This is an amazing little article about Observation and Deduction. I’d recommend anyone considering going into anthropology to give it a read. It’s also a great little refresher on the power of observation packed with helpful reminders and links to tools for improving your skills for any anthropologist in the field.
Let your light shine in the face of terror, hatred, and evil. Only if we stand united in love, will our inner light be able to banish this great darkness from the world. Not just the “Western world,” but the entire planet. Violence, suffering, and hate spread like a sickness throughout of planet.
We must stand in solidarity not just with France, but with all those who have been attacked. Terrorism is bred of hatred. Violence begets violence. It longs to cast its darkness upon the world. It is the evil not of one religion or race or nation, but of those who love violence and cling to their blind hatred above all else. It murders and violates the innocent. It drives families from their homes. If allowed, it will poison humanity, brother against brother. Standing in solidarity with one another, we can lend each other strength to brave this darkness together.
Seeing places like Paris or New York or London hit by terrorism provokes more attention because we have grown painfully numb to daily battles faced by the innocent citizens of the Middle East. But we have to realize that an attack on humanity anywhere is an attack on us all. How can we claim inalienable rights, given to us by God, if we allow those human rights to be continuously violated?
Terrorism wants to strip away our sense of home. Home. What does that word mean? Yes, it is a space you live in, but it is so much more. It is our shelter, our security. It is a place we share with our family. The place we invite our friends. Stealing a person’s home, forcing them out with violence and fear. It takes away the person’s sense of security and disrupts their family. It violates the sacred space meant to shelter you from the outside world. In the end, this leaves in those still in their own homes in a state of fear.
These deaths, this violence, and chaos do not honor God, Allah, or Yahweh. The God who brought order into the universe in the act of creation, who gave law to his people, who taught love and forgiveness. No the only god honored by terrorism is the god of darkness, bloodlust, and chaos who sows evil into the heart of men. Intoxicated with power, blinded by hatred, people have been led astray feeling justified in their self-righteousness. But in the end their lives are claimed by this violence too.
Good people with good hearts, we need to stand together. We are stronger united. Standing against violence and injustice. Terrorism violates rights to life, liberty, and home. It extinguishes all hopes of happiness, replacing them with fears. Global solidarity standing together against terrorism isn’t the perfect solution for ending acts of violence and hatred around the world, but it is the answer to defeating terrorism.
Terrorist win when we are living in terror. Feeling cut off, alone, in constant danger. While changing your Facebook status or my making social media post may seem futile, these are powerful symbolic tools amplifying our voice. We can share love and respect, standing together in solidarity against this violence and hatred strengthens all of us. We fight the darkness by letting our light shine. Together we can light the world.
A very thoughtful consideration of Halloween from the eyes of little children. Perhaps because I have spent the past two days at grief workshops, this article made me wonder if forcing little children to confront death and danger while playing at adult roles and power serves a greater function or at least has the opportunity to. The power inversion of being “grown up” for a day and the freedom of taboo and prohibition breaking is empowering, perhaps, empowering enough to help prepare youngesters to face the danger and death they are forced to confront. Does confront death and danger in this controlled fashion (it may not seem controlled to the kid but it definitely is) help prepare them for facing death and danger the rest of the year? It would definitely be interesting to study why children choose to dress up as whoever or whatever. I think there is are a lot of ethnopsychology questions that could be asked in this arena as well.
October 31st is America’s curious anomaly. On October’s last day, as trees defoliate and nature ebbs towards the deadness of winter, parents mark the day by lifting prohibitions. From sugar treats to stranger visiting, what is usually forbidden falls within kids’ reach. That day children lampoon adults, dressing up in roles of mature power (princesses, firemen, astronauts, pirates); kids arrive at strangers’ doorsteps and ceremonially threaten the grown-ups within with a veiled threat, “trick or treat.” Without further ado adults hand over candy, normally a controlled substance in children’s lives.
Remarkably moms and dads don’t resent the entailed power inversion. They support it – helping with children’s costumes and following close enough behind as young ones ring doorbells. Parents say they enjoy seeing their kids range around the neighborhood to collect booty. On this festival of inversion, when the small powerless become mighty and the big powerful do their…
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Many people I meet, even people I talk to on a regular basis, do not have background knowledge of anthropology, and I think that is fairly typical. Anthropology isn’t taught in the American public school system and most people have only had a limited introduction to one of Anthropology’s subfields. Archeology or Forensic Anthropology are commonly brought up as points of reference. Indiana Jones and the tv show Bones being the most famous, albeit fictional, anthropologists today. These are indeed crucial parts of the holistic endeavor to understand human beings, but the methodology employed is so drastically different that I think people are still left wonder what exactly it is that I do.
Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human, and the wealth of variation of culture and physiology that includes. Cultural anthropologists are primarily focused on cultural groups and cultural issues around the globe as they pertain to currently living people; as you might imagine this takes an incredibly wide range of forms. From studying HIV clinics in Bolivia to urban development in China to Forestry and Sustainability in the Philipines to grieving practices on Facebook, anthropologists do research anywhere humans are. This research is most commonly referred to as ethnographic fieldwork or sometimes ethnography for short, but an ethnography is really the written product produced documenting anthropologist’s cultural observations. The two most important methodological tools of ethnographic fieldwork are participant observation and ethnographic interviews.
