Wrestling with “The Donald”

Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1984) concept of the carnivalesque provides insight into Trump’s ability to subvert dominant political conventions through humor and chaos, maximizing entertainment value as he flouts presidential norms. But this concept alone cannot do full justice to explaining the ongoing, day-to-day spectacle of Trump’s presidency. To better understand the Trump phenomenon, I suggest we borrow a concept from the world of professional wrestling where hyperreality converges with spectacle to produce the same strange amalgamation of bravado, hyperbole, and exaggeration (and outright lies) that marks Trumpian politics. That concept is kayfabe.

Tackling the Elephant in the Room

A Guide to Teaching Race after Charlottesville The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville embodied the ongoing racist ideologies that have permeated the United States since its inception. As a biological anthropologist, I was simultaneously horrified and unsurprised by the events that unfolded. I reflected on what I, as an anthropologist, could do about it—now. […]

“Speaking Justice to Power” Since 1973

The study of politics and law is critical to unpacking the operation of power in society and identifying possible pathways to social change. For contemporary political and legal anthropology, our greatest challenge may be the very unboundedness of that charge, and the almost staggering potential for our work to influence understanding, policy and practice, and […]

Trump’s Wall and the Dictator Aesthetic

Well, look, we’re going to have a border. It’s going to be a real border, and we’re going to build a wall and it’s going to be a serious wall. Just remember that. And you remember I said it…. It’s going to be a serious wall. It’s going to be a real wall. It’s not going to […]

The Zero-Sum Game of White Supremacy

Sexuality and gender-based civil rights and religion are now largely considered incompatible. In the United States, the media consistently poses this as a case of irreconcilable values, beliefs, and practices. However, this is not a problem of conflicting essential differences. Rather it is a flawed framework for thinking about citizenship and belonging. Much like the […]

America’s Most Consequential Racial Divide

Last October in the vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, moderator Elaine Quijano brought up the “issue of law enforcement and race relations.” Pence’s response and the exchange that followed represents one of the most consequential racial divisions in US society: the disparate understandings of what the very concept of racism means. The exchange illustrates how our society’s guiding narratives about race preserve a woefully inadequate and overly narrow understanding of racism—as evidenced by the umbrage taken by Pence to the notion “that there’s implicit bias in everyone in the United States.”

Kneeling Down is the New Standing Up

Colin Kaepernick and the power of athlete protest In our new age of viral videos, trending topics, and social media outrage, patriotism is now hotly contested in cyberspace—what it means to be a patriot and honor the flag, the anthem, or the nation’s president. Enter former San Francisco 49er and now free agent NFL quarterback […]

Managing Hope after Affirmative Action

What “Diversity of Thought” Reveals About the Disappearing Corporate Ladder   In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg took the media by storm with the publication of her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Many in the diversity management profession applauded her, despite critiques by intersectional feminist scholars that her purported universal advice offered […]

When White Nationalism Became Popular

What rising white nationalism says about race in the 21st century US. On November 12th, 2016 TheDailyStormer.com, a neo-Nazi website with a monthly viewership of over two million lead with the headline, “The Swastika Reigns in Germany! Trump reigns in America!” After the election a popular thread on the white nationalist website Stormfront.org, with over […]

Notes on the Political Divide

Disentangling Antiracism from Capitalism Was it racism or class that gave Trump the election? Much has been written about this topic, including articles that deconstruct the white working-class, analyze the opportunism in whiteness, and claim racism was to blame. Yet, our attempts to understand the rise of Trumpism have not assuaged our fears of institutionalized and […]