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Critically Cultural

Ethnographic Field Notes Operating as a Blog

Last Build Date: Tue, 07 Oct 2014 05:19:28 +0000


Watch Your Step

Sat, 24 May 2008 21:36:00 +0000

Hey! I'm back! It's been a long absence and it's not that I haven't thought of things to blog about, it's just that I haven't had to time to form a coherent response (see several previous entries - What was I talking about?). So, here I am now, to chastise enlighten you about stepfamilies and the terms used to describe them.First, since I was last actively active with my blog (let's say Winter 2007), I have applied, been accepted and completed my first year of school as a Master's student in Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. I have also moved in with my boyfriend and his 3 kids, so the concept of the stepfamily is something very personal for me.Before I became part of a stepfamily, I never thought twice about using the term, "stepchild" to refer to the overlooked branch of some field of inquiry - such as "for years crochet was the neglected stepchild of the fiber world." OK, so that usage is kinda funny, but only because it's about crochet and "the fiber world." However, I suppose the humor I find in yarnwork raises its own ethical dilemma, but we'll save that for another post - when my grandma is in town (sorry, I couldn't resist). Now that I am part of a stepfamily, I find the derogatory usage of the term, "stepchild," not only offensive, but personally hurtful. My stepchildren are certainly not neglected, not by any of their parents - biological or step. I also never really noticed how often and offhandedly it is used. Like the good academic that I am, in preparing for this post, I visited Google Scholar and typed in "stephchild" and "term." I found an article from the journal, Marriage and Family Review, titled, "How Society Views Stepfamilies." A lot of it is pretty obvious, especially for those of you who may be part of a stepfamily. The authors, Lawrence H. Ganong and Marilyn Coleman, argue that, in relation/contrast to the ideology/ideal of the nuclear family, the stepfamily is seen as an "incomplete institution" haunted by "stigma."Ganong and Coleman argue that this stigma is furthered by the derogatory use of stepfamily terms, most notably "stepchild." The also state that the use of these terms in a derogatory manner, referring to "someone or something that is abused, neglected, or unwanted" as a "stepchild," is not only metaphorical, but actually supported by standard dictionary definition. The OED online cites, "orphan," as the first listing under the word, "stepchild." Like my jokingly inappropriate remark above about crochet, the use of the term "orphan" in a derogatory manner is another issue which should be further explored. Not a standard dictionary, but indicative of popular usage of terms, the Urban Dictionary, gives usage suggestions for the term red-headed stepchild, all of which are very derogatory.In one of Ganong and Coleman's final sections of their article, "What Can Be Done?" the authors suggest that, "Avoidance of terms with negative connotations may help to reduce negative attitudes and expectations. The term ‘‘stepchild’’ used as a metaphor for something that is unwanted or abused should be considered as inappropriate to use to illustrate a point as a racial or ethnic slur would be." I feel that all that is needed, in most cases, is for people to be aware of the term as hurtful to those people who are part of a stepfamily. If you are in a situation where you would use the term in a metaphorical and/or derogatory manner, stop and consider whether anyone you are addressing may be part of a stepfamily and realize that your comment may hurt them. And, more importantly, realize that your use of the term in a metaphorical and/or derogatory manner serves only to reinforce the negative connotation and stigma of the stepfamily, which is probably not something that most people care to do. Like Ganong and Coleman suggest, think of the metaphorical and/or derogatory use of stepfamily terms as you would racial or ethnic slurs - in this sense, their use would not be acceptable.[...]


Wed, 12 Sep 2007 23:01:00 +0000

I have more labels than posts. Is that bad? Is it good? How did that happen? Can I hide some of them? I'm a little embarrassed by it actually. It makes me seem very obsessive, which I guess I am as I'm already thinking about labels I should use for this post: labels, self-reflexivity, ...

I'm going to see if I can hide some of these labels now. I don't have a problem with labels, they're good for searching, it just doesn't make any sense to sort my 25 posts by my 30 some labels.

Making a Point

Mon, 19 Mar 2007 01:27:00 +0000

My boyfriend just said something to me, in relation to my arguments, that is particularly interesting, they (my arguments) are "always already almost there," or was it "almost always already there?"

Either way . . . back to work!

A different kind of lament

Wed, 14 Mar 2007 03:48:00 +0000

Diedrich's at UCI is closing soon, but they just started charging for ice water, refills of hot water for tea, and refills of iced tea and drip coffee. I don't get it. How much do they think they are going to make in a just a few months at 25 cents a cup of ice water and 50 cents a refill?

