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.

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