Playing Along: Fieldwork, Emotional Labor and Self-Care

The Geek Anthropologist

By Emma Louise Backe

For any practicing or aspiring anthropologist, fieldwork is the defining, almost qualifying practice of the discipline. As an undergraduate studying sociocultural anthropology, we read the seminal journals of Bronislaw Malinowski, followed by foundational ethnographic research from around the world. Even though the field has ostensibly moved beyond the “exotic”—no longer wholly consumed with discovering new indigenous communities or uncovering a culture untouched by capitalism and globalization—students are still encouraged to conduct their fieldwork in remote, isolated, and, yes, tacitly exotic locations. As my professor lectured during my Anthropology Senior Seminar at Vassar College, you have to conduct your first fieldwork abroad if you want to be taken seriously as an anthropologist. The implication was that if you don’t go somewhere distant and strange, you won’t experience the same level of cultural difference, linguistic estrangement, physical hardship, and existential negotiation that molds the student into a consummate…

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Why Radical Academics Often Find it Hard to Write, and What to Do about It

Anne Bonny Pirate

blank piece of paperJonathan Neale

This post will be of interest to only some of our readers. But we hope it will be very useful for them.

It is not easy to be both an academic and an activist. The values, the audiences and the constraints are different. Sitting down to write, you can feel yourself pulled in two different ways. The result is often muddled thinking and murky prose. There is too much ranting for an academic audience, and too much gobbledygook for the movement. In many cases, there is no prose at all, only silence, and pages crumpled in the wastebasket or erased on the screen.

The first half of this post offers some advice that can make writing easier, faster and more useful. The second half explains why universities make activists feel stupid, how they do it, and how you can cope.

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A New Series! Anthropology Blogging 101

The Geek Anthropologist

By Marie-Pierre Renaud

When I created The Geek Anthropologist (TGA) in September 2012, I started to familiarize myself with the small world of anthropology blogs. I was surprised by how little online visibility our discipline enjoyed. And yet, perhaps one of the reasons why that was and still is the case can be underlined in the very first sentence I wrote above: indeed, before I started my own anthropology blog, I had never thought to read one.

During my first year of blogging, I tried to recruit friends and colleagues to contribute to TGA and turn it into a community blog. I knew several people who had written anthropological papers or a thesis about topics related to geek culture. I was enthusiastic about the idea of publishing posts in both English in French, the latter being my mother tongue and the language other students in my department at Laval University…

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Separating myth from reality – a guide to social grants in South Africa by Africa Check

Kasi Economics

This article was first published by Africa Check, a non-profit fact-checking organisation (@AfricaCheck)


The number of social grants recipients in South Africa have increased exponentially over the past twenty years: from an estimated 4-million in 1994 to 16.3-million by 31 August last year. In recent years a growing chorus of voices have warned that the numbers are not sustainable.

Among them is President Jacob Zuma who said four years ago that government “cannot sustain a situation where social grants are growing all the time and think it can be a permanent feature”. Despite this, social spending has not decreased.

In fact, grant amounts have increased and ages of those who qualify have been extended. The Department of Social Development is currently considering extending the Child Support Grant (CSG) to age 23, partly because of the large number of child-headed households where older children take care of younger siblings.


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While ISIS preaches hate, in Rojava (Kurdistan) a feminist revolution is unfolding…


YPJ medics in Rojava

The UK Government and its coalition partners demonstrate remarkable ignorance of the political realities of what is happening on the ground in Kurdistan – either that, or they are knowingly prepared to sacrifice the Kurds, who have been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS and hailed as heroes by the media, once their military value has been exhausted. We explain why below. In the meantime, while ISIS continues to preach hate and practice barbarism, in the Rojava province of Kurdistan a feminist revolution is purportedly underway.

A few days ago the UK courts remanded a young British woman, Shilan Ozcelik, who was charged with offences under the 2008 Terrorism Act – specifically for providing support to Kurds. The UK Government accused Ms. Ozcelik of offering aid to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which is still a proscribed organisation (mainly due to pressure from…

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Speech: Lucien van der Walt, 2001, “”Despotism or Democracy at Wits University? The fight for a ‘Workers’ and Peoples’ University’ in a new South Africa in 2001”

Lucien van der Walt

Despotism or democracy at Wits University? The fight for a “Workers’ and Peoples’ University” in a new South Africa in 2001

Lucien van der Walt,  Guest presentation for “Keep Left” meeting,
17 May 2001, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), South Africa
Social Science room 10, 1:15

Science for the PeopleRevised for publication online.

NOTE: the author was not a member of Keep Left. He spoke as an invited guest, in his capacity as an activist in the 1999-2001 struggle against privatisation and outsourcing; the talk is from the perspectives of the anarchist/ syndicalist tradition. Various other analyses of post-apartheid university restructuring that I have been involved in, can be found here.

SO, THE University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has just selected a new Vice Chancellor (VC), Norma Reid. Reid promised, in her public address for the VC post, that her concern would be to deal with the “challenges of chronic disadvantage, oppression…

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Dear white anthropologists, I don’t believe you: When will #BlackLivesMatter & #BlackMindsMatter in Anthropology departments?

Decolonize ALL The Things



Historically academic organizations have made statements at times of peril in particular communities across the world to signify their official stance on the events taking place.  From UNESCO’s statement on race in 1950 to the most recent academic organizations’ statements on the oppression of Palestinians and recent media attention brought to Ferguson and other cases of police brutality.  But unfortunately these statements don’t necessarily materialize into anything of substance in the academy.  Academic organizational statements have not been resulting in changing the racial politics in these departments.

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At Brazil’s top university, black militants invade a class and initiate a debate on quotas and racism

Black Brazil Today

Militants interrupt class at USP to initiate a debate on racism and affirmative action Militants interrupt class at USP to initiate a debate on racism and affirmative action

Note from BW of Brazil: So the debate rages on! Nowadays it’s impossible to get an understanding of how people see race, class and privilege without tackling the issue of affirmative actions quotas for non-whites in Brazil. Initiated in the first few years of this century, the debate has brought to the forefront how divided Brazilians are when it comes to addressing centuries of oppression and exclusion of the black population from so many areas of Brazilian society. As any honest person could tell you, it is virtually impossible to climb the ladder of social status without a college education on one’s resume. And as numerous studies over the past decade have pointed out, those who most likely attain the education are overwhelmingly Brazilians who identify themselves as brancos, or white people. 

Signs demonstrate how the issue of quotas has divided the country. in the past decade -  Top sign: "Against racist quotas" Bottom sign: "USP will get blacker! Quotas now!" Signs demonstrate how…

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Four Commandments to Ensure UCT’s #RhodesMustFall Doesn’t Fall Flat


Dear Students

I am writing this as a former UCT student, having done my undergrad and postgrad at the institution.  I’m also writing it as a journalist who has been covering the story since the poo-throwing incident a few weeks ago.  As someone who supports this campaign, I must applaud you for the lengths you are going to in ensuring that management takes the #RhodesMustFall movement seriously.  However, as I’ve watched from the side-lines in recent days, there are a few things I’d like to caution you of, as I believe they threaten to derail what could otherwise be one of the most significant student-led transformation endevours on this side of the democracy divide.  Here are four commandments that will ensure that the #RhodesMustFall movement has maximum impact.

UCT Students Protesting at the Cecil John Rhodes Statue UCT Students Protesting at the Cecil John Rhodes Statue

Commandment 1:  Thou shall not allow politicians to hijack your campaign


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