This is in some ways a spin-off from a discussion we were having before the summer vacation on the anthropology of irrationality where we were trying to pin down the unpindownable irrationality of contemporary cultures. Part of the problem seems to be that expectations of the bizarre and the mercurial have in certain ways become normalised or institutionalised in contemporary global society. But what can anthropologists fruitfully say about that situation that would help us understand it? Certainly the discussion we had did not get too far toward clarity...

I was left cogitating on our discussion -- a small rivulet in the great 'runaway world' as Edmund Leach called it, but I couldn't help noticing that as anthropologists we are so involved in talking about ourselves that we have forgotten that our difficulties in understanding what is going on are only one little part of a much wider problem in 'social science'.

Obviously, it was economics as a social science discipline that hit the buffers most spectacularly over the last years with its utter failure to predict or indeed to have anything useful to say about the 2008 global financial crash-- and its various aftermaths including the continuing crisis in Euroland. 

More recently it has been Psychology that is in crisis if these recent headlines are anything to go by: because it wasn't enough that the main association of U.S. psychologists had involved itself in U.S. government torture--

a study now suggests that, in terms of their verifiability at least, claims made by psychologists in their top journals are more likely to be wrong than right:

Whatever happened to the 'science' in social science?

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Thanks for your text full of questions and issues that more than a decade are running around without... way out?

It is  a shame that Psychology went into this level of things, but it is not a surprised, because this science forgot to study the irrational,  it clasifys inmidiatly what is irrational. It has a price as a dessert. In spite of this, there are a lot of spychologist as well as anthropologists that we dont feel identify with them. We put clear distance with the stablishment which has put what is the reality or , better said, the position that it has taken with the reallity...very far, in many cases blind or without any critic viwe, only a kind of descrptions. 

I m sad when you say how we couldnt predict what was going to happen with the crisis in 2008 and at the sometime glad because it is good to say.

I can say with sad satisfaction that during 2004 and 2005 some anthropologists we began to see with the housing and it finance in Spain what was going on but nobody wanted to listen. When the 2008 arrived there were crying, complining, depressed, and of course a lot trying to high the situation and began to do fieldwork about identity in MIddle Age, it is not a joke..peolpe were taking food from the rubbish in the cities, townhalls were locking containers to avoid it, but the focus was the food in the Middle Age..I repeat it is not a joke. Why? ...Could be the correct question it is for what? 

I remember Veronica Franco in Venice, century XVI Emile Du Chatelet in France, Century a lot of different historical moments and thinkers in the middle of the darkness. We are in darkness I learn from them that..even the speech apropiation  alot of liers ...

.Could we avoid it? I think no. One way it is the position.

IThe present has many accomplice and confusing ways of even academic formation..a lot of access to the info but not the exercise to reflect so... one opportunity I spoke about Primark Anthropology as a joke. Now for me it has became a concept, a position, a point of viwe, also a way of participation of the acceptability of the theatre of many researchs that never go beyond, only when I read an article, listen a lecture, or bla, bla, bla, I can identify the unfortunally Primark brain which it is inside for the fieldwork, methodology and results.

Lastly, in another hand I consider seriously that it is not a coincidence I involve with recycling from anthropological viwe, because I idnetify with the remains.

This photo also could give you a visual idea about I see many case studies too. What are you describing in your text show me in it as well what is going on. 


kind regards


Thanks Cecilia. Your many beautiful pictures of recycled objects are a sign or the ingenuity of people in the face of a world in change. They are walking metaphors for living in that kind of changing world. in contrast, standards of social science are still stuck in a model of social statics where the ideal is 'replicability' of the findings. Economics, Psychology and other social science studies attempt to 'reproduce' themselves endlessly (is this a version of the 'primark' worldview you mention?); but normative 'replicability' is an increasingly absurd standard for understanding the contemporary world -- it is a model stuck in the era of the television set where everyone in a national community watched the same programme at the same time and talked about it to their friends the next day imitating the walk or the phrase. In this outdated social science model there were a few authority figures who dictated the mode of truth or paradigm for the others to reproduce; this also has collapsed. Having had its own crisis of intellectual authority as far back as the 1980s, Anthropology is years ahead of the other social science disciplines in recognising what is going on, but it still does not have a successful strategy for getting an alternative vision across; primarily because it is still merely describing what its happening, rather than giving good intellectual tools for understanding the world we live in.

