Looking back, looking forward

Looking back, looking forward

Pushmi-Pullyu like image of two donkies, each facing a different direction. One is brown and one is white. The white one is standing in front of the brown one so only his head is sticking out (in the other direction). They are standing in what appears to be a farm.
Pushmi-Pullyu, by Kerim Friedman 2021

The blog may be shutting down, but I’m not! I started blogging in 2001 and my personal blog, Keywords, is still going strong. Check out this recent post about the movie Killers of the Flower Moon.

I’ve also started a newsletter, Triptych. I wanted to recreate the joy and excitement I used to feel in the early days of the internet. The content is a smorgasbord, including everything from youtube clips, to long form journalism, to weird websites that are fun to explore. The newsletter is based on the philosophy that “less is more”: there are just three posts a month, and each post only contains three links. Hence the name, Triptych.

And you can always find me on whatever social media platforms I’m using at the moment. Right now that is mostly Mastodon, and Bluesky.

Finally, I also wanted to use the occasion of this final post to create a kind of personal archive with some of my favorite posts from over the past 18 years. (Just so I can easily remember what I’ve written!) I’ve enlisted the power of ChatGPT to provide summaries of each of these posts. It seemed fitting, somehow, that my final post on the blog should be written by a chatbot.

2022

  • The parallax effect of middle age — The article reflects on aging’s subjective experience, particularly during middle age. It explores how time perception changes, the impact of personal and professional circumstances, and the importance of adapting to aging, with a focus on academic careers. The author advocates for open discussions about aging.

2021

  • Tips for Better Online Teaching — The article offers tips for better online teaching, including conducting student surveys, setting up effective chat rooms, using shared documents for notes, using breakout rooms for interaction, one-on-one student meetings, encouraging online journals, staying available post-class, and starting classes with music videos.

2019

  • Inventing the Way of Tea in Taiwan — The article discusses the modern invention of “the way of tea” in Taiwan, a practice influenced by Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese nation-building processes. It highlights how Taiwanese tea merchants in the 1970s, seeking to attract middle-class consumers, borrowed from Japanese tea ceremonies to create a new cultural practice.

2018

  • Start an Anthropology Career in 2018 — The article advises aspiring anthropologists to learn new languages, study a broad range of subjects, and engage deeply with diverse communities. These steps are crucial for a successful career in anthropology and provide valuable skills for various professional paths.
  • Free Your Mind, the Text Will Follow (Working With Text 1) — First in a series of posts that provides a comprehensive guide for anthropologists and social scientists on managing and manipulating text for research and presentation purposes. This first post advocates for ownership over text files. It emphasizes overcoming barriers in text manipulation and adopting a mindset of text as malleable, not fixed. Techniques like transcription and OCR are suggested for overcoming text selection restrictions in digital documents.
  • RegEx 101 (Working With Text 2) — This section teaches the use of RegEx for advanced text editing tasks like reversing name orders or extracting specific data. The post explains RegEx syntax and application, highlighting its efficiency for large-scale text manipulation.
  • Text-laundering (Working With Text 3) — Addressing the issue of formatting errors when copying text, this part introduces methods to clean up text formatting using Regular Expressions. It suggests tools like WordService for macOS users, offering functionalities like reformatting line breaks and capitalization correction. [Note: a lot of this can now be done with AI chatbots.]
  • Lazy PowerPoint (Working With Text 4) — This post introduces Markdown, a text-to-HTML conversion tool, for creating PowerPoint presentations. It describes Markdown’s ease of use and flexibility in transforming text across various formats, including presentations, documents, and web pages.
  • Roll Your Own QDA (Working With Text 5) — Focusing on qualitative data analysis, this part demonstrates how to use tools like Dynalist or Workflowy for coding field notes and interview data. It highlights the ability of these apps to add tags to individual paragraphs, enhancing the organization and analysis of qualitative data.
  • Hobbes the Science Fiction Writer (Part I) — The two-part series on Thomas Hobbes primarily focuses on his political theory as a form of science fiction, rather than his scientific contributions, including his study of optics. The first part discusses Hobbes’ use of myth and fear to promote authoritarian rule, suggesting that Hobbes crafted his political theories with a storytelling approach akin to science fiction.
  • Hobbes the Science Fiction Writer (Part II) — The second part examines how these Hobbesian ideas are echoed in contemporary media like “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Black Panther,” critiquing their portrayal of sovereignty and tribalism, and the implication that strong leaders are necessary to prevent chaos.
  • We suck at (academic) politics — This post argues that academics, including anthropologists, often struggle with political maneuvering within academic institutions. Key mistakes include failing to campaign for policy changes, neglecting unintended consequences, treating every issue as a crisis, assuming moral high ground is enough, and expecting others to implement changes without personal involvement. The author emphasizes the need for strategic campaigning, considering wider impacts, avoiding constant crisis mode, skillfully navigating politics, and being willing to personally ensure the success of proposed changes.

