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.
The death toll of schoolchildren, the agony of migrant families seeking safe haven, the mistrust of the “justice” system by people of color—anthropologists need to determine their role in clotting these social wounds. One way forward, I think, is the intersubjective empathy at anthropology’s core.
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.
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.
In Frederick Douglass’s famous oration, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” he calls himself a citizen, but the speech is full of references to “your national independence” and “your political freedom.” This ambivalence reflects the bitter irony of celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence while black men and women were held as slaves, bought and sold like animals.
“Every time one of these shootings happens, it puts us three steps backwards,” Paula said to me during my first summer of preliminary fieldwork in 2012. Her concern stemmed from media discourse following the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting at a midnight movie theater screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Paula, a staff member at Vista, a New Orleans-based organization that provides various mental health programs for individuals with mental illness and their family members, has good reason to be concerned about how mass shootings, like the one in Aurora, portray individuals with mental illness as dangerous and violent, further exacerbating existing stigma that individuals with mental illness face daily. This discourse further discourages individuals from using such services because they might be seen as dangerous or violent.
After a series of discrimination allegations, Starbucks announced in April that it would close to eight thousand stores on May 29 to conduct racial bias training. Many applauded the multinational corporation for taking a stance against racism, while others scoffed. Anthropologists have long kept a pulse on how corporations pollute environments, depress wages, control workers, create war, and, as a mentor recently reminded me, how they “just kill people.”
Medico-legal systems must change how they respond to victims.