1-20 of 24 Results  for:

  • Applied Anthropology x
  • Sociocultural Anthropology x
Clear all

Article

Anthropology and Informatics in Health Care  

Laurie Novak and Joyce Harris

Information technology increasingly figures into the activities of health-care workers, patients, and their informal caregivers. The growing intersection of anthropology and health informatics is reviewed, a field dedicated to the science of using data, information, and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health-care services. Health informatics as a discipline wrestles with complex issues of information collection, classification, and presentation to patients and working clinical personnel. Anthropologists are well-suited as collaborators in this work. Topics of collaborative work include the construction of health and illness, patient-focused research, the organization and delivery of health-care services, the design and implementation of electronic health records, and ethics, power, and surveillance. The application of technology to social roles, practices, and power relations that is inherent in health informatics provides a rich source of empirical data to advance anthropological theory and methods.

Article

Anthropology of Peace and Justice Studies  

Eric Montgomery and Elizabeth Drexler

The early 21st century has seen the largest protests for social justice in the history of the U.S., including the Women’s Marches of 2016–2020 as well as the Movement for Black Lives. Meanwhile, the Farmers’ Protest in India constitutes the largest and most expensive protest in the history of the world. Cases of state and political violence and genocide around the world have been addressed in transitional justice processes and peace agreements or commemorated in various forms. And yet, even as individuals and groups mobilize for peace and justice, violence and oppression continue to proliferate around the world. What we identify as the anthropology of peace and justice encompasses the empirical analysis, theoretical engagement, and practical advocacy of anthropologists across the subfields. These anthropologists work to identify, conceptualize, and study individual and collective engagement with violence, oppression, injustice, and efforts to make change, seek justice, and establish sustainable peace. Anthropological theory and methods are well suited to capture emergent, ongoing, and innovative struggles for justice that occur in a range of social, cultural, political, and institutional realms drawing on collective cultural and symbolic actions. Today’s anthropologists engage with issues of violence, conflict, inequality, and struggles for justice and equity. We highlight theoretical, methodological, analytic, and ethnographic elements that distinguish anthropological approaches to peace and justice studies from other disciplines that examine this domain. Anthropologists engaging immigrant rights, movements for racial justice, indigenous rights, climate justice, gender equity, the Fight for $15, Occupy Wallstreet, gun violence, and issues of authoritarian rule and neoliberalism (market-oriented principles and government deregulation) in the era of globalization continue to build this vibrant and expanding area of anthropological concern.

Article

Applied Anthropology and Public Health  

Doug Henry and Lisa Henry

This article details the contributions of applied anthropology to public health, focusing on complementary and divergent interests, orientations, and methods. We emphasize areas where productive collaborations have occurred around convergent topics such as infectious and chronic disease, policy, interventions, and analysis of the social, political, and economic contexts that structure the conditions of health. Public health’s emphasis on community and advocacy provides a natural entry point for anthropology’s ethnographic method that emphasizes spending time with a community and understanding aspects of culture and health from its peoples’ perspectives. When a multidisciplinary team meets on a common interest, such as improving public health, everyone’s interests become better served if each discipline’s perspectives and values are recognized. Anthropologists with careers in public health can expect to engage in formative research to help develop the most appropriate health interventions, evaluate community uptake or rejection of public health initiatives, or critically examine the effects of national or global policies on local populations.

Article

Applying Anthropological Insight in an Aging World  

Sherylyn Briller and Erika Carrillo

Aging is a biological and sociocultural experience that occurs globally. Although aging is universal, ideas about aging and the life course vary widely and influence how aging and quality of life are perceived. Aging occurs both individually and collectively. Individuals have their own life stories and experiences shaped by cultural values, norms, and life course expectations. Anthropology’s attention to both scientific and humanistic ways of exploring what it means to be human is well suited to investigating how people live and age over time and in various locations. Like other anthropological subjects, one can explore aging in terms of human evolution as well as biological and cultural variation in aging experiences. Combining these topics to take a holistic perspective forms the subfield of the anthropology of aging. Given the breadth and scope of the anthropology of aging’s subject matter and global population aging, it is easy to see why this subfield is so fascinating to explore and work in as a career field. Numerous prior reviews cover the subfield’s origins and development and are highlighted. Homage is paid to the subfield’s history, and how to apply what has been learned to understanding a rapidly aging and socially changing world is discussed. As many have indicated, significant challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Article