Video Obituaries?

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:18:00 +0000

Since Art Buchwald, famously humorous columnist for The Washington Post, pased away last month, there has been much buzz around the subject of "online video obituaries." This is because his was the first in a (proposed?) series of online video obituaries launched on The New York Times. These obituaries are supposedly part of a series called, "The Last Word." "The Last Word" is the work of Tim Weiner. Weiner conducted the Buchwald video obituary as an interview and says he's conducted others and has plans for more but is keeping it all secret until, well, until the death of his interviewees.

I'm blogging about this because it obviously relates to MyDeathSpace. I'm not exactly sure what to say about all this - I don't have any theories to offer you, I'm just pointing out connections and raising questions: Will online video obituaries will become popular with normal/non-famous people? Who would conduct the interviews? The people themselves? If this does become popular, would it only be among older or terminally ill people? Or, would younger, healthy people start doing the same (just in case)? Maybe people already do this . . . I guess I've got some research to do . . .

Mandatory Vaccines?

Sat, 03 Feb 2007 04:30:00 +0000

What is behind this whole mandatory vaccine thing? Before I moved my blog to blogger, I posted a bit about immunizations on October 12, 2006. I basically pointed out that the former CEO of Merck, Raymond Gilmartin, gave money to Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla, an advocate of "Shots Across Texas," a campaign to immunize all Texas' infants, a campaign which was triggered by a measles outbreak, and it just so happens that Merck makes two of the most popular measles vaccines on the market.

Now, an article that ran in yesterday's New York Times reports on a new Texas campaign for the mandatory inoculation of all 11 & 12 year old girls with Gardasil, a Merck vaccine that prevents against 4 (6, 11, 16, 18) of the over one hundred total types of human papillomavirus (HPV). The article hints at the political and financial conflicts of interest, but other articles from various sources have detailed the issue and similar pieces of legislature in other states.

About Gardasil and HPV: Gardasil only works in women, so man cannot directly benefit from the vaccine. HPV is a virus that causes warts. HPV can cause genital warts and lead to cervical and vulvar cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and anal, head and neck cancers in men and women. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because about 30 types are transmitted through sexually contact. So, even though the majority of HPV types are transmitted through casual contact (70+ casually transmitted:about 30 sexually transmitted), HPV is still considered a STD.

Of the 4 types of HPV that Gardasil protects against, 2 (6 & 11) are known to cause 90% of the cases of genital warts while the other 2 (16 & 18) belong to a group of 8 (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45 & 51) "high risk" types, where "high risk" indicates association with cervical cancer. So, even if a woman (or girl) is vaccinated, she can still become infected with any of the other approximately 24 types of sexually transmitted HPV or 70+ types of casually transmmitted HPV; she can still get warts or cancer. Merck states this point through their advertising of Gardasil, but is the point really getting across? Will Gardasil really be taken as an extra precaution against sexually transmitted HPV, or will it be taken as a substitute for other precautions such as safe-sex and regular medical screenings? Gardasil's marketing campaign slogan is "One Less," used to mean that through Gardasil you or your daughter could be one less case of cervical cancer. I think this marketing campaign makes people think that Gardasil immunizes you against cervical cancer itself, rather than only 1/4 of the types of HPV associated with cervical cancer. And, for that reason, I think people will use Gardasil as a substitute for other precautionary measures.

Aside from the problematic political and financial ties and the perception of total immunity, there are major issues regarding gender, power, control, etc. going on with this legislation. With all these issues running through my mind, I wonder, has someone written an anthropology of the vaccine? I can't find a definitive body of work on the subject, only case studies. Any suggestions on some good articles or books?

More S.S.P.

Sat, 03 Feb 2007 02:53:00 +0000

S.S.P. = Shameless Self Promotion

I have been ivited to present at the Critical Studies Graduate Student Conference
at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The conference theme is Deaths of Cinema My title is "MyDeathSpace and Cinema: Reconfiguring Life Through Memorials." Here's my abstract:

    The popular social networking website MySpace contains over 100 million profiles, some of which belong to deceased users. In January of 2006, MyDeathSpace was launched. MyDeathSpace is a website which chronicles deceased MySpace users in conjunction with newspaper obituaries and stories submitted by friends and family; posts include links to users' MySpace profiles. When a MySpace user dies, friends and family members can submit requests to MySpace to have their late acquaintances profiles deleted from the site or to gain access to their profiles to maintain them as memorials.

