowe'en costumes. While black-face still seems to be a good idea to some (it's not), other groups and cultures also frequently turn up in costume shops and Hallowe'en social events (also not a good idea).

These racist costumes -- like the ongoing use of racist mascots and team names -- have become important public sites for discussion around racism in the everyday, and how these common aggressions are actually part of larger systemic issues. For instance, this year in Canada, costumes parodying Indigenous people have been subject to criticism through public campaigns like this one in Regina, where 'warning labels' were attached to these costumes in a popular seasonal costume store:
In case you can't read the fine print, this warning label indicated that "The items contained in this package are offensive and promote the sexualisation of Indigenous women and peoples. Please avoid contact with these dangerous materials. 
There are well-over 4000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. An inquiry is being pursued to address this issue. It takes everyone in Canada to fight against sexualised violence. That starts with outfits of this nature."

In the classroom, examining something that may seem frivolous -- such as
Hallowe'en costumes -- can help us to make sense of the much deeper and complex connections between these banal practices and systems of social inequality that are built on institutional racism and colonialism. How are these costumes connected to the broader social and political issues that are daily making headlines at the moment, such as MMIW in Canada, and the North Dakota Access Pipeline in the US? How do these costumes help to shed light on the ongoing processes of systemic violence against Indigenous peoples in North America by our governments and settler-Canadians/ Americans? What are the guidelines for choosing a costume that isn't racist?

Quick links and further reading:

27 October 2016

Ethnography & Tourism: Part III

Part of the blog-writing duo had the opportunity to travel from Canada to Japan for one short week. During this time, blogger Jennifer Long wanted to explore the question: What are the similarities and differences between ethnography and tourism?

These blog posts are meant to explore the differences and similarities exposed by 'being away' for very different purposes, that is, as an ethnographer or as a tourist. Yesterday was a culminating affair as to why my partner and I have come to Japan. At this event, we were wined and dined like guests from out of town (read on below), but not just as guests from Canada but as guests from around the world (as the group boasts delegates from 21 different nations). Every morning our party eats breakfast, shares our daily events, and eats dinner with people speaking different languages, although English does predominate. Having stated this, our shared dinners have items that are eaten and enjoyed around the world with a focus on Japanese cuisine. Mark Augé who so long ago (1995) argued that non-spaces created so-called 'passenger' experiences as the delegates and their handlers are trotted through events and activities similarly (Augé uses the airport lobby or check-out line at a grocery store to describe how non-space is generated).

Up until tonight, this event has been business-oriented however, starting last night we have embarked on a lengthy cultural tour. As part of the entertainment of a celebratory dinner, we were treated to a 'traditional' drumming show. The drummers were dressed in what North Americans might consider ‘traditional’ Japanese print suits and white shoe covers. In their final song they invited each of the contestants as a display of global unity. In the past, scholars believed that local displays of traditional or cultural dances, rituals, and other art forms for tourists actually worked to reify cultural traditions and practices. These transactions between locals and tourists were thought to take advantage of the local peoples who were losing out in a larger neoliberal framework. As voyeurs, tourists solidified their ideas about difference and “othered” the exotic peoples and the culture they visited (and soon left). In response, other scholars have argued that tourism plays a role in supporting economies in unstable times and empowering individuals in how their own cultural traditions and practices are viewed and commodified (see Cole 2005 for an overview of the debate).

As guests of a national corporation, our participation as one of many delegates complicates the matter in my own experience. In bringing together the multinational perspective of this event, the display of the hosting culture could also be seen as part of a national culture building activity and one which helps various delegates, mind you employees, gain perspective not only on their own but their employers’ identity. What I mean to say is that in this particular microcosm, the role of traditional displays of culture could be understood as a means to link historical practices with some of the most innovative and cutting edge technologies coming out of this country (as per the identity of the corporation hosting this event).

As I continue to walk the line of tourist, guest, voyeur and short-term ethnographer, I am struck by difference (for example, the naming of each employee on the wall of the factory we visited in terms of knowledge and rank as a sign of prestige and more likely, rank and file). I’m aware that I'm receiving a constructed picture of Japan that is both historical and cutting edge - multifaceted as any one national identity would be. Yet, I want to call to attention that this multifaceted perception is afforded on account of my being able to see behind the curtain (as a guest on this business trip) and, as a guest of gracious hosts (post-business cultural tours). I will have to write more on this later; I’m literally on my way to see a ‘Ninja Show’ according to my bus guide.

