International Anthropology Day on Feb 19th

National Anthropology Day

In recognition of International Anthropology Day on February 19th we reached out to our CIE friends, members and favorite anthropologists to ask them:

What books or people have inspired your imagination as an anthropologist?

Here they are! May they inspire you to imagine too…

Also check out our guest blog entry at the UTP Teaching Anthropology Blog here.

Denielle Elliott

 

One of my favorites is “The Vulnerable Observer:  Anthropology that Breaks your Heart” by Ruth Behar.

Carolyn Kenny, Antioch University

I’d nominate Terry Prachett’s Discworld series.  Not all are equally good (some are actually a bit naff), but at their best they show the ways in which satirical comedic fantasy can be used to shed light on more ‘serious’ topics – kind of like an extended version of “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”.   I also love the way he copies – and subverts – various academic conventions such as footnotes.

Kirsten Bell, University of British Columbia

Michael Taussig’s I Swear I saw This, Lynda Barry- Syllabus: Notes from An Accidental Professor, Karen Strassler’s Refracted Visions

My writing teachers, Anna Camilleri and Cordelia Strube ; for narrative drive: Ruth Behar, Kirin Narayan; and for theoretical curiosities — Lauren Berlant, Beth Povinelli.

Ethnographic Terminalia– I saw the New Orleans exhibit and felt like I woke up.

Lindsay Bell, SUNY-Oswego

My ethnography continues to be inspired by fictional writers – for the last few years it has been by writers like Nadine Gordimer who seem to effortlessly write about the violences, the subtleties, and the nuances of racial tensions and colonial histories, and with such eloquence. My favourites: July’s People and the Conservationist.

Anthropologists? During the first year of the PhD our class read A Space on the Side of the Road by Kathleen Stewart. To this day, it is still one of my favourite ethnographies. More recent works of inspiration include Hugh Raffles’ Insectopedia and Anne Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feeling, both for their attention to the peripheral and everyday quotidian. They give stories to things, places, and moments that so many of us look past.

Denielle Elliott, York University

Marvin Harris, the author of “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches.” Ursula K. LeGuin, a “legacy” anthropologist (both her parents were also anthropologists) who is probably best known for her novels, including the life-changer “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the political watershed novel, “The Dispossessed.” Karl Heider, from whom I took a Cornell University class in the very early days of ethnographic film (round two, I guess), Jack Weatherford, whom I think is a historian, but who wrote a fabulously anthropological book called “Indian Givers” about the psychic, cultural, and political impact exerted upon European society by the 1492 First Contact event, instead of the more usual other way around. Victor Turner, especially his work on the anthropology of performance. Robert Gardner, one of my profs at Cornell and Simon Ottenberg, at University of Washington, pretty much the entire Royal Anthropological Institute, and Marc Maguire, at National University of Ireland — Maynooth. And, of course, our very own Dara Culhane!

Kerric Harvey, George Washington University

There are two: one is Life Exposed: Biological Citizenship after Chernobyl by Adriana Petryna and In Amazonia by Hugh Raffles. Both inspire me to think about place and space in imaginative ways, and illustrate the creativity that ethnography enables and captures.

Elsa Fan, Webster University

RUTH LANDES (1908-1991) inspires me first and foremost with her courage. She imagined the possibilities and political potential of anthropology practiced outside of and despite the leading figures and the disciplinary canon of her day. Although Landes was trained by and was an admirer of Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead, her independence of mind and spirit, and her commitment to collaboration in the field, and to radical politics brought her into frequent conflict with authorities in academies and governments. Landes imagined an anthropology led by “informants”, ethnographic practices that celebrated diversity, creativity, agency, and alignments with political activism. Landes imagined her work making a world “otherwise”, and hers was a career on the margins, without apologies.

Dara Culhane, Simon Fraser University

-Marilyn Houlberg, my anthropology professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago influenced me tremendously. I first traveled to Haiti in 1980/81 with Marilyn as a young art student interested in the overlaps between performance art and ritual possession. RIP, Marilyn.

-March E. Blanchard, without whom I would not have started my work in Cuba in 2005. RIP, el profesor.

-Two books by Michael Taussig, The Magic of the State and Mimesis & Alterity, inspired some of the ways I was thinking about performance and identity when I was completing my MFA in Studio Art.

-Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Coco Fusco’s generative concept of “reverse ethnography” has been useful to the development of my own ethnographic performance practice.

-Anthropologists and performance ethnographers like Grete Viddal and Laurie Frederik, whose work I respect tremendously.