    The use of MySpace profiles as memorials evokes the concepts of death and cinema on several levels: first, the memorials revolve around the deaths of individuals; second, the profiles represent the online and popular appropriation of sound and visual images by amateur content creators. This appropriation employs cinematic techniques in traditionally non-cinematic structures and spaces. Although it would seem that the death of cinema is revealed through these memorials, this paper argues that these memorials do not signify the deaths of persons or cinema, but rather the reconfiguration of the lives of each.

I just asked for a copy of the paper

Thu, 01 Feb 2007 03:36:00 +0000

I got this:
(object) (embed)

from Mike Wesch, who I met at AAA. I emailed Mike asking for a copy of the paper he presented at AAA, and I got this video instead. It's pretty much the coolest video ever, so good that I had to blog about it, even though I don't have time to write something more eloquent about it because I've been sick and I need to go to bed.

Shameless Self Promotion

Fri, 26 Jan 2007 03:55:00 +0000

I was just informed that the panel on which I was invited to present has been accepted for the Society for Pyschological Anthropology Biennial Meeting. The panel is organized by Jonathan Marion and is titled, "Re-Embodying Identity." Here is the panel abstract:Re-Embodying IdentityWorking out of a variety of approaches and models, this panel is geared towards exploring and understanding the interactivity of body and identity. While a number of scholars have started to look to the body as a site of culture, the interconnection of body and identity still remains largely under appreciated. Building off the idea that practice and activity can be valuable sites for anthropological inquiry, this panel focuses on and interrogates the significance of bodily experiences and conceptualizations to understanding the constructions of both personal and collective meanings and identities.This panel’s use of the term re-embodiment is not to suggest that people are somehow otherwise not embodied, disembodied, or alienated from their bodies. All physical practices, such as sitting at the computer, are, of course, embodied, as, ultimately, are all thoughts about such activities. Similarly, it would be inaccurate to assume that someone at their computer feels some sense of bodily alienation; i.e. as if somehow their body is not their’s. That people typically take little notice of their bodies (on a day-to-day basis) save when something goes wrong does not mean, however, that bodily experience and perception otherwise cease to be significant in constructions and understandings of personal and collective identities; and it is against this backdrop that this panel engages with re-embodiment, wherein and whereby awareness of and attention to the body can be re-engaged. Borrowing from different traditions across the social sciences, the papers on this panel—dealing with modern body piercing, Brazilian squatting, Polish Evangelicals, competitive ballroom dance, and embodied conflict—each explore some practices and beliefs wherein and whereby personal and collective identities are re-embodied. Rather than answering any questions, this panel is intended as a step in theorizing, conducting research on, and then re-theorizing the significance of re-embodying identity.Re-Embodying IdentityOrganizer and Chair: Jonathan S. Marion05 min – Introduction17 min – Amelia Guimarin: Body Piercing and the Re-embodiment of Commodity-Based Identity17 min – Ana Paula Pimentel Walker: Embodied Identity and Political Action:Lessons from the Participatory Budget in Brazil17 min – Jacob Saunders: The Body’s Religious Sentiments: Identity and Bodily Practice Among Polish Evangelicals17 min – Jonathan S. Marion: Being Ballroom: Re-embodying Identity in Competitive Ballroom Dancing17 min – Ian Grand: Becoming Palladin: Embodied Narratives, Conflicts, and Identities15 min – Audience: Questions & Discussion Guimarin, AmeliaUniversity of California, IrvineBody Piercing and the Re-Embodiment of Commodity-Based Identity Commodity-based identity is a significant part of today's consumer culture society. Some scholars view this reliance on commodities as limiting the power of the individual. However, this study focuses on the activity of body piercing to argue that individuals exercise authority as they utilize commodities to create bodily-centered identity. In the community of college-age individuals, body piercing has emerged as an important commodity used to express personal and communal identity. This project draws upon first-hand ethnographic research and existing theoretical analysis in Anthropology and other Social Science disciplines to argue that body piercing represents the re-embodiment of commodity-based identity.In this study, the practice of body piercing in the college-age community is analyzed in relation to traditional r[...]

Sticking it to The Man . . .

Thu, 25 Jan 2007 22:13:00 +0000

. . . if The Man is American Express.

I got one of these
(except mine was only for $25) for Christmas from some parents at the school where I work. I used it a few times for a few small things. Then, I went to Mervyn's and bought a sweatshirt @ $30 and a t-shirt @ $9. I gave the cashier the gift card thinking I'd have a balance to pay off after using it up, but she just handed me my receipt and my bag. I thought, "Hmm, maybe I used a different gift card to buy those other things, but still my purchase was over $25 . . ." I didn't think too much about it. Then, a few days ago I went to use the gift card again and it was declined. I decided to go online and check the balance: $-11.37. HA! I stuck it to The Man, er, American Express . . .

