John McCreery's Blog (129)

The Big Picture — and Up Close

What is this madman McCreery up to, interrupting a conversation about ideas about democracy with, on the one hand, the suggestion that political and economic ideas may be essentially irrelevant in a world where the haves increase and hold on to what they have while the have-nots get increasingly screwed until things get so bad that they fall apart and, on the other hand, in the same conversation, posting notes on a condominium association special committee meeting in…


Added by John McCreery on October 22, 2012 at 9:30am — 2 Comments

Social Networks Decay Quickly - OAC?

On OAC Facebook, Keith Hart points us to Diego Basch's blog "Social Networks Implode Quickly" and asks if its conclusions apply to OAC? Here I will briefly summarize the argument and offer a few thoughts along the way.

Basch begins with the following points:
1) Metcalfe’s law. A social network…

Added by John McCreery on September 15, 2012 at 8:30am — 5 Comments

"Don't be a dick." How can that work?

Among my sources of information about the modern world is a free online newsletter called MediaDailyNews. This morning's edition featured a column by Bob Garfield, who for decades was the chief advertising critic for Advertising Age.  Garfield begins this piece, titled "Too Late to Relate?" with the following paragraphs.

There's this line I sometimes use in speeches, usually during the question-and-answer period. My presentations are about the ascendency of trust…


Added by John McCreery on September 5, 2012 at 1:30am — 8 Comments

Dogû, A Cosmos

“Dogû” is a Japanese term literally translatable as “clay figurines.” The following text is from the flyer advertising Dogû, a Cosmos, an exhibition at the Miho Museum in Shigaraki, Japan. The image that follows the text is from the exhibition flyer. It contains the original Japanese text as well as examples of the figurines in question. It may be worth noting that these figurines were first discovered in northeast Japan and attributed by their finder to…


Added by John McCreery on September 3, 2012 at 8:27am — No Comments

Home Again

Just at the moment, I am in deep information overload. 

Thursday, train to Kyoto, check in at station hotel, walk along a gorgeous back street along a stream to Gion, dinner with the Keieijinruigaku (Anthropology of Administration) bunch at Professor Hioki's favorite Kyoto home-cooking restaurant, great food and lots and lots and lots of sake.

Friday, we get up early enough to hike over to Toji (a Buddhist temple complex) and get…


Added by John McCreery on September 3, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

What is value? What is money?

It occurs to me that some here might be interested in the following item from Edge.



A Conversation with Cesar Hidalgo

Edge Video (44-Minutes)

"We have always had this tension of understanding the world, at small spatial scales or individual scales, and large macro scales. In the past when we looked at macro scales, at least when it comes to many social phenomena, we…


Added by John McCreery on August 30, 2012 at 3:30am — 1 Comment

The Goal of a Human Economy—What is the Good Life?

What is a human economy? One suggestion that appeals to me is an economy that offers every child the opportunity to live what he or she comes to consider a good life, a life that combines simple pleasures and meaningful fulfillment of some larger purpose. Of course, however, not everyone sees the good life in similar terms, and what I take to be simple pleasures and meaningful fulfillment may be quite different from what someone else prefers. Anthropologically speaking, the possibility that…


Added by John McCreery on August 9, 2012 at 9:38am — 18 Comments

Alien Phenomenology

Those of us who enjoyed the OAC seminar on Martin Holbraad's "Can the Thing Speak?" or have been intrigued by recent discussions of ontology or Latour will also be interested in this Design Observer interview with Ian Bogost, the author of …


Added by John McCreery on August 4, 2012 at 3:30am — 1 Comment

Where else in the world?

This morning, the  Asahi (the most liberal of Japan's three major daily papers)'s  Vox Populi, Vox Dei column tells me that its August and the 50th anniversaries of the deaths of several prominent people are coming up: American movie star Marilyn Monroe on the 5th, Japanese folklorist Yanagita Kunio on the 8th, and German author Herman Hesse on the 9th. Where else in the world would you find a list like this?

Come to think of it that is a serious question. I don't know the answer.…


Added by John McCreery on August 1, 2012 at 1:28am — No Comments

Book Recommendation

Cross-posted from Dead Voles. It speaks to the interests of several here.


