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.
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.
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.
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?”
Since the 1960s, there has not been any new innovative advances in the field of anthropology. Although some good work has been done, most of it has been concerned with fleshing out the subtler nuances of what was discovered during that time. The 1960s and 1970s brought to anthropology issues of critical theory and awareness in American, British and French anthropology. Scholars focused on discovering important similarities and establishing links between factors that previously were hidden. It is safe to say that it was a period of reflection that sought to diversify conventional views by yielding new constitutive elements to a traditional practice. Armed with meticulous research, scholars sought to analyze the relations within politics, science and ethics and the processes that interacted with one another in their formation. This movement became known as the “crisis of representation” (Marcus and Fischer) whose purpose it was to lay bare the conditions and show the generative factors behind discourses in civil and political activism, feminism, environmental pollution, the growth of ghettos, health and wealth disparities between the rich and poor, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, the impact of globalization, migration, material culture, and economic development.Continue reading “Perennial Narratives in Anthropology”
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”
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”
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”
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”
What are some of the primary concerns of Universal Health and access to quality health care? Among researchers doing studies in this area, these concerns have raised new narratives and debates. The general debate over Universal Health Care has revealed that certain populations are at greater risk and certain aspects of this crisis are particularly difficult to grasp. The process for achieving Universal Health care is not an easy one. And, many countries that currently have universal coverage systems needed decades to implement it. There are several factors involved in this process and this article will discuss some of the more important ones. Continue reading “Intricacies of Universal Health Care”
Recently, I came across an article in Lasa Forum Spring 2013 edition in which Edward Telles and Marcelo Paixão assessed the significance of Affirmative Action in Brazil. Now, Dr. Telles is by no means a stranger to Brazilian relations. He has been writing on Latin America and Brazil race, ethnic and social studies for more than thirty years and is one of the most distinguished American experts on race relations in Brazil and Latin America. It seems whenever I write something about Brazil, I need to refer to one if not several of his many works as reference. Now, the article provides some useful statistics about higher education students in Brazil and the number of students that are benefiting from the “Quota Law” (the 2012 National Congress Law requiring all federal higher education institutions to put in place quotas by 2016). Also, he tackles some controversial subjects such as class versus race-based politics, public and legal support, racial classification, and affirmative action and the labor market. Controversial in the sense that Brazilian people do not like to talk about “race” let alone acknowledge how racism creates disadvantages in education and social mobility for many Brazilians. Continue reading “Affirmative Action in Brazil: is it necessary?”
Recently, a PhD educated, cultural researcher for a Canadian magazine contacted me about Perspectives’ focus on “open-access publishing, public accessibility and seeking a broad readership while maintaining a high academic standard.” This was the way he described it. He went on to state that he found that an intriguing balance. It appears he wanted information on how to not only make his own writing and research more comprehensible to those unfamiliar with academic writing but more important, he wanted an opinion on how his magazine, a print and online offering, could make their publication more accessible to the mainstream public. So, he presented a few formal questions and asked for a response. It took a couple of weeks to think over his request and develop what I thought would be an appropriate reply. After drafting a response, I began by thanking him for his kind words (he was quite sincere and respectful) and then began explaining how I think we “modern-day” intellectuals have failed in our obligation as educators. As a significant part of this article and to prove what I mean, I am including a letter I received from a PhD student who quit her program in the final year just a few months before graduation. I think it dramatically reveals what is happening in academia today. Continue reading “Mandate of the Intellectual”
In 2012, Dr. Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, Harvard University Law School lectured at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies on Brazil and the United States. Not only was it a thought provoking seminar on Brazilian studies, it summarizes quite concisely similarities and variances between the two countries.