Archaeology in Sudan: A Sudanese Perspective  

Ahmed Adam and Shadia Taha

Sudan is a vast country marked by heterogeneity, dissimilarities, and diversities in its climates, topography, natural features, cultures, and people. Sudan’s multiplicity of cultures and communities is steeped in history and heritage as remarkable as anywhere else in the ancient world and the rest of Africa. Despite this, Africa’s heritage has been overlooked for centuries as a result of prejudice and stereotyping. The 19th and 20th centuries were characterized by supposition and fixation on an external origin of African civilizations, a focus that was based on European ethnocentrism and a sense of racial superiority. In common with the rest of Africa, archaeology was founded during the colonial period and, to a large extent, remained unchanged, retaining past management and interpretative approaches and influencing current practices and planning policies. Sudan’s rich and outstanding heritage, the home of the first great civilizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, was frequently overlooked. When discussing the civilizations of the Nile Valley, many historians and archaeologists focus entirely on the role of Egypt. Ancient civilizations in Sudan were constantly interpreted as the work of colonizers and were believed to be less advanced than Egyptian civilizations. The building of the Aswan High Dam threatened the lives of Nubians and their heritage. It necessitated the forced displacement of Nubian and Bushareen nomadic tribes from their homelands and submerged considerable heritage. Nonetheless, this was the first time an organized survey was undertaken in Sudanese Nubia. The rescue campaign provided archaeological evidence and replaced ethnic prehistory with new theories. Archaeology in Sudan underwent a dreadful experience throughout the thirty years it was under the governance of the ousted dictatorial regime. The government in power in 1989–2019, an autocratic rule with a different political ideology, took control over Sudan’s heritage. Along with an oil boom, fast modernization, urbanization, and unrest in the country, all these factors had a tremendous impact on archaeology and heritage and on the operation of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). Moreover, the military forces, which used archaeological sites as military bases, took control over and demolished significant heritage and disconnected local communities from their heritage. From the 1980s, the number of native archaeologists and departments of archaeology increased. This period witnessed an expansion in research projects, themes, topics, periods, methods, and regions explored by Sudanese and foreign teams. There is a move away from focusing on single sites to understanding and exploring past environments and landscapes using new scientific methods of investigation. There are multiple challenges ahead, including climate change (flooding, destratification, shifting sands), globalization, mega-developments, lack of sufficient funding and resources, and, most recently, Covid-19. These are complex issues to deal with, especially for poor counties. Development and unrest in Sudan continue to force communities to move from their homelands and threaten the loss of traditional knowledge, diversity of culture, and connectedness with the land.

Article

Business Anthropology  

Ann T. Jordan

Business anthropology is a fast-evolving field. Social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology each have a unique set of constructs and theories for studying human behavior and each brings special insights to understanding business. Anthropologists are skilled in observing and learning from the rich interaction of social beings in their environment. With methods based in techniques for first-hand observation and interviewing of participants, and with theoretical knowledge gleaned from studying human societies across the world, anthropologists are the social scientists uniquely situated by training to analyze the social milieu and group-patterned interaction in any human setting. Simply, business anthropology is the use of anthropological constructs, theory, and methods to study its three subfields: organizations, marketing and consumer behavior, and design. Organizational anthropology is the study of complex organizations from an anthropological perspective to solve organizational problems or better understand the nature and functioning of the organizational form within and across organizations. In marketing and consumer behavior anthropology’s methods allow one to get close to consumers and understand their needs, while anthropology’s theoretical perspectives allow one to understand how human consumption plays out on the world stage. In the design field anthropologists use their methods to observe and learn from the detailed interaction of social beings in the designed environments in which we all live. They use their theoretical perspectives to develop a holistic analysis of the rich data to develop new products and evaluate and improve existing ones whether they be refrigerators or office buildings. The field of business anthropology is difficult to define because the moniker “business anthropology” is a misnomer. This field, as most anthropologists practice it, is not limited to work in for-profit businesses. Business anthropologists work with for-profit organizations, but also non-profit ones, government organizations and with supranational regulatory bodies. In addition to working for a business, an organizational anthropologist might be working in a non-profit hospital to improve patient safety, a design anthropologist might be working for an NGO to develop a less fuel-intensive cooking system for refugee camps and an anthropologist in marketing might be working in a government agency to develop ways to advertise new vaccines.

