Categorie archief: English posts

Rereading Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Ethnographer”

Jorge Luis Borges 1951

Jorge Luis Borges 1951, by Grete Stern

By Matthias Teeuwen        I have read “The Ethnographer” and “Dr. Brodie’s Report” without thinking much of it. Sure, I had found it curious that Borges, who ranks among my favourite authors, would devote some of his writings to ethnography, but I haven’t thought much of it. Or, to be precise, I had planned to do my thinking on it at a later time. So when I came across an article in HAU Journal (2016, Volume 6, nr. 2) by Edgardo Krebs who argues that the anthropologist Alfred Métraux was Jorge Luis Borges’ inspiration to write the two stories, my curiosity was piqued. By reading the article by Krebs and re-reading “The Ethnographer” I have come to see the story as a challenge to the ethnographic endeavour of anthropology.

In this article Krebs relates the affinities and differences the two had. They both belonged to a circle of poets, artists and intellectuals that were active in Buenos Aires around the 1930s. Métraux was an ethnographer from Switzerland who spent most of his youth in Argentina. Borges was an erudite author who inspired the literary genre of “magical realism”. Métraux, it seems, was the inspiration for “The Ethnographer” and “Dr. Brodie’s Report” that Borges wrote in 1969 and 1970 respectively. Here I will turn to the shorter of the two stories: “The Ethnographer”.

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Stable Instability: renewed turmoil in Ethiopia (part 2)

qilinto-burning2

Qilinto prison burning, Addis Ababa 3 September 2016.  Opposition voices state that not the fire but the prison guards killed more than 60 inmates, most of them political prisoners fleeing and trying to reach safety. © Ethiogrio

(This is the second part of an earlier published article)

By Jan Abbink        Next to the demands for more economic rights and protection, the wider background factors of the spreading protests were: mounting dissatisfaction with authoritarian party politics, the interfering presence of party cadres in local life, the lack of accountability of the government, unresolved land allocation issues, lack of proper compensation for those removed from the land, the dismantling of civil society organizations in the last decade, the lack of political and civic freedoms, and the lack of a well-working justice system (as people say, one cannot really bring complaints against the government and get one’s right in the courts).

There is also a longer-term social dynamic involved: large groups of youth are unemployed, and there is still a large urban underclass that is often excluded from high school or vocational education and from jobs. New cultural-political youth movements – in both the classical political sphere as well as in the cultural domain – are seen with suspicion by the government and under close scrutiny. Also, emerging local ethnic elites in the various regional states have been cautiously putting forward new demands – and, paradoxically, their emergence and assertiveness is an achievement of the ‘ethnic politics’ of empowerment that the Ethiopian ruling party and government instituted since 1991 and which has led to many smaller ethnic groups getting ‘special districts’. The ethno-regional rivalry is now also seen in the serious tensions within the ruling party, where the four branches, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) are not always in agreement with the dominant Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  Lees verder

How to keep in touch with anthropology

Annual Day of Anthropology, 20 May 2016

Annual Day of Anthropology, 20 May 2016

By Ina Keuper  For many students the last week of their studies at the anthropology department of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) has ended today, for Bachelor’s students as well as Master’s. They have worked hard on finishing their final assignment, a thesis with which they prove their proficiency in writing an academic text within the time and word count set for it. The Master’s students presented the drafts of their thesis on the Master’s Festival of last week’s Tuesday, June 14th, while the Bachelor’s did so on the Bachelor’s Festival of Thursday June 16th. Lees verder

Should we all radicalize? Anthropology in times of capitalist crises

A response to the inaugural lecture of Dimitris Dalakoglou, Chair in Social Anthropology at VU University Amsterdam.

Refugee crisis in Europe, via creative commons

Refugee crisis in Europe, via creative commons

By Herbert Ploegman            As Dimitris Dalakoglou argued in his inaugural speech “Anthropology and Infrastructures. From the State to the Commons”, on the 13th of June, “our humanity and our human lives” are truly at stake in the events unfolding at the borders of Europe. He referred in particular to the people trying to cross the Mediterranean while facing extreme risks of drowning, but also to the modified forms of governance in Southern European countries over the years that we understand as crisis. Lees verder

African-Americans returning to Ghana: A photo blog

Marije foto 1b

Plaque on the wall of the W.E.B Du Bois Museum

By Marije Maliepaard            My Master’s research is about African-Americans who return to Ghana after their ancestors got enslaved and brought to the Americas during the slave trade. My research group themselves have not physically lived in Africa before but they do have the feeling they return. A famous African-American and Pan-Africanist who also returned was W.E.B. Du Bois. He was one of the founders of the American civil rights organization for ‘colored’ people, NAACP. Eventually, he settled in Accra, Ghana, but passed away three years later. He is buried next to his former house, which is now turned into a museum. Lees verder

The Political Agency of Refugees

Cindy_Horst_tcm249-762996By Matea Curcovic Westendorp        Dr. Cindy Horst is an anthropologist located in Oslo, Norway where she works as a senior researcher at the research institute PRIO. Her main focus for the past 20 years has been on refugees – from spending two years in a refugee camp in Kenya researching Somali refugees, to more recently collecting life stories from refugees residing in Oslo. Lees verder

“Playing gives experience” – a fieldwork photo blog

IMG_2368By Tessa Gruijs            For my Master’s research I went to Ghana. In cooperation with a local NGO I got access to a couple of primary schools. There I interviewed and observed many teachers about their experiences with the work of this NGO and their perspectives on (improving) the quality of education.

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