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Ethnographic Interventions

This video was produced in response to an invitation from the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography at York University in Toronto, Canada. It is part part of their Imaginings Project. Filmed by Tim Spellman of Tim Spellman Video Productions, it focuses on how anthropologists might respond anthropologically to current events.

Transacting ontologies


Kockelman’s sieves and a Bayesian anthropology

Bill MAURER, University of California—Irvine

Meditation on KOCKELMAN, Paul. 2013. “The anthropology of an equation: Sieves, spam filters, agentive algorithms, and ontologies of transformation.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (3): 33–61.

To understand Paul Kockelman’s article, “The anthropology of an equation,” it is more important to grasp its form, the set of relations built into it, than it is to learn his specific vocabulary. As he says here and elsewhere in his writings, if you don’t like the words he’s using—because they seem overly analytical, too Peircean, “not ethnographic”—then use your own, or use those of someone else, “your people’s” even. I will adopt some of Kockelman’s terms from “The anthropology of an equation” and other of his essays (especially Kockelman 2010), but will also employ my own from time to time. This is in the interest of clarifying not muddling—or, rather, of getting somewhere rather than standing still. For one of the criticisms I’ve heard of Kockelman’s form is that it is rigidly locked into place, a beautiful but fragile crystalline structure that shatters in its encounter with the world or its insertion into other language games. This misses the point entirely. His form is nothing if not motile, muscular not in some macho, grand theory sense but in the proprioceptive sense. This is theory that moves, and that wants us to move with it, so that we can move in and with the moving world. My response takes for granted that readers have already gone through “The anthropology of an equation” at least once.

Kockelman writes about sieves, and his article itself takes the form of a sieve. It is, as he writes, “an instantiation of what it instigates, a display of what it describes” (2013: 35). This is a Strathernian device: in her writing, Marilyn Strathern often sets for herself a series of writing constraints that mirror the relations she is trying to elucidate. The result is more like poetry than prose (see Reed 2004: 19 on this point). This is also in the mode of Wittgenstein, “showing” rather than “saying”— “what does not get expressed in the sign is shown by its application. What the signs conceal, their application declares” (Wittgenstein 1922: 3.262)—which suggests not only a form for writing, or a philosophical conundrum on the difference between propositions and elucidations (see McGinn 2001) but a materialist semiotics. Things, after all, do indeed show; they don’t, strictly speaking, say (Keane 2003). They exert force or agency in and through their material. Sieves sort by letting some things through and holding other things back. They thereby demonstrate, as they induce, a kind of order into the world after their own kind.


Cuerpos Significantes. Travesía de una etnografía dialéctica. POR SILVIA CITRO

El video nos aproxima a los rituales de los aborígenes tobas del este de Formosa (Argentina), a partir de una mirada sobre las corporalidades de ancianos y jóvenes, temática que es tratada en el libro homónimo de Silvia Citro (2009).
Basado en registros audiovisuales , efectuados sin un guión previo, las imágenes también muestran las vicisitudes de una antropología de y desde los cuerpos, que involucra activamente al propio cuerpo de la etnógrafa en el trabajo de campo.

Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised


An anthropologist discusses some common misconceptions about female genital cutting, including the idea that men force women to undergo the procedure.
  A Pokot girl walks to a place where she will rest after being circumcised in a village in Baringo County, Kenya. (Siegfried Modola/Reuters)

I recently had a conversation that challenged what I thought I knew about the controversial ritual known as “female genital cutting,” or, more commonly, “female genital mutilation.”

FGC, as it is abbreviated, involves an elder or other community member slicing off all or part of a woman’s clitoris and labia as part of a ceremony that is often conducted around the time that the woman reaches puberty. Many international groups are concerned about FGC, which is practiced extensively in parts of Africa and the Middle East and is linked to infections, infertility, and childbirth complications.

Organizations such as the United Nations have campaigned against the practice, calling for its abolition as a matter of global health and human rights. But despite a decades-old movement against it, FGC rates in some countries haven’t budged. While younger women are increasingly going uncut in countries such as Nigeria and the Central African Republic, according to a survey by the Population Reference Bureau, in Egypt more than 80 percent of teenagers still undergo the procedure.

So what can foreign activists—as well as locals who oppose female genital cutting—do to curb the practice? For starters, Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington who has been studying the practice in many countries for years, suggests using the term “cutting” rather than “mutilation,” which sounds derogatory and can complicate conversations with those who practice FGC.


5 grandes documentales sobre derechos de las mujeres


Cinco películas documentales, la mayoría de acceso libre en internet, que hacen hincapié en las injusticias pendientes respecto a la violencia hacia las mujeres, pero también en los mecanismos de control del cuerpo femenino.  Son cinco historias de cultura feminista, sociología, violencia sexual y recuperación de la memoria colectiva de las mujeres. (gehiago…)

It’s time for porn to change | Erika Lust | TEDxVienna

Erika Lust is an independent erotic filmmaker and author based in Barcelona. She graduated from Lund University in 1999 with a degree in Political Sciences, and founded Erika Lust Films in 2005. A staunch feminist dissatisfied with the portrayal of women in mainstream adult industry, Erika is committed to infusing intimacy, modernity and beauty into her explicit films.