Article

Collaboration  

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix

Collaborative and transdisciplinary research are ambitious and influential streams of thought in current anthropology. Collaboration represents a family of ideas often described as “transdisciplinary” in other disciplines. Proponents argue that collaborative models explicitly create greater recognition of research relationships and produce a more socially engaged research process. This research philosophy claims to produce more just, theoretically innovative, and robust research outcomes. Advocates highlight both the value and the difficulty of reformulating research relationships in this way, specifying conditions such as the need for heightened personal and programmatic reflexivity in the process. Debates over the essence of collaborative practice intersect with key theoretical questions around the (co)production of knowledge and power, including issues of representation, reflexivity, engaged and public anthropology, the nature of fieldwork, and tensions around the institutional logics of evaluating research excellence and usefulness. The collaborative ethos bears many similarities with earlier and related fields such as action anthropology and decolonizing agendas. The current popularity of the term should be viewed critically in the context of wider scientific and societal logics. The institutional homes of collaboration can be found in countries subscribing to democratic and human rights ideals, and those experiencing a strong push for Indigenous rights. Because of potential risks in self-consciously declaring collaboration, such research is relatively rare in authoritarian settings, though often practiced with a lower profile. Uncertainty also in predefining research outcomes is discussed as essential, producing both unexpected findings as well as potential failures. General patterns of reciprocity and degrees of power-sharing are differentiated along three axes. The more politically radical the outlook of the researcher, the less control over the project the researcher tends to exert. Second, the more socially similar researcher and counterpart are to one another, the higher the degree of power-sharing and reciprocity. Third, the more heterogeneous the kinds of people the project draws together, the more negotiation and potential friction it entails. The very popularity of the collaborative principle holds some risks, such as potentially leading to abusing collaboration as a source of “cheap” research labor. Further, often the unfamiliarity of funding reviewers with the principles of open-ended research design and value of alternative research products from standard academic publishing patterns can pose difficulties in realizing research. In addition, the often longer timeline of reaping the potentially huge benefits of collaboration also poses risks, especially for precariously employed researchers. In sum, the demanding discussion and practice of collaboration quickly takes on core disciplinary questions and uncertainties: what is good anthropology, who is it for, and how do you get there?

Article

Community-Based Participatory Research  

Michael Duke

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) refers to a methodological and epistemological approach to applied community projects in which researchers and community members collaborate as equals in the research process. Also known as participatory action research (PAR), CBPR has gained considerable acceptance both as a set of methods for identifying and addressing local issues of concern and as a vehicle for applying the principles of equity, cultural humility, mutual learning, and social justice to the relationships between researchers and communities. Although somewhat distinct from applied anthropology, CBPR shares with ethnography in particular an attentiveness to rapport building and community engagement and an overall validation of local knowledge. There is little consensus regarding the threshold of community participation necessary for a given research project to be considered CBPR. However, at a minimum the approach requires that community members define the problems to be assessed, provide consultation on the cultural and social dimensions of the study population, and serve in an advisory capacity over the entire project. The history of CBPR and its antecedents reflects its twin values as a pragmatic approach to researching and addressing local problems and as an emancipatory social justice project that seeks to diminish the hierarchical relationship between researchers and community members. Specifically, the pragmatic perspective was developed in the United States by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s (and subsequently by the anthropologists Laura Thompson and Sol Tax), while the emancipatory approach derives from the work of educational theorist Paulo Freire in Brazil in the 1970s. Community Advisory Boards (CABs) play an outsized role in the success of CBPR projects, since they typically represent the community in these studies, and thus maintain oversight over all aspects of the research process, including the study design, sampling and recruitment protocols, and the dissemination of findings. Accordingly, nurturing and maintaining trust between researchers, the CAB, and the community constitutes a foundational practice for any CBPR study.

