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Updated: 2012-04-16T04:49:15.916+02:00


new adress


this blog is now continued at:

vulgarity debate...revisited


In an Anthropology News article called "Persian blogs against the dual language" ORKIDEH BEHROUZAN, a PhD-student at Oxford makes an interesting point connected to the vulgarity debate, that was brought up by Alireza Doostdar in the American Anthropologist. She says:
Today in Iran many experience a dual life, and
speak what I call a “dual language.”There is an
expansion of ambiguous talk routinely affecting
all aspects of a person’s daily life. Lying,
hypocrisy, fear of punishment and being judged,
and an urge to please superiors are all common.
In opposition to dual life in Iran, many young
Iranians are increasingly turning to Persian blogs
as gateways for speaking out.

Regardless of how we understand the vulgarity
debate, and whether or not vulgarity applies to
all non-literary forms of writing and all taboo
subjects discussed, this so-called “vulgar sprit” in
Persian weblogs is a means of confronting dual
language, by which some bloggers intend to use
somewhat unconventional modes of writing to
express what they understand as their “pure” and
“real self.”

Whether certain trends in blogging can make a
difference in the future of Persian society is a
tempting question. Although we can’t determine
where this path of uncensored self-expression is
leading to at present, there are clues that they will
lead to a promising destination

Mohammad caricatures...


The last few days I had a lot of discussions with friends and family about the cartoons in Jyllands Posten. I read lots of newspaper-articles online as well as Blogposts.

The sources which I found most interesting were Daniel Variscos blog post: Much Ado about Something Rotten in Denmark as well as a blog post by Mona Eltahawy (also quoted by Varisco) called A Mountain Out of a Molehill Over Danish Cartoons.

If you read german, there's a good overview at perlentaucher on the reactions of european media and an entry at wikipedia.

Here is a link to the "mohammed image archive" -
"an archive of numerous depictions of Mohammed to serve as a reminder that such imagery has been part of Western and Islamic culture since the Middle Ages -- and to serve as a resource for those interested in freedom of expression."



I went for a coffee with a friend after classes yesterday. She converted to Islam some time ago and told me about muslim hiphop in german - something I never even knew existed. The band she was so fascinted from is called "ammar114" and all of their songs are freely downloadable. I just tried, but their website seems to be down currently. Anyway, I found a link to a songtext (Schwester) and some of their songs are free for download here.

commenting essays...


For the next few days I've got the "pleasure" of commenting about 60 student essays on three different questions (Boas; Levi-Strauss; Mauss & Van Gennep). I've already read a few and what's really surprising to me is the range of quality, because most of my students are in their first year of studies and should therefore have roughly the same background. And for those of you, whoe are curious, here are two positive examples...

fighting with complexity


I'm trying to find a nice'n'easy explanation of the term "complex society" and seem to get more lost, the more I am searching.

Ulf Hannerz: [the term complex society]"is used somewhat imprecisely to refer mostly to societies with a developed division of labour and with sizeable populations. State organiszation, urbanism, organized social inequality and literacy tend also to be aspects of the complexity involved. (in Barnard & Spencer 2002)

Sydel Silverman: The term complex societies haslong been used in anthropology to refer to state-organized systems, including those of premodern times [...], those of the modern industrialized era, and those whose states stem from postcolonial or other recent political transformations.
(p. 292 in Barth, Gingrich, Parkin, Silverman 2005)

entry at wikipedia: a complex society is a social formation that is otherwise described as a formative or developed state.

Wilson/Introduction to Archeology: Societies which show in particular increased specialization and occupational separation. As inferred by the social typology set out by Elman Service, in complex societies, people "no longer combine, say, the tasks of obtaining food, making tools, or performing religious rights but become specialists at one or other of these tasks"

interesting comment by Hannerz:
The rather loose usage my be criticized - what society is realy not complex? - but anthropologists have obviously found it a convenient alternative to such terms as "modern society", "industrial society" or "civilization", with which it may partly overlap but which entail emphases or connotations one may prefer to avoid.
(again in Barnard & Spencer 2002)



Thomas Hylland Eriksen is blogging at Savageminds since yesterday:

I expect to submit a handful of blogs on a daily or bi-daily basis for a week or two, and my chosen topic is a staple on this site, namely the role of anthropologists and anthropology in a wider public sphere.

So he will write on a topic that he also adresses in his book Engaging Anthropology (Amazon)(see here, here and here for a review by Lorenz Kazaleh at

Instead of repeating myself, I'll make a new proposal for productive public engagement in each posting on this site. Tomorrow, I'll give you the story of a sport club in Drammen (a town near Oslo, where I live) and its struggles to incorporate minority children in its activities, and suggest how anthropologists might intervene. It goes without saying that I'm keen to receive your views, objections and suggestions as we go along.

