A year has gone by since I posted the first entrance on Anthropolandia, so it is a good time to think about the experience of blogging. While I have been blogging before (the obligatory adolescent year-abroad-Blog, and as part of a blogging network by aspiring journalists and/or writing professionals), trying to write an academic blog meant a steep learning curve. First, academic blogging is so much slower. The amount of detail, the correct sources, the depth I aspire to – all contribute to a different understanding of “time-consuming”. While earlier, this meant the general amount I spent on blogging, today, this is the time that goes into just one good post. Second, and related to this, I think the transition between one and the other is not exactly smooth. Luckily, as an anthropologist, I belong to a species that has experimented with writing styles for quite some time and has developed an enormous tolerance in terms of what language is still considered scientific. In terms of my initial aim to lose fear of the white page, I think I have gotten closer to this, or at least I see Anthropolandia as the experimental space it was meant to be. But when thinking about experiments, I think I am only just starting. I think the new series Vignettes from the Field has an enormous potential for this, and I will try my best to contribute to the series from time to time.
Overall, I am happy with how things are going. There are almost zero days when no-one comes by to see what’s going on here, and I have vistors from almost allover the world! I would really like to have more discussions in the comment sections, especially on the pieces I explicitly ask for my readers opinion, but maybe many of you just aren’t the commenting type of people. The most frequented times change almost weekly, sometimes it’s Monday morning, sometimes Wednesday afternoon, so I assume this has a lot to do with when I publish. The most frequented categories for the first year are Genderella’s Stories, which I appreciate and will try to continue updated. But there seems to be a new trend in the Vignettes, as well, but as the series is young, it doesn’t yet make it to any important place in the yearly stats. In general, you people seem to prefer personal post to the short book reviews, which is understandable. I am sorry to all of you young visitors hoping for a comprehensive storyline-review for some of the novels I have been reading (I’m guessing homework, here?!), but I will not change my reviewing policies. I do the book reviews to remember the impressions a book left on me, for the content I have other systems to turn to.
The Reading List in Retrospect
I made it through 22 books, which is less than I had hoped for, so the first aim for 2017 is to make it to at least 24, that is, two per month. The difficulty clearly is to make it through the whole book, if it doesn’t start promising, or turns out not be useful, etc. Of those 22, five were purely scientific, which is clearly less than I had hoped for. To my defense, there is an unpublished blogpost on all the books I have started but never finished, which is about five times as long. My experience is that monographs are considerably more easy to finish than edited volumes, which is why one of the strategies for this year will be to read more ethnographic monographs. In terms of genre (apart from ethnographies), my taste for novels is obvious. Maybe this year there will be more graphic novels, poetry, or – if I feel adventurous – short stories. For sure, there will be more ethnographies, which I will try to read as novels. We will see how that works. In terms of diversity, I think I have made an effort. I am somewhat unwilling to assign sexes and gendered identities to the authors I have read this year, since I don’t know how they identify, but I would go as far as to say that I could make more efforts in terms of queerness. Considering race, I could try harder for Latin America (especially considering my specialization in this area), and basically everything east of Germany until getting to the US. At least novel-wise, Latin America as a focus region is already planned for this year.
I clearly have a tendency for contemporary literature, and I don’t really plan to change that. I have a few classics waiting in my bookshelf, but also a serious “Classics” aversion, so I doubt I get very far with this one considering all the other plans I have. Language-wise, it is noticeable that I find reading in English so much more enjoying than anything else… From 22 books, only 5 are in my mothertongue, German, and only one in Spanish – which is a graphic novel, even. For 2017, I plan to continue the English trend, but try to read more Spanish, as well. As I said, there are already several works on the list, and I really hope they will nice to read, because I admit that until now, I haven’t found many Spanish-writing authors that convinced me. Notable exceptions: Roberto Bolaño, Alvaro Cepeda Samudio, and maybe Hector Abad Faciolince and Juan Gabriel Vásquez. No, not Borges, not García Márquez, not Vargas Llosa. And where are the women, by the way?
New Year, new Series, new Reading List
For 2017, I want to focus on science. Reading novels does count as science in two ways: First, reading good books is a way of developing a good writing style, and that is one of the professional aims for this year. Second, if I can focus on novels from and about the region/people I do research on, they might help me to “get into the mood”. But the plan is to read more monographs, on the region, on the people, on the topic, on things completely unrelated, but monographs, to understand the mechanisms of the format, to gain insights into the topics at an in-depth level, and to be inspired.
Another important aspect will be writing. The new series on Vignettes will play a prominent role here, and maybe others will follow, because I might just as well practice at home. I am hoping to expand the Genderella series, even if I am afraight of finding new things to tell, because really every new chapter is yet another instance of a situation that could have been so much nicer, was the world a different place. To sum up, Anthropolandia is not going to change a lot, but I will try to paymore attention to what I had initially planned for this space: To be about (scientific) reading and writing.
Sunday afternoon, after a traditional german cake&coffee session, I felt fully motivated to do some work stuff that involves larger amounts of time, yet lesser efforts in thinking: I started a software installing spree to keep up organizing my thesis. I have recently changed from pc to mac, mostly because the keyboard sounds of a mac actually make me want to write. But this change involves some other adjustments too, and so I spent the last four hours simultaneously writing this post and installing everything I felt I could need during Project Thesis. You will find these programs in what I think is the order to go about the research process.
Usually before going to the field, you already read. All those documents want to be filed and catalogued somewhere, so that when you start writing, it will be easier to create in-text-citations and bibliographies that are neatly formated and free from the occasional hand-made typo. There are several options for you here, but I am just going to focus on three: citavi, EndNote, and zotero. The first two are usually available with a license offered from your university, zotero is freeware. With citavi you can also get a free version that allows for projects with up to 100 sources each, however, it’s pc-only, which is why I will have to migrate my data now. EndNote comes as a free online version, too, but keeps limited citation style options, among other restrictions. Personally, I don’t like it’s style and find many of the extra features from the licensed version – like maintaining my cv and writing grant applications from within the program – unnecessary. I kind of liked this introduction to zotero, and will make the reality check for accessibility during the next weeks.
Organizing data from the field will probably be a little more demanding than organizing literature only, and even though all the above offer options to include other sources such as video, audio or image material, you may want to tag and sort all these with a little more space for creativity. This is where atlas.ti, MAXQDA, or Scribe may come in handy. A discussion on pro’s and con’s from the EASA media anthropology mailing list can be found here. Personally, I have no experience with any of these, but will keep you updated on my experiences with Scribe. I decided for it, because it works well importing to zotero, and because I’m a fan of open source software. Not that I would be super informed and able to contribute myself, but because it offers much more independence. Should I change universities, I won’t have to migrate all my data from one program to the next because of different licensing policies. Also, a nice overview of useful open source software for anthropologists can be found here at Stanford.
Then, there’s the horrors of transcribing. Continue reading