Newsflash

While I was egosurfing (i.e. checking out how popular Sarapen has become — admit it, you’ve Googled yourself before) I found out that this blog is apparently number 18 in Google’s results for the term “anarchist anthropology.” That’s because of these two posts about David Graeber’s pamphlet on the subject. I poked around and saw this post about the same thing but written last year. It’s rather critical of the piece, but I think it raises some interesting objections. To wit:

For I fear that here Graeber overly idealizes academia, and the discipline of anthropology in particular. Despite all his rote Foucault-bashing, and sneering at mainstream academics as “people who like to think of themselves as political radicals even though all they do is write essays likely to be read by a few dozen other people in an institutional environment” (71), he in fact buys into the authority of normative academic “knowledge” much more than I think is necessary or justified […] It’s not that Graeber doesn’t know that “the discipline we know today was made possible by horrific schemes of conquest, colonization, and mass murder” (96); but he seems to think that the “vast archive of human experience” possessed by anthropologists is uninflected by these origins, and only needs to be shared more publically in order to be efficacious.

I’m not sure if I agree, but anyway, check it out if you’re interested. Maybe I should make an “anarchism” tag, I keep bringing it up, or perhaps a tag devoted entirely to David Graeber.

Continuing on with this updating thing, I’ve found some more information about hikikomori, which relates to my post about the manga Welcome to the NHK. It’s an interview written in a journalistic style, so the article is really easy to read. It provides an added layer of depth to the hikikomori thing. I also didn’t know Italy had abolished mental hospitals, but apparently it has. I recommend Japan Focus anyway for its excellent articles on stuff relating to the Asia-Pacific region. A refereed and free electronic journal, good for whiling away the time on a Sunday afternoon.

While we’re on the subject of Japan Focus, have a gander at this article, “Invisible Immigrants: Undocumented Migration and Border Controls in Early Postwar Japan.” It certainly challenges the notion that immigration has not been a major factor in Japanese society until relatively recently and it nicely illustrates how states have the power to turn people invisible. Also interesting (and rather unsurprising) that immigration control was at first justified as a health initiative to protect the country from foreign diseases, though in actuality enacted to protect Japan from foreigners, period.

And that’s that for today. My search for a new bloghost continues, I’ll probably switch later this week.

Urge to kill rising (i.e., I want to leave edublogs)

Whenever I write about blogging, I usually discuss the sociological aspects of it instead of the technical stuff, mostly because everyone and their dog already blogs about XML and Python and whatsit. Nevertheless, I have to start talking about that crap now because I’m getting more and more pissed off at edublogs.org. Why am I getting so much spam in my comments and why don’t you have an effective spam blocker up yet, huh edublogs? It’s been 2 hours since I cleared out all my spam comments and already there are 2 new comments extolling the virtues of online poker. I’m actually breaking my self-imposed rule of no computer use during the weekend because I don’t want to delete pages of spam on Monday.

Ok, screw this, I’m bailing. The only question is which bloghost I should go with. I like Daria.be [Link is now defunct] because it’s like edublogs, but better. It has more WordPress stuff like better spam protection, more themes, better site statistics, podcasting and Youtube support, daily backups, and you can even have your own forums.

Blogsome seems to have pretty much the same thing, but apparently you can tinker directly with the coding of your blog, which gives you a nice degree of flexibility. What say you, Blogsome users? And if anyone else has other free bloghosting services to recommend, do speak up.

I think I already know how to export and import a blog. This post from JAWW explains things easily enough:

  1. Go to RSS2MT
  2. Put in the URL for your blog’s RSS feed
  3. Save the crap that pops out as a .txt file
  4. Go to your new bloghost, which must be using either Movable Type or WordPress for their blogs
  5. Click the “Import” tab
  6. Import the text file that you saved
  7. World domination

There are a couple of klunky annoyances with the importing, as the original post mentions, but I’m sure they’re a lot less annoying than manually copying and pasting all of the posts that you have. My biggest problem is that it seems comments can’t be exported as well, which is too bad. Actually, I don’t have many comments, maybe I’ll just edit each post so that the comments are included within them. Anyway, the reason I’m being so detailed is that I’m putting this up for any other edublogs users who want to join me as I make a run for the fences. Property is theft, down with sexism, crush the Gang of Four, etc.

