AnthroCurrents – July 26, 2016

American Presidential Politics

Earlier this month Brexit was THE topic in the American media. NOW it is presidential politics. How would anthropologists explain the popularity of Donald Trump? There are several possibilities:

  • An historian offers Emile Durkheim‘s “collective efferevescence,” but that seems a bit one-dimensional.
  • A religious studies professor argues that anthropologist James Frazer‘s discussion of magicians and kings in The Golden Bough is a better explanation. But aren’t there some living anthropologists we can consult?
  • Linguist George Lakoff (UC Berkeley) comes close. His most recent piece in The Huffington Post summarizes previous observations about American world views of a Strict Father family (leaning conservative) or a Nuturant Parent family (leaning progressive). He gives examples of how Trump takes advantage of this and other persusasive linguistic/cognitive patterns (repitition, framing, and metaphors).
  • Anthropologist Phil Stevens (U Buffalo) suggests that teaching science and critical thinking are antidotes to the rise of Trump and the vote for Brexit.
  • Are there anthropologists we have missed?

Keyword: “anthropology”

(1) When is “political anthropology” just journalism? Apparently when CNN uses the term. Listen or read the “first in an occasional series … examining the political anthropology of the United States …” What do you think?

(2) Are you working on human interaction with autonomous-drive vehicles? Or in other AI fields? Let us know. describes “anthropologic learnings” in designing autonomous-drive vehicles. But the anthropologists are ghosts in the machine. Apparently.

Anthropologists on Islam and Terrorism

After the deadly attack via truck in Nice, France, Nancy Scheper-Hughes (UC Berkeley) explores how this fit with ISIS declarations to target the “grey zone” between believers and infidels (as they define them). She offers examples of other social and political movements that have used the same approach.

Meanwhile, John R. Bowen (Washington U in St. Louis) is quoted on why France is the target of anti-Western terrorism. He comments on France’s colonial and post-colonial relationship with North Africa, and the immigration of North African Muslims to France as a result.

And Darryl Li (U Chicago) shares how his research in the Balkans contradicts the view that Saudi Arabia is an exporter of jihadist ideology that leads inexorably to the formation of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. As anthropologists would expect, the reality is more complex.

Uber is part of a “gig economy” trend in India and elsewhere…

From the Field (Where Else?)

Could food-sharing patterns among hunter-gatherers help us understand reciprocity in the 21st Century? You


Is Uber in India a good thing or not? Does it matter if you are driving or riding? Maybe. Maybe not.

How can a former undocumented immigrant, now citizen, assist other undocumented immigrants? With anthropology!

That thing about closely related women synchronizing their periods? Urban myth, according to biocultural anthropologist Alexandra Alvergne.

From Kin Group to King Tut (The Breadth of Anthropology)

See anthropology … in the biennial exhibit, “SITElines.2016: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas,” which opened July 16, 2016. For a peek, see a profile of an early visual anthropologist, Pierre Verger, who photographed Afro-Brazilian Candomble rituals in the 1940s and 1950s.

Imagine anthropology … ‘Game of Thrones‘ can lead to a career as an anthropologist.

Practice anthropology … to understand how both urban farming and food deserts coexist in Detroit.

Of Interest to Anthropologists

Mozart or Run-D.M.C? It is all the same along the Amazon River. Musicologists have confirmed there is no innate human preference for musical consanance.





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    1. Yes, that’s another good read, Carie. Thanks! We’ll include it in next week’s post, for better exposure.

  1. And, since our comments so far–as well as George Lakoff’s analysis–are about cognition and psychology, I am still keeping an eye out for anything that does come more directly from “political anthropology.”

  2. I agree, Mike. This election cycle, more than any other in a long time, seems to reveal how voting decisions are made at an emotional level and rationalized at the cognitive. Many people, including supporters of Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, are expressing their emotional support more strongly than policy positions or proposals.

  3. Thank you for this interesting compilation. On Trump, or Clinton for that matter, I don’t see much on what this looks like to me, anger and attitude, taking different shapes in different groups, but widely distributed. It’s visceral, rooted in lower levels of need in Maslow’s hierarchy as caused rather than handled by government, not cognitive.

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