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ethnografix (people + writing) = a blog by ryan anderson





Updated: 2018-04-10T07:55:06.405-04:00

 



A new site

2013-12-27T22:55:41.673-05:00

Well, I think this site has just about run its course.  But you can still find me on Savage Minds, and of course at the anthropologies project.



anthropology and student debt

2013-03-27T01:42:12.057-04:00

Student debt is everywhere.  It seems like everyone is going into debt.  It's unstoppable, endless, ubiquitous.  We're all in debt.  We're all drowning in numbers and compound interest.  All from an attempt at "getting ahead" and going to school.  Ya, something's not right about all this.  You know this.  More and more seem to fall into the debt trap each day.  This includes a lot of anthropology students--graduate and undergraduate.  I am pretty sure none of you out there started studying anthropology in order to get trapped in debt.  I sure didn't.  Did you?  I doubt it.So what happened?The subject of student debt sort of ebbs and flows.  Sometimes it comes up more than others.  I was hearing about it a lot when all the Occupy Wall Street stuff was going on last year, and when this book, and this one, were published.  That was about the time that I first heard about the project on student debt.  Lately though I haven't heard too much about this issue...but it's not like it has gone away.  It's still here.  And we're all still in debt (well, not all of us, but far too many).This past week a few different people sent me some different links about student debt.  One was this short video of Suze Orman talking about some of the traps of student loans.  She makes good point.  It turns out there's really good money in handing out loans with 6 or more percent interest to students who need to find a way to pay for their college educations.  Imagine that.  Student debt is a moneymaker.  It's also a major economic bubble, kind of like the housing market a few years back.  We all know it, and I think a lot of us are just wondering when the crash is going to take place.*  I don't see how it can last much longer without some major collapse of some sort.  Lots of people are, for a lack of a better way of putting it, "underwater" when it comes to their education and student loan debt.  Maybe that's when more people will really sit down and look at this seriously.  But another point that Orman raises is the fact that student loan cannot be discharged in bankruptcy: you're stuck with it.Someone also sent me this quote by Noam Chomsky:Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society, Chomsky suggested. “When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think.” Tuition fee increases are a “disciplinary technique,” and, by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the “disciplinarian culture.” This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.That one has been passed around quite a lot.  Love him or hate him, Chomsky has a point.  This is something to really think about: what are the actual effects of all these loans, of this avalanche of debt that slides over so many of us?  When students get overburdened with debt, how does this affect their decisions and actions once they graduate?  What happens to goals and ideals and future plans when graduates are really only able to think about getting out of debt?  What's the point, really, of studying anthropology or [enter your field of study here] when, after you graduate, all you have time for is finding some job, any job, to pay your debts?  I ask this question all the time.  It completely defeats the purpose of studying a field like anthropology only to end up hamstrung by excessive debt and unable to put that knowledge to use.In a certain sense, a strong belief in the possibilities of anthropology--despite actual experiences and practices in academia--is what keeps people pushing forward.  I think people are willing to go into debt, in part, because they still hold out hope, a belief in the possibilities of anthropology.  This idealism is what draws in undergraduate [...]



Savage Minds is down with server issues...now what?

2013-03-18T16:26:38.354-04:00

Well, good old SM is down, and here I am back at my "old" site poking around to see what can be done.  Sometimes I think I need to revamp this site and get it going again, and sometimes I think it would make more sense to make something entirely new.  Or, I suppose I could just focus on transcribing interviews and writing up my dissertation...

Hmmm.