2017

  • The Cyborg Anthropologist (Tools We Use) — This post discusses the author’s experience with learning and using Chinese in an academic setting, highlighting the challenges of reading and writing in the language. The author emphasizes the crucial role of technology, particularly translation and dictionary apps, in overcoming these language barriers. The post also reflects on the broader implications of technology dependence in academia and the importance of openly discussing and addressing such dependencies.
  • Do we even need to define ethnographic film? — In this series of posts (which was later turned into a book chapter in the The Routledge International Handbook of Ethnographic Film and Video), the author explores the complex task of defining ethnographic film. The first post deals with the challenge of categorizing such films for a film festival, emphasizing the difficulty of applying rigid definitions. The author proposes using Umberto Eco’s “family of resemblances” model, allowing for a more flexible, inclusive approach.
  • The Four Dimensions of Ethnographic Films — The second post introduces four dimensions to categorize ethnographic films: Discipline, Norms, Subject, and Genre. Each dimension represents a different aspect contributing to a film’s classification as ethnographic.
  • Ethnographic Films: A Family of Resemblances — The third post elaborates on these dimensions, breaking them down further. For instance, in the Genre dimension, films are categorized by their stylistic choices, such as observational, reflexive, or sensory styles. Films that comment on or subvert the genre are also considered ethnographic. This multi-dimensional framework aims to accommodate the evolving nature of ethnography and film, ensuring a broad yet meaningful understanding of ethnographic films
  • The Politics of Explaining Taiwan — The post discusses the challenges of explaining Taiwan’s complex history and political status in academic work. The author reflects on the repetitive nature of this explanation due to widespread misunderstanding or misinformation about Taiwan. They argue that frequently recounting Taiwan’s history in academic publications can limit the originality of scholarship and suggests considering whether constant explanation is necessary. The post also touches on the politics of information and the influence of China’s stance on Taiwan’s international perception.

2016

  • Why I’m Voting for the Boycott Part 1: David vs. Goliath — The post examines the author’s decision to support a boycott against Israeli academic institutions, reflecting on their personal journey from being raised with Zionist beliefs to questioning and critically assessing these views. The author’s upbringing in New York City as a Reform Jew heavily emphasized a narrative of Jewish victimhood and Israeli triumph, which they later began to question through education and dialogue. The post also discusses the role of deeply ingrained nationalistic reflexes in shaping perspectives and argues for the importance of creating public spaces to question these assumptions. The author believes that supporting the boycott can facilitate such critical discussions.
  • Why I’m Voting for the Boycott Part 2: SQUIRREL! — The blog post discusses the author’s support for the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It critiques opponents who distract from the Palestine issue by citing other global conflicts, arguing that progressive action isn’t limited to a single cause. The post emphasizes the boycott’s legitimacy, citing its endorsement by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations and comparing it to the effective boycott of South Africa. It also questions the alternatives to boycotts, suggesting BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) as a non-violent tactic embraced by Palestinians after decades of varied strategies.
  • Why I’m Voting for the Boycott Part 3: It’s in the Resolution — The blog post discusses the specifics of the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It clarifies that the boycott targets institutions, not individuals, allowing Israeli scholars to participate in AAA activities. The AAA itself would, however, exclude Israeli institutions from certain programs and resources. The boycott is symbolic, akin to nonviolent protest, meant to expose discrepancies between the principle of academic freedom and the reality faced by Palestinian academics. It aims to challenge Israel’s image as a democratic state and be part of a larger international movement supporting Palestinian rights​.
  • Seeing Culture Like a State — The blog post discusses the complexities of state cultural policies and their impact on culture itself. It highlights Taiwan’s cultural policy evolution and the challenges in making culture visible to the state. The post argues that documenting culture can rigidify its dynamic aspects, as seen in British India’s caste system documentation. Taiwan’s language policies, from suppression to promotion of local languages, illustrate the state’s influence on culture. The author suggests that allowing communities greater autonomy in managing their cultural policies could be a more effective approach, emphasizing the need for a nuanced relationship between the state and cultural practices​.
  • Freddy’s Hair — The post discusses the symbolic significance of long hair in Taiwanese politics, exemplified by Freddy Lim’s candidacy. During Taiwan’s martial law era, short hair for men symbolized authoritarian control and Confucian patriarchy, with long hair seen as a threat to these values. Post-1987, Taiwan’s shift towards a multicultural democracy altered these perceptions. Lim, as the lead singer of Chthonic and a New Power Party co-founder, represented generational and cultural shifts. His candidacy faced criticism for his long hair and alleged radical views, underscoring ongoing cultural and political tensions in Taiwan​.

