Anthropologies – The Online Magazine

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Ryan Anderson, who runs the blog Ethnografix and is doing his doctoral studies in anthropology at Kentucky, has put together a new endeavor – Anthropologies. It’s an online magazine, and brings together a diverse group of voices to push the field forward.

In the inaugural issue, Ryan has gathered together a good group of anthropologists, from senior scholar to graduate students, to explore what is anthropology.

This first issue of “anthropologies” explores the seemingly simple but deceptively impossible question: What is anthropology? Stacie Gilmore, David Picard, Keith Hart, Alyson O’Daniel, Megan Maurer, and yours truly take a preliminary stab at this massive question through a set of reflective essays. Of course, there really isn’t one clear answer to that question anyway, and that’s part of the reason for the pluralistic name of this site in the first place. We all have our versions. Definitions, after all, are a continual process.

This issue also has a few photographs that I took several years ago when I first started studying anthropology. That was when I was in the middle of my transition from photography to anthropology–and things never looked the same again, that’s for sure. Zoos included. Lastly, there is also an Open Thread in which any of you can chime in on your thoughts about anthropology–feel free to jump on in and tell us all how it *really* is.

You can participate in future issues, which will be built around specific themes – the next one is tourism. Contact Ryan Anderson at ethnografix at gmail dot com. Ryan wants to make visual anthropology part of the Anthropologies series, so do contact him if your interests also run in the visual vein.

List of Anthropologies Inaugural Articles:

David Picard, What is Anthropology?
*Culturally appropriated fashions among anthropology students and viewing the world through eye glasses. Witty account of an anthropologist’s experiences in graduate school and how near sightedness helped him “distance” himself from reality.

I realised that I used other people’s experience and emotions essentially to study my own fears and understandings of the world. The glasses played here a crucial role. They separated me from the world and allowed me to analyze what happened out there, through the scopic vision provided by my little frames. At the same time, my body was evidently still in the world. The only suspension of this anthropological mode of schizophrenic existence occurred when I took my glasses off – in the shower, in the lagoon, during sex, when I slept.

Stacie Gilmore, Should I Pursue Anthropology?
*Some tough love for traditional anthropology and a call for more applied anthropology. The reality is that most anthropologists struggle to sell their skills in non-academic settings.

Anthropology, via the AAA, markets itself as one of the few fields that gives you critical “global information and thinking skills” (link), but lots of fields have the same or better global (and domestic) applicability, from engineering to healthcare, education, journalism, etc. By comparison, cultural anthropology, in its general form, offers few skills aside from “participant observation” and “ethnography,” and those are extremely limited in value. In all my time working since college, not once has anyone asked me to write a document or report resembling anthropological writing, or undertake an action similar to anthropological fieldwork. Many would consider its theories to be convoluted gobbledygook.

Keith Hart, Kant, Anthropology And The New Human Universal
*Strong argument for more openness among anthropologists and sharing our work with a wider audience.

The rapid development of global communications today contains within its movement a far-reaching transformation of world society. The internet is a wonderful chance to open up the flow of knowledge and information. Rather than obsessing over private ownership of what we write, which cuts off the mass of humanity from our efforts, we need to figure out new interactive forms of engagement that span the globe and to make the results of our work available to everyone. It matters less that an academic guild should retain its monopoly of access to knowledge than that “anthropology” should be taken up by a broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole — is a matter of urgent personal concern.

Alyson O’Daniel, Anthropology As Collaboration
*The challenge of defining and explaining anthropology to non-anthropologists.

Anthropology is not a discipline or a practice that lends itself to easy conversational summation. Whether I am talking to my sister or teaching a classroom full of college students, I find that “anthropology” eludes neat and definitive characterization. I feel this is appropriate given the complexity of the issues we study and the frameworks of analysis we employ. I value most that anthropology is an empirically-driven and cumulative research perspective that is responsive to changing social conditions. To me, this means that anthropology is a discipline that allows its practitioners to “know the social world” from multiple vantage points—simultaneously. It highlights the connections among us all, for better or worse, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I love that my life’s work can never be complete. It can never be regarded as unequivocal truth. And, it can never be mine alone. For anthropology, as I see it, makes collaborators of us all.

Megan Maurer, Anthropology Is Not Geography
*Traditional ethnographic fieldwork makes anthropology relevant and interesting.

People. Anthropology hits me like a cool glass of water because of the people. That’s not to say that geography (or sociology, or any other discipline) doesn’t have people. It’s not to say they don’t have ethnography. They do. But anthropology starts with people, real people, who move around and interact in complex and fascinating ways. The practice of anthropology begins with these complex and fascinating movements and interactions. They’re described, interpreted, contextualized, and then, and only then, are they put in relation to more abstract processes. Yes, there are exceptions (remember, no hard and fast boundaries), but as far as I can tell, only in anthropology is this approach the rule.

Ryan Anderson, Anthropologies Exist In Everyday Details
*We need a celebrity anthropologist. Anderson writes that a large part of the issue with the visibility of our work, is that few anthropologists publicly speak and write about their research in the media.

Part of the issue is the fact that a lot of people have no idea what contemporary anthropologists do these days. Do they study insects, dig up dinosaur bones, or wander around exotic jungles wearing fashionable colonialist gear (you know, pith helmets and so on)? These are some of the generic images about “anthropologists” that are out there. Really. We are mired in the past, slogging through stereotypes, and ridiculously misrepresented. And it’s our own fault, mostly because we have refrained from public debate and conversation for some reason or another. Maybe it’s about time for that to change?

Ryan Anderson, Visual Anthropology: At The Zoo (2001-2006)
*Pairing photographs with ethnographic texts. A photographer learns the value of studying anthropology in his work. And there are adorable pictures of monkeys in this post.

Enter anthropology. I started studying anthropology specifically to fill in the gaps that photography left vacant. The above set of images represents this transitional stage–when I shifted from a primarily evidence-based approach (taking lots of photographs) to looking deeper into how and why humans do what they do. I spent a lot of time at the local zoo when I was first reading about anthropology. I remember bringing my intro texts with me and watching not only the primates inside the enclosures, but also those on the outside looking in. I was fascinated by the whole experience, and anthropology made me look at places like zoos in completely different ways. Of course, I had my cameras with me too, and I took plenty of shots over the years.

Open Thread: So What’s Anthropology All About Anyway?
*How do you define anthropology and what does it mean to you?

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