Article

Design Anthropology  

Christine Miller

Design anthropology and the factors that converged to facilitate its emergence are examined. Design anthropology has been alternately described as a “fast-developing academic field” and “distinct style of knowing” (Otto and Smith), “an emerging transdisciplinary field” (Miller), and “as a distinct subfield of interdisciplinary research” (Clark). These descriptions have in common an agreement that design anthropology is a distinct form of knowledge production that integrates design and anthropological practice and theory that is supported by a growing network of proponents, both academic and practitioner. Design anthropology’s origins have been traced to several factors: the emergence of the participatory design movement in Scandinavia toward the end of the 1990s, the introduction of ethnography in design in the late 1970s, and the earlier influence of the work of designer and educator Victor Papanek in the early 1960s. In the United States, it is often categorized as a subdiscipline of business anthropology. Within Europe and Scandinavia, it is accepted as a field in its own right with a “distinct style and practice of knowledge production.” In spite of these differences and amidst the creative tension resulting from the convergence of anthropological and design methods, concepts, theory, and practice, design anthropology has emerged as a new form of naturalistic inquiry that is based on rigorous empirical research and critical inquiry, a transdisciplinary field that is intentionally interventionist, participatory, and transformative. Design anthropology reflects shifting attitudes and changing modes of engagement in its parent fields. Within anthropology, the concept of an interventionist, transformative, and future-oriented practice runs counter to deeply embedded attitudes around passive observation research and ethics. Likewise, in design where craft, “doing,” and “making” have dominated, there is a renewed surge of interest in more scholarly-based design research, emphasizing empirical research and a designerly version of theoretical reflection. Theory in design has traditionally been related to various aspects of form. Design theory is also “made through” design. Johan Redström refers to this form of theory as “transitional theory,” “a kind of design theory that is inherently unstable, fluid, and dynamic in nature.” This conceptualization of theory is similar to the grounded theory approach in the social sciences in which theory emerges from original data and is developed from the ground up. Beginning with a summary of the conditions and forces that engendered the emergence of design anthropology, the field is described as evolving in ways that are provoking change in traditional forms of design and anthropology. Beyond the influence on its parent disciplines, design anthropology represents an evolving trajectory of emerging fields that open to the possibility of imagining, designing, and co-creating sustainable futures based on social justice and virtuous cycles of growth.

Article

Development and Anthropology  

Riall W. Nolan

International development is one of humanity’s most important global undertakings, but it is also a “wicked problem” characterized by uncertain and shifting priorities, disagreements, and unexpected outcomes. Created during and in the aftermath of World War II, the development industry of the early 21st century is large, complex, and highly influential. It is also relatively opaque to outsiders and largely independent of normal means of democratic control. Anthropology has been involved in development from colonial times, but particularly so since the 1950s, and anthropologist practitioners have made several important contributions to development planning and implementation. The discipline’s influence overall, however, has been overshadowed to a large degree by other disciplines, such as economics, which still remains dominant in the industry. Anthropological influence has waxed and waned over the years, both as a response to development policies and priorities, and as a response to changes within the discipline itself. Anthropological analyses of development, as well as detailed development ethnographies, have helped people inside and outside the industry understand why and how development efforts succeed and fail, and indeed, how to define success and failure in the first place. At the same time, anthropologists have enhanced our appreciation of the role of language, power, and agency in the development process. In the future, anthropology is likely to become more important and influential in development work, given the growth of disciplinary trends favoring practice and application and renewed focus within the development industry on poverty eradication.

Article

Epigenetics and Applied Anthropology  

Charles H. Klein

Since Francis Crick and James D. Watson’s discovery of DNA in 1953, researchers, policymakers, and the general public have sought to understand the ways in which genetics shapes human lives. A milestone in these efforts was the completion of the Human Genome Project’s (HGP) sequencing of Homo sapiens’ nearly three million base pairs in 2003. Yet, despite the excitement surrounding the HGP and the discovery of the structural genetic underpinnings of several debilitating diseases, the vast majority of human health outcomes have not been linked to a single gene. Moreover, even when genes have been associated with particular diseases (e.g., breast and colon cancer), it is not well understood why certain genetically predisposed individuals become ill and others do not. Nor has the HGP’s map provided sufficient information to understand the actual functioning of the human genetic code, including the role of noncoding DNA (“junk DNA”) in regulating molecular genetic processes. In response, a growing number of scientists have shifted their attention from structural genetics to epigenetics, the study of how genes express themselves in particular situations and environments. Anthropologists play roles in these applications of epigenetics to real-world settings. Their new theoretical frameworks unsettle the nature-versus-nurture binary and support biocultural anthropological research demonstrating how race becomes biology and embodies social inequalities and health disparities across generations. Ethnographically grounded case studies further highlight the diverse epigenetic logics held by healthcare providers, researchers, and patient communities and how these translations of scientific knowledge shape medical practice and basic research. The growing field of environmental epigenetics also offers a wide range of options for students and practitioners interested in applying the anthropological toolkit in epigenetics-related work.

Article

Framing Migration  

Judith Freidenberg

The physical movement of a human being from his or her place of birth to another locality, a process that occurs over time as well as space, is usually known as migration. Together with fertility and mortality, migration helps track population changes. Migration also helps capture the political mood of a country, as migrants are perceived as either as threats or welcome additions. Anthropologists tend to think about migration from the perspective of two paradigms: immigration and mobility. For the immigration paradigm, human movement is an exceptional occurrence; for the mobility paradigm, human movement is innate to the human condition and therefore constant. Neither paradigm considers the migration experience as an interactive process that engages movers and nonmovers alike, which is the focus of a proposed third paradigm. The domains of research, practice, and policy reflect these framing paradigms, alone or in combination. By working on the interstices between these domains, anthropology could contribute to a transdisciplinary field of migration studies.

Article

Global Human Rights  

Peter W. Van Arsdale

Global human rights, writ large, impact the entire human condition. They span cultural, social, economic, ecological, political, and civic realms. They pertain to how people are treated, protected, and respected. They are interrelated, interdependent, and of importance to all people, yet in actuality—as they play out—do not apply equally to all people. They have not been formulated by representatives of all societies, have not been accepted by members of all nation-states, and have not—in any sense of an entirety or set—been formally approved by many important transnational rights-oriented organizations. However, as commonalities are considered in the way rights emerge and evolve, there are many. Certain principles are foundational. The processes are as essential as the products. The aspirations are as important as the achievements. The subject of human rights can be addressed from many angles. Some authorities suggest that philosophy provides the overarching umbrella, dating from the era of John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704). From one perspective of history, which features emergent religious interpretations, duties and obligations that are situated in various diverse cultural traditions are central. From another perspective of history, which features seminal events such as wars and genocides, the actions and reactions of various actors—from victims to warriors—become central. From the perspective of law, covenants and protocols designed to advise, protect, and aid prosecution emerge prominently. From the perspective of political science, the ways in which citizens engage the political process as rights and wrongs are debated is key. Other disciplines, from psychology to theology to journalism, also contribute significantly. By way of contrast, cultural or social anthropology takes an ethnographic perspective. The cultural context is specified, with case-specific narratives often featured. Documentation of encounters (one-to-one, group-to-group, institution-to-institution) is crucial. Past, present, and potential future issues are addressed. The actions of victims, survivors, and perpetrators, as well as service providers, advocates, and everyday citizens, stand out. Field research, both theoretical and applied, is part and parcel of what anthropologists do. There is no single “theory of human rights.” However, there are a number of prominent paradigms, theories, and models that inform anthropological work in human rights. Of note are statist, cosmopolitan, and internationalist models, with the cosmopolitan of particular interest to anthropologists given its emphasis on individuals rather than states. Viewed differently, from the perspective of power and its abuses, the theory of structural violence is very useful. Case studies of perpetrators of abuse are usually more difficult to develop than those for victims, yet are particularly illustrative of power differentials. Ultimately, improvements in the ways in which abuses are dealt with and the ways in which the human rights regime (i.e., the systematized body of discourse, norms, resources, and protocols) ultimately can change for the better for everyday citizens, are tied to processes of socialization, internalization, and obligation. Rights are not static, but rather, very dynamic.

