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 – PART 2
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
Recently, a colleague contacted me with a very interesting and specific question. At the time, I was on the road and too busy to address his inquiry. I asked him to hold on until I had time to think about how to approach the question. After some thought, I decided to respond by penning this opinion piece to express my ideas. It seems that everything around us these days are changing, so the interest of academicians in wanting to “open up” to possible new approaches to the discipline is refreshing. These are some of the main subjects that, in my opinion, would be interesting to those wanting to study the discipline.
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.
World society today resembles nothing so much as the eighteenth century ancient régime that Kant had every reason to believe had been abolished by revolution. Now a rich, aging white minority inured to luxuries unimaginable two centuries ago presides over masses whose passivity is measured by their lack of spending power (Hart 2002). The institutional legacy of 5,000 years of agrarian civilization, Childe’s (1954) “urban revolution”, still weighs heavily with us. The traditional recipe for managing inequality, to inject as much distance as possible between rich and poor, is contradicted by a world being drawn closer together by the digital revolution in communications. Yet, rather than embrace as inevitable its demographic replacement by the young, darker, poor masses, the dominant white elite frantically erects further barriers against entry whose principle is apartheid generalized to a world scale.
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.
After the end of the Brazilian military dictatorship, the Liberal Front Party (LFP), Democratic Social Party (PMDB) and Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) dominated the government of Brazil. For more than 20 years, right wing and centrists autocrats controlled the government and struggled with enormous foreign debt, rampant hyperinflation, and the difficulties of transitioning to democracy.
Trump’s election has accelerated talk on the left of the end of (neo-) liberalism and the rise of fascism in the West. The prospects for world war seem closer now. As when the 2008 crash is placed in history, comparison is usually with the 1930s. We need rather to develop a perspective on 1900-2100 as a whole. There have been enormous demographic shifts in that time: Europe had 25% of the world population in 1900, Africa 7.5%; Europe is predicted to have a 6% share in 2100 and Africa 40% — all the Americas, Europe and Russia, Australasia and Oceania together will then account for only 18%, Africa and Asia 82%.
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.
We need to understand better how we build the infrastructures of collective existence, money among them. How do meanings come to be shared and memory to transcend the minutiae of personal experience? Property must endure in order to be property and that depends on memory. Money thus expands the capacity of individuals to stabilize their own personal identity by holding something durable that embodies the desires and wealth of all the other members of society. Money is a ‘memory bank’ (Hart 2001 Money in an Unequal World; http://thememorybank.co.uk/book/), a store allowing individuals to keep track of those exchanges they wish to calculate and a source of memory for the community. Economic history is dialectical. Most people become quite anxious when they depend on impersonal and anonymous institutions. This is an immense force for reversing the historical pattern of alienation on which the modern economy has been built. How we combine the personal and impersonal aspects of money has much in common with religion.
Religion belongs to a set of terms that also includes art and science. Science began as a form of knowledge opposed to religious mysticism, but is now often opposed to the arts. If science may crudely be said to be the drive to know the world objectively and art is mainly a means of subjective self-expression, religion typically addresses both sides of the subject-object relationship by connecting our inner being to what is outside. Religion binds something inside each of us to an external force; it stabilizes our meaningful interactions with the world, providing an anchor for our volatility.
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”
When I first came to Brazil, I quickly became aware of the problem in the educational system here. So, I began to collect statistics and study why the educational levels were so low. During that time, Lula was the president and Brazil was making a serious effort to address its problems in education. The country was allocating an increasing amount of the GDP to improving the schools, opening new colleges and universities across the country and providing programs to finance education to deserving students. As I delved deeper into this study, I began to widen the scope of the research to include other countries. Along with the World Economic Forum’s reports, there are several other watchdog organizations monitoring this area and several other sources reporting on it. So, why is this so important? Well, believe it or not education is an indicator of how economies shape up and a country’s growth factor. Some of those factors include the quality of products manufactured, the amount of a country’s productivity, the future of the countries industries, projected economic growth, competitiveness, and the quality of its leadership.
