During my exploration of anthropology in the Directory of Open Access Journals, I came across the Journal of Extreme Anthropology. Just the title entices, but the contents are quite interesting as well.
The journal is run by the Extreme Anthropology Research Network, a group centered in Scandinavia, but with members from all over, that explores the “notion of the ‘extreme’ within contemporary cultural, political and economic environments.”
Its recent special issue on “Security and Morality: Critical Anthropological Perspectives” consists of 11 interesting articles, but one, “Why do we need your research?: The Ethics of Studying Security and the Deilemmas of the Anthropologist-Expert” by Tessa Diphoorn and Erella Grassiani, caught my eye. The authors discuss the double-binds that they face as anthropologists doing research on Israeli and South African policing and private security.
The article focuses on the ethical and methodological challenges of studying “security”—something that is taken for granted as a public good. After all, as the authors point out, who would want to argue for the value of “insecurity”? Diphoorn and Grassiani talk about the misunderstanding they face from funders and other researchers about the nature of their work, the expectations that their informants have of them and which are problematic to meet, and the methodological choices they have to make in order to gain access to situations where some level of suspicion is the norm.
In the process, they ask anthropologists to complicate how we think about “engaged” and “public” anthropology. Diphoorn and Grassiani show that anthropologists face an array of difficult methodological and ethical judgements in dealing with those who are often seen as perpetrating violence for the benefit of the “public.”
The Directory of Open Access Journals makes it fairly easy to find articles on many subjects published in smaller journals around the world. My guess is that many of these papers go quite overlooked in North America-centric anthropology, and so I spent a little time digging through articles that had been published this past year in anthropology to see if anything caught my interest. A few did. I’m going to post short blurbs on each of them; they might catch your interest too.
“The Ritual Aspects of Ukrainian Beekeeping.” in EtnoAntropologia, a journal of the Società Italiana de Antropologia Culturale. Written by Uliana Movna of the Ethnology Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Why I clicked: Bees. I had no idea that bees, their honey, and wax had such cultural importance in the Ukraine.
Excerpt: “As universal ritual symbols, the main products of the life of bees are honey and wax, which, over a long historical period, have “grown into” calendar and family rituals of Ukrainians. During the research, it was revealed the main ritual purpose of honey as a mediator between the bee and man, with other world and souls of the ancestors, the conductor and the amplifier of the processes of transition at the moment of passing by the human the corresponding stages of age and social hierarchy.”
Back in March, I wrote a short piece analyzing the COVID-driven toilet paper hoarding phenomenon from an anthropological perspective.
Since then, it’s become my most visited post, and it has resulted in some spin-offs.
Most recently, Gustavo Santaolalla has posted a Spanish translation of the post here.
Before that, Dorjpagma Batsaikhan wrote a Mongolian version.
Way back in April, the Voice of America’s Mandarin language service interviewed me for a segment on toilet paper hoarding, which is on Youtube.
And last, but not least, Henry Alford interviewed me for a story that ended up in the New Yorker.
In the past few months, it hasn’t been this post that gets the most traffic however. My brief tutorial on how to use a virtual avatar in Zoom is the daily number one.
A lot of interesting things coming from GPT-3. Arram Sabeti (via waxy.org) asked GPT-3 to write about human intelligence. The whole piece is worth a read.
First, consider humans’ history. It is a story of repeated failures. First humans thought the Earth was flat. Then they thought the Sun went around the Earth. Then they thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then they thought the universe was static and unchanging. Then they thought the universe was infinite and expanding. Humans were wrong about alchemy, phrenology, bloodletting, creationism, astrology, numerology, and homeopathy. They were also wrong about the best way to harvest crops, the best way to govern, the best way to punish criminals, and the best way to cure the sick.
Liam Porr (via waxy.org):
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been promoting a blog written by GPT-3.
I would write the title and introduction, add a photo, and let GPT-3 do the rest. The blog has had over 26 thousand visitors, and we now have about 60 loyal subscribers…
And only ONE PERSON has noticed it was written by GPT-3.
People talk about how GPT-3 often writes incoherently and irrationally. But, that doesn’t keep people from reading it… and liking it.
I wrote this last year predicting that GPT-2 would be used to write fake course papers. By all accounts, GPT-3 would do even better, and it’s sure to be public soon.