anthropology topics

Religion and Economy – Part Two

Religion and Economy – Part Two


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.

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Why do Leaders Fail?

Augusto Pinochet

Why do Leaders Fail?

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.
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World’s Most Vital Resource

World's Most Vital Resource

World’s Most Vital Resource


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.

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The War Against Privacy

war-against-privacy

War Against Privacy

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.
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Decline of Brazil’s Middle Class

 

decline-of-brazils-middle-class

Decline of Brazil’s Middle Class

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.
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Birth of the Pharmaceutical

Birth of the Pharmaceutical

Birth of the Pharmaceutical


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.
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Origins and Scope of Thick Ethnography

Thick Ethnography

Thick Ethnography


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.
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Intricacies of Universal Health Care

Intracacies of Universal Health

Intracacies of Universal Health


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.
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Expatriates: Dilemmas and Misconceptions

Expatriates

Expatriates


Those who have chosen to become permanent expatriates at some time or another experience a very disturbing and confusing dilemma. What makes this dilemma so disturbing is it works at the psychological and emotional level and has the tendency to creep up unperceived and undetected. Some researchers define this phenomenon simply as culture shock. But, in reality it is something far more reaching than just a shock to one’s cultural sensibilities and way of thinking.
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Affirmative Action in Brazil: is it necessary?

Affirmative Action in Brazil

Affirmative Action in Brazil

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.
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Indispensability of Medical Anthropology

Indispensability of Medical Anthropology

Indispensability of Medical Anthropology


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.
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Tristes Tropiques: Revisited

Triste Tropiques Revisited

Triste Tropiques Revisited


When I first encountered Lévi-Strauss in graduate school, I thought the title of his monumental work sounded strange. At that time, I spoke absolutely no Portuguese but knew enough Spanish to understand that tristes meant sad. However, I could not for the life of me penetrate the “meaning” associated with the title of this passionate, perilous quest into (what at that time was considered) the dark world of myth, ritual and magic in the country of Brazil. Even today, Brazil is considered by most to be a land of far-off peoples, unexplored territories, and exotic culture. But really not so much.  Even Leví-Strauss acknowledged this when he wrote in 1935,”…the tropics are not so much exotic as out of date.” Having lived, learned and lingered in Brazil for seven years now and having acquired an extensive local knowledge (including reasonable fluency in the Brazilian Portuguese language) along with my anthropological training in skilled observation, I decided to revisit this pivotal work to attempt to understand precisely its meaning. But perhaps more important, to see if I could verify some of the same underlying order of reality set off by this highly original and influential work. Continue reading

Universality of Truth

Universality of Truth

Universality of Truth


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.
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Self-imposed Discrimination in Brazil

Perspectives in Anthropology-Self-Imposed Discrimination in Brazil

Self-Imposed Discrimination in Brazil


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).
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Long-term Ethnographic Immersion

Long-term Ethnographic Immersion

Long-term Ethnographic Immersion


In the years I have been doing ethnographic research, I have found that some ethnographers have a tendency to avoid researching issues that involve deep immersion. Clearly, there is a difference between what is termed participant-observer and observer-participant; however, I have also found that to take up positions in the midst of other’s lives in order to really observe and understand them some form of deep immersion is required. With this type of immersion, the ethnographer is able to see from the inside how people live, how they carry out their daily routines, what they find meaningful and why. Some researchers believe that deep immersion has the tendency to dissolve initial impressions and deadens sensitivities to subtle patterns causing the ethnographer to lose insight into experiences, meanings and concerns. Many believe that this compromises or contaminates objective data rather than provide insight into significant processes. In contrast to such views, deep immersion can provide the field researcher with a method to assimilate more profoundly into the lifestyle because the researcher does not learn all at once but in a constant, continuing process in which one builds an insight and understanding of other’s lives over an extended period.
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Lecture series

Lecture Series

Lecture Series


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 Series channel 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.