Article

Heritage Management in West Africa  

Caleb Folorunso

The definition of heritage in West Africa must adopt a wider perspective of incorporating tangible and intangible heritage as recognized and defined by UNESCO. Generally, the West African region does not feature monumental heritage as in Europe and the Americas. The few monumental heritage properties belong to the historic period and are located in the Sahel zone (Mali in particular), while the coastal regions possess monumental heritage properties that were essentially relics of the period of European contact and colonialism (Benin Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal). Heritage resources in West Africa are therefore essentially discrete and nondiscrete prehistoric and historic archaeological sites which include rock shelters, relics of ancient settlements, mounds, earthworks, industrial relics such as furnaces and surface finds, isolated historic buildings and spaces, and tangible (traditional architecture and artifacts) and intangible (language, poetry, songs, dances, festivals, beliefs, and value systems) ethnographic resources. Some studies in the 2010s have included heritage resources of all archival materials such as recorded audiovisuals of events and entertainments of the colonial and early postcolonial periods. Heritage management in the West African region has been problematic due to various factors that could be both historical and attitudinal, which include colonialism, intrusion of foreign religions and ideologies, economic and social conditions, insufficient and noneffective legal and policy frameworks for protection and conservation of heritage resources, and a general lack of awareness and interest in matters of heritage by the populace. In spite of these factors, some efforts have been made toward managing heritage in ways that can be interrogated. Government efforts at promoting heritage are more evident in the areas of cultural festivals, dance, and music with the establishment of cultural troupes at various political and administrative levels, thus creating the impression that heritage is limited to intangible cultural resources. Museums are few and far in between, priceless artifacts are still looted and illegally exported to foreign museums to join those looted during the colonial era, and facilities are limited and not standard, while the staff is poorly trained and unmotivated. In the face of expanding infrastructural developments and urbanization, the most appropriate management strategy and practice would be conservation through recording archaeological sites and historic properties.

Article

Language Ideologies  

Catherine R. Rhodes

Language ideologies are a mediating device that helps people make sense of the relationship between linguistic and other communicative patterns and socially salient categories. Language ideologies are used to evaluate socially perceivable behavior as meaningful with respect to issues of power, authority, and difference. They can be understood as a framework for linking certain uses of language (or other communicative forms) with certain social positionalities. The study of language ideologies involves examining the social work language users do through their behaviors, activities, and social relations. As a concept grounded in indexical processes, analyzing the social work of language ideologies requires a semiotic framework that can make clear how people evaluate context, which can also evidence their understanding of social distribution. This article defines key terms in language ideologies research, provides a brief history of the development of the concept, discusses methodological considerations when studying language ideologies, explores scholarship on the making of social difference through linguistic ideological work, and discusses key areas of research interest.

Article

Literacy  

Laura Sterponi and Jenny Zhang

Literacy has been in the purview of anthropological inquiry since the late 19th century. In fact, while linguistics repudiated written language as derivative and secondary (Saussure), it has been anthropology that has chiefly contributed to the establishment of literacy as a domain worthy of investigation. Whether through historical analysis or ethnographic methods, anthropologists have consistently attempted to elucidate literacy’s effects on human cognition and societal organization. Early formulations conceptualized literacy as a technology and connected the acquisition of writing to a significant enhancement of cognitive capacities at the level of the individual and to the inception of democracy at a societal level. This view was subsequently criticized and, in the 1980s, replaced with a socioculturally situated perspective which theorized literacy as a cultural practice expressed in manifold cultural activities and at the same time shaped by political, economic, and ideological conditions. Attempting to overcome both technological determinism and cultural relativism, theoretical formulations of the last few decades have advanced a techno-cultural articulation and an expansion toward multimodality. As theories of literacy have come to affirm plurality, complicating linear trajectories and teleological narratives underpinning alphabetic ascendancy, literacy education has turned into a more complex and controversial focus of inquiry. On the one hand, literacy researchers have taken to examining a wide range of contexts beyond schools, thus displacing schooled literacy from center stage. On the other hand, they have acknowledged that schooled literacy continues to have a very powerful function in society. Scholarship at the intersections of literacy and disability and of literacy and race illuminates the functioning of schooled literacy as a mechanism for the maintenance and reproduction of a social order predicated on racial hierarchies and ableism. The methodological toolkit of cultural and linguistic anthropologists equips them well to achieve rich documentation of literacy practices on the ground and to shed light on the political and economic forces that shape textual activities locally and globally. In advancing the literacy research program, anthropologists can be instrumental in deepening our understanding of literacy as a transnational phenomenon and as an international enterprise. Building on the important work that has brought to light the ways certain conceptualizations and implementations of literacy align with systems of oppression and inequity, anthropologists are also well positioned to advocate refashioning and repositioning literacy as an instrument and objective of social justice and community empowerment.

