25 May 2016

Avoiding gendered bias... for instructors

Writing a reference letter for a student? The Feminist Philosophers blog has shared a handy infographic from the University of Arizona that will help instructors write great reference letters while avoiding gendered bias.

You could also use this graphic as an example in a class about various forms of privilege that we take for granted in our society.

21 May 2016

Correlation (and causation...)

Just as every year I make a point of telling students that Africa is not a country, many instructors often find themselves lecturing students about how correlation is not causation. 

Here are some fun graphics (drawn from US statistics) that may help you make that point about the dangers of such Spurious Correlations. These charts include interesting, but completely unrelated correlations between things like number of Japanese passenger cars sold in the US and the number of suicides by crashing motor vehicles, the Age of Miss America and Murders by steam, hot vapours and hot objects, and my personal favourite...

Spurious Correlations

20 May 2016

How Anthropology Can Transform Global Health Efforts

In the context of global health crises from tuberculosis to HIV/AIDS and Ebola, Jean Hunleth discusses How Anthropology Can Transform Global Health Efforts (American Association of University Women (AAUW) blog, 2015)
"Hunleth suggests that an anthropologist’s success in public health draws on being able to do three main things. First, viewing public health as a culture you are trying to learn by paying attention to the language, norms, assumptions, and behaviors of each distinct global health organization. Secondly, identifying hidden assumptions some public health programs make, and their potential to lead to unintended effects. And lastly, learning to draw on theories and methods from anthropology and showing your co-workers the value of using them."

19 May 2016

Black Disabled Woman Syllabus

Vilissa Thompson, Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate, has created the Black Disabled Woman Syllabus in response to the lack of intersectionality she has seen in disability studies. In her work Thompson has found that many people "are ignorant of the experiences of Black Americans in general, Black women particularly, and when broken down further, Black disabled women specifically."

This syllabus, intended as a "living" document, currently provides a range of resources for educators and students on:

  • Black Feminism / Womanism
  • The Black Disabled Body & Identity
  • Articles About Blackness, Feminism, &/or Disability
  • Books about Blackness in America
  • Fiction & Poetic Works
  • Audio / Video
  • Music

Additional links:

Critiquing Anthropological (textbook) Images

 Google images: "anthropology textbooks" from Dori Turnstall
Think about the typical cover images of anthropology textbooks. Most likely, you are thinking about exotic images of non-Western peoples such as these.

In the contemporary moment, when a) anthropologists are critical of how people and places we study are represented, b) more and more anthropologists actually study people "at home", and c) are concerned with "decolonizing anthropology," why are we still seeing these kinds of images on the fronts of our textbooks?

RB Anthro textbooks1_dt
Image 3: "Exotic" and decolonized images of Woman in Store.
These questions, and accompanying frustration, are behind the Rebranding Anthropology Textbooks project (detailed with great images in this thoughtful post from Dori Tunstall, 2016). Drawing on the skills of Swinburne Design Anthropology postgraduate students and alumni, the covers of anthropology textbooks were reimagined, replacing the exotic images with stock photos of things like "white women eating salads." The results are a wonderful starting point for thinking about the "anthropological gaze," issues of representation, and what contemporary anthropology means today.

In a classroom, it might be useful to have students discuss the 12 images already created such as this one, or have students create and explain their own images using their own, creative commons, or stock images (perhaps especially if the textbook you are using has one of these typically exotic images on the cover).

UPDATE - 25 June 2016: The discussion generated from Tunstall's original post about rebranding anthropology textbooks has lead to the recent Savage Minds update by Tunstall and Esperanza, "Decolonizing Anthropology Textbook Covers" (June 20, 2016) as the final installment of the blog's Decolonizing Anthropology series. As Tunstall writes on her own blog, this follow-up post includes "seven visual strategies for presenting images that reflect the diversity of the audiences, instructors, and practices of contemporary anthropology:

  1. Participatory Self-Portraiture Cover Series Provided by Indigenous Artists
  2. Participatory DIY Covers Provided by Anthropology Instructors
  3. Reversed Gaze
  4. Curated Mosaic of Images
  5. Curated Art Abstraction
  6. Non-Photographic Abstract Illustration
  7. Self-Portraiture with Literal Reflective Mylar Panel"

06 May 2016

Systemic racism in Hollywood

In this Vulture.com (2016), George Takei talks about Hollywood's systematic whitewashing of Asian characters. These comments follow on the casting of white actresses Scarlett Johansson as "Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg leading an elite police task force in a futuristic Japan" (Huffington Post Canada, 2016) and Tilda Swinton "as the Ancient One, a Tibetan male mystic" (New York Times, 2016) in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell and Dr. Strange features, respectively. While these upcoming features have brought attention to the issue of whitewashing characters in Hollywood, it is by no means a new phenomenon. (Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) comes readily to mind as an example where an Asian character has been portrayed through a stereotypically racist caricature for comedic effect by a white actor.)

As the NY Times questions:
Why is the erasure of Asians still an acceptable practice in Hollywood? It’s not that people don’t notice: Just last year, Emma Stone played a Chinese-Hawaiian character named Allison Ng in Cameron Crowe’s critically derided “Aloha.” While that film incited similar outrage (and tepid box office interest), no national conversation about racist casting policies took place.
Obviously, Asian-Americans are not the only victims of Hollywood’s continuing penchant for whitewashing. Films like “Pan” and “The Lone Ranger” featured white actors playing Native Americans, while “Gods of Egypt” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” continue the long tradition of Caucasians playing Egyptians. 
In all these cases, the filmmakers fall back on the same tired arguments. Often, they insist that movies with minorities in lead roles are gambles. When doing press for “Exodus,” the director Ridley Scott said: “I can’t mount a film of this budget" and announce that “my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”
This is a useful think piece for students who may be used to thinking about racism and white privilege only in relation to whiteness vs blackness. Why can't Scott mount a film with such a massive budget without a white lead actor? What does this seemingly frivolous issue say about race in our society?

03 May 2016

How to email your professor

"How to Email Your Professor (without being annoying AF)" (Medium.com) by former professor turned academic writing consultant Laura Portwood-Stacer provides an easy step-by-step guide for students on professional email writing. I like this piece because it not only gives a template for communicating professionally, but explains why crafting an email to your prof (or later, professional colleagues or clients) in this way matters.

For first year students especially, coming to university can be a huge culture shock as they learn the norms, expectations, and etiquette of a new institutional culture. On top of this, many instructors often assume skills and knowledge that students may not have been taught. While our millennial students may be 'digital natives', this doesn't mean that they innately know how we expect them to interact through digital media, such as the etiquette of emailing your university professor.

Instructors may wish to include a link to this in their course websites or digital syllabi. Alternatively, I could see this article being incorporated into a lecture on culture shock that uses the first-year at university experience as an example for students to think reflexively about this anthropological concept in their own lives.