Kirin Narayan’s Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov is not a book likely to make it onto bestseller lists. The audience, people with an interest in the art of writing ethnography, is too small. It is, however, a marvelous book about writing non-fiction prose, taking as…


Added by John McCreery on July 16, 2012 at 4:38am — No Comments

George Orwell — A Model for a Modern Anthropology?

Vanity fair has extracted an essay on Orwell from Christopher Hitchen's introduction to Orwell's Diaries. The lead for the Arts & Letters Daily link that led me to this essay reads,

Being an amateur anthropologist, understanding things – poverty and squalor, politics, himself – at the level of basic experience...



Added by John McCreery on July 10, 2012 at 7:30am — 1 Comment

The Joy of Substance — Reflections on the Asian Studies Japan Conference, Tokyo, 2012

This weekend Ruth and I were in Ikebukuro, on the other side of Tokyo from where we live in Yokohama, attending the Asian Studies Japan Conference (ASJC). It was the first time for this conference in several years, so impressions were fresh and lively. What follows is a reflection on why I enjoyed the conference so much, for reasons summed up in my title "The Joy of Substance."

I attended sessions on
  1. Technologies of Japanese Empire: Aesthetics, Planning and…

Added by John McCreery on July 2, 2012 at 4:00am — No Comments

What makes a good seminar?

An intervention by John Hawks on Savage Minds suggests that, while seminars are a common format for advanced undergraduate and graduate education, 

Seminar courses are often very poorly taught and professors routinely overrate the value of their sessions for students. 

I found myself agreeing with him. But putting that aside, what, I wonder,…


Added by John McCreery on June 26, 2012 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

The art of non-fiction

This interview with Carlo Rotella, Director of American Studies and Professor of English at Boston College, is a must-read for anthropologists who imagine themselves writing engaging ethnography. The following is a brief sample.

I’m allergic to abstraction. Especially in my first two books, I was telling the story of the transformation of urban America,…


Added by John McCreery on June 20, 2012 at 7:41am — 6 Comments

Anthropology and Big Data

The following is a slightly edited cross-posting from anthrodesign.

As I read this thread, I find myself wondering if some of the critical remarks about big data aren't a bit behind the curve. I am thinking in particular of Sam's remark that, 

Without some working theory of what social behaviour is, we have nothing but reams of meaningless data.
There is, of course, a sense in which this statement is…

Added by John McCreery on June 19, 2012 at 11:09am — 8 Comments

On Mentors and Mentoring

The following comment is extracted from a conversation started by Mary Alice Scott's post "Paolo Freire, Critical Knowledge and Anthropological Mentoring" on Savage Minds. 

In Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism, the philosopher Stanley Cavell observes that conventional models of…


Added by John McCreery on June 15, 2012 at 10:27am — No Comments

Theory and Method in Anthropology: a scientific and business model

Cross posted from the Anthropology group on LinkedIn.


One way to look at anthropology starts with the question, What would a science of humanity look like? It would, I am pretty sure, look a lot more like field geology as described by John McPhee in Annals of the Former World than classical mechanics. 

Another way to look at anthropology starts with the question, What have anthropologists…


Added by John McCreery on June 8, 2012 at 4:00am — No Comments

Rawls on a Property-Owning Democracy

Daniel Little's Understanding Society blog is a must for those with a serious interest in political, economic and sociological theory. His piece Rawls on a property-owning democracy should be of particular interest to those involved with Keith Hart's Human Economy project. 

Added by John McCreery on June 7, 2012 at 4:19am — No Comments

What Money Can't Buy

This Guardian review of Michael Sandel's What Money Can't Buy:The Moral Limits of Markets should be of interest to economic anthropologists, especially those involved with Keith Hart's Human Economy project.

Added by John McCreery on June 4, 2012 at 6:46am — 1 Comment

Theory and method in anthropology: an historical speculation

The following remarks are an edited version of something I just wrote on Savage Minds. The topic is method or, from my perspective, the lack thereof in interpretive anthropology.



I’ve never thought this was a problem related to cultural data or to anthropology’s method of interpreting it.

In this respect you are, I suspect, typical. You are quite correct to point to a

whole cottage industry in anthropology that worries…


Added by John McCreery on June 1, 2012 at 2:30am — 49 Comments


OAC Press



© 2019   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service