Continue reading “Measures of Quality Education”
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”
Although he was a left-wing, socialist president for two consecutive terms, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva demonstrated that a left-wing administration was capable of navigating a sound macroeconomic course for Brazil. Also, he opened the country’s economy to unprecedented global trade and investment. During his presidency, Brazil became more integrated into the global economy than it had in forty years and trade accounted for 25-30% of Brazil’s national economy. Under his leadership, he successfully lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty making it possible for them to enter the middle class. However, Brazil’s economic crisis and corruption have tarnished his legacy and millions of people from Brazil’s middle class are now at risk of falling back into poverty.
Continue reading “Decline of Brazil’s Middle Class”
In his highly original work, Birth of the Clinic, Foucault focuses his attention on the human experience and the rational for its continued homogenous reality. He discusses in great detail concepts about ideological space, the transformation of language and the politicization of medicine. He attempts to illustrate and illuminate the development of methods of medical practice especially those influenced and regulated by the relations of power. But Foucault’s ideas about power are hard to define and comprehend. One reason for this is the common interpretation of power (when we think of power, we think about that which serves some sort of control). But to understand Foucauldian power, we must think in terms of power made from a system of complex relations. In this article, we will attempt to disentangle the discourse that complicates and obscures the relationship between political ideology and medical technology. We will examine the politicization of medicine and the agenda for the establishment of bio politics in modern culture.
Continue reading “Birth of the Pharmaceutical”
For decades, investors in advanced economies (AEs) have shaped the evolution of global markets. Research shows that advanced economy investors tend to hold diversified portfolios that include significant investments in equities. Over the past decade, these pools of wealth have been growing at a much slower rate than emerging economies (EMs). With their rapid growth, emerging market economies are becoming important factors that shape global financial systems. More important, the integration of emerging market economies into the global economy has a significant impact on international financial markets. This month, we take a look at just what that means and how global spillovers from these market economies can impact other countries.
Continue reading “Changing Global Economies”
People are migrating across the globe in unprecedented numbers. More than 200 million people are residing in countries other than their home countries. Further, that number represents a forty per cent increase over the last decade. Regardless of status, permanent, temporary, circular, whether for work or to join families, countries are concerned. It seems that the developed countries are concerned with threats to security, lack of control, and effects on labor markets. While the less developed countries seem to focus more on disregard for human rights, labor issues, and the trafficking industry that has developed around it. From the US to Europe, from Africa to Asia, governments are confronting the same questions albeit from different perspectives. And it seems, no nation has developed a successful solution.
Continue reading “Undocumented Migration: a global problem”
Within a historical context, ethnography attempts to be holistic in nature based in part on emic views. It is written, observational science that provides an account of a particular culture, community or society. Typically, it involves fieldwork or spending a year or more in another society, living among its people, and trying to understand them as much as possible. Further, it is a meeting ground for many disciplines that focus on human and social sciences. Principle among these are sociology, economics, education, religious studies, geography, history, linguistics, psychology and political science. Over time, ethnographic methods have developed other research frameworks such as anthropometry, cross-cultural comparisons, thick description, cultural relativism, emic-etic approaches, and holism.
Continue reading “Origins and Scope of Thick Ethnography”
Recently, health officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert for Central, South America and the Caribbean, some 14 countries and territories exposed to the mosquito-borne Zika Virus. The alert targets pregnant women and follows reports that thousands of babies in Brazil were born last year with microcephaly, a brain disorder experts associate with Zika exposure. Babies with the condition have abnormally small heads, resulting in developmental issues and in some cases death. Some people believe that under a global rise in temperature, insects in particular are passing through their larval stages faster and becoming adults earlier. In addition, studies show that flying insects’ migratory patterns have shifted and show extensions in their boundaries. Continue reading “Global Warming: trends and consequences”