Chains of Difference

Chains of Difference: A Community Clinical Anthropology Project is an effort to use anthropology to bridge our differences. Two of its key efforts are combining education and anthropology to help us deal better with the problems that can arise from our very diversity, and the idea that amateur anthropology – learning about and practicing anthropology outside formal settings – can be crucial to this process of negotiating our differences.

Here are three aims from their Welcome post:

-The discussion of contemporary dilemmas that stop us from learning more about each other across difference (religious, class difference, cultural, generational, etc): what can we actually ask each other about diversity and how to do it?

-The ideia that making anthropology a practise accessible to all can enhance inter-cultural relations and promote cooperation across difference

-The aim of passing direct knowledge of the practise of amateur anthropology across generations rather than relying on indirect educational means (e.g. internet). Adults trained in amateur anthropology can ideally pass the knowledge onto children and encourage them to pursue knowledge on questions of difference across diversity from a very early stage.

Chains of Differences is a project initiated by Pedro Oliveira, a Portuguese clinical psychologist
with a PhD in social anthropology recently completed at Brunel University.

Alongside Chains of Difference, Oliveira is starting a post-doctoral project focused on bring together clinical psychology and anthropology through “running multi-family groups and researching them simultaneously through an action-research ethnographic methodology.” He would love to get feedback on this project, so you can find the complete description of his proposed work here.

Link to Chains of Difference Facebook Group.

Link to Chains of Difference blog.

Four Stone Hearth #95

Afarensis has put together an outstanding addition of anthropology’s blog carnival Four Stone Hearth. The Four Stones refer to anthropology’s four fields – archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology – and the hearth to how they come together to create a holistic approach to understanding humans in varying times and spaces.

Michael Tomasello and cultural diversity, chimpanzee culture, neuroarchaeology!, and much more. Plenty for the readers of Neuroanthropology to enjoy.

Link to Four Stone Hearth #95.

Impulse and Cupidity

So I’m now down in Tampa, getting set up at the University of South Florida after some good years at Notre Dame. Tampa looks great – an exciting city. And USF looks like it will definitely support interdisciplinary efforts like neuroanthropology. So it’s all good.

Here’s a quote that caught my eye on Sunday:

For in the anything-goes atmosphere of our recent past, it wasn’t just external controls that went awry; inwardly, people lost constraint and common sense, too. Now there is a case to be made that problems of self-regulation — of appetite, emotion, impulse and cupidity — may well be the defining social pathology of our time.

In the late 1970s, the historian Christopher Lasch famously described America as a culture of narcissism. Today we might well be called a nation of dysregulation. The signs that something is amiss in our inner mechanisms of control and restraint are everywhere.

It came from the NY Times article Dysregulation Now by Judith Warner. She featured the work of Peter Whybrow in the second half of the piece. Whybrow directs the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Whybrow is the author of American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. It definitely looks like a neuroanthropology-friendly work, with the Amazon description reading: “The indictment of American society offered here—that America’s supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overwork and overconsumption, frays family and community ties and leaves us anxious, alienated and overweight—is familiar. What’s more idiosyncratic and compelling is the author’s grounding his treatise in political economy (citing everyone from Adam Smith to Thorstein Veblen) as well as in neuropsychiatry, primatology and genetics.”

Building on Whybrow’s work, Warner writes near the end of her piece:

The larger structural problems that create our widespread envy, greed, overconsumption and debt — gross income inequality, for starters — will be much more difficult, politically, to address… [T]he pressures that drive the dysregulated American haven’t abated any since the fall of 2008. Wall Street is resurgent, and unemployment is still high. For too many people, the cycle of craving and debt that drives our treadmill existence simply can’t be broken.

It’s the “modern misfits” story, where human nature no longer matches the human culture we’ve created. That too is familiar. But at least there is an appreciation of causation at different levels, from human psychology to structural problems, and that’s good. And I do happen to think that issues surrounding consumption and self-regulation are rather important, and not sufficiently recognized as problems that need more than simple answers like a Drug War or a pill to break the cycle of craving…

Dysregulation Nation article link.

Peter Whybrow’s website.