Blogging is great for a lot of reasons. For one – you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Wellllllll, not exactly. You need a working computer and a decent computer connection. So there is an element of privilege.
So what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly in the realm of Anthropology and blogging?
Let’s start with the good. In the privacy of their home, an Anthropologist could write about different points in time as well as different landscapes. Then, with a click of a button, their work can be seen by a universal audience. This heavily contrasts with the time needed to be published in a journal. The audience benefits, too. Without worrying about the expense and accessibility of journals, we can freely navigate Anthropology blogs.
Sometimes academics have personal blogs – the benefits of this, from my own experience, are that there is less restriction in way you write – there aren’t any quality controls. You can be formal or informal, as well as spontaneous. This means there doesn’t necessarily have to be detailed research. Multimedia, as well as “internet lingo” like memes and gifs makes for a fun way to learn and communicate. This Anthropology blog uses comedy.
Having a personal blog has also proved to be a great way to network with others. As we know, cross-collaboration in any discipline is so important, especially for bigger scale projects. Many Anthropology blogs take an interdisciplinary approach – one such being Savage Minds. Blogs can be personal, specialized, regional, and/or institutional.
One blogger, The Geek Anthropologist, says that the anonymity with blogging gives her a safe platform as a Black feminist anthropologist to voice her opinions as she doesn’t always feel safe in academic and non-academic spaces. Anonymity can also be great when you want to reply to an article – walking up to an Anthropologist after they lecture, or rather, sending them a letter or email after reading one of their journals can be intimidating. The insight in the comment section sometimes gives the reader an alternative and critical way of looking at the topic. I really enjoyed the comment section of this blog post “why do you love Anthropology?”
When is anonymity bad? Of course, we’ve all had our fair share of internet trolls.
Okay, now, the bad. Can blogging be a form of ethnography? Does blogging delegitimize the importance of ethnography? Of course ethnography is not equal to Anthropology, however, it does play a very significant role.
Indeed, Anthropology blogs are not as detailed as Ethnography. If an Anthropologist is travelling and uses blogging as a platform for field notes, is this a positive thing? I believe that it can be. It can be used as a mechanism to show others what a part of doing Anthropology is. As well, its an easy way to organize information and have others take interest in your research.
What sets apart an Anthropologists posts when travelling from a lifestyle bloggers posts? I would say that an Anthropologist would simply view the world differently. Although both may write detailed accounts about their interactions with others and the culture they see, Anthropologists have a different way of thinking.
Another question.. what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet? If an Anthropologist writes something that is later proved untrue, they can go back and delete their post. This is not possible with journal articles which are published. Therefore there is the factor of accountability.
What I would consider the ugly is the subversive negatives of blogging.
What we tend to forget is that most Anthropology blogs are in English. Blogging itself is a Western invention. Although it may act as a platform for Anthropologists all over the world to easily share their insights, what are the chances that we, as an audience, will read it? The first factor is English. The second is if it is recognized as an Anthropology blog by bigger Western institutions. For example, in this list of the top 100 Anthropology blogs, the least # are regional and in another language.
This makes me recall Lila Abu-Lughod’s Writing Culture and her insights on the unequal power “the West and the rest” which were sustained through culture. Does blogging perpetuate this? I believe it does. Blogging is a fraction of globalization, a way for us to be more connected with our counter-parts. But we as Western bloggers hold a privilege in the virtual world.
What is your opinion of the Anthropological blogosphere?
Fox, R. G. (1991). Recapturing anthropology: working in the present. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.