No comment

2012-12-19T16:59:10.929-05:00

From the American Anthropological Association: "New RACE item" for sale:





Anthropologists respond to Newtown violence

2012-12-19T17:10:17.654-05:00

Anthropologists Daniel Lende and Jason Antrosio have written posts about the recent violence at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn.  Lende's post is called "Newtown and Violence--No Easy Answers."  Here's a selection:With violence, there are no easy answers, as I wrote about in my summer piece Inside the Minds of Mass Killers after the Aurora Batman shootings. One narrative – that Adam Lanza was mentally ill – is already waiting in the wings, prepped as an explanation. Another – where guns are the culprit – has exploded already with full force. Lanza used a semi-automatic assault rifle with extended clips and shot his victims multiple times. He had hundreds of more rounds to continue his killing. Without that firepower, he couldn’t have killed so many so quickly before taking his own life when the police arrived. The United States urgently needs more and better mental health care. Regulating guns like we regulate motor vehicles seems reasonable, given how many thousands die from gun shots and from car accidents every year. Neither, though, gets us much closer to why.Antrosio's post, Semi-Automatic Anthropology: Confronting Complexity, Anthropologically, takes a different tack:It really is not so complicated. The murder-massacre of Newtown was made possible by semi-automatic weapons. The answer is simple. Difficult, yes, but simple: a semi-automatic weapons buyback or other measures to reduce and restrict the weaponry. But as anthropologists, we may not figure this one out until we get walloped and wonder what happened.Read both, and feel free to post related links, comments, and reactions.UPDATE: From a post by Tim Wise:But know this: the minute we as a nation lull ourselves to sleep, and allow ourselves the conceit of deciding that some places are beyond the reach of evil, of death, of pain — while others are not, and are indeed the geographic fulcrum of misery itself — two things happen, and both are happening now. First, we let our guards down to the pathologies that manifest quite regularly in our own communities — the nice places, so called — whether domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, or any of a dozen others; and second, we consign those who live in the other places — the not-so-nice ones in our formulation — to continued destruction, having decided apparently that in spaces such as that there is really nothing that can be done. They are poor, after all, and dark, and embedded in a pathological culture, and so… At the very least let us agree that there is something of a cognitive disconnect here, linked indelibly to the race and class status of the perpetrators of so many of these crimes, when contrasted to the way in which we normally, as a nation, discuss crime and violence.[...]



Democracy in the US? Not so much.

2012-10-17T15:30:30.548-04:00

You know, we're supposed to be all about democracy here in the US--about liberty, freedom of choice, and open electoral process and all that good stuff.  I remember back in 2000 when Ralph Nader was on the ballot.  Do you all remember that?  Well, people can think whatever they want about Nader as a person, or his politics or whatever.  Fine.  But something happened back then that made me quite a bit more cynical about our electoral process: Nader was excluded from even trying to attend the first presidential debate.  The Commission on Presidential Debates did eventually apologize to him--two years later.  Like that does any good.

So, more of the same is happening this year: Green Party candidate Jill Stein was arrested for trying to attend last night's debate.  And she apparently spent 8 hours handcuffed to a chair under police supervision.  Is this our democratic process at work?  Read more about this on Democracy Now.

Here's what Stein said just before she was arrested (from the Democracy Now link):
Well, we’re here to stand our ground. We’re here to stand ground for the American people, who have been systematically locked out of these debates for decades by the Commission on Presidential Debates. We think that this commission is entirely illegitimate; that if—if democracy truly prevailed, there would be no such commission, that the debates would still be run by the League of Women Voters, that the debates would be open with the criteria that the League of Women Voters had always used, which was that if you have done the work to get on the ballot, if you are on the ballot and could actually win the Electoral College by being on the ballot in enough states, that you deserve to be in the election and you deserve to be heard; and that the American people actually deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street.
I think she makes some pretty good points.  Meanwhile, democracy steamrolls forward.



Finding value: Theory, abstraction, and fieldwork

2012-09-16T01:12:15.934-04:00

I am still obsessed with the concept of value.  What is value?  What does it mean to say something has value?  How do we decide what something is “worth”?  How are different ideas about value connected to meaning–and action?  How do our ideas about value, worth, and meaning relate to our actions?  How is value connected to money (in its various forms)?  How are different forms of valorization (economic, cultural, moral, political) connected?  Where and when are they disconnected?