Quick links:

24 October 2016

How gender changes our jobs

One of the things I love about teaching anthropology is thinking about and showing how -- through everyday experiences -- broad processes shape local lives.

I think that these connections come out very clearly in this piece from The Atlantic, "What Programming's Past Reveals About Today's Gender-Pay Gap" (2016). The hook of the piece is that computer programming, which is now a male-dominated field, actually began as a career considered particularly suited to women. So, what happened?

The answer comes down in a very real way to how our
Margaret Hamilton, Programmer for NASA (1969)
conceptions of “expertise” are inseparable from gender. As Judy Wajcman, a sociology professor at the London School of Economics, has argued, “The classification of women’s jobs as unskilled and men’s jobs as skilled frequently bears little relation to the actual amount of training or ability required for them. Skill definitions are saturated with gender bias.” Gender stereotypes pervade definitions of competence and status, contrasting work that requires brain or brawn; mathematical or verbal ability; individualism or cooperation. When an occupation undergoes a shift in gender composition, the description of the job often morphs to better align with the gender of the incoming hires—such as when programming went from being understood as clerical work suitable for women to a job that demands advanced mathematical facility. When women replaced men as typists, it went from a job that was seen as requiring physical stamina to one that needed a woman’s dexterity. In providing profiles not only the male-dominated field of programming, but the female-dominated field of teaching, this piece underscores how our perceptions of different careers, their power, prestige, and the paycheck that goes along with them is deeply coloured by our culturally-informed ideas of gender.
Dr. Christine Darden. Courtesy NASA
This piece is also interesting to use to think about how structure and actions based on socially constructed qualities associated (even unconsciously) with gender and race have helped to shape certain fields, and to keep individuals out of working in certain fields, e.g. women and people of colour in STEM.

Quick links & further reading:

20 October 2016

Ethnography & Tourism: Part II

Part of the blog-writing duo had the opportunity to travel from Canada to Japan for one short week. During this time, blogger Jennifer Long wanted to explore the question: What are the similarities and differences between ethnography and tourism? 

On my second day in Japan, a very generous local offered and allowed me to accompany himself, his family, and another North American visitor on an afternoon shopping trip. Although I had just met this man, we were brought back to his townhouse in the middle of town. As he walked in to tell his wife that we had arrived, we waited outside until slippers were produced and we could walk inside. Once inside, we met their young children as we sipped on ice tea (not like the ice tea we might be used to in North America). From there, the six of us piled into a station wagon and drove to a large mall in the neighbouring townships (Hamamatsu). We spent the next 4 hours walking and window shopping, looking for souvenirs and discussing different things we came across - as per my last post - these things were different in the eyes of a North American - the symbolism and meaning explained to us by our gracious hosts.

I noted the growing acceptance of Hallowe'en in Japanese society to our group and in response, my colleague from the United States mentioned a growing trend of US families taking their children trick or treating (what I thought of as going door to door in one's local area to collect candy from neighbours) to stores in a mall to collect candy. I'd not heard of this trend and we began discussing the effect of building such positive associations with global brands/stores and at such a young age. Walking the mall we saw many shops and restaurants that are also in North America (Old Navy, the Body Shop, KFC, Subway, McDonalds, etc.) and also many new ones (an Anime shop, many unfamiliar clothing stores, and an arcade with a cacophony of noise spilling out).  We also walked through a grocery store where I marveled at the range of available foods, the calling out of not only fish but other food stuff mongers (in what North Americans might identify as a Walmart), and the practice of waiting in line for 4 PM in order to get discounted seafood.

We were treated by our gracious hosts to a Machu green tea smoothie and Takoyaki (octopus balls) - both of which were extremely delicious as long as you don't mind finding octopus arms complete with very small tentacles in the middle of the dough.
Our hosts ordered and bought these items in addition to buying us gifts of Machu green tea powder to enjoy in North America. This level of hosting is unparalleled in my traveling experience.

