In "Poor People," anthropologist Andrew Beatty recalls his fieldwork in Indonesia and portrays specific impacts of poverty easily obscured by generalized references to the poor. In "Return to the Field," he evokes what it's like to revisit the two scenes of his earlier research, encounter changes in individuals, families, and social/religious life, and learn the stark facts about how some things turned out. [more inside]
Allegra Lab's recently published list of 30 essential books in cultural anthropology overlaps substantially with Ryan Sayre's earlier list, 100 influential ethnographies and anthropological texts, but neither provides many details. Angela Stuesse's Engaged Ethnography site provides an up-to-date list of politically-engaged ethnographies (etc.) with descriptions of what to expect, and the Staley Prize each year selects and describes a book at least two years old but not more than eight to recognize recent work of lasting interest. Incidentally, many books on these lists are available online. [more inside]
Comics and the Anthropological Imagination, from the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography. Solidarity: a graphic ethnography. At the food bank: a graphic commentary. Sketching the Melee. Trachyte - Mumbai. Drawing in Time. Tale of the Sarnia Nose .
In 1992-1994 and 2005-2009, Yuka Makino studied the lopping practices in the oak forests of Garwhal, Himalaya. Her PhD dissertation (PDF) contains a fascinating prologue describing the practical and ethical issues for conducting ethnographic research in an area where distrust of outsiders runs high and where gender and caste norms are strictly enforced. One afternoon, several children came and were chatting with us when a 10-year-old girl joined us. Though she still took part in the conversation in a loud voice, she stood at the edge of the veranda, far away from the door. (...) I realized that she was a Scheduled Caste girl and if she had stood at the doorway her shadow would have fallen into the room and may have touched my assistant’s plate of food, contaminating or polluting it. I let her stand there so that neither she nor my assistant would feel uncomfortable. [more inside]
Martin Gusinde documented the life and rituals of the Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego, off the southern tip of South America from 1918-24. They had been nearly wiped out by a genocide led by Julius Popper, the Tyrant of Tierra del Fuego, their numbers reduced from an estimated four thousand to only a few hundred. Now a book has been published containing hundreds of Gusinde's photos. Forty-five photos are available on the National Library of Chile's website. The last native speaker of Selk'nam, Herminia Vera Illioyen, died in 2014. That same year, linguist Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia completed a reference grammar of Selk'nam. His friend Joubert Yanten Gomez, a young Selk'nam, has taught himself the language. Selk'nam and efforts to preserve it are one of the languages profiled in Judith Thurman's A Loss for Words, an essay about whether dying languages can be saved.
"Many of the places and peoples most severely hit were the poorest, those in villages close to the epicenter where homes are made from mud and wood. Homes that collapsed in the earthquake. Homes in regions where there are no vehicular roads, where already weak communication infrastructure is now not operative, where rescue and relief operations are struggling to reach. Some of these villages are known to anthropology students around the world. For better or worse, Nepal has a deep ethnographic literature, much of it centered on the sort of mountain villages so devastated by the earthquake... Some of these villages are gone.[more inside]
Déjà Lu republishes locally-selected scholarly articles from journals connected to regional anthropological associations around the world. The result is a PDF-heavy but fascinating collection of long reads on obscure topics. Via. [more inside]
Sailors and Daughters reveals the expansive maritime societies of Zanzibar, the east African coast, and beyond. From the 1840s, cameras traced the international migrations of traders, sailors, sons, and daughters through Indian Ocean ports, continuing trade that dates back over five millennia.
Beginning in 1920, Robert J. Flaherty spent a year in the Canadian Arctic (Port Harrison in Northern Quebec) documenting the daily struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook. The resulting feature-length film, an American silent documentary with elements of docudrama, was the first of its kind, in a style that would eventually become known as "salvage ethnography." Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic (1922) [more inside]
io9 tells us that Chinese food on Christmas is no longer just a Jewish tradition and digs up an ethnographic article examining the birth of the customary meal: Chinese food is unkosher and therefore non-Jewish. But because of the specific ways that Chinese food is prepared and served, immigrant Jews and their children found Chinese food to be more attractive and less threatening than other non-Jewish or treyf food. Chinese food was what we term "safe treyf." [more inside]
Looking at Russian Valery Nosal's collection of 25,500 chewing gum wrappers may seem like a mere curiosity, but you gotta wonder about the ethnography of chewing gum around the world. Perusing the catalog you can find the some expected regional flavors, fascination with far away places, functional over taste chews, odd promotions, and, for a Scandinavian country, a surprising disregard for sustainability. Oprah and other chiclephobes should not click.