When I started on this exploration of the idea of value, one of my friends told me that if I’m really serious about looking deeper, then I should start with David Graeber’s book on the subject.  I did, and have subsequently read that book–and his book about Debt–and taken tons of notes.  My friend also said that my search for the meaning of value is going to head back to Marx one way or another.  And it did.  But it also led to Adam Smith, Clyde Kluckhohn, David Harvey, Noel Castree, Julia Elyachar, and many others.  This search for value has led me down many different side streets and avenues, and there’s still a lot of ground to cover. The most recent book that I am reading is James Buchan’s book Frozen Desire.  The money/value question, especially as it relates to land, real estate speculation, and development, is what has been keeping me occupied for some time now.  The more I look into value, the more I want to keep looking.  It’s a bit like an endless economic rabbit hole.

Now, I am definitely fascinated with the idea of value, but I am also willing to admit that it’s a massive, if not vague, concept.  Graeber said pretty much the same thing in the beginning of his book.  The word “value” can refer to a range of things: from prices and money values all the way to moral values.  So there’s a bit of fuzziness and abstraction going on, simply because of the wide array of ways in which people use the term.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell when one usage ends and another begins.  There’s a lot of contradiction and overlap going on.  I hate to say it, but the whole idea of value gets complicated–and really, really abstract at times.  Maybe too abstract?

Read the rest on Savage Minds.






Dear AAA: Sink or Swim?

2012-09-01T02:26:14.938-04:00

This statement, written by Jason Antrosio, Eliza Jane Darling, Sarah Kendzior and myself, is a response to a post on the American Anthropological Association blog that discusses our recent writings about adjuncts, anthropology, and academia. Cross-posted on Savage Minds.We are gratified that the American Anthropological Association has taken note of our critical commentary on the vagaries of the academic career, and we thank fellow blogger Joslyn O. for publicizing our work on the Association website. However, we would like to clear up a few misconceptions.The AAA post suggests we represent two “camps,” but we share only one: a commitment to ending precarious intellectual labour. We protest the transformation of our profession into a swelling Hooverville congregated on the margins of universities whose dwindling tenured citizenry is bankrolled by our low-wage, low-benefit, low-security, low-respect work.The bleak future of the aspiring anthropologist is not a concoction rooted in cynicism. It is an empirically demonstrable, material condition that speaks its truth in the language of debt, dependency, discouragement, and occasionally, the dole. We queue up for the work time and again because we deeply value anthropology. There is little other reason to plough the terrain of a field whose prospects for success resemble a lottery more than a competition. But as the national belt tightens in the face of prolonged economic crisis, contingent workers are increasingly unable to afford to subsidize the discipline financially, however highly we regard it intellectually. And the dignity deficit takes its toll on us all.Anthropology is, and is not, “what we make it.” The most powerful producers of anthropological policy and practice seldom include the ranks of the precarious, yet even the privileged can lay no proprietary claim to a field whose fate, like that of its sister subjects in the social sciences, arts and humanities, rests at the mercy of profitability. Nonetheless, anthropology’s commitment to the science of social justice makes the studied ignorance of its own internal inequities insupportably ironic.The resolution of these contradictions is served by neither silence nor sympathy, but solidarity. An academy structured upon the division of a two-tiered labor market discourages such an alliance. Yet we hope that anthropologists will join together to fight for the value of our work beyond the barometer of the bottom line. We must, for the same structural forces that divide tenured and contingent faculty threaten to subsume us all beneath a wave of public retrenchment, whose end game will inter us on the same sinking ship if we do not turn the tide. While the reserve army may constitute the foot soldiers in this battle for survival, the generals are hardly immune to the war on intellectual value.The AAA can play a role in promoting solidarity. The first step is acknowledging that we are a house divided: not into camps which value, or do not value, the craft of anthropology, but into classes which are unevenly able to extract a living wage from that craft. The second step is to extend the professional respect and responsibility the Association demands for students, informants, the public and science itself to our fellow workers, within and without the academy. This solidarity is not only desirable but vital, for the future of anthropology is far more than academic.Ryan AndersonJason AntrosioEliza Jane DarlingSarah Kendzior[...]