It is good to have this discussion in the empty post-apocalyptic space that is the open anthropology coop.

And the picture is of the priest Laocoon whom the gods cursed for drawing attention to the fact that the Trojan horse had a bunch of soldiers inside.


Good! Good! 

Thanks for saying about the photos.It is an acknowledgement for a researcher in the darkness !  jijijijiji!

The remains of the world are changing it too. It is difficult to see but they have a weight. One excellent remain from the 80's who showed me that when I arrived to UK - it was in order to learn the language - As anthropologists we should work on it.

In spite of all this things together, it is need to distinguish our responsabilities, roles, and also capacity to cope with the world, resources, positions...even our capacity of to be aware or not, limits...

I ingenouness from the people it is an important reference always to study for us, to do anthropology... More to see Why when everybody is crazy inside Primark not only buying, even dropping cloths in the air instead of prefer to cut a paper and make a flower, or knit a plastic bag, or build a van with a bottle...why this diversity, these practices ? 

Primark Anthropology it is blind as well the consumers inside the temples of bying. I could listen some concepts that mask ideas totally evolucionists ..with make up, of course! jijiji..And in another hand they continue in the apocalyses and denaying the incounscious dimension..why? It exists a a lot of,  still,imaginaries devils with the ignorance of this dimension without knowing it. Not only the scary , one time more this contribute to feed the blindness with the out Primark World of well being...jajaja and methodologically , even feed the stuck as a mask, at the pleasure being depressed... it is not healthy!

   You know one of the reasons that I left BCN even the crisis and lost my job was in the last meeting in 2010 was  a point of the discussion if the Tortilla of potatoes was Spanish, Catalan or French as an axis between 100 person of social that moment I looked somebody , I moved my finger saying...With me, NO! And I went out,I remember U. Eco, The name of the rose,  and many tales by Julio Cortázar  So never again I have gone there!...I began seriously with the recycling as an epistemology too. I learnt more that I might having imaginated about social change, social links, material culture, to see a lot of things... not only that ...well...I m sadly happy jajjaaj if you can enjoy the photos, the videos, articles, etc.

...but yesterday I was worry about the called "Refugees Crisis" what a mess are cooking in Europe? I miss

 a discussion here. Hence after analyse the newspapers titles ...the Anthropology is facing this. I know some people that are doing big efforts to show the historical importance of refugees..but it is not enough as many issues...

...even the question continue opens an strong discussion: is it the confluence of a lot changes, our limitations to interpretate them or everything together if we continue with Primark Anthropology also?




Huon: Psychology and other social science studies attempt to 'reproduce' themselves endlessly . . . ; but normative 'replicability' is an increasingly absurd standard for understanding the contemporary world -- it is a model stuck in the era of the television set where everyone in a national community watched the same programme at the same time and talked about it to their friends the next day . . .



    “television”?   Don’t you mean TELEVISION? <g>?  Sorry, old joke from an old OAC discussion.  Couldn’t resist. 


