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Posts Tagged ‘anthropology

[URBAN NOTE] “How one Toronto neighbourhood brought its history to life”

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The Toronto Star‘s Katie Daubs has a nice feature about an oral history project in Toronto’s Harbord Village neighbourhood.

They are details you no longer see: the large fish that flopped out of the delivery truck onto Harbord St. in the 1960s. The ducks that went to their deaths biting at butchers in a Baldwin St. poultry shop. The way you could gain childhood prestige in the 1940s if your chestnut smashed another chestnut in battle.

Walking through Harbord Village, you can now listen to the rich local history, as told by the people who lived here between 1930 and 1980. Their voices live in plaques, called “StoryPosts,” distilled from more than 150 hours of interviews.

Arranged by theme, the 24 posts cover topics lighthearted and serious, including crowded homes, racism and integration, and the magic of the front porch in the era before air conditioning. Scan the barcode with a smartphone, go back in time.

The project is the work of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, a group that realized how important its social history was when beloved friend and neighbour Cyril Greenland was sick a few years ago.

“We thought, we’re going to lose so much of our past knowledge when he dies,” says Colin Furness, noting that Greenland was too sick to interview before his death in 2012. “We felt awful about it, and the one legacy is that we did all the rest of this in recognition that there are lot more Cyrils out there, and we really want to preserve what we can.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 11, 2015 at 10:44 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.
  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.
  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.
  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.
  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares vintage photos of Weston Road.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post on the fast radio bursts that had all astir.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper about the circumstellar disk of AB Aurigae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes problems with Russia’s development of a stealth fighter.
  • Language Hat links to an examination of the way the words “chikungunya” and “dengue” are used to describe the same disease.
  • Languages of the World takes a look at one dying Russian dialect of Alaska.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is surprised anyone is surprised Britain is spying on Argentina.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that demand in China and India is already driving research and development.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the mechanics of the Internet presences of Island political parties.
  • Savage Minds announces the return of the intermittant online anthropological journal Anthropologies.
  • Transit Toronto links to a collection of Greater Toronto Area transit news.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts at length to the finding of the report on Rolling Stone‘s mistaken rape story, noting that the fraternity in question has a good case for libel.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Crimean Tatar news outlet closures and notes that Ukrainian government ministers widely speak English.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Gerry Canavan has a set of links up.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a video examining the nature–the mass, the orbit–of Theia, the Mars-side object that by impacting the early Earth created the Moon.
  • Geocurrents is back with a post criticizing the state-based model of geopolitics.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that anti-gay Americans are unhappy with Walmart’s opposition to pro-discrimination laws.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money supports the Norwegian model of rehabilitation in prison.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the debate on historical rates of social mobility across time and space is still raging.
  • Steve Munro proves with photos that the new streetcars displaced from Spadina by construction are on Harbourfront.
  • Savage Minds notes that two of its writers are moving on.
  • Spacing Toronto illustrates how, from the 1920s through to the 1980s, the idea of a stadium was popular.
  • Torontoist looks at Regent Park’s innovative education model.
  • Towleroad notes that the Tokyo ward of Shibuya is recognizing same-sex partnerships.
  • Transit Toronto notes that four generations of streetcars will be on display at the Beaches’ Easter parade.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is much worse off relative to its competitors than the Soviet Union was in the 1980s, notes the crackdown on Crimean Tatar media, and looks at the history and future of ethnic jokes in Russia.

[WRITING] “Fast Writing: Ethnography in the Digital Age”

Savage Minds features an essay by Yarimar Bonilla that takes a look at th interesting question of how to write texts of enduring relevance at speed.

In a recent contribution to this writers’ series, Michael Lambek offered some reflections on the virtues of “slow reading.” In an era of rapid-fire online communication, when images increasingly substitute for text, Lambek argues we would be well served to revel in the quiet interiority and reflective subjectivity made possible by long-form reading.

In this post I would like to think more carefully about this claim and to consider whether we might want to make a similar argument regarding the shifting pace of academic writing. If, as Lambek and others suggest, the temporality of reading has been altered by the digital age, can the same be said for research and writing? How have new digital tools, platforms, and shifts in technological access transformed the temporality of ethnographic writing, and is this something we necessarily wish to slow down?

