Ep. #19 Anthro & policy-making, digital disruption, online research, & what is love? This month on TFS

Subscribe on AndroidThis month, Simon starts us off (1:08) asking, how can we make the knowledge we gain from anthropology matter for policy and government? “There’s no reason why [anthropology] can’t be scaled up. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a chief anthropologist to the government.” As Jodie argues, “unless, as a discipline, we are willing to step outside our disciplinary mores and our disciplinary iTunes Button (via NiftyButtons.com)boundaries and make ourselves indispensable to people who have power in government, then no, we are not going to be useful.” And Simon reminds us, “we need to make what is good about anthropology its selling point, which is its ability to do long-term, intimate research.”

Next, Jodie (6:53) asks about digital disruptions, and their unintended consequences. Are we looking only to a future of corporate power and social atomization? Can it all be bad?  “Surely some of the changes must be positive, in a non-hedonistic way.” Patrick gives us some hope, by telling us about a use of technology that we didn’t foresee: “I was actually, the other day, trying to find an app that would allow me to scan someone’s body for the health of their chakras.” And Julia points out that “what digital disruption might mean is that our imagination and our superstition and our beliefs in various systems like chakras could be destroyed, through relying more and more on ‘digital objectivity.’”

Special guest Dr. Patrick McCartney (11:52) talks about his research with yoga groups on Facebook, calling the online yoga scene “a heterotopian series of worlds within worlds,” and asking, what are kind of research ethics are called for when working in an online community? Are statements made before an online community of 30,000+ people in the public domain? Or is more explicit consent required? Julia makes a stand for strong ethics around consent: “what our participants tell us, knowing that they’re already participating in a study, counts… it gives them autonomy to decide what they disclose and what they don’t disclose based on the fact that it’s going in a research study.”

Patrick is a post-doctoral researcher at Kyoto University, currently studying global yoga in Japan. Have a look at his upcoming conference, Yogascapes in Japan (Nov 2-3 in Kyoto), or follow him on Twitter at @psdmccartney.

Finally, Julia (15:05) asks the eternal question: what is love? And what can anthropology tell us about love, in our own cultures or around the world? “How has our culture shaped this notion of having what is described as our ‘other half,’ or even a ‘better half’ sometimes, especially if being in a partnered or even a polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean co-dependence, or even romantic love?” Patrick muses, “I adopt a very kind of queer epistemology in general… when thinking about how love brings people together, I can’t help thinking about that kind of pathological side of love.”


Fisher H 2008 The Brain on Love. Ted talk:

What Jodie thought was Laura Nader was actually Geertz, C. (1975). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. London: Hutchinson.

Hardt M 2007 About love. European Graduate School. Available at:

The article of Patrick’s that he mentioned is titled “Politics beyond the Yoga Mat: Yoga Fundamentalism and the ‘Vedic Way of Life'”, which can be found here: https://www.academia.edu/33281976/Politics_beyond_the_Yoga_Mat_Yoga_Fundamentalism_and_the_Vedic_Way_of_Life

The Iranian movie Simon mentioned: “No Entry of Men,” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1985266/

Zigon J 2013 “On Love: remaking moral subjectivity in post-rehabilitation Russia,” in American Ethnologist, vol. 40, no. 1.


This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the schools of Culture, History, and Language and Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com

Show notes by Ian Pollock

Photo credit: Mayberry Health and Home


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  1. Pingback: Friday Special Seminar (10 Aug) by The Familiar Strange Team: The Case for Public Anthropology: About ‘The Familiar Strange’ Blog and Podcast – ANU Anthropology

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