Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I just asked for a copy of the paper

I got this:

from Mike Wesch, who I met at AAA. I emailed Mike asking for a copy of the paper he presented at AAA, and I got this video instead. It's pretty much the coolest video ever, so good that I had to blog about it, even though I don't have time to write something more eloquent about it because I've been sick and I need to go to bed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion

I was just informed that the panel on which I was invited to present has been accepted for the Society for Pyschological Anthropology Biennial Meeting. The panel is organized by Jonathan Marion and is titled, "Re-Embodying Identity." Here is the panel abstract:

    Re-Embodying Identity

    Working out of a variety of approaches and models, this panel is geared towards exploring and understanding the interactivity of body and identity. While a number of scholars have started to look to the body as a site of culture, the interconnection of body and identity still remains largely under appreciated. Building off the idea that practice and activity can be valuable sites for anthropological inquiry, this panel focuses on and interrogates the significance of bodily experiences and conceptualizations to understanding the constructions of both personal and collective meanings and identities.

    This panel’s use of the term re-embodiment is not to suggest that people are somehow otherwise not embodied, disembodied, or alienated from their bodies. All physical practices, such as sitting at the computer, are, of course, embodied, as, ultimately, are all thoughts about such activities. Similarly, it would be inaccurate to assume that someone at their computer feels some sense of bodily alienation; i.e. as if somehow their body is not their’s. That people typically take little notice of their bodies (on a day-to-day basis) save when something goes wrong does not mean, however, that bodily experience and perception otherwise cease to be significant in constructions and understandings of personal and collective identities; and it is against this backdrop that this panel engages with re-embodiment, wherein and whereby awareness of and attention to the body can be re-engaged. Borrowing from different traditions across the social sciences, the papers on this panel—dealing with modern body piercing, Brazilian squatting, Polish Evangelicals, competitive ballroom dance, and embodied conflict—each explore some practices and beliefs wherein and whereby personal and collective identities are re-embodied. Rather than answering any questions, this panel is intended as a step in theorizing, conducting research on, and then re-theorizing the significance of re-embodying identity.

    Re-Embodying Identity

    Organizer and Chair: Jonathan S. Marion

    05 min – Introduction

    17 min – Amelia Guimarin: Body Piercing and the Re-embodiment of Commodity-Based Identity

    17 min – Ana Paula Pimentel Walker: Embodied Identity and Political Action:

    Lessons from the Participatory Budget in Brazil

    17 min – Jacob Saunders: The Body’s Religious Sentiments: Identity and Bodily Practice Among Polish Evangelicals

    17 min – Jonathan S. Marion: Being Ballroom: Re-embodying Identity in Competitive Ballroom Dancing

    17 min – Ian Grand: Becoming Palladin: Embodied Narratives, Conflicts, and Identities

    15 min – Audience: Questions & Discussion

    Guimarin, Amelia

    University of California, Irvine

    Body Piercing and the Re-Embodiment of Commodity-Based Identity

    Commodity-based identity is a significant part of today's consumer culture society. Some scholars view this reliance on commodities as limiting the power of the individual. However, this study focuses on the activity of body piercing to argue that individuals exercise authority as they utilize commodities to create bodily-centered identity. In the community of college-age individuals, body piercing has emerged as an important commodity used to express personal and communal identity. This project draws upon first-hand ethnographic research and existing theoretical analysis in Anthropology and other Social Science disciplines to argue that body piercing represents the re-embodiment of commodity-based identity.

    In this study, the practice of body piercing in the college-age community is analyzed in relation to traditional rites of passage with which it shares undeniable similarities. When children become distanced from their parents, as in the case of 'going away to college,' they enter a new stage in life; they may then undergo a crisis of identity when the structure on which they based their identity, their family unit, is replaced by a community of their peers. This crisis often occurs in conjunction with the crisis of bodily detachment which arises in part from the practice of commodity-based identity. However, in this case, body piercing as a form of commodity-based identity intercedes as a way to reconcile these crises of identity and claim, or reclaim, bodily-centered identity through the activity of body piercing.

