Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Neandertals, again...

OK, so it has been a while.  I'm trying to gear up for more writing here.  Meanwhile I posted this on Facebook this morning, edited a bit:

Yesterday after the verdict in the E. Jean Carroll trial was announced, tRump's lawyer Joe Tacopina came out and took a few questions. A heckler in the back kept yelling at him "Fucking Neanderthal! You're a fucking Neanderthal! ..."
So this is when I would have liked to be there to lecture the crowd on the humanity of the Neandertals, and the extremely unlikely chance that any male N would have behaved in his band like the former president has behaved all his life. Such a male Neandertal would have long since been cast out of the group or killed, maybe by the women.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Neandertal" republicans

 Last night (May10) on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, law professor Lawrence Tribe described republican efforts to drag women back to pre-Roe days as "Neandertal." I just want to go on record as saying that the Neandertals were very likely nowhere near as misogynistic as these thugs.

Artist: Tom Bjöklund

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Guest blog: On Whoopi Goldberg and the "race" thing

My Anthropology colleague Daniel Cring posted this on Facebook a couple days ago and I thought it best go up here as well. 


Whoopi Goldberg:

“Let’s be truthful, the Holocaust isn’t about race, it’s not. It’s about man’s inhumanity to man, that’s what it’s about. These are two groups of white people.”
She continued: “You’re missing the point … let’s talk about it for what it really is. It’s about how people treat each other. It’s a problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Jews … everybody eats each other.”
As an anthropologist who created and taught a college course on “race and racism”, I believe that Whoopi has a point that people are missing here.
Johann Blumenbach (1752 -1840) was a German physician, naturalist, physiologist, and “anthropologist”, who pretty much created the concept of “race” as a way to classify human biological diversity. Today we know that this is a taxonomically invalid taxon. Human biological diversity is continuous and not discrete. The concept of “race” has no scientific validity but yet people continue to use it to discriminate because of population pressures.
And now the term “ethnicity”, not biological diversity but rather cultural diversity including religious diversity. Because of exogamy, “race” and ethnicity are not coterminous even though people use these two terms interchangeably.
Eugenics and racism were increasingly more prevalent in the 20th century because of population pressures cause by colonialism and imperialism. And most certainly Nazi Germany believed that they were the Master “Race”- the Aryan Race. But they also believe in eugenics, so that many other people died in the death camps- Poles, Russians, homosexuals, Roma People, handicapped, and apparently even some Soviet prisoners of war. I remember seeing the mortal remains of the victims of Auschwitz in the British contemporary documentary “Memory of the Camps” and one victim wore a Christian crucifix that they took to their grave when they were buried in a mass grave with all the other victims of the Nazi atrocities- Jews, Poles, Roma, homosexuals, mental and physically unfit Germans, and Soviet POWs.
I once sat in a sociology class “Minority Groups” here at UL and I saw how students started to argue which minority group had been persecuted the most throughout history, and I remembered the sacrifice by three young men in Mississippi- one “black”, and two Jewish men in June 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement- “The victims were James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner from New York City. All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)” (Wikipedia).
What the hell are we humans doing to ourselves? We have conquered nature, but not ourselves.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Some things that are pissing me off

"America."  The people who have these red MAGA hats and other paraphernalia have no idea that "America" refers to not just the United States, but to the whole hemisphere.  And for the most part they don't care.  What they want to "make great again" is just the little part of America that's in the US. 

And actually, they can't even do that, because the US has never been "great," and therefore cannot be made "great" again.  The US has, for its entire existence, been a nation built on exploitation, oppression, genocide, and internal colonialism; a nation built on two kinds of slavery: chattel slavery (people owning people), and wage slavery (people owning other people's labor).

Republicans.  The people who yell "Make America Great Again" the loudest have no intention of actually doing so.  They continue to block: efforts to raise the minimum wage, and thus make wage slavery a little less onerous; efforts to put in place a truly sane national health care system by eliminating the "health insurance" industry; attempts to reform laws regarding the possession of firearms;  elimination of student debt and extension of free public education to college/university; elimination of medieval restrictions on women's reproductive health care (and why are males even a part of this conversation?); etc.