I wonder if this was just a fluke, or a true exploitation of the system.I think I might start trying to purchase everything this way, get a prepaid gift card, then use it for over the amount I purchased it for.

UPDATE: I just looked a little bit further into this matter and found out:

"Can my Card have a negative balance?
Attempts to make purchases in an amount greater than your available funds will almost always be declined at the point of sale. Occasionally, however, a merchant may not pre-authorize the sale and this may result in a negative balance.
By using a prepaid Card, you agree to be responsible for any negative balances that may occur. To repay a negative balance, you may use a certified check, money order, or an American Express Card. Unfortunately, we cannot accept other types of credit cards to repay negative balances.

To pay with an American Express Card, please call the toll-free number on the back of your Card. All other types of payments shall be made payable to:

Attn: Prepaid Card Collections, Mail Code 02-04-07
4315 S 2700 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84184-0407"

I guess this means I should be mailing my payment to American Express right now, but I'm not, and I'm never gonna. I wonder how much money they loose because of people like me. I wonder if by posting this on the Internet, they are gonna come after me for the $11.37 I (supposedly) owe them. I wonder . . .


Fri, 19 Jan 2007 05:38:00 +0000

How do you go about "culturally enlightening" your co-workers? How?

Should you even try? What about your family members? Is your uncle ever going to stop telling stories about the "ragheads that run the burger king?" Is you supervisor ever going to stop commenting on the "eagerness to please of that oriental boy?" Are elementary school teachers even going to go beyond their basic lesson plan? Is this entire post going to be in the form of questions?

No. I am also going to say that, for whatever reason, I thought elementary school kids were no longer learning how the "gracious American Indians welcomed European settlers from coast to coast." I thought it was some sort of generation-based thing. I thought my generation was taught the fairy-tale version but by now kids must be learning the real thing. They're not! I'm not saying you have to tell children of all the horrors of history, but continuing to completely lie, it's disgusting.


Tue, 16 Jan 2007 20:08:00 +0000

Why should it be a suprise that I care to pronounce peoples' names correctly? Why?

Too long for a comment

Mon, 01 Jan 2007 22:58:00 +0000

This post started as a comment on a Savage Minds post, "What is good anthropological writing?", wherein Thomas Eriksen asked, "Which were the texts that made an indelible impression on you, and why?" The following is my answer:The texts, both fiction and non-fiction, which have "made an indelible impression" on me as an Anthropologist, scholar, and all the other titles (daughter, sister, artist, friend) I hold as a person in general, came to me in three ways at three different times:First, when I was 12 years old, my family took a trip to Seattle. I didn't have any unread books of my own to bring along for the plane ride, so I went into our family book closet and pulled from the shelf that held my Dad's books from college, John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. When we returned home, I went straight back to that shelf and grabbed a box set of Doonesbury comics. As this was before the Internet, I got through Doonesbury by using my children's encyclopedia, our family encyclopedias, my Mom's textbook from the History class she was taking at the community college (she went back to school when I was in Kindergarten, working full-time and taking classes when she could until I was in 8th grade), and my parents as references for all the historical and political commentary I did not understand. When I finished that collection, I returned to the shelf and chose (no kidding) Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. I should mention that my dad was an Anthropology and Spanish undergrad and my inclination towards Anthropology was greatly influenced by all the stories I grew up hearing my Dad tell. As a child, my Dad lived on the outskirts of various Native American reservations across New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. After he graduated from college, he joined the Peace Corps and lived in a Shuar village in Ecuador. Aside from the tales he recounted of these experiences, he seemed to have an Anthropological anecdote for and spin on everything, from problems with bullies at school to my inquiry, "Why would the US government send people to internment camps?" when my family visited Manzanar National Historic Site when I was in 4th grade. So, by the time I got around to reading Coming of Age, I was already prepared to enjoy it.Next, during my Senior year of high school, I was taking both AP English and AP Biology (AP stands for "Advanced Placement," the "recommended courses" for students aspiring to attend universities considered elite, in my case the University of California. In these classes, the pace of learning was sped up and the expectation of quality of work was raised, this meant that you had more than twice as much homework and it had to be at least twice as good as that in the "regular" classes, which meant that you had to form "study groups" and divide the work amongst each other in order to deliver, something that was expressly forbidden and considered "cheating" by teachers but accepted and practiced as the norm by students. And, because classes, like all others at my high school, were scheduled for only 50 minutes each day, you were often expected, pretty much required, to spend lunches, free periods, and time after school in lab or other lecture/discussion type sessions. Finally, at the end of the course, you had the option of taking the corresponding AP test. Scores of 3 or higher, out of 5, would pass you out of entry level courses at many universities and so you worked very hard to obtain them. These were my experiences at one particular high school in an affluent area where over 90% of the graduating class went on to attend college, and so may not be the most "normal" representation of college prep courses). I was one of several students who were taking both classes at the same time and so [...]

