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XC Ski Conditions 2/9

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Forbush Corner: We are going to have our lighted loop open from 7-9 this Saturday for a moonlight ski. $5 trail fee and $5 ski rentals. Come on out and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate afterwards. Hanson Hills: We received another dusting of snow on top of our firm base. Groomer Jason is out […]

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Visiting Grayling This Year? Don’t Miss These Three Must-Try Outdoor Activities

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Over 70% of all land here in Crawford County is owned by either the State or Federal government. What does this mean for visitors of Grayling? It means that the public has access to thousands of acres of gorgeous land to use for recreational activities. No matter what time of year you choose to visit, […]

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by smacorg @ SMAC

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Anthropologists as Spies

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

This piece was originally published in the November 20, 2000 edition of The Nation. It was also published on their website here. Thanks to The Nation for allowing us to include this essay as part of this issue.

On December 20, 1919, under the heading "Scientists as Spies," The Nation published a letter by Franz Boas, the father of academic anthropology in America. Boas charged that four American anthropologists, whom he did not name, had abused their professional research positions by conducting espionage in Central America during the First World War. Boas strongly condemned their actions, writing that they had "prostituted science by using it as a cover for their activities as spies." Anthropologists spying for their country severely betrayed their science and damaged the credibility of all anthropological research, Boas wrote; a scientist who uses his research as a cover for political spying forfeits the right to be classified as a scientist.

The most significant reaction to this letter occurred ten days later at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), when the association's governing council voted to censure Boas, effectively removing him from the council and pressuring him to resign from the national research council. Three out of four of the accused spies (their names, we now know, were Samuel Lothrop, Sylvanus Morley and Herbert Spinden) voted for censure; the fourth (John Mason) did not. Later Mason wrote Boas an apologetic letter explaining that he'd spied out of a sense of patriotic duty.

A variety of extraneous factors contributed to Boas's censure (chief among these being institutional rivalries, personal differences and possibly anti-Semitism). The AAA's governing council was concerned less about the accuracy of his charges than about the possibility that publicizing them might endanger the ability of others to undertake fieldwork. It accused him of "abuse" of his professional position for political ends.

In 1919 American anthropology avoided facing the ethical questions Boas raised about anthropologists' using their work as a cover for spying. And it has refused to face them ever since. The AAA's current code of ethics contains no specific prohibitions concerning espionage or secretive research. Some of the same anthropologists who spied during World War I did so in the next war. During the early cold war Ruth Benedict and lesser-known colleagues worked for the RAND corporation and the Office of Naval Research. In the Vietnam War, anthropologists worked on projects with strategic military applications.

Until recently there was little investigation of either the veracity of Boas's accusation in 1919 or the ethical strength of his complaint. But FBI documents released to me under the Freedom of Information Act shed new light on both of these issues.

The FBI produced 280 pages of documents pertaining to one of the individuals Boas accused--the Harvard archeologist Samuel Lothrop. Lothrop's FBI file establishes that during World War I he indeed spied for Naval Intelligence, performing "highly commendable" work in the Caribbean until "his identity as an Agent of Naval Intelligence became known." What is more, World War II saw him back in harness, serving in the Special Intelligence Service (SIS), which J. Edgar Hoover created within the FBI to undertake and coordinate all intelligence activity in Central and South America. During the war the SIS stationed approximately 350 agents throughout South America, where they collected intelligence, subverted Axis networks and at times assisted in the interruption of the flow of raw materials from Axis sources. Lothrop was stationed in Lima, Peru, where he monitored imports, exports and political developments. To maintain his cover he pretended to undertake archeological investigations.

From his arrival in Lima in mid-December 1940, Lothrop was dogged by constant worries that his communications with Washington were being intercepted by British, Peruvian, Japanese or German intelligence operatives. By August 1941 he became concerned that his lack of significant archeological progress might lead to the discovery of his true work in Peru. Lothrop reported his fears of being detected to FBI headquarters: "As regards the archaeological cover for my work in Peru, it was based on the understanding that I was to be in the country six months or less. It is wearing thin and some day somebody is going to start asking why an archaeologist spends most of his time in towns asking questions. This won't happen as soon as it might because the Rockefeller grant for research in Peru makes me a contact man between the field workers and the government."

Lothrop was referring to the Rockefeller Foundation, which financed twenty archeologists who were excavating in Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Central America. He also used his ties to a variety of academic and research institutions--including Harvard, the Peabody Museum, the Institute of Andean Research and the Carnegie Institute--as cover in Peru. Archeologist Gordon Willey, who worked on an Institute of Andean Research Project in Peru and had some contact with Lothrop at this time, recalled that "it was sort of widely known on the loose grapevine that Sam was carrying on some kind of espionage work, much of which seemed to be keeping his eye on German patrons of the Hotel Bolivar Bar."

In fact, Lothrop was considered a valuable agent who collected important information on Peruvian politics and leading public figures of a nature usually difficult to secure. An FBI evaluation reported that headquarters "occasionally receive[s] information of sufficient importance from Mr. Lothrop to transmit to the President." Lothrop's principal source was an assistant to the Peruvian minister of government and police. In the spring of 1944 this informant resigned his governmental position and began "working exclusively under the direction of Dr. Lothrop." In May 1944 the US Embassy reported that Lothrop's principal informant was fully aware of Lothrop's connection to the SIS and FBI. Lothrop's cover was compromised by four Peruvian investigators in the employ of his top informant. His informant had been heard bragging to the Peruvian police that he made more by working for the US Embassy than the police made working for the Peruvian government.

The FBI decided to test the reliability of Lothrop's key informant by assigning him to collect information on nonexistent events and individuals. The informant was given background information about a nonexistent upcoming anti-Jewish rally that he was to attend, including a list of specific individuals who would be present. Though the rally did not occur, the informant provided a full report on it. He also filed detailed reports on a nonexistent commemorative celebration of the bombing of Pearl Harbor held in a distant town, and on a fictitious German spy who supposedly had jumped ship in Peru.

Lothrop was instructed not to tell the informant that his duplicity had been detected; instead, he was to say he was out of funds to pay for informants. Lothrop refused to believe his informant was lying and sent a letter of resignation to J. Edgar Hoover. His resignation was accepted and he returned to the United States to resume his academic duties at Harvard's Peabody Museum and the Carnegie Institute.

What is now known about Lothrop's long career of espionage suggests that the censure of Boas by the AAA in 1919 sent a clear message to him and others that espionage under cover of science in the service of the state is acceptable. In each of the wars and military actions that followed the First World War anthropologists confronted, or more often repressed, the very issues raised by Boas in his 1919 letter to The Nation.

While almost every prominent living US anthropologist (including Ruth Benedict, Gregory Bateson, Clyde Kluckhohn and Margaret Mead) contributed to the World War II war effort, they seldom did so under the false pretext of fieldwork, as Lothrop did. Without endorsing the wide variety of activities to which anthropological skills were applied in the service of the military, a fundamental ethical distinction can be made between those who (as Boas put it) "prostituted science by using it as a cover for their activities as spies" and those who did not. World War II did, however, stimulate frank, though muted, discussions of the propriety of anthropologists' using their knowledge of those they studied in times of war, creating conditions in which, as anthropologist Laura Thompson put it, they became "technicians for hire to the highest bidder." Although the racist tenets of Nazism were an affront to the anthropological view of the inherent equality of humankind, Boas (who died in 1942) would probably have condemned anthropologists who used science as a cover for espionage during World War II. Approximately half of America's anthropologists contributed to the war effort, with dozens of prominent members of the profession working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Army and Navy intelligence and the Office of War Information.

In the following decades there were numerous private and public interactions between anthropologists and the intelligence community. Some anthropologists applied their skills at the CIA after its inception in 1947 and may still be doing so today. For some of them this was a logical transition from their wartime espionage work with the OSS and other organizations; others regarded the CIA as an agency concerned with gathering information to assist policy-makers rather than a secret branch of government that subverted foreign governments and waged clandestine war on the Soviet Union and its allies. Still other anthropologists unwittingly received research funding from CIA fronts like the Human Ecology Fund.

The American Anthropological Association also secretly collaborated with the CIA. In the early 1950s the AAA's executive board negotiated a secret agreement with the CIA under which agency personnel and computers were used to produce a cross-listed directory of AAA members, showing their geographical and linguistic areas of expertise along with summaries of research interests. Under this agreement the CIA kept copies of the database for its own purposes with no questions asked. And none were, if for no other reason than that the executive board had agreed to keep the arrangement a secret. What use the CIA made of this database is not known, but the relationship with the AAA was part of an established agency policy of making use of America's academic brain trust. Anthropologists' knowledge of the languages and cultures of the people inhabiting the regions of the Third World where the agency was waging its declared and undeclared wars would have been invaluable to the CIA. The extent to which this occurred is the focus of ongoing archival and FOIA research. When the CIA overthrew Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, an anthropologist reported, under a pseudonym, to the State Department's intelligence and research division on the political affiliations of the prisoners taken by the military in the coup.

During the Korean War linguists and ethnographers assisted America's involvement with little vocal conflict of conscience. Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung's revelations in 1965 of Project Camelot, in which anthropologists were reported to be working on unclassified counterinsurgency programs in Latin America, ignited controversy in the AAA. During America's wars in Southeast Asia the AAA was thrown into a state of upheaval after documents purloined from the private office of UCLA anthropologist Michael Moerman revealed that several anthropologists had secretly used their ethnographic knowledge to assist the war effort.

As a result of inquiries made into these revelations, the 1971 annual meeting of the AAA became the scene of a tumultuous showdown after a fact-finding committee chaired by Margaret Mead maneuvered to create a report finding no wrongdoing on the part of the accused anthropologists. An acrimonious debate resulted in the rejection of the Mead report by the voting members of the association. As historian Eric Wakin noted in his book Anthropology Goes to War, this "represented an organized body of younger anthropologists rejecting the values of its elders." But the unresolved ethical issue of anthropologists spying during the First and Second World Wars provided a backdrop to the 1971 showdown. Almost two decades later, during the Gulf War, proposals by conservatives in the AAA that its members assist allied efforts against Iraq provoked only minor opposition.

Today most anthropologists are still loath to acknowledge, much less study, known connections between anthropology and the intelligence community. As with any controversial topic, it is not thought to be a good "career builder." But more significant, there is a general perception that to rake over anthropology's past links, witting and unwitting, with the intelligence community could reduce opportunities for US anthropologists to conduct fieldwork in foreign nations.

In the course of research in this area I have been told by other anthropologists in no uncertain terms that to raise such questions could endanger the lives of fieldworkers around the globe. This is not a point to be taken lightly, as many anthropologists work in remote settings controlled by hostile governmental or guerrilla forces. Suspicions that one is a US intelligence agent, whether valid or not, could have fatal consequences. As Boas prophetically wrote in his original complaint against Lothrop and his cohorts, "In consequence of their acts every nation will look with distrust upon the visiting foreign investigator who wants to do honest work, suspecting sinister designs. Such action has raised a new barrier against the development of international friendly cooperation." But until US anthropology examines its past and sets rules forbidding both secret research and collaboration with intelligence agencies, these dangers will continue.

Over the past several decades the explicit condemnations of secretive research have been removed from the AAA's code of ethics--the principles of professional responsibility (PPR). In 1971 the PPR specifically declared that "no secret research, no secret reports or debriefings of any kind should be agreed to or given" by members of the AAA. By 1990 the attenuation of anthropological ethics had reached a point where anthropologists were merely "under no professional obligation to provide reports or debriefing of any kind to government officials or employees, unless they have individually and explicitly agreed to do so in the terms of employment." These changes were largely accomplished in the 1984 revision of the PPR that Gerald Berreman characterized as reflecting the new "Reaganethics" of the association: In the prevailing climate of deregulation the responsibility for ethical review was shifted from the association to individual judgments. As anthropologist Laura Nader noted, these Reagan-era changes were primarily "moves to protect academic careers...downplaying anthropologists' paramount responsibility to those they study." The current PPR may be interpreted to mean that anthropologists don't have to be spies unless they want to or have agreed to do so in a contract. A 1995 Commission to Review the AAA Statements on Ethics declared that the committee on ethics had neither the authority nor the resources to investigate or arbitrate complaints of ethical violations and would "no longer adjudicate claims of unethical behavior and focus its efforts and resources on an ethics education program."

Members of the current ethics committee believe that even though the AAA explicitly removed language forbidding secretive research or spying, there are clauses in the current code that imply (rather than state) that such conduct should not be allowed--though without sanctions, this stricture is essentially meaningless. Archeologist Joe Watkins, chairman of the ethics committee, believes that if an anthropologist were caught spying today, "the AAA would not do anything to investigate the activity or to reprimand the individual, even if the individual had not been candid [about the true purpose of the research]. I'm not sure that there is anything the association would do as an association, but perhaps public awareness would work to keep such practitioners in line, like the Pueblo clowns' work to control the societal miscreants." Watkins is referring to Pueblo cultures' use of clowns to ridicule miscreants. Although it is debatable whether anthropologist intelligence operatives would fear sanctions imposed by the AAA, it is incongruous to argue that they would fear public ridicule more. Enforcing a ban on covert research would be difficult, but to give up on even the possibility of investigating such wrongdoing sends the wrong message to the world and to the intelligence agencies bent on recruiting anthropologists.

Many factors have contributed to the AAA's retreat from statements condemning espionage and covert research. Key among these are the century-old difficulties inherent in keeping an intrinsically diverse group of scholars aligned under the framework of a single association. A combination of atavistic and market forces has driven apart members of a field once mythically united around the holistic integration of the findings of archeology and physical, cultural and linguistic anthropology. As some "applied anthropologists" move from classroom employment to working in governmental and industrial settings, statements condemning spying have made increasing numbers of practitioners uncomfortable--and this discomfort suggests much about the nature of some applied anthropological work. The activities encompassed under the heading of applied anthropology are extremely diverse, ranging from heartfelt and underpaid activist-based research for NGOs around the world to production of secret ethnographies and time-allocation studies of industrial and blue-collar workplaces for the private consumption of management.