University of Kentucky Political Ecology Working Group: Notes from the field

2012-07-23T18:52:20.582-04:00

Check this out:
The University of Kentucky Political Ecology Working Group (PEWG) is pleased to announce our new "Notes from the Field" series. A mix of grad student and faculty, regular and one-time contributors will be sharing their experiences doing political ecology. They'll write up, audio/visually record, draw, etc. brief and more extended reflections on methodological, topical, and theoretical issues they are confronting. For us, the field is what you make it out to be - you don't have to have your hip waders on to be in the field. The idea is more: how is your research going? What's a funny story about it? What's a telling story from it? We hope to provide political ecologists a platform for beginning to think through their research and to connect with others who find themselves in similar situations.

In this inaugural edition of "Notes" we feature writings from UKPEWGers. We begin by hearing from geographers who share how they do research with communities at the center of often controversial productions of socionature...
 Read the rest here.



Speaking of open access...

2012-07-10T16:10:18.876-04:00



The subject of open access publishing gets a fair amount of press around here at Savage Minds. For good reason, in my opinion, because the publishing regime that we currently have needs a little…rethinking.  Going “open access” is, of course, one possible option.  But what is this open access thing really all about?  If we’re going to consider OA, it’s probably a good idea to look deeper into the issues involved.  It’s definitely not some magical thing that will just happen overnight.  It will take work, planning, and cooperation among lots of people.  Anyway, here are some sources to look  into regarding anthropology and open access:*

First, check out Peter Suber’s overview of OA for starters.  Learn it.  Live it.  Know it.

Next, Wikipedia (fittingly) has a pretty nice overview of what OA is all about, including some of the debates about financing, etc.  The OA page is here.

Also, check out the three interviews I did with Jason Baird Jackson about Open Access and anthropology a while back.  Jason is a wealth of information when it comes to all things OA (have a look at his site too).  The first of the OA interviews with Jason is here.

Financing is one issue that comes up a lot, and rightfully so.  For a few ideas, have a look at Kim and Mike Fortun’s “thought experiment” about Liberating Cultural Anthropology.

More good stuff: the OA archives link here at Savage Minds.  You don’t have to go far to start reading about OA.

Finally, I’m adding this simply because I can’t help myself:


*If you have other OA sources and links, please feel free to post them in the comments section.



Updates: fieldwork, internet connections, etc

2012-07-03T13:24:02.047-04:00

I haven't posted here in about two months, for a whole slew of reasons. The main one was because I did not have any internet access for about two months.  And, considering the fact that I am in the middle of fieldwork, it was getting a little impossible to keep up with this site, anthropologies, and posting at Savage Minds while also doing the fieldwork thing.  So...I kind of dropped off the fact of the blogosphere for a bit.  Now that I have a decent internet connection again, I am going to try to keep the fires kindled to a reasonable extent.  But the fieldowork part of life is still taking up most of my time, so I won't be back at regular blogging level for a while yet.  Anyway, there's the update.



Inconsistent Values: some thoughts about money

2012-07-03T13:17:58.587-04:00

Money is pretty strange, especially the more you really think about it.  What makes people willing to hand over things like DVDs, steaks, and churros in exchange for a piece of paper with ridiculous little pictures and numbers all over it?  Why would anyone trade a delicious arrachera taco, say, for a grubby little piece of metal with an eagle stamped into it?  Why do sane people accept these transactions as reasonable, let alone desirable?  Well, there are of course a lot of reasons behind these kinds of decisions, including everything from the political power of states to a kind of trust that exists within a community of users.  One question that always gets me thinking is this: what exactly upholds the value of money?  State power?  Trust?  The symbolic meanings  that people attach to money?  Habit?  A big global conspiracy?  All of the above!?!*

I have been working in Mexico off and on since around 2007, and during that time I have had a few interesting run-ins with this thing we call money.  Many of these experiences point to one particularly intriguing fact: the value of money is anything but stable.  Of course, we all know that.  Markets shift, currencies rise and fall.  Inflation happens.  The value of money changes all the time, right?  Yes, it does.  But what I am talking about is how money that is supposedly stable at larger levels can change value depending on specific social situations.  So values shift in the macro sense, but also in micro, very quotidian senses as well.  And the reasons for those micro fluctuations of value are many.  In short, when it comes to the actual value of money, social context matters.  A few examples:

Read the rest on Savage Minds.