The exact type of hard data each anthropologists documents during this ethnographic experience may vary, but one pattern repeats–tried and true. This method yields incredible, invaluable insight into the culture group being studied, allowing anthropologists to properly situate other more tangible data within its cultural context. Additionally, living with those we study and participating in their daily lives has offered anthropologists countless serendipitous opportunities for uncovering deeply insightful findings. These might come as a chance encounter, an illegal cock-fighting match, a midnight conversation, even in one case a late night police raid on the village an anthropologist was residing in (Greetz 1977; Bernard 2011). Such serendipitous events provide the researcher with an anecdotal stories that exemplify or illuminate key aspects of the human condition, which are frequently worth more than the several months of diligent pursuits of other methods. Other times such as serendipitous event is an experience that provides a unique perspective on the issue being studied, situating the researcher to have both the outsider objectivity and a momentary shared insider experience.
It is fair to say that participant-observation isn’t entirely well-defined even by and for anthropologists who employ it. How do you know when you are doing participant-observation? How do you know you are doing it correctly? These questions have probably haunted anthropology graduate students since the beginning of American Anthropology. Participant-Observation was invented when anthropology first shifted from an armchair discipline to one that required going to the “field.” Now part of the authority of the anthropologist claims comes from actually being there. This later came under critique, as did the anthropologist’s authority, in general, but the necessity of going to field to gain firsthand insight into a culture weathered the storm. In essence, participant-observation is about achieving the same type of organic first-hand exposure to a culture that language learners seek from language immersion programs.
Participant-observation might be defined as the process of living in a culture, alternately with the community of people you are studying, while keeping a detailed record of your observations of public events, daily life, and casual conversations. As anthropologists live in their field site, every communal activity, and human interaction offers the potential to yield insightful information. Anthropologists learn through immersion, living in the same cultural context as the people we are studying. We call it participant-observation occasionally even deep hanging out in an attempt to over emphasize the causal nature of one of our greatest tools. But the point remains the same; we need to absorb the social context while simultaneously analyzing the layers of that social reality and how they might affect the situation being studied.
However, the third vital gift of participant-observation is that it is the perfect set up for ethnographic interviews both formal and informal. Anthropological literature talks a lot about building rapport. What this really means is that you need to establish a relationship with your participants and your community. While informed consent in its strictest sense isn’t required, during the participant-observation stage of research, this is the ideal time to inform community members about your research. They need to know who you are, why you are there, and hopefully after you’ve shared some real genuine human interaction you can begin to build a relationship and trust. Being a part of the community, rather someone that just shows up one day out of the blue wanting to ask questions helps. Informal ethnographic interviews, in all honestly, are really just casual conversations. In participant-observation settings, think community social events, these can actually be allowed to start organically and on equal terms. Once the anthropologist has the lay of the land, after conducting participant-observation for a while (the length of time is always up to the researcher), then she can start looking for people who are willing to be interviewed in a more formal setting. But again, it helps here that the people already either know her or know people who know her. I still like to refer to these as ethnographic interviews albeit formal ethnographic interviews to emphasize that the interview is informed by participant-observation unlike for example interviews of randomly selected college students participating in a psychology survey or a sociological questionnaire.
Cultural anthropologists may also employ a host of other data collecting methods: household surveys, kinship charts, taxonomies, ethnographic decision models, photography, videography, cartography, online questionnaires, and even analysis of digital data like tweets. But participant-observation and ethnographic interviews are our bread and butter.
I have explained them thoroughly to give you my warning, or disclaimer if you will. Once you start conducting participant-observation and ethnographic interviews, you’ll never actually stop. Sure, an anthropologist isn’t always keeping detailed notes about all of life’s observations. But come to think of it, even when I’m not on field note taking duty I still make notes about all my “Fascinating!” observations as soon as I can get to my nearest notebook, cell phone or laptop. After I tell someone or write it down, it keeps the idea percolating in my head and it helps me remember. But that’s not the important part. The important part, it that once you learn how to do participant-observation and then follow it up with thoughtful ethnographically charged questions, well… you sort of can’t turn it off. These tools of inquiry become part of how you think and engage with the world. I was in the mountains on retreat with my friends last weekend and I caught myself doing it, but I didn’t realize what I was doing until I’d already asked the question. It wasn’t in any way related to my dissertation research or really any topic that I’ve directly studied, but I was curious. Then it happened again while I was in a fitness class on Monday. But that is the thing isn’t it, ALL of Human Diversity and what it means to be human, that is what I study. So if you are human and you are talking and doing your thing, whatever your thing is, I’m probably unintentionally studying you. Dear friends, family, communities in which I live, my apologies and warning in advance.