As increasing numbers of anthropologists find employment in corporations, anthropological research becomes not a quest for scientific truth, as in the days of Boas, but a quest for secret or proprietary data for governmental or corporate sponsors. The AAA's current stance of inaction sends the dangerous message to the underdeveloped world that the world's largest anthropological organization will take no action against anthropologists whose fieldwork is a front for espionage. As the training of anthropology graduate students becomes increasingly dependent on programs like the 1991 National Security Education Program--with its required governmental-service payback stipulations--the issue takes on increased (though seldom discussed) importance.

It is unknown whether any members of the AAA are currently engaged in espionage, but unless the scientific community takes steps to denounce such activities using the clearest possible language and providing sanctions against those who do so, we can anticipate that such actions will continue with impunity during some future crisis or war.

Many in the American Anthropological Association are frustrated with its decision neither to explicitly prohibit nor to penalize secretive government research. It is time for US anthropologists to examine the political consequences of their history and take a hard, thoughtful look at Boas's complaint and the implications implicit in the association's refusal to condemn secret research and to re-enact sanctions against anthropologists engaging in espionage.

David Price

XC Ski Conditions 3/17

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Happy St.Patrick’s Day! Forbush Corner: Trails are in good shape for this weekend and there is some snow in the forecast for Friday. We will be open this Saturday and Sunday. We will also be offering free rentals this weekend as well. XC Ski Headquarters: Very good spring skiing conditions prevail on much of the […]

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Introduction: Racism, hidden away

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

I think a lot of people in the US want to forget about racism.  They don't want to talk about it, bring it up, deal with it, think about it.  They want to tell themselves that racism was something that happened in the distant past.  Racism is a problem for history books.  Racism was a serious problem in the early days, back when the nation was first formed and slavery was an acceptable, rampant institution.  Or maybe back in the days of the civil war, when the US was literally torn apart amidst a time of deep racial inequalities.  Sure, that's when it was a problem.  And perhaps the problems of racism lingered until the 1930s or maybe the 1950s.  Yes, those were the days when things were really bad.  People want to tell themselves that today things are different.  Racism is history.

After all, since the days of the Civil Rights reforms, and the election of the first black president, clearly racism can't be a problem anymore.*  It's over and done with, right?  


A few short stories:

1. It's the mid 1980s.  I am driving through Los Angeles with an older family member.  I am about 8 eight years old.  This family member was part of the "white flight" out of some parts of LA that took place in the 1950s and 1960s.  This family member would often talk about "how things used to be" before all of "those people" started to arrive.  On this particular day this family member told me about a game called "Find The White Person" as we were driving through Los Angeles.  The game was supposed to be funny.  I'm not sure what I thought about it at the time, since I was a kid.  This is one of the subtle ways that certain ideas about "others" get passed down. 

2. Late 1980s, San Diego County, California.  I live in a small suburban neighborhood, not far from the beach.  I am about 12 years old.  A young man, exhausted, walks into our driveway.  He is wearing multiple layers of clothes and two jackets.  It's not cold outside.  He asks me, in quiet Spanish, if I have a can opener.  He's hungry.  Years later I understand things a bit more--this was a young man in his early 20s who had crossed the US-Mexico border in search of work.  A refugee from devastated economies and things like NAFTA.  But back then I was only about 12 and I just knew he was a desperate person.  He looked so tired.  One of the neighbors decided to help him out and let him stay with them for a while.  I thought this was a really kind gesture.  The neighbor across the street, however, was not happy about this.  Not because this migrant had done anything wrong, but because of how he looked.  It was a purely chromatic judgment she made, based more on her own ideas about people from "Mexico" than anything else.  She made some comment about turning the neighborhood into the "United Nations" or something like that.  I don't remember exactly what she said, but I do remember thinking that her anger didn't make any sense.  How could you hate someone you didn't even know?  But, again, I was 12.

3.  Late 1990s.  San Diego.  I am doing some research about family history.  I have some documents that provide little snippets of information about certain members of the family.  One of the stories talks about a person who used to tie his slaves' feet to trees while they were sleeping, put cotton between their toes, and then light them on fire.  They would jump up to run away, but they were bound to the tree.  He thought this was funny.  A joke.  Abusing people for fun and pleasure.  I don't want to see this story in my family history, but it's there, in print.  Undeniable.  I find another document during my search.  It's from the 1860 census.  The record identifies one of my distant relatives from Texas, and the dozen or so slaves he treated as property.  I wonder about the children this person raised, what he taught them.  I think about how these things, these realities, shaped the subsequent generations of my family.  These histories don't just disappear.  They affect.  They literally color realities with the stupidities and brutalities of racism.

4. 2007, Oaxaca, Mexico.  My wife and I are at a minor league baseball game in Oaxaca City.  The visiting team's pitcher starts to lose steam, so they call in a reliever.  He comes in from the bullpen.  He's from the Dominican Republic.  He takes the mound, and starts mowing down home team batters one after another.  The guy is good.  He's clocked at 97 more than once.  I am amazed.  But the drunken home team crowd is not happy.  They belch out vicious racist insults.  This is just one small sliver of the deep racism that pervades Mexico.  It's also when I start to learn that racism has different histories and characteristics in various places.  Racism in the US isn't the same as racism in Mexico.

5. 2009, Kentucky.  We just moved into a new house.  We've been there about a week.  We are the new people in town.  One day I am outside cleaning up after mowing the lawn.  It's late afternoon.  There's a guy walking, and he comes over to talk.  He likes to talk, a lot.  I nod my head, answer his questions.  When he finds out we're new, he starts telling me about "how things are here."  He tells me that certain kinds of people live in this part of the neighborhood, and others live over by the train tracks.  Then he says, "You know, everyone is racist in some way."  I understand this as an invitation to say something he is hoping to hear.  I don't bite.  For the rest of the time I live there I avoid him at all costs.

6. 2013, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.  This was just a few days ago.  I had just arrived at the airport, and was standing at the car rental counter.  There's an American guy standing there too.  I say hello and engage in a bit of small talk about how hot it is there.  Then he asks me: "Do you like Obama?"  I say: "I don't really know who I like these days."  I'll admit, I wasn't quite ready for what came next.  The guy then proceeds to tell me a ridiculously offensive, racist joke about "people from Africa."  I then realize that his question about Obama was another one of those subtle tests to see where I stood.  I make it clear to him that I don't think his joke is anywhere near funny.  He doesn't say much and goes about his business, turns in his car, and goes on his way to the US.  I can't help but think about how many people like him are out there.  And I also wonder: did I say enough?  Should I have done something more?  Sometimes these things happen so quickly it's hard to know how to react.

Racism is out there.  Some people experience it in more subtle ways, and others, obviously, in more brutal ways.  More violent ways.  More relentless ways.  But the issue of racism--despite what so many Americans want to tell themselves--is anything but resolved.  It persists.  It plagues us.  And it's something that corrodes on a very deep, very personal, and daily level.

This issue is about anthropology and confronting racism.  It's not enough.  There needs to be more.  More education, more confrontation, more conversation.  But then, I don't think that education and conversation and dialog and all of that is enough.  It's not.  I don't think nice Powerpoint lectures about race are going to make the problems go away.  There needs to be something more, something deeper.  One thing is for sure though: racism surely isn't going away if we pretend that it's some historical artifact.  And that's what we've been doing here in the US for far too long: lying to ourselves, telling ourselves that race was a problem.  Ending that pattern, that lie, would be a start.  Then we can move on to the fact that race is about a lot more than just skin color, it's also about power.


Thanks to Agustin Fuentes, Nicole Truesdell, Francine Barone, Douglas La Rose, Candace Moore, Steven Bunce, and Jonathan Marks for taking part in this issue.  As always, I encourage reader comments, questions, concerns, and thoughts.  If you don't want to post on here, you can always email us at anthropologies project at gmail dot com.  Thanks for reading.


*This is an argument that I hear among pundits (and others) fairly often.  The argument goes like this: since the Civil Rights era, all kinds of changes have happened, and racism is all but gone.  The election of Barack Obama is somehow proof of this.  This sort of argument often goes hand in hand with the "you're just pulling the race card" charge, which is sometimes used against anyone who tries to bring up the subject of racism.

Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling MI | Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling MI | Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling MI is home to the only remaining old growth white pine stand in the state. A memorial to Michigan's history.

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Cruise the Cherry Blossom Drive through Northern Michigan - Good Sam Camping Blog

Good Sam Camping Blog

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Deward history

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Deward, one of Crawford’s ghost towns By Kurt J. Kolka, UpNorth Voice Editor Back in the late 1970s, the late Carl Olson, a former Deward resident, and the late Raymond Brown of Frederic shared their knowledge of the town of Deward in northwest Crawford County. The information was originally collected for a high school research paper. The […]

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by smacorg @ SMAC

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The Notch – History of a “House of Ill Repute” 1880

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

A notorious house of ill repute, affectionately known as “The Notch”, was located 3 miles west of Grayling just past the bridge on M-72. It was built about 1880 by Harry Young of Toledo, Ohio. The house contained a saloon with a large mirror, a brass foot rail and benches along a wall. There was […]

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XC Ski Conditions 2/15

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Hanson Hills:  Trails are looking great! Groomer Jason is out this morning snowcombing skate lanes. All Trails groomed with set tracks. Preparation has begun for the Meijer State Games-Hanson Hills Classic. Race course has been tracked. We are looking at warmer temperatures for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we will most likely make final grooming […]

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This post comes to us from Michael Johnson, SEO Associate at SEOM Interactive: When it comes to deciding where to shop, consumers turn to reviews. Companies with an online presence have reviews published by Google that give consumers a voice. They rate their individual experiences through stars, photos, and their opinions.  These ratings are of paramount […]

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by smacorg @ SMAC

Recapping some of 2013’s most promising trends and emerging opportunities for social marketers While nobody’s more excited about the potential of social media advertising than the members of this community, that excitement caught on with many of the world’s top …

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by Lauren Ray @ SEOM

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Mi. is home to 18 species of snakes, 17 of which are harmless to humans

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources gets many questions this time of year about Michigan’s snakes. Eighteen different species of snake call Michigan home, but only one of them poses any real harm to humans.“Whether you think snakes are terrifying or totally cool, it is best just to leave them be,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife […]

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International adoption medicine and inequality in pediatric health care

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Over the past six months, I've seen about thirty children diagnosed with diverse medical problems: tuberculosis (TB), ADHD, cleft lips and palates, blood parasites, gut parasites, failure to thrive, unexplained scars, missing and malformed limbs, severe developmental delays, and malnourishment. These kids were born in Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, South Korea, China, the Philippines, India, Hungary, and Guatemala.

This medically and nationally diverse group of patients is found in the pediatric sub-specialty of international adoption medicine. I am conducting ethnographic fieldwork in one such adoption medicine clinic located near a large, Midwestern U.S. city.

My goal in this piece is to highlight one type of inequality built into contemporary pediatric health care in the United States: the differential treatment of similar populations. This inequality is made visible by juxtaposing international adoption medicine with health care available to other groups, particularly children of immigrant adults and child refugees.

International adoption and adoption medicine
At international adoption’s height in the mid-2000s, nearly 23,000 children a year were entering the U. S. Most children were young (under two years old) and relatively healthy.

International adoption looks very different now. Changes in international law, global economic crises, and nationalist debates and changing adoption policy within birth countries have led to a steep decline in the number of healthy infants available for adoption. In government fiscal year 2012 (October 2011-September 2012), just 8,668 foreign-born children were adopted by U.S. citizens (Office of Children’s Issues 2013).

At this stage in the history of international adoption, many adoptees are older, have spent significant time in institutional settings (orphanages), or are "special needs." In this context, “special needs” is a catch-all term used to indicate a range of possible descriptors: children described as “special needs” may have medical disorders, have exhibited behavioral problems, are developmentally delayed (as measured by Western standards), or are part of sibling groups.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as the number of internationally adopted children entering the U.S. was steadily rising, physicians and other medical professionals—many of them adoptive parents themselves—began epidemiological research on children adopted internationally. They recognized that the needs of internationally adopted children were not being adequately addressed by existing pediatric practice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics created a Section on Adoption and Foster Care in 2000, and the group—now called the Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care—has several hundred members (American Academy of Pediatrics n.d.). The focus on infectious disease, the care of post-institutionalized children, and calls for pediatricians to recognize the specific needs of internationally adopted children mark the beginning of what has coalesced into international adoption medicine. The typical international adoption clinic treats the infectious and developmental disorders seen as particular risks for internationally adopted children: TB, HIV, hepatitis, parasites, nutrition deficits, attachment disorders, developmental delays, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Children who have lived in orphanages or institutions other than family or kinship care are at greatest risk.

Adoptive parents are advised that their adopted children should be seen by a physician (preferably one who specializes in adoption medicine) as soon as possible upon entering the country. What happens in this initial screening? The list below is specific to the clinic in which I am doing my research, but is comparable to the activities that occur in most international adoption medicine clinics:
  • Comprehensive history (to the best of adoptive parents’ knowledge)
  • Full physical exam by nurse
  • Developmental assessment by an occupational therapist
  • Discussion with social worker
  • Exam and discussion with doctor
  • TB skin test
  • Test blood for vaccine titer levels
  • Screen blood for parasites, HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis A & B
  • Screen feces for parasites 
Children who need additional treatment are seen a month later. All clinic patients are advised to return six months later for an abbreviated exam and infectious disease screening. Some children have additional follow-up visits for treatment of infectious disease, parasites, problems with development, mental health disorders, or if they are having difficulty in school.

