Author Archives: Baird Campbell

Baird Campbell is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Rice University. He holds an MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University. His research explores the intersections of social media, self-making, and trans activism in contemporary Chile. His dissertation research was supported by the Social Sciences Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Before They Erase It: Memory and the social media archive

Disponible en español aquí. This afternoon, I began to notice increasingly alarming images, posts, and tweets from my interlocutors in Santiago. It appeared that Santiago was on fire, and that the military was in the streets. Images of familiar streets and landmarks now felt doubly familiar, as their similarity to images taken during the coup of 1973 were undeniable. A quick Google search confirmed my fears; Piñera had declared a state of emergency in response to the student metro protests, that there were already deaths, disappearances, and torture reported, and that a curfew had been implemented. Switching over to Whatsapp, I sent frantic messages to my interlocutors and former host family to check that they were safe (they were.) However, it was clear that—even for seasoned activists—this felt different. Many recalled memories or iconic images of the 1973 coup, wondering if history might be about to repeat itself. As the (read more...)

Platypus Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month

In support of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, please enjoy some of our favorite posts engaging with understandings of disability! (read more...)

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Today, in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we bring you a compilation of some of our favorite past posts from the Spanish-speaking world. Happy reading! (read more...)

Anti-Queer Violence, Bearing Witness, and Thinking with Algorithms on Social Media

(Nota: Esta publicación está disponible en español aquí.) In early June 2019, news began to break concerning the death of a Salvadoran transgender woman, Johana Medina León, of pneumonia, four days after being released from nearly six weeks in ICE custody. Before long, my Facebook feed was filled with stories detailing the persecution Johana faced in El Salvador because of her gender identity; her dangerous journey to the United States to seek asylum; and her final moments as she struggled to save her own life, as it became clear no one else would. She might have saved her own life, if she’d been given the resources. In El Salvador, Johana was a nurse. Johana’s death is tragic for many reasons, not the least of which is that had it not been for social media, it likely would have gone unnoticed. (read more...)

Happy Pride Month!

In support and solidarity with LGBTQIA+/Queer people around the world, we’re celebrating Pride Month with a collection of some of our most popular queer content from the blog. We take this moment to recognize the valuable contributions LGBTQIA+/Queer people make to our fields, our society, and our lives. Check out six of our favorites below! (read more...)

Of Camels, Platypuses, and the Future of the Blog

It has been said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. We might think of the platypus in much the same way, though the key difference is perhaps that—as of yet—it is unclear what the Platypus Committee was trying to create. Regardless, the platypus has long been emblematic of the limitations of scientific classification. An egg-laying, duck-billed, poisonous mammal: the only surviving member of its species and genus. It is this persistent and natural spirit of disruption and provocation that led the founders of this blog to christen it with the name of this thoroughly confusing and fascinating creature. Its defiance of orderly categorization serves as both a metaphor and motivation for the continued intersection of anthropology and science and technology studies, sometimes considered strange bedfellows. (read more...)

The Role of Scientific Discourse in Chile’s Trans Rights Movement

También disponible en español aquí. On June 18, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the removal of “transsexuality” (a term based on psychiatric diagnosis and maligned by many trans activists as pathologizing) from the “mental disorders” section of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). After decades of activism, this move was applauded by trans activists around the world. Nonetheless, activists insist that the WHO—rather than removing trans identities entirely—should included them instead in its list of “sexual health conditions.” The commercialization of healthcare in much of the world means that, while trans people have no desire to be classified as “sick” or “mentally ill,” an official medical diagnosis remains crucial for accessing affordable medical care during the process of physical transition (to cover things like hormone therapies, surgeries, mental health support costs, etc.). In countries such as the US, where even private insurance companies are famously reticent to cover (read more...)

Learning to be Trans on YouTube

Editor’s note: This week, we have a first for the blog: a bilingual post! Esta publicación está disponible en español aquí. “When I first started to come out as trans, I went straight to YouTube, and watched a bunch of videos trans kids, and then I started to find videos from people my own age.” Sitting in the living room of his parents’ house in suburban Santiago, Chile, days before his double mastectomy in June 2016, Noah told me a story I would hear repeatedly, with surprisingly little variation, over the course of my fieldwork. He continued, “Even then, the reality I saw was very different. The majority were from the US and England, but at least they helped me understand, ‘OK, so you can start to transition at the age of 19 or 20, like me.’” After an adolescence of not knowing quite where he fit, Noah had found a global community of people like himself with the click of his mouse. (read more...)