-Dara Culhane, et al, at CIE, inspire me to continue to explore the intersections between my work as an artist and a scholar.

Shannon Rose Riley, San Jose State University

As an Anthropology Editor at the University of Toronto Press, I meet plenty of people I respect, and plenty of people who inspire me, but I have to admit that it was my  encounter with Eileen Kane, a 70-something, Irish-American Anthropologist, that had the most lasting impact. When Eileen contacted me a number of years ago to see if I would consider publishing her anthropological memoir, I was skeptical. Everyone can, and should, write a memoir, but not every memoir should be published. Eileen’s was different though. She had somehow managed to blend a critique of Anthropology and its long history with Indigenous peoples, with her own marginalization as a working-class Irish-American woman growing up in Youngstown, Ohio in mid-century America. More importantly, she did so while telling a great yarn of a story that was both funny and effortless to read. In person, Eileen’s eyes twinkle with the mischief of a good storyteller with a great sense of humour. As a writer, she manages to translate this mischief into compelling story arcs, vivid characters, funny dialogue, and piercing insights into Anthropology as a discipline. I didn’t know it was possible to write Anthropology this way. All I knew was that I wanted people to read it. In 2010, we published Trickster: An Anthropological Memoir. It was our bestselling book that year, and has been taken up in Anthropology classes across North American ever since. More importantly though, Eileen’s example has inspired me to move down a road of experimenting with publishing more imaginative forms of ethnography. She proved that you could approach Anthropology and ethnography with less reverence and more fun, with keen observation and gentle humour, all without sacrificing serious content.

Anne Brackenbury, University of Toronto Press

I found so many inspiring anthropologists, articles, quotes, and ethnographies that I had to put them all in a hat and simply draw one. Out of the hat came … Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, and her wonderful book Friction.

Three sections particularly come to mind: 1) the construction of the frontier, as “a zone of unmapping” (p. 28), undoing, redrawing, and pervasive violence (p. 27ff);

2) the ways stories travel as they are re-told in different times, places, and contexts (p. 227ff); and 3) most inspiring of all, that amazing chapter (p. 155ff ) on ‘nature’ and “list-making” (p. 168), bordered by names and descriptions of animals, plants, and mushrooms, and ending with “a celebration of fungal abundance” (p. 170):

“Kulat kulangit

Bintang bintangit

Kulat di tanah

Bintang di langit.”

It is a Meratus pantun rhyme. The first two lines are just for rhythm; read them for their sounds. Then say: ‘Mushrooms on the ground are like stars in the sky.’” (ibid.)

When I read this chapter with my students, I like to bring them piles of spices, flowers, leaves, dried grasses, and seeds from parks or urban gardens, and ask them to try and classify them, to remind us of the complex processes involved in naming and listing.

Cristina Moretti, Simon Fraser University

Dara Culhane’s The Pleasure of the Crown. Dara Culhane has been my most significant influence and inspiration. Her book, The Pleasure of the Crown, and other published work, her graduate seminars I attended, and our countless conversations have shaped who I am today as an anthropologist, ethnographer, and performance studies scholar. Her determination to speak to power, commitment to social justice and ethnographically grounded activism always impel me to push the boundaries in both my professional and personal life.

And Barbara Myerhoff’s Number Our Days: A Triumph of Continuity and Culture Among Jewish Old People in an Urban Ghetto. One of the most exquisite ethnographies I’ve ever read – sensitive, compassionate and engaging. While still on the cusp of the Writing Culture era, it is a breakthrough in anthropological reflexivity, dialogism, storytelling, and performative ethnography. Let’s hope for more works of such humility and insight in the years to come!

Magda Kazubowski-Houston, York University

AAA 2014 Review

AAA Review

AAA Review

By Dara Culhane and Denielle Elliott

What do we want from an AAA conference? At the very least, we want to leave feeling provoked and inspired. Here are some ideas, words, phrases, and images drawn from our notes from AAA 2014 that we’re taking home with us to chew on.

What sticks out in mind most obviously at this year’s conference was how ill suited the AAA format is to experiments in multi-media, workshops, and performances. For those interested in presenting complex, or even simple, multi-media exhibits, they had to wrestle with constant technological failures. No sound, sound too loud, no visual, rooms too big or too small .. from one session to the next, they seemed plagued by technological failures. It’s hard to know if we should blame this on the technology of the Marriott, or the failure of scholars to be prepared in advance, AAA institutional issues, or a combination of – but regardless, one gets tired watching the awkward fumbling of anthropologists and technology.

Maybe next year we’ll plan a satirical session about anthropologists and technology?