How Streaming and Binging Has Changed Our Relationship With TV


Click the image for the full series.

The final season of “Mad Men” is rolling out. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has become a bonafide hit alongside its Netflix siblings “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”  Fox’s “Empire” just became the first TV show in ages to gain a bigger audience from week to week during its premiere season. And, for the third time, Xfinity is running its hotly anticipated Watchathon event, which enables subscribers to sample unlimited quantities of new and old premium shows.

A shift has been taking place over the past decade that’s made it easier for watchers to indulge in heapings upon heapings of shows at one time and to access these episodes on any device at any time they feel like it.

There are the major networks trying to convince the public to tune in to programming live and take part in what they’ve affectionately dubbed “appointment television,” or at least to DVR shows for later. And there are the Amazons and Netflixes that started off streaming networks’ shows and have moved on to creating and releasing their own.

What has this transformation done for the way people consume TV? Here are nine ways this shift is changing our relationship with TV,  according to streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn as well as existing research and studies on the topic.

1. Most people are supplementing cable subscriptions with streaming services, not picking one over the other.
Rayburn, in fact, is quick to point out that straight-up cord-cutting — in which someone or a family gets rid of cable entirely — isn’t soaring or dramatically on the rise, the way some assume it is. In the past two years, the top pay TV providers have only lost about 0.2 percent of their customers, according to a report from Leichtman Research Group.

What’s more common is for viewers to tune in via a blend of streaming services and traditional programming. A Videorx.com study cited in the the January/February 2015 issue of Streaming Media Magazine showed nearly 60 percent of respondents had paid TV subscriptions, 66 percent subscribed to Netflix, 48 percent subscribed to Amazon Prime/Instant Video, and 38 percent subscribed to both.

“As consumers, we have more choice than ever, and with choice comes complexity and confusion,” Rayburn says.


Plastic Thoughts on Disasters


The People’s Climate March and the Shores of Krakatau

AnthroNews-Holmberg-ClimateMarch - IMG3056 - debate is over
People’s Climate March in New York, September 2014. Photo courtesy Karen Holmberg

On Sunday, September 21, participants in the People’s Climate March filled the streets of New York City from 86th to 59th Streets on Central Park West before progressing slowly, under heavy police control, to 34th Street. The event was deliberately timed by the environmental organization 350.org and its founder Bill McKibben to create a sense of urgency and critical mass prior to the UN Climate Summit that commenced two days later. Official estimations of the number of participants range from 310,000 to 400,000. This tally was augmented by solidarity marches that occurred globally “from Paris to Papua New Guinea” in 162 countries.

Marchers in New York were asked to sort themselves into one of six groups: ‘Frontline’ groups, including indigenous peoples likely to be first and most impacted by climate change; ‘Generational’ groups, including labor organizations, families, students, and elders; ‘Environmental’ groups, including renewable energy, food and water justice, and environmental organizations; ‘Protest’ groups, including anti-corporate and peace activists; ‘Science’ groups, incorporating researchers and academics; ‘Interfaith’ groups, spanning a broad range of religious groups; and ‘Miscellaneous’, which included LGBTQ communities, state and city groups, and international participants. I eventually filed behind a banner stating “the debate is over” and a chalkboard on wheels pushed by people in white lab coats. Due to the sheer density of the crowd it took several hours to reach the academics, who were perhaps poetically assigned to the very back of the lineup of those making their environmental concerns known to a wide audience. The march was critiqued by detractors on both the right and left for relying on myriad special interest groups to swell the ranks (eg, see here or here); undeniably, however, it was a vast, colorful, and intensely multivocal event.


“Cada vez más mujeres elegimos libremente ser putas”


“Me llamo Natalia Ferrari Díaz y no tengo ningún inconveniente en mostrar mi cara”, afirma con voz seria esta joven de 22 años residente en Barcelona. La sentencia, que puede parecer obvia, no lo es tanto cuando procede de una chica que se dedica a la prostitución. Su caso escapa de lo que la sociedad se espera de una prostituta. “Cada vez más mujeres decididas elegimos libremente ser putas”. Lo dice en voz alta y segura. “Me dedico a esto porque me gusta y todo mi entorno actual lo sabe. Disfruto experimentando con mi sexualidad y estoy muy orgullosa de mi trabajo”.

De un plumazo te derriba los prejuicios que uno puede poseer hacia las putas. Ni alguien le ha obligado a dedicarse a esta profesión, ni ha tenido la necesidad de dedicarse a ella por culpa de una vida desestructurada, privada de dinero, poca estabilidad, un entorno complejo o el consumo de sustancias peligrosas. De hecho, hace pocas semanas el alcalde de Barcelona, Xavier Trías, dijo que “nadie se dedica a la prostitución por propia voluntad” para justificar el acoso policial que está sufriendo este sector laboral en el barrio de El Raval. También llegó a comparar a las prostitutas con el top manta. Asociaciones como Aprosex, Prostitutas Indignadas o Genera, están trabajando para salvaguardar los derechos de estas trabajadoras. “Relacionar la trata con la prostitución es como relacionar el fútbol con los niños que están cosiendo pelotas en Bangladesh. En todos los negocios hay injusticias tremendas contra las que se tiene que luchar, pero eso no puede ensuciar la imagen de la profesión”. (gehiago…)