Unger presented a theses concerning the shortcomings of both countries and offers distinct reasons that support his argument. To begin with, he argues that both the US and Brazil lack sustainable policies that uplift the masses of ordinary men and women in their respective countries. He discusses something he terms the “sentimentalization of unequal exchange” and how it targets, isolates and marginalizes segments of their societies. Continue reading “US – Brazil Relations: the dynamics of consciousness and empowerment”
Now this is an article that is going to upset a lot of people but at the same time it will cause a lot of people to reflect on something that we so easily take for granted. As anthropologists, we are charged with trying to understand and explain what humans do and essentially why. We investigate similarities and variances, things that we share, and things that are private and sacred. We try to find underlining qualities that unite us as a species and set us apart as individuals. One very important part of our work is examining those characteristics that we all share in common. We call them the “universals” like sleeping, breathing, eating, movement, procreation, communication, our need to feel safe, to relax and grow. Malinowski called them the “seven basic needs” that we all share within our societies. But what about the concept of truth – and is it a universal or just a construct? Does it cross cultural, linguistic, social, and scientific boundaries in an attempt to define and validate our understanding, practices and systems of knowledge? It would seem that this should be an epistemological concern of some importance to us as living, working, and speaking beings. Continue reading “Universality of Truth”
Countries throughout the world are struggling to throw off their traditional forms of government and acquire the democratic way of life. For some, the idea of having the freedom to choose one’s destiny is something they never experienced. Free thought, free expression and free inquiry is something they never had the opportunity to enjoy. Having one’s life and activities dictated by a government that focuses on exploiting and plundering its people for the purpose of personal economic gain someday inevitably reaches a point of critical meltdown. People can take only so much before they strike back. The Foucauldian idea of the “contradictory complexity” of mankind makes it an outcome that all too often results in conflict and destruction. Then on the other hand, there are those that seek democracy solely for the purpose of enjoying the imagined benefits of capitalism that comes along with it. Most people throughout the world understand that one comes with the other – they are an inseparable pair. But many of the countries that seek democracy and capitalism do not understand them, or how they work, or even have the cultural background that can enable them to assimilate these concepts. Continue reading “The Cultural Incongruence of Democracy”
When I arrived in Brazil seven years ago as an American anthropologist seeking to discover if Brazil would be a good place to do research for a book, I had no idea about the degree of class discrimination that existed and the depths of its penetration into the cultural fabric of Brazilian society. Clearly, I was familiar with “racial” discrimination growing up in America and struggling against it for the opportunity to advance socially. That is to say, I was confronted with it in the military, in the ivy halls of the university and in the sterile workplaces of corporate American offices. And yet, in spite of it all, I still believe that America is one of the best countries in the world to live in primarily because of the high quality of life, the advanced standards and conditions within the society, but perhaps most important is the plethora of opportunities and benefits for everyone. And believe it or not, because it actually protects its citizens (i.e., the very nature of the American legal system is one that is built on protecting the rights of its citizens – they call it the “commonwealth” – not like other countries whose legal systems are designed to exploit and plunder its citizens). Continue reading “Self-imposed Discrimination in Brazil”
Perspectives in Anthropology welcomes you to explore our new Lecture Series where you can discover a wide range of topics, each with a unique perspective and interpretation. We hope that these lectures will reflect the values of good anthropological research and inspire your own critical thinking and imagination.
If you can’t view the lectures here on our website, you may still be able to watch some of them on our YouTube Channel. Simply go to our Lecture Serieschannel page and the video will be available for viewing. Please remember to subscribe to our channel.
We are also hosting conference lectures that will bring together scholars on specific themes. It is our hope to provide the work of prominent scholars who will contribute their knowledge and perspectives. Lively conversation, debate, and collaboration are the hallmarks of these events.
The point of this article is not to argue that bio-medicine has become a mechanism for establishing political or cultural identity for refugees entering the United States. Neither does it claim that modern bio-medicine influences define the character and needs of immigrants. Rather, it seeks to establish that each verifies the other and it seeks to present bio-medicine as a mediator of physical realities that gives nation-states justification for domination and control of immigrants and refugees. We will first trace the emergence of the “gaze” in a historical context to its formation as a classificatory concept and agent of power relations. Then, we will discuss the central role of cultural citizenship and its impact on the processes of immigration and assimilation. Continue reading “Transforming Refugees”
This article presents a brief discussion about the importance of traditional cultural and family values in urbanized, industrialized societies. In order to illustrate succinct dynamics among social factors and practices Brazilian family models are presented. It also describes dynamics concerning values, beliefs, and elements of parent-child relationships. Continue reading “Traditional Family Values in Urbanized Societies”
Some of you may be interested in knowing that Perspectives in Anthropology will be featuring a series of online anthropology documentaries. Many of these documentaries are available for viewing online for free from a variety of different websites. Not only will we feature some of the films we think are interesting but we will also provide a list of links to many of the websites.
The problem with the internet these days is just too much information to sift through to find what you are looking for quickly. So, we intend to help with that by providing some direction to some of the best documentaries online. Of course, we will feature some of the best from YouTube but we will also include open-source websites, university libraries, student films and individual websites set up just for that purpose.
So, stay tuned for historical and cutting edge documentaries in social, cultural, medical, and urban anthropology.