Did he just say that?

Thu, 14 Dec 2006 18:32:00 +0000

Yes, yes he did. He is 8 years old and he just asked me if I was going to Google his mother.

I work at an elementary school for kids with ADHD and related behavior and learning problems, including Autism. One of our 3rd graders has been complaining to his teacher of a stomach ache this morning. Complaints of ailments are not uncommon among our kids who often try to get out of their responsibilities by feigning illness. But, for this particular student, complaints are out of the ordinary, so we call his mother. She asks us to pull him from the classroom and call her back so that she can talk to him. We bring him into the office and he stands in front of my desk waiting as we find his mother's cell phone number. I'm opening up the contact information file on my computer and he says to me, "Are you going to Google her?"

I was in the middle of one of those moments where you become paralyzed by the "Did he just say that?" shock. I look at his teacher and he looks back at me, jaws dropped. Then I say, to the student, "That's a really good idea of how to find out about something you don't know about. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm actually just opening a file where I already have your mom's cell phone number stored from when she gave it to me in case we needed to call her for something like this."

End of Story

Thanks CNN!

Wed, 13 Dec 2006 22:38:00 +0000

For the touching story of a "simple man," I thank you, CNN. ECK!

Deporten a La Migra

Tue, 12 Dec 2006 17:06:00 +0000

Wow! I cannot believe the online response to the breaking news of the ICE multi-state raid of meat packing plants across the Mid and Southwest. I was going to wait to post until I had a more developed argument, but I have to get something about this on Technorati that is not racist and not in support of the raids (the two worst ones were these, top on the search results for "ICE" & "raid" & "meat", Act Georgia and Texas Freds). And then there's Google's (former) headline news article from the Des Moines Register. The article isn't bad, but the comments sure are.

Not having a developed argument, I decided to go with a inciting title, "Deporten a La Migra," which basically translates into "Deport ICE." I decided to Google "la migra" and was appalled by what came up as the top results, the Urban Dictionary entry and The American Resistance Foundation Store. Unbelievable! Next, I Google "deporten a la migra" and got this from Liberation Ink. Nice!

Open Access Anthropology Blog Post on HASTAC

Wed, 06 Dec 2006 06:45:00 +0000

On Sunday I posted to HASTAC about Open Access Anthropology. Check it out.

Do Comedy Central's news shows perpetuate racist stereotypes?

Thu, 30 Nov 2006 18:09:00 +0000

Last night I watched The Daily Show and The Colbert Report at their 8 and 8:30 pm re-air times. As always, I took their commentary as sarcastic, but I wondered whether the rest of their audience did so . . . The commercials that played during the shows made me think that the individuals in Comedy Central's audience probably aren't all considering such shows to be satire. Among the commercials were one of Chevy's "This is Our Country" commercials. This particular commercial was less controversial than those which used images of the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina. This commercial used a ranch fence as a timeline for American history, the camera continuously panned left to right, through chronological eras of white ranchers with their Chevy trucks. Another commercial was for Comedy Central's Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

But it wasn't the commercials alone that made me think that the spoof news shows may do more to perpetuate racist stereotypes than to undercut them. It was the way that Stewart and Colbert portrayed the stereotypes and way the audience laughed at them. The stereotypes were mainly of Middle Eastern people, Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese, and 'general Arabs.' The comics seemed more to be making fun of the people than the stereotypes and the audience seemed to be going along with it, it really disturbed me. Again tonight I watched the re-runs of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. This time there were less segments which employed Arab stereotypes for laughs, the stereotypes focused on the US political system, and they were funny, I enjoyed them. Maybe I'm too sensitive, or maybe the shows are racist, what do you think?

AAA Blog Post on HASTAC

Mon, 27 Nov 2006 16:55:00 +0000

I've just made my first blog post to HASTAC:Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, a sponsored project of the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communication. You can view it here. It's (kinda) a review of 4 AAA panels on the intersection of ethnography, digital information technology and the digital information technology industry. Enjoy!

