In part six of this series I complained about how Taiwanese indigenous languages are being taught more like dead languages than living ones.
This point was really hit home to me when I was discussing with another student that I would like to have better communicative competence. It took a long time for me to explain what I meant, and it slowly dawned on me that other students really had no expectation of being able to use the language in such a way.
So I was very happy that the Hualien Tribal College and the College of Indigenous Studies at NDHU were able to arrange for two Maori language activists, Hana O’Regan [PDF] and Megan Grace, both affiliated with the center for Māori and Pasifika studies at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, to come to Hualien and share their thoughts and experiences. Hana and Megan have a very different approach to language revitalization – one which emphasizes building a living language. For this reason the focus of their work is in homes, not (just) in the classroom.
Savage Minds would like to welcome back guest blogger Ayla Samli and thank her for contributing this review of Healing Secular Life: Loss and Devotion in Modern Turkey by Christopher Dole, a 2012 publication from the University of Pennsylvania Press. While at Rice U. Samli completed her dissertation field research in Turkey and currently is Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro.
Review by Ayla Samli
I met Christopher Dole’s Healing Secular Life: Loss and Devotion in Modern Turkey with an eyeroll, the kind you might give an old uncle who tries to tell you a joke you’ve heard at every family gathering since the beginning of time. I looked at the book, winced at “secular” and “Turkey” in the title, and put it down, realizing that my dissertation-related injuries were fresher than I had imagined.
But the word “healing” in the title surprised and enticed me just a little. Isn’t healing misplaced here? Isn’t healing part of a somatic process, an outlier in the religio-political arenas of Turkey? For those unfamiliar with the anthropology (or the news, or anything making mention) of Turkey, religious and secular are binarized, regularly cast at odds in very tired ways.
However, as the demonstrations happening now reveal to the world, Turkey is full of internal dissonance. Dole’s book pushes beyond the predictable configurations of secular and Muslim, addressing instead healing practices among Sunni and Alevi healers and their respective neighborhoods in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
As some readers out there may know, Ward Goodenough passed away this week. A Micronesianist who had done a little work on Papua New Guinea, his death prompted an spate of remembrances on the Pacific Anthropology list I belong to. By any account he was a remarkable man — a prolific author, a careful fieldworker, a mentor to a whole generation of anthropologists, and an innovative theorist to boot. At a certain point in anthropology’s history a lot of people looked at him and saw the future of anthropology. Now that he has passed away I thought I might ask — respectfully — how and why it happened that Goodenough is remembered as an area specialist and not a theorist. It’s an interesting question partially because of what it says about the twists and turns of anthropological theory, but also because of how it speaks to the way our discipline is configured today. So I should say up front that I’m interested in talking about him and why he is important, even if he is not the road that anthropology took. I don’t want to use his passing to speak ill of him.
Goodenough was a Yale man — his father taught there, and he got his Ph.D. there. He came off the edges of the Boasian tradition. Like Julian Steward, he went through Cornell before heading off to Yale to do his degree. He missed Sapir and ended up taking courses from Malinowski, Linton, and Murdock. Murdock became his mentor, he came out of Yale ready to turn anthropology into a Real Science. It was a good time for it: the cold war was on, and anthropology was ready to Apply itself. People like Goodenough, Frake, Conklin, Lounsbury, Romney, and others were interested in making anthropology more quantitative, and brought a lot of energy to that task.
They ended up being sidelined, however. I think of the post-war period in anthropology as a series of overlapping moments. The componential, formal modeling, ethnoscience, cognitive sort of moment of Goodenough got started just a few years before Geertz (and a bit later, Turner) got going on symbolic anthropology. Goodenough’s paper on “Componential Analysis and the Study of Meaning” was (iirc) in 1956. Geertz began publishing interpretive stuff in the early 1960s. Neoevolutionism also got going in the early 1960s. Structuralism, that genius school of social thought, managed to look like kinship algebra to the ethnoscience people, myth interpretation to the symbolic anthro types, and structural Marxism to the evolutionists. So as a result everyone read Lévi-Strauss.
