Anthropology for a Small Planet, 2nd Edition (2013)

Research – meeting people, talking to them, working with them, interviewing them – is what anthropology is all about. Socio-cultural anthropology draws upon friend-like relationships to reconstruct detailed understandings of small groups of people. Whereas survey research, for example, paints broad brush pictures of large groups of people, anthropology focuses on long term relationships. The survey approach might give one a lot of superficial details about a large number of people. Anthropology, however, gives one rich detail about a small number of people. Both views have advantages, but for me I am more inclined toward long-term relationships than the one-night stand of large-scale surveys.

At the heart of the anthropological endeavour is a desire to make sense of our world through long-term, intimate social relations. There are certainly many types of anthropological research. Nonetheless, and despite all of our differences, all anthropologists share a desire to learn about real people and to apply the knowledge we gain to making our common world a better place for all.

This edited collection had its roots in a circle of friends and colleagues studying at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center in the mid-1990s. As we were making the transition from students to teachers we felt the desire to have teachable case studies that dealt with real problems that our mostly urban students would relate to. Anthony Marcus, the editor of the first edition of Anthropology for a Small Planet, took the initiative and organized the first volume. Marcus wanted clearly written and engaging articles that demonstrated anthropology in action.

Between the publication of the first and second editions Marcus and Menzies, in collaboration with Katherine McCaffrey and Sharon Roseman, founded the journal New Proposals. The journal is an attempt to explore issues, ideas, and problems that lie at the intersection between the academic discipline of social anthropology and the body of thought and political practice that has constituted Marxism over the last 150 years. The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada hosts our journal, which is an experiment in open access publication.

The second edition of Anthropology for a Small Planet blends together four of the original articles with five published in New Proposals. Each essay was selected for its relevance for learning about how to do anthropology that makes a difference in our world. Too often our academic studies focus on pointing out everything that is wrong but ignore what can actually be done or deny the reality of the world that most people live in. That’s not the case here. This collection of case studies teaches by example. Yes, the reader will see authors engage in critique, but most importantly our authors show how to conduct anthropology that makes a difference.

The first set of essays focus on the intersection between race and nationality. The second set of essays explores the intersection of social identity, belief, and inequality. The final set of essays documents the possibilities for an engaged anthropology rooted in a social justice paradigm.


2012-Final Exam Essay Questions

You may bring this sheet (see linked pdf: Final-exam-essay?) with you to the final exam.

You can write an essay outline on this sheet. ONLY AN OUTLINE; NOTHING MORE.

You will write your name on this sheet and hand it in with your final exam.

The final exam will be scored out of 40 marks (worth 40% of your final grade).
Part 1 of the exam is 20 points (questions will be handed out on exam day).
Part 2 is 20 points with each essay question worth 10 points.

Select two of the following questions to prepare for your final exam.

The essay portion will be evaluated in accord with the writing guidelines listed on your course outline. The best answers will be those that are able to effectively draw from a wide range of the course materials, go beyond straight description, and include evaluation and analysis of the materials. Even though the questions do not explicitly say – answer from course materials- you should assume that is implied. Your role in preparing for your exam essays is to reflect upon the overall content and structure of the course, to delve as deeply as possible within the subject matter and then to prepare to write a detailed an essay as possible. Use your chance to prepare an outline (which you write by hand on this sheet of paper) to assist you in preparing a skeleton (or close line ☺ ) upon which to drape the body of your paper.

The Essay Questions.
1. What is neo-liberalism and what are the cultural analogs of neoliberalism? In your essay provide at least two examples of neo-liberalism in action.
2. Compare and contrast kinship systems and their associated ideologies of gender in relation to the ‘family’ as a unit of (re)production.
3. Describe and evaluate the ways that culture, gender, race, and nationality are deployed to create a society that is biased in favour of violence.


Thoughts on Head Shots and Academic Virtual Galleries

Our academic virtual world is filled with rouge’s galleries of photos showing who is who in our various departments. Often blurry, ill framed, poorly lit, such galleries seem to shout amateur. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing? Do we really want head shots that look like we’re members of a law firm or corporate execs at a fortune 500 company? I’m not sure.

There is something about the placement of head shoots in a gallery (virtual or otherwise and as useful as they might be) that invokes in my mind the venerable space of a trophy room, filled with the heads of stuffed animals, that one might fin in an old Scottish hunting lodge.

Very often such professional head shot organizer come up with appropriate places for faculty to be taken. If you’re a lab scientist – then the setting should be a lab; an art historian then in an art galley; historians belong in archives, librarians in libraries, and the filmmaker should hold a camera and be in a cinema . . . It is as though these spaces somehow stand in for the ecological setting within which the wild specimen might be found by the valiant hunter.

As in a game park, the hunter has no need to actually find that which he (allow the presumption of gender) will shoot as the specimens will line up voluntarily for this virtual trophy taking and mounting.  We march in as lambs to the slaughter giving up our selves for the honour of being professionally mounted to show off to the wall – look a trophy academic.  But in reality, we are not the real trophies, we are simply the back drop against the real trophies parade.  For without the wall of mounted head shots the ‘truly’ brilliant have nothing to shine against.