Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Monday, April 27, 2009

American Anthropological Association - new blog

The American Anthropological Association has a new blog, which is a very good thing. I think it must be difficult, however, to select topics and coverage broadly enough to satisfy a target audience as diverse as the AAA. Even if that target audience were limited to AAA members it would be huge, and I suspect the AAA bloggers are also targeting a broader audience, at least secondarily - that's what I do, anyway.

I'm therefore somewhat disappointed, but not too surprised, with the recent entry, "Tanaka in AEQ: U.S. Anthropologists Should Address 'The End of Culture'."

The entry is quite short - about a hundred and fifty words - and mostly just reproduces the abstract of Greg Tanaka's recent "Reflection from the field" in Anthropology & Education Quarterly. What makes this unfortunate is that the abstract is a poor summary of what Tanaka actually says in his reflection essay. (In fact, I might be wrong even to call it an "abstract"; it may be better to call it an "introductory paragraph".)

According to the AAA blog post, "George Tanaka’s [sic] article in the current issue of Anthropology & Education Quarterly presents provocative findings from an action research project on a U.S. university campus...
The project reveals that a large percentage of white students cannot trace their identities to a particular nation in Europe and are, as a result, unable to name the shared meanings of an ethnic culture."

In fact, though, Tanaka's piece does not present any such research; the research is merely referred to at the beginning of the piece. The author does describe one white student who, deprived of the "deeply naturalized privilege [of] whiteness" and unwilling to identify with another ethnic identity, experiences pain and disorientation. But Tanaka does not call for re-inscribing some form of identity on de-ethnicized whites. His reflections serve as a critique of multiculturalist approaches based on exposing hierarchy, and as a call for an intersubjectivist approach that minimizes any hierarchy of ethnic or other groups.

Given the unfortunate abstract and blog post, it is unsurprising, though again unfortunate, that a commenter at the AAA blog labeled the post, and by extension the essay, a "simplistic view of culture that only includes 'ethnic culture'." I am reminded of polyglot conspiracy's round-up of comments from around the web attacking Mary Bucholtz. One small ray of hope (or maybe it's just pride): where many seemed content to critique Bucholtz without reading her work, at least the commenter at AAA confesses, "Of course, I haven’t read the article."

That's one thing for which I must thank the AAA bloggers: they led me to read (and at least mention here) Tanaka's essay. Of course that raises another sore subject, but the frustrating problems of AnthroSource can't really be laid at the door of American Anthropological Association blog.

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