Given the breadth of disorders they must be familiar with, international adoption medicine doctors come from a variety of pediatric specialties. These include infectious disease, public health, tropical/global medicine, development and behavior, psychology, and psychiatry. In addition to medical doctors and nurses, the usually includes social workers and occupational, physical, and speech therapists. One of the primary roles of the adoption clinic is to make referrals to other specialists and connect children with appropriate early intervention services.

The sub-specialty of adoption medicine has grown; by my census, there are now over two dozen clinics in the U.S. serving internationally adopted children and their adoptive families. Just as the practice of international adoption has undergone a transformation, so has adoption medicine. With far fewer healthy infants entering the U.S., the patients seen in adoption medicine clinics are increasingly older and have greater special needs. [1]

Migrant care and international adoption medicine
The conditions affecting internationally adopted children are strikingly similar to those found in other pediatric populations—immigrant children, migrant children, refugees, children under state care in foster or group homes, and children living in poverty—but those populations are rarely treated in specialized clinics. My focus here is on health care for immigrant children, which includes documented, undocumented, and refugee children.

It is well established that immigrant children are in poorer physical health than are non-immigrant children, and that immigrant children are underserved by the U.S. health care system (Huang, Yu, and Ledsky 2006). Health organizations also recognize that immigrants, refugees, and the children of migrants need targeted care. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on Immigrant, Homeless, and Migrant Children notes that these children are at greater risk for certain diseases and outcomes—infectious disease, anxiety, grief, developmental delays, etc.—and asks pediatricians to be aware of the needs of immigrant, migrant, and homeless children in their care (Committee on Community Health Services 2005). While refugees and documented immigrants are required to undergo a medical exam before coming to the U.S., this medical care is not comprehensive or ongoing. There are few clinics devoted to the health of immigrants and far fewer specializing in health care for child immigrants.

In this policy statement, the AAP groups internationally adopted children with immigrant children, but for the sake of clarity here, note that I’m differentiating between internationally adopted children (who are immigrants of a kind) and children who come to the U.S. with one or more parents. As orphans being adopted by U.S. citizens, adopted children have citizenship. Other immigrant children are in the U.S. with or without documentation.

Just as the AAP and other health care institutions recognize the special needs of all immigrant children, so do many adoption medicine practitioners. In general, the medical professionals who make up international adoption medicine are concerned about the health of other internationally-born immigrant children, as well as the health of U.S.-born children residing in foster care or other institutions. The practitioners I’ve talked with see that their expertise in the diseases and problems common to international adoptees could easily be extended to other pediatric populations.

Admittedly, the needs of internationally adopted children are not identical to the needs of other immigrant children. Adopted children may have unique developmental challenges resulting from institutionalization, especially in terms of attachment and cognitive functioning. However, other immigrant children, especially those who have experienced extreme poverty, family disruption, and violence face similar challenges.

On rare occasions, adoption clinics do see immigrant children and U.S.-born children in foster care. During the time I’ve been involved with research at the adoption clinic, the practitioners have seen several children who are not international adoptees. In one case, a mother and her four children went to the emergency room at the local children’s hospital. This refugee family was from Central Africa and spoke no English. The ER was able to address the immediate problem, but could not provide the screening and primary health care all of the children needed; it was clear that the children were in need of prompt and comprehensive care. Knowing that the adoption clinic was seeing patients the next day and that the clinic staff would be able to thoroughly evaluate all of the children, an ER staff member referred the family to the adoption clinic.

These children were strikingly similar to international adoptees, especially those from Central Africa. The kids showed signs of long-term malnutrition and the clinicians considered them at risk for TB, other infectious diseases, and parasites. And like adoptees, they needed to be re-screened six months later, as many diseases don’t appear until some months after infection.

This referral and others like it border on accidental. If it had not been for an employee who knew that the adoption clinic staff might have the expertise to treat these children, they may not have received the primary and specialized care they need. Pediatric care in the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to fully address the needs of all immigrant children. So why is it that there’s a safety net—in the form of a subspecialty and a widely articulated rationale for this subspecialty— for internationally adopted children but no such safety net for similar groups of children?

I see several reasons for this peculiarity: health insurance, documentation, and parental status. U.S. citizens adopting children must meet proscribed standards, including the ability to provide health care for the child, so nearly all internationally adopted children have private health insurance provided by adoptive parents. Unlike children in some similar pediatric populations, in almost all cases internationally adopted children enter the U.S. health care system with U.S. citizenship established. While health care—especially health care for children—should not depend on citizenship, in practice it often does. Immigrant families that are undocumented may be reluctant to engage with the public health system, especially in regions with strong anti-immigrant sentiment.

Parental status is critical here. By status, I mean the parent’s education, relative wealth, occupation, language, and comfort with the health care system. Parents of internationally adopted children are overwhelmingly white and wealthy by global standards. Most of the families I have encountered in the clinic include at least one parent who holds a white-color or professional job. Adoptive parents have also successfully navigated the “paper chase” of the adoption process. To many, the bureaucracy of U.S. health care pales in comparison to the overlapping bureaucracies of state adoption agencies, the U.S. State Department, international treaties, governments of birth countries, and orphanages and foster homes.

When the refugee family I discussed above visited the adoption clinic, one of the practitioners remarked that she was concerned about the children’s future because, in addition to their already poor health, they did not have a parent who could advocate for them. This mother speaks no English and must depend on others for the transportation, money, and knowledge needed to access the pediatric health care system. In other words, most parents of internationally adopted kids have the cultural capital that makes it easier to engage with and navigate health care institutions.

In several ways, immigrant children’s access to pediatric care depends on whether the child belongs to a certain kind of family. To be a part of a documented, citizen family means that specialized medical care is accessible to the immigrant child.

Differential care received by these similar pediatric populations both exposes underlying structural inequalities in the U.S. health care system and reveals how medical practice intersects with citizenship and privilege.

There is hope for resolving this discrepancy. The subspecialty of international adoption medicine developed rapidly in response to an emergent population with special needs. The interest among practitioners in serving all immigrant children points to possibilities for expansion of the field.

Emily J. Noonan is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


1. For comprehensive overviews of international adoption medicine, see Albers 2005; Miller 2005.


Albers, Lisa H., ed. 2005. International Adoption: Medical and Developmental Issues. Theme issue, Pediatric Clinics of North America 52(5).

American Academy of Pediatrics. n.d. Section on Adoption and Foster Care. , Accessed March 7, 2013.

Committee on Community Health Services. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2005. Providing Care for Immigrant, Homeless, and Migrant Children. Pediatrics 115(4):1095-1101.

Huang, Zhihuan Jennifer, Stella M. Yu, and Rebecca Ledsky. 2006. Health Status and Heath Service Access and Use Among Children in U.S. Immigrant Families. American Journal of Public Health 96(4):634-640.

Miller, Laurie C. 2005. The Handbook of International Adoption Medicine: A Guide for Physicians, Parents,and Providers. New York: Oxford University Press.

Office of Children’s Issues. U.S. Department of State. 2013. FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, Accessed March 7, 2013. 2013. 

*Edited for clarity on 6/7/2013

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by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

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by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Hanson Hills: 41 degrees and raining in Grayling. We will not be running our grooming equipment today, trails have been holding up rather well considering everything Mother Nature has thrown at it. XC Ski Headquarters: As of yesterday the snow was still remarkably good on most trails, and conditions were great given the warm temps. […]

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The Wars We Ignored

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

In 1973, I was awarded a Ph.D. in anthropology for a dissertation titled “The Symbolism of Popular Taoist Magic,” based on fieldwork in Taiwan 1969-1971. Here I want to reflect on what I learned in the field that was not included in my dissertation and how those exclusions were typical of anthropological research in Taiwan during the period in which my research was conducted. I begin with a random assortment of memories that illustrate my theme: My research was conducted in wartime, in a place whose history was shaped by wars—wars ignored by anthropologists.

First, a personal note: We, my wife Ruth and I, were approaching the halfway point in two years of research funded by the National Science Foundation and Cornell China Program, itself funded by the Ford Foundation. A letter from my draft board arrived, informing me that my status had been changed from 2S, student deferment, to 1A, eligible for the draft and advising that I get a medical examination to determine my fitness for service. I was upset. As a former member of Students for a Democratic Society, who had carried medical supplies for North Vietnam across the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, NY with the Berrigan brothers to express my opposition to the Vietnam War, and someone who, like former US Vice-President Dick Cheney “had other priorities,” I did not want to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. I very much wanted to retain the privileged status that had so far prevented that fate.

I quickly wrote a reply to the draft board, noting that I was married and doing research funded by the National Science Foundation but also asking if I could get the necessary medical exam at the US Air Force base in Taichung, the closest to Puli, the market town in the center of Taiwan in which I conducted my research. The secretary of the draft board replied — at least this is how I remember the words — “Son, I note that you are 27 years old and married, and we haven’t drafted anybody like you since 1865. I’d relax.” I did, and I wasn’t drafted. But I’d had a sharp reminder of the context in which my research was conducted and why it was being funded.

The Vietnam War had revealed a severe shortage in the USA of individuals with expertise in Asian languages and cultures. I recalled a seminar on the ethnography of mainland Southeast Asia in which Lauriston Sharp remarked that when the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred in 1964, there were only three academics in the USA who spoke and read Vietnamese — and two were archeologists. China was both ally, the Republic of China on Taiwan, and enemy, the communist People’s Republic of China on the mainland. The “fall of the mainland” to the communists in 1949, the People’s Republic’s intervention during the Korean War, and the possibility that it might intervene again in Vietnam had made China a top priority for US national security planners and unleashed a flood of money, some of which was paying for my research.

If any one had asked what research on Daoist (Taoist in the old Wade-Giles romanization) magic had to do with national security, I would have replied that Daoism had been part of Chinese history and culture for thousands of years and that understanding Daoism was vital to understanding how Chinese think. But, as I recall, no one asked. The money was there, I took it and went off to do my research. Before Ruth and I set off for Japan, we were, however, advised to avoid politically sensitive topics.

Criticism of the Kuomintang (KMT) or its leader, the Republic of China’s president Chiang Kai-Shek, was clearly out of bounds. As US citizens, we would likely only be deported. If identified, however, those from whom we heard such criticism might disappear, in what was still an authoritarian police state. We would, moreover, inflict serious damage on the the relationships that made possible the research of anthropologists from Cornell and other institutions working in Taiwan. It was better to stick to such topics as village community structure, the spatial geography of market towns, kinship and marriage, ancestor worship, or popular religion and magic —all safely in the realm of “Chinese tradition” and easy to treat separately as customs and habits divorced from current politics.

It was that same focus on Chinese tradition that diverted attention from another important topic — the fifty years (1895-1945) in which Taiwan was part of the Japanese empire. Taiwan had been ceded to Japan following the first Sino–Japanese War (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) and, then, as a Japanese colony, developed economically. In contrast to the China mainland, devastated by civil wars, Japanese invasion, and then renewed civil war between the KMT and the communist People’s Liberation Army — Taiwan enjoyed a half-century of development, during which the island acquired railroads, an electrical power grid, modern irrigation and public health systems, light industry and universal elementary education. An Imperial University (now National Taiwan University) was established in Taipei, and members of the Taiwanese elite enjoyed other opportunities for higher education in Japan itself. Then, during World War II, Douglas MacArthur’s decision to leapfrog Taiwan and go straight to Okinawa had spared the island from the severe damage inflicted by war on other parts of Asia.

When Japan handed back Taiwan to China at the end of World War II, most Taiwanese were happy to be freed from Japanese colonial rule. But the Republic of China, to which Taiwan was handed over, was on its last legs. The only troops that could be spared from the battle against the communists on the mainland were two of the KMT’s worst divisions, the dregs of its army, commanded by corrupt generals. They regarded the Taiwanese as collaborators with the Japanese instead of loyal Chinese and saw nothing wrong with stealing everything in sight. The KMT soldiers were, I was told, so ignorant that they tore down telephone and electrical power lines for the copper in them, and those who stole bicycles carried them away, not knowing how to ride them. The Taiwanese rebelled. The rebellion was savagely put down. Distrust between Taiwanese and “Mainlanders,” those from the mainland who retreated to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek and the KMT, persisted for decades.

On the positive side, the combination of KMT rule and expropriated Japanese capital made possible one of only two successful, non-violent land reforms in Asia. The other was in Japan, and both were conducted under the auspices of US allies/occupiers.

In the case of Taiwan, instead of expropriating land from the landlords and handing it over to their former tenants, the KMT government was able to buy out the landlords with bonds representing shares of expropriated Japanese capital. Thus, it was, for example, that the Lim family, the largest landlords in northern Taiwan became the owners of the Taiwan Cement Corporation and made a very large fortune supplying the concrete used in Da Nang and other US military bases in Vietnam. Meanwhile their former tenants provided most of the vegetables consumed by US troops fighting in Vietnam, and, in some cases their daughters found employment as prostitutes servicing those troops during R&R in Taiwan. Several new houses on the bluff above where we lived were paid for by the daughters in question. Overall, the result was a massive influx of capital, analogous to that provided by the special procurements in Japan during the Korean War, that kick-started the island’s economy.

Thus it was that when Ruth and I arrived in Taiwan in 1969, economic growth and social change were well underway . Soon after we found an apartment in Puli, we visited the Foreign Affairs Policeman, whose job was to keep an eye on the foreigners in Town. His first question was whether or not we knew Susan. Susan was a 16-year old redhead from Illinois, spending a year living with the family of a local doctor as part of a Rotary Club exchange program. On our first night in our new field site, we saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at the local movie theater. But these observations, too, had no place in my dissertation.