    “Whatever happened to the ‘science’ in social science?”  Your question is one that turns up in all sorts of discussions, sometimes with folks lamenting its passing or endangerment, sometimes celebrating that passing.  The latter, of course, include the honchos of the American Anthropological Association, who a few years ago decided to remove the word “science” from the Association’s mission statement (which had been in place for over a century).  Winston Smith would feel right at home.  In the other camp are those economists and psychologists you describe who insist they are doing “hard” science while committing inexcusable blunders or, infinitely worse, condoning torture.  When I come across their pompous claims I’m reminded of a famous Richard Feynman anecdote.  Someone was telling Feynman about a recent finding in psychology and he responded (roughly paraphrasing):  Yeah, I remember reading about some people in the South Seas who build pretend airstrips and sit around waiting for American goods to arrive on planes.  “Cargo cults” they call them.  Well, what you’re talking about is cargo cult science.  Wishing something will make it true. 

    A staggering irony infuses the debate between “soft” pomo-interpretivist types and “hard” just-the-facts-ma’am quantitative researchers, an irony that renders that debate a futile jousting at windmills.  The irony is that what the “hard” guys call “science” is outmoded cause-and-effect determinism (your “normative replicability”) while the “soft” folks espouse ideas much closer to current real science (Feynman’s type).  Key concepts from quantum physics and complexity theory – indeterminacy, multiple realities, interdependence of observer and observed, self-organized criticality, cusps (tipping points) – make a good fit with interpretive studies which emphasize intersubjectivity and the layering or “thickness” of description.  They make a very poor fit with the cause-and-effect “hard” types who view the social-cultural world as a Newtonian set of billiard balls reacting in well-specified, fully described ways. 

    So, I think anthropology has every right to be called a “science of humanity,” so long as we’re talking about what actual scientists are up to today, rather than what they did a century and more ago.  I think quantum-complexity makes an excellent analogy or metaphor for anthropologists to employ.  A problem, of course, is that quantum physicists have quantum field equations and complexity theorists have non-linear differential equations, while we have . . . for most of us maybe a couple of statistics courses.  Maybe.  But let’s compromise and call what we do the “gay science.” 




    Your photographs and posts here have really started me thinking.  Anthropologists stuck in an academic rut (or trying hard to get into one) have few options or models of what to do and still remain “anthropologists.”  You provide a compelling answer.  Your “anthropology of recycling” on the face of it is about studying the people who do recycling and their products.  However, your comments make clear that it is also anthropology as recycling.  In the classic, pre-recycling mode Lévi-Strauss advanced the idea of “the native” as a bricoleur, a tinkerer with whatever material came to hand – the original recycler.  You move way beyond that and encourage us to think of the anthropologist herself as a bricoleur, someone who actively shapes and remakes the culture around her.  Additionally, your comments open onto an entirely new plateau: Your personal story makes clear that you and many anthropologists are in a more-or-less permanent state of themselves being recycled.  Someone is bitten by the anthropology bug, gets through preliminary studies, finds herself in grad school, maybe sticks it out, maybe leaves and comes back a couple of times, finally gets the degree, discovers the job market is dismal and exploitative, drifts in and out of the periphery of academics, and all the while, miraculously, hangs on to the identity “anthropologist” and continues to think and write as one.  Much of our field – I certainly won’t use the word “discipline” – has become a collection of catch-as-catch-can individuals: adjunct lecturers, editorial assistants, journal staffers, regular job holders who read and write on the side, dropouts (like me) who have given up on academics but not on anthropology.  We have become our own marginal natives.  It’s an interesting time to be a non-person. 

    Meanwhile, on the Facebook OAC site Keith Hart’s post announcing 10,000 members and, on that promising basis, asking what to do next has elicited some interesting, daring responses.  Some upstarts are calling for:

            -- “one huge badass world ethnography” 

            -- “collective fieldworks, collective publishing, interactive teaching, social and self-governed universities, open and free anthropology to the public. Enough is enough with the lone, individual, hierarchical, career-salary-private funding oriented and intellectually omnivorous academic!”

            -- “Crowd-funding exo-academy anthro-projects” 

            -- “rowdy anthropology”

            -- “self-hatched, blasphemous anthro projects”

            -- “outlaw anthropology: no holds barred, take no prisoners!” 


