Is “Indiana Jones” a Psychological Hazard for Male Archaeologists?

     My son Christopher graduates next month with a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology.  I think that this happened because we made him a sandbox as a child, and he seemingly has not grown out of it, as most of us do after age 8.  Only now he is more geeky.  So instead of digging for plastic soldiers and banana peels in the sand, he looks for shards (pieces of pottery, I’m told), and sherds (pieces of glass) on Caribbean islands.  And mostly what he really finds are really old chicken bones. 

       Completely consistent with archaeological geekiness are Christopher’s long disputations about archaeological ethics.  This seems to be a hazard of the major, and includes rants against treasure hunters, mumbling about stratigraphic context, expressions about the need to involve locals in research, the nature of local museum collections, and the importance of being able to converse in local languages.  And of course, as Durkheim might say, every chicken bone is sacred.  This is fine, and I can relate.  We sociologists too like to believe that we are important enough to harm someone, and therefore need ethics, just like doctors and soldiers.  We are not as fascinated by chicken bones, but to each their own.

      So at least until two weeks ago, Christopher seemingly was seemingly headed toward a standard academic career in boring archaeology, which as far as I can tell is not that different from being a young civil engineer, medical lab tech, or other standard fare.  But then he confused us by insisting that for the graduation ceremony, his sister must provide him with a fedora to replace the mortarboard, and a whip.  It turns out that like to many male graduates of archaeology, he thinks his degree and expertise in chicken bones makes him into some kind of Indiana Jones, rather than just another drudge.  In fact, he deludes himself into believing he has a resemblance to this guy, even though his chief archaeological mentor is female professor specializing in (among other things) underwater archaeology a totally cool sub-discipline which Indiana Jones has never even attempted (can Indy even swim?).  And anyway, what does Indy know about with sherds, shards, ethics, or chicken bones?  Is Indiana Jones really that great of a role model for archaeologists?  

      So I asked a couple male archaeologists, about how I could cure Christopher of his Indiana Jones fetish.  Oddly, they did not consider this a problem.  In fact, they just looked at me quizzically, as if to say, why wouldn’t he be like Indiana Jones?  The unspoken response was, “isn’t every archaeologist kind of like Indiana Jones—particularly the really cool part?”  They will acknowledge that Indy as portrayed in the movies is a treasure hunter and a fraud, but they blame this on the writers, not Indy himself.  Like Christopher, they fantasize that indeed, archaeology is just like the movies rather than the sandbox and the lab. And even when the film-maker makes bloopers, like asserting that Indy learned Aymara (or was it Quechua?) while riding with Pancho Villa, they blame the filmmaker and point out that Indy really really rode with Hiram Bingham.  The fictional non-existent Indy never gets the blame.  No, even archaeologists like Cindy Van Gilder blame poor Steven Spielberg, a mere film-maker, for the bloopers and politically incorrect story lines. 

     Out of frustration, I went to the Archaeological Institutes of America web-site.  I figured they would have a dignified response to the claptrap of Indiana Jones “the archaeologist.”  But no, there it got even worse.  They elected Harrison Ford, an ACTOR, to the Board of Directors in 2009.  They even gave him a major award—an occurrence that only one lonely and ignored archaelogical blogger, Dr. Tim McGuiness, has the good sense to protest. 

      So what is it about archaeology that makes them take the fictional Indiana Jones so seriously?  After all, Ford played Han Solo in Star Wars, and was an outstandingly cool alpha male there too, but he was not elected to NASA’s board of directors.  Agatha Christie was never given a special position at the British Home Affairs office because her characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple outdid Scotland Yard’s detectives.  Nor do any criminal justice types assert that Dirty Harry was a good thing, “except for the part the writers got wrong.” Nor has the American Criminological Society given Clint Eastwood their highest honors

      Nor is the Air Force going to give a medal to Tom Cruise and place him on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for acting in “Top Gun.”  They have far more restraint than that. And hey, I know about such restraint, since I’m a sociologist, and we can legitimately claim America’s number one actor, none other than Ronald Reagan himself, as one of our very own (Sociology BA, class of 1932 Eureka College).  Note we can even do this without resorting to Reagan’s FICTIONAL film work in his well-known movie, Bedtime for Bonzo, or in any other high profile role he may have had in Washington DC.  Ronald Reagan is, by training, one of us!  But, modestly, we sociologists for over 60 years resisted the temptation to elevate the world’s best-known actor to the Board of Directors of the American Sociological Association.  ASA even resisted the obvious temptation to give Reagan a major award, preferring instead to attract the attention of the world through the elegance of our regression equations, and sophisticated interpretations of post-modern meaning.  Why can’t the AIA in particular follow our dignified lead, and modestly admit that Indiana Jones is ONLY A MOVIE CHARACTER, just like Ronald Reagan was ONLY A MOVIE CHARACTER.  (Ok, so maybe Reagan was more than a movie character—but Indy ain’t!)

