An all too familiar approach to the Gordgantuan problem (a double articulation, referencing Gordian and gargantuan, to express, at once, difficulty and enormity) of racism in the United States has been the prodigious search for its ends, its reach, and its grasp.
A glance at my watch revealed that my colleague was already five minutes over his thirty-minute allotment. Students from various cohorts and faculty had gathered in the small lounge shared by sociology and anthropology for our weekly brown bag session.
Following in a black feminist epistemological tradition, a key element of my work is to insert black people, who are often subjugated in ALS knowledge production, as both objects of knowledge production and producers of knowledge. What is ALS like for black people? Are they being diagnosed? Are they being misdiagnosed? What social and political structures are in place that make access to care challenging?
From critical reflections on the discipline and experiences of it, to grappling with fake news and social media through an anthropological lens, to discussions on race and diversity in the anthropological imagination and the United States more broadly, this year’s top articles speak to major political moments and discipline-specific concerns.
You can spot the extremes on the street in Silicon Valley. You can find monumental architecture and tour “the mothership,” a gigantic circular edifice that is the home to the Apple headquarters. You might spot a few autonomous vehicles, piloted by a host of competing companies, especially Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
In a tweet from 2013, Roseanne Barr called former United Nations National Security Advisor Susan Rice a “big man with swinging ape balls.” This year, Barr was at it again, tweeting “If Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby =vj.” VJ was a reference to Valerie Jarett, a former senior advisor to President Barak Obama.
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.
The first time I ever questioned my decision to become an anthropologist—a listener, a questioner, a participant, an observer on the margins—was during a camping trip before grad school classes started.
When I was sent a link to a Snopes article asking, “Did DNA Testing Companies Admit to Altering Tests to ‘Screw with Racists’?” (2017), I knew that my research had become “fake news.” Even though I spent years at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics with professors Aaron Panofsky and Christopher Kelty researching the use of DNA ancestry tests by white supremacists, I was not immune from becoming a vector for online propaganda and conspiracy theories.