Give thanks to Sarah Josepha Buelle Hale

Most Americans know the story of Thanksgiving, but the woman who helped ensure its status as a national holiday, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, is a little less well known. Hale was an educated woman, prolific writer (of novels, poems, essays, and even the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”!), magazine editor, and an advocate for women’s education and numerous other causes—including the cause for a national day of thanks.

Hale portrait, 1831
Portrait of Sarah Josepha Hale, 1831, by James Reid Lambdin

Bruce David Forbes explores Hale’s legacy in his new book, America’s Favorite Holidays: Candid Histories:

“In 1846, with Godey’s Lady’s Book [the magazine Hale edited] as her base of influence, Hale began writing strongly worded editorials every year promoting Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and the November issues of her magazine were filled with Thanksgiving poems, heartwarming short stories about family gatherings for Thanksgiving dinner, cooking advice, and much more. Hale understood that the first step was to persuade as many states as possible to adopt the holiday, and then a national mandate might follow.”

Hale letter to Lincoln
1863 letter from Hale to President Lincoln discussing Thanksgiving

“The bandwagon rolled along, pushed by Sarah Josepha Hale and supported by New Englanders scattered throughout the nation. New York had adopted the holiday in 1817, and Michigan in 1824, but the greatest number of states joined in the 1840s. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa added Thanksgiving in the 1850s. By 1860, Thanksgiving had been officially proclaimed in thirty states and two territories; territories sometimes declared the holiday even before they received statehood.”

Hale didn’t live to see Thanksgiving legally become a national holiday, but as we can all attest today, her efforts were certainly not in vain!

See here for other recent posts on the history behind our holidays.

Extraordinary Conditions

by Janis Jenkins, author of Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.


How can anthropology add to our understanding and engagement in the study of mental illnesses?

Culture is pervasive in shaping nearly every aspect of mental illness. From onset to recovery, cultural processes are vital to the subjective experience and meaning of mental illness. For example, what would be culturally diagnosed as mental disorder from a clinical perspective is conceptualized differently from the perspectives of people actually living with such problems, that is, those afflicted and their kin. For example, among Mexican-descent families, the problem might be thought of as one of nervios – something that everyone experiences to a greater or lesser extent.  Using this term serves a variety of purposes in terms of the “work of culture.” First, the problem is conceived on a continuum of human experience rather than in terms of fixed or dichotomous categories. Second, since it’s on a range of possible human experience, it is not so severely stigmatized, and more easily incorporated into the family. Third, as we know from studies that I and other researchers have carried out around the world, the social and emotional response to problems diagnosed as mental illness can make a significant difference for who gets better, and who does not. This is critically important. Anthropologically, what has classically been of ethnographic interest — how people conceptualize their world — shapes social response to mental illness that can affect course and outcome. That’s one way that anthropology can make a powerful contribution for theorizing the role of culture in health and illness.

Another way that anthropology can contribute to our understanding of mental illness is through the notion of “cultural chemistry.” I coined the term to refer to the active ingredients through which conditions — such as schizophrenia, depression, and so forth — can be thought of as a petri dish for the mixing of biology, meaning, desire, and actions that shape responses to psychotropic drugs. As a matter of “cultural chemistry,” psychotropic drugs are subjectively experienced, and culturally represented, differently in different sociaties. For example, they may be “mind food for gastrointestinal nutrition” as Stefan Ecks found in India, or “medication for chemical imbalance,” as culturally peculiar in the United States.

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How could this kind of anthropological understanding aid a worldwide “scaling up” of mental health services?

All this is relevant for current efforts in Global Mental Health to “scale up” treatments around the globe. The primary – and often the only – treatment is psychotropic drugs. These can be useful short-term and in some cases for longer periods, but the use of these drugs is a complicated matter for the afflicted and their families. These difficulties – entailing a variety of paradoxes in the lived experience of taking these drugs (e.g., the “recovery without cure,” or “stigma despite recovery” that I talk about in the book) cannot be brushed aside and indeed must be taken as a significant challenge for the scaling up and implementation of global mental health services as currently proposed. It is critical to actively involve families through engaged listening to the satisfactory and dissatisfactory aspects of their use. Experience-near perspectives must inform interventions to take into account the numerous quandaries involved in understanding the cultural, social, and biological effects of psychotropic drugs. Mental health care that involves psychotropic drugs must be followed ethnographically to determine the cultural, social, and political processes that accompany its use. Partnerships need to be undertaken to develop culturally valid community-based treatments that draw upon and sustain local expertise. Means must be found to complement the use of psychopharmaceutic drugs with psychotherapy for true efficacy. Ultimately, any true scaling up of mental health services worldwide will require economic resources to counteract the structural constraints of poverty and social disadvantage. That formidable fact cannot ethically be taken as so daunting as to justify failure to improve care in all ways possible as soon as possible.

