This week, in celebration of Barack Obama’s inauguration yesterday, I have put together a collection on how Obama intersects with the themes of this site. In other words, Obama is a neuroanthropologist!
Let me just start off by saying that Barack Hussein Obama hit it right in his speech yesterday when he said, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.” We are switching from party and field-specific ideologies to seeing what works and what does not. As you’ll see below,a diverse background proves a great help for engaging in that process.
His Parents and Their Legacies
Paula Bender, Legacy of the President’s Mother
A profile of Stanley Ann Dunham, an anthropologist, from her alma mater, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Janny Scott, Obama’s Mother – An Unconventional Life
More on Obama’s mother, with this tagline “Anthropologist disliked ethnic barriers, sought to aid world’s poor”. For more, see her Wikipedia profile.
Ruth Behar, The Anthropologist’s Son
A good portion of the well-known anthropologist’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece on Obama and his anthropologist mother. John Jackson reacts and reflects in his piece, America’s Anthropological President
Sally Jacobs, A Father’s Charm, Absence
An extended profile of the “self-confident, complex dreamer”, Barack Obama Sr.
Kevin Merida, The Ghost of a Father
The impact of Barack Obama’s father, as seen through his memoir Dreams from My Father as well as more recent reporting
Andy Isaacson, After Obama’s Triumph, Jubilation and Tears of Joy in Obama’s Ancestral Home Village in Kenya
The Luo celebrate Obama’s election, which includes Obama-mania in a Kenya photo gallery
Nicholas Kristof, Obama’s Kenya Roots
The power of mobility, unmistakable poverty, and giddy pride
Peter Duffy, Obama Gets His Confidence, Eloquence From His Father’s Tribe
It’s a great time to be a Luo!
Declan, Obama Archaeology
Obama’s Irish ancestors and the prehistory of his family there
Ed Davies, Indonesia Left Deep Imprint on Obama Family
The story of his years in Indonesia
Richard Wolffe, Who Is Michelle Obama?
A Newsweek profile: “She’s the one who keeps him real.” For more, see the YouTube introduction of Michelle. You can also read about her senior thesis on race at Princeton here.
BBC Wednesday Documentary, Obama – Professor President
The philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah “explores the intellectual influences and ideas which shaped Barack Obama, the scholar, teacher & academic”. Go quick – only a few days left to listen!
Dan Nakaso, Family Precedent: Obama’s Grandmother Blazed Trails
His maternal grandmother, who passed away just before the election, broke through barriers in Hawaii
Michiko Kakutani, From Books, New President Found Voice
“Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry.”
Michiko Kakutani, Obama’s Foursquare Politics, With a Dab of Dijon
The NY Times review of his book The Audacity of Hope – interesting to read in retrospect
Bonnie Erbe, Bonnie Erbe Interviews Karen Kornbluh, ‘Obama’s Brain’
A gendered view through gendered relations. Who would of thought?
Thomas Friedman, Radical in the White House
“Not radical left or right, just a radical, because this is a radical moment. It is a moment for radical departures from business as usual in so many areas.”
Alan Fram, ‘Mutts like me’ Shows Obama’s Racial Comfort
His off-hand remark and his different approach to race. Here his own history and language embody changes in “race” in the US. Not everyone liked his reference to mixed racial ancestry as being mutts, however.
Sarah Kershaw, The New Face of Race Relations
Changes in ways to talk and express oneself in interracial contexts – the Obama effect
Michiko Kakutani, More Than They Could Have Hoped for, After a Generation of Big Dreams
Two books on Obama’s campaign – Gwen Ifill and Jabari Asim – that reflect on race, politics, and change
Dave Hill, Obama and Post-Racial Society
“Obama’s win doesn’t signify a post-racial society but his presence helps us imagine how to achieve one”
John Jackson, A Racist Grim Reaper?
Race is too socially salient to go away, even after Obama’s election
John Cassidy, Economics: Which Way for Obama?
Obama and behavioral economics, plus some considerations of Nudge at the NY Review of Books. For an argument that he’s more a pragmatist than a behavioral economist, see Ezra Klein.
Karen Schrock, What Does Barack Obama’s Brain Look Like?
Not like Jonah Lehrer, who adds that Obama gets our new understanding of the brain’s pitfalls
Noam Scheiber, The Audacity of Data
More on Obama and behavioral economics, or more broadly, his “surprisingly non-ideological policy shop”
Kermit Pattison, What BlackBerry Addiction Says About Obama’s Brain
That he likes to smoke too? Probably a better answer, but this is just about his CrackBerry. And no withdrawal yet, because Wired reports that Obama: My BlackBerry Is Coming With Me
Dan Shaughnessy, Scoring Big Points with His Interest in Basketball
Obama loves basketball! There is a whole site dedicated to our new Baller-in-Chief.
Alexander Wolff, The Audacity of Hoops
Sports Illustrated on “how basketball helped shape Obama”
Claire Cain Miller, How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics
A new medium and an organized effort shook up business-as-usual
Steve Schifferes, Internet Key to Obama Victories
A reflection on the primary – where Obama really showed the power of communication and organization through the net
Sarah Lai Stirland, Propelled by Internet, Barack Obama Wins Presidency
Wired on how the president won
Sarah Lai Stirland, Obama’s Secret Weapons: Internet, Databases and Psychology
Bringing it all together
CBS News, How Barack Obama Got To The White House
“It all starts with community organizer, bottom up,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “To go from door-to-door to talk to people and listen, that’s the guiding principle from the very beginning.”
The Confluence, Barack Obama: Community Organizer
An overview of how his early work as a community organizer shaped his life
David Moberg, Obama’s Community Roots
Here we have the narrative version on his early work – a good read
And to finish off, his oath and his speech yesterday: