It’s Not “Just” a Symbol

The new Maya Angelou quarter is a symbol, yes. But not “just” a symbol. Because, symbols matter. If they didn’t, they would just be like other, ordinary stuff. If symbols didn’t matter, we wouldn’t fight over them. As in, people burning or otherwise desecrating flags when they’re mad at their

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Everything You Thought You Knew about Orphans in Africa Is Probably Wrong

Policy makers, development workers, orphanage voluntourists, missionaries, prospective adoptive parents: ignore this book at your peril.   “AIDS orphans” are commonly imagined as the most vulnerable of the world’s most vulnerable populations.  In a provocative new study, anthropologist Kristen Cheney  challenges just about everything we thought we knew about the children

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Do All African Immigrants Arrive Sick, Desperate, and Empty-Handed on the Shores of Europe? Ask Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg!

The lives, status, and image of immigrants may constitute the single-most urgent human issue of our time.  In an arresting and captivating new study of Cameroonian mothers now living in Berlin, Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg challenges just about everything we thought we knew about immigrants.  Living as migrants in a nation infamous

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An Anthropologist at the Women’s March on Washington, Part 1: Finding Communitas, Feminist Style

(photo by Alma Gottlieb) The doors of our metro car opened and closed, opened and closed with increasingly alarming dysfunction.  On any other day, the many more dozens of people jammed into our subway car than (for safety reasons) should have occupied our tight, air-deprived space would have panicked–jostled, elbowed, and accused one

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It’s Never “Just a Symbol”

Symbolic anthropologists, take note.  What’s in a symbol?  Everything, when it comes to politics.  Especially, election-year politics.  And especially when a major political candidate claims ignorance of centuries-old symbolism used to discriminate against an oppressed minority. Was Trump being anti-Semitic, or was he being stupid, when he Tweeted an accusation

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Donald Trump vs. Blood Magic

Donald Trump has revived old stereotypes in claiming that Fox News commentator/Republican debate moderator Megyn Kelly was ruled by her hormones (“bleeding from her wherever”) when she critiqued his multiple sexist statements and stances.  Explaining away women’s anger by reference to the menstrual cycle is an old habit of those

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Social Change: One Petition at a Time?

As a high school student, I remember the excitement of going door-to-door to solicit signatures on petitions of various sorts. Adding one’s name to a list of other names on a single piece of paper may not seem consequential.  But when that sheet joins hundreds or thousands of others, suddenly

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Are We Stuck in the ‘Fifties?

This set of fourteen offensively sexist ads from the 1950s is so over-the-top, it’s easy to dismiss them, relegating them to a “Thank goodness we’re beyond this and have made some progress” trash bin. But many of the recent comments added to a website that uploaded the ads suggest otherwise.

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