    Pimentel Walker, Ana Paula

    University of California, San Diego

    Embodied Identity and Political Action:

    Lessons from the Participatory Budget in Brazil

    A focus on identity in activity is fundamental to understanding how squatters’ perceptions of their social positioning shifts based on the new set of social relations that emerged with the implementation of the Participatory Budget, a municipal mechanism of resource allocation. The evidence comes from fieldwork conducted in Porto Alegre during January and February of 2005 for my master’s thesis in Urban Planning. When squatters perceived that their social positioning changed under the local social relations of power, they also changed their actions by advocating for their rights. The leftist progressive pioneers of the Participatory Budget envisioned political participation in terms of citizen’s rights, independent of land tenure status. Nonetheless, outside of this particular political narrative, legal title is an important index of citizenship rights. Lawful tenants, incapable of preventing squatters from placing their demands through the Participatory Budget, began to treat squatters as political brokers between themselves and the city administration. The meaning of political participation changed from a political right, as initially envisioned by the framers of the Participatory Budget, to a political responsibility of the squatters. I use the theoretical framework established by D. Holland, D. Skinner, W. Lachicotte, and C. Cain in Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds in order to understand this dialectical relationship between narrative/figured worlds and positional identities. Even though embodied political identity is mostly unconscious, the index of legal title becomes a conscious aspect of squatters’ positional identity. In the figured world of the Participatory Budget, this change in squatters’ positional identity enables them to refuse to act as political brokers for the lawful tenants.

    Saunders, Jacob

    University of California, San Diego

    The Body’s Religious Sentiments:

    Identity and Bodily Practice Among Polish Evangelicals

    This paper examines the relationship between identity and the body in an evangelical community in Poland. Drawing on two years of field research in a Polish Baptist community, I suggest that communal ideas about what the body is, what it does, and what it should do, are central to communal and individual religious identity. In exploring these models of the body, I argue that it is the body’s perceived objectivity and transparency—its capacity to give inner states a physical form—which explains the import that ascetic practices carry in the community. A ┼╝ywa wiara (living faith) is viewed within the community as irrepressible; real emotions, states, and qualities are made visible by the body and through bodily practice; piety, honesty, humility and obedience are thus embodied. I posit that such beliefs about the body are important due to the general suspicion of speech and sentiment present in the community. Statements of faith, claims of religious feeling, and internal spiritual experience are treated with a measure of distrust by the community, as if lacking the objective grounding the body is seen to provide. I explore how the privileging of the body as a source of objective knowledge about faith and sentiments has significant consequences for identity formation within the community. For example, in the development of ideas about proper Baptist bodily practice, in the necessity of communal evaluation of each believer’s body, and in the manner that evaluative models become motivating for individuals.

    Marion, Jonathan S.

    California State University San Marcos

    Being Ballroom:

    Some Observations on the Re-embodying of Identity in Ballroom Dance

    This paper explores some of the dynamics of ballroom dance that allow for and facilitate the re-embodying of practitioners identities. Just as the body is inescapably implicated in human culture and knowledge, the converse is also true. While never separate from physical bodies, views of the body are always contextually construed, inevitably arising in the dialogue between the physicality of bodies and the values and understandings—both personal and cultural—by and through which those bodies are attended. Physical mannerisms, practices, and proxemics (e.g. Levy 1973, Bourdieu 1977, and Hall 1988 respectively) are integral elements of sociocultural discourse, as are the conceptualizations that are formulated out of and in response to these discourses. Uses and understandings of the body thus emerge as never being only natural and, as such, any robust understanding of humans cannot ignore the psychophysicality of human experience and conceptuality.

    Like other physical pastimes, ballroom dance allows people to consciously reconnect with their physicality. But dance and other expressive movement styles often go further, allowing people to experience, experiment with, and use their bodies in non-instrumental manners. This paper thus explores some of the dynamics whereby and wherein persons not only come to be aware of their bodies in and through ballroom dance but, specifically, of their bodies in interaction with others. And, as this paper will argue, while any type of physicality may help, partnered dance forms are especially efficacious in facilitating the very re-embodiment that modern modes of work, transportation, leisure, and home life may make all the harder—and thus all the more valuable—to attain.

