DIY History

In yet another case of the university library exploring the digital landscape, The University of Iowa Library has launched what is, to my limited knowledge, the first attempt to use crowdsourcing in their cataloging efforts. As explained on their website:


About the project

DIY History lets you do it yourself to help make historic artifacts easier to use. Our digital library holds hundreds of thousands of items — much more than library staff could ever catalog alone, so we’re appealing to the public to help out by attaching text in the form of transcriptions, tags, and comments. Through "crowdsourcing," or engaging volunteers to contribute effort toward large-scale goals, these mass quantities of digitized artifacts become searchable, allowing researchers to quickly seek out specific information, and general users to browse and enjoy the materials more easily. Please join us in preserving our past by keeping the historic record accessible — one page or picture at a time.


My favorite collection is the Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts, 1600-1963 . It is full of wonderful recipes for such things as: Calves Feet Jelly.

The Lithuanians at the End of the Road

I haven’t been writing much because I moved back to Germany 6 weeks ago. I will be here for two semesters while I am teaching at Leuphana University near Hamburg. The first six weeks have been the usual rush of purchases (phones, bicycles, groceries, etc. etc.), trying to do things, and then somehow make it back home without getting lost. A big challenge for doing this is to find the easiest path between my apartment, and the university some 5-6 kilometers away. As is usual with me in new cities, I spend my share of time getting lost, wandering about new hallways, streets, and bike paths.

A big challenge for doing this is to find the easiest bike path between my apartment, and the university some 5-6 kilometers away.  As is usual with bike paths, the best ways are often away from traffic, and through the backways and alleyways.  In my new commute this means riding through a dirt path, which goes under a highway and along a river, and then pops out at the end of a shady dead-end cobblestoned lane which I suspect was once the old road.

At the end of this alley there seem to be always 2-3 parked vehicles with Lithuanian license plates.  They seem to be a varying mix of two or three vehicles, especially vans and trailers.  They disappear during the day, and often change.  All of them though look like they are packed full of household goods.  Chairs, tables, beds, children’s toys, and so forth.  A washing machine was sitting there this morning.  Once I saw a man cooking on a kerosene stove, and I have seen others sitting around smoking and chatting.  I am almost to the point that we acknowledge each other, but not quite.  I wonder what vehicles from Lithuania are here in this remote dead end lane?

Lithuania is now a Schengen country, and a member of the European Union, which means that  Lithuanians are permitted to enter Germany without a visa, and to seek work.  I wonder what story the people at the end of this alley have to tell?



My New Book: Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child

Please ask your library to order my new book, Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child.  It us about the bureaucratization of our schools, and the commodification of our children–and about the paradox of our humanistic dreams for schools clash with the cold rationalism of the bureaucratic order.   A sample chapter is available from the British web-site of the publisher here

The way that book publishing works, means that on October 16, the hardcover version is released, which is designed for libraries.  The cost is $90 directly from the publisher, and $77 from  My hope is that a paperback designed for classroom adoptions and individual purchases will be out in a about a year.  That’s how academic publishing works!

I have worked on the book for the last four years or so.  Despite the ponderous title, much of the book reflect my thoughts about my own education, and that of my children.  Much of it reflects my frustrations with mass public schooling, but more importantly it puts the subject of schooling into the larger perspective of what the sociology of education in the modern world.


Incidental Anthropology: The “Coffice Romance”, Korean Café Interiors, and the Startup Companies of Egypt

Yet another installment of news stories and blog posts which accidentally have an anthropological angle. The loose theme for today is the café; in both literal and metaphoric form. Three things. First, the trend of freelance work has led to an elaboration of the office romance: the coffice romance Second, a wonderful photo tour of café interiors in Seoul. Finally, in Egypt a startup scene is blooming.

An Education into Anthropology via the Interwebs

It is a commonplace to direct someone interested in computer programming to one of the wondrous websites devoted to learning to code or, even better, directly to the source code for a favorite program.  In that spirit, I will take you on a brief tour of my favorite anthropological resources on the interwebs. I make no promise that what follows is in anyway a comprehensive or objective view, only that I have found these things useful. They also tend, like I think the best anthropology does, toward places where people are actively working through thorny problems.


Alan MacFarlane’s Website and Youtube Account:

One of my favorite videos on the internet is Alan MacFarlane discussing Frazier’s indexing technique in The Golden Bough. As well, his website is an excellent resource, a bit like walking into a dusty old office, which will make sense when you click on the link. And his collection of interviews with anthropologists is not to be missed. I am particularly fond of this interview with Roy Wagner

Hervé Varenne’s Archipelago:
This is a difficult web presence to classify. It is at once a repository of papers, unfinished ideas and provocations. A living syllabus. And a home for experiments. There is also a blog


Paul Rabinow’s Collaboratory:

Rabinow has been pushing for a new mode of anthropological research based around collaboration. To further this effort he has produced an impressive collection of interlocking websites in which he and his students have been experimenting with new forms of anthropology. In a move foreshadowed by his earlier work, Rabinow has also pushed and pulled on the form of his work.


XdoctorbutcherX’s Collection of Tim Ingold Lectures on YouTube:

This person has collected an impressive number of Ingold’s best talks.  Including my favorite.

MIT Opencourseware:

Though the computer science and electrical engineering classes get all the press, MIT has a nice collection of anthropology classes as well. They tend to be slanted towards the anthropology of technology/science, so proceed with caution or abandon as the case may be. I have found the course sites extremely useful for formulating reading lists and bibliographies.

In Defense of Academic Theory

Mark Dawson disappeared into his undisclosed location about six months ago, presumably to deal with AAAs secret plan to save the discipline from the Mayan Apocalypse.  Presumably this is how he is going to demonstrate how “practioners” are so much more valuable than academic theorists—and still rake in the AAAs big buck!


Since he disappeared and is now defenseless and muted, I can now repost one of my favorite blogs, “Whining about Practitioners.”  Guys like Mark gave me one too many lectures about how what we academic-types do is good for nothing—this is the response!