Critics of Critical Race Theory.  As far as I can tell, these critics don't understand the terms "critical," or "race," or "theory."

China.  Yeah, China, for its obviously genocidal treatment of the Uyghurs, but also for its stupidity in mistaking communism for fascism.

Владимир Путин.  He's on my list for wanting to reconstitute the old CCCP by armed force instead of making Russia a place these other countries, like Ukraine, want to hang with.  

The Vaccine Refuseniks.  These people who equate remaining unvaccinated with "freedom" and "liberty" are killing us.  And they're pissing me off.  If nearly all of them had gotten vaccinated when the rest of us did, we'd probably be pretty much over this thing. You know, like how we're over smallpox, and polio, and etc.

Educational administrators at every level.  Mark Twain wrote:  "In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards."  See the recent spate of Boards removing books like Maus (about the Holocaust) from their curricula, or banning use of the word "gay" in classes.  People on these boards seem to work under the illusion that children are snowflakes.  Well, they aren't.  They're tough.  They can take it, often better than their parents.

This is only a partial list; I'll be back.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Opening for Linguistic Anthropologist at University of North Florida

 The Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of North Florida invites applications for a full-time, nine-month, tenure-track faculty member in linguistic anthropology at the level of Assistant Professor to begin in August 2022.

Candidates should have expertise in linguistic anthropology grounded in contemporary cultural anthropological theories and qualitative ethnographic research. Their study of language should intersect with two or more of the following areas of investigation: gender and sexuality, race and racism, migration, new media, and politics. Geographic focus of research is open. Requirements for this position also include: a PhD in Anthropology by August 1st, 2022, some prior scholarly publications in the field of linguistic anthropology, knowledge of at least one foreign language, and some relevant teaching experience.
The position requires that candidates demonstrate an ability to teach face-to-face and online classes in linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology, and in their geographic area of expertise. Previous experience or a commitment to developing study abroad programs and/or field schools is preferred.
UNF faculty are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic excellence in all phases of instruction, research/scholarship/creative activity, and service. The successful candidate will be expected to excel in teaching, maintain an active research agenda including publication in peer-reviewed outlets, secure external research funding, and make meaningful service contributions to the department, the university, and the discipline.
UNF is a Carnegie Community Engaged institution. This designation celebrates the University’s collaboration with community partners from the local to the global level. It reflects UNF’s mission to contribute to the public good and prepare educated, engaged citizens. We are especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through their research, teaching and service and are committed to increasing the participation of the members of underrepresented groups.
To apply, please complete an online application for Position #338820 at Applicants must complete the online application and electronically upload: 1) a cover letter that addresses their research, teaching profile, and professional plan for the next 5 years; 2) a curriculum vitae; 3) a statement of their teaching experience and philosophy; 4) copies of relevant syllabi; 5) 1-2 sample publications in linguistic anthropology; and 6) unofficial transcripts. A minimum of three (3) references with contact information must be listed in the application. Candidates who are invited for campus interviews will be asked to have original, signed reference letters mailed or submitted electronically. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Initial review of applications will begin on November 15, 2021 and will continue until the position is filled. For more information contact Dr. Rosa de Jorio, Search Committee Chair, at (904) 620-1642 or
UNF is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access/Affirmative Action Institution.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Cultural survival...

Over on Facebook someone wrote about the people who were brought from Africa to the New World as slaves:
  • [They] ...survived being chained to other human bodies for several months in the bottom of a disease-infested ship during the Middle Passage, lost their language, customs and traditions, picked up the English language as best they could while working free of charge from sun up to sun down...
I might call this the Blank Slate Hypothesis of African-American language and culture. Anyway, I responded:

I'm sorry, but this is very misleading. The slaves off the boats still knew their languages and where they were from (although the countries they were did not exist in their present form). They passed this knowledge down as best they could. The descendants of slaves that I worked with in the Caribbean use words from African languages in their daily speech, as do many African Americans*. Where I worked, many people had a tradition of knowing what African ethnic group their ancestors came from (Kongo, Igbo, Mandingo, Yoruba, etc.). The Gullah people near where I am now (Northeast Florida) have hundreds of African words in their everyday speech. The idea that all this rich culture and language was erased by slavery is a convenient myth promulgated by whites; and it's been totally disproven by anthropologists (I am one) and others. 

