How can culture inform my investigation into the distribution/publishing of anthropological ideas? Is the concept of culture (in a relativistic sense) necessary to be considered anthropology?
I will be asked “what makes this anthropological” and I’m developing a few answers in advance. One argument I can use is “it’s ethnography”, but as Johannes Fabian stated, ethnography is really quite trivial in the way it gets information. For Fabian it isn’t about information gathering at all. [although this argument needed more backing up to really understand his position].
This research is also based on participation online, so I am an active agent creating events, and recording them. In fact recording the events is an event in itself [gotta love reflexivity].
But so far I’ve ignored culture. Largely on purpose, since I used to play around with anthropology essays by doing a search and replace to remove all the places the word “culture” was used, and I found all the essays read much better after that. [ala, the word culture wasn't explaining anything, it was just there to emphasize relativism].
So how does blogging play out in different contexts? [different cultures if you want]. How different are anthropology departments around the world?
By looking at Concordia specifically, I have a very limited view of academia. For example, in a discussion I had recently it was pointed out to me that I see anthropology very differently than others since I am in a program with only 8 master’s students, and where the size of the program has been progressively shrinking. Other universities might have growing departments and see the discipline very differently.
Pamthropologist has been extremely helpful in providing me with insights from other universities. I really appreciate hearing how limited her student’s access to information is. They can’t read anthropology journals since their library doesn’t subscribe to them. I on the other hand have access to most of them. As her discussion with Michael Wesch showed, this can profoundly change the way one can approach education. Wesch wants students to learn to sift through vast archives of information to learn to evaluate the credibility and authority of a text. Pamthropologist emphasizes the value of lecture, and given the lack of material her students can access, it makes a lot of sense. This points to different academic environments.
So within North American universities, there are huge differences in the way one can approach anthropology and anthropology online.
Living in Montreal gives me access to another possibility. I can examine language issues in anthropological blogging. For example, in Max Forte’s recent post on Canadian bloggers, he lists English ones and misses out on the French ones [we'll avoid other issues that came up with that post!].
This is interesting because coming from one location we have English and French universities. Discussions between them depend on bilingual speakers. Students in French speaking universities are often required to read English essays, but English students never need to read French ones! Online, these divides can take different shapes. Alexandre Enkerli and Lorenz Khazaleh blog in multiple languages and even if one can’t read it one can certainly see that these other language groups exist. Further, some staff at Concordia blog in French only.
I’ve also had a few links coming from Spanish language blogs, and I feel terrible in that I can’t actually contribute to the discussion on their blogs, but I very much appreciate that they read mine.
The question of “being public” also takes shape differently in different contexts. During the Media Anthropology’s seminar on Erkan Saka’s paper on blogging as a research tool Erkan discussed the way he had to write strategically given the political nature of his research. At the same time he was quick to criticize those who would bring “orientalist” arguments saying that it would impossible for women in Turkey to blog like he does. He argued they can and do.
Looking at publishing and blogging, it’s important to look at these issues. I don’t like the word culture, nor do I like general depictions of culture. I do however appreciate that a dominant English language publishing industry profoundly affected academia in the colonies. During colonialism, and continuing now, academics are restricted in their ability to publish in particular languages. I’ll be digging up research done on this in the next while, and I’d love to hear your recommendations for readings on publishing, language, and colonialism. Or just on publishing and language.