Speaking with Silence

Words take center stage in the verbal sparring of the Twitter age. But, amidst the endless talk and noise of today’s political landscape, we often overlook the powerful communicative potential of silence.

Interview with Donald Brenneis

Donald Brenneis chatted with Ilana Gershon over Skype about the institutional and collegial relations that shaped his career, a reflection inspired by the Franz Boas award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology. Below is an edited transcript of the informal conversation.

What “Types of Racism” Does Trump Recognize?

Trump’s tweet on the anniversary of Charlottesville fails to conceptualize racism as anything other than a decontextualized form of personal prejudice unconnected to current and historical power relations in US society.

William Leap’s Reflections upon Retirement

William Leap is retiring after being a professor of anthropology at American University for 46 years. Ilana Gershon asks him to reflect on his career. What article or book that you wrote are you most pleased with?  Could you talk about the story behind writing it? Easier than citing a single book or article, I’d […]

Reclaiming “Allahu Akbar” from Semantic Pejoration

Allāhu akbar, the Arabic phrase meaning “God is the greatest,” has gained connotations in US public discourse that differ vastly from its meaning among Muslims. Understanding this process may be the first step to reclaiming its positive connotations.

How to Counter Misinformation

To defend his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, Trump uttered several bald-faced lies to deflect responsibility for the humanitarian crisis he created. Although the lies he and administration officials repeated seemed to represent a new nadir even for this presidency, the constant flow of misinformation from this White House has vexed political journalists from day one. How do you cover a president who frequently utters false claims without giving credence to the misinformation?

New Sovereignties and the Translation of Clinical Authority

On February 14, 2018, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. News of the massacre quickly began trending on social media. For the first time since the preceding October after a mass shooting in Las Vegas, the now sadly familiar discourse about gun violence in the United States raised its head to front-page prominence.

How “Fake News” Lost Its Meaning

Collins Dictionary named fake news its 2017 word of the year, an easy choice given the word’s “unprecedented usage increase” of 365 percent over the previous year. Collins defines fake news as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news.” But this dictionary definition belies the shifting usage of the word in actual contexts of situation since the 2016 election.

#MeToo Holds Lessons for Political Resistance

Remember when everyone feared the “normalization” of a Trump presidency? Well, it’s gotten to the point where the US president can now openly brag about lying to the Canadian prime minister, and his bald-faced maneuvers to discredit the Robert Mueller investigation and FBI have been openly joined by House Republicans under the deceptive moniker of “oversight.”

A Theory of Propaganda for the Social Media Age

Intertextuality and the propagation of disinformation Propaganda typically refers to manipulative techniques and misleading messages used to gain public acquiescence for a political cause, especially during times of war. Over the past century, George Orwell, Harold Lasswell, Jacques Ellul, and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, among others, have written or theorized about propaganda. But […]