A Fathers’ Day Reading List for the New Year

When my own sons were young my partner gave me a copy of Patrimony by Philip Roth for father’s day. A little while later I came across an unexpected book by ecological anthropologist Ben Orlove, In my Father’s Study. These are books that have stayed with me.

The first is a tale of a son’s journey with a father at the end of his life.

The second is a story of a son coming to learn about his father, to come to an adult appreciation of him, after the father’s death.  It’s a touching memoire.  I’ve used it a few times in my teaching but my 20/30-something students respond to it rather differently than I. For them it is simply one more book on a reading list while for me it led me to think about my life as a father and as a son.

I’ve spent a great many hours with my own father. As a child following him around as he worked on his fishing boat. As a young adult working with him on the same boat. And later in life visiting with him, keeping each other company sometimes talking about the past, often about his health, and occasionally about my own work. Coming across Orlove’s book, almost by accident, has led me to gather over the decades an eclectic little library of books reflecting upon fathers and sons. Here, in sense of order, is a selection of my favourites.

  • In My Father’s Study. Ben Orlove. U.Iowa Press. 1995
  • A Life in the Bush: lessons from my father. Roy MacGregor. Viking, 1999. A loving tale of a northern Ontario father by one of Canada’s favourite journalists.
  • Waterline: of fathers, sons, and boats. Joe Soucheray. David R.  Godin, Publisher. 1996(1989). A memoire about restoring a boat, but its far more than that.
  • For Joshua. Richard Wagamese. Anchor Canada. 2003(2002).
  • To See Every Bird on Earth: a father, a son, a lifelong obsession. Dan Koeppel. Plume. 2006.
  • Lost in America. Sherwin Nuland. Vintage. 2004.
  • Patrimony. Phillip Roth. Touchstone. 2001.
  • My Father’s Wars. Alisse Waterston. 2013.
  • Fatherless. Keith Maillard. 2019.

There are more – but this is more than enough for a start.



An Indigenous Guide to Respectful Research

The following is a draft introduction to a book that I am currently working on. Comments appreciated.


Respectful research involves more than a good methodology and a pleasant demeanour. I think of respect in that sense where by one refrains from violating, harassing, or obstructing. Put in an affirmative light it is to treat with consideration. Ultimately respect, as an active process, means to value. In terms of research respect leads us to place value in the integrity of our process, to honour and not cause harm to those with whom are research involves, and to be honest with our intentions.

This book is an Indigenous guide to respectful research. My examples are drawn from my own research within, and in collaboration with members of, my home community of Gitxaała. That this book is based upon an Indigenous experience with research in no way should be understood to restrict the utility of respectful research only to Indigenous settings. In fact, I am certain that I am not alone in advocating respectful research across the domains of social science research. As an Indigenous anthropologist my emphasis may well place more attention on ensuring community engagement than might normally be anticipated. That being said, this is also the way in which my ongoing research in western Europe is also conducted (Menzies 2011).

Social science researchers have long been concerned with research methodology. This concern originally was restricted to ensure appropriate and robust methodologies (Boas 1920; Malinowski 1922). Only late in the history of social science research did matters of the ethnical treatment of research participants become part of the discourse. The implications of Nazi experiments on unwilling prisoners during World War II and the horror felt once the full enormity of their actions where revealed created the conditions for more humane and ethical treatment of human research subjects. Sadly, the atrocities committed by the Nazis were not unique examples of political authorities conducting medical and psychological experiments upon unwilling subjects.

Canada’s own history of residential schooling includes the same type of cruel and inhumane medical experiments being carried out on young children. While the oral history of residential schools has consistently documented wide ranging and systemic physical and sexual abuse recent historical research indicates that government sanctioned medical experiments were also being conducted on aboriginal children who had been forcibly removed from their homes and placed into residential schools run by Christian church authorities (Mosby 2013). Medical research into nutritional supplements was conducted in the 1940s and 1950s by researchers who appear to have had little regard for the individuals they were experimenting upon. Even with awareness of the Nazi medical experiments this type of research increased, rather than decreased, following World War II (Mosby 2013:166).

Continue reading pdf of full Introduction here.


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.