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You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train

May 9, 2012

That’s right. I did it. I started my most recent post with a Zinn Quote. Possibly the most over-used Zinn quote ever. But I feel it’s applicable to my blog right now.

First of all:

photos. I haven’t uploaded many of them recently, so here are a couple.

My car outside the coffee shop. The fact that it’s pouring rain isn’t conveyed very well. Great weather!

Phillip at the counter. That guy wears some sweet vests!

I’m hanging out at Giant Coffee, which is a quite supremium place to get a hot cup of joe. I feel like that last statement was a little cheesy.

I’ve been thinking about the direction of my blog.

And I realized that direction has moved progressively farther from anthropology, or even an anthropological mindset. My goal for the future of this corner of the internet that I call my own is to get back to my roots, and actually talk about anthropology.

This cues the Zinn quote. The basic mindset is best stated by the man himself:

I didn’t pretend to an objectivity that was neither possible nor desirable. ‘You can’t be neutral on a moving train’ I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain, deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.

This quote is an apt description of how I feel about anthropology. I feel like participant observation and analysis are good, and can be used for productive ends, but in themselves are an attempt at neutrality on a moving train.

But how to balance neutrality and involvement?!

That’s a really good question. So far I’ve been involved with No More Deaths, not because of some ethnography or anything, but because I actually believe it to be a worthwhile undertaking. At the same time, I’ve been neglecting some undertakings of an anthropological nature. I have been working on a paper for a while about the Chomsky-Herman propaganda model, specifically applied to the Nativist movement in Arizona.

My conclusion: I’m going to try to write an ethnography series on the various nativist groups in AZ.

Should be interesting!

One Comment leave one →
  1. ONM permalink
    May 9, 2012 6:37 pm

    That is a Rather Surprisingly Large Coffee I see.

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