Tag: anthropology

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 week, the participants delved into the many controversies about the so-called “human condition” and what it actually means to “be human” in the 21st century.[2] After three years of discussing the latest material and practice turns along the Phenomenality of Material Things, in 2019, the CSIA relaunched its inquiries in new modes of being and humanism(s) under the theme of Beyond Humanism: Cyborgs – Animals – Data Swarms. With an apparent elective affinity to Donna Haraway (Haraway 2016b), we picked up where the last CSIA left by taking a closer look at what trans– and posthumanist agendas actually imply and how they relate to classic understandings of the human condition. Our goal was not simply dismissing these new modes of humanism(s) as mere social phenomena in an age of accelerated technological and cultural transformations but to take them seriously in order to better understand the shifts in contemporary concepts and controversies about being human. Through historically tracing back modes of humanism and their counterparts, as well as excavating their ontological and epistemological conditions, we identified three relational contestations of what it no longer means and three figurations of what it nowadays means to be human. The contestations are: (1) the distribution of human subjectivity and cognition, (2) the disintegration of human individuality, and (3) the dissolution of humanity as a unique ontological category. (read more...)

The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies

On November 21, 2020, protestors flooded the historic and political center of Guatemala City over the congressional approval of a  budget bill of nearly twelve billion dollars (or ninety-nine billion Quetzales). The proposed budget not only significantly decreased aid to dire and already underfunded public health initiatives but allocated money to ministries known for robbing and vacating government funds. While protestors gathered in the capital’s Parque Central, youth on the frontlines cathartically set fire to the Congressional building only several blocks away and confronted the National Civilian Police (PNC) in order to limit their advancement onto the much larger, peaceful crowd. Guatemala’s recently elected president and former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system, Alejandro Giammattei, and his administration stood by as the PNC threw tear-gas, harassed, and arrested protestors in sight on charges of illegal protest and public disorder. (read more...)

2021 at Platypus

The first weeks of 2021 brought no relief, even though so many hoped otherwise. Instead, the first twelve days clearly demonstrated that exclusion, inequity, violence, and multiply intersecting systems of oppression didn’t magically disappear into the thin air as the clock struck midnight on January 1. Neither in the US nor in other parts of the world. (read more...)

Transgression as the Life-World

That Sunday morning the words came from my colleague José, secretary of the Q’eqchi’ Council of Elders Releb’aal Saq’e’(ACGERS), located in Poptun, Petén… “Tata Mingo is dead, he was lit on fire by his own neighbors a few minutes ago… He was accused of witchcraft.”  My knees succumbed, unable to let sink in the story José kept repeating over the phone, as if to make sure I was grasping the full gravity of what happened. Domingo Choc Che, a gentle soul and wise Ajilonel, expert on medicinal plants and practitioner of Maya Spirituality, and my research colleague, had been murdered.  “The others are afraid,” José went on, “what if they start coming after all of us?”  At that moment, the weight of my academic decisions felt like a punch in the stomach. I told myself we had been careful; we knew the area and had researched the risks extensively. Yet my ignorance of the subjacent complex local dynamics seemed unequivocal. The ACGERS Council was pushing the boundaries of a new type of research, in full trust of our partnership. That day changed me as an anthropologist and as transdisciplinarian. In this article I reflect on what it means to push and transgress the boundaries of collaborative research and how we may be asked to become a new species of social scientist. (read more...)

So long, Indiana Jones, or who owns “El Mirador”?

The rule of “finders, keepers” has held true for most archaeological discoveries at least since museums, as we now know them, have existed. Collectors of foreign objects have been around, of course, as long as war, but the officialization of plunder for the purpose of exhibiting foreign treasures in public spaces dates back to the Enlightenment (mid 18th to early 19th centuries), when feeding museums was part of anthropologists’ tasks, an expectation that survived until very recently. Explorers and discoverers were romanticized and immortalized in literature and, later, film. The debate over ownership of archaeological sites and objects has followed a similar arch; now the decolonization of knowledge and critiques of cultural appropriation are central to anthropological debates. Despite growing public questioning of ownership of the past and its objects, the ghost of Indiana Jones continues to capture and seduce many. The battle over who decides over the Mayan archaeological (read more...)

Managing Refugee Mobilities: Global Flows of Migration Deterrence Technologies

In 2000, a United Nations Resolution designated June 20th World Refugee Day. In the week leading up to this day, countries throughout the world pay homage to the ideals of the refugee rights movement through public festivals celebrating their migrant communities’ cultures, social media campaigns on refugee resilience, and declarations of their commitment to protect those seeking asylum. Historically, nation-states have employed such public messages to emphasize their identities as benevolent, humanitarian actors.  However, what these proclamations elide is not only the violent ways that individual nations reject asylum seekers[1], but the collective ways that countries work together to inhibit their mobilities. Both the technologies of detection and deterrence as well as anti-refugee rhetoric, while based on insular ideas of nationhood and ‘who belongs,’ are also increasingly dependent on collaborations and partnerships with other nation-states. In attempts to control refugee movement, multiple nation states are both entangled and willingly involved in a global effort to contain, reroute, and eventually immobilize asylum seekers from the global South seeking protection in liberal democratic states. While there has always been an international refugee regime since the inception of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it is worth paying attention to the new ways in which nation states are learning from and relying upon each other to govern where refugees can and cannot go. (read more...)

Honey, let we tell you! A speculative trans-species storytelling of the Maya Forest borderlands

Editor’s note: This is the second post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” Previous scholars largely confined their studies of European honey bee (Apis mellifera, including Africanized hybrids) communication to the waggle dance, with the communication range limited to food gathering, hive site selection, and other simple collective tasks. Recent advances in therolinguistic interpretation have demonstrated that a hive structure’s 3-dimensional matrix, including differentially-deposited pheromones and scent signatures laid in wax, contain additional, semi-permanently recorded content, though without a functional grammar. Rather than fully-articulated communication, the hive contains references to broader concepts—such as joy, woe, growth, care, loss, hunger, abundance, battle, defense, and so on. Reading waggle dances in hive context reveals that basic communication is often interwoven with broader narratives. (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...)