Grand, Ian J.

California Institute of Integral Studies

Becoming Palladin:

Embodied Narratives, Conflicts, and Identities

The themes in this paper derive from the view that we develop meanings and values through embodied interaction with the cultural worlds to which we belong. Patterns of movement, gesture, feeling, expression, and thought are all embodied, and the development of these embodied patterns occurs in communities of participation. Because bodily identities symbolize aspects of our participation, it becomes important to look at them clinically.

Developmentally, we imitate, practice, and improvise with other people's gestures and movements and excitatory expressions, both in and out of the family of origin. We are, moreover, influenced by a broad range of media and multicultural images. These practices are automated and become part of one's identity either as whole set pieces or as partial incorporations. We live various bodies as we go through our daily worlds, both consciously and unconsciously, and these enactments may be in conflict or harmony with each other.

In this paper patterns of imitation will be looked at as means to the individuals embodied identity. Psychological conflict will be seen as the conflict between embodied enactments that symbolize and evoke particular cultural and familial values and meanings. Implications for psychotherapy will be discussed.

Sticking it to The Man . . .

. . . if The Man is American Express.

I got one of these

(except mine was only for $25) for Christmas from some parents at the school where I work. I used it a few times for a few small things. Then, I went to Mervyn's and bought a sweatshirt @ $30 and a t-shirt @ $9. I gave the cashier the gift card thinking I'd have a balance to pay off after using it up, but she just handed me my receipt and my bag. I thought, "Hmm, maybe I used a different gift card to buy those other things, but still my purchase was over $25 . . ." I didn't think too much about it. Then, a few days ago I went to use the gift card again and it was declined. I decided to go online and check the balance: $-11.37. HA! I stuck it to The Man, er, American Express . . .

I wonder if this was just a fluke, or a true exploitation of the system.I think I might start trying to purchase everything this way, get a prepaid gift card, then use it for over the amount I purchased it for.

UPDATE: I just looked a little bit further into this matter and found out:

"Can my Card have a negative balance?
Attempts to make purchases in an amount greater than your available funds will almost always be declined at the point of sale. Occasionally, however, a merchant may not pre-authorize the sale and this may result in a negative balance.
By using a prepaid Card, you agree to be responsible for any negative balances that may occur. To repay a negative balance, you may use a certified check, money order, or an American Express Card. Unfortunately, we cannot accept other types of credit cards to repay negative balances.

To pay with an American Express Card, please call the toll-free number on the back of your Card. All other types of payments shall be made payable to:

Attn: Prepaid Card Collections, Mail Code 02-04-07
4315 S 2700 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84184-0407"

I guess this means I should be mailing my payment to American Express right now, but I'm not, and I'm never gonna. I wonder how much money they loose because of people like me. I wonder if by posting this on the Internet, they are gonna come after me for the $11.37 I (supposedly) owe them. I wonder . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007


How do you go about "culturally enlightening" your co-workers? How?

Should you even try? What about your family members? Is your uncle ever going to stop telling stories about the "ragheads that run the burger king?" Is you supervisor ever going to stop commenting on the "eagerness to please of that oriental boy?" Are elementary school teachers even going to go beyond their basic lesson plan? Is this entire post going to be in the form of questions?

No. I am also going to say that, for whatever reason, I thought elementary school kids were no longer learning how the "gracious American Indians welcomed European settlers from coast to coast." I thought it was some sort of generation-based thing. I thought my generation was taught the fairy-tale version but by now kids must be learning the real thing. They're not! I'm not saying you have to tell children of all the horrors of history, but continuing to completely lie, it's disgusting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Why should it be a suprise that I care to pronounce peoples' names correctly? Why?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Too long for a comment

This post started as a comment on a Savage Minds post, "What is good anthropological writing?", wherein Thomas Eriksen asked, "Which were the texts that made an indelible impression on you, and why?" The following is my answer:

