As a Black woman trained in bioanthropology and dedicated to a career trying to undo the residues of social Darwinism and anti-Black racism in museums, I’m concerned about the present state of popular discourse around Africa and Blackness.
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.
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.