Adventures in Blogging: Public Anthropology and Popular Media
Paul Stoller has been writing a popular blog for the Huffington Post since 2011. Blogging, says Stoller, allows him to bring an anthropological perspective to contemporary debates, but it also makes him a better writer: snappier, more concise, and more focused on the connection he wants to make with readers. In this collection of selected blog posts, Stoller models good writing while sharing his insights on politics (including the emergence of "Trumpism" and the impact of ignorance on US political practices), higher education, social science, media, and well-being. In the process, he discusses the changing nature of scholarly communication and the academy’s need for greater public engagement.
- Division: Higher Education
- World Rights
- Page Count: 224 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.6in x 9.0in
“At once passionate in his belief in the promise of public anthropology, and clear-eyed about the kinds of knowledge and language anthropology has to sacrifice as it adapts to digital media, Stoller does a marvelous job of chronicling his own adventure while inspiring others to try their own experiments in connecting to our contemporary media ecology.”
Dominic Boyer, author of The Life Informatic: Newsmaking in the Digital Era
“By re-charting his journey into the blogosphere, Paul Stoller actually shows us how he makes public anthropology more public. Through his process he reveals why critical cultural analysis—in the short form of blogging as well as in books and articles—is imperative to helping claim our collective humanity.”
Gina Athena Ulysse, author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle
“Adventures in Blogging offers a model for the future of writing anthropology. In 40 quick reads, Stoller provides food for thought and the material we so desperately need to hold rich discussion in any setting: the classroom, the conference hall, and even at the kitchen table.”
Alisse Waterston, author of My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory, and the Violence of a Century
Author InformationPaul Stoller is Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University. He has published 14 books, including ethnographies, biographies, memoirs, and novels, and is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology. In 2013, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented him the Anders Retzius Gold Medal in Anthropology. In 2015, the American Anthropological Association awarded him the Anthropology in Media Award.
Table of contents
Prologue: Blogging Bliss and Public Anthropology
Part One: Blogging Politics in the Age of Trump
1. Politics in a Culture of Ignorance (March 2011)
2. Anti-Anti Science (March 2011)
3. Class Illusions (September 2011)
4. Social Engineering and the Politics of Ignorance (July 2012)
5. Racing Away from Ferguson and the Challenge of Education (December 2014)
6. Big Man Bibi (March 2015)
7. The Anthropology of Trump: Myth, Illusion, and Celebrity Culture (March 2016)
8. The Return of the Plague: An Open Letter to Our Students (November 2016)
9. Revisiting the Anthropology of Trump: Anthropology and the Power of Culture (November 2016)
10. Going Public: Resistance in the Age of Trump (January 2017)
11. Who Is the Enemy of the People? (March 2017)
12. Budgeting Social Darwinism (March 2017)
Part Two: Blogging Social Science: The Challenge of Going Public
13. The Limited Good of Rick Scott’s Anthropology (October 2011)
14. The Face of Poverty in America (February 2012)
15. The Social Life of Music—in Mali (May 2013)
16. Narrative and the Future of the Social Sciences (December 2013)
17. Welcome to the Anthropocene (November 2014)
18. Alice Goffman and the Future of Ethnography (June 2015)
19. In Defense of Ethnography (August 2015)
20. Terrorism: A Challenge for the Social Sciences (December 2015)
21. Fast Culture in the Age of Trump (June 2017)
22. Slow Anthropology in the Age of Trump (June 2017)
Part Three: Blogging Higher Education: A Public Defense of Scholarship
23. Winter Break (December 2011)
24. Waging War on Higher Education (May 2012)
25. Higher Education’s Train to Nowhere (September 2013)
26. A 2014 Challenge for the Social Sciences (January 2014)
27. Kafka on Campus (March 2014)
28. The Brave New World of Campus Life (April 2014)
29. Magical Mentors (May 2014)
30. We’re Number One (August 2014)
31. A Letter from the Underground of The Castle (September 2014)
Part Four: Blogging Media in the Era of Fast News
32. Media Matters in Africa (January 2012)
33. Joseph Kony and the Other Africa (March 2012)
34. Media Myopia and the Image of Africa (August 2013)
35. Message from Mali (March 2015)
Part Five: Blogging Well-Being: Finding Your Way in Troubled Times
36. Living with Cancer (February 2011)
37. Remission Rites (February 2014)
38. Remiss About Remission (April 2015)
39. Well-Being in the World (February 2015)
40. A Path Toward Well-Being (February 2016)
Epilogue: Anthropology and Popular Media
Read An Excerpt
BLOGGING POLITICS IN THE AGE OF TRUMP
These days just about everyone engages in some form of blogging. If you post a message on Facebook, or make a comment about something that you have retweeted, you are microblogging. If you post a photo with a caption on Instagram, you are also microblogging. These messages, which can be terse or detailed, can be about a wide variety of subjects. These may be personal (family relations, birthdays, reunions, travel, medical updates), social (comments about race relations, income and/or health inequities, grassroots social movements), professional (notification of conferences, announcements of grant awards and article and book publications), or political (commentary on public policy, the effectiveness of government, or a political campaign). No matter the subject, a personal microblog is an invitation for an online conversation, which is, in turn, an invitation to connect or reconnect with people in a digital network.
