Ep. #25: Zombie nouns, meaningful objects, biopolitics in politics, and value trials: This month on TFS

This month Julia (0:59), starts us off with a discussion about zombie nouns – non-nouns that have been turned into nouns – such as sociality, relationality, neoliberalisation, and so on. Referring to Alex Di Giorgio’s blog post about academic jargon, Julia asks us the ultimate question: why can’t social scientists communicate using simpler words? She … Continue reading Ep. #25: Zombie nouns, meaningful objects, biopolitics in politics, and value trials: This month on TFS

Post-Bureaucratic Stress: Reflections on getting a police check in Vietnam

Bureaucracy is so deadly dull because it’s so mundane. But, as Steve Woolgar points out in his book Mundane Governance, the Latin etymology of ‘mundane’ is ‘of the world’ - just the way things are. And that’s only true of your experience with bureaucracy if you belong in the world in which you are living. If, as a grown-up, you’ve had to do any adulting in a country where you’re unfamiliar with the rules, then you'll know that bureaucracy becomes anything but mundane because you are not ‘of the world’ in which you’re trying to operate. So in this post, I want to draw on an experience from my fieldwork to explore how mundane bureaucracy, when you’re away from home, can be a stark reminder that you are ‘matter out of place’.

When the world invades “the field:” emotion, introspection, and ethnography

It’s been years since anthropology set aside the fantasy of “the field” -- a bounded research site, where the locals, and the researcher studying them, are insulated from events in the wider world. But assumptions about “the field,” and what doing fieldwork will be like, are hard to shake. I knew full well, when I … Continue reading When the world invades “the field:” emotion, introspection, and ethnography

Living Fossils

One of the most popular jokes among anthropologists is how often our work is mistaken for palaeontology. Almost every one of my colleagues and even a few of my students can relate an anecdote involving a situation where they were asked if they “dug up dinosaurs.” Imagine the difficulty I now face in my own work where the answer is effectively, “Yes, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.”