Category: General

Cargo Ships and Comrades: On the Occasion of the Beached Ever Given

In 2018, we took a cargo ship from Barcelona to New York City and made a short film called Slop Chest [1] about the blurry distinction between work and leisure when you live where you work—and can’t leave. Here, we describe some of our experiences on board, drawing resonances between the labor practices in international shipping and in Amazon’s warehouses. Writing while the cargo ship Ever Given is blocking all trade through the Suez Canal and while Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, are preparing to count votes in favor of unionization, we speculate about how these two events resonate. What are contours of this conjuncture? There are three separate crews on board our ship: the officers, the engineers, and the deck crew who are responsible for maintaining the ship and keeping watch. The captain is Polish and the officers are similarly white and eastern European. The engineers are mostly the (read more...)

Entrepreneurship and Technologies

Everyone is an entrepreneur – a new ethos is sweeping through our economic world. While the promises of ‘being your own boss’ and ‘deciding about your working hours’ are surely appealing to many, what is at times forgotten are the effects such an ethos has on the structures of work and labour, on relationships both economic and more widely. The flipside of this updated version of the American dream and the (false) promise of meritocracy have always been self-responsibilisation and dangers of reproducing structural inequality. (read more...)

Screenshots of the Field: Viral Loads and the Contagious Potentials of Digital Ethnography

Over the course of the past six months, I have been actively doing fieldwork on HIV care in Turkey on Zoom. Believe it or not, for an anxious person like myself, who to this date did not approach or talk to anyone in the field without being completely soaked in sweat, I have actually been enjoying doing research online. I recognize the “anxieties, challenges, concerns, dilemmas, doubts, problems, tensions, and troubles” that arise from digital fieldwork, particularly given that the quality of being virtual does not guarantee exemption from gendered, ableist, and racialized violence. However, these issues do not exhaust the methodological possibilities and relational potentials of online research, which I address in this blog post. (read more...)

Building Collaborative Habits, Establishing Sustaining Relations: What is the Role of a Scholarly Society Today?

For decades, the in-person academic conference has been a core aspect of the scholarly society’s mandate and programming. But the disruption COVID-19 has brought to in-person travel has amplified the need to grapple with critiques that were already growing about the format of the annual academic conference. Anand Pandian (2018), for one, has noted the incredible carbon footprints produced by such gatherings of scholars and academics, as well as questions of equitable access considering the cost and barriers to travel which often restrict already precarious and marginalized scholars from attending. In addition to rethinking fieldwork in COVID-19 times (see the Platypus Blog’s series on fieldwork amid the pandemic and the Patchwork Ethnography manifesto as examples), we call for deep reflection on the role of a scholarly society, as sociotechnical infrastructure, in supporting diverse collaborative relations. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities that were already at play in who can attend the in-person annual academic conference. In paying attention to the scholarly society as sociotechnical infrastructure, we believe there is an opportunity to contribute to thinking about what a radical break with the ways that academic social networks have thus far been established might look like, as well as contribute to new anthropological theory-making. (read more...)

Assembling an Actor-Network Theory Archaoelogy

When I first thought of putting Science and Technology Studies (STS) and archaeology in conversation, several aspects of this conversation seemed obvious. Given that things and human interactions with things are central to both fields of inquiry, I thought that it would largely be a discussion about epistemologies and the way that the “social,” as a field of action, is constructed by both disciplines. (read more...)

Airbnb’s Location Ratings as Anti-Black Spatial Disinvestment in Washington D.C.

In 2016, Airbnb host Synta Keeling appeared on NPR’s Hidden Brain to share her story of hosting as a Black woman living east of the Anacostia River. She recounts what a white male guest told her after a day out in D.C., “I was the only white person on the bus, and it was all these black people. And I asked myself, were they going to hurt me? Am I unsafe? And then I realized they weren’t hurting me and nothing was going to happen to me. Like, they were just sitting there normal.” [1] (read more...)

The Ugliness of Multispecies Intersubjectivity: Pandemic Racism and the Love of Animals in the U.K.

Content and Trigger Warning: This post contains profanity and strong references to violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, but more specifically, protesters who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. In 2020, we saw the collision of two simultaneous crises. First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced social, political, economic, and cultural changes in our lives. Adapting to this crisis hasn’t been an easy task, especially for individuals, communities, and societies that were already marginalized. (read more...)

Data Swarms Revisited – New Modes of Being

Editor’s Note: The new Platypus Thematic Series entitled “Data Swarms Revisited” will feature posts form computer science, philosophy and anthropology and connect to the Thematic Series Anthropos Tomorrow: Transhumanism and Anthropology inaugurated by Jon Bialecki and Ian Lowrie on Platypus in 2017. The posts will deal with overarching questions of the so-called “human condition” in times of accelerated computation, digitalization and technological infrastructures. Herein, the figuration of the Data Swarm serves as a playful and slightly ironic approximation to the threats and promises embedded in these on-going controversies. At the end of September 2019, it was already the fourth time that both the Research Lab of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne and the Collaborative Research Center 806 “Our Way to Europe” had invited an interdisciplinary group of international graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to meet at the Cologne Summer School of Interdisciplinary Anthropology (CSIA). For an entire (read more...)