Anthropologies #13

2012-04-12T23:57:01.481-04:00

Kinship in the 21st Century
April 2012

Ryan Anderson

Shannon Perry

Diana Patterson

Veronica Miranda

Ryan Anderson


Photo: Glass plate discovered in a second hand store in Kentucky, 2011.  By Ryan Anderson.



Anthropology & Occupy (anthropologies)

2012-03-03T11:28:29.490-05:00

[Note: This is a post that I wrote for the latest edition of anthropologies that tries to review some of the anthropological involvement and reactions to the Occupy Wall Street protests and movement]On September 17, 2011, largely in response to an Adbusters campaign and growing frustration with the state of affairs in the US economy, people flocked to Zuccotti Park to, tents in hand, to make their voices heard.  Similar movements around the US (and beyond) were soon to follow.  One thing is pretty clear: there were many different opinions about OWS, and plenty of disagreements.  Some people felt it was a necessary step to take to challenge the status quo, while others seemed to see it as a harbinger of disaster for US society.If nothing else, OWS certainly garnered its fair share of attention, whether in the form of support, solidarity, derision, or outright counter-protest.  Searching for meaning in the midst of such a massive (and contentious) social movement is anything but simple.  Contemporaneous events are all the more difficult to analyze, understand, and assess.  So where to begin?  Well, here's the basic OWS summary from Wikipedia (apropos for an issue that deals with Open Access):Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a protest movement that began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district. The protests are against social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. To effect change OWS uses "direct action" instead of petitioning authorities.[5]Their slogan, We are the 99%, addresses the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. OWS was initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters and has led to Occupy protests and movements around the world.Adbusters poster for OWS.For people who feel like they already know everything they need to know about OWS, or who have already heard enough, maybe that quick summary is enough.  It gets to the point.  What I'm wondering, though, is where all the anthropologists (who study these sorts of things) were during all of this.  Where were you, for example?  I can tell you pretty much exactly where I was on September 17, 2011: sitting in front of this very laptop, working on one or another draft of a grant proposal.Like many graduate students, I was basically buried in the process of becoming an anthropologist, for better or worse.  Considering many of the concerns that OWS protesters voiced, my trapped-behind-the-computer-fate is somewhat a part of the problem.  What happens, after all, if everyone is "just too busy" to deal with a social and economic system that has basically run right off the track?  I'm not going to try to answer that.  Instead, I'll leave that question hanging and see if anyone picks it up.Anyway, my experience of "OWS" was mediated through things like TV news, twitter, blogs, and Facebook.  Does this mean that I was completely disconnected?  Does it mean that I was just some passive observer, and no more?  Not really (and see Adam Fish's post a little later on).  At the same time, I wasn't exactly in the thick of things, even if I tried to follow along, read up, and see what was going on.One of the issues that I saw with OWS was that it was so polarizing: for some people there was no middle ground.  They were e[...]






Ed Carr on Publishing, peer review, and how "only the senior faculty can save us"

