Archive for May, 2008

transforming self

More and more I’ve been trapped into thinking about power in overly simple, generalized ways. Ie: my previous attempt at a more creative/informal/free expression on how I felt doing a Masters degree. Having some experience now working as a TA, I have felt first hand the effects of “power”. When I speak with people in the class, they do treat me a bit differently – or I act a bit differently – or something in between. I don’t want people to act differently with me, but it happens anyways. If I was teaching the class, what would I expect? How would this transform the way I see things?

I am someone who shrugged off responsibility as much as he possibly could. I left a great job as a web developer to go study anthropology – the office life didn’t cut it. Traveling the world certainly contributed to my feeling of being trapped – some say traveling is something good to get out of your system early, but in my experience I have had a hard time staying put ever since my first trip backpacking in Mexico. I suffer perpetual wander lust. Responsibility is a big challenge!

I’m hesitant to embrace but i am enjoying, the roles provided to me at the university. So is anthropology really a “game of power”? Yes and no. I’ve applied concepts from readings on colonialism and decolonizing anthropology. When you look at it in this light, its easy to see how anthropology was established within very particular, and very dominating relationships.

But now I see domination everywhere and there is so much more going on outside of this framework of power relations. By looking at anthropology within this power structure context, I have been a bit negative, and narrow minded. It lead me to a particular line of logic – ie: blogs vs journals, traditional vs contemporary, aka everything is “versus”. oh did I mention “teachers vs students” :P

I think this touches on the idea Wacquant discusses in “Shadowboxing with Ethnographic Ghosts: A Rejoinder” (2005) – where he argues that his book “Body & Soul” contained “praxeological” rather than “logocentric” theory. Is he talking about a kind of theory that gets away from this generalizing tendency?

I particularly enjoy his discussion of apprenticeship as a method rather than participant-observation. It fits into my own research project. I am an apprentice, I am learning about anthropology, I might even end up a professional anthropologist someday. I’ve also fully engaged myself in blogging and become quite drawn into it. As Wacquant describes, it has led to ““… moral and
sensual conversion to the cosmos under investigation” (Wacquant 2004:vii in Wacquant 2005).

I found this next quote in his conclusion to be quite inspiring:

“We should all be concerned with properly relating data and theory; with knowing where our concepts come from; with not overloading our analyses with extraneous moral baggage; and with the perils of projecting our social unconscious onto our object.” (Wacquant 2005)

It’s too easy to project theory. It can be blinding.

games of power

Heres an interesting news link touching on a role of academic journals -

“A year after Russia’s controversial flag-planting dive to the North Pole seabed to assert ownership of a sprawling underwater mountain chain, Canada is launching a less brazen but potentially more effective counterclaim for control over parts of the disputed Arctic ridge – perhaps even the pole itself – by publishing a scientific paper in a scholarly journal.”

(Randy Boswell Canwest news service)

So academic journals collectively wield a lot of influence, even more than planting ones flag on the bottom of the ocean! It certainly shows how academics do fit into a “game of power”. Maybe all the work that goes into creating authority can be put to good use somehow.

And I’m not saying it isn’t – I’ve just had a challenging semester that has investigated competing purposes for anthropology – depending on the class, and this has sort of split my mind into a million little pieces that i’m trying to reorganize back into a complete whole. At least I’m starting to see how little I know just in time to revise my proposal one last time.

being wrong

That blogs invoke a kind of informality is highly beneficial to the anthropologist in the field.

It opens the door to being wrong. [and/or stupid in public]

If I wait more, think more, reflect more, learn more, will I still be wrong? Should I hide how wrong I am now? When do I come out with it?

If only people who agree with me read this blog, how will blogging change it? [stop boring people]

Well it helps me think and reflect. And even with some friends and foes. Why do that publicly? [and some readers still caught this far in my ramble might wake up and realize they've been caught in one of those internet drifts... how did I get here again?]

Maybe the informal nature of the blog will save me from peoples expectations of expertise – I’m just interested! (and wrong).

to my future. . .

will great titles change me? Is it my destiny to become an expert?

i seek power. I seek recognition. [arts degree]

I am riding a wave too. When you find a way out -

let me know. [job]

being open

When doing research, and you come across someone you don’t like, do you try and hide that from them? In my books, writing nasty things in your field notes about a person, but not confronting them directly with your feelings is unethical. Honesty in this sense is about respect to each other. You can’t go pretending to be something you’re not, and hiding your feelings and position/stance is a form of deception.

Yes/No? Too simple? Yes much too simple.

But then it’s okay to deceive to some degree.


Inspiring my research into open access

Heres an example of what inspires my research. I saved this a little while ago, but I found it quite amusing that a search for “open access” on Anthrosource revealed mostly articles I could not access through it. Hopefully I’m not breaking rules posting a screenshot.

Doh looks like it was just something wrong with my access that day, as I just checked it again and the very same articles are showing up green! Maybe Concordia was late paying its bill? :P Or computers went wonky that day. Or maybe it takes a few months for them to be made available even if they are listed. It still made for a great picture!

Anthrosource on Open Access

From class blog to public blog

A fantastic blog from Max Forte’s Cyberanthropology class has moved into the public realm! Check out “Shannanigans“. She writes:

“since I’ve finished Max’s Cyberethnography class I’ve been hesitant as to what to put up here. I’ve decided to keep this blog going for a reason and I believe I’ve found it… What is going on in the world today has much to do with what I am studying, how can Anthropology change things? By keeping people up to date with current events going on around us and making changes that will eventually change things for the better, voicing your opinions and expressing yourself.”

In Dr. Forte’s class blogging is part of the class assignments. The blogs however are restricted and open only to those in the class, creating an interest space for students to speak to each other. I think this forms an interesting place to practice engagement with ones writing, in that it is done with the knowledge that people aside the professor will read it. I’m looking forward to reading more, and wonder if the blog will change now that its not an assignment! Her writeups on readings are very insightful, and as much as I’ve thought about it, I haven’t managed to get energy to comment on all the readings I’ve been doing on here. Reading Shannanigans I realize I should also start including more reading responses (especially when they are written like hers!).

writing a masters thesis

I just came across a great post that paints a rather brutal picture for my upcoming year of thesis work – Jenny Ryan recently completed her thesis and describes the process:

“Looking back, I see that the stress I put myself under, however much I rationalized the need for it, took a serious toll on my health, and ultimately affected every other realm of my life in the process. Take this blog, for example. I had all but abandoned it this past month, and for the most part it has been mostly a repository of snippets of my thesis and musings related to my research. In focusing my energies on the single-minded pursuit of one aspect of my life, I became unwell and overwhelmed.”

The whole post can be found here.

It sounds like things have much improved since handing it in thankfully. I’ve already felt the effects of stress completing regular course work (i tend to enjoy a breakdown at the end of each semester, as part of my drama queen nature), and I was looking forward to a more relaxed research process – but clearly I was dreaming!


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