The texts, both fiction and non-fiction, which have "made an indelible impression" on me as an Anthropologist, scholar, and all the other titles (daughter, sister, artist, friend) I hold as a person in general, came to me in three ways at three different times:

First, when I was 12 years old, my family took a trip to Seattle. I didn't have any unread books of my own to bring along for the plane ride, so I went into our family book closet and pulled from the shelf that held my Dad's books from college, John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. When we returned home, I went straight back to that shelf and grabbed a box set of Doonesbury comics. As this was before the Internet, I got through Doonesbury by using my children's encyclopedia, our family encyclopedias, my Mom's textbook from the History class she was taking at the community college (she went back to school when I was in Kindergarten, working full-time and taking classes when she could until I was in 8th grade), and my parents as references for all the historical and political commentary I did not understand.

When I finished that collection, I returned to the shelf and chose (no kidding) Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. I should mention that my dad was an Anthropology and Spanish undergrad and my inclination towards Anthropology was greatly influenced by all the stories I grew up hearing my Dad tell. As a child, my Dad lived on the outskirts of various Native American reservations across New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. After he graduated from college, he joined the Peace Corps and lived in a Shuar village in Ecuador. Aside from the tales he recounted of these experiences, he seemed to have an Anthropological anecdote for and spin on everything, from problems with bullies at school to my inquiry, "Why would the US government send people to internment camps?" when my family visited Manzanar National Historic Site when I was in 4th grade. So, by the time I got around to reading Coming of Age, I was already prepared to enjoy it.

Next, during my Senior year of high school, I was taking both AP English and AP Biology (AP stands for "Advanced Placement," the "recommended courses" for students aspiring to attend universities considered elite, in my case the University of California. In these classes, the pace of learning was sped up and the expectation of quality of work was raised, this meant that you had more than twice as much homework and it had to be at least twice as good as that in the "regular" classes, which meant that you had to form "study groups" and divide the work amongst each other in order to deliver, something that was expressly forbidden and considered "cheating" by teachers but accepted and practiced as the norm by students. And, because classes, like all others at my high school, were scheduled for only 50 minutes each day, you were often expected, pretty much required, to spend lunches, free periods, and time after school in lab or other lecture/discussion type sessions. Finally, at the end of the course, you had the option of taking the corresponding AP test. Scores of 3 or higher, out of 5, would pass you out of entry level courses at many universities and so you worked very hard to obtain them. These were my experiences at one particular high school in an affluent area where over 90% of the graduating class went on to attend college, and so may not be the most "normal" representation of college prep courses). I was one of several students who were taking both classes at the same time and so our teachers decided to do a joint project, "What is life?" How do you define "life?" What does it mean to "be alive?" This project itself was influential for me because we studied the concept of "being alive" from and within two different disciplines. I remember one particular discussion in Bio when we debated whether or not a virus should be classified as a living organism. This debate forced us to realize that scientific classification and the concept of "being alive" are arbitrary, cultural constructions. Each class also had its own theme, in English it was existentialism and in Bio it was, well, Bio. In English, our study of existentialism included the reading of William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming", Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot, and Franz Kafka's short story, In the Penal Colony. These English class texts were all fiction, but in Bio, I read David Quammen's The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature which gets its title from Quammen's imaginative account of Darwin's study of Galapagos Island iguanas; the iguanas are strong swimmers, but as Darwin wrote in The Voyage of the Beagle, "they will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their tails than jump into the water..." Quammen's book is sort of non-fiction in that he transforms scientific information into interesting, anecdotal stories. In the case of the iguanas, Quammen imagines Darwin launching them by their tails into the sea and watching them swim back to the shore where he stands. This text was influential for me because it demonstrates how good writing intrigues the reader by prompting her to draw parallels between the mundane and the academic.

Lastly, during my Freshman year of university, a friend lent me his copy of Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I can't explain why this book was so influential, I think I just really admire Robbins' writing style. Another great, influential book by Robbins is Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.

So, there you have it, the texts that changed my life!