News Coverage

Sun, 26 Nov 2006 19:42:00 +0000

The EU -Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development took place last week, November 22-23. I check Google News headlines daily because, for whatever reason, I think (or rather used to think) that it was relatively un-biased and represented the "most important," "need to know" stories, but over the past week I noticed nothing on this conference, which seems like a pretty big deal. Rather, I learned of the conference by way of allAfrica, where it made the front page on November 24th, right under the stories about Rwanda's decision to cut ties with France (more recent story). I wondered, what's up with Google? Have they become just like every other cotton candy news source? So, I Googled "Google News biased" (ironic? maybe), and found this from the USC (that's the University of Southern California, not South Carolina; it has been argued that the University of South Carolina is the original USC because it was established 75 years earlier than the University of Southern California, however I argue that the University of Southern California is the real USC because it aquired the web domain before South Carolina) Annenberg Center for Communication Online Journalism Review. Turns out that Google's algorithms are causing the bias. In trying to be un-biased by using algorithms, Google News is actually perpetuating a bias in news. Hmmm... I guess I'll have to look somewhere else for my news, maybe allAfrica. But wait, what's this? allAfrica is biased? Yup, from my Google search of "Google News biased," I found this, "It's not all Africa @" Can good news be found anywhere?Last night I happened across a television channel, LinkTV, while scanning the tube for something to dull my mind for a bit, to take a break from staring at my computer screen and writing. Scrolling through the channels, I stopped at what looked like a music video, a group of black men singing into the camera. I stopped because rather than being set in the streets of New York, LA, St. Louis, Atlanta, etc, the setting looked like a West African village. I was confused. My first thought was that this was some sort of statement being made by a US hip hop/rap group, deliberately choosing, or creating, an "African" setting, but then I realized the men were not singing in English, I couldn't even recognize the language in which they were singing. By now I had figured out that this was a music video coming out of, that is produced in, Africa, but I was still confused because I couldn't figure out what place it had on the television set in my boyfriend's apartment in Irvine (Orange County), California; he doesn't subscribe to any special networks or packages, just the basic cable that all graduate student residents get with their rent. By this point my boyfriend was also glued to the tv, we kept asking each other, "What is this?" not because we didn't know what it was, but because we didn't know what it was doing in our living room without our solicitation of it. It turned out to be a video from Senegal. We watched a few others, another from Senegal, and one (or two?) from Mali, before a bumper popped up declaring the channel we were watching as, "LinkTV: Television Without Borders." We both expected a commercial and got up to leave the room, but no commercial came, instead an announcement, next up was a program that profiled Chinese restaurants across the world, this installment would be on Turkey(the country), we sat back down and watched the whole thing all the way through, uninterupted, it was wonderful.The bumpe[...]

Voyage to the Library: Day 1

Sat, 25 Nov 2006 00:28:00 +0000

Sometimes I can't think of good titles for my posts, especially when they aren't about any one thing or don't have a general theme, so I will use this 'voyage log' style in these cases.I went to the library to pick up a book. As I walked in, I noticed a sign in the middle of the lobby which stated something like this, "Help us pick out new furniture! Please stop by the 3rd Floor, test sample furniture, and complete a survey." I'm generally pretty lazy, so I wouldn't have stopped by the 3rd floor just to test out the furniture, but it just so happened that the book I wanted was on the 3rd floor. As I stepped off the elevator (I told you I was lazy. Those of you who go or went to UC Irvine or are otherwise familiar with it's Main [Langson] Library will especially appreciate this as you know on which floor you must enter the library. Hint: It's the 2nd.), I noticed the sample furniture, one chair and one small couch. I also noticed that the survey deposit box was completely open and there was no one around who was paying any attention to the test area. So, what did I do? Well, I'm an Anthropologist, so I read the surveys. There were only about 5 and I wondered if that was all that had been completed or if the box is emptied daily. Glancing at each survey before actually reading it, I noticed that all of the respondents had left comments in the optional "Comments:" section. I again wondered how many people had completed the survey and who these people were. The surveys showed that they were all students - one was also a library staff member - but did not indicate which school or department they were affiliated with or whether they were undergraduate or graduate students. If I were conducting the survey, I would have liked to gather this information, because I think it would have demonstrated how different populations of students think differently about public, library, work, study space.That the surveys all had optional comments left on them led me to figure that the respondents, regardless of field and level of study, were generally people like me, people who like to please, people who feel compelled to do their civic duty, people who like to vote, people who believe in democracy, people who really believe that their actions, input, and voice matter and can make a difference, or at least believe that going through the motions of such is a just cause. Even if I hadn't known that the respondents were all students, I would have figured as much by their informal, yet argumentative tone. All of the comments were arguments, not strong, well constructed arguments (one simple said, "The couch is better"), but still they were arguments not observations. Of those arguments some were in favor of the couch, some the chair, some considered their opinion alone, while others considered how others might feel about the furniture (one said, "How about some chairs for lefties?" in reference to the swivel board on the right side of chair), some relied purely on structural functional analysis (how the size, shape, materials, etc of the furniture would effect its use), while one was primarily concerned with the damaging social implications the couch would have over the chair, that respondent argued that because the couch had no table surface and was made to seat more than one person it would discourage working and studying and encourage talking and would become a "magnet for laughter" (the same respondent demanded for "more single desks with outlets!" which was not even one of the sample furnitur[...]