Also excluded were other events: evidence that we were, indeed, living in an authoritarian police state. One night, shortly after we moved in to our apartment, we returned home to find that the screens on the ground floor windows had been removed and the windows left open. The neighbors told us that someone had come to investigate us, suspicious that we were CIA agents. The day before February 28, the anniversary of the Taiwanese rebellion against the mainlanders, the Foreign Affairs Policeman came to visit us. Puli had been where the rebels made their last stand, and on that day the valley was sealed off by heavily armed soldiers. The Foreign Affairs Policeman advised us to stay home that day in case something bad might happen.

Some future historian of anthropology may find these anecdotes useful. Here, in conclusion, I would like to offer a few thoughts about their relation to anthropological theory and practice.

The focus on Chinese tradition that excluded the various wars and events mentioned above from the anthropologist’s dissertation can be defended on many grounds. Ethically speaking, it kept those whose lives I was privileged to briefly share out of harm’s way. Scientifically speaking, it made sense to focus on problems of interest to other anthropologists, which during the sixties and seventies included such topics as kinship and marriage, religion and ritual. It made particular sense in the case of those of us who studied Chinese society and culture. China is a very large country. Including Chinese who live outside of mainland China, Chinese account for roughly one-quarter of humanity. To pretend that careful study of any one community or practice could be definitive was laughable. To develop accounts of traditional customs and institutions, we had to put aside other topics. The best we could do was add our own contributions to a growing understanding that included work by historians, art historians, literary scholars, economists, sociologists, and political scientists as well as anthropologists.

Still, in retrospect, I and my contemporaries do seem guilty of willful blind spots, averting our eyes from the wars that shaped the places and historical moments in which we worked. Like Evans-Pritchard working among the Nuer, we, too, ignored the bloodshed — unless, of course, it had some ritual significance.

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd.

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by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

The Many Benefits Of Vacationing Near Rivers Grayling is known for its beautiful rivers – the AuSable and Manistee wind dreamily through this place, offering sanctuary and resources not only to many kinds of fish and birdlife, but also to the Americans who come here seeking a bit of peace and quiet. The rivers provide a […]

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Reflections on a Dialogue between NM & CMA: Holism on the Ground

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

What is holistic health? This question was the focus of a recent dialog between critical medical anthropologists (CMAs) and naturopathic doctors (NDs) staged in a special issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly (v.26, no.2). To summarize, each side has a different viewpoint on what true holism comprises. CMA sees health as determined holistically by sociopolitical and economic factors that pattern human behavior and human ecology while naturopathy sees health as a state of holistic balance between an individual’s mind, body, and spirit (Baer et al 2012); NDs subscribe to vitalism and assume that everyone has an innate capacity to heal oneself under certain circumstances as a unified mind-body-spirit. CMAs subscribe to critical theory and assume that a person’s health is a product of local-national-global power relations.

Although the dialog is well-needed, as ‘holistic health’ is generally used too vaguely to be useful theoretically, we contend that keeping the debate to specific disciplinary agendas without grounding the understanding in a user perspective is limiting. We believe that a user-grounded perspective is necessary if scholars are to craft and agree upon a clearly delimited way to understand and deploy the term.

We found, in the dialogues by Baer et al. (2012) and associated responses by other scholars (Tippens et al. 2012; Evans 2012; Hunter 2012; Calabrese 2012; Hess 2012; Flesch 2012; Jordan 2012; Baer 2012), that both CMA and naturopathy aim to create a holistic approach to health, but that each saw the other as maintaining a self-limited scope. CMA critiqued naturopathy, along with other complementary and alternative medicine practices, for being too focused on the individual and not addressing the sociopolitical and economic institutions and structures that pattern health politics. Naturopathy critiqued CMA for ignoring the individual as an agent for sociopolitical and economic change.

We concur with Tippens et al. (2012) that “the two fields have common goals, and, with improved understanding of similarities and differences, have much to offer to one another. Each can learn from the strengths of the other to enhance health care delivery” (258). However, the historical differences that have shaped each discipline leave the two highly dichotomized and seem to mitigate creating a satisfactory definition of holistic health.

While both parties provide an important perspective, and each discipline can carry forward applying its own philosophies, the distinction between them may be academic: that is, it may be elided in real world practices. In other words, the excessive concentration on their respective disciplines and actual behaviors may have caused the scholars in this debate to neglect the voices of those who are seeking health. We contend that the individual who is searching for health care, either for him- or herself or for those he or she cares for, occupies the crossroads between mind-body-spirit and political economic experiences and concerns.

To better understand holistic health, we propose to take into account the seeker’s point of view. We have been granted the opportunity to do just that using data from EJ Sobo’s Healthy Child Development Project (e.g., Sobo 2013), which explores the developmental pediatric framework undergirding Waldorf education from both teachers’ and parents’ points of view (Waldorf education is an independent alternative to public schooling). The project entailed ethnographic observations in classrooms, focus groups, and interviews, some of which served to provide formative data for the development of a home health survey for parents. We helped collect and process parent data for the project, and are assisting with the analysis of the parent data. The analysis is still in its initial stages but so far we have been struck by several themes that we believe may predominate in the data—themes relevant to the dialog between CMA and ND.

The perspective of parents on the topic of vaccinations has been particularly interesting while we reflect upon the holistic health definitions framed by CMA and NM. Here we must note that vaccination was not the study’s focus; parents mentioned it, however, while describing their overall approach to child health. Participants said that delaying or avoiding vaccinations for their children, particularly for diseases such as chicken pox, was not uncommon among Waldorf parents. In vaccination decisions, participants addressed the individual needs of their children while also acting as informed consumers rather than simply bowing unthinkingly to sociopolitical pressures, such as biomedically-oriented health discourse. In the words of one participant in the first focus group, parents in this community are “maybe a little more discriminatory, a little more educated” than those parents who simply follow the doctor’s orders.

In the second focus group, one of the participants again brought up the point that parents in the Waldorf community might opt out of certain vaccinations and focus instead on trying to maintain a good diet and otherwise healthy lifestyle. Here, parents seem to be in agreement with the NM definition of holistic health, and similarly focused on the body’s capacity to heal itself. Accordingly, some also seem to feel that by vaccinating children they might be causing more harm than good. Parents’ recognition of their choice to vaccinate allows them to promote the natural processes carried out by one’s immune system and combat the hegemonic forces of pharmaceutical companies and health policy, which pressure vaccination of children through the education system. As one interview participant noted, “It shows that the parents are individual thinkers and are thinking, and it takes a lot of work to go against the grain of society, you got to sign [waivers] and the parents are talking creatively and individually” [ST-11]. Here, parents are also employing the CMA definition of holistic health as they view themselves as well as others in the community as “individual thinkers,” who are able recognize extra individual forces that are responsible for patterning human behavior.

Indeed, from the participants’ perspective, holistic health seems to be a framework for medical pluralism that places biomedicine and all other forms as equivalent resources to use according to specific and individuated needs. As one focus group participant explained, “It’s not like [it’s] just alternative medicine. It’s sort of this holistic approach, so that every aspect becomes important” [FG1]. In the words of another, “I’m making the choice” [FG1]. Participants would draw on medical modalities according to the specific issues they were facing and the characteristics of the individual child they were caring for. They would assess each child’s needs according to his or her individual history.

While holistic health has recently been differentially defined by CMAs and NDs as either determined by sociopolitical and economic factors or by an individual’s mind, body, and spirit connections (Baer et al 2012), this theoretical division does not seem to sustain in actuality when there are a range of flexible choices for persons to draw on as agents of their own health. Participants in this research seem to transcend the dichotomy presented in the CMA-ND dialogue, employing specific techniques that corresponded with specific health issues. From the transcribed data we have reviewed thus far, this transcendence is recognizable as parents choose whether or not to vaccinate. They seem to draw not on a dualistic framework but instead one of pluralism, and their definition of holistic health hinges on this perspective.

Sean Tangco, Erik Hendrickson, & Samuel Spevack
San Diego State University, Anthropology


Baer, Hans A. 2012.  "Rejoinder: A Long and Convoluted Journey: Medical Pluralism, Naturopathy, and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 299-303.

Baer, Hans A, Cheryl Beale, Rachel Canaway, and Greg Connolly. 2012. "A Dialogue Between Naturopathy and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 241-256.

Calabrese, Carlo. 2012. "An Invited Contribution to 'A Dialogue Between Naturopathy and Critical Medical Anthropology: What Constitutes Holistic Health?'." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 279-282.

Evans, Sue. 2012. "Response to Baer and Colleagues: The Politics of Holism." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 271-274.

Flesch, Hannah. 2012. "Comments on Baer and Colleagues’“A Dialogue Between Naturopathy and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 287-291.

Hess, David J. 2012. "Notes on the Relations Between CAM and the Social Sciences." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 283-286.

Hunter, Assunta Elena. 2012. "Commentary: Naturopathy, Holism, and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 275-278.

Jordan, Meg. 2012. "A Dialogue Between Naturopathy and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 292-298.

Sobo, EJ. 2013. “High physical activity levels in a Waldorf school reflect alternative developmental understandings” Education and Health. 31.1.

Tippens, Kimberly Michelle, Erica Oberg, and Ryan Bradley. 2012. "A Dialogue Between Naturopathy and Critical Medical Anthropology." Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 26.2: 257-270.

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by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Trails are not rideable. TV 9 & 10 weather: Today: Snow showers are working through the Northern Lower Peninsula but it is more of a mix, sleet and rain for areas along M-32 and South. This will continue to work North/Northeast into the Eastern U.P. as we head through today. Roads will remain slick in […]

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Race matters and anthropology counts!

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

In the USA we are confused about, and fascinated with, race. Let me give you two examples:

#1- Much discussion about the recent terror attack in Boston circled around the race of the perpetrators, and once they were caught it got even more interesting.   Are the Tsarnaevs white?  They are from the Caucus region so they are Caucasoid and/or Caucasian, right?  Isn’t that white?  It must be because Wikipedia tells us it is. But, wait, they are Muslim and sort of swarthy…that can’t be white, can it? What is going on here? Why is whether a person is “white” or not such an important element in American (USA) discourse?

#2- When my recent book “Race, monogamy and other lies they told you: busting myths about human nature” came out I got a slew of calls, emails and reviews accusing me of a) pushing a politically-correct liberal agenda, b) not understanding science, being a bad scientist or just plain stupid, c) having absurdly narrow concept of race, and d) being totally out of touch with reality.  Many of those who contacted me were really, really angry about what I said about race: that race is not biology, that race is dynamic and culturally constructed, and that racism has devastating effects on individuals and society.  However, there is no contesting this position: the data are in, and it is the position held by a majority of anthropologists, biologists, geneticists, and others who study human biological variation.  Why do some folks get so angry when confronted with an overwhelmingly robust dataset demonstrating that race, as we use it, is neither biological or nor a core part of our nature? 

The explanation in both of these cases is that race matters, but it is a concept that is consistently misrepresented, misunderstood, and misused.  Race is important in the USA, but the way we use race does not reflect biological reality, even though the majority of folks think it does.  There is currently one biological race in our species: Homo sapiens sapiens. However, that does not mean that what we call “races” don’t exist.  Societies construct racial classifications, not as units of biology, but as ways to lump together groups of people with varying historical, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or other backgrounds. These categories are not static, they change over time as societies grow and diversify and alter their social, political and historical make-ups. If you look across the USA you can see that there are patterns of racial difference, such as income inequalities, health disparities, differences in academic achievement and representation in professional sports.  If one thinks that these patterns of racial differences have a biological basis, if we see them as “natural,” racial inequality is then a natural part of the human experience (remember a book called The Bell Curve?).  This fallacy influences people to see racism and inequality not as the products of economic, social, and political histories but as a natural state of affairs; and that is dangerous

The USA needs serious assistance dealing with race, and anthropology can a major part of the intervention.  However, we have a problem: few people read anthropology, fewer know what anthropology is, and there is serious misrepresentation of “anthropology” in the public eye.

Wikipedia informs us that “Anthropologists generally consider the Cro-Magnons to be the earliest or "proto" representatives of the Caucasoid race” and much of the public think that Jared Diamond is a star anthropologist. Actually, we don’t and he is not.  But more people visit Wikipedia to find out about race than visit the AAA understanding race website and many more read Diamond’s books about being human than those of actual anthropologists.  Unfortunately, most commonly on the topic of race, most people don’t refer to any source at all, they “know” reality because the experience it every day.  Their common sense (which as Geertz reminded us is as constructed as most cultural beliefs) lays clear that white, black, asian, latino, etc.. are different things and maybe even natural kinds. Anthropology is all about making the familiar strange; we need to use this skill to make nonsensical the popular perceptions of race and clearly demonstrate what it is not.

This is not an easy task. Most anthropologists not particularly active in the mainstream media or public view, and when we are our contributions are frequently discounted as being overly “PC” or liberal, or detached from the reality of everyday people.  It does not help that much of what we have to convey is really quite complicated.  Real and sustainable solutions to racial inequalities and the problems of race relations in the USA will be slow to emerge as long as a large percentage of the public holds on to the myth of biological races.

So what do we do about it?  The American Anthropological Association is already tackling this issue, and individual anthropologists are taking the public perception of race to task (and have been doing so for almost a century!). We need to keep it up and become more present on the web, in the media, and in people’s lives.  On the topic of Race anthropology MUST be public, loud, and adamant:

1) Race is not an accurate or productive way to describe human biological variation, but human variation research has important social, biomedical, and forensic implications.

2) Patterns of variation in human groups have been substantially shaped by culture, history, language, ecology, and geography.

3) While race is not biology, racism can certainly affect our biology (especially health and development).

4) There is no inherently biological reason for inequalities across the groups we label white, black, asian, latino, etc...  Nor is there a “natural” explanation for why race relations are often difficult, but there are lots of interesting social, political, economic, psychological, and historical ones. 

5) If race is not “nature,” then racial inequalities, categories, and realties can change.

Getting this kind of information into public is critical and anthropological intervention in the race issues in the USA is more important than ever…we cannot stand aside in the face of racism or ignorance.  Anthropological voices, and our data, need to be heard and seen loud and clear.