Was there any aspect that surprised you when researching and writing this book? 

Because in the book I am working with an array of my ethnographic studies – the experience of mental illness, refugees fleeing their homelands under conditions of political violence, adolescents hospitalized multiple times by the age of 14 — I needed a means to theorize the reciprocal relations between subjective experience and institutional structures. Looking over all these different situations, I developed the notion of what I call “extraordinary conditions” to refer both to conditions that are culturally defined as mental illness or disorder and also to structural features of socioeconomic and political conditions that produce affliction via entrapment in precarious situations. When I did that, I saw that ultimately thee extraordinary conditions are more about struggle than symptoms. So, across instances of hearing voices, serious depression, troubled emotional environments in families, domestic and political violence, I identify the primacy of struggle — I see struggle as common in the lives of the mentally ill. Indeed, struggle was considered virtually moot during the long period in which serious mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, was considered a permanent and progressively deteriorating condition. Transnational and longitudinal studies such as ours have contributed to changing that. The international movement of “Voice Hearers” is changing that, and my research empirically supports these efforts by highlighting the vital importance of agency, strategies, and creativity in these processes of struggle. Of course, struggles are not always effective, can be non-linear, or be sabotaged by the environment. But my research shows that that people are often remarkably determined in an ongoing active struggle to feel better, be healed, and live their lives. Anthropologically, this endurance — despite acute distress — suggests that the capacity for struggle may be the most remarkable feature of Homo sapiens. This is true in neurobiological and cultural respects alike. Finally, while in no way discounting the reality of neurobiological processes, I am convinced that in the case of mental illness, and extraordinary conditions more broadly as I am define them, there can be no such thing as individual pathology because illness is always also a social and cultural process.


Janis H. Jenkins is a psychological/medical anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego, and an internationally recognized scholar in the field of culture and mental health.


How to Become a Garagiste

by Sheridan Warrick

Warrick looks over a portion of his 2015 syrah, just pressed, from a vineyard in California’s Carneros region.

It’s not that hard to get started making excellent wines—as good as the ones you usually buy—right in your own home. In fact, you already know how to do it. I’m not kidding.

First, crush some red wine grapes—with your feet, if you like, as in the terrific old I Love Lucy episode or as the New York Times just showed amateur vintner Matt Baldassano, age 35, doing in his New York apartment. Second, get a fermentation going. Let it start by itself or speed it up by adding yeast, as you would to pizza dough. Next, when the fermentation ends, dispose of the grape skins and seeds. You’ve seen that, too: An Italian guy pulling on the handle of an old-fashioned wine press. Finally, let the wine stand around in sealed containers for several weeks or months. It’ll get clear.

That’s it—that’s the recipe. It’s pretty much how they do it in Napa and Sonoma and in Burgundy and Bordeaux. But what does it take to become an accomplished garagiste? Someone attuned to winemaking’s aromas and flavors. Someone who knows when to watch versus when to act, who’s enthralled by the seasonal rhythm: harvest, crush, fermenting, cellar work, and tasting. Who understands the mellifluous language of yeasts. That could be you. Accomplished winemakers put stock in four principles.

  1. Trust your senses. They’ll tell you if your grapes are good or if they’re funky, when a living wine is healthy and when it’s struggling. Swirl, sniff, sip, and spit: It’s the law.
  2. Embrace the new world. Enologists have created strains of yeast and bacteria that abolish much of the risk and trouble of making wines at home. Likewise, they’ve found ways of sanitizing gear and shielding wines from spoilage. Be wise and follow their lead.
  3. Be a sponge. Knowledge evolves, new ideas pop, old dogmas falter and die. Soak up perspective from vintners, friends, and wine shop staff. And read everything you can find. WineMaker magazine, for amateurs, regularly highlights new gear and methods.
  4. Never stop hunting for fruit. Explore the many sources of great grapes around the country, some likely near you. A wine can only be as good as the grapes that go into it.