And yet by the early 1970s Marxism was in full effect, emerging from the evolutionary cocoon it had disguised itself in. Symbolic and interpretive approaches had proved quite compatible with the counterculture. I’m doing a research project at the moment on the influence of anthropology on Berkeley in the 1960s. When I asked one of the founders of SCA why they read anthropology and not just medieval history, the replied “strange worlds. That’s where we were headed.” Wider Murdockian ambitions, on the other hand, had been marginalized. It is only now, with the rise of the NSF Method Mall, that all of those people who spent years combing over HRAF to publish papers in the journal Cross Cultural Research are now receiving kudos from so much of the anthropology blogosphere, which in the US at least seems very behind a program of more rigor, more methods, and more four fields.
I wasn’t there, but I suspect that people like Goodenough, who worked with the military (was a drill sergeant apparently) just got hit by a tidal wave of cultural change and moved off of people’s radars. But I think there are probably other reasons as well — like a lack of computing power which stymied the development of their work. What’s more, the program that a lot of ethnoscientists were pushing required a lot of training and a lot of specialization — something that was not easy to disseminate. In fact, it may have been something that Murdockians wanted themselves. The picture Stephen Murray paints in his wonderful, concise article “The Dissolution of Classical Ethnoscience” is of a bunch of people who looked at a future laboring away at very small bits of cultural taxonomy and said “no thanks, I’d rather be a generalist”.
It’s worth noting the Goodenough himself was hardly a white room ethnographer. He wrote a massive book on applied anthropology. His book on Micronesian cosmology is straight-up, old-school ethnography. At the end of the day, people might have realized that once they could achieve their aspirations for science, they didn’t actually want to. I feel that this is what happened with the Manchester school of the J. Clyde Mitchell variety: given the option to do social network analysis, very few of them actually decided to go there. To this extent, anthropology is not a pre-paradigmatic discipline in the Kuhnian, it it post-paradigmatic.
There is more to say about Goodenough — that culture is not like phonemes (which apparently are not like phonemes in the 1950s) so componential analysis is theoretically problematic, that he reduced shared meaning to internal cognition, and other critiques of his work — but he deserves to be remembered for the solid, intelligent work he did, and for the movement that he did (or didn’t) spearhead. It’s only by returning to the past that we can see some possible options for our future. And if anyone wrote work that is relevant to the future of anthropology today, it is Ward Goodenough.
The nice thing about Sage is that they don’t try to hide who they are and what they do. They want to make money — lots of money — and they use us to do it. This is so different from the American Anthropological Association, which claims to be doing things because they are the right thing to do, but actually is desperate to make money, and uses us to do it. There are other differences as well — Sage has very high production values, while the AAA has AnthroSource. Most importantly, however, is the genius Sage shows in keeping its audience happy. Which (I should clarify at the start) is actually rather sinister.
Most days somebody has got something worth tweeting @savageminds, although we slowed down a bit there at the end of the semester. This digest collects links we shared in April and May. If you’ve got something you want to share with the Savage Minds community — particularly if it comes off an anthropology blog, even if its your own — send me an email at [firstname.lastname@example.org]. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
- A new JRAI special number on blood as a symbol of relatedness edited by Janet Carsten. Fierce! -Rx
- R.I.P. John J. Gumperz: A BIOGRAPHY … In honour of John Gumperz … /KF
- Supreme Court declines to hear Ward Churchill’s appeal … /KF
- RT @stevesilberman: Anthropologist reveals “the secret world of ‘garbagemen.’” /KF
- U Arizona libraries digitizes collection of 150 years of Mexican American newspapers, pamphlets. //MT
- Gumperz obit. in the @nytimes … /KF
- @BiellaColeman gets a nice write up in the Chronicle. Reflects on Swartz, Occupy. //MT
- Anthropology Blogosphere 2013 – Ecology of Online Anthropology … by @jasonantrosio /KF
- RT @EASAinfo. Marshall Sahlins editorial in Anthropology Today on his resignation from the National Acad of Sciences
- Steve Carell and James Gandolfini will play history’s wackiest feuding paleontologists in Bone Wars … /KF
For some time now, I’ve been meaning to write something about the Harvard email controversy because I think it teaches us something important about how we think about academic labor. First, a brief recap:
Last summer…Harvard was hit with scandal: “College officials [said] around 125 students may have shared answers and plagiarized on a final exam.”