An anthropologist is always conducting research to some extent. Once you learn the tools of anthropology, you cannot simply turn them off because you are at the dinner table with your in-laws or in dance fitness class or listening to someone tell you about their yarn store. I can’t possibly wipe out informed consent forms every time I get inspired, plus I think it might start freaking out those close to me.
So for my friends and family, this is a friendly reminder, I’m an anthropologist and this is what I do. Before I actually publish any stories directly about you, I will always try to go back and ask your permission and give you a chance to preview it. Don’t worry I always change names to protect the not so innocent. Excepting some of the members of my family, of course, who chose to be identified in previous research as it pertained to family history.
For all my past, current and future research participants reading this, I hope this gives you some insight into what anthropology is and what I do with it. I always want you to feel like we are collaborators in the research projects you work with me on. I want you to feel proud reading what I write especially when it pertains to you. I plan to always publish a public audience version of all my material well in advance of any academic publications. If there is anything that concerns you, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
The strength of anthropology is that we are always learning, gathering data isn’t something we do in a lab or even something we can easily shut off. We learn through immersion, living in the same cultural context as the people we are studying. We call it participant-observation occasionally even deep hanging out in an attempt to over emphasize the causal nature of one of our greatest tools. However, the point remains the same; we need to absorb the social context while simultaneously analyzing the layers of that reality and how they might affect the situation being studied. Then when the moment is right, we start asking thoughtful questions. Sometimes formally in a pre-planned interview setting and sometimes informally while sitting on a couch in someone’s living room or at a local fair in the park. One thoughtfully worded question, placed in the right setting and time, can reveal far more insightful information than a thousand questions asked without context. That is the argument of our discipline.
#AAA2019 The American Anthropological Association annual conference will be held in conjunction with the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d’anthropologie in Vancouver, British Columbia.
My husband and I are already excited about this, yet at the same time…. 2019? Doesn’t that year still sound like it should take place in the still far distant future?
It’s a question I’ve been asked to ponder in a strangely wide variety of situations lately. Teaching high school Seniors, Juniors, two Sophomores, and 8th graders mathematics this year found myself explaining a lot of new topics I never intended to, but my chosen field of study anthropology is chief among them.
Then on Spring Break, I was asked by a Depth Psychologist to explain exactly what anthropology was, on an 8th grade level. I thought great! I’ve got some experience actually doing this. I told her, “Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human in all its variety over all time and space, all around the world and throughout history and pre-history. Anthropologists are fascinated by all things human. We, of course, have different specialties, cultural anthropologists study people alive here and now, by observing them, talking to them, and participating in the cultural traditions we seek to understand as much as possible.” My colleague’s elegant answer was the famous but hard to attribute quote, “Anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences.” Then I looked at her and told her, “Honestly, maybe it has something to do with where I grew up, but I always saw Anthropology, especially anthropology as a teaching tool, as a tool for breaking down fear and prejudice born from the unknown. Anthropology allows us to understand each other’s cultures a little better, see through one another’s worldview if we take the time, and perhaps bring a little more compassion and understanding into the world. But I guess that’s a little sappy.”
Anthropology’s ultimate goal: to understand the human condition.
Teaching anthropology is the best step I can personally take to do my part for world peace. Changing one mind at a time.
CALL FOR MANAGING EDITOR
Anthropology of Consciousness
DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: December 15, 2014
The Executive Board of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness is now inviting applications for Managing Editor of its peer-reviewed journal, Anthropology of Consciousness. Interested applicants should submit a CV, a written statement specifically addressing the qualification criteria listed below and her/his vision for how the journal might evolve. Please send all materials to Beth Savage, SAC Secretary/Treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org Final selection will follow an interview, preferably before or at the 2015 SAC Spring Meeting in Oregon. The three-year term begins August 1, 2015.
Qualifications for Anthropology of Consciousness Managing Editor:
- Demonstrated interest in and knowledge of SAC’s areas of research and scholarship.
- Experience and knowledge in publishing, editing, and journal administration.
- Excellent written and oral communication skills.
- Higher degree in anthropology or closely related field.
- Proven record of refereed publications.
- Ability to adapt to changing publishing platforms.
- Excellent interpersonal skills and experience supervising staff.
Anthropology of Consciousness is grounded in anthropology, and produces a comprehensive body of literature in both new and established topical areas. A distinct and highly valued feature of the journal is its interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary appeal to academic authors, contributors, and readers from anthropology as well as from psychology, sociology, alternative and complementary medicine, and phenomenology. An overarching goal of SAC is to increase the impact and exposure of the journal across anthropology and the other human sciences.
Working arrangements: Must be available for a three-year term of appointment. Must meet strict deadlines to produce two issues of the journal annually. Works closely with Associate Editors/peer-reviewers and an Assistant Editor. Training provided, preferably before term begins to overlap with current Managing Editors. Volunteer position, reimbursement for journal-related costs. 100% working remotely. Attendance at AAA annual fall meeting expected, with some travel and lodging reimbursement. Must have a computer updated to current standards and software. Organizational or financial support from editor’s institution or organization helpful.