Sheridan Warrick is the author of The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home (2d ed., University of California Press, 2015).

They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields

by Sarah Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Injury, Illness, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.


You write in your introduction that your book is based on nearly a decade of research on the health of the same group of migrant farmworkers. What are the advantages of a longitudinal approach? 

Originally, I had not intended to conduct a longitudinal study of my interviewees’ health. Yet as I continued to follow the same individuals over time, I was shocked to find that women younger than I had developed hypertension, that men younger than my own father were diagnosed with kidney failure. I came to the realization that my data provided a sequential snapshot of my interviewees’ declining health. And I began to see that understanding the cumulative health insults farmworkers suffered in turn was key to explaining their work ailments—and in particular, why they died from heat at work at a rate higher than any other occupational group.

A longitudinal approach has the advantage of allowing me to witness first-hand the unfolding of the major health challenges migrant farmworkers face: diagnoses of chronic disease made in the Emergency Room after hemorrhages and strokes, of diabetes through chance employer-provided screenings, of chronic kidney disease at its end-stage. It allowed me to “see” the hidden relationships between macro-level forces and the chronic illnesses migrant farmworkers face, such as how immigration and work stresses get under their skin and culminate in higher rates of chronic disease. And it allowed me to trace the connections between migrants’ chronic diseases—which the public health world often treats as though separate, bounded entities—and the illnesses they develop at work, which in turn were shaped by U.S. immigration and labor policies. In short, a long-term perspective helps illuminate the compounded effects of social inequality over farmworkers’ life-course, deepening the synchronic snapshot often provided by ethnographic immersion.

Why do you focus your book on the issue of heat death? What do you want readers to take away about the causes of heat death among migrant farmworkers?

From the perspective of a casual reader of a newspaper over a morning cup of coffee, heat deaths in the nation’s fields may appear an unfortunate and perhaps inevitable by-product of global warming and rising temperatures. What I aim to show in my book is that this perspective naturalizes a public health problem that is socially and politically produced, and therefore entirely amenable to intervention. I show that farmworkers’ historic exemption from the labor protections that middle class Americans take for granted forces them to expend exceptional effort to keep their jobs, all the while recently-intensified immigration control policies entangle them in new forms of legal compromise that make them even more vulnerable at work. Yet, of course, heat death isn’t merely a matter of farmworkers’ vulnerability at work; it implicates a host of other systems—the health care system, the disability and retirement systems, and even our current food safety system—that systematically fail this vulnerable population. This book documents how a web of public policies and private interests create health outcomes anomalous in a modern industrialized nation.

Thus heat death is merely the narrative hook for a broader story about how U.S. policies produce the worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans of migrant farmworkers. Because this book uses farmworkers’ narratives and experiences as the raw material from which to create this critique, it serves as a kind of social epidemiology detective story.

Why do you make your primary focus the changing circumstances of the same set of families over time? How does this change your own positionality and obligations as a researcher?  

A primary aim of this book is unabashedly humanistic—that is, to convey the texture of farmworkers’ everyday lives such that their worlds appear less foreign to readers. To help accomplish this, I follow the lives of a cast of characters over time. This allows readers to acquaint themselves with farmworkers as individuals and to watch as events in their lives unfold. It highlights the diversity in immigrant farmworkers’ experiences, as readers inhabit the shoes of male and female farmworkers and those at varying stages in the life course. Moreover, I also use it with the goal of attribution—that is, of decentering ethnographic authority and giving my migrant interlocutors their due.

Situating my research among migrant farmworkers themselves implies a particular set of loyalties and, in turn, a corresponding set of obligations. While this positioning provided me a window onto the vulnerabilities of migrants’ lives, it also gave me access to the illicit strategies farmworkers must use to circumvent immigration policies, find work, and survive economically. Because intensive engagement with vulnerable populations makes visible a population that often aims to remain invisible, researchers need to carefully consider the issue of dissemination—what we say and before what audiences, what we leave unspoken, and whether academic scholarship should be accompanied by a plan for public dissemination and engagement.