2012-01-31T00:37:52.046-05:00

Who can save us...from ourselves?  Who can put an end to the current fiasco that is academic publishing?  Since we are all so entrenched in this system, where can we look for a way out?  In a post about some of the issues that academia faces when it comes to the current politics of publishing and peer review, geographer Ed Carr over at Open the Echo Chamber makes the case that escape and salvation from may lie in the hands of senior faculty.  Is he right?  He might be.Carr starts off the post by expressing his concern that academia is using practices like peer review as a way to segregate itself from wider audiences.  He argues that peer review is, at heart, not a bad thing, since it provides a way of vetting ideas in an important way.  But, he writes:the practice of peer review in contemporary academia has turned really problematic. Most respected journals are more expensive than ever, making access to them the near-sole province of academics with access to libraries willing to purchase such journals. The pressure to publish increases all the time, both in rising demands on individual researchers (my requirements for tenure were much tougher than most requirements from a generation before) and in terms of an ever-expanding academic community.One of the deeper issues, Carr argues, is that peer review can be riddled with politics that end up "slowing the flow of innovative ideas into academia" because those ideas may "run contrary to previously-accepted ideas upon which many reviewers might have done their work."  Ultimately, Carr writes, these issues with peer review certainly don't do much to help with the public image of academia (although he is speaking more specifically to geographers here, this applies to academics in general).Here's Carr's solution, or, at least, his ideas for a way to start digging out of this trench:So, a modest proposal: senior colleagues of mine in Geography – yes, those of you who are full professors at the top of the profession, who have nothing to lose from a change in the status quo at this point – who will get together and identify a couple of open-access, very low-cost journals and more or less pronounce them valid (probably in part by blessing them with a few of your own papers to start). Don’t pick the ones that want to charge $1500 in publishing fees – those are absurd. But pick something different . . .Again, although he is speaking directly to other geographers here, I think this proposal applies to and should resonate with the anthropological crowd as well.  For Carr, such a move would be a critical step for opening up academic publishing to wider possibilities, conversations, and collaborations.  I agree,nd I think he is right that certain established faculty members are in an important position for inciting and promoting change.  It's a matter of interest and desire.At the same time, coming from the position of a graduate student, I can't help but wonder how those of us on, well, lower rungs of the academic ladder can do to actively foster these kinds of changes.  Since we are all encouraged to publish publish publish, maybe it would be a good idea to start thinking more strategically about how and why we are publishing, and more importantly WHO we decide to publish with.  If every graduate student and new professor is constantly upholding the current regime by basically giving up the fruits of their labor (and effectively providing certain publishers with a never-ending stream of[...]



John Hawks & Open Access News

2012-01-11T01:32:07.499-05:00

From john hawks weblog:

"Today's NIH repository and the data access provisions of NSF grants were established by acts of Congress in the late 1990s. In my opinion, the agencies have in many areas gotten away with the bare minimum of compliance with these regulations. Worse, far from strengthening open access to publications and data, some in Congress want to reverse them. The current effort owes much to lobbying by academic publishers, and large campaign donations from officers and employees of those publishers to key Congressmen."

Read the rest here.



The sound & the fury (plus questions)

2012-01-11T01:24:36.380-05:00

The sound: It was late afternoon.  I was in the middle of conducting an interview, recording the conversation with a small digital voice recorder.  Rain falling outside, in droves.  I could hear water rushing down the street.  The sound of water pouring from the roof.  Water dripping from here and there.  Clinking and clattering on the tin roof above.  Inside, one light in the corner of the room fought back the cold of the rain outside.  I was talking with a mother and her son amidst the incessant rain.  The sound of the rainfall wasn’t exactly overwhelming, just constant.  In the moment, it all sounded pretty nice.

The fury: When I finally checked the recording later that night, the rain made it almost impossible to hear the conversation.  The voices of mother and son were swept up in an auditory wrecking ball that sounded more like a tornado than raindrops.  The interview was still salvageable, but it was hardly a masterpiece of ethnographic audio.  Frustrating.

Read the rest on Savage Minds, here.



Defining Political Ecology

2011-12-15T11:02:56.806-05:00

Political Ecology is an interdisciplinary collection of scholars and writers who investigate the politics of human-environment relationships.  Is political ecology a discipline?  A field of study?  A theory?  A framework for approaching problems?  Whatever it is, you will find a lot of geographers, sociologists, environmental scientists, and, yes, anthropologists who identify with the goals and perspectives of political ecology.  I think it's a pretty fascinating collection of ideas and interests.  But that's just me.

