Looking Back on 2014 and Looking Forward to 2015

Here we are, on April 15, 2014, at the very end of the first time that ANTH 630, New Directions in Anthropological Research, has appeared as an online effort. This was primarily a study of anthropology by anthropologists with the product of the work made available to all other anthropology students and the wider public. In 2014, we focused our efforts on critically reviewing four texts: 1) Auto-Ethnographies: The Anthropology of Academic Practices, Edited by Anne Meneley and Donna J. Young; 2) Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology,  by Mwenda Ntarangwi; 3) Travel, Humanitarianism, and Becoming American in Africa,  by Kathryn Mathers; and, 4) Weaponizing Anthropology,  by David H. Price.

Our “hands” were full. For the seminar participants, there was little in the way of firm guidelines, instructions, models, or established standards by which to organize their writing in front of and potentially for a public audience, on issues that at times could be quite controversial. In many ways then, this first group helped to set the standard and establish the expectations by which future seminar participants will operate. As a result of this experience, which was also a first for myself as the seminar director, there will inevitably be revisions to the syllabus, more in the way of guidelines and clarifications, and so forth. Also, given that the seminar participants are relatively young students early in their careers, I was particularly sensitive about not advertising this site and turning it into a potentially over-heated, wide public forum where the students may have felt too much pressure in being under an intense public spotlight. Had this risk ever materialized, I most likely would have set this site to “private”. Having said that, now that the work is complete, it is likely that I will bring some of our collective work to the attention of interested readers in anthropology. Comments, if any, will be carefully moderated.

That this first group of seminar participants collectively did so well in producing so many very thoughtful and thought-provoking reflections on sometimes rather difficult pieces, deserves a lot of applause. What readers could not have witnessed, and thus would not know, is that their interactions in the seminar setting were both lively and rigorous, critical and often terribly humorous as well. The combined effect of the presence  and participation of Ravi, Jordie, Sabrina, Melanie, Elizabeth, Isabelle, Hicham, and Kris, was something I personally enjoyed immensely–to witness such intelligence and candour, such respect for ideas and dialogue, and a desire for conversation that is honest and open, is really refreshing and a positive sign for the future. I consider myself very fortunate to have had this experience.

So this takes us to 2015, as this site effectively “shuts down” for a solid eight months. We will resume actively publishing in January of 2015. What will we review and analyze? What will be the nature of the criticisms, insights, and questions? Will the writing be substantially different? Answers to these questions will depend upon the dynamics of interaction of a new group of seminar participants and the different debates they will raise, as well as the different texts that we will analyze (the first four books will not be assigned again). Having said that, as a quasi preview of 2015, we will be using four or more of the following possible choices, listed below in no particular order of importance:

  • The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, Edited by Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira, University of Minnesota Press
  • Anthropology and the Will to Meaning: A Postcolonial Critique, by Vassos Argyrou
  • Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, and American Modernity, by Micaela di Leonardo
  • Homo Academicus, by Pierre Bourdieu
  • Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State, by Roberto J. González
  • Ordering Africa: Anthropology, European Imperialism and the Politics of Knowledge, Edited by Helen Tilley and Robert J. Gordon
  • Outsider Within: Reworking Anthropology in the Global Age, by Faye V. Harrison
  • The Expansive Moment: The Rise of Social Anthropology in Britain and Africa 1918-1970, by Jack Goody

In other words, 2015 should prove to be exciting. What will not change is the basic ethos of this seminar: a critical anthropological study of anthropology, produced by some of its newest participant-observers, whose combined “ethnography” will be published as reports on this site. What is also not likely to change is that there will be at least one text that focuses on anthropology in/from/about Africa, in particular because that continent is being targeted for a new wave of imperial expansion and superpower rivalry, with various liberal humanitarian projects to “save Africa,” all of which implicate anthropology in many conflicting and conflicted ways.

Once we resume in 2015, this static page will be removed, and the free flow of posted articles will appear here. In the meantime, to access the writings for 2014, please consult the menu bar above.

À bientôt, j’espère.


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