There is much talk today of a financial and economic crisis comparable to the 1930s. With the threat of a currency war and the euro’s collapse looming, the specter of the Great Depression’s bloody aftermath has returned with a vengeance. Several versions of how to make human beings and build society co-existed during the Cold War, when much of the world won independence from colonial empire. Yet, discussion of humanity’s growing interdependence is today limited to a one-world capitalism driven by finance. What have anthropologists to say about that? It would seem very little. But a positive case can be made for the discipline’s contribution to public debate. We make such a case here. We review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, while referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. Economic anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates since the 1960s. We hope to reverse this trend by focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography.Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz
This documentary pokes fun at the ways in which Inuit people have been treated as “exotic” documentary subjects by turning the lens onto the strange behaviours of Qallunaat (the Inuit word for white people). The term refers less to skin colour than to a certain state of mind: Qallunaat greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain about being cold, and want to dominate the world. Their odd dating habits, unsuccessful attempts at Arctic exploration, overbearing bureaucrats and police, and obsession with owning property are curious indeed. A collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist Zebedee Nungak, Qallunaat! brings the documentary form to an unexpected place in which oppression, history, and comedy collide.Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Anthropologists weigh in on Jared Diamond's latest: lack of citations, ethnographic carelessness, and the smoothing of complex narratives into quotable fables. The World Until Yesterday has prompted a flurry of commentary from anthropologists unenthusiastic about the physiologist turned evolutionary biologist turned geographer. In a recent London Review of Books, leading political anthropologist James C. Scott doesn't buy Diamond's description of the modern nation-state arising to curtail primitive tribal violence "[i]n a passage that recapitulates the fable of the social contract" given how "slaving was at the very centre of state-making." Anthropologist Alex Golub, who shares Papua New Guinea as a major research site, wrote "Still, it is telling that we live in an age when a member of America’s National Academy of Sciences and one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals has less concern for citations and footnotes than do the contributors to Wikipedia." David Correia pulls no punches in his opinion piece "F*ck Jared Diamond" calling Diamond's resurrection of environmental determinism as racist apologia and his latest book as essentializing primitivism in order to define Western industrialized exceptionalism. [more inside]
Before They Pass Away: Powerful Portraits of Secluded Cultures on the Brink of Extinction. Q&A with Jimmy Nelson.
Reel 2 Real: Sound at the Pitt Rivers Museum is a digitization project that is taking the archival field recordings of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford University's museum of ethnography and anthropology), digitizing them, and placing them online with Soundcloud. [more inside]
"From photography’s earliest days, enterprising practitioners realized they could take their services directly to the people. This lead to the horse-drawn wagons called “Daguerreotype Salons” and then to portable, darkroom tents that allowed wet-plate photographers to make pictures outside. As technology advanced, the tents morphed into a single apparatus that combined both camera and darkroom, which allowed photographers to work anywhere. Afghanistan is one of the last places where street vendor photographers still use such a hand-made, wooden camera called kamra-e-faoree or “instant camera.” Observing this practice lead photographer Lukas Birk & anthropologist Sean Foley to undertake the Afghan Box Camera Project." - Photo Technique Magazine introduction to an interview with Lukas Birk [more inside]
The Tribes of Darkest Austria - or: if Africans ruled Anthropology. (slyt)
The Borneo Blog - fascinating photographic journey from the late 1960s of life and culture in Kapit, Sarawak, Malaysia* via Mefi Projects. [slightly NSFW - some topless locals]
Slow Action is a post-apocalyptic science fiction film that brings together a series of four 16mm works which exist somewhere between documentary, ethnographic study and fiction. [Via]
Juko Martina Holliday is a psychology doctoral student who uses multimedia projects in her dissertation research process. She explores how creating visual narratives of one's personal experience with mental illness might hold value as a therapeutic tool. [more inside]
American Ethnography Quasi-Weekly is a somewhat gonzo cabinet of curiosities -- a mix of photography, academic essay, archival materials, and bloggy postings on "outlaw aethetics" and outsider culture, presenting glimpses of American subcultures past and present, from Califormia low-riders to "hoochy-coochy" dancers to blackface tambourine jugglers, and plenty more. [more inside]
Avatara is a 2003 ethnographic film (72 minutes) that takes place entirely in "Cyberia", specifically in the Digitalspace Traveler virtual world (previously), which dates back to 1996. Interview with the filmmaker. Review of the film. via [more inside]
"Cultures at the far edge of the world" (YT) and "The worldwide web of belief and ritual" (YT). Two TED talks by anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis (previously) on the diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and their beliefs, and the richness of the "Ethnosphere," which he describes as "the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness." [Via Mind Hacks]
"Tonight we will venture to the stages where the zombies have created an elaborate charade to lure the living."
Rude at Bonnaroo --eventblogging as mock ethnographic survey of sorts, in the proud tradition of Margaret Mead -- and Body Ritual Among the Nacirema. (from the ever Rude Pundit, who's also performing there) ; >
Plant Cultures - central aim ... is to convey the richness and complexity of links between Britain and South Asia, through the story of plants and people
The Elliot Avedon Museum and Archive of Games. Board games from a thirteenth-century 'Book of Games', Inuit games, card games, row games, puzzles, ethnographical papers on games, etc.
A different kind of game at Streetplay - stickball, hopscotch, galleries, and street games worldwide.
A different kind of game at Streetplay - stickball, hopscotch, galleries, and street games worldwide.
Huarochiri: A Peruvian Culture in Time. 'Huarochir is an Andean province near Lima, Peru. This site offers an ethnographic and historical tour of some of its communities. It samples the Huarochir Quechua Manuscript, which alone among colonial documents explains a pre-Christian tradition in an Andean language, and visits modern highlanders who inhabit and interpret the mythic landscape.' Related :- Martin Chambi. Chambi was an Amerindian Peruvian photographer famous for his photographs of indigenous Andean life. The site is in Spanish - no impediment to enjoying the photographs.
Now, in response to yesterdays shocking data that Americans are an unworldly, culturally ignorant batch, we bring you a much needed ethnographic survey. Take time to learn about The Semen Warriors of New Guinea. Not since the Yanomamo, have anthropologists found a group so vital to our quest of understanding the limits and details of human nature.