In 2006, according to Time Magazine, the theory of technoindividualism “took a serious beating.” In electing You to the position of the Person of the Year, Time prophesized the fourth discourse of internet historiographical revisionism following President Obama’s statement. It was not the state, corporations, or genius insiders who made the internet, nonfiction best seller author and transhuman apologist Steven Johnson claimed in the New York Times, but Us who built the internet. read more…
[This month Leif Jonsson, Masao Imamura, and Jacob Hickman are guest blogging about James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed. This post is by Leif]
Understanding or even knowing the state is not an empirical matter entirely. The issue comes down to how we understand our selves and others, and what kind of future we can imagine. Pierre Clastres, who inspired some of Scott’s case, could only imagine history-involving-Indians as a process of destruction. Many scholars shared this view – their notions (of who were the Indian peoples of the Amazon and of what could happen to them) were entangled in these academics’ sense of themselves, the world, and what the future can (or could) hold. There are echoes of Fernand Braudel’s understanding of history, such as how capitalism or Christianity had “penetrated” the Mediterranean countryside and how some “remote” settlements had stood outside these dynamics. read more…
First, I want to start off with my favorite comment from SM readers in the past couple of weeks. It comes from “Gio” on Rex’s post about the passing of Aaron Schwartz:
Yes, stop mourning: act. Stop obsessing about tenure, publish your best work open-access. Donate. Stop even debating interminably about OA. Do something concrete with your own capital (scholastic, labor or financial).
Runner up for my favorite comment goes to David Graeber, who posted this on the same thread:
Well, you could publish your work for free.
Or take part in this: http://pdftribute.net/
Which leads me to this: THREE EASY STEPS TO GOING OPEN ACCESS: read more…
Thus far Crovitz’s and Manjoo’s positions are located within modernist historiographical and liberal conceptions over the battles of freedom, with network technology as a proxy battlefield, and the role of states and corporations as extenders or inhibitors of those freedoms. The third leg of this modernist battle has to be initiated by the sole genius and his impact on the development of the internet. read more…
My reading of The World Until Yesterday (WUY) is taking me down a Jared Diamond rabbit hole which is turning into a semester-long project. At the end of my last entry on Diamond I wanted to talk more about how his approach to understanding human variation differs from that of actual cultural anthropologists. However, in order to do this I’d actually have to review his other new book Natural Experiments in History, which would drive me off course of my review of WUY. Since these blog postings are going to be collected and appear in an actual published article and the deadline is nigh, I’ll reign in these general discussions of what science is or could be, and continue on to chapter 1 of WUY, entitled “Friends, Enemies, Strangers, and Traders.”
Despite Crovitz’s best wishes, Taylor’s Xerox PARC Ethernet didn’t become the internet as Slate’s Farhad Manjoo and Time’s Harry McCracken explain. Two days later, Manjoo rebutted Crovitz’s “almost hysterically false” argument. Aligning with given wisdom, Manjoo stated that the internet was financed and created by the US government. Despite being more historically accurate than Crovitz’s argument this statement is also political. In reminding the residents of Roanoke of the government’s role in the founding of the internet, President Obama, according to Manjoo, “argued that wealthy business people owe some of their success to the government’s investment in education and basic infrastructure.” This argument is progressive, social democratic, or socially liberal–advocating for responsible taxation and the shared burden of national identification, and is therefore a political narrative opposed to the Darwinism of technolibertarianism expounded by the Technology Liberation Front. read more…
[This month Leif Jonsson, Masao Imamura, and Jacob Hickman are guest blogging about James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed. This post is by Masao Imamura.]
James Scott’s Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia [hereafter Anarchist History] presents a tragedy of hill tribes, who were “runaway, fugitive, maroon communities.” These upland anarchists were “over the course of two millennia … fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects—slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare” (ix). Living away from the state, they governed themselves—until they were defeated by the state. Reading Anarchist History is to mourn the death of tribal peoples as victims of the state and civilization.