Article

Magical Practice  

Timothy de Waal Malefyt

The word “magic” refers to a broad range of beliefs and practices that include animism, charm(s), divination, enchantment, fantasy, fetish, glamour, illusion, miracles, the occult, shamanism, sorcery, spells, the supernatural, superstition, taboos, trickery, and witchcraft. Magic―once thought a core feature of “primitive societies,” abandoned by more rational, bureaucratic and progressive beliefs―is, in fact, thriving in contemporary life, and central to practices of capitalism as well as to everyday behaviors. Magic is practiced in fields of finance, government, law, medicine and health, technology, advertising, marketing, sports, the gaming industry, and theatrical performances, among other institutions. When situations allow for the assemblage of a “magician,” “rite,” and “representation” within these complex social networks and when professional skills, ideas, conditions, contexts, media, and meanings align, magic acts as an agent of change. Magic is also practiced in everyday situations in which people need to feel a sense of control in circumstances where it’s lacking, such as performing well under competitive conditions or during times of crisis with indefinite outcomes. Consequently, they rely on magical thinking—in the forms of superstitions, wishful thinking, and taboo avoidance—which is often accompanied by charms, amulets, or acts of faith to guide them through uncertainty. Conjuring terms such as “fate” and “luck” to ward off illness or improve one’s chances at getting a hit in baseball, are, in fact, ways of expressing ambiguities and dealing with conflicts of temporal existence that all humans face in one form or another. Magic structured in institutions and practiced in everyday situations is a prime example of contradiction in contemporary life. Objective knowledge of facts is increasingly understood as contingent rather than permanent, leaving room for uncertainty, mystery, the unknown, and seemingly nonrational alternatives. Scientific evidence becomes as valid as alternative facts. Documenting recent developments, it is suggested that rationality and magic are not mutually exclusive. Rather, rational behaviors and practices are suffused with magic. Magical beliefs and specific rituals complement practical knowledge so as to enhance knowledge as a way to secure success. All of these ways of thinking and social practices have something at stake, in that risk, uncertainty, and ambiguity of outcome are prevalent, and hence call on magical practices to bring about change.

Article

Matauranga Maori and Environmental Research: The Interface of Māori Knowledge and Anthropology  

Marama Muru-Lanning

In a world where scholarship is constantly evolving and adapting, Mātauranga Māori is emerging in Aotearoa–New Zealand as a unique and legitimate knowledge source. The word Mātauranga is composed of two parts: mātau, which means to know, be acquainted with, or understand, and the suffix ranga, which turns the word from a verb into a noun. Mātauranga Māori is knowledge passed down intergenerationally from Polynesian ancestors, linking kin across time and space. It is knowledge that belongs to Māori from their earliest beginnings in Hawaiki to descendants living contemporary lives in Aotearoa–New Zealand and in other parts of the world. Guiding and informing Māori lives, Mātauranga Māori is a continuum of ancestral knowledge that binds people. Importantly, relationships between whānau (family), marae and hāpori (communities), and hapū (sub-tribes) are melded through shared experiences and practices of Mātauranga. Shaping the Māori world, Mātauranga Māori is comprehensive and includes creation stories, genealogy, history, oratory, the creative arts, environmental and technological knowledge, and local traditions specific to places and communities. Additionally, it contains the meanings and values of other significant Māori concepts such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship), rangatiratanga (leadership), mana (authority), mauri (life force), whanaungatanga (relatedness), tikanga (customs and protocols), and whakapapa (genealogy). Mātauranga Māori has historically been excluded from New Zealand’s mainstream curriculum, but this is changing as its value and potential become recognized by the state. The body of knowledge offers new ways of seeing the world, and many scholars, both Maori and non-Māori, believe it may be used to address some of the critical issues we face as a global society. Along with the desire for Mātauranga to be included in Aotearoa–New Zealand’s mainstream education, a domain previously dominated by Western science, there is a deep concern that Māori knowledge will be appropriated to benefit “others” who do not whakapapa to the original Mātauranga sources. This is an issue that Māori communities and Māori researchers must address going forward.