TOP PICKS:

PROVOCATIONS AND INSPIRATIONS after AAA 2014

2-0025: ANTHROPOLOGY OF BECOMING

Joao Biehl “The Right to a Nonprojected Future: Social Becomings through Law and Medicine.”

(paraphrase) Theory-making should bring us closer to the people we work with…pay attention to plasticity, agency, world-making practices of becoming …

Angela Garcia “Beyond Constraint: Violence as Healing on the Edges of Mexico city.”   This paper was about Garcia’s research with “Annexo’s” — drug treatment centres working at the edges of legality in Mexico where “patients” are taken—often against their will—at the request/demand of family members and/or friends and/or compatriots, who are often also involved in the drug economy. Treatment may include required performances of one’s “abuse narrative” several times daily for weeks and months. These narratives so performed in this context, Garcia said (paraphrase) “Don’t express life. They are life.”

Garcia described the stories of and from the Annexo’s as a (verbatim) “Roar on the other side of silence…”

 

3-1195: IMAGINATIVE ETHNOGRAPHY

We’d be amiss not to mention the Imaginative Ethnography Roundtable on Thursday evening (which happened to be technology fumbling free). Stuart McLean, Todd Ramon Ochoa, Shannon Rose Riley, Ken Little, George Mentore, Anand Pandian, and Alex Bourdreault-Fournier engaged in a collaborative roundtable providing a range of presentations including sound, storytelling, poetry, performance, and satire. We were pleased and inspired by the presentations and look forward to on-going dialogues that emerged from the discussion.

Imaginative Ethnography Roundtable, AAA 2014

Imaginative Ethnography Roundtable, AAA 2014

 

4-0180 and 4-0455: HYPER REALISM AND OTHER INDIGENOUS FORMS OF ‘FAKING IT WITH THE TRUTH’

With such a fabulous title, how could we miss this two-part session? The morning started with an installation showcasing the multimedia work and digital experiments of a series of Anthropologists working with Indigenous communities, and was concluded with a discussion by Audra Simpson.

Beth Povinelli showed a new community based collaborative film – “Karrabing Low Tide Turning.” Unfortunately, this morning installation was one of the sessions plagued by technological problems so we didn’t get to view the ethnographic, graphic novel NeoMad.

Regardless, we were inspired by the experiments in creative arts, engagement with indigenous youth, digital mediums, and ethnography. We look forward to more!

To read more about these great projects, see here:

http://yijalayala.bighart.org

http://www.desart.com.au/

http://www.karrabing.com/films

 

NeoMad

NeoMad

4-0790 POETRY FOR ETHNOGRAPHERS

A highlight for Denielle, surprisingly, was an Ethnographic Poetry workshop being held by anthropologist icon Renato Rosaldo.

There was a great turnout for this workshop (and the one following on Memoir by Ruth Behar), which itself is encouraging for the suggestion that many anthropologists are growing weary of traditional writing methods and looking for new experiments. Rosaldo reminded his audience that in fact we have a long history of experimenting with creative forms in the field, reminding us of Edward Sapir and Anne Singleton’s poetry (Ruth Benedict’s pen name), and their detailed correspondence to each other about poetic forms.

The workshop focused on poetry in pedagogy (getting students to write), in writing, and in praxis. Rosaldo reminded us that poetry not only expresses the world in a different form but it forces us to engage with writing, the discipline, and the world in different ways, in a way that could potentially be more attentive to the sensory, the felt, and the intuited.

Then, he urged us to do it: an experiment in the accretion method, and then in free writing. He reminded us many times that the first draft is always shit! But he encourages us to share and read those shitty first drafts regardless.

So in the spirit of Rosaldo, poetry, and shitty first drafts here is my ode to Rosaldo’s Workshop:

 

Room 8219

An institutional icon

 

Anthropologist

professor

poet

listener

husband

transformative force

 

Poets gather

Daniel’s Tampa addiction

Eunice’s unpublished poetic ethnography

Julie’s poetic madwoman, or was it a mad poet

 

Translate, remember, memorize, read, write shit, workshop, rejection, rewrite, rejections, bootcamp, write …

Write

Write

Write

cixnn1xxqnqde7kf3juwygv2dgdxxc0z

4-1095: AAA ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING

THE BUSINESS OF TAKING POLITICAL POSITIONS

The AAA Business Meeting was attended by an unusually large number of delegates, mostly because of a motion put forward that AAA NOT support a motion circulating in academic institutions around the world to SUPPORT the boycott of Israeli institutions, in solidarity with peace organizations and many scholars. Opponents to this motion included AAA members who felt undecided on the issue, as well as those pro-boycott members who had agreed not to put forward a motion in support of AAA joining the boycott in favour of a proposal for a year of discussion and education process among the AAA membership to be led by a AAA Task Force established for the purpose, and which would precede a vote.   In sum: a vote AGAINST the motion was a vote FOR a one-year long education and discussion process in preparation for voting on a motion to support the boycott that will be presented at the 2015 AAA annual meeting. A vote FOR the motion was a vote AGAINST the boycott, and AGAINST the one-year education and discussion process.