Apart from interesting discussions that will surely follow his posts, there's something else happening here, which I want to keep an eye on: How are relations within academia influenced if well established anthropologists start blogging? I guess, like Will, I can say: "I'm looking forward to reading your posts, Thomas."

Cultural choices in the aftermath of the Tsunami


I listened to a broadcast on Ö1 today, it was about the Nicobar Islands. The presenter (Andreas Obrecht) spoke to Simron Jit Singh and Oliver Lehman who published a book called: Die Nikobaren. Das kulturelle Erbe nach dem Tsunami. [The Nicobar Islands. Cultural choices in the aftermath of the Tsunami.] Singh is research fellow at the IFF Social Ecology, Lehman chief editor of "Universum Magazin".
The book is published in both english and german and aimed at helping the survivors of the catastrophe to revive their traditions and customs. 50 of these books were sent to the Nicobar Islanders to "give these people a manual for their own, lost culture".
"The publishing house Czernin will donate all profits from the book’s
sale to the Sustainable Indigenous Futures (SIF) Fund, which supports
medium and long-term development projects for indigenous peoples from
Tsunami-affected areas on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands."

Magic orange peel


I was waiting on the airport, having a coffee and chatting to some tunisians when we started talking about the cold weather and heating systems here (in Tunisia) and there (Europe). Quite commonly used here for heating a room are kanun (what I’d describe as coal in a clay pot). The danger connected to them is CO2 development. So what I was told by my newly met tunisian friends was, that one puts orange peel on top of the kanun, which stops CO2 development. I later checked if I had understood correctly, but even Nasr insisted: out of experience this is what works best against the dangers of CO2. I’d really like to know how that works.

Where’s home?


I’m back in Tunisia with my husband. It’s a weird feeling to go shopping to study, to cook, to just have my daily life here again. For some reason I feel more at home here now than back in Vienna. Well, my husband is here, true. But all my friends are in Vienna – sure I know quite a lot of Nasr’s friends, but there’s still some language barriere between us and chatting with them remains in quite general topics due to lack of fluency. However, studying works much better here – there’s less distraction through meeting or calling someone quickly, but getting online requires more effort than at home: I have to go to the internet café (“PUBLINET”).

Joerges, Winner, STS


I spent the last few days studying for an exam I had yesterday. And although I'm a bit exhausted today, I'm already preparing for my nextone on Wednesday (which will be my last exam ever - if I don't decide to do a doctorate!)

Here are just a few links I came accross while studying (or maybe rather procrastinating) for the exam yesterday which was in STS (Einführung in die Wissenschaftsforschung - Wissenschaft, Technik, Gesellschaft):

Langdon Winner: Do Artifacts have Politics?

Bernward Joerges: Do Politics have Artifacts?

Bernward Joerges: Die Brücken des Robert Moses
This one is very similar to the english one above, but very inspiring to read as it's written beautifully. By the way - the article that I enjoyed reading most, was one by Bruno Latour:

Latour, Bruno. 1995. Ein Türschließer streikt. In Latour, Bruno: Der Berliner Schlüssel - Erkundungen eines Liebhabers der Wissenschaft. Berlin: Akadmie Verlag, 63-83.

Bernward Joerges has got lots of his publications available online
too and I also found interesting course material for "Kultur und Technik"
by Richard Rottenburg at the University of Halle.


backside of blog-reading


I was browsing a few more blogs of people who attended the WSIS and some of them are still in Tunisia today. What then happened was that I really got "Reisefieber" (travel nerves, itchy feet?). So, if you want to see a few nice pictures or descriptions or haven't planed the next holiday yet - here's some inspiration.