By all means, check out Keith’s expanding thread.

    However we can manage it, and there the floor remains open, it looks like anthropology should go into the recycling business. 

Thanks again for your inspiration Cecilia.  

    “television”?   Don’t you mean TELEVISION? <g>?  Sorry, old joke from an old OAC discussion.  Couldn’t resist.

Yes indeed -- Mark Stahlman may have departed but the dialogue goes on; ideas -- re-use 'em, re-shape 'em, re-cycle 'em --- why not. 

I like that list -- but just to disentangle a few things: there seems to be a little bit of an extrovert emphasis there on being hep with the kids ('badass?' -- OMG, not to say LOL, are you kidding me?). The idea is good though.

And at the risk of striking a severe note, learning to understand yourself as a "Enough is enough with the lone, individual, hierarchical, career-salary-private funding oriented and intellectually omnivorous academic!”  human being is part of the deal for growing up or 'taking the step forward to maturity' as the old man said. Or, as Joseph Conrad puts it, 'we live as we dream, alone'.

But, yes to---

  -- “Crowd-funding exo-academy anthro-projects” 

            -- “rowdy anthropology”

            -- “self-hatched, blasphemous anthro projects”

            -- “outlaw anthropology: no holds barred, take no prisoners!” 

all of which reminds me of a statement by Paul Feyerabend where, criticising Popper's idea of falsifiability as a benchmark in scientific inquiry, he says--












What discipline apart from anthropology is better equipped to introduce these alternative perceptions that do not 'form part of the existing perceptual world'? That is where we should start. The goal is to give people the tools to understand what it means to be a human being by offering them a pluriverse of alternatives.


If we see historically inside the discipline, we could find a lot of good references as studies about RE- for example, the great Levi/Strauss, as you say Lee, thanks for it,  with La pensee Sauvage in which central issue is le bricolaire...Not only him, other authors where working in this human being skill of building goods with different ways. In spite of that, I consider as a consequence of the televison mind, Primark |Anthropology and Belly Anthropology...all these clues that were given by great thinkers haven' t been developed very much, even sometimes are appointed in exotic way.

In this days we find that waste instead of being a marginal topic it has became central, why? As the financial crisis wasn't t  be predicted? As Levi Strauss might have said, it is only a question for begin the analyse.

Initially, the fast and all the social changes together, we ought to admit a limit of interpretation, do silence as well, to assume how we are locked in ways of watching "the reality" still ...Mallinowski use to be worry about to put together the thoughts and he knew that  wast possible only in the ordinary ways...To be aware imply a work of putting together not only thoughts...Einstein use to put in contradiction imagination with knowledge. It wasn't romantic, at least for me means to do many ways between the two points..could be that could bring out us from TV epistemology, Primark, Belly Anthropology and the bricolaire could grow no like an exotic, could be in the way of showing parts that by the moment we continue blind. 

Power relations are important, but nobody has the totally power, that it is important to is difficult but not very much..look I m an ant on the earth and I changed my fieldwork...I was working with food while a montains of plastic bags were dancing around. Studing that dance I could build an ethnography which explained more about food and social relations in that moment and continue other ways...

I continue tomorrow, 



Power relations are important, but nobody has the totally power, that it is important to is difficult but not very much..look I m an ant on the earth and I changed my fieldwork...I was working with food while a montains of plastic bags were dancing around.

I agree. 'power' has been overplayed as a concept in social science because historically most social science has been oriented to participating in the control of people (it would seem in the most sinister way in the case of the APA), making people do one kind of thing or another (Milgram's experiments etc.). In the past the more successful social scientists could claim to be in predicting what people would do, the more this suggested further means to control them en masse. But social science ultimately proved very inept indeed at this job of predicting mass behaviour.

