Many Random Things on my Mind

I am intrigued by what seems to be a persistent pattern among my peers, one that seems to render them unlikely (not to say incapable) of thinking anthropologically about their own lives, and careers.  I am frustrated by the number of times I’ve had the, “go ahead and submit that article you are sitting on, what are you waiting for,” conversation with my fellow women in anthropology.  Did they not  remember that article submission (among other things in our profession) can still be highly gendered, and that men tend to send stuff off because “it’s great,” and women tend to send the same quality of stuff off much less often, because it “needs some more work”—and then gets lost in the shuffle, and never gets sent out at all.  How can more of us not know this consciously, and then fight against it?  Why is it not a part of our graduate training (maybe it is for some, but it was not for me) to confront and discuss these patterns, and then be taught some real, practical strategies for breaking them?

 And what about the way that we treat our colleagues, sometimes (most of the time)?  I’ve blogged about this before, the anti- social, sometimes sociopathic tendencies of socio-cultural anthropologists, and how our training actually encourages this tendency to isolation and lack of social skills once we are in professional environments like, say, universities.  I marvel at the lack of self-reflexivity, in these people who are purportedly professional describers and analyzers of the human condition.  Or maybe it’s just an academic thing , and we anthropologists are nothing special in that regard.

I am also intrigued by the apparently unreflexive way that some are throwing around “ethnography” as if it is equivalent to Anthropology, and not, instead, part of our toolbox.  Ethnography springs from our particular disciplinary history, and has been adopted by people in other disciplines (sociology, for instance).  It also shows up in corporate practices, like research for advertising and design.  Perhaps it would be useful, in  (for example) our concern about HTS and ethnography, to make it clear that just because someone is engaging in ethnography does not make them, in fact, anthropologists.  And one can be doing unconventional ethnography (short-term, for instance, in the case of many corporate projects), and yet be doing so anthropologically. 

 Could some of these things be due to a persistent lack of grounding in both our disciplinary history, and in practical training for becoming professionals and colleagues?  Are we short-changing so many anthropologists, not giving them the right kind of toolkits, or perhaps mindsets, to succeed not just within their own narrow subfield, but in the wider world of academia, and (perhaps) the real world itself?  And are we rendering ourselves incapable of describing the significance of our work, and our discipline, to the wider world, by neglecting these parts of our professional upbringing?  Maybe we’d be in a better position to counter the Montgomery McFates of the world if we equipped ourselves a bit better to begin with, and gave others far less power over the representation of our discipline.

One thought on “Many Random Things on my Mind

  1. Thoughtful post.

    Sometimes I wonder if the anonymous peer review system is all that it is cracked up to be. It gives bullies a chance for a sucker punch.

    I was at an excellent presentation yesterday in which Daniel B. Lee, a sociologist form Cal State Channel Islands about the use of ethnography and social theory. It is true that ethnography is a tool–but it is a superior tool if used well, and for the right job!

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