Agustin Fuentes, U of Notre Dame

War Stories and the Shifting Frontiers of Military-Civilian Divides

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Teaching a class about war media to freshman at an expensive liberal arts college can be a tricky business. Students in my class had just arrived in New York City from far-flung places all over the country. Yet they all had two things in common: The first was that they had lived more than half of their young lives in so-called post-9/11 America – a nation embroiled in a shapeshifting war that has drawn on for over a decade. The second was that, aside from cursory knowledge gleaned from news coverage, they had very little connection to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. These students are the heart of what I have come to think of as the "all-volunteer generation," a cohort of people raised during a time when American militarism commands vast amounts of human, economic, technological, and resources for war, but who can choose the extent to which they expose their bodies and minds to its potentialities.

This gap between first-hand experience of war and the way people come to know war from afar was the starting point from which we began our work together in class. For 15 weeks we gathered at the uncivilized hour of 8:30 A.M. to engage with war media that included critical theory, fiction, memoir, journalism, satire, and film. Like any good anthropologist, I encouraged them to be ethnographic in their investigations, paying attention not only to the content of a specific narrative, but to the form in which it was packaged. We approached war stories not only wanting to know “what happened,” but also what kinds of narrative strategies and evidence were used to bolster a perspective, and what may have been minimized or glossed over in service of coherence. Looking critically at these details helped us to better understand how war stories can help us to interpret the multiple meanings that we - modern American civilians - attribute to organized violence.

In class, it soon became clear that despite their lack of experience, my students, like most Americans, were anything but ignorant about war. In fact, its traces are everywhere, and most people who consume popular media are primed to recognize even its contradictory elements without much effort. War is loud, bloody, exciting, traumatizing, evocative of some of the best and worst in human capacities and responses to threats, both real and perceived. Or, it’s dull, alienating, and systematic, compelled by forces far bigger than the mere individuals who get caught up in its visceral and organizational machinery.

We know what war looks like from images we've seen in movies, on TV, and circulated through the Internet via social media and 24-hour news sites ever hungry for click-worthy content. When we want the facts, however, we turn to different sources. Once a war is over, it's history. The mountains of literature on the First and Second World Wars make clear how many varieties of hay can be made of a rough dozen years' worth of large scale conflict. Yet, with each new rendering, it becomes clear that the facts of “what happened” do not stand for themselves. Places and dates, military strategies, political analysis, and occasional testimony tell some of the story. But clearly, if that were all there was to tell, there would not be such an appetite for the continual rehashing and retelling, the relentless pouring over the details of what happened, and more importantly, why.

The mediascape has recently rippled with a resurgence of questions about how the systematic violence of Nazi Germany should be interpreted, largely connected to the release of a new biopic about philosopher Hannah Arendt. Arendt is renowned for her analysis of the Adolf Eichmann trial, published serially in the New Yorker in 1963 and which remains one of the most resonant theories about the nature of war in the industrial age. Yet, it has recently been argued, Arendt developed her ideas based on partial evidence, highlighting certain facts about Nazi systematicity while ignoring others.

Arendt condenses the Third Reich mentality into the dispassionate figure of the bureaucrat who orchestrates terror out of a desire for order and deference to authority regardless of the consequences. Not so, say new critics who argue that Eichmann's adherence to Nazi ideology was a matter of passion rather than obedience. While Arendt’s theories emerged from first-hand observations of the war crimes trial, a new paper trail of Eichmann’s activities during the war seem to reveal the makings for a different story. A virulent anti-Semite, Eichmann actually defied party leadership in order to ensure the suffering inflicted by the Final Solution would not cease, even when the tide had turned and it was clear that the crimes would be subject to the judgment of the international community.

The details, in this case, have the capacity to change the tenor of the story and give us a different way to envision the human capacity to neglect what we in the “human rights” era view as a moral and legal obligation to preserve lives that can be defined as innocent. In my class, we looked at the intentional killing of civilians in the Second World War from multiple perspectives, reading Arendt alongside John Hersey’s chilling vignettes of Hiroshima survivors (1989), W.G. Sebald’s musings on the literary silence regarding the destruction of German cities (2001), and Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical, sci-fi memoir about experiencing the fire-bombing of Dresden as a young American prisoner (1991). Using different kinds of evidence, these narratives each grapple in their own way with the problem of how to represent something that seems to elude representation, because of both practical exigencies and the limits of language and human capacities to witness and convey certain forms of experience. Though each of these stories offered the class a lens with which to understand the extent of the suffering caused by the war, the forms that frame them are often fragmented and partial, the facts of “what happened” eclipsed by the immensity of the significance they have for our understanding of ourselves and our cultural legacies.

The question of how to represent contemporary war has become no less complicated by virtue of its simultaneity and the wealth of information technologies offering the allure of instant access to the story on the ground. Just a cursory glance at headlines in this week’s news alerts us to ongoing violence in Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, Yemen, Egypt, and Syria, to name only the ones worthy of the most column inches, or their digital equivalent.

Yet two refractions of war’s violence that have circulated outside of the traditional genres of reportage have been etched in my mind in recent weeks, adding new poignancy to the questions my students and I pondered together in class. The first is a raw and incisive commentary by the Italian freelancer Francesca Borri who has been reporting on the ground in Syria for the last 5 months. Her frustrated and alienated voice alerts us to a paradox that exists within the political economy of conflict reporting. War stories often unfold without a coherent narrative arc to guide us through, yet this does not keep our partial conclusions from having lethal consequences.

There are people who are, like Borri, willing to risk their own safety and comfort in the pursuit of vital bits of evidence that can help us understand the shifting borders and alliances that determines how cycles of violence are playing out in places like Syria. Yet, this vital form of labor is seriously dis-insentivized by insultingly low salaries and the privileging of stories that are more easily digested into pre-existing narratives about how state authority, ethnicity, and religion intermingle in regions marked by instability.

Another piece of similarly unconventional war media was not published in any established news forum, but rather, was circulated via Youtube and social media as a piece of “agitprop” performance. For those who wished to become spectators to what many define as torture, the rapper Mos Def offered his own body up to the visibly agonizing discomfort of force feeding, a procedure that is currently being used to nourish hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility - at least until he forced his simulated captors to stop. It was a provocation meant to lend grotesque immediacy to commonly known facts.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has condemned force-feeding as cruel and the World Medical Association has specifically forbid it. Yet the fact that it is ethically reprehensible and illegal cannot seem to penetrate the juridical safe zone that has been built up to countenance the ever-shifting moral and geographical terrain of preemptive military doctrine. The ambivalent relationship between what we cognitively know to be the truth and the eruption of that truth into sensory consciousness forms what anthropologist Michael Taussig has called “public secrets” – unacceptable realities that hide in plain sight. The condition of a public secret depends less on the state’s obstruction of the facts than on the unspoken rules of a public, whose most important social knowledge consists of “knowing what not to know.” It is this state of knowing/not knowing that I believe was being challenged by Mos Def’s performance. Whether or not such a tactic can successfully provoke more than passing outrage in a media landscape saturated with outrageous images remains to be seen.

Discussions of modern war often reference a figure called the "civilian soldier,” a person who pivots between the role of the "ordinary" citizen and that of a citizen who, during wartime, is enabled to kill and die on behalf of the nation. In the contemporary mediascape, discussions about the responsibilities, burdens, and needs of the citizen soldier are commonplace. These stories are important and must be told. Yet what of the citizen-civilian? What responsibility do we have as producers, curators, and consumers of media to play an active role in the shaping of our contemporary war stories?

My students took their role as citizen civilians seriously. What they lacked in experience, they made up for in curiosity, critical reflection, and a conviction that the conditions of living in a militarized society gives the circulation of war stories a unique significance and a set of responsibilities not shared by other forms of storytelling. I found their example encouraging. As the U.S. public continues to consider whether and how to intervene in regional conflicts like the one in Syria, how to end the disturbing trend of ethical abuses presented by preemptive war doctrine, and weigh the consequences of expanding counterinsurgency operations into Africa and elsewhere, I hope the rest of the citizen-civilian population will follow their lead.

Emily Sogn is a teacher, writer, and Ph.D. Candidate at New School for Social Research.

Works Cited

Hersey, John. 1989.  Hiroshima. New York: Vintage.

Sebald. W.G.  2003.  On the Natural History of Destruction. Anthea Bell, trans. New York: Modern Library.

Taussig, Michael. 1999.  Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative. Stanford; Stanford University Press.

Vonnegut, Kurt. 1991.  Slaughterhouse Five. New York: Dell.

Old College Try: See Where Mendham Grads Are Headed This Fall

Old College Try: See Where Mendham Grads Are Headed This Fall

Mendham-Chester, NJ Patch

Class of 2015 sets sights on becoming collegiate class of 2019.

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Light-dependant intraretinal ion regulation by melanopsin in young awake and free moving mice evaluated with manganese-enhanced MRI

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PubMed Central (PMC)

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Medicine in black and white

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

The woman was a refugee from Eritrea. Stated age: 26. Supposedly 6 months pregnant. The old doctor looked over her file. A few lost pregnancies. One birth. He began talking to us in English. He assumed she couldn’t possibly understand that. “These people need contraception, look…” and I automatically tuned him out. I couldn’t handle the tirade. I heard it the last time we saw a female patient together. Interestingly there are very few at this charitable clinic. The only one in the world I have ever seen where men outnumber women about 5 to 1. The reasons are simple I suppose. Death or kidnapping to the bedouins. Profit hungry pimps they were sold to calculate a trip to the doctor as a loss…but I’m not sure about that.

My father used to call prostitution white slavery…and I must note anywhere in the world I have been, Caucasians seem over-represented in those poor women. It can’t possibly be the actual case…but, they are the ones out on display I suppose, and perhaps in the back room various women are available. Perhaps black women are heavily discounted. I imagine myself wearing a sign that says “50% off.” It seems pretty awful. I suppose I should stick to medicine. My train of thought is interrupted by a dramatic climax in volume and anger from the doctor. “And this, this,” he points to the 3 year old on the floor, “this is the end result!”

I look down and notice a small child with big brown eyes, and playful energy. He is perhaps the cutest kid I have ever seen . He was the kind of kid that gives any woman with a pulse childbearing or kidnapping fantasies. Old doctors can get away with anything. They are the smartest person in the room, or so everyone assumes. Years of experience have imprinted their brains with the facts of medicine no matter how obscure. Since they ask the questions, they know the answers.

I remember years ago, it was actually young doctor who burned that into my psyche. Although he didn’t know it, he was exactly my age. I was late to start medical school. It took me years to realize I had no hope as an artist. But I am black, so perhaps he thought I was younger than him. At least I hope given that he told me I “did not understand how to relate to people superior to” me and this was my main problem. Perhaps condescension was just a defense mechanism after we had a scuffle about one of his patients. I didn’t appreciate his ‘education’ of me after her visit; but mostly I feared for her--a poor black teenager with one child who he refused to give contraception. When I asked why, he told me about what would be best for her: total abstinence. 

I pointed out that offering contraception was not telling her to have sex, and that probably she was sexually active anyways considering she had a child. He reacted by kicking me out of the Pediatrics course, which he was in charge of. Theoretically without his approval I would be literally unable to finish medical school. It was one of my last experiences with medicine in the US. I packed my bags before I even finished medical school there. I have often thought of writing that doctor, just to let him know I eventually entered his cherished important profession, also became a medical doctor, and wonder if he would still say he was “superior” to me.

At what point I get awarded equality, I am totally unsure. I know I have not reached it. I could tell by the total disgust on the face of one of my mentors when I mentioned I wanted a child, soon. “How are you going to pay for this kid?” he asked. The question was ironic considering I worked more or less for him, as he was directly above me in the intellectually constructed pyramid of doctors. He was right, I was a bottom brick.  Just a few years out of medical school. How dare I, a lowly doctor of even lowlier origins think of having a child…'right, because kids are only for rich white folks like yourself,' I felt like saying.

Candace Makeda H. Moore, MD

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Researching Race While Being Raced: Reflections on Race Politics in Anthropology

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Let’s have an honest discussion about Race in Anthropology. As a non-white anthropologist who conducts research on issues of race, racism, class, nationalism, citizenship, and belonging I find that frank discussions on race and racism within the discipline of anthropology, between the majority and the minority, are few and far between. While many can acknowledge that there is in fact racism in the world, and that the concept of race does have some impact on the lives of those who are raced, I have come to notice that many within the field are more reluctant to talk about the ways in which race influences their perceptions on who has the “right” to conduct certain types of research on the topics of race and racism. As Elizabeth Chin (2006) succulently said, the unwritten rule within the discipline is “people of color study themselves, white people study everybody.” (44)

I came face-to-face with this assumption throughout my doctorate as I began to examine the intersections of race, citizenship, and nation in the UK. My initial interests in the UK stemmed from a desire to theoretically and practically engage with the concepts of race and racism outside of an American race paradigm. Of particular interest to me were the emerging debates around mixed-race identity and mixedness (Cabellero forthcoming; Ifekwunigwe 1998; Edwards et. al, 2012) in relation to Britishness (Gilroy 2002; Goulbourne 2009; Meer 2010; Modood 2007). As I applied for funding for this topic I was met with reviewers commenting not on what I proposed I wanted to do, but what I should be looking at for a dissertation. Where I stated I wanted to work with mixed-race organizations in London or Bristol, I was met with comments that suggested this was a futile pursuit and instead I would be “better off” working within African-Caribbean or South East Asian populations. After a number of rounds of going through these types of comments with various funders I decided to change my population to racial and ethnic minorities in general. I was immediately funded.

