What intrigued me about plasticity was that it was not yet tamed into something consistent: my fieldwork unfolded in a situation in which the old truth of cerebral fixity had already been dissolved by plasticity—but plasticity had not yet been stabilized. It still could be many different, in part mutually exclusive, things. To me, it was a bit as if the brain—and along with it the human—had been released from a form of knowledge that claimed to exhaust it. It was as if the brain and the human as constituted by the brain had broken free.
My daughter Luna is now eight months old, chubby, with a wide-mouthed smile and bright eyes. I’m here to study community responses to youth “return” from the United States and Mexico—return often, although not always, being a sanitized word for deportation. We have been in Guatemala eight weeks now, long enough to begin settling in, and slowly to understand the vastness of what I don’t understand.
A young anthropologist visits the reservation.
The big theme of the book is of course how the discovery of plasticity upset the classical concept of the brain as a fixed and immutable structure. But there is no overall core argument that would organize and arrange the stories assembled in Plastic Reason. In fact, I could say that one of the major points of Plastic Reason is precisely to not have a core argument.
From the Andean highlands to Appalachia, anthropologists from across the discipline open their field bags to reveal favorite pens, recording equipment, emergency granola bars, and—of course—scarves.
I worked as a community and political organizer in Wayne County, Michigan, during the 2016 election. Frustrated by the ignorance and outright dismissal of grassroots strategies by various interest groups and individuals with stakes in the election, I decided to focus my emergent doctoral research on the implications of grassroots organizing in conflict and coordination with other modes of political action.
I am writing these “Notes from the Field” in a liminal place of searching for a new fieldwork site: grappling with philosophies regarding the greater good and news of anthropological import as well as my own tragic subjectivity. This personal struggle is also an ethical dilemma that stands at the heart of anthropological theory.
In Part Two of this series, we have more reflections from the authors of “Toward a Fugitive Anthropology: Gender, Race, and Violence in the Field,” published in Cultural Anthropology, on the limitations and liberatory potential for feminist anthropology to address racialized-sexualized-gendered violence in anthropological (activist) research. PART TWO Maya Berry The recent calls that “justice […]
#MeToo is an opening for change—but can anthropologists look beyond the media moment to confront sexual violence and transform the discipline?
Anthropology’s decades-long misrepresentation of this story of sexual violence should inform the discipline’s relationship to #MeToo.