“If you have the power to hit people over the head whenever you want, you don’t have to trouble yourself too much figuring out what they think is going on, and therefore, generally speaking, you don’t. Hence the sure-fire way to simplify social arrangements, to ignore the incredibly complex play of perspectives, passions, insights, desires, and mutual understandings that human life is really made of, is to make a rule and threaten to attack anyone who breaks it. This is why violence has always been the favored recourse of the stupid: it is the one form of stupidity to which it is almost impossible to come up with an intelligent response. It is also of course the basis of the state.”

David Graeber, Fragments of An Anarchist Anthropology

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Photo from: https://colectivolibertarioevora.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/david-graeber-entrevista-do-anarquista-norte-americano-a-proposito-do-seu-ultimo-livro-burocracia/

Florida Governor: Anthropology Not Needed Here (originally 11 October, 2011)

(We are republishing ‘legacy content’ from our PLOS Neuroanthropology weblog, which has been taken down, along with many of the other founding PLOS Blogs. Some of these, I am putting up because I teach with them. If you have any requests, don’t hesitate to email me at: greg.downey @ mq (dot) edu (dot) au. I suspect many of the links in this piece will be broken, but I will endeavour to try to slowly rebuild this content. Daniel originally published this on 11 October, 2011. Comments have been pasted in at the end of the post from the original.) 

Anthropologists have been singled out by Florida Governor Rick Scott as not being needed. On the Marc Benier show, Gov. Scott said:

We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.

The American Anthropological Association issued a swift response to Gov. Scott, and the news that he thinks anthropology majors are not needed.

As an association, we are a group of over 11,000 scholars, scientists, and professionals who are dedicated to studying humankind in all its aspects, including through archaeological, biological, cultural, medical, and linguistic research… Perhaps you are unaware that anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualism, the African American heritage, and infant learning.

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, anthropology has become Gov. Scott’s primary example of an area where he believes public spending should be cut.

Tax revenues are expected to be lower than expected, forcing the state to prioritize where it spends dollars. Along those lines, Scott repeated a statement earlier this week by saying the state should spend less on education programs that aren’t related to current workforce demands, singling out anthropology.

“We’re spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it’s not great,” the governor told a luncheon crowd of the Northwest Business Association in Tallahassee. “Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”

Continue reading “Florida Governor: Anthropology Not Needed Here (originally 11 October, 2011)”

David Graeber: anthropologist, anarchist, financial analyst* (originally 2011)

This post was originally published in 2011 on PLOS Neuroanthropology at: https://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2011/10/15/david-graeber-anthropologist-anarchist-financial-analyst/ (link is to an archived version. PLOS has recently purged their legacy weblogs from PLOS Blogs; we repost here to try to preserve this content. 

Wall Street is in the grips of an ‘occupation,’ and activist and anthropologist, David Graeber, now at Goldsmiths, University of London, is in the centre of the action.  Graeber has been doing a few television and radio interviews of late (check here for his interview on ABC Radio National, Australia), talking about the organization of the Wall Street occupation as well as his new book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House).

The juxtaposition of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s recent comments about anthropology and the fact that Graeber is offering what may be among the most penetrating and accessible analyses of an important dimension of the current global debt crisis is striking. Of course, maybe clear-eyed analysis of our current economic situation, and the ability to point out that other societies do perfectly well with other sorts of economic and political systems, is precisely the sort of academic work that Gov. Rick Scott thinks universities should give up.  After all, no one needs to understand why US firms are shedding jobs, or take a sober look at the current financial regime in the light of the 5,000-year history of debt.  Students should just put their heads down and do the sorts of degrees that will give them technical jobs.  Pay no attention to The Man behind the curtain! Continue reading “David Graeber: anthropologist, anarchist, financial analyst* (originally 2011)”

Matthew Taylor on human psychology and political change

One of my students, Nikolas Dawson, hipped me to these nifty animated videos developed from lectures at the RSA, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, ‘a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.’ My student was pointing out a video about recent financial crises, RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism, that combined an edited version of a David Harvey lecture with great animation, but in the process of poking around their website, I realized that there’s an interesting clip for readers at Neuroanthropology.net.