WSIS - notes & quotes


Just a few notes & quotes about the WSIS - am not trying to give a good overview here, much more want to relate experiences of attendees:Yesterday, we [i.e. Ethan Zuckerman and "his partners in crime", I guess] were warned that our session [called Expression under Repression] could be cancelled by the Tunisian authorities. We also discovered that the session wasn't listed in the official program guide. Today, we came to the room where the session was to be held and there was a sign on the door stating that the workshop was cancelled. Friends who passed by the UNDP booth on the WSIS floor earlier today heard gossip that the security forces would appear at our session and anyone who attended would be arrested. And I got a few SMSs from people who'd asked about our session at the information booths and had been told there was no information on our session.This low-grade harrasment did nothing to dampen our turnout for the session. Ethan Zuckermanhere's some more information by the Berkman Center for Internet and society on the same incident.the obvious presence of military, police and tourism police should strengthen that sense of security. In three kilometres around the airport and around the Kram Expo, there was a policemen at every 250 meters and the closer you got to the Kram Expo, there were even policemen on horseback and special forces. Tunesia must be a country with more policemen than inhabitants. In front of every official hotel was a policemen with a stengun and in the hotel secret service people were just chatting as natural Tunesians, while in the meantime checking potential contacts with Tunesian dissidents. more from Jak BoumansAnother post by Ethan Zuckerman about the "Citizen's Summit":a counter-summit, [...] where issues like the Internet and human rights - which have been difficult to get onto the main WSIS agenda - can be discussed.A meeting Monday to plan the summit was disrupted by Tunisian security forces, who prevented organizers from entering the Goethe Institute, where the meeting was being held. Since then, there have been reports that human rights activists have been beaten by government-based thugs after meeting with summit attendees, and a French journalist attacked by security forces. In other words, it hasn't looked like a welcoming climate for a citizen's summit.But then he talks about the actual meeting: I kept waiting for a commotion in the back of the room that never came. Later the same eveingn: the barriers to free expression in Tunis became all too clear as we walked out of the compound to catch taxis for dinner. Walking down the narrow street that from the human rights center to the main road, we past a block lined with tough looking men in street clothes, some on motorcycles. There was no apparent reason for thirty men to be standing on this corner of the street - no cafe, no shops of any sort - and no indication that the group was moving at all. [read more here]More information about all that? Ndesanjo at "Digital Africa" has got a few more links, the OpenNet Initiative has a report on internet filtering in Tunisia.Want to read something more positive?A very sweet blogger I met in Tunis was representing Jordan in the the "Reach out"-Initiativewhich is basically a dialogue between UK and Arab youth that aims at connecting both the western and Arabic culture, in an attempt to break stereotypes, spread awareness, and work together to make a difference. more here. Technorati : WSIS tunis [...]

just trying...


After a quick search for possiblities of tagging my blogposts, I just installed "zoundry" [lite] - a blogging editor. Sould make blogging easier and tagging no effort at all. :

Blogtalk Reloaded


its not gossip any more... blogtalk reloaded will be held at the 2nd and 3rd of October 2006 in Vienna again...

via randgaenge


Papers on Weblog-Research online...


Kommunikation@gesellschaft, a web journal dedicated to research into information and communication technologies went online with a new issue yesterday, I guess - and i'ts about weblog-research. I'm really excited to delve into all these papers soon! More backgroundinformation in an entry by Jan Schmidt.

A few papers and links to the presentators of the "Kongress kulturwissenschaftliche Technikforschung" to be held from 25 th - 27 th of November in Hamburg are already online too...

via this entry at

Internet connection problems as result of the WSIS...


how ironic...Marouen, a tunisian blogger whom I met when I was there this summer, writes about the internet connection problems he's experiencing a result of the WSIS...there's not much more I can add apart from a slight suspicion of political reasons behind the whole more here.
Oh, and before I forget: here, la blogeuse writes about the traffic problems that my husband has been talking about the last few days as well...

Weblogs 2005


Wednesday and Friday this week I'll attend a workshop on Weblogs in Linz/Austria, one of the organisers is Jan Schmidt.

Topics include:

  • basics of weblog research (Jan Schmidt, Klaus Schöneberger)
  • weblogs in organisations - PR and marketing (Tim Fischer, Martin Roell)
  • weblogs and Journalism (Martin Welker)
  • weblogs in organisations - knowledge and project management (Thomas N. Burg, Dieter Rappold)
  • weblogs and political communication (Roland Abold, Martina Kausch)
  • teaching with weblogs / e-learning (Hans Mittendorfer, Tanja Jadin, Bernad Batrinic)
of course there's a weblog as well as a wiki available - all in German though.

I'm really looking forward to meeting and talking to all these people - hope there will be plenty of time in the coffee breaks!


Rites of passage...


Arnold van Gennep, a flemish anthropologist and ethnologist wrote a book called "Les rites de passage" in which he talks about transitions and the rites people perform with them. Transitions can either be spatial (house warming parties), seasonal (e.g. harvest festivals) or "life cyclical" (birth, death, marriage) and the whole idea is a "universal" - e.g. can be found in many different cultures around the whole world. Almost everywhere life is characterised by turning points, we don't experience it like a calm flow of days after days after days.

Now why do people perform rituals at these turning points in their lifes? Because these transitions don't come naturally, they don't just happen. You're not born as an adult, as a couple or whatever - you're made one and through the ritual this is made more real for the individual.

And it's true. Really.
When I got married in September, it was actually two days that we celebrated. One day was a very quiet one. The contract was signed with a registrar who came into the home of my husbands family and the only people who celebrated with the two of us were his closest friends and family. We had a nice meal, fotos were taken etc. Then, a few days later, we had a big party with lots of friends in Tunis, where he's living now...and only then, after an exhausting evening, with lots of music and dancing as well as changing my robe twice, did I really "feel" married.

I wonder how it will be when we've celebrated our party here in Austria with all my friends and family as well...but alas, there are still some bureaucratic hurdles to jump...until he can join me here.

second thoughts on teaching...