On the way back from the mall, we peppered our host with questions about Japanese practices and pronunciation of basic phrasing. Therefore, by happenstance and graciousness, I was allowed insight into not everyday life but 'local life' and by and large I was introduced to the 'hosting practices' (for lack of a better word) of the Japanese.

In 2008, Simoni and McCabe wrote of the kinds of relationships ethnographers can have with their informants; they argued that in the context (spaces or locations) of tourism, "these (often transient) relationships give us access to differing realities and interpretations" (para. 21). They continued on to write that these relationships hindered or provided access to our ethnographic data.

Like my past research experience in the Netherlands, today's excursion felt as though I was gaining insider knowledge (Simoni and McCabe problematize the inside/outside binary) through the graciousness of local informants. I choose that word here rather than interlocutor as what I'm finding is that I'm unable to give much if anything back besides a litany of thank yous. I would argue that my inability to 'give back' or create a more measured if not equitable relationship is one particular difference that comes up when comparing ethnography and tourism, which although not a surprising or new idea, was poignantly felt.

While the purpose of my stay is not research (thus our relationship was only of visitor/tourist and local inhabitant) I have found opportunities to dig deeper than I felt I might have, if I had just stayed with other tourists.

Quick links:

17 October 2016

How does language shape our worldview?

Dinosaur Comics (Ryan North, 2005)
At least since the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, anthropologists and linguists have considered how language shapes how we understand and experience the people, places, things, events, etc. that we encounter in our daily lives. How the language you speak changes your view of the world (The Conversation, 2016) draws on a psychological research study to explain how German, English, and bilingual German & English speakers describe the same actions differently. When presented with images of people walking, speakers responded differently according to the language of their reply. Significantly, the differences in responses were not due to a simple issue of translation, but due to differences in how the languages shaped experiences:
The worldview assumed by German speakers is a holistic one – they tend to look at the event as a whole – whereas English speakers tend to zoom in on the event and focus only on the action.
Fernweh (German): feeling homesick
for a place you have never been to
Untranslatable words illustrated by Anjana Iyer
This article might be a useful starting point for thinking about the power of language. Instructors might also be interested in leading students in a discussion about how our worldviews might change if we had new or more words in our vocabulary or if we were missing key words to describe certain things, ideas, or emotions.

Quick links and further reading:

13 October 2016

Ethnography & Tourism: Part I

Part of the blog-writing duo had the opportunity to travel from Canada to Japan for one short week. During this time, blogger Jennifer Long wanted to explore the question: What are the similarities and differences between ethnography and tourism? 

Michael A. Di Giovine (2011) proposes that anthropology can better embrace tourism’s relevance and dynamicism when research is undertaken as a form of "global ethnography".

He goes on to write about the theoretical and phenomenological underpinnings of tourism as a viable and worthwhile location for ethnographic investigation:
Tourists not only understand that there exists alterity outside of their everyday boundaries, but they actively seek it out—as John Urry pointed out in his seminal book, The Tourist Gaze (Sage 1990). The “tourist gaze” is a form of seeing that is predicated on difference, on literally looking for alterity. In Valene Smith’s classic edited volume, Hosts and Guests (U Penn Press, 1977), Nelson Graburn asserted that tourism is fundamentally a break from the work-a-day normalcy, an endeavor to temporarily step out of one’s comfortable (or uncomfortable) everyday life, to experience difference. 
On my first day here in Iwata, Japan, I found myself entering this "tourist gaze". I noticed the differences around me which included the culture of (utter) politeness, the lack of street lights and garbage, the practice of bowing, or the presence of a urinal in the female bathroom (for boys accompanying their mothers into the washroom).
During these moments where I took notice of these 'oddities', I was, as Giovine says, struck by the alterity of my (past) experience.

As I walked the streets, I surely broke from my everyday normalcy of sitting behind my computer. This first experience of a new place however was not without its similarities to my world 'back home'. Iwata, like Canada, was celebrating a national holiday (Thanksgiving) on the first full day. As my colleagues and I struggled to find a open restaurant to eat lunch, we commented on the quietness of the city - despite its 168,000 inhabitants - and the similarities we saw and felt about quietness of the city streets that reminded us of certain quiet moments back home in Canada.