Article

Mental Illness  

Bianca Brijnath, Samantha Croy, and Josefine Antoniades

The anthropology of mental illness involves the study of human distress in context, which in turn shapes the way in which distress is understood and treated. Anthropology provides theoretical foundations and an ethnographic approach that attends to the lived experience of mental illness as well as capturing the intersections of the cultural, social, political, economic, historical, and ecological in the everyday. Much work in the field has contributed to an appreciation of similarities and differences across societies and cultures, with increasing recognition of the dynamic and fluid nature of understandings and practices associated with mental health in an interconnected world. Analyses of how the dominance of Western psychiatry and pharmaceutical interventions shape understandings and approaches to treatment show that these can be at once lifesaving and limiting; other work highlights the vast resources across human cultures for coping with mental distress. Studies that emphasize the sociostructural as well as the cultural raise questions of whether mental distress should always be pathologized and whether solutions may lie in improvement of the conditions in which people live. Anthropologists’ acquaintance through their fieldwork with the lives of people with mental illness and their families and communities allows them to provide critical insights into the enduring problems in the field as well as possibilities for hope and recovery. The discipline’s theoretical resources provide tools for understanding the sociality of what might otherwise be considered as deeply personal. Necessarily interdisciplinary, the anthropology of mental illness reveals the complexity of mental illness as human experience and underscores how a singular monocultural approach to addressing the challenge of mental illness is insufficient.

Article

People, Plants, Animals, and Formlings in the Rock Art of Zimbabwe  

Ancila Nhamo

In Zimbabwe, the term “rock art” refers mainly to prehistoric engravings and paintings that were executed on the walls of shallow caves, rock shelters, or faces of boulders across the country. Rock paintings were executed using pigments in a variety of colors and textures while engravings were etched into the rock using incisions, polishing, or pecking methods. The paintings dominate the corpus of rock art in the country. They are found within the granitic boulders that cover much of the country while rock engravings are confined to narrow belts in the eastern, southern, and southwestern parts where the sandstone is found. The spatial distribution of rock art in Zimbabwe helps to show that geology was the influential factor in choosing whether to paint or to engrave. In terms of subject matter, the rock art of Zimbabwe is mostly dominated by what is known as hunter-gatherer art, with a few sites having what has been termed “farmer art.” There is a possibility of some of the art having been made by herders but this requires further research and conformation. The hunter-gatherer art is made up of mostly animals and humans. Nevertheless, the occurrence of plants and geometric figures, especially the “formlings,” sets the rock art of Zimbabwe apart from that of other areas in southern Africa. Farmer art has animal and human figures, mostly in white kaolin and usually found superpositioned on top of the hunter-gatherer images. The color and superpositions led the art to be termed the Late Whites. The possibility of herder art has been raised due to the occurrence of depictions such as handprints and finger-painted dots. These images are associated with herders in neighboring countries such as South Africa and Botswana. Research in Zimbabwe has tended to favor the dominant aspects of rock art. As such, rock paintings have been extensively investigated at the expense of engravings. In the same vein, hunter-gatherer research art has been preponderant as compared to the study of farmer and possibly herder art. Nevertheless, it is important to note that although a lot of strides have been made in rock art research, fewer researchers, especially among the indigenous, have had an interest in these aspects of the Zimbabwean past. Rock art is often overshadowed by the archaeology of the farming communities, which has Zimbabwe culture and particularly Great Zimbabwe as its hallmark. However, it is encouraging to note that there has been an upsurge in students working on projects concerning rock art, which foretells good prospects for the uptake of rock art research in the future