John McCreery's Blog – June 2012 Archive (8)

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


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