Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.
Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. (more…)
The boundary demarcating literature and anthropology seems to be porous; frequently subject to incursions but nonetheless heavily policed. Two decades ago, in the midst of the ‘Science Wars‘, Stephen Reyna suggested rather unflatteringly that “the literary anthropologist’s final product appears to be her or his impressions of Others’ gossip.” For now, the tables seem to have turned. Very few anthropologists or sociologists interested in money, finance and accounting can have carried out their inquiries without encountering the work of Mary Poovey, a Professor of English. The anthropologist Jane Cowan has emphasized the extent to which novels can “speak to socio-historical-political analysis,” acting as a spur to research, while an upcoming conference at the University of Kent plans to explore how far Science Fiction can be used as a tool of anthropological analysis. So, this week, in the final installment for the ‘Capital Ideas’ mini-series, the subject is the treatment of kinship, capital and inequality in John Lanchester’s 2012 novel, Capital. (more…)
Here is a photo I took of an elderly woman in Jandiayacu. She is one of very few people (possible only five remaining) who speak and have a deep knowledge of the Sapara Language. The knowledge of Sapara people is not written down; it is an oral tradition that has been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is useful to use citations to provide signposts to our readers should they want to know about something in more depth or detail. It is also important when we are talking about ‘facts’, particularly historic occurrences, statistics or things people have (supposedly) said. But there is another side to this practice that is more of a burden on the writer than it ought to be. (more…)
This is a photo I took in July, 2014, during my fieldwork in Jandiayacu. Jandiayacu is a Sapara community in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. It is accessible only by plane or a difficult journey on foot and by canoe, which takes several days. (click for full size image)
So often we talk about being rational, making decisions based on established facts and existing knowledge, as if it is, and should be, the aim of all people at all times. Ways of being or knowing that sit outside of accepted knowledge can open a person up to being dismissed, discredited or ridiculed, particularly in the academic world. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a somewhat methodical and ‘rational’ person (most of the time). I love questions and puzzles and finding answers, and I struggle with things being disorganised, chaotic or inefficient. This is probably why I have found beginning my research with the Sapara nation, an Indigenous people here in Ecuador, so difficult. (more…)
This week BBC News asked “can wearable tech make us more productive?” The news package covered a research project which has the broader purpose of investigating impact of wearable connected tech on every aspect of our lives. The umbrella term that (albeit loosely) confederates connected technology is the ‘Internet of Things’. Its advocates believe the Internet of Things is one of the most compelling ideas of the twenty first century. The original definition of the Internet of Things referred to inanimate objects that had an electronic product code so they could be inventoried. Now, thanks to IPv6 (which provides 3.4×1038 addresses on the Internet), as utility (or the market) demands it, all our everyday objects such as TVs, microwave ovens and cars can be allocated an address on the Internet and offer the potential to transmit and receive digital data. However, an IP address is not a prerequisite of the Internet of Things. The term can also refer to devices that have the potential to produce digital data for the Internet. This includes technologies of the ‘quantified self’, such as the GPS enabled sports watch I use for example. (more…)
[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative
designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper
” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.
By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized
for his remarks) said
: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks
about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?
Black Friday shoppers at WalMart
The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)
In an advanced capitalist society, such as the United States, individuals express their identities through the items they purchase, how they present themselves to others. For those with a lot of money, this often means conspicuous consumption, or buying items with the express purpose of being able to show them off to others (e.g. a waterfront mansion, a yacht, a Maserati). But expressing one’s personality through clothing, jewelry, make up, and other grooming practices is not just reserved to the rich. We are all taught to be conscious of our appearance. We know that we are being judged based on the choices we make, and our ability to conform to fashion norms and trends. In this way, fashion is a performance in which we all engage. (more…)
Hanauer discusses the perceived wisdom or false premise that tax cuts for the rich creates jobs.