Tag: race

Zombie Knowledge: Toward a Deeper Conversation between Black Studies and Multispecies Anthropology

Monsters, the nightmarish figures we conjure in the dark, reflect our own culturally and politically specific anxieties. They are a dark mirror: a terrifying rendering of a social fact exaggerated, turned inside out, or perhaps a manifestation of some truth we find unthinkable except in fantasy. (read more...)

The Temporal Politics of Ethnography, Heritability, and Contagion in Tanzania During Covid-19

Editor’s note: This post is the fourth in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi. I have been living in Tanzania since March of 2018, conducting ethnographic fieldwork with Tanzanian families that have a genetically-inherited blood disorder called sickle cell disease. My interest in studying the socio-political life of this particular diagnosis in this particular place started in 2012, when I learned of a Pan-African bioscience movement, sited partly in Tanzania, to prioritize sickle cell disease research and care across the continent. I became curious about what it might mean anthropologically to shift the timescales of global health intervention from the immediacy of more traditionally-prioritized communicable diseases like HIV and malaria, toward the intergenerational transmission of a genetic condition. Almost two years of interviews and observation with families, activists, and healthcare providers had me thinking about the (read more...)

Black Geographies: New Maroon Studies and the Politics of Place

Jamaican Maroons are the descendants of Africans who escaped enslavement on plantations in the early colonial period. Mentions of the Maroons in the colonial record begin around 1655, when the British, having routed the Spanish from Jamaica, started facing fierce guerrilla resistance from groups of Africans who had established free communities in the hills. The Maroon population grew as frequent revolts on the plantations facilitated the flight to freedom in the hills. The British unsuccessfully tried to subdue the Maroons by force of arms. Ultimately, they signed peace treaties with the leaders of the two main Maroon groups in 1739. The treaties included land grants and recognition of Maroon autonomy, but also included stipulations that the Maroons help capture runaways and subdue revolts in the future. (read more...)

White Fans, Liberal Ideologies, and the Erasure of Black Stories in Gaming

Last month, the highly anticipated video game Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11) was released to an excited yet wary fighting game community. Game studio NetherRealm’s newest incarnation received praise from both fans and critics for its simplistic yet entertaining combat system, its thrilling cinematic cutscenes, and the reintroduction of original and beloved characters. However, despite its success the game was given little time to rest on its laurels, as a subset of white male fans immediately began to criticize one particular choice in one character’s story. The game featured a compelling tale in which the two separate timelines of Mortal Kombat merged to finish an ongoing plot branching all the way back to MK’s 2006 game Mortal Kombat Armageddon. As a result of this temporal shift, fan favorite black “kombatant” Jackson Briggs (or “Jax”) was given a fascinating story ending, in which he gains the ability to rewrite time, a power he subsequently uses to create a history in which slavery does not exist. (read more...)

Race, Rural Livelihoods, and Contested Conservation Landscapes

A visit to Basu Farms in Pembroke Township, about 60 miles south of Chicago, provides a glimpse into the entanglement of land tenure, black history and self-determination in rural Northeastern Illinois. On one side of the main building at Basu Natural Farms, shelves line the walls containing rows of dark bottles of tincture and salves labeled ‘black walnut,’ ‘St. John’s wort,’ ‘horsetail,’ and many others.  Pam Basu makes these herbal medicines primarily from plants that she grows organically or wild harvests. The Basus also sell vegetables and flowers produced on the farm. On the other side of the building is a small museum displaying objects that highlight the African-American experience in this region.  For many Pembroke residents, land tenure and the form their livelihoods take cannot be disconnected from local black knowledge traditions and the struggle for post-Jim Crow enfranchisement. The annual Marcus Garvey festival held on the Basu Farm, (read more...)

Busting Myths of Human Nature: An Interview with Dr. Agustín Fuentes

Many of our most enduring social problems are propped up by equally enduring beliefs in the inherent, biological nature of human beings – our perceptions, behaviors, and potentials are ‘hard-wired’ through genetics and evolution. This is particularly true in matters of racial and gender inequality, as well as beliefs in humans’ supposedly innate aggressiveness. In the past, professionals in the human sciences helped to perpetuate these myths, lending their voices and authority to assertions that lacked evidence and allowing stereotypes and biases to stand in for genuine research. Dr. Agustín Fuentes, biological anthropologist and primatologist at Norte Dame University, takes on these assertions in his book Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature. (read more...)

The Anti-Politics of Women in Tech

Almost daily are news articles about women in tech. Among these on the day I wrote this post, for example, were an article in Marie Claire, the women’s magazine, called “How Much Have Things Really Changed for Women in Technology?” and another in India’s business newspaper Mint titled “Two kinds of pay gap in the IT industry: NetApp’s Mark Bregman.” Both articles touch on several issues about women in tech, and STEM fields more generally; the cornerstone in each, however, is simply the number of women in the tech world—or the lack thereof, compared with men. This is a problem that has been explored since at least the mid-1970s in computer science (e.g., Montanelli Jr. and Mamrak 1976), longer for some other STEM fields. More recently this issue was highlighted last year, particularly in the media and public attention, when large tech companies like Google, Apple, Twitter, and Facebook released “diversity data” showing the dismal number of women and minorities among their employees. The articles also point to several issues seen as contributing to the disparities, including pay and hiring gaps for women, so-called “brogrammer” culture (involving frat-house-like sociality and performances of technical heroism, generally among men), and implicit biases shaping how women (and men) are perceived and judged. As a former woman in tech—I pursued an undergraduate degree in computer science—I appreciate how this surge in public awareness and interest is helpful to many, particularly in relation to discussions about sexism and tech cultures. Through social media, blogs, and news articles people are sharing and discussing personal experiences and working to further raise awareness of, and gain support for, challenges women as a group face in tech. Tech companies and governments have also pledged a great deal of money towards “fixing” this problem. (read more...)