Archive for the 'On Blogging' Category

Mountain Mama (Hiatus)

I’m in West Virginia for a week attending a clown workshop at the Gesundheit! Institute. Part of my reason for being here is to spend time outdoors, so I won’t be blogging at this time. That means no “Friday 5” this week or next, which will be the first times missed since I started the series! I also think I’ve been posting more regularly since starting Friday 5, which I’m happy about. I’ll be back in mid-September!

Thanks for reading.

Am I For Real? Academic authenticity and the future of anthropology

Last week an anonymous person using a fake email address left a comment on one of my posts declaring that an undergraduate degree does not make me an anthropologist. In fact, I agree. A degree (bachelor’s or graduate) doesn’t necessarily mean a person will adopt and utilize anthropological perspectives. Rather, it is my ability to employ critical thinking about culture, socialization, power, and human relationships in my life and work that makes me an anthropologist.

Nevertheless, the comment did bother me. I am open to discussion and debate but not with people who leave derogatory comments anonymously. (Leaving a fake email means that the person wouldn’t receive notifications of any follow-up comments.) I find that to be as petty, offensive, and unproductive as the jerks who shout out truck or car windows at bicyclists just for the thrill of scaring them.

But rather than dwell on that negativity and waste my time defending my authenticity to an audience who likely agrees that education is about what you actually learn not the letters after your name, I decided to have a more positive conversation with my dear friend/anthropology life partner, Emily Channell, about the relevance of anthropology as well as its future. Emily is a PhD candidate at City University of New York, where she also teaches undergraduate anthropology courses.

KN: In our initial discussion about the comment on my blog, you noted that anthropology is seen as a dying discipline and said, “If we reject all the various forms of anthropologists, then we condemn anthropology to death.”

Why is anthropology considered a dying field, and what non-academic forms of anthropology do you find exciting?

EC: The question of whether or not anthropology is a dying field has been through a lot of debate. If we think of anthropology as the study of “culture,” then I think we can see both how it might stagnate and also the potential for non-academic forms of anthropology. If it remains exclusively for academia, then eventually anthropologists will run out of places to go, people to study, and things to say. But it also has an incredible ability to change over time.

I think kinship is a great way to look at the way anthropology can change. People studied kinship since the 19th century, then in the second part of the 20th century people considered it dead until David Schneider studied American kinship in 1968 (somehow no one had really thought of doing that before) and then critiqued the whole idea of kinship in 1984. And now kinship has been revisited over and over again to make it still relevant.

So anthropology has this amazing ability to reinvent itself. But, most of the time that reinvention remains in the ivory tower. This means that the image the public typically has of anthropologists is still that of Margaret Mead or Bronislaw Malinowski, even though our ideas are significantly different than theirs. I think anthropology is a dying field because it insists on being so bounded and remaining within academia—as if people on the streets can’t understand culture!

Continue reading ‘Am I For Real? Academic authenticity and the future of anthropology’

Rogue Blogging

I’ve been posting to this blog since I landed in Palestine early last year.* I’m often baffled by time, but the space between then and now seems particularly short for all of the life experiences it encompasses. I never had a particular vision for this blog, but it has certainly grown with me—sometimes reflecting my entrenchment in the spheres of journalism and politics, sometimes offering space to ponder my approach and effectiveness at teaching; other times documenting basic human observations, as anthropologists are wont to do. In recent months, the posts have meandered through differing terrains as I myself navigate a new life in Pennsylvania, the state where I grew up. More particularly, I recently moved to Wilkes-Barre, in Northeast PA (hereafter referred to as NEPA).

It’s a bit harder to write anthropologically when set in my own culture (perhaps I need to re-read Kirin Narayan’s famous article on native anthropology), especially since I’m not currently doing on-the-ground work in any field. Nevertheless, I’m excited that I’ve had more time to explore the virtual land of the blogosphere. I’m diving deeper into book blogs, and I’ve written a few of my own YA reviews for Canonball. This week I discovered a group called BAND, the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees, which hosts a monthly discussion relation to the nonfiction genre. I’ve decided to join their July discussion, led by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness. The question is “What’s your favorite type of nonfiction?”

Check back tomorrow for my response. There’s a surprise: my answer is not anthropology!




*Technically my first post was September 14, 2009, but I don’t know what it says since I edited it for a new beginning in February 2010.


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