How to be a modern Major General (Part I)

For someone writing his thesis for a Master’s in social anthropology, I don’t actually have as many anthropological readings in my references as you’d expect.  Look at all the disciplines represented in the books on my bookshelf:

  • Sociology.  This is partly because my department is a combined sociology and social anthropology department, which I rather like since I’m exposed to stuff I normally wouldn’t be.  Quite a lot of my migration readings were authored by sociologists, as in, for example, Stephen Castles and Mark Miller’s The Age of Migration (2003), which I’m using quite a lot.  However, the subdiscipline of migration studies is equally indebted to anthropology thanks to anthropologists’ work with diasporic populations.
  • Women’s studies/Gender studies.  I actually don’t have too many works from this discipline, but the fact that my supervisor is a Neomarxist feminist and the fact that I’m also quite partial to Women’s Studies means that such works inevitably are included in my reading list.  And, of course, the particular way migration from the Philippines is gendered also enters into why I’m reading Women’s Studies stuff, since maids and female nurses form a majority of the Philippines’ exported labour (and not to mention the mail-order brides).  So, que sorpresa, I have on my bookshelf Working Feminism (2004) by Geraldine Pratt, a Neomarxist examination of the context in which female Filipino migrants work in British Columbia.
  • Sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics.  I’ve got this because I explicitly examine how language enters into the expression of identity.  Sociolinguistics is actually a rather marginal field of study in linguistics proper, as is also anthropological linguistics in anthropology.  Still, the intersection of politics and language interests me, so I’ve been digging into readings like Codeswitching: Anthropological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives (1988).  It’s kind of nice to be participating in the project of keeping anthropology holistic (or inventing it to be so), but more on this issue in a later post.
  • History.  This discipline should pretty much be on almost any reading list, since it’s hard to imagine a subject in social science research that doesn’t deal with history on some level.  In my case, I’m mostly dealing with the history of US colonialism in the Philippines and the history of international migration.  The most heavily historical text I’m reading right now is The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives (2003).  I’d forgotten how annoying footnotes can be when there isn’t a bibliography in the back of the book and you’re only looking for one specific reference, but ah well.
  • Area Studies, more specifically, Southeast Asian Studies.  I’ve only got a handful of readings from this (semi-?)discipline, but they’re all really useful in situating the Philippines within its regional context.  However, my foremost text from Southeast Asian Studies, Imagined Communities (1991), is such a classic examination of nationalism that I would still be using it if I were, for example, studying Trinidadians instead.  And let’s not forget that Anderson’s theory of print capitalism has implications for how community is manufactured online as well.
  • Internet Studies.  I don’t know if that’s even an actual name for the discipline, so new is it, and in fact I’m not sure if it’s even considered a discipline yet.  This (ahem) thingy can also be called Sociology of the Internet, but that’s kind of a misnomer since economists, anthropologists, psychologists, and people trained in other disciplinary backgrounds also contribute to the literature about the social context of the Internet, as well as reading and discussing each other’s work.  Perhaps this might all be called a sub-discipline of Media Studies, though I think situating the social study of the Internet under such immediately closes certain fruitful lines of research, or at least makes such investigation less likely to occur.  But whatever discipline it’s filed under, Lisa Nakamura’s Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (2002) is very prominent in my thesis write-up.
  • Cultural studies.  Boy howdy, I definitely draw from this discipline.  Stuart Hall’s work on identity is central to my thesis.  Questions of Cultural Identity (1996) is the number 1 book in my reading list, especially the Introduction written by Hall.

Now that I’ve listed everything so forthrightly, I would have to say that the majority of my readings aren’t from anthropology at all.  I don’t feel like doing it right now, but stay tuned and I will perform one of the rituals people in anthropology regularly engage in: the reflexive dance of disciplinary disciplining.

Today’s paragraph

It is important not to succumb to the “giddy presentism” inherent in many studies of globalization, but instead keep in mind that what can be called “globalization” has occurred in other historical moments (Graeber, 2002). However, one must also note that the expansion of global connection in the modern era often coincides with the expansion of imperial domination by new and already-existing empires. The last period of heightened global interconnection, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when massive numbers of people and goods crossed borders, was also the period of “high imperialism”, when the great powers such as England and France seized new colonies and when new powers such as Japan and Italy entered the race for colonies (Go, 2003, p. 17).

Go, J. (2003). Introduction: Global Perspectives on the U.S. Colonial State in the Philippines. In J. Go & A. L. Foster (Eds.), The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives (pp. 1-42). Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Graeber, D. (2002). The Anthropology of Globalization (with Notes on Neomedievalism, and the End of the Chinese Model of the Nation-State). American Anthropologist, 104(4), 1222-1227.

I just need to write 2000 more of these and I’ll be done.