Finally, intensive engagement with vulnerable populations requires action. Witnessing the daily struggles of immigrant farmworkers compels a form of moral engagement that stems from empathic listening. A turn towards advocacy and activism is a logical extension of the norm of reciprocity that underlies anthropologists’ intense engagement with our subjects.

Sarah B. Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver.

In honor of Mark Twain’s birthday

Mark Twain liked to entertain and be entertained, but his 70th birthday party was truly an evening to be remembered. Thrown by Colonel George Harvey, the editor of Harper’s Weekly, at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York, it included a souvenir pamphlet, and speeches were given by luminaries of the day.

Mark Twain’s 70th birthday celebration, December 5, 1905, Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York. Courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

In honor of Mark Twain’s birthday this year, we invite you to celebrate on November 30th.

Not feeling up for staging a grand party? Here are some suggestions to whet your appetite for revelry.

  • Host an intimate affair including some of his favorite foods. Oysters and champagne remain a perennial favorite, or peruse this list for a menu of your own making.
  • Dress as the man himself. It is Movember, after all.
  • Play charades, a favored game of the Clemens family.
  • Smoke a cigar (one at a time, please).
  • Raise a glass of his esteemed “cock-tail” (see slideshow below for recipe).
  • Curl up with a copy of your favorite Mark Twain book.

However you choose to pay homage, get creative and share your photos using #HBDMarkTwain on Instagram (uc_press) and Twitter (@ucpress) between now and December 1st. Two entrants will be randomly selected to receive complete sets of the Autobiography (Volumes 1-3).



Disruptive Foods and Unsettled Stomachs

By Melissa L. Caldwell, Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies.

This guest post is published on the occasion of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.

A trainee moves pig excrement to the back of the stall. From “Waste, Incorporated,” Gastronomica 15:4, Winter 2015. Photograph by Chika Watanabe © 2010

When it comes to food, “making the familiar strange” is not necessarily an idea that sits well with many people. More commonly it is food’s familiarity that is privileged. Comfort food, heritage food, food safety, food justice—these are all ways of thinking about the comforting and stabilizing qualities of food. Food is meant to sustain communities, neighborhoods, families, and traditions. But yet part of food’s power is precisely its capacity to be disruptive—to upend our expectations, whether that is through novel combinations of ingredients, changes in forms of production and presentation, or even the reworking of sensory perceptions.

I have been thinking a lot about the disruptive potential of food recently. Certainly in Silicon Valley where I live, new technologies are changing how food is produced, distributed, and consumed. Digital technologies are radically transforming the social experience of shopping and dining, so that consumers can use apps to shop for food and meals that get delivered to their homes or tables without a single moment of human contact. Alternatively social networking platforms allow solo diners to eat communally in real-time with family and friends around the world. I regularly see my students find a quiet place in the cafeteria where they can Skype their loved ones while eating their lunches. These new technologies are even changing the nature of food itself, with experimental techniques breaking down the conventional structures of foods and creating new synthetic and natural food products: we have moved beyond food in a pill and Tofurkey to in vitro meat and many other alternative forms of protein.

But more intriguing are other types of disruption made possible by food. One question that I have found especially provocative is how to rethink terroir, or the taste of place. A recent project at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy created egg foams that captured the unique smog configurations in particular locations. In so doing, they challenged tasters to think about whether one could taste place beyond the soil and things that grow in the soil—in this case, a taste of place in the air.

From a different angle, anthropologist Chika Watanabe has raised the provocative question about what happens with a truly sustainable form of agriculture in which farmers recycle their own waste and use it as the fertilizer in which their food is grown. In this case, terroir becomes a taste of the person in a particular place, as well as a taste of place as rendered through a particular person.

Thus even as food can be familiar and comforting, it can also unsettle our expectations and prompt us to rethink fundamental questions and experiences, which in turn push us in new directions and explorations.


Melissa L. Caldwell is Professor or Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies and Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World, and author of Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside and Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New Russia.


