Why 'The Rockstar Anthropologist' (2012)
“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. Well, anthropology is all around me, and so the feeling grows…”
This compendium of anthropological brilliance was given life from a comment I made during a meeting of the minds regarding the future of anthropological scholarship. Was that first sentence wordy enough for ya’? Well, that’s what it felt like in that ‘meeting of anthropological minds’ that I mentioned.
I sat around listening to this group of pretentious, verbose, smug graduate students trying to out ‘graduate student’ each other and soon I tuned out. I found myself staring at their skulls and imagining talking lab specimens, identifying bone pathology, practicing my human skeletal anatomy and what not. Then, just as I was identifying one lady’s very interesting dip in her parietal, someone shouted out, ‘I hear ya talkin’, but you’re not saying anything!”
This meeting had just got real. The astute young man had pointed out that our conversation had gone around in circles, week after week. We were discussing the research of others (not even doing that well), and we never discussed our own work or even tried to develop as anthropologist because we spent too much time name dropping, showing off our reading comprehension skills, and making anthropology seem boring, when it is arguably one of the most fascinating disciplines to exist during one of the most exciting and scary times in modern human history!!
He was looking for the Now! moment in anthropology. And that’s when I realized that I was, too. This led to a conversation about the ‘social’ aspects of anthropology and how we felt the disciplined had long been undervalued. Long story short, I mentioned that we understood the social and cultural value of anthropological training, but we needed to remember to find that value and its importance in our every day lives. I felt that anthropology needed a swanky new marketing and branding campaign to help put the ‘social’ back into ‘social science’. Scientists, in general, are often publicly undervalued. Every day people dole out millions of billions to have people sing songs about booties and ‘drank’, but here we sit obtaining, researching and analyzing information that may literally save the world, and we are searching the couch cushions to buy ramen noodles and praying for 5 people to read our scholarly articles! We are perceived as boring because we use big words to talk about every day ideas. That’s just how it is in the world of academia. But if there was any group of people with the knowledge and means to change that view of academia from ‘boring and dry’ to ‘vital and awesome’, it would be us anthropologists! “We needed to become rockstars!”
And, thus, The Rockstar Anthropologist was born! This is not an attempt to dumb down the scholarly work that is occurring in the trenches of anthropology. This is about making sure that work is seen, discussed, and understood with the same passion and vigor as a tight verse on a Jay-Z track. This is about seeing the culture and cultural production that is occurring around us every day. This is about understanding the holistic and necessary nature of seeing the whole picture, instead of the self- serving one. Within, the field of anthropology, we spend so much time studying ordinary people and ordinary things with extraordinary outcomes, and then make our work hard to read and out of reach to help us get that grant money, so that we can keep the cycle going. I’m in no way proposing that we quit doing that. I’m just saying, every now and then, let’s come down off our high horses, and throw the folk a bone!
This blog is meant to be an informal, conversational, safe space to discuss all aspects of anthropology. I may even take a post to define and explain a single term or phrase, ‘cuz I’m zany like that! Share your thoughts, articles, define a term you enjoy, connect, but no matter what, engage!
*This message has been brought to you by the letter C’ for ‘culture. Like germs, it’s everywhere!
Love the premise and look forward to reading more.
Thanks so much! I appreciate the feedback and follow!