UPDATE:

Have been researching other bloghosts and have come across Blogiversity. They say that

Blog applications usually take 2 to 3 days to process. Why is there an application? Anyone can get a free blog these days. Our purpose is to create a community specifically for academic bloggers. We only want the best.

You have to tell them what subject you’ll be blogging about, which you pick out of a dropdown menu, and then you have to

Tell us a little about yourself (student, professor, research, hobby, etc.) and how you relate to this subject

Also, you have to give a sample blog post of 1-2 paragraphs. I’m not sure I like the whiff of elitism I get from this project. There’s always Anthroblogs, which is just for anthropologists. When I was deciding on bloghosts, I was actually considering either them or edublogs; maybe I would have been more satisfied with Anthroblogs. They could certainly use more people posting regularly.

UPDATE 2:

RSS2MT is flawed, it only exports a summary of the posts. However, since edublogs has just upgraded, you can just do Export now, and it exports everything too. So this workaround is no longer necessary.

Hey what’s up, tell me whatsa happenin’

I recently had an interview for a job where my social science research skills were actually relevant (I know, quelle surprise). During the interview, I mentioned my participation in an ethnographic field school in Peru and that the interviewers could find the paper that I wrote about the project I conducted using a combination of my name and some specific search terms. I was rather satisfied with it, but now it seems rather naive and unpolished to me (I was a 3rd year undergrad at the time). I won’t tell you how to find the paper, but it’s really not that hard.

Anyway, I suddenly remembered that the interviewer could find this blog as well just by Googling me, and I thought, “Oh crap, have I written anything incriminating?” I felt the teensiest bit iffy about the anarchist sympathies I expressed in previous posts, but I thought I didn’t really have anything to hide. I got the job at the end of the interview anyway, but that brief moment reminded me how potentially vulnerable you can be online. I’m also reminded of what happened to a friend of mine when she was applying for Phd schools: one of the professors she was hoping to work with had found her blog and complimented her on it. There wasn’t anything incriminating there either, but she’s now gotten herself a new blog (just in case, I suspect).

Because the gaze of the Internet is potentially always present, many have likened it to a panopticon. The panopticon is a type of prison designed in such a way that the prisoners never know whether or not they are being watched by their jailers; since the prisoners do not know whether they are being watched, they will act as if they are always being watched and accordingly police themselves. Michel Foucault likens certain parts of “Western” societies to panopticons, since their power to discipline behaviour relies on the visibility of subjects to the gaze of others. The individual is always self-consciously aware of the possibility of being spied upon and will therefore change his or her behaviour accordingly.

However, it seems to me that people won’t necessarily police themselves in a panopticon system. Rather, I think it’s just as likely that people will start tearing down the wall between public and private in their own lives. If one is potentially always being watched, then does it matter if one farts in an empty room or in a crowded dining room? Perhaps someone will see you expel bodily gas when you are in your own bedroom, and perhaps no one will notice if you fart while having dinner with other people. What used to be private might start becoming public, and instead of a society where people police themselves, you might see a society where self-discipline is largely nonexistent.

The power of the panopticon also rests on certain culturally-specific notions of private and public. For example, there is a certain group of people in South America (damned if I remember which one — the Aymara? the Jivaro?) who traditionally lived in longhouses shared by several families. Because there will always be comeone in the longhouse, couples usually have sex in a secluded spot outside, perhaps in the jungle or an empty garden. For these people, then, the indoors is a public space, while it is outdoors where privacy exists. This is the reverse of “Western” notions of public and private, since “a man’s home is his castle”, “it is not the business of the state to regulate what happens in people’s bedrooms”, and so on.

