Earlier this week I organised a lecture by a Professor of Anthropology on ethnographic methods for doctoral researchers across other disciplines. I stayed for the full session myself too. As I have said on this blog repeatedly already, my attitude towards anthropology is like that of a fangirl. I admit that must have a lot to do with my romanticised idea of the discipline. Nevertheless, my suspicions were confirmed when the professor said that anthropologists have a special relationship with ethnographic methods, feeling that they *own* the methods, even though the methods are now popularly used in many other disciplines too. (In fact on several occasions he used “anthropological methods” and “ethnographic methods” interchangeably.) And it broke my heart a little when he described anthropology as distinct from studies of texts, archives, and … the internet. It didn’t seem that anyone was bothered by that split-second remark, but to me it felt like someone closed the door on me – a door to a cool club that I was snooping around, hoping to be invited in.
Anyway, it was a fantastic talk and I was able to take away many gems of reading suggestions.
- Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea (Bronislaw Malinowski, 1922) – especially the introduction.
- Writing Culture (James Clifford & George E. Marcus, 1986/2010).
- Enforcing Order (Didier Fassin, 2013).
- The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and Amnesia in Gujarat, India (Edward Simpson, 2014).
- The Bachelors’ Ball: The Crisis of Peasant Society in Béarn (Pierre Bourdieu, 2007).
- The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society (Pierre Bourdieu et al., 2000) – especially the interview sections.
- The history of Bhuj as told by its own historians (Edward Simpson & Kai Kresse, 2007).
- Fieldwork and the perception of everyday life (Timothy Jenkins, 1994).
- Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International (Stephen Hopgood, 2006).
- The anthropology of international development (David Mosse, 2013).
Today my news feeds are marked by a new Gillette ad on ‘toxic masculinity‘, the #BrexitVote in the House of Commons, and a new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Among these equally significant topics, one that has created most buzz, at least in my little social media bubbles, is the so-called KonMari method. We don’t have Netflilx at home, but I gather that her approach to books does not bode well with my friends and colleagues. Apparently she has said that books are first to go when decluttering the house and that the ideal number of books to own is less than 30. Hmmm. What is this familiar feeling? Right, this feels almost like the time when I was shown a picture of books arranged by the colours of their covers.
Konmari or tsundoku? The unbearable lightness of getting rid of books (Sue Carter, The Star, 11 January 2019)
Then once again the answer was right under my nose.
35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked by the Star to predict the world of 2019. Here is what he wrote (The Star, 27 December 2018)
If we look into the world as it may be at the end of another generation, let’s say 2019 […], three considerations must dominate our thoughts: 1. Nuclear war. 2. Computerization. 3. Space utilization.
Interesting to read this in conjunction with the news about China’s successful landing on the “far side of the Moon” today (and their potato-growing mission).
In the meantime, here’s another one. Let it sink in.
I have come across these two threads separately, but in my mind they make a perfect pair. *chef’s kiss*
They also remind me of the “3d printed save icon” and “a computer that prints while you type and you don’t have to plug in” jokes, as well as the Onion’s “ruins of ‘Friendster’ civilisation” video and David Macaulay’s illustrated book Motel of the Mysteries (1979).
Nike’s trademark has led to many spoofs. T-shirts with “Just Done It” or “I Just Can’t” are probably no longer novelties. However, its latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, besides the whole buzz it has created about “ethical investing” and #BurnYourNikes, has given me the gift of more snorting moments. Here are two examples. I am afraid I don’t know who their creators are; both have floated into my social media timelines.
The latter would also have been a perfect cue for me to move on to the topic of mansplaining and #immodestwomen, but that will have to be another post.
Who would have thought that at a random exhibition on rice farming in a faraway land I would stumble upon what was going to be one of my favourite quotes?
This presents what French anthropologist Georges Condominas calls ‘ritual technology’ (1986) within which ritual and technology cannot be separated in order to produce the expected yield. Each tool and energy input are inextricably integrated into each task that withdrawal of either would generally result to a reduced production output.
