Thursday, January 19


I went for a coffee with a friend after classes yesterday. She converted to Islam some time ago and told me about muslim hiphop in german - something I never even knew existed. The band she was so fascinted from is called "ammar114" and all of their songs are freely downloadable. I just tried, but their website seems to be down currently. Anyway, I found a link to a songtext (Schwester) and some of their songs are free for download here.

Monday, January 16

commenting essays...

For the next few days I've got the "pleasure" of commenting about 60 student essays on three different questions (Boas; Levi-Strauss; Mauss & Van Gennep). I've already read a few and what's really surprising to me is the range of quality, because most of my students are in their first year of studies and should therefore have roughly the same background. And for those of you, whoe are curious, here are two positive examples...

Tuesday, January 10

fighting with complexity

I'm trying to find a nice'n'easy explanation of the term "complex society" and seem to get more lost, the more I am searching.

Ulf Hannerz: [the term complex society]"is used somewhat imprecisely to refer mostly to societies with a developed division of labour and with sizeable populations. State organiszation, urbanism, organized social inequality and literacy tend also to be aspects of the complexity involved. (in Barnard & Spencer 2002)

Sydel Silverman: The term complex societies haslong been used in anthropology to refer to state-organized systems, including those of premodern times [...], those of the modern industrialized era, and those whose states stem from postcolonial or other recent political transformations.
(p. 292 in Barth, Gingrich, Parkin, Silverman 2005)

entry at wikipedia: a complex society is a social formation that is otherwise described as a formative or developed state.

Wilson/Introduction to Archeology: Societies which show in particular increased specialization and occupational separation. As inferred by the social typology set out by Elman Service, in complex societies, people "no longer combine, say, the tasks of obtaining food, making tools, or performing religious rights but become specialists at one or other of these tasks"

interesting comment by Hannerz:
The rather loose usage my be criticized - what society is realy not complex? - but anthropologists have obviously found it a convenient alternative to such terms as "modern society", "industrial society" or "civilization", with which it may partly overlap but which entail emphases or connotations one may prefer to avoid.
(again in Barnard & Spencer 2002)


Thomas Hylland Eriksen is blogging at Savageminds since yesterday:

I expect to submit a handful of blogs on a daily or bi-daily basis for a week or two, and my chosen topic is a staple on this site, namely the role of anthropologists and anthropology in a wider public sphere.

So he will write on a topic that he also adresses in his book Engaging Anthropology (Amazon)(see here, here and here for a review by Lorenz Kazaleh at

Instead of repeating myself, I'll make a new proposal for productive public engagement in each posting on this site. Tomorrow, I'll give you the story of a sport club in Drammen (a town near Oslo, where I live) and its struggles to incorporate minority children in its activities, and suggest how anthropologists might intervene. It goes without saying that I'm keen to receive your views, objections and suggestions as we go along.

Apart from interesting discussions that will surely follow his posts, there's something else happening here, which I want to keep an eye on: How are relations within academia influenced if well established anthropologists start blogging? I guess, like Will, I can say: "I'm looking forward to reading your posts, Thomas."


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