I was impressed with Barack Obama’s statement on race in America. It showed an awareness of empathy, race, and culture that I am more accustomed to hearing about in university seminars in say, anthropology, than political addresses in the middle of a campaign. I hope that Obama is correct in assuming that the American people are ready for such an approach.
Obama himself of course has had unusual exposure to anthropological thinking. His mother Ann Dunham Soetoro was an anthropology student at the University of Hawaii, and eventually earned a Ph.D. after spending four years doing field work in Indonesia for her dissertation “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and Thriving Against All Odds” which was 1067 pages long (sounds like overkill to me!). She also had a career as an applied anthropologist, working for USAID, and the Ford Foundation.
Besides living in Indonesia from ages 6-10, Obama himself also reportedly visited his mother many times while she continued to live in Indonesia. While he was not an anthropology major himself, I have some hope that if he becomes president, a more nuanced view of cultural issues will be moving into the White House.
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.