Transforming Refugees

 

Transforming Refugees

04 Jul 1979, Ban Laem, Thailand — Original caption: 7/4/1979: Ban Laem Refugee Camp, Thailand: Cambodian refugee children camped in a forest just inside the Thai border at Ban Laem Village, 160 miles East of Bangkok. They have little food, no medicine and are in danger of attack by Vietnamese troops operating nearby. Tailand announced late 7/3 it will take no more refugees and rejected International Red Cross criticism of its repatriation of 40,000 Cambodian refugees. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS


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.
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Traditional Family Values in Urbanized Societies

Traditional Family Values

Traditional Family Values


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.
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Unemployment & Poverty in Brazil

Unemployment and Poverty

Unemployment and Poverty

Although there is considerable literature on conditions of unemployment and poverty in many modernized countries, there is a penuriously small amount on how these issues are addressed in developing countries. In Brazil, a good portion of the available literature is gathered by agencies such as the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE), Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD), Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e SociedadeRio de Janeiro (IETS); also, UNESCO, the US State Department, the World Bank, the International Labor Organization, and a bevy of research analysts. Overall, these studies dramatically point toward the need for Brazil to deal immediately and effectively with high incidences of unemployment, inequality in educational distribution, discrimination toward women in the labor force, and issues concerning the impact of employment upon family responsibilities.
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The Art of Capoeira

Capoeira

Capoeira


There are many holidays celebrated in the city of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. And on almost every occasion, you can see practitioners of Capoeira displaying their art somewhere during the festival. In Brazil, Capoeira is a very strong part of the history and culture of the people. Although it was once outlawed as a form of illegal marital arts, it later became sanctioned and thrives throughout many parts of Brazil. As an art form, it has spread to many countries outside of Brazil and even has practitioners in the US and Europe. But what really is Capoeira and where did it come from? This article is dedicated to explaining the unique history of an amalgamated form of marital arts called Capoeira.


Capoeira: phonetic pronunciation [kap-u-air-ra)  is  a  Brazilian  martial  art  that  combines  elements  of dance, acrobatics and music. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by its quick and complex moves, using mainly speed, power, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques.  At the heart of Capoeira is the ginga – that is, the back-and-forth, foot-to-foot movement that serves as the starting point for many of the moves in Capoeria.  Capoeira used in actual self-defense situations incorporates many sweeps and low moves, however in demonstrations of the art there is more of an emphasis on high moves, acrobatics, cartwheels for evasion, and flips or other exotic techniques when performing or entertaining for an audience.
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Documentary Series

Documenary Series

Documenary Series


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.

 

Urbanization in Brazil

Urbanization

Urbanization

Although many developing countries are currently in the early stages of their urban transitions, Brazil has largely completed its urban transitional process. In fact, Brazil urbanized rather quickly in comparison to countries in places such as Asia and Africa. However, this accomplishment has been exhausting and disruptive in many ways leaving Brazil with severe economic, social and environmental problems.

Failure on the part of policymakers to foresee and plan for intensive urban growth and massive population growth has damaged its urbanization process in a variety of ways. Through their inability to grasp the social composition of the urban growth process and with the persistence of policies aimed at promoting class interests, the spread of severe shelter poverty, fiscal inadequacy and environmental degradation has handicapped Brazil’s ability to take advantage of its full potential.

It is well-know that the concept of urban transition coincides with demographic transition theory. The original theory is by Skeldon, and it suggests that as countries move from rural-agricultural to urban-industrial and from high levels of mortality and fertility to lower levels, they achieve economic success. Thus today, the majority of Brazilian citizens live in urban areas and large cities, levels of mortality and fertility have dropped dramatically, and its urban growth rate has slowed from its previous rate. All these considerations are indications that its urbanization process has peaked and that Brazil is in the later stages of this process.


Although in the later stages of its urban transition, cities still face significant urban growth particularly in the outlining areas. These areas are known as “suburbana”  or peripheries of large metropolitan cities. Since the 1950s, these areas have experienced rapid growth due to migrations from the interior regions rather than from natural increase due to births. The majority of the residents in these areas are poor or low-income, living in single-family houses or apartment buildings. For the most part, governmental programs to relocate inhabitants have failed because inhabitants resist moving from areas that are in close proximity to their places of work.