Once in the field I faced more challenges over my research. I worked with a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) civil society regional organization in Bristol, England for two years, examining the ways in which racial and ethnic identity was used as a political platform for BME communities to engage with the state. The term “BME” encompasses a large heterogeneous population of ethnic minorities in the UK – from Irish traveller populations to refugee populations from Eastern Europe and East Africa, to those with roots in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. This complicated and complex construction of racial and ethnic minority populations is rooted in a specific historical and geographical context unique to the UK. As someone who was interested in the intersections of race and nation, the UK offered an interesting contextualization of these issues.

Yet, when I expressed this sentiment to fellow anthropologist I was met with perplexed looks and interesting questions. “Are you British?” was the most common one, implying that my personal national/ethnic/racial identity must be the main deciding factor in my decision making process of selecting a dissertation topic and field site. When I would respond with a “no” then other questions followed that further delved into someone trying to find that personal identity attachment to my research. Instead of seeing me as another researcher who worked on political anthropological topics, I was seen as a mixed-race/brown/black anthropologist who focused on issues that related to my own identity. This is what Steele (2010) calls identity contingencies – “the things you have to deal with in a situation because you have a given social identity.” (3) I found throughout my time in the academia I have had to deal with being a non-white researcher who does race research, and having that research examined by others through my own racial identity and not the research itself. And that is what I call a problem.

This problem stems back to the original quote I used from Elizabeth Chin. In that simple statement the issues of race politics within anthropology emerge. The “legitimacy” of race research seems to depend upon the perceived racial/ethnic identity of the researcher – when that researcher is non-white. If it did not then other anthropologists would not have questioned my personal nationality repeatedly throughout my fieldwork experience as I unraveled the tangled intersections of race, nation, and citizenship. If it did not then those asking me the questions would have turned those same questions onto themselves to uncover why they, as white researchers, chose to go to Sub-Sahara Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, etc… to conduct research on a number of different issues.

This is not new – many have written about this phenomenon in different aspects (see Bulmer and Solomos’ edited volume 2004; Duster 1999; Mukhopadhyay and Moses 1997; Mullings 2005; Harrison 1998; Rhodes 1994; Smedley and Smedley 2012 to name a small few). So then what can we do about this now? For me the simplest solution is to start having frank conversations amongst one another on the politics of race within anthropology. By this I do not mean renting a small room at the next AAA meeting and that room being full of only non-white faces speaking about these issues. This has been done in the past, and it ends up being minorities speaking to other minorities. This is not only a minority issue. Instead the majority needs to be apart of this discussion, and not making the discussion. We need real conversations between the majority and the minority so that the stereotypes and prejudices that we all have can be brought to the forefront and worked on in order to advance the research done on race and racism within the field.

Essentially race is complicated, uncomfortable, and elicits an emotional state for both those who are raced and those who do the racing (Caballero forthcoming). But, if we wish to educate the public about race and race politics then we need to start talking about race politics within our own discipline, and the impact this has on the perception of who can do what types of research on race.

Nicole Truesdell, PhD
Director McNair Scholars Program
Adjunct Assistant Professor in Anthropology
Beloit College


Bulmer, Martin and John Solomos. 2004. Researching Race and Racism. New York. Routledge. Caballero, Chamion. Forthcoming. Mixed Emotions: reflections on researching racial mixing and mixedness. Emotion, Space and Society.

Chin, Elizabeth. 2006. Confessions of a Negrophile. Transforming Anthropology 14(1): 44-52.

Duster, Troy. 1999. Foreword in, Racing research, researching race: methodological dilemmas in critical race. pp. xi-xiv. France Winddance Twine and Jonathan W. Warren, eds. New York. New York University Press.

Edwards, Rosalind, Suki Ali, Chamion Caballero and Miri Song. 2012. International Perspectives on Mixing and Mixedness. London. Routledge.

Harrison, Faye V. 1998. Introduction: Expanding the Discourse on “Race.” 100(3): 609-638.

Gilroy, Paul. 2002. There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack. London. Routledge.

Goulbourne, Harry. 2009. Ethnicity and Nationalism in post-imperial Britain. New York. Cambridge University Press. Ifekwunigwe, Jayne. 1998. Scattered Belongings. London. Routledge.

Meer, Nasar. 2010. Citizenship, Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism. London. Palgrave MacMillian. Modood, Tariq. 2007 Multiculturalism. A Civic Idea. Cambridge. Polity.

Mukopadhyay, Carol C and Yolanda T. Moses. 1997. Reestablishing “Race” in Anthropological Discourse. American Anthropologist 99(3): 517-533.

Mullings, Leith. 2005. Interrogating Racism: Toward an Antiracist Anthropology. Annual Review Of Anthropology 34: 667-693. Rhodes, P.J. 1994. Race-Of-Interviewer Effects: A Brief Comment. Sociology. 28(2):547-558.

Smedley, Audrey and Brian a. Smedley. 2012. Race in North American. Origin and Evolution of a Worldview (4th Edition). Boulder. Westview Press.

Steele, Claude E. 2010. Whistling Vivaldi. New York. W.W. Norton and Company.

45 Top Colleges to Study Abroad

by bcseditor @ Best Choice Schools

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Michigan ‘Great Outdoors’ bucket list

by Bruna Babler @ the Babbler Blog

For those of you who didn’t know, June is known as the “Great Outdoor Month“! So I decided to pull out my super long bucket list and make a new one just for my last summer as a college student in Michigan. For all of you who live in Michigan and don’t have much money but still want to go and be adventurous… (like me)… or are coming to Michigan for vacation or work there actually is a lot of...

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Best SEO Company in Wheatland WY

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Crowdtap and Ipsos Millennial research featured on Mashable

by smacorg @ SMAC

On March 9th, at our Annual SXSW Brunch we released new research with Crowdtap and Global research firm, Ipsos that shows that Millennials spend on average, 18 hours a day consuming media. That’s a lot of time, but not all …

Family Fishing tips

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Family Fishing Trip in Grayling You’ve been fishing for years, and now you’re ready to pass down your love of the sport to your children. A family fishing trip in Grayling is an excellent way to bond with your kids and spouse, all while enjoying a fun […]

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Not all White Men Are Rich:Being an Anthropologist and a Suitor in Ghana, West Africa

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Identity consists of a package of signifiers including such seemingly disparate components as ethnicity, gender, class, and religion. These components interact with each other in a way that makes their individual poignancies difficult to determine (Yelvington 1995). These components, however, are not simply meaningless parts of a meaningful whole – they shift and battle for primacy in a hierarchy that is continuously molded by contexts, reflections, and moving experiences. Identity is constructed based on experiences that consist of real structures and real narratives, and in this sense it has an objective meaning based in an objective social reality. Moya and Hames-Garcia argue “a theory of identity is inadequate unless it allows a social theorist to analyze the epistemic status and political salience of any given identity and provides her with the resources to ascertain and evaluate the possibilities and limits of different identities” (Moya and Hames-Garcia 2000: 7). Identity, then, has a real epistemic status and projects a real political salience that is interpreted differently in various contexts – but this variability does not mean that identity is not real. Moya and Hames-Garcia’s point that identity is neither a static, unwavering whole nor an entirely porous, meaningless swarm of ambiguous notions allows us to reclaim identity from an argument that has had a shaky footing in meaningful discourse. Though Moya and Hames-Garcia may go a bit far in proclaiming a new theoretical movement – postpositivist realism – Mohanty’s point that “identities are theoretical constructions that enable us to read the world in specific ways” (Mohanty 1993: 43) is a profoundly liberating one. Identity should not be consumed either by the theoretical currents of postmodern theory nor the more archaic curse of essentialism. Rather, it should be reclaimed by social scientists (and individuals) as a legitimate, real, and profoundly important variable in the human experience.

As a white, male, American socio-cultural anthropologist working in West Africa, my identity consistently functions as both an obstacle and an opening to the worldviews and daily experiences of the Africans I work with. Furthermore, as a foreigner who is engaged to a Ghanaian woman, my foreign identity speaks more saliently to my interactions with my fiancé, my in-laws, and the community I work in (which is the same community that she is from). My identity - or, rather, the signifiers that my disposition consists of - in the Ghanaian context invokes more assumptions about me than I will ever be able to realize or understand. These assumptions strongly flavor the interactions I have with my informants and the ways in which Ghanaian worldviews, experiences, and needs are presented to me. In the following, I will try and tease out some of the ways my white male American identity affects my fieldwork as an applied anthropologist concerned with the processes and opportunities of development in the West African region. I will also look at the ways in which my identity affects my personal relationships with my fiancé and her family. This analysis lends much credence to Moya and Hames-Garcia’s assessment of the “epistemic status and political saliency” of identity and the intrinsic importance that identity has in social, cultural, political, and economic systems of meaning.

Reflections on Fieldwork in Ghana
In “Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco” Paul Rabinow discusses some of the frustrations he experienced when doing anthropological fieldwork in a small mountainous village in Morocco. Most dominant among these frustrations were some of the profound misunderstandings Rabinow made about his informants and other misunderstandings his informants made about him. At one point, a simple misunderstanding about an informant’s access to Rabinow’s car boiled over into a near emotional breakdown for Rabinow. How could he expect to understand life in this remote Moroccan village if he couldn’t even understand a basic expectation that one of his informants had about him? Rabinow understands fieldwork as “a process of intersubjective constructions of liminal modes of communication” (Rabinow 1977: 155). Worldviews and experiences are twice removed, interpreted, and reinterpreted in the anthropologist and informant’s minds – only to be interpreted once again in the writing process. I would argue that in the ethnographic incident that Rabinow describes, something more than just a difference in conceptual understanding is occurring. It is a difference in identifying (no pun intended) the roles and intentions of the actors based on identity. Rabinow, a white Anthropologist from the United States, is carrying on and within him a set of signifiers that are functioning to establish an identity that can be read and interpreted as a physical text in the context of his fieldwork.

When I travel in West Africa I normally get from one place to another via local transportation. In other words, I travel by tro-tro: a type of large mini-van that is converted into what functions as an inter-city bus. Whenever I stand at the bus station or on the side of the road, the bus will pull up to me and the person sitting in the front passenger side of the vehicle will move to the back of the van and the driver will ask me to sit in the front: “Master, come and sit here, I beg you.” If I insist on sitting in the back of the bus, I will be told - with a substantial quantity of vehemence - that I am ungrateful and unfriendly. If I sit down in the front of the bus, the driver and the passengers behind me will begin asking me friendly questions and trying to get my phone number or address so that they can have “a connection” in America. Ostensibly, all of this happens for the simple reason that I am white and foreign. It appears to have little to do with my class or how much money I have – if a wealthy Ghanaian is sitting in the front with a suit, tie, and suitcase he or she will also be expected to move to the back of the van so I can sit in front.

No matter how hard I try to communicate the injustice I feel in this scenario to the people on the bus, it becomes a useless task. Many times I have tried to explain to Ghanaians the black experience in the United States and the historical moment when Rosa Parks decided to sit at the front of the bus. They look at me with a blank face and normally respond by saying something to the effect that in America, we must make things way too complicated for our own good. After some time, I feel that I have finally realized where the misunderstanding was nested. In trying to communicate this idea, I mistook my reading of skin color for their reading of skin color. In fact, the situation probably had nothing to do with skin color at all. I only perceived it that way because of my cultural and historical background. It wasn’t until just before I left Ghana that I learned that African Americans traveling in Ghana are also asked to sit at the front of the bus. Reflecting on all those moments in which I tried to lecture a vehicle of Ghanaians on the racism they were practicing, I suddenly felt horrible for the misunderstanding I had committed and produced. Not only had I spent two years projecting my understanding of identity on to Ghanaians, but also I had completely misunderstood their reason for asking me to sit at the front of the bus – I was a guest in their home.

Doing anthropological fieldwork in Ghana presents similar problems. The first time I worked in Ghana I was employed as a Peace Corps volunteer in agroforestry and environmental development. My work was focused in the Jasikan District of the Volta Region, a relatively small and impoverished region that rarely was the focus of government programs or international development efforts. Having a background in anthropology (a bachelor’s degree), I tried to incorporate anthropological ideas into the projects I collaborated with the community on. For instance, I wanted to get to the bottom of why children weren’t going to school. I had been teaching at a local Junior Secondary School for a few weeks when suddenly students stopped showing up to class. I pondered the reasons why they weren’t coming to class, and thought it must have something to do with me. I looked over my teaching plans, tweaked them, and tried to make them more applicable to the local area. The students continued to be absent, and the ones who did show up would look out the window, fumbling with their pencils and swinging their feet waiting for school to end for the day. I became frustrated and started assuming things about the dedication of the students and the views towards education in Ghanaian culture and society. One day, I was talking over my frustration with one of the other teachers when she looked at me and laughed. “Oh, Douglas. Can’t you see that it’s raining? They are at the farm! This is a village, we get our food from the farm. Who do you expect to harvest the food?” Children, I had thought, belonged in school. It was something that seemed to me to be part of a child’s identity.

The way I was perceived at local meetings with farmers was similar. My foreignness and my whiteness were seen as a resource. To me, I was someone who had come to collaborate with these local non-governmental organizations. I was going to work at the same level as the farmers and help them design projects and write proposals. They discouraged me from going to their farms and helping them weed and plant maize or cocoa. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to pick up a cutlass and go farming for a day. When I finally tried, I learned my lesson the hard way. My wrists became swollen and I broke out in a terribly uncomfortable heat rash. “You see,” my counterpart said to me, “you white people can’t do this kind of work!” At the meetings, the farmers would look at me when I spoke, becoming more and more interested as the topic focused on more specific details of the project. It wasn’t until a year or so into my service that I realized that they weren’t just focusing on the details of the project, they were anticipating the moment when I would mention the amount of money that the proposal was going to be for, and who was going to benefit from it. My perception of my role as someone who was going to be at level with the farmers and work with them through the coarse nature of the work had been all wrong. To them, I was a good friend and someone they knew well. But I wasn’t one of them, I was a resource that they had invited to play a specific type of role that was far different from what they did. My identity as a white, American, educated male was a resource that they had acquired and the assumptions about what those components meant produced a powerful buzz around me that everyone but I could sense.

