The Familiar Strange · Ep#106: MeTooAnthro and the Witch Hunt trope Trigger Warning: Please note that this episode makes mention of Sexual Assault and sexual violence. In this episode we walk about MeToo anthropology from the lens of fieldwork and within the academy itself. Familiar Stranger Emma Quilty sat down with anthropologists Holly Walters and … Continue reading Ep#106: MeTooAnthro and the Witch Hunt trope
On the last day of class, my advanced theory students would break up into small groups and each have the option of choosing one such old anthropology textbook from the box of them that I had selected from the shelf. They would then spend the next 15 to 20 minutes exploring the book (looking at the table of contents, skimming chapters, reading the introduction, etc.) in order to answer three basic questions...Truthfully, I have never had quite so much fun, nor gotten so much out of, teaching from a textbook.
As scholars and investigators of conspiracy theory communities have noted, people who cling to these ideas long after they have been demonstrated to be factually false tend to do so for two reasons. One, because the conspiracy theory links them to a community of supportive, like-minded “others” among whom they feel a deep sense of belonging. And two, because it allows them to maintain an identity as the kind of person who knows and understands how the world “really works”.
I would argue that the unhappy academics were creating and adding to what I described in my thesis as affective swirls of discontent, and that they were doing this as a means of bonding, or collective self-comforting. Anthropologist Nigel Thrift (2004), in discussing spatial affect, might argue that these swirls gather momentum, affecting the moods and feelings of others as they circulate. As they get translated into different, perhaps more durable contexts — such as via technologies like online chat and email — the affect begins to bed down into the objects (such as emails, or policies), as well as into the humans, strengthening the network and the feelings of discontent further. This is where collective trauma may become an apt description.