Martín and the Immigration Forms

A friend of mine from Peru—we’ll call him Martín—recently applied for a visa to attend graduate school in the United States. Moving to the US involved filling out lots of forms, and this presented a dilemma: When I had to mark a category for race, I couldn’t find the word “mestizo,” which is the option […]

Colonialism’s Orchestrated Disasters in Puerto Rico

“María, María, perdí la esperanza, María, María, perdí la esperanza.” I am reminded of these lyrics from the bomba group, Yuba Iré, when I see the pictures and videos of our beloved nation of Puerto Rico in ruins. Some of us had lived through hurricanes before, but nothing had prepared us for this level of […]

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.