In a new short article out in the British Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Martijn de Koning asks what challenges anthropologists face in using blogs as a method of anthropological outreach. He begins by highlighting some of the motivations for anthropologists to blog: "[M]any anthropologists have suggested that for them the primary reasons for blogging are self-realization, creativity and networking, sharing research experiences and outcomes, and commenting on current affairs" (de Koning 2013:394).
As blogs have been around since the late 1990s, it seems a little strange that academic anthropologists are just now getting around to interrogating the utility of blogs and asking reflexive questions about our employment of the medium. de Koning quotes my 9 February 2012 blog post, "Blogs as Anthropological Outreach," to illustrate why some of us value blogging, although he only excerpts the first of these two paragraphs:
I blog because I find it rewarding - there's excitement in knowing that people who probably wouldn't touch my journal articles are reading about my work and about other developments in bioarchaeology; there's joy when I get emails from up-and-coming researchers, as young as middle schoolers, who want advice on how to make bioarchaeology a career; and there's the interaction with my readers that doesn't come across in the unidirectional, static medium of a publication.
Blogging is an exercise in writing for a different public, an exercise in taking all that jargon you learned in your coursework, distilling it, injecting your own ideas, and making it interesting. Writing a blog has helped me refine my research and my prose, and I think that my public lectures and my successful grant proposals in particular have greatly benefited from the practice. I always wish I had more time to blog. There's just so much cool stuff out there to talk about, and so little time to write...
|Logo for PbO|
|Logo for AnthInPractice|
|Flyer for T. Harrenstein's Foursquare|
anthro outreach project in Pensacola FL
Finally, de Koning notes that it's somewhat ironic that anthropology blogs largely focus on a Western audience and topics related to Western ideologies, when we're the primary field that prides itself on a cross-cultural and often non-Western focus. I endorse his call to create "a more global and plural anthropological community" (2013:397). We need more anthropologists writing in a variety of languages about a variety of cultures and topics, specifically engaging the public in our attempts to explain the fascinating biocultural nature of humans around the world.
Until that happens, though, I think it is important to take stock of anthropologists' attempts at outreach, as people like Jeremy Sabloff (1998, 2011) have been advocating for over a decade, but to more specifically focus on the breadth of outreach we are already doing. Although I maintain that blogging is important, and I continue to enjoy doing it, engaging in some much-needed self-reflection within the discipline on the methods of outreach that are currently ongoing and that can be deployed in the future would result in a much more thorough state-of-the-discipline article.
M. de Koning (2013). Hello World! Challenges for blogging as anthropological outreach. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 19 (2), 394-397. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.12040.
J. Montgomery, J. Evans, S. Chenery, V. Pashley, K. Killgrove (2010). 'Gleaming, white, and deadly': using lead to track human exposure and geographic origins in the Roman period in Britain. Journal of Roman Archaeology, S78.
J. Sabloff (1998). Distinguished Lecture in Archeology: Communication and the Future of American Archaeology. American Anthropologist, 100 (4), 869-875. DOI: 10.1525/aa.1922.214.171.1249.
J. Sabloff (2011). Where have you gone, Margaret Mead? Anthropology and public intellectuals. American Anthropologist, 113 (3), 408-416.