Giovine goes on to write:    
While the experience itself is ephemeral, the taking of photographs, the bringing back of souvenirs, the exchange of travel tales, and, most importantly, the frequent desire to repeat or relive the experience (perhaps in a different destination) all point to tourism’s formative and lasting role in fashioning and re-presenting one’s identity through time. As the anthropological truism goes, people often describe themselves by what they are not, rather than what they are.
At the time of writing, I've taken approximately 100 photos and even shared some with family and friends. These practices surely shape how I see myself and how others see me; yet, I already know that these practices will likely not shape me the same way living in the Netherlands for 12 months for my doctoral research shaped my identity. As argued by Giovine, the temporality of tourism is an important factor. My lack of language comprehension and sheer lack of familiarity were painfully obvious throughout the day. From the tourist/ethnographer vantage point, I can already identify a few questions I consider interesting and perhaps important for further investigation: what does the temporary nature of my stay mean with regard to my lack of knowledge of cultural etiquette? As a white female traveler, do I have more leeway making social faux pas than someone who looks Japanese or Asian? 

I hope to address these and other questions in these posts as a Canadian (anthropologist) visiting Japan.

Quick links:

10 October 2016

Differences between Sociology and Anthropology Disciplines

I've often thought about where the fuzzy line between Anthropology and its sibling discipline Sociology resides. Since it's part of the anthropological prerogative to compare and contrast disciplines, I found a helpful blog post about these exact differences. The website entitled Cool Anthropology. Or so we seem to think...likely (and acknowledged by the author) has a little bias written within.

03 October 2016

Is it good enough to think like an Anthropologist?

In recent weeks we've been posting about the use of anthropological tenets and ethnographic practices beyond traditional field sites. This topic was addressed from author Elizabeth Durham's perspective in a recent article post on Somatosphere (a collaborative website covering the intersections of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, cultural psychiatry, psychology and bioethics), called  "The Good Enough Anthropologist"

In it, Durham speaks about the anthropological response to the recent Ebola outbreak and the push by diverse responders for anthropologists to take a culturalist perspective - e.g. what cultural practices might be undermining the Ebola response process - to help fight the epidemic.

Below is a pertinent quote from Durham's article although it doesn't include Durham's definition of the "good enough Anthropologist" or her conclusion:
As such, it suggests that anthropologists ought to expand our academic practice to encompass both research and better public relations: non-anthropological actors become good-enough anthropologists when we ourselves are not good enough at self-promotion, at clearly defining and communicating what it is we do, how we do it, and why we do it this way.
The issue of what constitutes “good anthropology” is, of course, controversial within anthropology: this is part of the issue, albeit an inevitable one. Moreover, while good-enough anthropology easily veers into culturalism, I can also admittedly see where it has the potential to foster a more democratic anthropology (though this is not the direction it has largely taken thus far), raising and/or reopening key questions similar to the one above. Who controls public anthropology, if anyone? What can or should “real” anthropologists do when faced with a public anthropology they may find dismaying? Is public anthropology an anthropology with a public presence, an anthropology practiced by publics, or both? Do attempts to trace such public afterlives aid the democratization of anthropology, or do they border on a way for scholars to reassert authority over the works they write? These are questions whose value lies more in discussion than in simple answers. 
Their article is worth a read as are the comments section. For example, Daniel Lendie writes:
But I think you are on the right track when you ask about our role as public anthropologists. For me, that can mean an effort to overcome our own focus on research and critical engagement to start to address questions that are relevant and immediate for others. We teach publicly all the time; we can apply that same anthropological approach that we use in the classroom to other arenas. But that means getting out of our comfort zones (our areas of deep expertise), and also having the institutional support for doing such work.
Finally, I’d push anthropologists to look closely at what we’d want instead of culturalism. We need a theory for this type of academic practice and engagement; just critiquing “culturalism” doesn’t do much to develop a viable way to add anthropology into the work around Ebola (and other public issues/problems) in a viable and satisfactory way. “Quick ethnography” might be a methodological way to do that, but we need a conceptual tool set for this type of work as well, one as much oriented to public and applied issues, to “How to?” sorts of questions.
Anthropology really seems everywhere these days - so where, if anywhere, are its limits?