It took me almost two years to realize the extent to which my identity flavored my interactions with Ghanaians. My background as a white American has enculturated in me an ideology that claims that differences should not be noticed and that assumptions should not be made about people based on components of their identities. Even though race, ethnicity, gender, and class define social relations in the United States, we still hold an ideal of equality that strives to be “blind” to such differences. In this sense, the difference of my body in Ghana was something I took for granted. I was seen as a person who was a resource with political potential and opportunity. Doors were opened for me, but at the same time I was told what people expected me to want to hear. I felt completely free, yet there were dissembling obstacles of expectation everywhere I went. In many cases, I wasn’t told what was really going on until the tediousness of the conversation exhausted the listener – such as the teacher at the school. As an anthropologist, this poses an especially deep and exceptionally strong problem for my fieldwork. If I don’t explicate my intentions and purposes to my informants and the people I work with, I will probably be presented with an entirely different story than the one I really want to get. But then again, even if I do explicate my intentions, how am I to know that my identity won’t betray me, or their identity them?

Learning to Laugh in an International, Interracial Relationship
My fiancé, Ama Kwakyewa Juliet Amankwah, is just about the funniest person I have ever met. Her sense of humor shines through any ambiguity we face in our relationship, and indeed her sense of humor is what allows our relationship to function in a healthy way. One day, we were having a minor argument about when we should have children. I told her that I thought we needed to wait – I would be moving back to the United States and she would remain in Ghana while we waited for her visa. She became upset because, according to her, in Ghana a woman without a child was viewed as a serious burden to her husband and a drain on his resources. I told her that I didn’t feel that way. Nevertheless, she explained to me, that is how the situation would be perceived, and she would be the one to have to bear the brunt of the attack. A father, I replied, could not have a child and then move away simply with the expectation to return. Many Ghanaian fathers travel for substantial portions of time to work on different seasonal jobs such as the cocoa harvest, coffee harvest, or on fishing boats. According to my perspective, a child needs to have a father figure and to be raised under both their father and mother’s care. “No, no, no, Douglas. I know the real reason you don’t want to have a child in Africa. You want to wait to have the child in America because if it is born there it will be white, if it is born here it will be black.” I told her that she was being absurd, that being born in Africa doesn’t make you black. I started ranting and raving about how skin color was something that was passed down genetically. “Ah!” she said, clearly frustrated and suddenly laughing, “I’m not talking about skin color!”

She wasn’t talking about skin color. Calling someone white simply means that they are from somewhere else. Ironically, even a newborn baby in Ghana is called “obruni” which literally translates to “someone who has come from across the horizon.” When a foreigner walks through the streets of Ghana, they are also called “obruni”. It literally means that you are fresh from some place else and that you can’t be expected to understand and follow all of the norms. I had misunderstood her point, and we both had a good laugh about it. Though the situation was never totally resolved (she still wants to have children before she moves to the United States) we learned to laugh about the intricacies of the misunderstanding. In our relationship, these kinds of situations emerge all of the time, and our strategy of learning how to deal with them is through laughter. Just as multiracial comedians explain that “the best way to come up with original material is to draw upon personal experiences or observations” (Li Po Price 2000: 184) so do Juliet and I draw upon our personal experiences and misunderstandings to create a healthy, intersubjective, and humorous understanding of each others’ identities.

These misunderstandings are almost all anchored in identity. What it means to be white, black, or colored is something that is particularly significant in an interracial relationship. Across different cultures - United Statesian and Ghanaian, for example - this becomes something even more nuanced. For Juliet and I, mutual understandings of our different cultural identities haven’t been fully constructed, and at this point what it means to have a white or black identity is almost entirely subsumed by what it means to be United Statesian or Ghanaian. As evidenced above, my understanding of what it means to be white in the United States is obviously very different from what it means to be white in Ghana. Her understanding of what it means to be black in Ghana is also radically different from what it will be like for her to be a black woman in the United States (a challenge that we will have to face in the near future). As a woman, Juliet understands her identity much different than how a woman in the United States would understand it. Many of her views on gender identity would probably disappoint or enrage white, western feminists – why should a woman be expected to have a child at all? But for Juliet, a woman has a particular role and a man has a particular role. Any talk of liberation from such systems of domination would cause Juliet to roll her eyes. “Douglas, things are already confusing. Why make them more confusing?”

Whiteness being a resource in a village meeting also translates to whiteness being a resource to my in-laws. In a traditional Ghanaian marriage, a man will visit his partner’s family and inform them that he plans on marrying their daughter. He will prostrate himself before the father and set down two bottles of expensive liquor, normally European Schnapps or imported rum. He will then open one of the bottles and take a drink for himself, proving to the father and mother that he has not come to poison them. After asking the father and mother for their daughter’s hand in marriage, they will send a list around to their relatives in various towns or regions of the country (or, at times, to other countries) and inform them that this young man has come to ask for their daughter’s hand. Normally, the family will request things such as cloth for sewing, suitcases, shoes, hats, or other utilitarian items. When I proposed to my fiancé, however, an entirely different kind of list came back to me. Her grandfather, for example, informed me that I would have to commit a car to him in order for him to allow his granddaughter to marry me. One of her uncles wrote that I should furnish his internet café with six brand-new computers. When I returned to her family’s house and informed them that I would never be able to meet their demands, they looked at the list and laughed. “Douglas, as for us, we know you. We know that you aren’t a very rich man, and that not all white men are rich. Don’t worry, we will inform your in-laws that you are just like them, and then they will ask you for things that they know any one of them could give your family if they wanted to marry your sister.”

As a cultural anthropologist, it would be convenient to be able to sweep aside arguments about the tainting effects of identity on ethnographic inquiries. But to claim that identity is an ephemeral and forbidden unit of analysis pushes peoples’ worlds and meanings into the realm of the nonsensical and insignificant – a quite paradoxical stance for any anthropologist to take. Similarly, the process of essentializing identities fixes them in over determined and uncreative, non-adaptive categories that function to dissemble an individual identity’s components and place people into groups they may find unmeaningful or oppressive. To reclaim identity is to recognize its reality, poignancy, and role in determining the way that we experience life.

In the above, I have demonstrated some of the ways that my white, American, male identity has functioned in my work as an anthropologist and Peace Corps Volunteer as well as they way it has functioned in my relationship to my Ghanaian fiancé and her family. In all of these contexts, my identity has guided me in understanding my experiences in a foreign culture and society – rightly and wrongly. It has also been a text that my informants and my extended family have read both to understand me and to know what to expect from me. For example, my cultural background prescribed what I considered to be fundamental requirements of an identity of male fatherhood to me. This prescription was at odds with what my fiancé expected of me as a good husband – to understand her need as a woman to have children regardless of my continual presence. Identity is not just an abstract concept with a history rooted in over-generalized essentialisms. Nor is it just a base and ethnocentric concept that post-modern theory has carte blanche privilege to attack. Identity represents a convergence of traits that inform us about our experiences in the world. It also acts as a text in which the world looks to understand us.

Douglas La Rose


Li Po Price, Darby. 2000. “Mixed Laughter.” In We Are a People: Narrative and Multipicity in Constructing Ethnic Identity, Eds. Paul Spickard and W. Jeffrey Burroughs, 2000,Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Mohanty, Satya P. 1993. “The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the Postcolonial Condition.” In Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postodernism, Eds. Moya and Hames-Garcia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 29-67.

Moya, Paula M., and Michael R. Hames-Garcia. 2000. Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rabinow, Paul. 1977. Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Yelvington, Kevin A. 1995. Producing Power: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in a Caribbean Workplace. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

XC Ski Conditions 3/3

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Forbush Corner: Larry is starting the grooming process this morning and says skiing should be great Deep classic tracks and a firm skate lane are to be expected when he finishes. Hanson Hills: Yellow trail will be regroomed and tracked this morning. Lodge and trail open at 9am. $5 Trail fee. XC Ski Headquarters: For […]

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Handheld GPS review

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Here’s a good review written at 10hunt.com for hunters, morelers, Geo-cachers, hikers, etc. Check it out. http://www.10hunt.com/best-handheld-gps/

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The Latest: Harassment scandal scraps starry Amazon series

The Latest: Harassment scandal scraps starry Amazon series

by @ www.thedailystar.com - RSS Results

Stars including Annette Bening, Demi Lovato, Margot Robbie, Jamie Bell and more give their opinons on the Harvey Weinstein scandal engulfing Hollywood. (Oct. 12)

XC Ski Conditions 2/24

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Forbush Corner: no report Hanson Hills:  We received 2 inches of new snow, followed by a freezing rain thunder storm. Trails are very marginal, especially in the first 1KM. We will not be grooming nor charging today. XC Ski Headquarters: Winter has returned! Not in a big way but all the ground is white now. […]

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Race and the public perception of anthropology

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Anthropologists have dedicated much time to deconstructing and denouncing racial myths (see, for example, the AAA's statement on race from 1998) and, as a result, the idea that "race does not exist" has been as strongly absorbed into the anthropological canon as cultural relativism. More recently, collaboration between social and physical anthropologists reaffirms that race is "not an accurate or productive way to describe human biological variation" (Edgar and Hunley 2009: 2) while scientifically detailing the genetic evidence for actual human variation. Still, dismissing fixed racial categorization as biologically unsubstantiated has done little to eradicate the very real presence of race in everyday life. So what has all the effort we have spent in deconstructing race actually achieved?

Teaching race
In Race Reconciled?, Edgar and Hunley address one of the main concerns I will concentrate on here; namely, how preconceived notions of race present a challenge for educators:
Specialists in informal education talk about "naïve notions," which, in the context of education in biological anthropology, are the ideas our students have when they walk in the doors of our classrooms. Often, these ideas are typological, even when they are not racist. Although we have now been teaching for generations that races do not exist, these naïve notions persist and they continue to have social and scientific consequences. This may be because we have failed to offer a clear and satisfactory explanation that meshes with students' lived experience (2009: 3).
Is it possible that the idea that races do not exist is itself becoming a "naïve notion" within anthropology?

Anyone who has taught subjects like race or ethnicity knows that class discussions can easily stir up intense emotions and indeed no small amount of confusion. My students, for instance, have been woefully under-prepared to discuss race beyond the idea that perceptions of racial boundaries are culturally constructed and that racial stereotyping is wrong. Past that, they are unsure of how to critically analyze race, power, politics, etc, without feeling as if they are stepping into a trap. Having said that, I taught in the UK, where most of my majority white, British students tellingly saw race and racism as distinctly American problems. Of course, this is certainly not the case, which highlights another complication regarding how to deal with race in anthropology as a project of global education.

There is apparently an all-too-common problem with the way our students perceive race based on how the standard textbook definition is framed. At Living Anthropologically, Jason Antrosio notes a similar phenomenon in his classes; namely, that his students "are very likely to conclude the anthropological critique of race supports their own desire to be 'colorblind'". Anthropologist Angela VandenBroek likewise has to explain to her students how,
despite the fact that race is socially constructed and that true color-blindness would be wonderful […] racism exists as a fundamental thread that permeates every context of everyday life. So, to approach any situation from a 'color-blind' stance denies the reality of the lived experience of racism and thus exacerbates the problem more than it solves it.
Both of these statements are from Antrosio's excellent post Anthropology on Race.

These types of misunderstandings are a good clue that more progress needs to be made in contextualizing what is meant by "race is a social construct". Accordingly, advancing the race debate in anthropology today is the argument for the recognition of privilege and its role in racial politics. This is actually not so new. The AAA statement from 1998 acknowledges that the common "'racial' worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth". Nevertheless, calls are rightfully being made for increased attention to whiteness and white privilege in order to update popular anthropological notions of race to more adequately reflect its cultural, political and historical underpinnings.

What I want to explore in admittedly loose terms here is what kind of impact this shift in discourse is having on public perception of race and anthropology including among our own undergraduates. Perceptions of race among students of the social sciences are important not just for anthropology, but for future social and public policy everywhere. It is therefore important to address privilege in a way that both better informs students and offers a more nuanced discussion of race which is not simply a blanket rejection of the well-worn slogan "race doesn't exist" in favor of "race is everything".

Check your privilege
Social media is an influential platform for the dissemination of ideas about race that produces new and unexpected challenges for contemporary education in anthropology. Last year, one particular online social drama surrounding anthropology and race earned public internet notoriety when a former Disney child actor-turned-undergraduate anthropologist clashed with militant social justice bloggers – including more anthropology students – over race and white privilege on the microblogging platform Tumblr1. The controversy began when the white, teen male took offense at the post of a 19-year-old African American female who asserted that "white boys that are students of anthropology are usually not not2 students of anthropology. They're just assholes" and tagged it with the star's name.

Such an opinion itself is pretty telling of anthropology's public historical legacy and inadvertent self-sabotage regarding race. I estimate that undergraduates make up a good majority of the vocal anthropologists on the site and they were certainly active in joining both sides of the ensuing debate. Some participants agreed that the white actor was ignorant for daring to study the subject at all since anthropology itself was built upon white privilege. Others came to his defense only to then receive vicarious assaults against their ignorance, whiteness or complicity with privileged whites. More readers and contributors matter-of-factly acknowledged anthropology's own racist past as justification for labeling white anthropologists "assholes" without hesitation.

Why ruminate about a Disney kid and the social psychology of Tumblr? As academics write at length for solutions to better understanding race, anthropology's public image is anything but in line with our own contemporary studies. Our cumulative body of knowledge and recent works in this area are strong, but there is a noticeable gap between the science and its popular perception that – whether we like it or not – falls on us to rectify. At the same time, anthropology students are up against increased pressures to make what they learn in class fit with what they experience in life.

