Diversity and collaboration: inside and outside the OAC

You will notice that Alberto has opened a group in Spanish and a discussion about it in English. I would encourage any of you to launch similar regional or language-based groups. We want OAC to be a multilingual platform allowing our members the freedom to be themselves in the medium and area that they choose.

There are already several other online initiatives whose form and purposes overlap with ours. The Red de Antropologías del Mundo - World Anthropologies Network (ram-wan for short) has been around for a while as a platform in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Two weeks ago the Moving Anthropology Students Network (MASN) was also formed on NIng. I left this message for them:

Fraternal greetings from the OAC

More or less by accident, after some discussion between friends that started on Twitter, I launched a new Ning network yesterday, the Open Anthropology Cooperative. I didn't know then about MASN, but I do now. I am sure there are already several others and more to come. Our membership is open to all. I have taken the liberty of joining you in order to write this post. Having recently taken retirement, I now feel free to revert to being a student, I suppose. But if you don't think I belong here, I will go quietly. I just wanted to invite you to take a look at the other network and, with some overlap of membership, we can perhaps coordinate for the greater benefit of a more open global anthropology. In any case, good luck and congratulations on having had the idea two weeks before we did.

Max Forte has referred elsewhere to a number of personal websites in the field we have identified as ours and his Open Anthropology blog deserves special mention as a precursor and ongoing ally of our project.

I have opened this thread as a place where some of you might want to discuss the possibilities for setting up collective expressions of our diversity as well as coordinating information on similar groups and individuals with whom we might like to link up somehow, now or in the future.


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Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to give a thought or two to what "open," "diverse," and (another favorite) "inclusive" mean in the context of the Open Anthropology Cooperative. One Canadian commentator says that, in practice, "diversity" means folks who look different from one another and speak different languages, all saying exactly the same thing. There is of course a natural tendency to expect the current norm. And it is normal that people coming into anthropology anew or who have come in recently to think of the ideas they have just learned as, well, something akin to God's truth, and anything else as the word of Satan. So there is a resistence against anything but what is anthropologically "correct" this week. Nonetheless, I am going to recommend for the Open Anthropology Collecitve something a bit radical: intellectual diversity. That is, we should not just tolerate, but encourage different point of view, and exchanges of different points of view. There is a danger, of course, that we might hear things that challenge our ideas, and even make us uncomfortable. But, who knows, maybe debate will give us the opportunity to strengthen our own ideas, or even learn something new. "Intellectual diversity": a policy worth encouraging?
I think the big break anthropology recently got is that while people expected anthropology to be an unexciting social science like so many others its practisioners have now shed off are unwelcome restrictions.

Based on my personal experience in witnessing this watershed moment Micheal Wesch has to be entered in the history books as the man who's responsible for this feat but we were all very quick to jump on board. While Micheal Wesch was innovating Keith was doing what he had always done yet suddenly - because of the New Way - his work and attitude became more attractive.

Why is that? I believe the answer lies in the fact that we have started to ask ourselves different questions than before and that no topics are excluded a priori. While Keith's work was out there for a long time it is now quickly becoming core to our new movement because it's a vehicle for freestyle exploration.

Keith's work got more attention because of the financial crisis but only because we started to ask ourselves new kinds of questions. What is money? What is society? Why are there nation-states? Do we need to keep them? What is community? And billions of other questions.

The good to come out of this is that anybody can ask this kind of questions yet most will not take their own questions seriously and quickly will stop asking them (or stop noticing them when they do pop up). Our first mode of operations could be to come up with questions that anybody could ask and that may sound silly or abstract and then just take them seriously and just answer them.

Steven, your questions, such as What is money? What is society? Why are there nation-states? Do we need to keep them? What is community? are all good questions. They were central to intellectual inquiry in the 18th & 19th centuries, and maybe we should revisit them now.

I'm not so much worried about questions, as about answers. Suppose someone offers an "anthropologically incorrect" answer? An answer that we don't like and disagree with? Shall we boot him/her off of OAC, block her/his communications? I ask because some members of this forum have been known to characterize others' views as "crank" and "anti-anthropological." The spirit of religious orthodoxy and outcasting of heretics is not what I hope to find in OAC.

The phrase "our new movement" gives me pause, as it suggests a determined direction and a unitary truth. Orthodoxy and its defenders are sure to follow.

I seen quite a few waves of anthropological "God's truth," and the trashing of last week's anthropological truth, each superseded by another, that I prefer a spirit of intellectual diversity, open discussion, exchange, criticism, debate, and evolving understandings.
Movement absolutely does not mean one direction. Movements are social networks that were created because its members share a concern or ideal or believe in the same idea. That is crucial, there has to be a reason why we are here.

That reason is probably anthropology. When I think about anthropology I think about Keith's engaged anthropology for the 21th century. For others anthropology might mean something different entirely.

The important aspect is that we find meaning in participating. We're bound to come across all kinds of ideas and opinions but no single one can be placed into prominence without the support of the community.

So I'm not worried. And why I mean with questions is of course the value in having answers, maybe multiple answers, diverging, conflicting answers. The meaning-generating aspect is the community.

It seems that MASN has moved from its Ning base to something a lot more austere. I didn't get a reply to my fraternal greeting and seem to have been removed, along with it, from the new site. This is an interesting development, given the questions Kerim and others have raised about the Web 2.0 atmosphere of this place.
You're right, Max. I googled them and was directed to the old site. Someone had been looking there for my blogpost and couldn't find it. In fact, as you say, I am on their member's page and the post is on my page. Sorry for the confusion.
Intellectual diversity is of much greater importance than any other kind, in my book. We certainly want many voices from many places, but nothing promotes growth like hearing new ideas that don't necessarily mesh exactly with your own.

This Open cooperative must be open to all contributors, but most importantly, all ideas (assuming that they are conveyed in a thoughtful, friendly manner-- tolerance from all sides is necessary for this to work).
For those of you of a certain age who were wondering about joining MASN, I received this message today from Benjamin Hirschfeld:

Welcome Keith and the Open Anthropology Cooperative to the MASN! Everyone who feels like a student of anthropology and who like sharing information, stories, tips and ideas (without the formalities of the use of academic titles and such, which I trust you do) is welcome amongst our midst. Hope you enjoy the community !

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