I have a quite uncomfortable visceral reaction when I am asked to speak to how I experience anthropology—and the academy more broadly—as a Black woman. I resent the feeling that the questioner believes that they know the answer before they ask—that they are actually looking for some kind of confirmation of their belief in the promise that a change is gon’ come, within the reality that it ain’t here yet.
Sitting in a home office filled with stuffed animals, South Korean internet celebrity BJ MBRO alternates between taking bites of barbeque chicken and rice. He’s good humored, and he emphasizes his approval of the food by giving thumbs-up, widening his eyes, and speaking in an upbeat, rhythmic manner as if he were a parent trying to persuade a stubborn young picky eater to try the food.
Timelessness is cruel because it is dehumanizing. As a mad anthropologist who researches madness, I have spent considerable time tackling timelessness. Timelessness is the name I have given to a phenomenon many researchers have witnessed among people experiencing madness—a broad experience of extranormativity that is predominantly defined and addressed as mental illness in the United States.
This conversation takes place with two ethnographers of Los Angeles: Juli Grigsby and Damien Sojoyner. In this short piece, we discuss the impact of gentrification and its insidious process removing of Black communities through the building of rail infrastructure.
For me, Veterans Day produces contrasting and sometimes painful emotions. Yet for others, this day to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces may be cathartic and welcomed. In the following paragraphs I share some of my personal experience as a woman who was enlisted in the military from 2001 to 2009 and reflect on some of the challenges I face as a researcher doing work with a population that I am a part of.
I could not have imagined when I entered the PhD program in anthropology at the University of California, Davis in 1973 that I would spend my career working as an anthropologist in Silicon Valley. I have always liked technology and did well in math and science, but to work alongside physicists, chemists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers for the better part of 40 years—really!
In the summer of 2016, during preliminary fieldwork in California, I met with virtual reality (VR) innovators in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I wanted to find out what was happening with this technology in Silicon Valley versus the place Angelenos were beginning to call Silicon Beach. Others were also flowing between these locations.
In May 2018, I spoke with Tom, an elderly man who has lived in the same house near Franklin Square in Santa Clara since the age of five. Now in his eighties and with limited mobility from a surgery targeting a brain tumor, he spends his days on the couch with a view of the park he played in as a child through his front window.
In March 2014, Business Insider published the article, “Here’s Why Companies Are Desperate to Hire Anthropologists.” Referring to the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Intel, author Drake Baer describes how corporations want to hire anthropologists to enhance their marketing strategies and product designs.
Silicon Valley is a geographic region, shorthand for all things tech, the global hub of the technology industry, and a synonym for places transforming through impositions of technocapitalism. In California, a confluence of Cold War defense spending, venture capital, support from Stanford University, and white flight from urban cores to the pastoral suburbs led to the establishment of a regional technology hub.