Scott tells us that this tragedy of tribal peoples concerns all of us because it is in fact a story of humankind: “Not so very long ago … such self-governing peoples were the great majority of humankind” (ix). The tribal life represents the quality of autonomy and freedom that we humans once enjoyed. The hill anarchists were the last band of humans who fought valiantly against the state, the great villain, under whose rule we all live. Today, after this defeat, we live in “an era in which virtually the entire globe is ‘administered space’ and the periphery is not much more than a folkloric remnant. … there can be not a shred of doubt” (324-325).
The death of Aaron Swartz marks the end of an era — an era that had been slowly fading away until his passing gave it a terrible, sudden finality.
The Twitter hashtag #PDFTribute was started in response to the tragic death of Aaron Swartz. Many of the top minds on the internet have posted moving tributes to his memory. See, for instance, Rick Perlstein, Ethan Zuckerman, Cory Doctorow, danah boyd, etc. But I want to focus on the DOJ’s prosecution of Swartz, as it relates to the Open Access issues we have frequently discussed here on Savage Minds.
[Savage Minds welcomes guest bloggers Leif Jonsson, Masao Imamura, and Jacob Hickman, who offer individual takes on some issues raised by James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (Yale U P, 2009). Kerim’s previous post on the book is here. This post is by Leif.]
James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia is an interesting read. If anthropology-readers are used to embarrassment regarding the gaze on tribal peoples, then here is a license to guilt-free gawking: These weren’t tribals but rather freedom-seeking secessionists from the lowlands. There were no real ethnic others, the book suggests. Instead, linguistic and cultural diversity and the profusion of ethnic labels are just markers of state-evading strategies. In my view this is all rather problematic, in that clueless western readers (people ignorant of, say, particular histories, cultures, societies, languages, peoples, or politics in Southeast Asia) are invited to feast on the identities and politics of the Southeast Asian hinterlands without any involvement.
The effect bears some resemblance to the fickle fascination with Indians of the Brazilian Amazon as natural allies of the rainforest, that evaporated once the noble Other was seen as somehow too modern. Scott draws explicitly on the work of Pierre Clastres regarding the Guayaki and other Indians of Latin America, that the Indians had run away from the state and hierarchy and all that. Clastres had been a student of Levi-Strauss, and his early tribalist work was deeply fatalistic regarding the looming disappearance of all indigenous peoples. Clastres’ shift in focus, from pre-contact- to ex-contact peoples does not remove the assumed purity of the tribal slot but instead relocates its source. The tribals aren’t pure because of their cultural- or other essence, but because they ran away from the source of all pollution (the state, with its inequality, taxation, sedentary lifestyles, and other contaminants).
Obama may have gaffed, neoliberal assistant editors at Fox News and the Republican National Committee, exploitatively edited, repurposed, and exaggerated the speech, but it was Wall Street Journal writer L. Gordon Crovitz who mistook the misedits as evidence for US executive branch internet revisionism. Crovitz, ex-publisher of the Journal, ex-executive at Dow Jones, and social media start-up entrepreneur, attacked President Obama’s statement that the internet was funded and engineered by the federal government. “It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet,” he idiosyncratically declared. The crux of Crovitz’s argument was focused on Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPAnet, a US DAPRA project that connected computer networks to computer networks. Taylor, according to Crovitz, stated that this proto-internet, “was not an Internet.” And therefore, most importantly for Crovitz, this meant that President Obama was dead wrong, Taylor, a federal employee at this time did not help to invent the internet. The internet was not made by engineers paid by public but private hands. Crovitz’s twist on the accepted story is that Taylor later made a different internet, ethernet, at Xerox PARC where we worked after DARPA. And it was Ethernet that became the internet. read more…
Last year I posted an open thread called “Anthropology: Five Books,” in which I asked readers to list the five books they feel best represent the discipline. The responses were great. I think it’s time to try another open thread along similar lines, but let’s take a bit of a different route. During that last thread, I asked about books that both represent anthropology and appeal to general readers. This time, let’s talk about the books that form your own personal anthropological canon.