The video is ‘RSA Animate Matthew Taylor: Left brain, right brain,’ and fortunately, it has virtually nothing to say about ‘left brain’ or ‘right brain,’ but is instead a very interesting discussion of the relation between human psychology and the possibility of social and political change. In addition, the animation is great!

The video is linked to the RSA’s project, The Social Brain, which is a platform for a number of expert speakers to discuss how the things we’re learning about the brain help us to understand a range of social issues. If you want to watch the whole video, but without the animation, you can go to YouTube recording of the whole lecture: Matthew Taylor – Left Brain, Right Brain: Human nature and political values. Matthew Taylor has his own blog as well.

The RSA website also has a piece by our colleague, Joan Chiao, ‘Face Value.’ Chiao discusses why some societies seem to prefer hierarchical governments, and others prefer leadership that promotes great egalitarianism, as well as some of the relationship between research on facial preferences and democratic decision making. She concludes:

This cultural diversity in political preferences and structures is proof that our evolutionary instincts for social hierarchy are not cultural destiny and that, through knowledge of where we come from and imagination about whom we may become, we can come closer to building a society with consideration and compassion for all.

For more information about the RSA, especially the Social Brain project, you can read below.

Continue reading “Matthew Taylor on human psychology and political change”

Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid: The Effect of Negative Media

By Mallory Meter and Jacob Minnaugh

“The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be president would be ‘What the hell do you mean we’re out of missiles?” -Glenn Beck

Comforting? We think not. Luckily, Glenn Beck is not the president of the United States. Still, millions of people every night flip on their T.V. to watch Beck dish out the day’s events. And you can imagine that if his dream presidency would be filled with explosions and bombs, his newscast is too.

But if you can’t tune into Glenn Beck’s riveting hour of negative news, not to worry. CNN, MSNBC, ABC and pretty much every other outlet will have similar newscasters and similar news. All of these news outlets have one thing in common: negativity.

Whether it’s about the various diseases children can contract at preschool, the possibility of a nuclear missile attack, or how poorly our nation’s leaders are doing their jobs, the news never fails to make the situation as dismal as possible. Every day, millions of people tune in to the media outlet of their choice and get pummeled with these stories.

This is where the real problem comes in: this negativity is affecting us. The way we see ourselves, others, and the world are a result of what we take in everyday. It follows that if we are taking in an overwhelming amount of negativity, that negativity will come to be our output as well.

This post explores how negativity in the media permeates the way we think. We will address how human culture lends itself towards a negative bias as well as how our place in this world affects what we do with the negativity. Finally, we will show how the media does, in fact, result in negative ideals and actions that are so much a part of our culture today.

Media as a Mirror

The negativity in the news penetrates the way we think and act without us being fully aware. Nightly news tells us how dangerous it is to fly in planes nowadays, and we rethink our travel plans. Girls see negative body images splashed across the magazines they read, and they starve themselves until they match those images. The news is a mirror in which millions look every night and what they end up seeing in the reflection is a life in imminent danger.

Continue reading “Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid: The Effect of Negative Media”

Cynthia Mahmood and Political Violence

Cynthia Mahmood is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame and a great colleague of mine. She is also now a star on YouTube. Here Cynthia explains how she approaches understanding political violence as an anthropologist:

About six minutes in, Cynthia discusses the present case of Pakistan, and expounds further in a press release accompanying the video, U.S. must help calm nuclear-armed Pakistan.

“Right now, we’re finally seeing that the heartland of the region’s instability, in fact, is in Pakistan, and that the problem President Obama is having to deal with is not just what to do about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, but what to do about the very serious and urgent danger that a nuclear-armed nation is on the verge of either collapse or takeover by radical Islamists.”

Continue reading “Cynthia Mahmood and Political Violence”