Word about the scandal got to the news media in part thanks to a leaked email.
Here is what Harvard said happened next:
Consequently… a very narrow, careful, and precise subject-line search was conducted by the University’s IT Department. It was limited to the Administrative accounts for the Resident Deans… The search did not involve a review of email content; it was limited to a search of the subject line of the email that had been inappropriately forwarded.
Following up on some of the comments and discussion going on in Matt’s latest post, I wanted to open up a thread to talk a bit about this important question: WHO OWNS ANTHROPOLOGY? Do PhDs own anthropology? If so, which ones? PhDs in the US, Europe, Latin America? Who gets to define and control what anthropology is all about? And what about other degrees in anthropology–MAs and BAs? Where do they belong in the hierarchies we create? What about the general public–where do they fit? So feel free to comment and answer this question…and then maybe think about answering this question: Who SHOULD own anthropology? Ok, fire away.
Sunday morning I’m flipping through the Memorial Day coupon flyers and scanning the headlines when I noticed this title from the WaPo: “Master’s degree programs surge”
Georgetown, for example, awarded 1,871 bachelor’s degrees and 2,838 master’s degrees in 2012. Its annual bachelor’s output rose 12 percent over eight years. Its growth in master’s: 82 percent.
My first thought was about how this is representative of the continuing corporate inclosure of the university. Just like a suburban chain restaurant looking to get its customers served and back out the door without any loitering, universities can hope to improve their revenue by making short graduate degrees more attractive than long ones.
This news story, in addition to having really interesting Marxist remarks in the comments section about capital forcing labor to pay for its own training, got me thinking about how anthropology could get in on the MA hustle. Granted, it’s not a natural fit. For many persons — professional anthropologists included — a Masters in anthropology is not a very valuable degree. How has that come to be? And does that necessarily need to be the case?
Over at the Anthropology & Environment Society’s “Engagement” blog, Janis Alcorn has a pretty fascinating post about some of the social inner-workings of large bureaucracies. In this case, USAID–an organization that she has 25 years of experience working with. The post starts off with a quote from an interview with Andrew Mathews, who argues that bureaucracies function by “bleaching out local context and coming up with big simplifications.” Alcorn disagrees:
I would counter by positing that good bureaucracies do not bleach out local context. Instead, they create big, simplified umbrellas that cloak the complex, dynamic range of local circumstances and thereby give the staff of government bureaucracies the space to address local circumstances despite changes in political direction.
Later in the post, Alcorn brings up one aspect of USAID’s bureaucracy that resonates a bit with some of the things I saw in my own fieldwork. She writes:
I entered USAID during the transition from President Reagan to President George H.W. Bush. There was a flurry of activity creating documents for “transition teams.” In effect, those documents served as ideologically-aligned, simplified umbrellas that shielded the professional, non-ideological work of the agency.
This shielding of ideological/political work is really fascinating, and it reminds me of a few cases I encountered while doing fieldwork, in which certain organizations were used as a sort of “scientific” or “objective” screen to cover over individual members’ political desires and perspectives. Read more…
I’ll break end-of-semester radio silence today to make some comments on Gillian Gillison’s recent article All for One and One for All: A Response to Marshall Sahlins. It’s a great example of how not to engage in academic argumentation — in fact it’s the opposite of Sahlins’s new piece at the London Review of Books which is actually worth reading.