Round Up of the Best of Anthro 2008

Below are all the submissions I received for the Best of Anthropology Blogging 2008. Enjoy exploring. You can also check out the “Best of Anthro 2008” all-inclusive prizes, the overall hosting page, and part one and part two of how these posts demonstrate the relevance of anthropology.

Best: Second-Worst Possible Fieldwork Result
Plenty of small pits and charcoal hearths but not much else at a hoped-for 6th century aristocratic manor. “It’s like winning a year’s supply of something you have absolutely no use for and cannot sell.”

A Hot Cup of Joe
Popular: Neanderthals Were Not Stupid
Three years of experimental archaeology, where smart people made the same tools as Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Final answer: “no technological advantage” between sapiens sapiens and sapiens neanderthalensis
Best: The Serpent Mound
Earthworks in Locus Grove, Ohio – what are we to make of them? Includes a striking overhead graphic of the mound’s shape and the author’s own photos

Another Anthro Blog
Popular: Sharing Knowledge: How the internet is fueling change in anthropology
A thesis proposal sums up how open access, expanding knowledge, and engaging the public can and is changing anthropology
Best: Community, the internet, and anthropology
Exploring why and whether the concept of “community” makes sense for the internet

Popular: L – Change the world
Japanese manga made into film – a Japanese schoolgirl, a unique detective, and bad guys trying to destroy the world through a deadly virus
Best: The symbolism of blogs
The significance of blogs in Malaysia, as reflected through the walk for media freedom there

Popular: George Marcus: “Journals? Who cares?”
A famous anthropologist endorses open access journals but laments that there is nothing to fill them. Well, sort of. George Marcus comments, “at the moment the most creative and novel thinking in anthropology is in its forms of knowing and engagement… rather than content.”
Best: How electricity changes daily life in Zanzibar – Interview with anthropologist Tanja Winther
“Electricity is a social phenomenon” which shapes development, desires and dilemmas, or sleeping less while being safe from spirits

Popular: Breitenwinner Cave Giant Skeletons a Hoax
Giants stalk Germany once again! At least in the imaginings and storytelling of some soldiers digging destructively around a cave. Or looting versus discovery wrapped up in our need for past mythology and our need for skeptics too. Best comment: “Danny digging around with his mates like some wannabe Time Team character doesn’t help matters.”
Best: A Review of Methodology in “Biblical Entheogens”
Moses on drugs, and why the burning bush doesn’t count as evidence. This post is “what my site is all about, bad archaeology debunked.”

Babel’s Dawn
Popular: Chomsky’s Theory of Language Origins
A fair and clear account of Noam Chomsky’s theory. Plus Ali G interviewing the man!
Best: Neanderthals Had Language
Breaking news – Going from symbols to language. Neanderthals’ pigment use and body ornamentation date back more than 100,000 years. So why not language?

Popular: What’s in a Name?
Bad grades, first names, and the politics of informality – how do junior faculty, especially women of color, get tested in ways that senior, male colleagues do not?
Best: Culture Wars, Anthropology, and the Palin Effect
The Palin Effect – race and gender at work, and not in harmony. Reflections on, what is our imagined America, our imagined family?

Critical World Blog
Best: Bronfman Epiphany?
Globalization through music, in this case, a recording industry CEO finally seeing the light: “We used to fool ourselves. We used to think our content was perfect just exactly the way it was.”

Culture Matters
Popular: ‘Uncontacted Indians?!’ — contact an anthropologist!
Reflections on media reports after the release of photos of an ‘uncontacted Indian tribe’ in Brazil.
Ethnographic fiction
Great ethnographies to assign in class, followed by favorite examples of ethnographic fiction
Best: Early fetal gender detection (gender contagion?)
Selling gender detection during pregnancy – scientific mumbo jumbo about blood and urine leads to contagion both conceptual and profitable
Best: The story behind an HTS picture
Major Robert Holbert, part of one of the first Human Terrain System teams deployed to Afghanistan, gives frank and open answers in this revealing interview

Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog
Popular: 500K SNP Europe-wide study of genetic structure
Relative genetic homogeneity in Europe, with clinal genetic variation and geographic correspondences, based on a big new study using a large number of genetic markers and sampling of Europeans across the continent
Best: How Y-STR variance accumulates: a comment on Zhivotovsky, Underhill and Feldman (2006)
Getting at the evolutionary mutation rate, and systematic underestimation of ages of human Y-chromosome lineages. Can we make better estimates about what the “right” mutation rate is?

