Friday, April 4, 2008

Anthropology Matters

We have just released the latest issue of Anthropology Matters - the online anthropology journal that I am currently editing. All the articles in this issue are written by former MA students who are also dedicated youth or community workers. They use ethnography to understand what's going on around them in present-day Britain.

I think all the articles are worth reading for anyone interested in engaged anthropology, Britain under New Labour, political participation and citizenship, and youth and community work. There were two that particularly grabbed my attention because of my own interests.

First, Saffron Burley's "My dog's the champ" is the most insightful analysis of the phenomenon of young men owning "fight dogs" that I have come across - and far more thoughtful than average media portrayals. It did make me think differently about the young hoodies with stocky dogs in tow that I used to pass on the streets when I lived in North Hackney, London.

Second, Paul Hendrich's "Charting a new course for Deptford Town Hall" presents an engaged discussion of the history and current symbolism of a sculpted town hall that is now owned by Goldsmiths College (University of London), and which boasts a ship (a trading vessel? a slave ship?) as weather vane. He charts ways of responding that acknowledge the "horrible histories" of the building, but overwrite these with new associations. -- The fact that we were able to publish Paul Hendrich's article was suddenly made all the more important when I received news in January that he had tragically died when he was hit by a lorry on his bicycle. Although I don't know his wife and one-year old daughter, many warm wishes and thoughts have gone to them while I was finalizing this issue.

In addition to the contributions by Saffron Burley and Paul Hendrich, Rachel Ashcroft writes on how political participation can (and has) become de-politicized in Britain under New Labour, Helen Clark examines some examples of how youth in London have experienced such participation in practice, and Beccy Blow presents a nuanced discussion of whether one can "empower" a person with learning difficulties. And if you're interested in "folk devils," Rayen Salgado-Pottier explains what they are in her aptly entitled article, "A modern moral panic."

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