As soon as I returned, I looked up the original source. Here is the passage.
When we look at people’s cultures from the inside, it is seen that they — ritual and technology — cannot be separated. To take once more the example of the Mnong Gar, religious activities associated with plant cultivation are indissolubly integrated into agricultural tasks. […]
Previously, I referred to these rituals under the category ritual technology (Condominas 1980). But I do realize that the expression may not be very appropriate because what I talk about really covers only an aspect of a bigger category — the notion of work.
(Condominas, G., 1986, ‘Ritual technology in Mnong Gar swidden agriculture’, in I. Norlund et al. eds., Rice Societies: Asian Problems and Prospects, pp.28-29)
Once again, you know what they say: serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.
It feels like in this household we make regular reference to this cartoon by VectorBelly.
And this time we went on.
First, Trevor Noah on American sportsing. I am certain this is not an exaggeration. This is the whole premise of Moneyball (2011)! By the way, his accounts of South African sports culture are also equally hilarious.
Next, Michael McIntyre on rugby versus football.
We then ended with the famous “This is not soccer” moment. 😀
Last night I was video chatting with my mum and one of my sisters. My 24-month-old niece was with them and busy navigating YouTube on my mum’s phone while we were chatting through Skype on my sister’s phone. I was desperately trying to win my niece’s attention, waving and saying “Hi, your big auntie here” non-stop in a pantomime manner.
She proved to be too cool to respond to this imposition though. She cast a brief look and simply minimised the Skype app away. With one aloof tap. My mum and sister ROFL’ed. Me? I was jaw-droppingly impressed and feeling a little rejected at the same time. 😦
We hear a lot about the digital mastery of children and young people. I follow the latest developments in the field with interest. Among what I enjoyed reading most recently are Sonia Livingston’s comments on the YouTube Kids scandal and David M. Perry’s “How to teach a cyborg“.
In the meantime, Livingstone recommends keeping an eye on children’s YouTube binges. “It depends on the age and resilience or vulnerability of the child, of course, but the best advice is occasionally to share an interest with your child on YouTube,” she says. “Don’t always look over their shoulder, or check up on them secretly,” but watch with them to see how they go about using the app and how they react to what they view. And make sure to turn on restricted mode for some basic protections.
Because while it’s Google’s responsibility to do better, at this rate, your toddler may well be a teenager by the time Silicon Valley admits it’s time to hire human moderators to make up for algorithmic failures.
Having an understanding based on second-hand accounts, however, means that certain things will always be difficult to imagine. For example, it didn’t come to my mind until the second sister told me that in order to fulfil the Santa role successfully this time, she had to make sure there were no shopping traces on the phone and the tablet in the lead up to Christmas. !!!!!
So that I can read again and again – the entire thread as well as all replies. ❤
In the meantime, at another corner of the world. 😀
As far as I am concerned, I think of this tweet around this time every single winter. Not the song but the tweet.
Last month I kept thinking about the following passage from A Torture by Hope, a 19C conte cruel by a French writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam.
And, while the Rabbi Aser Abarbanel, his eyes convulsed beneath his eyelids, choked with anguish between the arms of the ascetic Dom Arbuez, realising confusedly that all the phases of the fatal evening had been only a calculated torture, that of Hope!, the Grand Inquisitor, with a look of distress, an accent of poignant reproach, murmured in his ear, with the burning breath of much fasting: “What, my child! On the eve, perhaps, of salvation… you would then leave us?” [emphasis added]
I know I am being overdramatic here, but it did feel a little like a “torture by hope” to be waiting to hear back about a project proposal that two colleagues and I had put together and be told that the review results would come out later than originally announced.
In short, we have now been granted what is called a “seed corn fund”. Some might find the amount modest. Others might be more concerned with the fact that the money comes with the not-so-subtle pressure of getting out there to yield a real harvest. As for me, I was simply ecstatic to hear the news. I had my heart set on it solely for the name – the sweet metaphor for potential and possibilities. I really am a sucker for metaphors.