Where did this idea come from? I was just reading Eric Wolf’s “Pathways of Power,” which has a really fascinating intellectual autobiography (the introduction of the book). Wolf lists three “landmark books” that he read early in his career that had tremendous impact upon his thinking:
The first was Karl Wittfogel’s Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Chinas (1931), an extraordinary, ecologically oriented study of the Chinese economy, which dissented from the view that China was merely feudal and saw it instead as an instance of the Asiatic-bureaucracy mode of production. The second was Paul Sweezy’s The Theory of Capitalist Development (1942), which helped me systematize my understandings of Marxian political economy. The third was C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (1938), on the slave rebellions of Haiti in the wake of the French Revolution, one of the first attempts to write a history of a people supposedly “without history.”
So, following Wolf’s example, what are YOUR three landmark books? What are the three books that most influenced how you think about, and practice, anthropology? It might also be interesting to talk about the differences between books that have wide appeal, and those that have tremendous, long-lasting influence within the field.
[This is a part of a six part blog on four debates about the origins of the internet. Please see all six posts here.]
Suddenly in the wake of President Barack Obama’s untimely but ultimately non-fatal but non-optimal grammar, the question of who made what when and how much the government had or had not to do with it was up for debate. Resisting the attacks on all things federal at the tail end of the 2012 US presidential election, President Obama said to a crowd in Roanoke, Virginia on July 13, 2012:
“The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so that all companies could make money off the internet.” read more…
I’ve been struggling to find a way to blog regularly about Jared Diamond’s new book, The World Until Yesterday (WUY, henceforth). After some thinking I’ve decided to do two things. First, I’m publishing my notes on the book as a Google doc for everyone to see so that people can get a sense of the layout and argument of the book. Second, I’ll chose one topic in each chapter that I think is particularly interesting or worthy of your time and attention. Today, I’ll start with the prologue.
As the Savage Minds leviathan grows to evermore staggering heights in 2012, it’s inescapable pseudopods pulling anthropologists into its its membranes like some creature-feature villain crossed with the Dialectic of Enlightenment, we have had the privilege of hosting some truly excellent guest bloggers.
Mary Alice wrote several posts on mentoring and research as a kind of pedagogy. To paraphrase her posts, mentoring is about listening, teaching, and offering up shared experiences — a fitting model for an anthropology that aspires to produce knowledge that excites people to action.
Over the summer a team of six bloggers came together to offer an extensive series of posts all loosely related to one another on the theme of precarity, truly a signifier for our times. Deepa wrote about quitting a tenured position to become an adjunct. Aalok wrote about keeping one’s ethnographic research mobile when professional development necessitates hopping from continent to continent. Ali wrote about being an anthropologist on the sidelines of the tenure track system, bracketing out her work as an adjunct while also serving as managing editor and program director for Cultural Anthropology. Laurel talked about doing ethnography of consumer behavior for market research and Nathan, too, was looking for ways to make his expertise in ethnography pay bills. Finally, Lane wondered how the condition of precarity shapes the kind ethnography we do.
Laura shared her experience of being interviewed and then misrepresented by a journalist. She also broached a taboo topic among anthropologists: what to do when one does not like their field research site?
DJ explained why friendship in the field is not naive, but a virtue. Reflecting on his days in the field in Taiwan from the vantage point of Boston he pined for a different way to move a body through space.
Finally, Clare put a cap on the year with her series on the Mayan Apocalypse. Her post on the movie “2012″ added that feature to other anthropological anti-classics like Clan of the Cave Bear and 10000 BC.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to Savage Minds last year! We look forward to welcoming new guest bloggers in the coming year. If you are interested in writing posts for SM then we’re interested in hearing from you. Principally we’re looking for people who already have experience writing for their own blog. Blogging is free, its fun, and we believe everyone should do it.
Thanks also to our readers and participants in the comments section. Meeting new people and sharing ideas is a big part of what makes blogging so rewarding. If you’ve been a long time reader but never commented we encourage you to leave your mark. We’ll be the richer for your contribution.