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.