Friday, July 24, 2009

new great way to waste time online

If you're a girl, maybe you've Googled things like "how to look good,""how to meet nice guys," and "am I pregnant?" Or you've checked out Cosmo's articles on what men REALLY want, etc. But have you ever considered looking from the inside out? Say, by way of Googling, "how to meet women." It's a great way to get some insight into (or a great laugh out of) how men are told to think of women, not to mention themselves. This is how I spent the last hour or so of my day.

The first results page presents:

Meet new women -
whose probably best-intentioned advice is "plan how you're going to physically and emotionally respond to a woman who ISN'T interested in talking to you" (Tip #8), but later offers more guidance on this point in Tip #2: If she says "No, I don’t have e-mail," you say, "Well, do you have ELECTRICITY? OK, you can give me your number then, but it's so hard to reach people these days." And if she objects to giving you her number, no worries… just tease her with "You're going to be OK, just write it down. It's only an e-mail address (or phone number), silly."

The best part about this one, and any other similarly done, is that it's written by a man, although you could argue that shallower articles written by women on the same topic can be just as interesting....

WikiHow after giving steps on how to plan and execute "the hunt," recommends getting a dog or borrowing a cute younger family member to provoke conversations.

Honestly and interestingly, Yahoo Personals has an article that offered the best advice I came across. The goal is still narrow in relation to the broad-minded strategy they recommend, but the advice is commendable compared to the one-dimensional, single-encounter tips given on other sites.

Also, check out the Friendly Atheist on meeting atheist women, and The Park Bench on nerdy women. I leave it to you to get creative on Googling how men are told to think about other subcultures.

So I can't make this as interesting as your own reading would be, but if you have an afternoon to burn on a Cosmo article on how men really think, you might consider this as an alternative.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So what is anthropology?

- chemist I met at the bar last night. Followed up by "So.. what's the application of that?"

At the Society for Applied Anthropology Conference last March, I was happy to meet a few grad and senior undergrads like myself questioning the entire idea of anthropology. One girl had done an undergrad project in West Africa, had the time of her life, but began wondering about the cultural distances that will always separate her from the people she studied, and that if this alienation would be mutual between the "anthropologist" and the "subject," then what gives us the right to be the ones to speak for them? Another girl was researching tattooing trends in her hometown, for what seemed to be quite that reason. Why go talk about someone else's culture when there is so much to learn about your own? And finally, the most memorable, the guy who, for his conference talk, read aloud a semi-fictional story he wrote which condemned anthropologists as a class of people who profit from the stories of the less fortunate.

When I asked him what he wanted to do for his graduate work, he said probably auto-ethnography, which made perfect sense when he said that he was half (or fully? I can't remember) Latino, like myself. Anthropology has historically demanded that you isolate yourself from your subjects in order to get the most "objective" observations. This illusion might have been easier to maintain when practices and expressions of every day life were radically different between the observer's personal history and the observed's, but it's almost impossible when these alternative practices and expressions are already familiar to the anthropologist through heritage or other personal history.* Now that anthropology has become accessible to that historical "other," and global exchanges and modern communications have led more people to think more reflexively about "cultures," the historical "self/other" dynamic consciously dissolves. It is almost impossible to ignore the fact that the context of the observer is just as complex, fluid and transient as the observed, and auto-ethnography is one way for the anthropologist to reconcile with this realization.

For a while anthropologists could get away with just talking to other anthropologists, consumers of "exotic" cultures, some lofty grant societies and government officials. They could get away with only being one-way translators, but that is sure to change with new media and more "halfies" joining the study. The discipline itself has resisted bursting wide open, I think partly for fears of complete obliteration at worst and the identity crisis that would ensue at best, but more perhaps because the anthro's livelihood typically depends on writing to other anthros more than service, communication, and activism in the communities in which they live and/or study. To me, the only thing that will save it from the circus it would (or has) become is to do just so. Burst wide open.

It's time to start sharing. It's time to stop claiming "multilingual" and "progressive" and "culturally literate" if we can't bring it outside the intellectual class, who tend to be privileged if we have the kind of time to write and publish about the problems of the economically peripheral (though demographically dominant) world. Isn't it ironic that we claim to be so good, we can get in with some other exotic culture on the other side of the world, but we don't know how engage with those in our hometown communities? Back to Anthro 101, everyone. Get on the radio, on the TV, in the magazines, in the libraries and high schools. Talk about the villainization of the Arabs and Muslims in the media, talk about the medicalization of illness, talk about what it takes for someone to leave their home country for any reason. Treat patients, teach literacy, and get on environmental justice projects. We're not talking rocket science, or physics or cosmology, even though Einstein, Sagan, and Hawking all did it.

Although SfAA members are a biased sample, it was encouraging to find people sharing these sentiments at the Conference, who I believe are part of a growing trend. Aside from talk of auto-ethnography, studying up or studying home, doing something different altogether, and most appealing to me, collaborative research, we need to turn ethnography inward, I mean, really inward, not to our own society, but our own culture of anthropology. Is there a way to resist the publish or perish standard? Can we switch out doing a paper or two on, say, a review of Amazonian hunting practices for presenting a lecture at a town library? Can we find stipends for work at immigrant service centers, or teaching cultural literacy at a local high school? Can we propose a collaborative master's, or even doctoral, project?

Will we ever stop finding ourselves in family gatherings, parties, and bars trying to explain what it is that we do?

* Lila Abu-Lughod, an Egyptian anthropologist who studied Bedouin tribes in her native country, termed such people "halfies."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back home, you cannot even walk on the same side of the street as your teacher...

... if he is coming in your direction. You have to cross the street to go around him. You must have the highest respect for the one who is giving you an education.
-B, in response to my contemplations of teaching high school

Tomorrow will be Class #5, of Week 3 in our Literacy class. I'll be finishing up with long vowel sounds and basic phonics. I could spend longer on phonics, as they spent several months or years on it when I was a kid. My students may feel like I have breezed over things, nerve-racked by all the words I give them as examples of say, long "a" or "ou," thinking that they have to memorize them. But the run-through was intentional, because we don't have all the time that kids have to learn. Henceforth I will be putting a lot of faith in word recognition through reading, and practice through writing.

Provided that their faith in me is still strong, the majority of students are ready to go forward. Only two of them are behind enough to warrant a more drawn out review of phonics. And even then I am tempted to rush them, because we only have 8 weeks of class left, and I feel like I have to get them at least somewhat functionally literate. I could try word recognition alone, like I did with Gui, which works for a little while with more impatient students, but not for very long without having to go back to phonics. This is why I got it out of the way to start, so that now the only way to go now is "Read." Read every day. Consume words like a fish drinks water. It's how I did it, which is pretty much the only thing I go by. Our training was as good as it could be for teachers that are not getting paid to do it, which is to say, many things are pretty open-ended, but I am all right with that because it gives me freer rein of my class.

I may be getting ahead of myself, but I am pretty convinced that teaching someone to read has more to do with patience, creativity, and some reflexive intelligence than with being trained in certain methods. I don't think it gets much more complicated than phonics and word-recognition approaches, and having the tact to know how and when to use them. What I'm getting at is that I want a TESOL job without sinking another $10,000 for an MA.

Or maybe I will just move to West Africa....