Ethnography.com is reborn for 2019!

Well, it looks like Ethnography.com is going through a third or fourth re-design!  Christina Quigley is taking over the web-master duties and getting the blog ready for 2019!  This comes after a 1-2 year hiatus when little new content was posted.  This will hopefully change, as both Christina and I begin to post ethnographic observations … Continue reading Ethnography.com is reborn for 2019!

My Life as an Honored Potted Plant

Meetings are rituals, and rituals need symbols, and decorations, in other words potted plants.  I've been to a lot of meetings in my time as an academic where I sat bored and confused, but still clap on cue.  The most obvious place I am such a decoration is in May graduation ceremonies.  I sit in … Continue reading My Life as an Honored Potted Plant

Gallows Tale III: The Hanging Files of Tanganyika, and Are We Hanging the Right Man?

Quick capital trials were undertaken in the remote corners of Tanganyika Territory, even those places that did not have their own gallows. But  the sentence could only be carried out at one of the officially designated gaols where execution by hanging was carried out on a permanent or temporary gallows built and conducted to official … Continue reading Gallows Tale III: The Hanging Files of Tanganyika, and Are We Hanging the Right Man?

Gallows Tale II: The Hanging File of Tanganyika 1920-1928 and the Risk of Escape!

The risk of escape of a condemned prisoner who is required to undergo a long journey on foot [of 230 miles] to the place of execution must be considerable Britain had took control of German East Africa and renamed it Tanganyika Territory in 1920. This meant that the German justice system, which had been found … Continue reading Gallows Tale II: The Hanging File of Tanganyika 1920-1928 and the Risk of Escape!

Gallows Tale I: The Hanging File of Tanganyika Territory 1920-1928 and the Extra “Whack”

Another point requiring your attention in the cross bar which holds the trap door in position. When this is released and falls into its groove in the wall, it should be caught by a socket of some kind, to prevent its rebounding on contact with the stone. At present it is quite possible that, in … Continue reading Gallows Tale I: The Hanging File of Tanganyika Territory 1920-1928 and the Extra “Whack”

Are There Two Kinds of Stupid? Gump, Nietzsche and “Stupid is as Stupid Does,” or “Power Makes Stupid?”

There are lots of good reasons to read Bent Flyvbjerg’s 1991 book Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice.  But for this blog, I want to focus on his description of why people in power are stupid in one particular unique way. He writes that people in power have the opportunity to define what is rational, … Continue reading Are There Two Kinds of Stupid? Gump, Nietzsche and “Stupid is as Stupid Does,” or “Power Makes Stupid?”

Ethnography as a Contact Sport: the Mla Bri and the Long Family of Phrae, Thailand

Ethnographers and a Lack of Common Sense How many ethnographers are crazy? This question came up for me in a Facebook post recently by Gene Long, a missionary/linguist/ethnographer who has lived with the Mla Bri (Yellow Leaf) hunter-gatherers of Thailand since 1981. In other words, he and his wife Mary Long have 34 years of … Continue reading Ethnography as a Contact Sport: the Mla Bri and the Long Family of Phrae, Thailand

A Baker from Dresden

I returned home to Friedrichshafen on the train from central Germany last Sunday. My wife, daughter, and I had second class tickets on the slow train—which meant a lot of stops. On the second stop, an elderly man got on the train, and asked if he could sit across from me. Sure, I grunted. I … Continue reading A Baker from Dresden

The Last Auschwitz Trial, Moral Guilt, and Criminal Guilt

On June 2, 2015, I attended the trial of Oskar Groening, a German SS officer who was assigned to Auschwitz in 1942-1944. He is being tried for being an accomplice to murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz, the number of people sent to the gas chambers during the time he was there. Another 100,000 were … Continue reading The Last Auschwitz Trial, Moral Guilt, and Criminal Guilt

Mirror Neurons and the Looking Glass Self: The Neural Sciences meet Sociology

Why do neural scientists need expensive MRI machines to “see” what classical sociologists Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead saw by simply looking into the eyes of children?  This is the subject of my recent article “Of Mirror Neurons and the Looking Glass Self” published in Perspectives on Science. The Mirror Neuron is a hot thing … Continue reading Mirror Neurons and the Looking Glass Self: The Neural Sciences meet Sociology

Fellowship (Gemeinschaft) by Franz Kafka (1909)

Fellowship (Gemeinschaft)   by Franz Kafka 1909   We are five friends, one day we came out of a house one after the other, first one came and placed himself beside the gate, then the second came, or rather he glided through the gate like a little ball of quicksilver, and placed himself near the … Continue reading Fellowship (Gemeinschaft) by Franz Kafka (1909)

Alice Goffman’s On The Run: Ethnography in Action!

Alice Goffman’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in America is about young African-American boys and men on the run from the police in Philadelphia. The situation is a product of the United States’ skyrocketing incarceration rates—in the poor undereducated black neighborhood Goffman studies, something like 10% of the young men are incarcerated at any one … Continue reading Alice Goffman’s On The Run: Ethnography in Action!