Digital Ethnography
Popular: “An anthropological introduction to YouTube” video of Library of Congress presentation
YouTube, networked individualism, and the rebirth of community in this summary of Mike Wesch’s work with students, video, and anthropology
Best: Revisiting “A Vision of Students Today”
What students think of their own education, a professor’s unease, and the problems built into the walls of education. Wesch’s parting advice, “We don’t have to tear the walls down. We just have to stop pretending that the walls separate us from the world, and begin working with students in pursuit of answers to real and relevant questions.”

Popular: Stable Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Canada
Explaining language diversity in Canada, asking for feedback, and the fears, accommodations and politics of multiple language use
Best: Son of an Anthropologist
Barack Obama and reflections on anthropological awareness

Popular: Memory
Museums as three-dimensional memory devices
Best: Maria and Meaning
Images as the embodiment of social relationships and cultural experiences as seen through the controversy over the “Maria” cover to the Mexican Playboy.

From the Annals of Anthroman
Popular: Do Politicians and Pundits Think We’re Stupid?
Going from rabid political fans to questions about Obama as a straightforward political operator or an agent of change
Best: Spike on Spike
Students pushed the master filmmaker Spike Lee after a semester studying his work. And he answered their questions without mincing words or dodging controversy.

Grafos y Acidentes
Popular: El ciclo doméstico y la comunicación científica
La antropología económica como sistema, mirando las personas, los grupos domésticos y la explotación
Best: Juegos y roles en antropología y marketing
Los puntos ciegos de los marketers y la relevancia de la antropología

Greg Laden’s Blog
Popular: When Do Immigrants Learn English? Likely, not when you think
The “Why don’t they just learn English?” whine taken to task through historical records on German immigrant learning rates from yesteryear
Best: The Zodiac
Abandoning ship to face hippos and pirates. An entertaining start to Greg’s The Congo Memoirs

In Harmonium
Best: Untangling Ethics: A framework for anthropology
Ethics in application, the Human Terrain System, and how we draw the lines. Some very good debate in the comments.

John Hawks Weblog
Best: Did humans face extinction 70,000 years ago?
Did we dwindle to just 2000 individuals? On the importance of effective population size, math and evidence over media claims.

Linguistic Anthropology
Popular: A Campaign of Condescencion? You Betcha!
Style over content in politics, with the top VP pick Sarah Palin leading from the bottom of linguistic competence. Plus this nice riff, “If the candidates’ populist style ends up translating into policies that benefit the majority of Americans, it will be because the majority stands up and demands it.”
Best: Language Ownership: Does the French language belong to France?
Nicolas Sarkozy, Celine Dion and “la diversité est une richesse”
Best: Word Rage and Hartman’s Law
Two cents on word rage – standard usage is no panacea!

Listening to Birds
Best: Crakes, objects and sounds
Is the sound the bird, or is seeing believing?

Popular: Tim Ingold: ‘Anthropology is not ethnography’
Describing the lives of other people – is anthropology more than that? On generous, comparative and critical understanding of human being and knowing
Best: The limits of networked individualism; and Local leadership and personal media: a practice-theoretical approach
One leads to the other – a working paper on “personalised” technologies extends itself through the application of practice theory to digital media

Middle Savagery
Popular: Tactile Maps and Imaginary Geographies
Breaking down the binary between space and place through Inuit songs and sculptural maps
Best: The Great Abandonment
Modern abandonment and past explanations – photos of US cities today and words from John Kantner’s Ancient Puebloan Southwest. The contrast of media and the parallel in process is striking.
Best: Utilized Glass and Experimental Archaeology in Kalaupapa
Anthropologists can pen our own graphic novels while playing with glass both modern and past.

Popular: Prayer, God’s love, and low bone mineral density
Pray five times a day, and your body will show it
Best: It gets worse after the middle ages: Bone disease and the Medieval period (Part I)
Osteoarthritis from biomechanical stress and from disease – joint disease is the most frequently observed bone abnormality in medieval times

Popular: Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone
Advice on cosleeping from a leading expert, and how anthropology helps ordinary people live their lives despite medical authorities and their ideologies
Best: Balance between cultures: equilibrium training
Dance and sport cross-culturally and what that tells us about how equilibrium actually works in the body and how skills gets encultured
Best: Studying Sin
Colombian vices and how we got hooked on things