Many people often speak of blogging as a panopticon system. The blogger is always under the gaze of the Internet. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to call blogging a panopticon, since the gaze of the Internet is one that bloggers invite. The gaze of others in a panopticon is involuntary and unwanted, while the gaze of the Internet in blogging is one bloggers try to capture. There have been many news stories, for example, about bloggers being fired for criticizing their employers in their blogs. Blogging cannot therefore be a panopticon system, since otherwise the bloggers would have censored themselves. In a panopticon, the prisoners must be aware that they are potentially being watched by anyone on the Internet, which the bloggers who were fired obviously didn’t consider.

However, even if bloggers start censoring themselves, blogging still cannot be a panopticon. One of the implied requirements of a panopticon is that the prisoners be entirely revealed to their jailers, or else they could simply engage in their illicit activities while out of sight of the authorities. In blogging, whatever is visible about a blogger is visible only because the blogger has made it so. The blogger reveals only what he or she wishes to reveal, and therefore what is revealed is not the entirety of a blogger but a front that he or she has constructed.

It should be obvious in this blog that I reveal only a fraction of the things I do and think about. What you see is what I wish you to see. Hoever, how you understand it is beyond my control. Which takes us into a discussion of authorship, intent, and the death of The Author. But that’s as far as I want to go, so you’ll have to be satisfied with what I’ve given you today.

Eighty-eight miles per hour

You turn your back for five seconds and suddenly you find your blog is inundated with sex spam. It’s really quite annoying, I had to delete pages of the stuff. Okay, so I wasn’t really gone five seconds, more like two weeks, but there really should be better spam blocking on edublogs.org. If this keeps up, I may have to seek another bloghosting service. But anyway, back in the blogging saddle.

So I married a killer robot

I know I’m kind of late to this party, but danged if I’m a gonna quit. I’ve been reading a bit of what the reaction to the new season of Battlestar Galactica has been on some parts of the English blogosphere and I just had to offer my take.

Battlestar Galactica began as a clash of civilizations: the genocidal and merciless Cylons versus the battered yet defiant humans. The people of the Colonial fleet were shown as noble but flawed, peace-loving but driven to violence, grief-stricken but stalwart, courageous, craven, paranoid, and cooly rational — in short, they were shown as human. The humans were the flawed heroes while the Cylons were the perfect Others, the anti-humans: relentless where the humans faltered, inscrutable where human pain was displayed, and all-knowing where the humans groped around blindly in the dark.

That was where Galactica began, but it’s certainly not where it is now. Slowly, we began to see more of what Cylons were really like, and slowly, we began to sympathize with what had been an unknowable enemy. Finally, by the third season the tables had turned and “we” were supposed to feel conflicted as to which side root for: the violently incompetent Cylons, or the suicide-bombing humans?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the issue of suicide bombing in the show has become so controversial. After all, suicide bombing has been relentlessly portrayed in the news media as a cowardly tactic used by the enemies of civilization, possibly in league with Satan, Darth Vader, and Lord Voldemort. Setting aside the issue that cowards cower, not willingly blow themselves to smithereens, it’s a bit odd that the characters’ use of suicide bombing should be so fraught with moral crisis. I’d always gotten the impression that the problem with suicide bombing was that it was inconsiderate of distinctions between civilians and soldiers, whereas the tactic on Galactica has been used only against military targets. I think that the discomfort with suicide bombing among the show’s viewers comes from two main reasons.

The first reason is that suicide bombing lays bare the fiction that soldiers are human beings. That is, suicide bombing acknowledges that soldiers are not and cannot be human as long as they are soldiers; rather, they are military assets, pawns to be moved back and forth in war, the true game of kings. If a cause is worth killing others for, then it’s also worth killing your own soldiers for (Dean Stockwell’s character voiced a similar sentiment on the show, though he was arguing for the war to become genocidal again). Soldiers are trained to be the tools of their leaders, and the more perfect they can be as machines, the more perfect they become as soldiers. Therefore, when you see Colonial rebels blowing up themselves and their enemies, you aren’t seeing humans killing Cylons. Instead, what you are witnessing is the spectacle of killer robots killing other killer robots.

