Well, time to start this blog off right! Let’s answer the big Questions.
Why do Anthropology?
Savage Minds had an interview last year with Sarah Kendzior of Al Jazeera English, who has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Washington University. It resonates with my impressions of what cultural anthropology is and how to communicate to others about its findings. One quote stuck out to me:
No one outside the discipline cares about your jargon, your endless parenthetical citations, your paywalled portfolio, your quiet compliance. They care whether you have ideas and can communicate them.
No doubt this is important but what makes anthropologists use jargon? Perhaps we do not use more jargon but it seems more jargony. For example, the assertion that race is a social reality ungrounded in biology, that ideas of sex are gendered, and that colorblindness is a form of racism shock people, I think, at a very deep and subjective level. These forms of critique aren’t readily eaten up by the social world around us because they both describe and challenge shared notions of the social fabric. And a part of this is like swimming upstream against a current of primordial and essential typing of people.
How Anthropology Works
Gilles Deleuze, in Negotiations, wrote that he saw a thread of joy cultivated in the empirical tradition; I believe that this is fundamental to anthropology. The need for interdisciplinary work and public outreach are vital to anthropology’s mission. And anthropologists are not simply trying to refute others’ beliefs but to understand them. Kendzior writes:
Anthropologists are interested in why people believe lies. For example, a large percent of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya. For an anthropologist, it would not be enough to note that this is factually incorrect. They want to know why so many people believe it is true.
In turn, this has implications for how to communicate anthropology. It’s not enough for anthropologists to make a persuasive argument. The argument must create and reframe social awareness. The social challenge is to understand the theoretical underpinnings of society: how we become social subjects that resist, assimilate, ignore, and violently react to others’ realities.
I see a return to integration as paramount in normative determinations that anthropologists must stake out in the world, especially in regards to counterfactual policy and everyday interaction.
The fusion of critique and cooperation that become the politically new is the project taken up in EthnoSitu.