29 September 2016

Acknowledging Indigenous Territory at Universities

Every year in recent memory, the opening of the annual Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) conference begins with an acknowledgement that the meetings are taking place on Indigenous territory. In the context of Canadian anthropology, which has a long (and fraught) tradition with studying Indigenous peoples, this ritual acknowledgement speaks to both the debates about decolonizing anthropology in Canada and more generally, as well as the ongoing work of truth and reconcilation.

However, as the ever-insightful âpihtawikosisân blog's Chelsea Vowel points out, territorial acknowledgement has become increasingly common as a policy across Canadian universities, with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) itself releasing a Guide to Acknowledging Traditional Territory.

It is interesting that âpihtawikosisân's post about thinking Beyond territorial acknowledgments (23 September 2016) is set against headlines about the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (a.k.a Will and Kate) to British Columbia. While many of these headlines have focused on the popularity of the young royals among (settler-) Canadians, and strengthening ties across the Commonwealth, some have focused on the decision of some Indigenous leaders and groups not to attend a planned 'reconciliation ceremony' at the BC legislative assembly (see for example these articles from HuffPost British Columbia and Vice Canada).

In this context, âpihtawikosisân's post offers valuable critical insights and analysis into the purpose and practice of territorial acknowledgement rituals. She writes,
When I think about territorial acknowledgments, a few things come to mind that I’d like to explore. First, what is the purpose of these acknowledgments? Both what those making the territorial acknowledgments say they intend, as well as what Indigenous peoples think may be the purpose. Second, what can we learn about the way these acknowledgments are delivered? Are there best practices? Third, in what spaces do these acknowledgements happen and more importantly, where are they not found? Finally, what can exist beyond territorial acknowledgements?
How can we move beyond just acknowledging territory (even when these acknowledgments can act as "sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure") toward "asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’"?

Quick links:

26 September 2016


At times, student writing activities and assignments seem like more of a chore for instructors than the students (although I hear them complain too).

In a recent article by John Warner entitled Why can't my new employees write? for Inside Higher Ed, Warner writes about the importance of 'choice' in student writing. I've cut and paste the end of the article (spoiler alert) here but encourage you to read the whole piece available here:
Writing is balancing, making choices while considering audience, purpose, occasion. The rhetorical situation has been at the core of writing instruction forever, and yet much of the writing we ask developing writers to do keeps them from fully wrestling with those choices because we strap on the training wheels and never take them off. 
For me, the key to changing this is to make writing more engaging in every sense of the word, to require students to make meaning about subjects that are meaningful to them, to create stakes that go beyond assessments that mostly measure how good students are at passing an assessment.  
What we do should reflect what we value. If we value writers who can communicate, we should be doing things very differently. 

This post fits nicely with the previous post about making students into public intellectuals. If the act of assigning writing projects to 250 students or more frightens you (hence the title of this post), you have a choice too. Follow up on Rob Borofsky's Community Action Project which sees students from around North America writing Op Eds about contemporary issues in Anthropology. 

22 September 2016

Students as Public Intellectuals - Another Push toward Altmetrics?

Sarah Madsen Hardy and Marisa Milanese have recently written about the potential for students to become active and entrusted members of public intellectuals through a recent overview of their approach to undergraduate writing assignments in Teaching Students to Be Public Intellectuals.

In my mind, this push for students to become publicly conscious and involved (beyond instagram posts, snapchats and vines) falls in line with a larger trend toward Altmetrics and the growing space (and push) for academics to become publicly relevant.

An interesting source to explore Altmetrics are the Scholarly Kitchen's Altmetrics posts. A series of authors have weighed in on the topic. Below are a few choice excerpts to whet your whistle enough to entice you to visit the page:

From J. Esposito (2014) Going to the Beach with a Public Intellectual: "Speaking for the idiots, it seems to me that the public intellectual has something in common with the altmetrics movement in that both are democratizing forces."

From T. Carpenter's (2012 and republished in 2014) Replacing the Impact Factor Is Not the Only Point: "If we want to have a full view of a scholar’s impact, we need to find a way to measure the usage and impact of these newer forms of content distribution. Addressing these issues is the broader goal of the altmetrics community and it is perhaps clouded by the focus on replacing the impact factor."