Anthropology Reading Journal Series II
IX. Monday, November 7: Food, Culture, and Power I
The second half of our semester was spent reading about Food, Culture and Power and the roles they play in ethnographic research. These readings nicely led us into understanding wider themes presented on globalization and understanding the concept of flow – which were the next set of papers discussed in this journal series.
Reading #1: Allison, Anne. “Japanese Mothers and Obentos: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus” Anthro Qrtly 64(4): 195-208.
Allison’s paper, Japanese Mothers and Obentos: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus, introduces the obento – a lunch box that is prepared by Japanese mothers. She argues that the creation of obentos creates ideological and gendered meanings that reflect the culture and values of both the mother and child. Allison claims that, “the food is coded as a cultural and aesthetic apparatus in Japan,” framing her argument along the lines of anthropologist Althusser’s concept of Ideological state apparatus (1971).
Anthropology Reading Journal Series II
XI. Monday, November 21: Methods and Concepts of a Global Ethnography I
This second set of readings surrounds the theme of globalization and offers a foundation in understanding the two books which we’ve reviewed concerning commodities and multi-sited ethnographic research.
Reading #1: Appadurai, Arjun. Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy
In Arjun Appadura’s paper, Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, he emphasizes analyzing global cultural flows through what he calls scapes. Adhering partly to mediologist Marshall Mcluhan’s idea of a “global village”, in which people live in a world that is disassociated from any real physical place and are inundated by a variety of media and technology, Appadurai proposes that the complexity of our global economy can best be navigated through a framework of scapes. They are (1) ethnoscapes, (2) technoscapes, (3) mediascapes, (4) financescapes, and (5) ideoscapes, which serve to clarify the different ways in which our society has become global.
In her book Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, Anna Tsing utilizes Arjun Appadurai’s framework on Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy and his theory on “scapes” to inform her own work in discussing “friction”. Appadurai’s work provides an analytical structure through which to understand the global imagined landscapes that show the fluidity of a cultural state.
Tsing uses the term “friction” as a metaphor to describe the differences that arise and make up the contemporary world in a political, social, and economic regard. In doing so, Tsing aims to answer questions about global connectedness. For her main argument she uses her fieldwork in Indonesia’s rain forest industry and its environmental and political engagement during the 1980’s and 1990’s as an example. She seeks to answer the questions of “Why is global capitalism so messy? Who speaks for nature? And what kinds of social justice makes sense in the twenty-first century?” (p. 2) These questions are answered through a series of chapters that are named around what Tsing considers metaphors for universals truths: Prosperity, Knowledge, and Freedom, along with seven subchapters arranged within each section to reinforce her points.
Michael Taussig’s book, My Cocaine Museum, is an experimental text that seeks to explore the “imagined realities” of the cocaine industry in Colombia. Opening with a history of Colombia’s gold industry and its similarities to the cocaine trade, Taussig presents his readers with a “human history as natural history”, stressing the historical and symbolic likenesses between gold and cocaine production. Written in a non-traditional style of ethnographic writing that reads like a fictional narrative, misgivings arise through the course of the text if it is viewed through a strictly traditional lens. Although the majority of the book adheres to a distinct framework in its literal style, at times its linearity becomes hard to follow as Taussig goes back and forth between gold’s significance, cocaine’s relation to gold, and anecdotal stories told by Colombian informants who often seem to serve more as decorative enhancements to Taussig’s main points of cocaine and Colombian history than first-hand sources of information.