When Black Boy Joy and STEM Don’t Mix

As a kindergartner with Black boy joy, Carter excitedly began public school wanting to become a scientist. Carter considered scientists “some of the smartest people on earth,” because they could create things. His dream was encouraged by his family and friends in public housing because, despite the demonization of his community, they wanted him to […]

Here’s the Rub on the Dove Skincare Ad

The latest rendition of “sorry, not sorry” is not just topping the Billboard charts. It is also a public relations anthem about “missing the mark.” This time, Dove skincare is being accused of “tone deafness.” The ad, appearing on Facebook, drew widespread critique. It features a loop of images of three women, each wearing a […]

Learning from Stuart Hall

The anthropology of living with difference. This year has for me been a year of reading and re-reading the work of the late cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall (1932-2014). This year the publishing of Hall’s work has become a minor publishing cottage industry. Though Hall was not an anthropologist, his books and essays have certainly been […]

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 […]