       None of the of course addresses the basic problem of how to deal with a Indiana Jones wannabe in the family.  Is this some kind of permanent disorder?  Or is it treatable? Perhaps someone out there in the Ethnography.com community has some advice to offer?

What’s the Difference between Police and Military Action?

I think that there is a difference between the nature of policing and the military rooted in the nature of legitimacy.  But does the US government in fighting in Afghanistan really understand this too?  See the discussion at CurrentIntelligence.net, where I posted “Differentiating Between Police and Military Action.”  Find out what Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, the DC sniper, and the Unabomber all have in common.

New Magazine of Current Events, with an International Bent: Current Intelligence.net

Mike Innes, who has written books and articles about security issues, and worked in places including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Belgium, and Kosovo.  He alsoworked for NATO for seven years, and his written books, chapters and articles about strategic defense issues.  But now, he is also the founding editor of a new magazine, Current Intelligence, at www.currentintelligence.net. Current Intelligence is a magazine of current events, broadly put.  Updates will be daily, but also grouped into monthly electronic issues.  A quarterly copy published the old fashioned way on paper.

Mike has a strong background in security and foreign affairs, so I suspect that the first issues will reflect this tendency a bit.  But he is also recruiting others from outside these fields—the magazine will cover general issues of society, politics, and culture.  For example, I have contributed an article in “The Agenda” section of the magazine “Bright Lights, Big City: Crime, Immigration, and The Modern City.”  I expect to see writing from a broad range of academic fields dealing with international issues in coming issues.  All of course are welcome to make comments on the articles posted.  Certainly, there is plenty for anyone with a cultural anthropological bent!

The writing so far is sharp and crisp.  Discussion is about many regions of the world, including so far the Canadian Arctic, the AfPak theater of war, Uzbekistan, and the challenges NATO faces.  The first issue (March 2010) is now complete, and postings have begun for the second issue (April 2010).

American Anthropological Association dissolves, decides to start over tomorrow.

APG Newswire WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Anthropological Association (AAA) made the announcement today that its Joint Committee for Publishing and Employment Services unanimously recommended the immediate dissolution of the AAA, stating there was nothing left to study.

James Curry, the newly-past President of the now defunct AAA, stated the organization had no choice. “Look, it’s all been done. All of it. We have talked to every god forsaken group on the planet, and there is nothing left to study.” “Frankly there is not even a job market out there for students.” Increasingly graduate students of these former anthropology programs have found themselves with little to do even when trying to complete their dissertations, much less do meaningful publishing. John Gault from Indiana University talks about hardships in the field: “I originally wanted to work with the Tsohon-djapa tribe living in the Javari region of Brazil. Turns out the F’ing Discovery Channel gave one of the kids there an HD webcam that runs 24/7. Now my dissertation is on some group of freaks outside of town that worship an old incandescent light bulb with a grease smudge that appears to be the image of Jesus. This blows”

To hasten the demise of the former organization, the AAA is recommending the destruction of all books, letters, monographs, white papers, dissertations and even master’s thesis work in the former field of Cultural Anthropology. The committee began by burning the minutes of their own meetings along with the abstracts and agendas of every meeting and conference the AAA has even been a part of.

Foster Kerry, the head of the committee was thrilled with the move.  “I am very excited for this new untouched field. Just imagine all of those utterly primitive cultures out there, such as Ireland, we know nothing about. With the advent of transportation like the steamship and the auto-mobile we have access to so many other places. Up to this point what we know about these primitive peoples are from the writings of missionaries. 2010 looks to be a great year for this new field of study.”

Not everyone is so pleased Martin Cost, a full professor at Walknut University has serious concerns about the announcement. “What the HELL, what the hell does this do to my Tenure!?” was the first official statement from Dr. Cost when informed of the move by APG reporters. “I am not doing that fieldwork crap again, no way.  My whole career has vanished.” APG asked one of Dr. Cost’s graduate students to comment on the potential destruction of most tenured faculty members careers, including Dr. Cost. That graduate student stated “BAHAHAHAHAHA!  HAHAHAHAH! HAHAHAHAHHAHA!”

Dr. Curry has some understanding for the concern.  “Look its true; teaching positions, publishing, tenure, sex with natives before any ethics are laid out, are totally up for grabs at this point. Right now we have a lot of High School PE teachers filling in at their local colleges and universities teaching “health studies” until some real research gets underway.  We expect this to be a banner year for grants, people love to fund new fields of study.”

An ad-hoc committee has already been formed to discuss what to name this new field and set-up a professional organization. It is likely to focus on documenting the ways the simple, primitive, innocent folk lived before we were corrupted by modern conveniences.  A overall “Study of Man” if you will.

Librarians nationwide also hailed the move for freeing up an enormous amount of space in the countries libraries which is now expected to be used for coffee and pastry kiosks.