Nevertheless, Brazil’s urban transitional process and its significance for present-day social and environmental analysis is a substantially important factor. What is most striking about its urbanization process is the rapid and advanced development that it has undergone. For example, a process that took centuries for North America and Europe to accomplish, – that is, to shift from being 10 per cent urban to 52 per cent urban between 1750 to 1950, by the time the first comprehensive demographic census was taken in 1940, Brazil moved from 31 per cent urban to 81.1 per cent urban in just 60 years. Thus, Brazil’s substantial urban growth process is unique and one of the underlining factors contributing to its present-day rapid economic growth.

Sources: Martine, G. and George McGranahan (2010).Brazil’s early urban transition: what can it teach urbanizing countries? London; New York: Brazilian Association of Population Studies and the International Institute for Environment and Development; Skeldon, R. (1990). Population Mobility in Developing Countries. London and New York: Belhaven Press.


For more information see: Neil Turner – Brazil: Settlement, immigration and urbanization; Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology; Grin Publishing http://www.grin.com

Christina H Kim

This is a course description for my class at the New School for Fall 2014.

Wanda Model for Dandong China. Wanda Model for Dandong China.

The course explores the emergence and processes of urbanization in Asia through ethnographies. The course will examine urban development of specific Asian cities by focusing on urban problems and challenges including poverty, housing, sustainability and civil society as well as the ways in which city-dwellers, developers and organizations are working to address them. World-class cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul are hubs of global economy that emerging cities around the world are trying to emulate. There are also cities like South Korea’s Paju Book city and the Song Do Ubiquitous city, as well as China’s Huang Baiyu Eco-city each organized and built from scratch based on a single idea. Lastly, recent events like the 3.11 Tohoku Earthquake and Typhoon Hai Yan have destroyed entire cities raising further…

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Revolta dos Búzios – 1798

revolta-dos-buzios_1

Chapter One – The Conspiracy


This review is organized as a history of the diverse elements of scholarship by which the field of African Diaspora studies has been developed. It presents research findings of selected studies emerging from distinct interests and traditions of African Diasporic communities. The history examined here emphasizes the scholarship of diasporic researchers that, until recently, had little opportunity to appear within the scope of the longer and broader development of diasporan studies. It is well known that diasporic studies developed from the history of African-American and other diasporic scholarship, however, much of it within the historical context of the English language; rarely incorporating the social science, humanistic or activist understandings of scholarship in the Portuguese language. This review attempts to establish a new compatibility with diasporan intellectual traditions by presenting a foray into the knowledge of the diasporan experience from the Lusophone perspective.

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Landless Workers Movement (MST)

Landless Workers Movements Photo

Photo: Courtesy of Gibby Zobel

Recently, I witnessed for the second time a demonstration by the Landless Worker’s Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, or MST). As I watched and filmed the demonstration, I could not help wondering about the complex play of relations that unite and oppose people that still exist in Brazil left over from its period of colonial rule. I wondered about the differences between those people that continue to hold on to sovereignty and rule and those fighting to attain some simulacrum of decent living conditions. Clearly, these differences are born of colonial history – that is, the history of aristocrats keeping puppet administrators in their pay, creating a native bourgeoisie, and fashioning classes of peoples beaten down, undernourished, sick and terrified for the sole purpose of exploitation and profit-taking.
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The Great Revival: CIAD II

CIAD-II

CIAD-II

 

It is the intention of the editor to present a series of texts written by some of the most distinguished African and Brazilian scholars, intellectuals, politicians, artists, and activists involved in the movement to re-construct the interrelationship of Brazil with Africa and other countries in the Diaspora.  The main objective of this series is to provide an opportunity for those that do not speak the Brazilian Portuguese language or do not have the benefit of a translation of these texts to become aware of and, hopefully, engaged in this process. Continue reading