2015

  • The Four Types of Comments — The blog post discusses four types of comments encountered in online discussions: 1) The Wise Comment, where knowledge is shared without malice; 2) The Wicked Comment, which includes trolling and off-topic, lengthy responses; 3) The Ignorant Comment, categorized into self-aware, ignorant, and willful ignorance, each requiring different handling; and 4) The One Who Didn’t Read, where individuals comment without fully engaging with the content. The author emphasizes the importance of thoughtful responses tailored to each type of comment to facilitate constructive online discourse​.
  • Belief is a Practice — The article argues that belief should be understood as a set of social practices rather than an internally coherent ideological system. It challenges simplistic views of Islam in relation to terrorism, emphasizing the diversity within Islam and the varied interpretations of its teachings. The author asserts that anthropologists view culture and beliefs as forms of social action, where individuals interpret and transform ideology through their actions and speech, rather than merely following a set code. This perspective recognizes the importance of understanding the socio-political context and individual agency in interpreting and acting upon beliefs​.
  • Race is a Technology (and so is Gender) — The article discusses the concept of race and gender as “technologies of power” used to marginalize certain groups, contrasting it with a moralistic view of racism and sexism. It highlights the importance of acknowledging and discussing these invisible power structures, rather than focusing on moral blame. The author criticizes those who dismiss these discussions as reductionist or as distractions from economic issues, arguing that addressing race and gender as power systems is essential for meaningful dialogue and change.
  • The Limits of the Virtuoso — The article discusses the societal limits on performing gender and ethnicity, using Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal’s stories. It argues that ethnicity and gender are socially constructed performances, but are limited by societal norms and biological determinism. The author suggests the true virtuosos are those who expose these power structures, such as artists and comedians, who challenge the status quo and highlight the ambiguities in gender and ethnicity performances.
  • Embracing Impostor Syndrome — The article discusses how academics, particularly successful ones, often experience impostor syndrome, characterized by a fear of being exposed as a fraud. This self-doubt is seen as a byproduct of realizing the vast amount of knowledge one has yet to learn, despite their expertise. The author argues that at the start of academic careers, feeling like an impostor is natural due to the rapid transition from student to expert. The article also challenges the narrative of being destined for a specific career path, emphasizing the value of exploring new fields and appreciating diverse approaches in academia.

