anthropology in and for everyday life
A panel discussion on Maine Public radio included four anthropologists explaining how anthropology is part of our everyday lives. Discussion covered different areas of anthropological research including linguistics and archaeology, what we know about why humans separate into different groups, how anthropology informs our understanding of the human dimensions of climate change, and the anthropology of war. Speakers were: Scott MacEachern, Bowdoin College professor, department of sociology and anthropology; Cindy Isenhour, University of Maine assistant professor, department of anthropology and Climate Change Institute; cooperating faculty, School of Economics and Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; Nadia R. El-Shaarawi, Colby College assistant professor of global studies, contributor to the blog Savage Minds; and Sara Lowden, University of Maine Ph.D. student in anthropology and environmental policy
Bullshit Jobs in the news
The latest book by David Graeber, London School of Economics anthropology professor book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, was published May 15 and is being widely reviewed and discussed. In The New Zealand Herald: “When anthropologist David Graeber set out to write his provocatively titled book Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, he invited the internet to share stories of occupations that people believed may contain a high concentration of faecal matter. Among the hundreds who shared stories was an online marketer whose team spent its days crafting and designing online banner ads for pedantic clients, while being fully aware that no one ever clicked on their ads — at least not intentionally. ‘They later had to make up these new kinds of statistics and measures on how many people see these things from the corner of their eye,’ [comments Graeber…]. ‘They’re doing this tiny detail work because the customer wants everything to be perfect, all the while knowing it makes no difference.’’ This piece contains a short video interview with Graeber in which he differentiates between bullshit jobs and shit jobs.
The review in The Daily Mail included this insight from the author: “‘What I ended up doing, when I was researching the book, I created an email account [and]…advertised the account and invited people to share their experiences…‘I said, “Have you ever had a job that’s totally pointless? Tell me all about it.”’ The responses came rolling in – in their hundreds…I wrote them all in one giant file, and I color coded it for content,’ he says, clarifying that he’s not labeling any jobs ‘bulls**t’ himself; he’s only reporting the feelings expressed by people actually working in those positions. ‘Telemarketers were way up there…There’s nobody in telemarketing who doesn’t feel that their job shouldn’t exist … It’s also unusual because most bulls**t jobs pay pretty well and have good benefits; telemarketers aren’t like that. It’s the worst of the worst.’
A review in Bloomberg commented: “Graeber writes that the only people who’ve ever argued with his basic premise are business owners, the people who are in charge of hiring and firing. He says he periodically receives “unsolicited communications” from such people, who insist that no one “would ever spend company money on an employee who wasn’t needed.” LOLOLOLOL. Sure, corporations and private equity amassers are always laying people off in the name of shareholder value, but, as Graeber mentions, that’s usually a felling of workers who are actually productive while the top layers of overpaid, unnecessary management are the last to go. (Or, if they go, it’s with severance packages.)”
Reuters’ review includes this point: “The book’s main contribution is its highly entertaining definition of terms. A bullshit job is a paid role that’s “so completely, pointless, unnecessary or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence” – even though the incumbent will typically pretend that’s not the case. Qualifying positions are numerous, from the bored receptionist whose main job is to wind up a grandfather clock once a week, to the unhappy employee in a warehouse full of clown noses. Anyone who works in public relations, or has “strategic” in their title, automatically joins the club.”
WGN radio (Chicago) carried an eleven-minute interview with Graeber about what kind of jobs fall into the category of bullshit jobs and how there are more unfulfilling jobs in the market now than in recent years. Not all jobs, he says, have to change the world. Many non-bullshit jobs, however, such as bus driving and nursing, continue to exist. Ironically, however, bullshit jobs often pay better than such useful jobs.
playing the anthropology card and winning
Quartz reported on
Since he became president of the World Bank, though, it’s been hard to see where his anthropological heart it
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, offered a brief lesson in nailing a job interview earlier this week. Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Kim shared an anecdote about how he landed then-president Barack Obama’s nomination to his powerful position. At the time of his interview, Kim was president of Dartmouth College, but he was better known for his career within global health organizations. An anthropologist and physician by training, he held a B.A. from Brown, and an M.D. and Ph.D from Harvard University. Still, he was an unconventional candidate for the World Bank’s top position.
According to Kim, Obama looked at him and said, “So, Jim, why would I nominate you to be president of the World Bank? Why wouldn’t I nominate a macroeconomist?”
“Well, president Obama,” Kim replied, as he recalls, “have you read your mother’s Ph.D dissertation?” Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was an activist and anthropologist who spent years living in Indonesia, researching village craft industries, particularly metalworking, but also pottery and batik. Her PhD thesis, based on several years of field studies, was published in 1992, three years before her death. Kim says he was “one of, like, 10 people who ordered her 1,000-page dissertation” from her school’s archive, and he read every word of it. Kim had been inspired to find the thesis after Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, which made the Chicagoan a political star overnight, four years before he’d run for president. Kim became, he says, “obsessed with this guy.” And when he read up on the state senator from Illinois, he discovered that Obama’s mother was an anthropologist.
The Washington Post reported on how DNA research may help identify enslaved people buried in a cemetery in Maryland, and thereby reconnect them to their descendants. In Catoctin Furnace, the cemetery of the enslaved workers of the iron furnace was rediscovered in 1979. The local historical society knows the years slaves tried to escape the industrial site from the reward and wanted advertisements published in the newspaper. But dating when one of them died or finding a reference in a diary or ledger of when they left the area has eluded the historical society. “It’s not unusual at all for them to be lost in time,” said Elizabeth A. Comer, an archaeologist and member of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society.
The history of the European-American owners and workers at the furnace is well-preserved, but the stories and lives of the black enslaved workers have vanished.
Much of the historical society’s current work is to merge the narratives of the Europeans with those of the black enslaved people, but with no collective memory preserved in black generations alive today and very sparse written records, that is hard to do. One of the biggest challenges has been the lack of last names, Comer said.
“We do not have — as I said earlier — an African-American population that has come forward and said, ‘I’m part of this landscape. I’m part of this history,’” Comer said. But research just completed on the DNA of half of the exhumed slaves may be the key to finding that link.
His name is David Reich, and from his laboratory at Harvard University, he is providing researchers a universal link: DNA.
On Feb. 21, 2017, Reich traveled to Washington, D.C., and collected samples from the bones of 14 of the Catoctin Furnace slaves. Collecting DNA from old bones is not as easy as it would be from a person who died today. The human DNA has to be carefully separated from extraneous environmental DNA from molds and other non-human sources, Comer said.
Now, with a pool of ancient DNA results, the historical society is going to load the existing genetic profiles of each of the enslaved people to 23andMe — a website and genetic testing company that analyzes people’s 23 chromosomes, which store all of a person’s genetic information. There they will be able to see if the genetic code of one of the slaves matches a person living today — with the hope to connect someone to their ancestor.
The Guardian reported on
An activity book that invites children to discover Prince Edward Island archaeology has received national recognition. The Canadian Archaeological Association named the provincial government’s Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat the recipient of its 2018 Public Communications Award for producing the book Archaeology in Action. Aimed at young readers, it highlights three case studies in Prince Edward Island.