Anthropologists are in an odd position since through their fieldwork they come into possession of tomorrow's perceptions, but theoretically they are often still working with yesterday's concepts or conceptual systems. Hence, the very means they have to communicate with is via an an outdated theoretical language still oriented toward the mass society projects of the mid-Twentieth Century. When we think, for example, that American anthropologists invented the concept of culture in the 1920s, this was then taken up popularly and now 'culture' in this contemporary sense is used by everyone; but for almost all practising anthropologists that concept, in that formulation, is completely useless for expressing what they want to talk about, this gives an indication of the problem.

Hi Huon...Power a suitcase world, so as you take the sentences, thanks...because it gave me the little quote of power that means to assume it. And that it is the clue and the key as well to take out the mask.

A secret: There is no more big temptation as to avoid to have the little quote. Why? Because we high the comfortable position of giving all to another. Not only is the stupid moment that we are living it is to avoid to be aware, to be responsible of what we are saying, not to become a parrot...There is a complicity behind all silence or in name of thinkers, or..or..or..

So the concept of "culture" is going to be around the geography and depends on the context and the power relations having a meaning..something not easy..I agree...

Recycling has even this big field of significations, etc.with the power as well? or the the transitory stablishment.. inside..I m taking photos of the word around London..sometimes I want to become humorist inmediatly..well you know also Recycling has an important doses of humour ( I did something about Social Sciences plus humour , when the time arrive it continues..It calls The (you can find something on the web)

Going back to the beginning of the discussion that you wrote, today. I got up , opened the computer and it was invaded by the photo of the kid died in the sea on the beach, newspapers with the called crisis of migrants and refugees...what is this visual iceberg saying to us? What kind of meanings have all these elements, photos, words,numbers...?  

 This is phenomena in the present that brings other elements...could we have predicted? Have we listened to who spoke about it? What kind of elements we have? How we can put our own fieldwork by sometime leftbehind in order to see crisis? Or how we might connect what we are doing with this phenomena? 

I consider that answer these questions going to show us at what point we avoid as well our quote of power.



Hhm... your use of English is highly suggestive since I never made the connection before between the verb to quote (hacer citas/citando) and quota (cuota). To quote someone is indeed to award them their modicum of power; quotation can be democratic since I share my meaning with them and acknowledge their part in my project, or hierarchical in as much as I claim my quota of power out of the higher power of some other person's words.

Thanks for your corrections...I need themall the time because I work in Spanis, so to think in English is taking time in spite I watch teh news everyday, read papers, books, listen lectures, speak in the street, at the market, tube..jajjaja

!!!, It is QUOTA jajajjajja..nice to learn also like this a language...with all you have mentioned it claim to re- think!!!

Thanks a lot!!!

C  Human Beings as Waste


Your post about humans as waste made me think of a few things. 1. Anthropology has often taken the role in the social sciences of studying the leftovers--every human situation and way of thinking that has been left behind by the other social sciences (ironically these cutting edge social sciences are themselves now being replaced by pep pills and big data analysis both protagonised by the advertising industries).

From the point of view of  Western science-technology, anthropologists have studied the great human tide left behind by the technological and lending-purchasing power of a few rich countries representing a tiny fraction of the world's population. 2. Anthropological theory has deployed a kind of hodgepodge or bricolage of recycled theoretical concepts, some shared with other social science disciplines, some coming out of fieldwork itself and achieving analytical status. Anthropology at its best has been about retrieving and revaluing human thought processes and human situations, putting them to new intellectual use.

Questions arise about what anthropology can contribute to understanding human beings in the current conditions of debt-auditing that structure most peoples lives,,-- perhaps especially in 'advanced' societies--where people are constantly audited to make sure they are paying their debt in its various forms: people are valued in terms of the redeemability of their debt; what kind of opportunity cost they offer to a holder of capital. Effectively everyone's life is being turned, in this ideological model at least, into a kind of problematic waste product in the making, some parts potentially recyclable and re-saleable if the right managerial techniques are applied, other parts utterly useless and only suitable for landfill.



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