The second reason I think that suicide bombing in the show is controversial to its viewers is that its viewers are mostly composed of those who conquer, instead of those who are conquered. That is, it is the privilege of the viewers to see suicide bombing as a horrendous crime instead of being forced to consider it as a viable tactic. Which is why I don’t relate at all to the controversy over suicide bombing, since I’m descended from people who might have considered suicide bombing had the option been available.

What I’m referring to is the Philippine-American War of 1898-1902 (the latter year being somewhat arbitrary since armed resistance was still taking place in many “pacified” territories). It’s an obscure war to most Americans, though its impact is still felt today. Many historians see it as the precursor to the Vietnam War and therefore the ancestor of the current war in Iraq, though I see the Indian Wars as the truly prototypical conflicts that lent their shape to later wars of American imperialism.

Briefly, the Philippine-American War grew out of the the Spanish-American War of 1898. The United States, having finished its land-based empire-building in the Indian Wars like the Russians in Siberia, wanted to get into the overseas possessions game. Spain was already in the process of imperial decline and it was the ruler of colonies immediately adjacent to the US (remember, the Monroe Doctrine had already established the Americas as the playground of the United States). With the Philippines in hand, the US hoped to use it as a springboard into China. US troops invaded the Philippines, arriving in the middle of an ongoing insurrection by Filipino rebels. Hoping to use the native insurgents against Spain, the US tacitly encouraged the cause of Philippine independence. By the time the Spanish-American War ended, Spain had ceded the Philippines to the US, which claimed the colony for its own. Feeling betrayed, Filipino rebels went to war against a new colonial master. In the end, they lost and the Philippines became a US Commonwealth.

The conflict soon became a guerilla war for the Filipinos, who could not use conventional tactics against better-equipped and better-trained Americans. The US Army saw guerilla war as dishonourable and uncivilized. A US general, in an exchange with a leader of the revolution, remarked that war

[C]ould only be justified by a combatant where success was possible; as soon as defeat was certain, “civilization demands that the defeated side, in the name of humanity, should surrender and accept the result, although it may be painful to its feelings.” Combatants who strayed from this principle “place themselves in a separate classification” as “incompetent in the management of civil affairs to the extent of their ignorance of the demands of humanity.” In this specific case, the end of conventional war and the dispersal of the Philippine Army meant that continued Filipino resistance was not only “criminal” but was “also daily shoving the natives of the Archipelago headlong towards a deeper attitude of semicivilization in which they will become completely incapable of appreciating and understanding the responsibilities of civil government.” Civilization meant “pacification” and the acceptance of U.S. sovereignty: “The Filipino people can only show their fitness in this matter by laying down their arms…” (Kramer 2006)

However, the Filipino revolutionary countered that the statement

was simply the claim that might made right, that the U.S. war was “just and humanitarian” because its army was powerful, “which trend of reasoning not even the most ignorant Filipino will believe to be true.” If in real life, he noted, “the strong nations so easily make use of force to impose their claims on the weak ones,” it was because “even now civilization and humanitarian sentiments that are so often invoked, are, for some, more apparent than real” . . . [T]he Filipinos had been left no choice. The very laws of war that authorized strong nations’ use of “powerful weapons of combat” against weak ones were those that “persuade[d]” the weak to engage in guerrilla war, “especially when it comes to defending their homes and their freedoms against an invasion.” (Kramer 2006)

Update the language a bit and they might have been talking about suicide bombing. I think that instead of asking how suicide bombing can exist, it is better to ask what kind of dire situation a person can live in that they would think blowing themselves up is a good idea. Make no mistake that suicide bombing is a weapon of the weak, else they would be using cruise missiles and nuclear threats.

Therefore, I cannot really understand why just the very use of suicide bombing in a fictional context can be so fraught with debate. Personally, it seemed perfectly logical that people in the position of the Colonials on New Caprica would turn to suicide bombing in the face of the overwhelming power of their enemies. Why suicide bombing? Why not? To me, something less would have seemed more unrealistic.