2014

  • Doing Anthropology in Public — The article argues that anthropology is rich in public intellectuals, yet their work often goes unnoticed in mainstream public discourse. This invisibility is attributed to the ethnographic method shaping anthropological expertise, resulting in interventions grounded in specific, local encounters rather than general theories. Consequently, the public may not recognize the anthropological concepts behind these interventions. Furthermore, anthropological insights, being often specific and local, don’t align with the broader public discourse shaped by national media. The piece also suggests that anthropological perspectives might challenge prevailing political and economic paradigms, leading to their marginalization in mainstream debates.
  • Strategy of Condescension — The article discusses the reaction to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking Chinese, using it as a basis to explore Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the “strategy of condescension.” This concept refers to the symbolic negation of power relationships between languages, where excessive praise for speaking a non-dominant language reinforces language hierarchies. The author contrasts the enthusiastic response Zuckerberg received with the hypothetical embarrassment a Chinese CEO might face for speaking English at a similar level. The article also considers factors influencing the perception of Chinese language ability, including China’s self-image, the status of English education, and racial perspectives on language proficiency
  • The Semiotics of Bubble Tea — The article explores the semiotics of bubble tea in Taiwan, linking it to the country’s cultural and modern identity. Originally a Taiwanese invention from the 1980s, bubble tea has become a global phenomenon. The author highlights its role in symbolizing a unique Taiwanese modernity, contrasting its individualistic, on-the-go nature with traditional Chinese tea rituals. The drink’s evolution reflects broader cultural trends, including a shift towards retraditionalization, as seen in newer versions using oolong tea and traditional decor in tea shops. This reflects an ongoing dialogue between modernity and tradition in Taiwanese society.
  • The Ethnographic “Shooting Ratio” — The article draws parallels between documentary filmmaking and ethnographic research, particularly in terms of the ‘shooting ratio’, which is the ratio of footage shot to what is used in the final film. In ethnography, this concept translates to the volume of data collected versus what is ultimately utilized. It emphasizes the need for extensive data collection to capture the essential elements of the subject. The author suggests continuously writing and reviewing field notes to focus research efforts. The concept of ‘coverage’ is also highlighted, suggesting researchers should gather diverse perspectives and materials to enrich their ethnographic work. The approach aims to ensure the final ethnography is comprehensive and vividly detailed.
  • Economy Such Complex, Culture Much Simple — The article critiques how economic issues are often portrayed as complex, requiring simplification by economists like Paul Krugman, while cultural aspects are oversimplified and treated as self-evident. It highlights the contrast in public perception, where economic challenges are seen as intricate and culture as straightforward. The author discusses the need for anthropologists to illuminate the complexities of culture, often intertwined with political-economic factors, challenging the common assumption of their expertise being confined to ‘culture’ only. This contrasts with the approach of some public figures who bypass cultural intricacies in their analyses.

2013

  • Become an Expert in Less Than an Hour — The article discusses the challenge faced by anthropology professors in guiding graduate students on topics outside their direct expertise. It emphasizes the importance of quickly understanding a subfield to provide effective guidance in various academic scenarios like book reviews and conference discussions. The author suggests that while true expertise requires years, identifying key works and ideas in a subfield can be done swiftly with the right approach and resources, likening it to using a travel guide and Google Maps for navigating a city.
  • What is this thing you call “nerd”? — The article examines the concept of “nerd” from a cross-cultural perspective, contrasting Western and Chinese views on academic achievement and intelligence. It notes the absence of a direct equivalent for “nerd” in Chinese, with young people in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan often using the English word. The piece highlights how cultural interpretations of academic stereotypes, like nerds and geeks, are influenced by broader socio-political histories, such as the differing trajectories of Confucianism in China and Taiwan. The author suggests that terms like “nerd” cannot be translated straightforwardly across cultures due to these underlying historical and cultural nuances.
  • Star Trek and the Unfinished Project — The article reflects on the portrayal of modernity in Star Trek, comparing it to other science fiction narratives. The author, influenced by anthropological studies, questions the show’s uncritical representation of modernity. Star Trek depicts the Federation as a benign force overseeing social development, contrasting Star Wars’ representation of modernity as oppressive. The piece suggests that while Star Trek’s vision of modernity is appealing, it might be outdated, and contemporary science fiction often presents dystopian views. The author proposes considering new narratives about modernity, moving beyond the nostalgia and idealized visions of the past.
  • Dove Ideology — The article critiques Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” advertising campaign, highlighting its ideological implications. It argues that the campaign, while appearing to demystify beauty standards, still reinforces the importance of beauty and fails to address the deeper societal structures influencing self-perception. The campaign is likened to a “bent-stick theory of ideology,” where distorted self-images are seen as a result of misrecognition rather than false consciousness. This perspective suggests that societal pressures and market forces shape our understanding of beauty, and the campaign ultimately depoliticizes and psychologizes the critique of beauty standards.
  • Snapshots of AAAs Past — The post is a personal reflection on the author’s experiences at different American Anthropological Association (AAA) conferences over the years. It details the overwhelming initial encounter, progress through grad school, organizing panels, departmental politics, and personal milestones such as getting a job and winning a film prize. The author discusses the evolution of their academic and professional journey, culminating in twenty years of attending AAAs, mastering session selection, and aspirations for future publishing opportunities.

