Wednesday Round Up #47

shepard-fairey-barack-obamaThis 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

Scott Fornek, Barack Obama Sr.
A short profile, with reflections on the father’s influence. For more, see the Wikipedia overview of Obama Sr.

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

Dinamars, Barack Obama and His Childhood in Indonesia
Insight into his childhood years in Jakarta. Of course many people in Indonesia were rooting for an Obama victory, as NPR reports.

Intellectual Influences

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.”


Obama’s Speech on Race
The full text to his powerful March 2008 speech. You can also watch it here.

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

Behavioral Economics

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”

His Addictions

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

Obama and Ellen, Senator Barack Obama On Quitting Smoking
Nicorette like chewing on pepper – and his efforts to quit. A YouTube clip with Ellen. But has he really quit?

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”

The Internet

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

Community Organizing

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:

8 thoughts on “Wednesday Round Up #47

  1. Jodi Kantor writes in today’s New York Times, A Portrait of Change: In First Family, A Nation’s Many Faces, which serves as a good summary for many of the considerations in the first part of the round up, as well as coverage of Michelle Obama’s family history. A nice read.

    Here’s one section: “Now the Obama-Robinson family’s move to the White House seems like a symbolic end point for the once-firm idea that people of different backgrounds should not date, marry or bear children… Initially, some of the unions in the Obama family caused consternation. “What can you say when your son announces he’s going to marry a Mzungu?” said Sarah Obama in an interview, using the Swahili term for “white person.” But it was too late, she said, because the couple was deeply in love. Now, the relatives say, their family feels natural and right to them, that they think of each other as individuals, not as members of groups.”

  2. Daniel —
    Thanks for posting this list. I usually refrain from all political commentary on this site, but being an American living overseas the past few years has so often involved head-shaking, apologizing, and otherwise trying to explain the inexplicable to non-Americans. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to try to explain W., and, harder still, why the American public re-elected him knowing full well what we had to look forward to for four more years.

    As I’ve watched the election and now the inauguration from overseas, I keep getting choked up. Like so many people, I have high hopes for the new administration and wish them well, not only for the good of the US, but for all of us living around the globe who need the US leading wisely on so many crucial issues.

    If the character flaws of Americans — myself included — were highlighted so intensely by the last administration, one hopes that the distinctive American character strengths that seem so evident in Obama prove to be the bedrock of a new way forward. In several weeks, I start to teach my ‘Culture and Human Rights’ course, and I will gladly have to rewrite sections of several lectures, just one area where my optimism about the future is growing. Although I try to refrain from political comment, it’s hard not to be happy as a scientist and human rights researcher that we are already seeing signs of an end to the last American Dark Age.

    With a lump in my throat, a proud ex-pat, Greg

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