Michael Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, well-known for his inspiring YouTube lectures and documentary shorts, has received over a hundred applications for his graduate course in ‘digital ethnography’ from around the world.1 The only problem: no such course exists. Wesch teaches undergraduates and has organized a ‘digital ethnography working group’ for them; and that’s it, so far. But millions have seen his creations on YouTube and people want more of it. The world is changing all around us and anthropology must try to keep up, not just because we study this world as anthropologists, but because our students live in it and they are rapidly leaving their teachers behind.
On the eve of the one-hundred and eighth anniversary of W.E.B. Du Bois’ newspaper The Crisis, we are presenting, in its entirety, a lecture from the distinguished anthropologist, mentor and head of the Anthropology Department at Columbia University for many years – Dr. Franz Boas on the subject of the “race” problem.
THE REAL RACE PROBLEM
By FRANZ BOAS, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
[Professor Franz Boas, who writes the leading article this month, is a member of the Department of Anthropology in Columbia University. The editor of Science reports that the leading scientists of America regard this department of Columbia as the strongest in the country. This gives a peculiar weight to Dr. Boas’ words, which were first delivered at the Second National Negro Conference in May, 1910.]– W.E.B. Du Bois
The essential problem before us is founded on the presence of two entirely distinct human types in the same community, and relates to the best possible correlation of the activities of these two types. On the whole, the answer to this problem has been based on the assumption of the superiority of the one type and the inferiority of the other. The first question to be answered by scientific investigation is, in how far the Negro type may be considered the inferior, the white type as the superior.
Many of us know that political corruption is not new to the world. It is an unsavory, human practice with a history that extends far back into ancient times, countries, and rulers. Unlike modern times, there were no checks and balances of power then and rulers were free to rule however they saw fit. During those times, political corruption focused itself mostly in a single civilization at a given time. But nowhere did this phenomenon reach such a height of prevalence and sophistication as in the Roman Empire. All one has to do is read the voluminous work of Edward Gibbon to realize the depth of perversion and destruction this practice brought to a once high civilization. This blog has focused on corruption before but mostly in Latin America, however recently it seems that corruption has reached “epidemic” levels throughout the entire world and this will be our focus.
A recent death in the family necessitated a return to the United States after living abroad for the past ten years. A family member in Miami has a large home, so I stayed there for six months while handling family business. From the very beginning, I noticed a slight discoloration in the tap water in Miami. It was not a thick discoloration but more like a light “tea” color something akin to Chamomile tea. Of course, I made inquiries but everyone seemed to be accustomed to it. No one seemed to think that there was anything unusual about the color or the after taste of the water. Most people just passed it off and stated that they buy “purified” water anyway (whatever that means). All of this prompted me to look further into the situation of the water supply in the US and particularly the Flint Michigan water crisis.
Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ten Rules of Change in the Post-Crisis World by Ruchir Sharma, London: Allen Lane, 2016; pp 464, £25.
Ruchir Sharma grew up between Mumbai, Delhi and Singapore. He entered the world of international investment in the early 1990s as a specialist in emerging markets. He has travelled a lot ever since—around one week a month on average. He was also an active journalist at ﬁrst, posting vignettes drawn from his travels in the mass media. In 2012, he published Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles which is said to have broken sales records. He is now the head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management in New York. In his earlier book, he reported the views of village barbers as well as celebrities, but in the present one, we just get the celebrities.
There is something terribly wrong going on in American schools today. A silent epidemic is spreading throughout the country like a cancer. What does it say about a society when children and adolescents can get their hands on military grade weapons, somehow get them into their schools and gun down dozens of fellow classmates and teachers? Where are all the scientists (CDC, think tanks, privately funded research firms) and why aren’t they screaming from the top of the roofs about the dangers of such a phenomenon becoming “normalized”? When we step back and take a sobering look at the facts, we will find that we are closer to normalizing such behavior than we actually realize. Without a doubt, these horrific acts are becoming more frequent.
Most people have already heard of Bitcoin. However, very few know what it is or how it originated. Many people know that it is some form of “cryptocurrency” but only a few know what that term means. Those of us that spend time on the Internet are familiar with the term but do not know that Bitcoin is just one form of cryptocurrency – there are others. Also, a lot of people are familiar with PayPal and other online payment platforms but do not associate cryptocurrencies in the same way. There is a lot of controversy but there is also a sign that cryptocurrencies may be here to stay.
Brazil had an opportunity to be a leading, democratic, Latin American country but lost its sense of direction. The political system designed to assist emerging countries grow and prosper does not work there. Instead of growing, as so many predicted it would, over the last seven years the country has fallen apart.
Brazil is a country saturated with corruption. From the small, family-owned mom and pop neighborhood grocery store to the hallowed halls of the Senate and Congress, the country suffers from a cancer that consumes the bone marrow of its political elements, economic structures, and social relationships. The one-time rising star of Latin America and its fall from grace has been both dramatic and shocking. Political chaos, administrative mismanagement, and digressive legislation now overwhelm this once hopeful democratic republic.
We attempt here to explore the relationship between anthropology, social media and public engagement through a web-based network that we helped to found and manage. We argue that obscure social and technical dynamics are at work here, but academic anthropology today also poses signiﬁcant obstacles for this enterprise.
The new anthropologist is a self-appointed people’s representative in the double sense of writing them up and acting as their advocate. And anthropology is a sort of democratic politics, informed by long-term, empty-headed exposure to strangers wherever they live and shaped by the main public issues of the day. This populism is hostile to elites, especially experts; it is anti-intellectual and definitely anti-scientific. The ethnographer is confident of making a difference simply by being open to what ordinary people think and do. There are no shared ideas in this discipline and whatever passed for theory before is now dismissed as a preoccupation with outlandish customs for their own sake.
Many people throughout the Western world do not understand what is happening in the Middle East. Much of the confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the complicated relations between countries, land, people, and political objectives. One particular myth is these conflicts go back as far as the Crusades and the wars between Muslims and Christians. However, this is not the case for current modern day conflicts, wars, and the destabilization that has taken hold of the region. Although, one could argue that outside foreign influence is responsible for starting the present day chaos, still there exist conflicts between different Muslim countries, people and rulers.
Well, it only took about two-hundred and forty years but the greatest fear of the writers of the Constitution of the United States has taken place. A rich, capitalist class of billionaire Americans have finally taken over the government. It seems that political representatives from states all over the country have sold out their constituents and are peddling themselves to billionaire donors. Of course, many of us already knew that these interests had been working in the shadows to usurp the power of the Constitution and civil liberties for decades. But now, these interests have come out of the darkness into the clear light of day in full array and unbridled hubris.
In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, we would do well to recall Hegel’s maxim that difference-in-sameness moves history. Max Weber used a similar argument to moderate the polarised Methodenstreit (Battle over Methods) between Berlin and Vienna about economics in the late 19th century. We would not be interested in the Greeks if they were the same as us, he wrote, and we couldn’t understand them, if they were completely different.
Continue reading “Capitalism, revolution and racism in the US and the world”
This is an opinion piece that some might say loosely fits within the realm of anthropology. And yet, if one could say that anthropology is the genealogy and archaeology of human activity, then under those circumstances it should be appropriate. I wish to discuss those things that any head of State, President, or sovereign leader should attempt to avoid in order not to be hated or despised by their people, the military of their country, or the rich and wealthy. Characteristics that will succeed in preventing them from being fearful of danger or reproach.
Continue reading “Why do Leaders Fail?”
It is not necessary to explain the process by which algae through millions of years of geological time and chemical reactions become fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal. It is important to explain, however, why these fossil fuels have become the most vital resources in the world today. Our modern-day lives depend on these fossilized resources so much. More important, we should reflect on how we consume in just one year what it took nature over 5 million years to produce. Since 1860, geologists have discovered over 2 trillion barrels of oil and since that time, we have consumed over half that amount.
Continue reading “World’s Most Vital Resource”
In the May-June 1993 issue of Wired Magazine, an article on a group of mathematicians advocating a radical, libertarian, cryptographic philosophy appeared on the front cover. The group of scientists called themselves the “Cypherpunks.” By 1996, their political-scientific philosophy had developed into a populace movement against government intrusions into the private lives of individuals. We should also be reminded that one of the first voices to speak on the subject of government surveillance into the private lives of individuals was George Orwell’s work 1984. Apparently, the Cypherpunks picked up the gavel and took it further. It is also important to remember, that it was President Ronald Reagan and his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or “Star Wars”) which was proposed as a missile defense system intended to protect the US from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons (intercontinental and submarine-launched) that actually gave birth to “Big Brother.” He made the public announcement of his brain-child in 1983 and established the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization to oversee the SDI. And although this initiative is used to fight terrorists even today, no one ever thought it would be used to spy on individual Americans, other countries, governments, politicians or corporations.
Continue reading “The War Against Privacy”
Some sources claim that one out of every 236 people becomes a victim of human trafficking. Even more startling, sources state that every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of trafficking. Now, most people already know that the drug trade is probably the most lucrative illegal commerce in the world. But how many people know that human trafficking is running close to the drug trade – very close. Continue reading “Human Trafficking: a growing epidemic”
Medical anthropology, although considered a subcategory in anthropology, has been making contributions to medicine and public health since the development of anthropology itself. The fact that anthropology, as a multi-disciplinary, intrinsic, discipline has contributed valuable information and techniques to several other disciplines justifies its essential importance. Although its early history is diverse, there exist three empirical foundations that are considered “universals.” They are: 1) disease is a fact of life; occurring in all times, places and societies; 2) all groups of humans develop some sort of beliefs and perceptions for defining it; and 3) all groups of humans have methods for coping and responding to it. Writers like Rivers, Clements Ackerknecht, Paul, Livingstone,Wiesenfeld and others formulated these generalizations in a variety of ways yet they all maintain the legitimacy of these observations.
Continue reading “Indispensability of Medical Anthropology”