2012

  • How fast to an Anthropology Ph.D.? — The blog post discusses the feasibility of reducing the time to complete a Ph.D. in anthropology, currently averaging around nine years. It examines proposals to shorten this duration, like better utilizing summers and offering full funding to avoid part-time work. However, challenges include extensive course requirements, the need for broad training in anthropology, language studies, and fieldwork. The author argues that reducing the time to below seven years would be difficult without compromising the depth and quality of research, especially considering the current funding challenges in academia.
  • 3 Unproductive Idiots — The post critiques the global higher education system, arguing that it fails to produce the type of workers demanded in today’s economy, such as those with creative thinking and professionalism. It questions whether educational institutions are genuinely unable to meet these demands or deliberately choose not to. The post reflects on Bourdieu and Passeron’s view that education perpetuates existing power relations and cultural norms, rather than fostering the required elite skills. It also discusses the popularity of the film “3 Idiots”, which resonates with this educational critique, and suggests that anthropology degrees might align more closely with the desired employee skills than traditional engineering or management education.

2011

  • Racial Differences In Skin-Colour as Recorded By The Colour Top — The post discusses the use of color tops, a tool created by Milton Bradley for teaching color blending, which was adapted for recording skin color in anthropological studies. Initially used by Davenport in 1913 for studying skin color heredity in Jamaican interracial populations, the color top involved spinning discs of various colors to match human skin tones. The effectiveness of this method relied on the speed of the spinning top, as any variation could lead to unreliable results. The post references an interview with Michael Keevak, author of a book on racial thinking, highlighting the historical context and implications of such tools in anthropology.
  • Mining vs. Harvesting in Academic Writing — The blog post contrasts “mining” vs. “harvesting” in academic writing. Junior scholars often “harvest” by heavily citing sources to support their theoretical points, while established scholars “mine” an idea, reiterating and exploring it in various forms with less reliance on external citations. The author suggests that repetition and exploration of a single theme can clarify and strengthen an argument, noting that established scholars may use this method to delve deeply into a concept rather than just supporting it with citations.
  • Buffalaxing in Reverse in Taiwan — The blog post discusses “buffalaxing,” a practice of creating humorous, often nonsensical English subtitles for foreign language songs. The post highlights the popularity of this meme in Taiwan, using the Telugu song “Golimar” as an example, where its lyrics are given misheard Chinese translations. The post also mentions the Taiwanese response to a music video that intentionally uses nonsensical lyrics and Google Translate-like Hindi subtitles, reflecting a reverse form of buffalaxing. The author notes that, unlike other countries, Taiwanese exposure to Bollywood is primarily through such buffalaxed videos, except for the film “3 Idiots,” which resonated strongly in East Asia due to its critique of the education system.
  • Hume and the “Western” Notion of “Self” — The post examines anthropologists’ construction of a “Hegemonic Western Tradition” and contrasts it with David Hume’s views on self-identity. Hume saw the idea of a continuous self as unrealistic, aligning more with an atomistic theory of matter and reducing mental contents to elementary sensations. The author suggests that many academics project a simplified, monolithic cultural past, which serves as a basis for critiquing Western concepts and practices. The post highlights the need to acknowledge the diversity and complexity within Western notions of “self,” suggesting a reexamination of institutional traditions of critique in anthropology.
  • What I Like About Science — The blog post reflects on challenges within the scientific method, such as the misinterpretation of statistical tests and the replication crisis in scientific research. It discusses issues like the publication of research in questionable journals and biases against publishing negative results. Despite these challenges, the author appreciates science’s willingness to ask tough questions and its potential for improvement. The post suggests that for science to address its inherent issues, collaboration with other fields, including anthropology, is necessary to tackle the underlying political, social, and institutional problems.
  • Picking a Graduate School | Savage Minds — The post offers guidance on choosing a graduate program in anthropology. It emphasizes the need to assess personal goals, cautioning that academic positions in anthropology are highly competitive. The author suggests exploring applied anthropology careers, which offer more opportunities. For those aiming at top anthropology programs, attending a high-ranking university can be beneficial. International students are advised to apply for Ph.D. programs in the U.S. for better funding. The author recommends thorough research on professors and programs, not just university rankings, and suggests networking at academic conferences. A flexible mindset and having backup plans are also advised given the uncertain academic job market.