Open Anthropology
Popular: Occupation of the New School University, NYC
The New School sit-in, academic governance, and solidarity with protesting students in Greece
Best: The Revenge of the Local, the Horror of the Provincial, and Western Cosmopolitanism at Risk
Horror films, backpackers, and the negotiation of terror and cultural prejudices in the face of conflicts, contradictions and blurring borders. Writing that bridges “colonialism and the present, cinema and empire, media and otherness.”

remote central
Best: La Marche Cave – Faces from The Ice Age
Etched images in a French cave from 15,000 years ago – “how modern they seem… the vivid, somewhat garish style in which humans were depicted.”
Best: Human Evolution on Trail – Technology by Terry Toohill
Oldowan to Levallois – your guide to stone tools throughout human evolution. Plus debate on humans’ “remarkable willingness to hybridise”

Savage Minds
Best: Philosophers Discover Lost Tribe in Jungles of Free Will
Experimental philosophy, branding success, and serious questions about where is the anthropology in this endeavor. Includes the important line, “anthropology is an experimental philosophy, one that professional philosophers would never attempt because it requires all kinds of commitments to the real world that are verboten in most mainstream philosophy departments.”
Best: “those without agency have sentimentality and vice versa”
Cellphones, the destruction of the public, and definitions of privacy

Popular: Grandma’s little helper
Ritalin ads from 1966 – fixing chronic fatigue and depression in older women – and reflections on the emergence of attention-deficit disorder as a diagnostic entity
Best: Field notes from Paris: social pathology and the globalization of sentiments
Social phobias get imported into France – the question is, Why is this happening now? Research on new psychic identities, powerful ideologies and discourses, and changes in French society
Best: Mosquito Huts; Wundercabinets and Social Models
Malaria control, experimental huts to study mosquito behavior, and the location and production of science

Teaching Anthropology
Popular: What being an anthropologists means to me: apparently, it means a long post
“when you question the meanings and methods of one of the most popular anthropologists on the Internet, it is bound to be an involved discussion.”
Best: Never Piss Off a Stripper: the ethnography of reality television; and The Bret Michaels Narrative: or never piss off a stripper redux
What is owed to a woman who tattoos your name on the back of her neck? and other reflections on reality television, student knowledge, and the negotiation of gender and sexuality.

Testimony of the spade
Popular: Proud to be One!
Disease and the traces it leaves on bone, from malignant bone cancer of the cranium to the cut from a sword or ax along the skull
Best: Three medieval churches, two rune stones, and a mound.
A photographic trip through the Swedish countryside, complete with a rune carved of Norse mythology, complete with a spell-like inscriptions (including a curse), and churches dating back to the 12th century,

The Ideophone
Popular: Do you know this feeling?
Japanese gitaigo illustrate how language and image alike evoke sensations, feelings, and perceptions through sound- and visual-symbolism
Best: Under the spell of ideophones
“Ideophones, throughtheir capacity to bring about a ‘here and now’-feeling, grab the audience by the arm and persuade,” in this case in a leading Ghanaian paper

The Memory Bank: A New Commonwealth Ver 4.0
Popular: Africa on my mind
The opening to a memoir on fieldwork in Ghana in the 1960s: “I consoled myself with the thought that there hadn’t yet been a participant observation study of an African jail.”
Best: Africa’s urban revolution
Keith Hart summarizes the main argument of his book The African Revolution at a Frankfurt conference on African urbanities

Best: Anthropology and culture – call for precision!
Anthropology and culture – a call for precision in core definitions. The definitions themselves come later.

Popular: Border Patrols & Sonic Border on the anniversary of Laika (both part of the program for Sonic Borders, which got the most overall hits)
Our border operation is in the street, right there with Chinese DVDs, Polish beers, and sex worker postcards
The border is “a process, an order, an iteration, uneven, performative, and aural.” Plus one of the better play on words, “Crossing the border… pushing the boundaries… sometimes caught and fraught in contradictions.”
Best: Writing Diary
A pile of books and notes in the office corner, when “all diaries are war diaries, at least in the anthropology I read.”

Urbi & Orbi
Popular: Meditation
Inner Space. Is it just “the sub text of a success-driven social ideal”? Gender, management, and hedonism in one store-shop window.
Best: A Bizarre British Ritual named Crufts. Constructing Social Status through Man’s (Mutant) Best Friend
Britain’s best dog show, the cultural politics of inbreeding, and show animals as totems
Best: Semantically Challenged
One woman’s illustrative grappling with ideas

15 thoughts on “Round Up of the Best of Anthro 2008

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