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Participant advertising

Well, I'm moderately excited as I have just started an important part of my research - trying to make money $$$$ :-D

No seriously, if you look to the right you'll see a banner ad - it's from Nuffnang, a Malaysian company who place ads on blogs (the side panel is now a bit messy, I have to work out a way to move the other html nuggets to the bottom...)

Advertising is one of the main means of making money from blogging, so I have to try it too. This blog, apart from being my blog, is also my online participation in the blogosphere - participant observation being the key method of social anthropology.

What's also very interesting is that Nuffang make considerable efforts to engage with Malaysian bloggers by organising social gatherings and the like - for example one coming up is their First Anniversary Pajama Party, which I am going to try to go to :-)

So... I now have an excuse to blog, and I am not procrastinating, but researching :-D

American Man’s Burden

I came across this the other day

It’s the official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in 1629. You can’t see it very well, but the Native American is represented as saying “Come over and help us”…

Interestingly, a Native American is also represented on the current day seal, though without the arrow (originally held downwards in a sign of peace) and no longer pleading to be force fed Christianity and foreign culture.

I wonder how many Native Americans are left in Massachusetts now? 0.6% of the population according to the 2005 census.

So what you may ask? Well, an article (which I can’t find anymore) made the point that the current attitude of Bush et al. , that they are doing the world a favour by spreading ‘freedom’ in Iraq and other places, is very much the same attitude that enabled the colonial nations to simultaneously destroy cultures and exploit people around the world while at the same time sighing about how tough it was to be so good to the natives…

Extracts from The White Man's Burden by Rudyard Kipling. It was written in 1889 after America took the Phillipines from Spain (full text)

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Consider some more contemporary comments by American intellectuals (from here):
the US "has become an empire, the most magnanimous imperial power ever" Dinesh D'Souza

"And the truth is that the benevolent hegemony exercised by the US is good for a vast portion of the world's population. It is certainly a better international arrangement than all realistic alternatives." Robert Kagan

America has a "uniquely benign imperium." Charles Krauthammer

**Update 22/02** Here's an article about the American use of water torture in its colonisation of the Philippines.
**Update 23/02** Well, here's a quote that makes the point well I think, I came across it listening to a very interesting BBC Radio documentary about Arab-Americans Marines who served in Iraq. It's Bush announcing the beginning of the invasion of Iraq (18 March 2003):
My fellow citizens. At this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger. (George W. Bush)

... thanks, but no thanks mate.

Predicting hyperbole

A quote from a blog post dated 2 June 2006:

The CEO of the world's second-largest media company, Publicis, say "In a couple of years, most of the information you share, most of the advertising you read, most of the messages you send and most of the music you listen to, will transit through your cell phone." (Ahonen)

Note that we are now February 2008 and I have yet to notice the demise of television, internet, billboards, mp3 players, the radio, etc...

You have to wonder what planet that guy is living on? I suppose it's the planet of high-flying advertising agency directors who spend their time convincing themselves and their clients that their 'vision' is the next 'blue ocean', 'flat earth', 'synergistic competitive collaboration', 'strategic pro-active pre-positioning preparation', 'glocal event horizon', or whatever term required to seem different from what was 'the future' six months before...

Renaldo Lapuz - A millions hits of fame

I am a bit of an American Idol fan, especially for those first episodes where you have completely deluded people turning up. I guess you could call it taking pleasure from people’s misery, but I prefer to call it ‘observing the elasticity of aesthetic perception’…

Whatever. I find this time round Simon seems to have softened a bit, which isn’t all bad as he is sometimes pretty harsh on contenders. But he has his fans too, and if you’ve been watching you couldn’t have missed Renaldo Lapuz with his own composition “We're Brothers Forever”. It’s stuck in my head ever since I saw the annoyingly catchy thing.