Review: The 105th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association

Sun, 19 Nov 2006 20:07:00 +0000

This was my first and hopefully not my last experience visiting and presenting at "The Triple As." I was happy to have presented early in the week as this left me relaxed to enjoy the rest of the conference. My favorite panel was “Exploring Activity as Culture, Community, and Identity” because it addressed issues relevant to my interests and presented new ways for thinking about old things; it is exactly the kind of anthropology that inspires and excites me. The papers in the panel would make a great reader for a mid-level, major and non-major, undergraduate course in Anthropology. That is not to say that they are not theoretically complex and worthy of more advanced consideration, however they have a certain mass appeal that makes them perfect for getting students inspired, excited, and generally interested in Anthropology and anthropological thinking (approaching things from the mindset of an anthropologist). I especially enjoyed the comments made by discussant Bradd Shore.Dr. Shore used a term he coined "activity fetishism" in his response to the papers on topics such as Capoeira, Irish Folk Music, Ballroom and Salsa Dancing, and Tae Kwon Doe. In the Fall 2003 Newsletter from the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL), Shore elaborates on Max Weber's "Protestant ethic", "In contemporary America, this old work ethic is still with us. However, in the context of middle-class consumer culture, it has become difficult to distinguish work from consumption activities. Work as a moral virtue has morphed into obsession with activities as status markers, much as if they were consumer items."This "obsession with activities" is essentially the "activity fetishism" to which Shore refered in his discussion and which I find particularly relevant to my own research on the contemporary western practice of body piercing as well as my interest in, and proposed research on social networking websites. I haven't formulated any sort of argument relating activity fetishism to my work, but the gears are turning, expect to see a post about it shortly.Although I found the conference as a whole to be very rewarding, I'd have to say, subject wise, I got the most out of the Exploring Activity panel. I also enjoyed the panel titled, "Anthropology at the Crossroads of Digital Society," Mike Wesch and Shelly Errington's panel on digital ethnography, Ken Anderson's panel on anthropology at Intel, Adam Fish's panel titled, "Cultures of Production in Film and Television," and of course, all the SVA presentations and films. The conference also went logistically well, with only a few minor (unimportant) issues:1) No scheduled nap time. As one of my colleagues pointed out during an especially drowsy moment one afternoon, most of the world has some form of mid-day rest time (ex: siesta), yet the AAA, which of all organizations should be most "culturally sensitive," schedules panels straight through the day, from 8 am to 9 pm. Luckily there were several coffee shops inside, connected to, or very close by the convention center, and we were able to drug ourselves awake every morning and keep ourselves going every afternoon.2) How about a workshop on "How to dance at contemporary western social events?" I'm joking, everyone was having a good time at the dance and that's all that matters, right?3) Why can't Anthropologists clean up after themselves? I understand setting down a coffee cup or water bottle, forgetting about it, and walking away, but blatantly leaving trash on ta[...]