Speakers to the motion argued for and against. Only one provoked spontaneous and negative responses (“boo’s”) from the audience when he suggested that supporting this boycott when many other nations stand accused of waging unjust military campaigns would indicate that AAA had a “Jewish problem.” A subsequent speaker put the argument against this succinctly, and she was roundly applauded for doing so: “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.”

Inspiring that the delegates voted overwhelmingly against the motion.

Looking forward to next year’s vote on the motion to support the boycott.

AAA Votes

AAA Votes

Read for more information:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/12/08/anthropologists-reject-resolution-opposing-academic-boycott-israel

http://savageminds.org/2014/07/11/embracing-our-better-angels-endorsing-bds-and-the-history-of-the-aaa/

4-1355: ETHNOGRAPHIC TERMINALIA 2014: BUREAU OF MEMORIES RECEPTION

We are most definitely biased reviewers of the Ethnographic Terminalia installations at the AAA. We love what Kate Hennessy, Craig Campbell, Trudi Smith and others are doing each year. This year’s opening night on Friday was packed.

 

Dara

Dara Culhane viewing/listening to Alex Boudreault-Fournier and Marie-Josee Proulx’s “DataTrack” at Ethnographic Terminalia [ET2014_Datatrack-02]

Die-In: 12:28 Thursday

A Friday afternoon die-in demonstration attracted a few hundred in the lobby of the Marriott. The silent demonstration was meant to raise attention to the two recent grand jury dismissals of cases against police offers who had killed black male youth in the line of duty. We hadn’t heard about this being planned and came across it by accident. What a great sight to behold: 350-400 people lying down and carpeting the lobby at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel with their bodies.

Signs read: BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Die In: Black Bodies Matter

Die In: Black Bodies Matter

It was inspiring to see this – a political demonstration, an intervention at a AAA conference! Look forward to more.

Read for more information:

Association of Black Anthropologists:

https://anthropoliteia.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/aba-statement.pdf

http://anthropoliteia.net/2014/12/05/die-in-protest-at-the-2014-american-anthropological-association-meetings/

5-0990: Installation: Producing anthropology through re-generation participatory ethnographic theatre

Debra Spitulnik Vidali (Anthropology, Emory University) and John L. Jackson (Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania).

This workshop began with Vidali discussing “re-Generation Initiative” theatre projects that seek not just to represent conventional “data” but consider performance as an ethnographic methodology that brings theoretical questions about embodied and affective knowledge, and micro-processes embedded in relationships, into research processes, relationships, and lived practices and experience. Vidali argued for imagining performance as strategic practice with potential to break through logjams in contemporary anthropological theorizing, especially logo-centrism, and Cartesian mind/body dualism.

Theatre as a generative process.

Theatre as a mode of argumentation.

The Second part of the workshop consisted in warm-up exercises, and a few provocative teaching/learning “games” offering a quick taste of possibilities for teaching anthropology through performance in anthropology classrooms, and creating interventions. I was struck, again, by how challenging it is to describe learning experiences in performative and embodied knowledge work before and after they are undertaken. Performative, embodied research really must be done to be done. It is experience-based knowledge creation. Provocative! Inspiring!

Read for more information:

http://eth.sagepub.com/Ethnography

http://eth.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/08/1466138113502511

https://www.facebook.com/ReGenerationINITIATIVE

View videos on the YouTube ReGenInitiative channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQKGkikEA4o.

 

Tell us what you thought of this year’s AAA … contribute to the blog here by using our REPLY feature.

Arriving back home ..

And a sad, disturbing comment on Canadian immigration greeted Denielle when she arrived home at the international Toronto Pearson Airport.

The conversation went like this:

 

Border Guard: Where have you been?

D: Washington, DC for the Annual American Anthropology Association conference.

Border guard: Have you been to West Africa in the last 3 weeks?

D: No

Border Guard: Have you come into contact with anyone who might have Ebola?

D: No.

 

What sort of answers are they expecting?

Shame on Canada.

 

 

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