He’s been something of an instant hit, a là William Hung, but as the internet has moved on a bit since then, there has been a slew of blog posts and YouTube remixes already.
“I’m going to make a prediction here, I have a horrible feeling that’s going to be a hit record.” (Simon Cowell)

I wonder what the ingredients are for this kind of celebrity? It’s certainly not based on his singing skills, though he’s not completely awful. Let’s look at what he has: flamboyant costume coupled with humble manner, sincerity and a catchy song. One wonders whether the fact he’s Asian/Chinese has anything to do with it: put bluntly, Asian/Chinese/Japanese can often be seen as non-threatening amusing foreigners… Also probably important is the implicit endorsement of the Idol judges: Paula and Randy sung and danced with him, and Simon made the back-handed compliment quoted above. Notice that William Hung got a “You’re the best” from Paula (a video of his audition here).

There are issues of copyright, with some YouTube recasts of the American Idol clip being taken down (here and here). Importantly for Renaldo, his song is an original, so he can use it any way he wants – though apparently he’s “under American Idol Contract until May” ( So he has made a ringtone available for free; a game “Where’s Renaldo” has been announced, and he is renting out his services – you can have him call your valentine, or have him attend events –
“Get his autograph! Yes songs! He has many original songs and he wants to sing them for all of you! One of them is dedicated to our Mothers!” (

Let me guess…

Continue reading "Renaldo Lapuz - A millions hits of fame"

Some thoughts on anthropology and history

Durkheim originally argued that a true sociology/history would come about as a result of the blending of history and social science (Rules of the Sociological Method [?]).

Collingwood provides a suggestion that anthropology, which is concerned with the analysis of ‘other’ cultures, also has similarities with historical analysis in that historians have to understand that fundamentally different presuppositions are brought to bear in different historical and/or cultural situations (Collingwood 1972)

Inden provides an example this blending of historical and anthropological analysis (Inden 1990).

Bakhtin also uses an exploration of historical analysis to challenge the monological nature of many theories cf.(Morson & Emerson 1990).

The impossibility of predicting the future also relates to an understanding of historicity. Bakhtin rejects the approach that claims that all is relative because this fixes the result of historical analyses in advance and argues that “…history requires unfinalizability.” (Morson & Emerson 1990: 44). One solution frequently proposed, the diachronic approach, is frequently deficient in that it is often “…nothing but a series of synchronic slices, with no intelligible historical links.” (Morson & Emerson 1990: 44), or is a synchronic view that unfolds over time. “Unfinalizability and prosaics are missing from such models, which make change the result of causes outside human agency, uniform in nature, and, at least in principle, knowable in advance.” (Morson & Emerson 1990: 44)

This leads us to question how one would be able to give a proper historical account – remembering that an anthropological analysis is by definition also a historical work, in that it is describing a past that has occurred. One answer is the format of the novel, according to Bakhtin, that is able to give " and 'thick' accounts..." (Morson & Emerson 1990: 27). This terminology, used by Morson & Emerson recalls Clifford Geertz's espousal of the 'thick description' (Geertz 1973), and also suggests a rejection of a cause-and-effect rationale.

David Kohn (Kohn n.d.) (pp. 7-8):
“…do anthropology and history study the same object, and do they study it in the same way? The answer to both questions is yes. In the introduction to The Idea of History, Collingwood asserts that history studies ‘actions of human beings that have been done in the past.’ (p. 9) Anthropology falls within this definition…”

Collingwood criticises what he calls a ‘scissors and paste’ approach to history where the historian merely collates information about the past as represented in texts and/or other artefacts, and then presents the final collection as a unified and definitive narrative. Instead the historian should adopt a ‘scientific’ approach that, according to Collingwood, means that s/he should make a systematic attempt to answer particular questions, to acquire particular knowledge.


I wrote that a long time ago; what interested me was the convergence between anthropology and history. Recognising that historical accounts are always contingent accounts based on the present interpretations means that - as in anthropology - we have to find a way to develop accounts that are in themselves diachronic and multivocal. In a way, a blog would be perfect for that: each page is placed chronologically, but all are simultaneously accessible; different people can contribute via the comments; multimedia can be used...

Works Cited.

Collingwood, R.G. An essay on metaphysics. Chicago: University Press of America, Inc., 1972
Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1973.
Inden, R. Imagining India. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.
Kohn D. Collingwood and Clifford. Unpublished: (in Anthropology department library, SOAS), ND.
Morson G.S. & C. Emerson. Mikhail Bakhtin. Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.