Militant social activism is somewhat of a proud tradition in the Tumblr community, and to their credit participants in this public drama did, in fact, display an understanding of race that moves beyond skin tone to address deeply embedded social, economic and political inequalities. But what struck me when scrolling through bloggers' responses was the number of times check-your-privilege advocates began sentences with "you're white, so what you say/think about race (or insert any other topic here) doesn't count". Rather than enabling a productive recognition of privilege, this type of assertion just as easily stifles debate, learning and progress by instilling fear and forcing people onto opposed sides of a renewed and self-perpetuating battle of skin tones.

Finally, one particularly troubling avowal of support for the actor-student was this comment from an exasperated user (italics added): "dear lord. please don't even try to bring race into anthropology. ANTHROPOLOGISTS BELIEVE RACE TO BE A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT, NOT FACT." And we're right back where we started.

Communicating race
While anthropology's role as broker in race and racial politics remains more or less secure, what needs critical attention is how we communicate race and the new and old baggage that it carries. How do we affect the national (US) and global conversation on race without explaining it away and likewise without enabling the co-opting of anthropological truths for justifying blind hatred? At the same time, it is essential not to take American experiences of race for granted as universal. Commentators from the US are quick to dismiss the reality of lives elsewhere or even cling to their own ignorance of what it is like in other places, thereby feeding into the muddled confusion that arises when forcing others to conform to a specifically American historical paradigm.

Socio-cultural anthropologists should not let the opportunity to correct public perceptions of race slip through our disciplinary fingers and expect the biologists and geneticists among us to take up the slack. A fumbling stance on race that is out of touch with reality or in itself inherently racist will simply feed into vicious cycles of blame, not to mention cause mystification when people turn to anthropology to make sense of it all. Worse still, if we cannot correct our negative image, they may not turn to us at all.

Francine Barone
Research Associate, University of Kent


1. The entire archive of posts can be found here.

2. The repetition of "not" exists in original text, but is probably a typo.


Edgar, H. J. H. & K. L. Hunley 2009. "Race reconciled?: How biological anthropologists view human variation". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139: 1–4.

XC Ski Conditions 3/9

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Forbush Corner: We still have 2-6 inches of base left. There are a few open areas, but they are not very big. Larry will work on tilling up the trails on Friday morning. The trail is very icy as of right now, but Larry thinks he can get it into shape with the Pisten Bully […]

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Stigmatization in Psychiatry: For the Discipline and for the Patient

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Psychiatry is often labeled the “black sheep” of medicine. The continued inability to pinpoint a singular causal mechanism for mental illness spurs the anti-psychiatry movement to argue for the removal of psychiatry as a sub-specialty from the medical field. The assumption underlying this movement is that all mental illnesses are psychological, despite the clear biological/neurological processes that are proven to be associated with various mental disorders. As such, there is no apparent medical justification for psychiatry to remain within the overarching discipline of medicine. The validity of such an assumption is clearly debatable, but this general attitude is often reflected in the lack of funding support for psychiatric services and the socially-derived moralistic stance toward particular mental disorders, such as substance abuse. This, in turn, has clear implications for the mentally ill patient who by extension may be seen as the “black sheep” of the patient realm. A primary care physician insensitive to the neurological mechanisms of mental disorder may be more prone to dismiss the suffering of the mentally ill patient as purely psychological, or “all in their head.”

Let’s take the mentally ill patient in Guatemala as a case in point. I have worked in the Western Highlands of Guatemala for over six years, and my most recent research venture for my doctoral dissertation examined local psychiatric/psychological concerns and the barriers to mental healthcare in the region. My findings suggest that the mentally ill patient faces both community and institutional stigmatization based, in part, from the disparaging attitudes toward psychiatry as a medical discipline. Of course, there are clear historical and cultural contexts to consider for the foundation of the community level stigmatization. A biological basis for mental illness is a relatively new concept within health belief systems in some of the more “traditional” communities throughout the Highlands. However, biomedical understandings to illness in general are becoming more prominent, and according to my research, those who suffer from mental illness themselves are more likely to prefer biomedical/psychiatric treatments to manage their disorder over previously accepted treatment modalities. Therefore, I want to focus on the role of the institutional/disciplinary stigmatization as manifest in the public healthcare system that appears to reinforce community level discriminatory beliefs toward mental illness.

Psychiatry is an acknowledged discipline within the medical field in Guatemala, yet psychiatric services appear to be the least valued, which directly impacts access to healthcare for the mentally ill. Specifically, mental healthcare in Guatemala is underfunded, poorly staffed, and inaccessible to most Guatemalans, despite a relatively high rate of mental health conditions. Recent national studies indicate that one of every three Guatemalans suffers from a mental illness. However, the Guatemalan government spends less than 1% of their overall health budget on mental health services, [1] and the one public psychiatric hospital is notorious for human rights violations. Indeed, the majority of human rights violations reported to the Attorney for Human Rights Office are in direct reference to this hospital (PDH 2010). These reports indicate safety abuses by personnel, inadequate patient nutrition, insufficient availability of medications, deteriorating equipment, and general inadequate conditions (PDH 2010).

Due to the failure of authorities to adequately respond to such known abuses and the overall shortcomings within the public health system, national health care services are becoming more privatized within Guatemala. While this is a general (and global) trend for all of healthcare, the mentally ill are even further marginalized by this transition. Private for-profit physician services are financially out of reach for the majority of Guatemalans, particularly in impoverished areas found throughout the Highlands. Non-profit non-governmental and faith-based organizations that provide supplemental free/low-cost health services rarely, if ever, address the mental health needs of their service population. The primary mechanisms for healthcare support through these institutions are visiting short-term medical mission groups. The services these groups provide are generally limited to basic medical and/or surgical needs. The most commonly provided services include eye exams and minor ocular procedures, dermatological and gastrointestinal evaluations, and reproductive health procedures such as pap smears, hysterectomies/vasectomies, and IUD placement. Mental health issues and chronic diseases are unlikely to be addressed due to the short-term nature of these visiting groups of medical service providers. 

Yet local political leaders from mayors to sector representatives often say that the available resources for mental illness are sufficient. They indicate they have no control over the private sector, and there are no plans for developing more public services to care for the mentally ill. Local public health centers often provide a space for psychiatry/psychology graduate students completing internships as their labor does not cost the center anything, but it is a rare event for students to want to complete their internship in the region due to the lack of jobs available once done. The implication of this degree of inadequate mental healthcare within both the public and private sectors suggests that the mentally ill patient is not worthy of economic support to alleviate their suffering.

Compounding the lack of financial support for psychiatric services are the institutionally reinforced notions of mental illness as a manifestation of moral disorders as opposed to biological ones. As mentioned previously, mentally ill patients suffering from substance abuse in particular must also contend with moralistic stances that undermine the neurological and physiological processes associated with the disease. Alcoholic and addict individuals are regularly encouraged to seek help in churches or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group. Even trained physicians [2] will “prescribe” church attendance and/or AA as treatment for alcoholics and addicts. That is all they need, says a regional public health director who is a trained physician. The director suggests that the primary benefit to both church and AA is the fact that the programming does not cost anything to the State. 

The fact that these “treatment” avenues have been proven to be minimally effective in eliciting behavior change is irrelevant. The use of public funds to support alcohol/drug abuse intervention programs would be considered a misuse of funds. Alcoholic/addict individuals are generally considered perdidos (lost causes) and untrustworthy to change; in essence, black sheep. Yet alcoholic individuals in the region often expressed to me their desire for psychiatric services to address the neurological processes underlying their addiction.

These issues within psychiatric care are not specific to Guatemala. Mental healthcare systems throughout the globe, including in the US, are generally considered underfunded and inadequate to meet the needs of the local population. The debate at the professional level regarding psychiatry’s role within the medical profession dismisses the desires of individuals for appropriate psychiatric services that take into account both the physiological and psychological aspects of mental illness. Unfortunately, until psychiatric services receive more complete visible support (e.g., through adequate funding), the discipline of psychiatry and psychiatric patients themselves will continue to be casted as the “black sheep” of the biomedical world. It is only through understanding local stigmatizing conditions and advocating for comprehensive psychiatric services that the suffering of those with mental illness may be alleviated.

Carla Pezzia
University of Texas at San Antonio

End Notes

1. Developed countries, on average, spend 5-9% of their overall health budget on mental healthcare. These countries, on average, also have less prevalence of mental illness within their population. Guatemala and the US have approximately the same prevalence of mental illness (1 in 3). The US spends approximately 5% of the overall health budget on mental healthcare, and this is still not considered sufficient to address the needs of the population.

2. All medical students in Guatemala, regardless of their specialty, must go through a psychiatry rotation as part of their training.


PDH (Attorney for Human Rights Office). 2010. [Special Report on the Right of Every Person to Receive the Highest Standard of Care for Physical and Mental Health: The Right to Health]. Procurador de los Derechos Humanos, Guatemala.

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Fantastic Outdoor Family Activities in Grayling

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love of this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.” Thus spoke Richard Louv, Nature writer and author of the […]

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Snowmobile Trail Conditions

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Southern trails are in poor condition, while northern trails in our county are in fair condition. Groomers are running today, but with the warming temperatures this will probably be the last day for awhile. TV 9 & 10 forecast: TV 9 & 10 weather forecast: Tonight: You will see lake effect snow showers come to […]

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Fall Fun and Flea Market at Wellington Farm

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Fall is in the air and that means a lot of fun at Wellington Farm, USA, Northern Michigan’s best kept secret.  If you haven’t been to the 60-acre living history farm before, now is a really good time to make the trip. The Corn Maze, which this year honors the Lion Clubs of Northern Michigan, […]

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Five questions with Jonathan Marks

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Ryan Anderson: You focus on race and racism in a lot of your work. Why?

Jonathan Marks: Because it is the question that defined the field of physical anthropology for most of its existence, and we have learned a lot about it. But when I was in graduate school, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, physical anthropology was busily defining itself out of relevance. People were publishing fine books on, say, “Human Variation and Microevolution,” without mentioning the word race. They said, “There is no race, there is just population genetics, we have solved this problem, good night.” And everybody else said, “Actually race is important, and if you won’t talk to us about it, we’ll turn to sociologists and fruitfly geneticists, and worse yet, even to psychologists.”

So I’ve been interested in bringing the knowledge of the actual patterns of human variation, which biological anthropology ought to be the authoritative scientific voice of, to the broader scholarly community. This also involves the question of how biological and cultural anthropology connect. Race is a perfect example, because to make sense of race, you have to understand it as based to some extent on natural differences, and to some extent on the arbitrary cultural processes of classification, and the imposition of meaningful distinctions upon the universe of our experiences. So it isn’t really genetic, and it isn’t really imaginary--race is a fundamentally biocultural category, or a unit of nature/culture.

That’s why history shows so nicely how geneticists have been consistently able to identify human races when they have expected to find them, and to fail to identify human races when they don’t expect to find them. That’s because geneticists study difference, but race is meaningful difference. It’s the imposition of qualitative categories upon the quantitative facts of ancestry. The question of race isn’t whether two samples are different (because two human populations will always be different), but rather about whether the difference between them is large enough, or of the right kind, that makes the samples categorically different, rather than just being variants of a single category. That’s anthropological.

RA: How do you define "racism"?

JM: The political act of judging an individual by the properties attributed to their group, in which the group represents some salient aspect of the individual’s ancestry. We would like to imagine, rather, that we are judged by our own particular qualities and achievements. That is a different fallacy from the assertion that the US Census categories represent fundamental natural divisions of the human species, which is sometimes called “racialism” or “taxonomism”.

RA: Sometimes I hear the argument that we are living in "post-racial" times, and that racism is no longer an issue these days. What's your response to this sort of argument?

JM: The average life expectancy of black person in America is about 4 years shorter than that of a white person. Talk to me when they’re even.

RA: If you could clear up one misconception about race here in the US, what would it be?

JM: That race is a unit of biology or genetics, equivalent to a subspecies of chimpanzees or goats; rather than appreciating that is a unit of anthropology – a biocultural unit, the intersection of the biology of difference and the cultural facts of classification and sense-making, without a clear homolog in other species.

RA: Are anthropologists doing enough to confront racism these days?

That’s a trick question because both “yes” and “no” are problematic answers. I think the topic is being taught in more bio-anthro curricula than it was a generation ago, and that’s a good thing. There’s also a lot good books just out, that really highlight the biocultural nature of the enterprise: Jonathan Kahn’s Race in A Bottle, which goes into the story of BiDil , which the FDA approved for use specifically in African-American patients’ Rina Bliss’s Race Decoded, which looks at how human population geneticists conceptualize and talk about race; Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People, which looks at the intellectual and political history; Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts; Racecraft, by Karen and Barbara Fields – there’s a lot of good, accessible interdisciplinary scholarship now, which creatively engages anthropology.

Winter Fun @ XC Ski Headquarters

by Grayling Visitor's Bureau @ Grayling Visitor's Bureau

Cross Country Ski Headquarters is ready for fun this winter, with events like Pure Michigan Winter Trails Day, Ski the Beer Trail, and Ribs & Blues… plus a giant “Snow Spreader” for better skiing conditions all winter long! Higgins Lake, MI, September 19, 2017– The excitement of winter is back at Cross Country Ski Headquarters […]

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Anthropologies has moved to Savage Minds!!

by noreply@blogger.com (Ryan Anderson) @ anthropologies

Anthropologies has moved and will now be hosted on Savage Minds!  All new issues of anthropologies, starting with #20, can be found here (click on link).

Note: Anthropologies on Savage Minds is going to be run a little differently.  Instead of publishing collections of essays (issues) all at once, we're going to feature individual pieces over a period of two months, and then publish the final collection at the end.  I think it's going to work out nicely.  Thanks for checking out the anthropologies project.  If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future issues, please contact me at anthropologiesproject at gmail DOT com.



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