I recently had occasion to experiment with sped-up academic pacing when offered the opportunity to contribute a piece to American Ethnologist about the protests surrounding the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In brainstorming our article, my co-author Jonathan Rosa and I asked ourselves hard questions about what we could contribute to the unfolding discussion about Ferguson. Both of us had produced academic “slow writing”— the product of years of careful research, analysis, drafting and editing. We had also engaged in some forms of “fast writing.” For example, I had published journalistic pieces on social movements in Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe. But these pieces focused on events not being covered in the mainstream media and for which informed journalism was necessary. The same could not be said of Ferguson. Despite an initial lag in journalistic coverage, by the time we were drafting our article, Ferguson had reached a point of media saturation, indeed it had become a challenge to keep apace with the numerous thought pieces and editorial columns emerging at a feverish pace during this time.

In plotting our article we thus asked ourselves: how can we contribute to this fast moving conversation while still producing a piece that might hold up over time? That is, how could we produce something fast but not ephemeral?

The result was an exercise in mid-tempo research and writing. It was not the product of long-sustained fieldwork, and was very much written “in the heat of the moment,” but it nonetheless tried to anticipate how anthropologists might look back on Ferguson over time—how they might use this event to teach and write about broader issues of racialization, longer histories of race-based violence, the racial politics of social media, and the shifting terrain of contemporary activism.

This process forced us to think about the challenges of being not just fast writers but fast ethnographers. How can we speak to fast moving stories while still retaining the contextualization, historical perspective, and attention to individual experiences characteristic of a fieldworker? Also, how can we engage with emerging digital platforms like Twitter with the comparative and ethnographic perspective characteristic of our discipline?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2015 at 7:34 pm

[LINK] “Can’t Get There from Here? Writing Place and Moving Narratives”

Savage Minds hosts an essay by anthropologist Sarah Besky talking about the importance of the ethnographic writer’s awareness of place and movement.

Why should we care about how (or whether) one can “get there from here”? Perhaps because, as Kirin Narayan reminds us, “Reading transports us.” She frames the project of writing place with a question: “How do ethnographers enhance this journey so that readers glean facts about a place and something of the feel of being there?”

The “arrival trope” is, of course, the most common of ethnographic devices. I have one. You probably do, too. But the arrival trope has been rightly criticized for fetishizing the state of finally being somewhere (else), ready to begin anthropological fieldwork. We probably all recall Malinowski’s directive to “Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight.”

This impulse to recount arrivals speaks to the fact that ethnographic narratives are at heart concerned with movement—from place to place.

The primary means by which I move from place to place, both in the field and closer to home, is walking. When I work in Kolkata, the act of winding my way through pedestrian congestion, in and out of markets, and through that city’s metro, is a constant sensorial overload. When I write about Kolkata or Darjeeling, I use the local equivalents of the “wicked huge Radio Shack” to draw readers into these movements—and importantly the sensations of these movements. As Alex Nading has argued, “trailing” the movements of people and other creatures can be a way of carrying place seamlessly from fieldwork into narrative.

When I write about place, then, I close my eyes and re-imagine walking. This is less visualization exercise and more constructive daydreaming. What does it smell like? What does it sound like? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How do I get there from here? How many Dunkin Donuts (or their Himalayan or Kolkatan analogues) do I pass on the way? I find that on my first couple of drafts, these descriptions are way overwritten, but with more editing, place starts to tighten, and even serve to bolster historical and theoretical elements of books and articles as well.

Wonderful writing on writing, this.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2015 at 10:36 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Gerry Canavan produces his own compendium of interesting links.
  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the colours indicative of extraterrestrial life, and ecologies.
  • Crooked Timber takes a look at Northern Ireland and the legacies of past violence.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on a hominid fossil that may indicate a much greater diversity in our ancestral gene pool than we thought.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh wonders when the European Central Bank will start to taper interest rates.
  • The Frailest Thing warns that the promises of tech giants to free people from the shackles of the past should be seen critically.
  • On St. Patrick’s Day, Joe. My. God. and Michael in Norfolk both note the extent to which attitudes towards GLBT people in Ireland have changed.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders about the good sense of going off of anti-depressants.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen proclaims Scarborough to be one of the world’s best food cities.
  • Savage Minds makes the case for anthropologists to aid the post-cyclone people of Vanuatu.
  • Spacing interviews the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair on urban issues.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Bernstein is unhappy at the consequences for Israel of Netanyahu’s reelection, while Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at income disparities in Israel.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that high inequality and low social mobility in Russia will doom the country, notes the potential for water-driven conflict in Central Asia, and notes Russian interest in acquiring more slots of Muslim pilgrims after Crimea’s annexation.
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