Today is Friday - one of these Fridays that I'll be teaching.

For the last few weeks lectures went quite well on my part, although I'm not so sure if our students share the same opinion. After all we're asking them to work quite hard(at least compared to local standards!) :

reading a (for them surely) difficult chapter every week. In our lessons we don't go through the chapter bit by bit but ask them to work on it themselves - through presentations as well as discussion of different aspects. I'm not so sure if they really appreciate it that much, that we don't take the responsibility of reading from their shoulders - but one day they'll definitely harvest the merits of knowing how to read and get the gist of an article themselves.

Another requirement are two articles that they have to write and publish online in their blogs. We also suggested that they use their blogs for reading reflections ("Lesetagebuch"/reading diary) but as it wasn't compulsory only a few of them are into it yet. Alas, there is still lots of time until the end of this term, so they still have the chance of discovering the joy of quick and easy online publishing!

Handbook for bloggers and cyberdisidents


Today I skyped a bit with Martin about Tunisia, the tunisian blogosphere and the upcoming WSIS. I'm still wondering if and how I can afford to attend the conference, but now - as my research interests have changed slightly - I guess I'll stay in cold, rainy Vienna.

Anyway, related to Tunisia is an entry that I just read at Dienstraum - about The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents. Looks like some people in Tunisia could really make use of this in a few weeks, when reporting online about the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS). Here's a link to the PDF-Version of the Handbook for free download. More information about the book at the Dienstraum- link provided above.

rethinkig research III


At the beginning of march I started to use my blog for commenting on all different sorts of things...and I discovered a Blogger, just around the corner: Jan Schmidts Blog is still one of the ones I read most regularly. He's also one of the few bloggers I've met personally.

Interesting thoughts I also discovered now in my posts around mid-march, I was...
wondering what blogging our not-yet-finished works could do to the discussion about the author-reader-relationship in anthropology .
Then I spent some time traveling and just by chance I read an e-mail by a young scientist...our mail-conversation developed in a very interesting way and soon Chana (at Tempus Fugit) switched to writing in english about her thesis because I convinced her! Seeing her work growing (as well as advising a wee bit) was a very rewarding experience.

rethinking research II


Adi Kuntsman's Cyberethnography as Home-Work was another article that impressed me...sadly I didn't summarise but just cite it in this blog-post.

Blogs as electronic learning journals, an article by Armstron, Berry and Lamshed is something I should look at again...I had completely forgotten about this one and now I wonder if I should go through my blog-archive more often. Who knows what jewels are hidden there!

Five different ways into Blog research by Liz Lawley is a nice blogpost which I was very excited about when I found it...end of february...

[note to self: interesting to see the fun I had in discovering relevant literature]

At the same time I started to summarize [and comment] an article about "Blogs as plattform for the ideal speech situation" [by Elmine Winja, proper name: Understanding Weblogs: a communicative perspective] in a few see if working this way with my blog was fruitful.
To be honest: it wasn't.

rethinking research


In January this year I started thinking about a research topic for my final thesis in anthropology...first thoughts (this really feels ages ago now, in hindsight) were about virtual ethnography (I had just looked into Christine Hines' book Virtual Ethnography and Miller & Slaters' The Internet an Ethnographic Approach). I wondered if I coud do an overview of the methods anthropologists used to do research online and wanted to relate them to the outcome - showing that method is never seperate from result. My supervisor then asked me to look for a "topic" - a methods-only-thesis was no real option for her.Soon after that I discovered Blogging thoughts by Mortensen & Walkeras well as an article on open source anthropology by Kerim Freeman and "Making the electronic text canonical" by Alex Golub.Kerim Freeman and Alex Golub were the first anthro-bloggers I started reading, but soon became one of my favourite anthro-blogs too (in those days before savageminds I was really searching for long to find some more academic bloggers from my own field).As I see now, by mid Februrary I was already reading Lilias blog - and preparing a presentation about weblogs at the department for anthropology of europe.(had I known then that this presentation was postponed, I wouldn't have worked so busily...another sign that I really need deadlines for getting going!)At the same time I wondered:[...] if keeping a blog could be useful for an keeping and editing "field notes", links, ideas, snippets of thoughts - whatever. What about people stealing your ideas? And isn't a blog through it's very nature of being public going to influence the way you write about "the others"? Does it make sense to keep a blog in "normal" anthropological research? I mean I do see the point in doing so when one's into "virtual ethnography", but what are the limitations of blogging - are there any?Reading Alireza Doostdars The Vulgar Spirit of Blogging was another eye-opener and made me think a lot. It was the first article on Weblogs by an anthropologist that I got my hands on! As it was published in the American Anthropologist it made me sure that the direction my interests were heading was a new but "accepted" one in my field of studies.[to be continued][...]