2010

  • The Semiotics of Islamophobia — The post delves into the complexities of Islamophobia, highlighting the lack of understanding in Western societies about the diversity within Islam. It references the misuse of terms like ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islam’ as monolithic entities, ignoring the vast differences among Islamic cultures and beliefs. The author argues for the importance of recognizing these nuances and challenges the simplistic, often negative, portrayal of Muslims in the media and public discourse. The discussion emphasizes the need for more informed and nuanced perspectives to combat Islamophobic tendencies.
  • David Brooks: Worse than Pat Robertson? — The post criticizes David Brooks’ views on Haiti’s poverty, contrasting them with Pat Robertson’s controversial remarks. Brooks attributes Haiti’s struggles to a “complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences,” downplaying historical factors like oppression, slavery, and colonialism. The post argues against this perspective, highlighting the unique historical circumstances of Haiti, including its significant debt burden and international racism towards its freed slaves. The author challenges Brooks’ civilizational view of culture, emphasizing the need for a more nuanced understanding of Haiti’s poverty and its distinct historical context.
  • Teaching Anthropology “In The Field” — The post reflects on the experience of teaching anthropology near a previous fieldwork site in Taiwan. It discusses the challenges and realities of academic life there, such as heavy teaching loads, language barriers, and the author’s involvement in a documentary project in India. Despite limited visits to the old field site, the author finds value in the teaching experience and in learning from interactions with students, many of whom are Indigenous Taiwanese. The post underscores the evolving nature of anthropological fieldwork and teaching, highlighting how academic and research priorities can shift over time.
  • Theory Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning — The post discusses the significance and complexities of theory in anthropology, particularly in the context of mid-range theory. It argues against the notion that theory is merely a tool, emphasizing the need for anthropologists to be conversant with multiple theories. The author highlights the challenge of navigating diverse theories and calls for a deeper understanding of the role of theory in the social sciences, akin to the approaches of Habermas and Foucault. The discussion emphasizes the importance of theory in producing knowledge and facilitating intellectual growth.
  • Anthro Classics Online: The Impact of Money — The post discusses Paul Bohannan’s work on the impact of money on traditional economies, focusing on the Tiv in Africa. Bohannan argued that the Tiv economy was organized into three distinct exchange spheres, each with its own type of goods. The introduction of modern money disrupted this system, allowing individuals to bypass traditional social structures. The article critiques this view, suggesting it oversimplifies the complex economic and social changes brought by colonialism and underestimates indigenous societies’ ability to adapt to modern money. It challenges the notion that traditional cultures are inherently resistant to economic change, highlighting the nuanced relationship between money, class, and social structure.

2009

  • Avatar — The post analyzes the movie “Avatar,” focusing on its portrayal of race, the Na’vi language, virtual worlds, and its representation of anthropology. The film is criticized for its clichéd depiction of the Na’vi and its simplistic storyline. The post highlights the missed opportunities in exploring the complexities of virtual worlds and the unique role of avatars. It also discusses the anthropological aspects, particularly through Sigourney Weaver’s character, and the protagonist’s conflicting loyalties, which mirror real-world anthropological challenges in fieldwork. Despite these themes, the film is primarily praised for its impressive visual effects.
  • Rorschach Test — The post discusses various interpretations of the Henry Louis Gates Jr. affair, comparing it to a Rorschach test due to the diverse perspectives it generates. It examines the incident from angles of race, class, gender, civil liberties, professionalism, and reverse-racism. The blog highlights how people’s reactions to the incident reflect their personal biases and societal issues, rather than objective facts about the event. The diverse viewpoints on the incident underscore the complex interplay of social identities and power dynamics in society.