The Political Ecology Working Group at the University of Kentucky (of which I am a part) has a new series that explores key issues in political ecology through short online essays.  The first round asked the question: What is political ecology?  Here's a selection from the opening essay, written by Paul Robbins from the University of Arizona:
Political Ecology is a kind of text

Political Ecology represents neither a theory nor a method, but instead reflects a global community of practice, convened around a certain kind of text.
As a community of practice, political ecology has formed a general constituency: a global conversation revolving around a set of themes, which adopts a specific sort of critical attitude. It is drawn from a large group of people who write professionally (like university academics) as well as those in international agencies (e.g. FAO), NGOs (e.g. WWF), state bureaucracies (e.g. USEPA), and local organizations. Typically, its constituency operates in the borderlands between analysis and action and between social practice and environmental change. It is, however, a community that holds a deep skepticism precisely of the institutions within which it operates. Its members, prodded by a sense that something has gone profoundly wrong...

Read the rest of of this essay, and all the others, here.



Political Ecology: Where is the politics?

2011-12-15T00:08:53.201-05:00

At the entrance to not so small Mexican pueblo not far from the where I am doing my fieldwork, a homemade banner waves in the afternoon breeze. It's not really a banner—it's a white sheet that has been spray painted with a message for all passersby. The sign proclaims support for a large scale mega-development that has everyone in the region in an uproar. Some people are against it, since they fear that it will pillage the environment, rob them of fresh water, and turn these desert landscapes into scenic afterthoughts for the eighteenth hole. This is a distinct possibility. Others, however, cry out in support of the project. They want the jobs. And who can blame them? It's not like there are exactly a ton of jobs around here. Nobody is getting rich, so when some large international developer says that they are going to bring in 19,000 new jobs, people listen. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the once verdant wetlands have been completely ground away to carve out the beginnings of a new harbor and marina. Soon, the hotels will be built—and the golf courses. Always golf courses. All of this will require water, which isn't exactly abundant around these parts. Down the road, the conservationists fight to save the region, to make their case for finding a way to keep things as they are—at least to an extent. But the pressure of possibilities—those 19,000 jobs—pushes people apart. Real estate values skyrocket, people make the hard decision to sell their lands. But where does all of this lead? Where can it lead? If this isn't an ecology laden with politics, I don't know what is. So here I am: the researcher, putting myself in the middle of all this. And the question is this: What am I going to do? Write a nicely worded article that will appear in some handsome and reputable academic journal? Or will I actually do something? Because these political ecologies aren't just here, they are everywhere. The politics of human-environment relationships are undeniably pervasive. See, for example, the ways in which the landscapes of my own home town are also being churned and transformed to make room for 18-holed, water sucking, wetlands-destroying leisure-scapes: Golf course in process.  Carlsbad, CA, 2005.  Photo: RA. [...]



Bureaucracies & the power of nonsense

2011-12-14T20:00:19.701-05:00

For some reason, I am feeling decidedly anti-bureaucracy today.  Does this ever happen to you?  What is it about bureaucracy that it is so difficult, that drives us mad?  Let me give an obvious answer that you would expect from some cultural anthropology type like myself: it's because of the inhumanity of it all.  The inhumanity of some bureaucracies can become so thick that they turn us all into blithering fools.

We get backed into a corner, with no place to turn.  Our choices are cut off--we are stuck with the hassles of lines, rules, and forms.  We wait on phones, we try to find official offices with no address.  You know what I'm talking about.  We become not just fools in this process, but blithering fools.  But there is power in the inefficiency of bureaucracies--Weber knew that, as did many others.  You know that too, don't you?  If you want to know more about this, please click here for more options.

Apologies for that...there must be some sort of glitch in the system.  I will send out a request for someone to post a note about composing an email to resolve this issue at a later date.  Please wait.  In the mean time, if you haven't read David Graeber's "Beyond power/knowledge: an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity," well, you should.  Here is your chance.

Let me give you a short example of the hilarity of bureaucracy from some of my recent travel experiences:
 
Read the rest on Savage Minds.



Firefox is frozen

2011-12-13T13:29:39.986-05:00

This is funny:


Found here.