I''ll give you just one example: the word 'juke' as in 'juke box'. This word was brought to the Americas by speakers of Fula, a West African language. In Fula it means to pierce, jab, penetrate, including sexually. The Juke Joint became the place you went to hook up; the Juke Box played the music. To this day, people where I worked use 'juke' as a word for getting pricked by, say, a cactus spine. There's a lot more to this (I wrote my dissertation on an Afro-Creole English from Grenada) but I think (hope) I've made my point.

There was pushback:
  • [They] ... were taken to central slave-exporting ports, from where they were forced aboard TransAtlantic transport ships under brutally inhumane conditions. The "passengers" typically were a mixture of tribes and languages. Of course they lost their language, customs, and traditions.
And again, I responded:

And I am telling you that you are wrong. Sorry, but here's no polite way to say it. The idea that Black people "lost their language, customs, and traditions" was made up by White people to make Blacks seem subhuman. Many language features that they brought from Africa and incorporated into their speech over here were said to show mental deficiency, because, you know, they couldn't possibly be legitimate carryovers from somewhere else. You may not like it, but it's a fact. If you don't want to believe me, look for Lorenzo Dow Turner and Melville Herskovits, two of many scholars who have demonstrated the continuities between West Africa and African American languages and cultures.

  • You are purporting that the enslavement of Africans did not deprive them of their language, culture or traditions because they have managed to retain a small remnant of each. That's preposterous.
I am arguing against the original proposition, which was that Africans lost ALL their culture and language in the slave experience. They did not. They carried with them more than a "small remnant." They mingled that with the languages and cultures they were embedded in in the New World: English, French, Spanish, etc. In each they created new languages out of English (etc.) and the "remnants" they brought. In some cases they continued speaking their home languages right into the present (Cuba, for example). Retention and creativity; I have spent my academic career studying this, and I know what the fuck I'm talking about.

Do you eat okra? The plant and the name for it come from West Africa (Igbo language). Have you ever called peanuts goobers? The plant is American, of course, but its African name (nguba) comes from Kikongo. Watch the Living Dead?  Zombie is from Kikongo zumbi or nzambi. And on and on....

The more interesting (to me) influences of West African are in the grammars developed by the slaves and their descendants.  That would be a whole 'nother thread I think, but one example: The West African languages I've studied don't have the English th sounds. So in the encounter, English words get reworked and th sounds become t or d: the > de; this > dis; and so on. Exactly this sort of thing was used by the racists to label Blacks "lazy"- because they didn't always pronounce our th's.  Some said they couldn't make these sounds because they had "lazy tongues" or "thick lips."  Of course, they can learn to make them because they are Homo sapiens. But it was (and sometimes still is) grist for the racist mill.

The Blank Slate Hypothesis of African American language and culture attributes any deviation from "standard" language and culture to cognitive deficiency, the inability to learn the presumedly more "advanced" language of whichever Europeans the slaves ended up among.  I wish I could write "attributed" in that last sentence, but it seems to be alive and well, and still a part of the folk model for some, at least.

*I use the term "African American" to refer to the descendants of slaves brought from Africa to the New World, all of which is really "America."

Herskovits, Melville.  1966.  The New World Negro: Selected Papers in Afroamerican Studies.  Minerva Press.

Turner, Lorenzo D. 2002 [1949].  Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect.  University of South Carolina Press.

Saturday, August 21, 2021


 So the SASW Department gave me a retirement send off yesterday. Very relaxed and informal, and with kind words. They know I like primates, so they gave me what appears to be a Spider Monkey and donated a brick in my name to the Jax Zoo. Little do they know I’ll be around a lot, cleaning 32 years of experience out of my office. Thanks, Everybody!

Neandertals, again...

OK, so it has been a while.  I'm trying to gear up for more writing here.  Meanwhile I posted this on Facebook this morning, edited a bi...