All India all the time

Why do I have three different copies of Homi Bhabha’s essay “Culture’s In Between”, all photocopied from different books?  Apparently I forgot that I’d gotten the essay immediately after procuring it each time.  I realized what I’d done when I read Akhil Gupta’s critique of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, “Imagined Nations”, in A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (2004).  Gupta mentions Bhabha’s essay, so  I thought I’d take a peek and subsequently discovered just how shaky my memory is.  Oh well.

Anyway, Gupta’s essay also mentions Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, a book I’d read when I was in high school.  I didn’t understand it at all.  I didn’t catch any of the stuff it was saying about nationalism, colonialism, and historical memory and instead mostly read it on the surface, as a story about a bunch of kids in India with supernatural powers.  Dumb, huh?

(Why exactly was I reading Salman Rushdie?  Well, at the time my family was living in an apartment building that had lots of university students.  When someone moved out, it was kind of a tradition that they leave behind unwanted books in the laundry room, and hey presto, I had a new book to read.)

Well, Midnight’s Children is in the next room, so I can re-read it when I have a spare moment (namely, after I get my degree).  It should be obvious from my blogging that I’ve mostly been consuming light fiction lately (e.g., comic books and the occasional episode of Battlestar Galactica), so Rushdie will have to wait.  And as for improving my memory, I have EndNote now to keep me organized.  Whee-ha, my life just keeps getting more exciting.

Jamais vu

As in, the opposite of deja vu, it’s the feeling that something has never happened before.  I was just reading Stuart Hall’s introduction to Questions of Cultural Identity when I got the feeling.  The introductory chapter is actually rather central to my thesis because it’s here that Hall outlines his thinking on identification versus identity and I use his definition quite a lot.  It’s been a few months since I’ve actually had to read the essay.  I’ve just now read it again and I got the distinct feeling that I’d never read it before.  There were entire parts that I didn’t remember at all.  In fact, I may actually understand it better now.  I must say, the critical distance afforded by time is helpful in getting the most out of a meaty essay, especially when the first time around I had to read that meaty essay on the quick because my proposal was due the next week.  This is just like when I re-read Elizabeth Povinelli’s “Radical Worlds: The Anthropology of Incommensurability and Inconceivability” and could actually appreciate what it was saying.

Anyway, that is all.  Please return to your regular lives.

To work again

I left Halifax on December 19th and I haven’t touched my thesis work since then.  Yes, it’s hard to work during the holidays, but there’s more involved in my non-productivity than that.  Going permanently back to my house in Northern Ontario has broken my work habits, and now I have to create new ones in accord with my new environment.

Plus, there’s a lot more stuff to distract me here.  My brother has an extensive dvd collection that he’s added to since last I was here and he’s also gotten a bunch more books.  I’ve just seen a boatload of movies, including the Children of Men (Holy shit!  See it!), and I managed to start and finish Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  There’s an anthropologist in that one, by the way, although the stuff she does makes her sound more like a folklorist, but since she’s a Hungarian scholar practicing Soviet anthropology, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief pending more knowledge about Soviet anthro.  And there’s the PS2, with which I’ve already finished Ultimate Alliance despite getting it for Christmas, and I’ve just started Final Fantasy X-2.  The kitchen here also has more appliances and special spices and delicacies, so I can make ever more complex meals for the eating.

Which is to say that I’ve landed myself in Procrastination City.  On the pro side of the equation, Sudbury is a complete car town and I don’t know how to drive, so I can’t go watch a movie on a whim.  It’s also less — how can I put it? — less, umm, less than Halifax.  There, I said it.  There’s not as much to do in Northern Ontario.  I also don’t know as many people here, since everyone I knew has graduated and gone somewhere else.

That’s why I’ve been so quiet lately.  However, I was already blogging far less before moving.  That was mostly because I’d gotten serious about writing my thesis and can pretty much focus on only one thing at a time.  I wrote rather long posts in the early months of my old blog mostly because I had no other work to do or I was procrastinating on the work that I did have.  Now, though, I actually find myself procrastinating on blogging itself.
Look at my ScrapBook folder of stuff that I saved away to blog about later and you’ll see that I’ve posted about maybe less than half the stuff listed here.  That’s not even counting the drafts that I’ve been opening and listlessly poking at every now and then.

I can understand why Michael Bérubé is quitting blogging (Incidentally, his final post is also the first post of his that I’ve ever read).  Always Be Composing is a hard thing to do, and thinking about what to blog about takes away brainpower from other projects.  I wonder how s0metim3s (Link is now defunct) and N. Pepperrell can keep writing such long posts, although as residents of Oz they have their summer break now, the lucky bastards (“bastard” is friendly in Australian, right?).

Okay, sometime before the end of January I’ll finish and post the draft I have about various bits of media that I’ve been playing around with.  Scout’s honour.  And I will so totally blog about the new episode of Battlestar Galactica.