Visual Research Conference Day 2

Thu, 16 Nov 2006 08:27:00 +0000

Today (technically yesterday) marked the end of the Visual Research Conference. We saw some great stuff from Kate Hennessy, Guido Carlo Pigliasco and 3 of Peter Biella’s students from his Visual Anthropology class at San Francisco State University, including Dom Brassey. The conference ended at 2 pm. I stuck around for the 8:15 (African, Fijan, Italian, etc. time [I think that’s some kind of Anthropologist joke. I don’t quite it get since it seems to apply to such a broad spectrum of regions, nations, ethnicities, but I guess it refers to starting later than scheduled]) screening of Dick Werbner’s “Shade Seekers and The Mixer” and didn’t leave the Convention Center until 10, but I’m glad I did because the film was great and we got to talk to Dick about it.I had lunch at an Indian restaurant where I got a “Naan: Spicy Lamb.” It was naan stuffed with spicy lamb, like a calzone, and served with some sauce for dipping. It was delicious and unexpected. I love the Bay Area. Not that there aren’t great places to eat and shop and generally “be” in Southern California, I’m just nostalgic about everything up here. I have a completely idealized view of Bay Area. Today I rode public transportation, Light Rail, for the first time since my visit to Holland in March. It was clean, quick, and cheap (as in free, though I paid [$3.50], my ticket wasn’t checked. I actually paid for 2 tickets because I didn’t know they were only good for 2 hours from the time of purchase not the entire day, oh well).Aside from the food, my lunch was also very interesting because of my company. I feel a little uneasy about writing this here because of issues of informed consent. I don’t think my lunch date was informed, so I’m just going to give this to you as an anecdote, take from it what you will. I went to lunch with an undergraduate graphic design student from Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah. I knew this going into lunch, I also knew that he came to the AAA Conference for the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film and Video Festival to conduct research for his thesis project. He is interested in how people create biographies and collect, analyze, and archive objects and information in different cultures. He didn’t really have any idea what Anthropology was before registering for the conference, he just thought that the film festival would give him some insight into his thesis topic. Sitting at lunch, talking about how he even came across the conference and film festival in the first place, I was squirming to ask him, “So, are you Mormon?” He said yes. I asked if he went on a mission. He said yes. I asked where. He said Taiwan. We talked about that. It was very interesting. He was carrying around a nearly falling apart copy of Collier and Collier’s “Visual Anthropology” that he bought at a used bookstore in New York for $5. Nice guy, very interesting. When I said, “I don’t think me lunch date was informed,” I mean that I didn’t think he knew enough about Anthropology to know that, with me being an Anthropologist and him such an interesting subject, our conversation was inevitably a sort of field work. And, that’s why I’m not going to say anything more about that.Again, long wake, short sleep. PEACE![...]

Visual Research Conference Day 1

Wed, 15 Nov 2006 06:33:00 +0000

After some bad accident-related traffic on Hwy 17, I made it to the Convention Center just 15 minutes after 9 am. Presentations had not yet started, so that worked out well for me. Jonathan Marion gave his presentation on Salsa Dancing, then I gave mine on body piercing. I got good reviews, including a wonderful complement from Richard Werbner, "Brilliant photography." Had a good lunch: -$8, good dinner: -$22, got my car from the parking garage: -$18, and gave a ride to a new friend:+$9. That puts me $9 over my $30 departmental per diem. Ha! Yeah . . . I'm brown bagging it tomorrow, but it's alright because my Grandma Dottie will be making it, and everything she makes is good. [Note: My Grandma Dottie is not dead. She is also not really my grandmother, just a really nice lady who has taken care of me since I was 2 years old.] I've gotta get to bed, have another early and long day tomorrow. PEACE!

I Vote for a New Sticker

Sun, 12 Nov 2006 22:08:00 +0000

I voted last Tuesday. I got my sticker and wore it on my shirt until I changed into my pjs. Then I stuck it on my laptop, covering the ergonomic warning label because I don't like to be reminded that I'm going to get carpal tunnel syndrome from typing so much. As I've been busy preparing for the presentation I will be giving at the 105th Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting as part of the Society for Visual Anthropology's Visual Research Conference, I've had a lot of time to sit and stare at my sticker while I try to think of something brilliant to say. I'm not sure I've thought of anything brilliant but I have noticed that the depiction of the flag waving in the wind is really bad, the proportion is all off. Since I don't have a digital camera to quickly take and post a pic of my sticker, I grabbed these via Google:


I think that if unfurled at that scale, the flag would be too long and skinny. My boyfriend disagrees with me. He reasons that the government wouldn’t produce a bajillion stickers without spending at least a quarter million on the design. Ludicrous! The government went to war without reason, why not make stickers without design?! My boyfriend’s Canadian, he can’t be trusted or taken seriously, he doesn’t understand such American affairs, which actually puts him in the same position as most Americans, including me, I am worthless when it comes to explaining to him how Bush became our president, I don’t get it either. Anyway, my boyfriend and I have decided that the image should be scanned into a 3D modeling program, unfurled, and analyzed for proportional accuracy. I’m writing the grant to get this done. Until then, let us ponder this question: Why is it acceptable for adults to wear stickers on election day?