The public blogs that constitute Adventures in Blogging differ from personal posts. Like personal posts, public blogs are invitations to a conversation. Indeed, if a public blog is widely shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter, it prompts both online and off-line conversations. The public blog, however, is longer and more detailed than a microblog. The goal of the public blog, moreover, is to reach readers beyond the blogger’s personal network. In addition, the public blog usually showcases some degree of expertise about a wide assortment of subjects. If the expertise is communicated in a short, plainly articulated text, it may attract a large and diverse audience. For scholars, the public blog is one way to communicate insights, derived through rigorous research and scholarly reflection, to an increasingly wiredin audience. Blogging, then, is an effective way to contribute slowly developed insights in a culture of speed and expedience.
In this part of Adventures in Blogging, I present public political blogs that I wrote for the Huffington Post in quick response to a variety of political events. My take on contemporary politics, however, is based on years of slowly cultivated thinking about politics in social life. In most of the posts, which are succinct texts comprising short paragraphs, I try to make one point in clear and compelling prose. In some of the blogs, I use narrative techniques—description and dialogue. The political blog is therefore a relatively slow intervention in the culture of speed.
Politics provides a wonderful domain for anthropological reflection. In the United States, politics has become a profoundly social and cultural arena of public debate. Considering that much of the political commentary on television and radio often amounts to—at best—fast and shallow reflection, it is incumbent on anthropologists, among other scholars, to join the conversation. Given the long record of anthropological thinking about social relations and cultural concepts, anthropologists are particularly well placed to write about the practice of politics-in-the-world.
Classic and more recent anthropological concepts can be powerfully employed to explain the behaviors of politicians like Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, President Barack Obama, Florida Governor Rick Scott, or more recently President Donald J. Trump. Anthropological concepts can be used to understand how political institutions like the US Congress function in the turbulent climate of extreme partisanship. They can be employed to probe the social and cultural ramifications of laws like the Affordable Care Act and to consider the social consequences of Republican efforts to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare. Anthropological bloggers are well situated to shed light on the social impact of policies that affect our introduction · 3 fragile environment. They can also use their blogs to resist political oppression and the power of "the big lie."
In academic writing, we tend to tell our readers about things. We articulate a complex argument that refines our thinking about culture, social relations, the evolutionary record, or the dynamics of politics. Indeed, I could go on and on about how an anthropological perspective brings depth and breadth to ongoing political debate.
In our digitally interconnected world, though, blogging politics on wide-circulation social media news platforms like HuffPost, Slate, and Salon can be a central element in the practice of contemporary public anthropology. These platforms require timely essays that are short, crisp, and accessible to the general public. When a political event occurs, the anthropologically informed political blogger who follows the news regularly decides which item she or he can write about with a degree of expertise and then responds with dispatch. The news landscape, after all, is ever-shifting.
How do you link news material to anthropological concepts? In the political blogs that follow, I’ve tried to produce such linkages. In March 2016, when candidate Donald Trump swept the Super Tuesday Republican primaries to assure his presidential nomination, I posted on HuffPost "The Anthropology of Trump" (see Chapter 7), in which I tried to demonstrate how the American culture of celebrity had, in large measure, propelled his victories.
The relatively speedy practice of blogging in the popular media may seem like an affront to the slow work of anthropology in which scholars spend years engaged in study, reflection, and writing to produce faithful representations of social life. That pursuit is a noble one. Public political blogs, however, are not an affront to established anthropological practice, for bloggers can—and do—employ slowly developed anthropological concepts. In the political blogs that follow, I use such time-honored concepts as economic exchange, social class, culture, and race to craft my posts. These deliberately developed concepts can be used to compose hard-hitting political blogs that make one powerful point in 850 clearly and simply expressed words. It sounds daunting, but with practice, it can be done with great efficacy—a very good way to engage in the public anthropology of contemporary American politics.
Subjects and Courses