2008

  • Gujjars: OBC, ST, SC or DNT? — The post discusses the conflict in Rajasthan, India, involving the Gujjar community’s demand to change their official status from “Other Backward Classes” (OBC) to “Scheduled Tribe” (ST). This demand arose in response to the Jat community’s successful inclusion in the OBC category, which Gujjars felt would limit their access to reservation benefits. The Gujjars’ move led to tensions with the Meenas, another community classified as ST. The post highlights the complexities and inconsistencies in categorizing Denotified Tribes (DNTs) across Indian states, impacting the unity and political movements of DNT communities.
  • When Species Meet — The post humorously presents a dog’s perspective on reviewing Donna Haraway’s book “When Species Meet.” The dog, Juno, comments on Haraway’s engaging yet challenging writing style and her exploration of the relationship between humans and animals. Haraway’s work focuses on ethical obligations and the social processes of interaction between species. The post notes Haraway’s criticism of bioethics and her use of storytelling to convey her points, while also highlighting the complexity of human-animal relationships and the ethical issues in scientific research involving animals.
  • The Myth of Cultural Miscommunication — The post critiques the perceived reliance on anthropology to address cultural misunderstandings in military contexts. It argues that miscommunication, as exemplified by a failed translation between coalition forces and a Pashtun elder, is often due to power imbalances rather than cultural differences. The post suggests that attributing communication issues solely to cultural miscommunication obscures underlying problems of unequal power relations, and questions the military’s capacity to genuinely incorporate and respect local cultural knowledge.

2007

  • My Thoughts on Anthropologists in the Military — The post delves into the ethical and practical issues surrounding the involvement of anthropologists in military operations. It discusses concerns about the potential misuse of anthropological knowledge, the difficulty of adhering to ethical guidelines in a military context, and the risk of anthropologists being perceived as complicit in military agendas. The author argues that anthropologists’ role should not be reduced to a public relations function for the military, and emphasizes the need for transparency and adherence to ethical standards in these situations.
  • Capturing the Moment vs. Glamour in Wedding Photography — The post contrasts the increasingly popular trend of “photojournalistic realism” in American wedding photography, capturing spontaneous, unposed moments, with the elaborate, glamour-focused style of Taiwanese bridal photography. The latter is likened to a fashion shoot, featuring expensive lighting, multiple costume changes, and magazine-like aesthetics, which starkly differs from the candid, moment-capturing approach seen in American wedding proposals and photography.
  • Colonial Ethnography — The article critiques the lasting effects of colonial ethnography on India’s Denotified and Nomadic Tribes, emphasizing the perpetuation of stigma and difficulties rooted in colonial criminality labels, and calls for a reevaluation of colonial literature’s absurdities and its ongoing influence in modern India.

2006

  • 30 Days of Cinétrance — The article examines the concept of ‘cinétrance’ in relation to reality TV, exploring how these shows manipulate reality and draw on social science methodologies. It discusses the ethical dilemmas and the constructed nature of reality TV, using Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” as a case study, and underscores the need for a critically educated audience to understand the truth claims of visual texts.
  • Book Review: The Politics of the Governed, Part 1 — The review explores Partha Chatterjee’s book “The Politics of the Governed,” which redefines the concept of civil society, introducing “political society” as a framework for understanding marginalized groups’ politics. Challenging traditional views, it emphasizes the distinction between “citizens” and “populations,” particularly in postcolonial contexts, and discusses the relationship between marginalized communities and state policies in India, highlighting the differences in welfare states between the developed and post-colonial worlds.
  • Book Review: The Politics of the Governed, Part 2 — The second part of the book review on “The Politics of the Governed” focuses on the fragmentary nature of the text and its exploration of “political society.” It discusses the book’s avoidance of India’s communal violence and the use of the concept in developed countries. The review critically examines whether existing terms like Gramsci’s “civil society” are sufficient for analyzing political phenomena, and it highlights the need for a broader application of the concept of political society in different contexts.

2005

  • Culture Talk — The post discusses Mahmood Mamdani’s critique of “Culture Talk,” a framing of terrorism that simplifies cultural and religious narratives. It explores how this perspective, influenced by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, dichotomizes Islamic culture and overlooks historical and political contexts. Mamdani argues against reducing terrorism to a purely religious phenomenon, emphasizing the role of political conditions and history, particularly during the Cold War, in shaping contemporary terrorism. He challenges simplistic views of Islam and terrorism, advocating for a more nuanced understanding.

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