Conversationalists Vs Interactionists

I do not want to join the camp of those (even if it’s a device-free camp) who proclaim that technology makes us less empathetic. Empathy takes on other forms, that might be true.

As a recent piece in New York Times by

“But we are resilient. The psychologist Yalda T. Uhls was the lead author on a 2014 study of children at a device-free outdoor camp. After five days without phones or tablets, these campers were able to read facial emotions and correctly identify the emotions of actors in videotaped scenes significantly better than a control group. What fostered these new empathic responses? They talked to one another. In conversation, things go best if you pay close attention and learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is easier to do without your phone in hand. Conversation is the most human and humanizing thing that we do.”

In a video conversation with me, writer Colin Moerdyke in response to this debate, suggested that people sometimes want to concentrate on text, obliterating distracting visual information that dilutes you during a face-to-face conversation.

I noticed that people of younger generations (20 years old vs 30 years old), as well as in more technologically advanced spaces (USA versus Russia, for instance), where the Wi-Fi / Internet accessibility etc. are ubiquitous, for instance, generally do prefer textual conversation to a call / video call / face-to-face interaction.

Maybe it brings less anxiety and puts them more in control of what is being said, and also gives time for consideration. Perhaps it would mean they are less skillful conversationalists in a face-to-face interactions, having trouble of reading emotions off of the faces of others, but suppose it makes them better analytical thinkers and enables them to construct mathematically precise word formulas. (Why not?)

Death by Disgust

In Tristles Tropiques Claude Levi-Strauss mentions a questionable but symptomatic cause of death for native population during colonization:

“In was used to be called Hispaniola (today Haiti and Santo Domingo) the native population numbered about one hundred thousand in 1492, but had dropped to two hundred a century later, since people died of horror and disgust at European civilization even more than of smallpox and physical ill-treatment.” (Levi-Strauss, 1974, 75)

We would frame it today as death from depression and stress, probably, but this kind of claim does not sustain a critique for the reason that it could not be supported with hard scientific evidence: there is no way to create a chart comparing numbers of people who died from smallpox and physical ill-treatment, to sum it up, and compare to the numbers of those who died of horror and disgust.

The reason why I remembered it, however, is the passage in Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture which speaks to this Levi-Strauss’s fragment, even if in a roundabout way:

“War may be, as it was among the Aztecs, a way of getting captives for the religious sacrifices. Since the Spaniards fought to kill, according to Aztec standards they broke the rules of the game. The Aztecs fell back in dismay and Cortez walked as victor into the capital.” (Benedict, 1934, 31)

Unlike Levi-Strauss, Benedict does not ascribe here European white sensitivities to native populations, but her statement is questionable in a similar way because it seems to imply that Aztecs fell back in dismay not because they were overwhelmed with surpassing forces but because they encountered a fight which broke their warfare standards.

I have no doubt that the affects of the kind–such as disgust, dismay, repulsion, horror, contempt– took place and played a role in establishing a power balance in different regions, and in regard to those subjugated each of those affects was but another tool of obliteration.

Intimidation and fear are powerful weapons which lay at the core of terrorist strategies of conducting the war (and the word “terror” is fully embedded in “terrorism”).

I wonder what kind of research question might have been possible here. How exactly such affects shape social interactions and participate in the decline of native populations? This might be one way to look at it.


Benedict, Ruth. Patterns of Culture. Cambridge–Massachusetts, 1934.

Claude, Levi-Strauss. Tristles Tropiques. Translated from the French by John and Doreen Weightman. New York, 1975.

Several Fieldwork Photographs

I have to return the photo camera that I used during the field work, tomorrow, and so, downloaded the last series of photographs that I took in Siberia during the endless, shiny, everlasting summer of 2016.

Mostly, these pictures are taken in the town of Ust Uda, but some, in the village of Anosovo. I did not process the photographs; they are in their rough initial form.



Critique of the Social Justice Discourse

Funny that the only sustainable critique of “social justice discourse” comes from the but more radical social justice champions. I see two reasons: first, they are infinitely better educated than their opponents, and the second, that’s how things work, apparently.

In other words, if you want to critique feminism in an unlaughable way, be a non-compromising feminist; anti-racism movements, be radically anti-racist yourself, etc.

The Only Poem Mentioning “Grant” in Existence

Preface of the Publisher (That is to Say, Me)

A while ago I had a project, called Poems by Famous Anthropologists They Were Unaware They Wrote. “Poems” consist of broken into lines passages from anthropologists’ works, which the authors themselves never had an intention–a wild idea–to break into lines.

Also recently, I got on Skype, which I do not do that often. And this is not a remarkable event worth mentioning by itself, but only in connection to the poem, which I found there to my amazement. This poem was written by my scientific advisor, Professor Campbell, during our conversation when for reasons of unstable internet-connection he could hear me but I could not hear him. Which made it a one-side communication poetry often is. The text is already broken into lines, and, although it was not intended as poetry, in this it shares the feature of many pieces of poetry. Even more, perhaps poetry written with an intention to write poetry is not poetry. And perhaps poetry is only poetry when it is written by chance and without intention. Without further ado, here is the piece (with the title I gave it):


Skype Poem

there are many
visual documents
on soviet ruins

a grant
I received to copy
many slides
this is a good idea
it seems to me a strong visual component would be good for this project.

your photographs
plus archival documents
it is important because of
a very strong contemporary record of ‘ruin porn’

this is your response.

Robot and Ruin at UT

It is confirmed that I am reading a lecture at the University of Texas at Austin in the Fall semester of 2016, in the course Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Professor James Slotta), on the 17th of October, 2-3 PM, ART 1.102.

The lecture is titled Robot and Ruin: Nostalgic / Ethnographic Object.

The reading to the lecture is an amazing essay A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, written by Donna Haraway in 1985, accessible on the Internet as a PDF for those who are interested.

Please get ready.

Invention of the World

It might be not particularly important that there was a “day” assigned to opening of the world wide web, the 23rd of August, today. But what I suppose is interesting, is that WWW turns 25 (even if formally, it is worthy of being noticed).

Which makes it older than my students or my skillful conversationists on tumblr.

They do not remember, nor did they witness, the world without world network, of which we are magnificent spiders.

Governments, terroristic groups, artists, television, libraries — everything was to use the WWW.

25 is a young age even by humans’ measuring of time. We know little about how it affects us exactly but we know it does, and in a profound way.

We don’t know repercussions, we don’t know the future. But we can guess and we can dream.

It is exciting to see the WWW developing throughout the years. The invention of the WWW is but comparable with the world-wide implementation of book printing. The next such transformative invention is probably teleportation.

Sometimes we forget about the newness of this era. But then it reminds us.