No One Will Let Her Live

By Claire Snell-Rood, author of No One Will Let Her Live: Women’s Struggle for Well-Being in a Delhi Slum

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.



Was there any aspect that surprised you when researching and writing this book?

As a white American woman doing research in a slum community, I had anticipated that people would be skeptical of me. Of the white people who showed up in this particular industrial slum, many were affiliated with area NGOs; others were foreign journalists obligated to take pictures of dilapidated homes. For the initial months of my research, many women responded to my questions as if on auto-pilot, having anticipated what I would ask based on what others had before. They knew what white people wanted to know. After the slum was demolished partway through my fieldwork, I followed families to their new homes in neighboring low-income neighborhoods. I was surprised how close I became to families during this period, but even more, the way that families joked about what we held in common even though to me our class differences were even further entrenched by their increased insecurity.

In particular, my field assistant, Saraswati, sometimes joked that we could have similarities that made us more alike than she to her new neighbors. As we sat out on her stoop one day, Saraswati nodded toward her neighbor joining us, and, with an air of exposé, said that her neighbor was rich. Because her husband had a vegetable stand, she explained, they could eat whatever they wanted! Her neighbor just laughed and then pointed out that Saraswati’s and my bodies had become similar after many months spent together, with me eating lunch at her house. “Look at Saraswati’s family,” the neighbor advised me, with Saraswati chuckling alongside. “They are so dried out”—sukha sukha, another way of saying skinny—“no wonder you look the same if you eat at their house!” Saraswati laughed in agreement and added, “and she eats so much fruit!”

I was hesitant to make such comparisons, knowing that my height towered at least six inches over Saraswati’s, and that I returned daily to a home with full meals and much fruit, a food considered a luxury and boon to health. Through jest, Saraswati and many of the other women to whom I became close dealt with similarity and difference at the same time. They drew attention to the fact that we came from different backgrounds– clothes, money, desires, and traditions—but that our engagement could be real.

What implications does your research have for policy and future research related to health in urban slums?

In terms of policy, this research indicates the importance of policy-makers and interventionists being savvy about the social dynamics that structure women’s health decisions. First, community-based participatory change and advocacy are vital to social change in poor communities. Yet these can’t be the only mechanisms of change that outsiders count on. In many communities, the risks inherent in taking part in collective action are too big. Interventionists must be aware that as vulnerable as women living in slums are, they reason their decisions based on long-term family and personal security, which may have different results than community-based change. Second, in recent years, women’s collectives have become a common vehicle for NGOs to promote pooling of finances and community-based dispute resolution for married couples. Guided by the premise that vulnerable women are best positioned to understand needs within low-income communities, such initiatives also seek to empower the women participating, and in so doing, improve community capacity to address complex problems more broadly. However, my research shows that in slum communities characterized by immense diversity and inequality, interventionists must be aware of the potential for these groups to inadvertently re-instantiate local power dynamics. Therefore, women’s collectives must include steps to safeguard against the abuse of power and protect the anonymity of local women who may seek their help.

People who live in slums are deeply familiar with researchers—as well as the agendas of researchers, which are often focused on their health risks, poor conditions of their living environment, and poverty. Yet beyond the structure of risk-focused surveys, many residents of slums have deep philosophical reflections on their lives—their journeys of migration, hopes for transformation, and the immense social changes that they have experienced in moving to drastically different places during their lives. For the diverse people who live in neighborhoods classified as slums, quantitative research methods play a vital role in capturing the breadth of challenges people face and charting patterns between people and communities. Yet surveys would be well served by including questions that focus on community assets as well as the obvious health deficits. Further, longitudinal research demonstrates that women face multiple family transitions—divorce, secondary marriage, shared parenting, estrangement—that are extremely difficult to report to close associates, let alone itinerant researchers. Yet these under-reported family breaks hold deep significance for women’s overall security, and health behaviors. Innovative methods that ask women to estimate community incidence of family size and kinship practices may be an alternate way for researchers to explore these dynamics without compromising women’s desire for confidentiality.

Are there any misconceptions about the women and families you studies do you most wish to dispel?

Across the websites of NGOs, the funding priorities of international development organizations, and media stories on poor Indian women, the prevailing image of Indian women has them hiding shyly behind their pallus, the end of their saris. In combination with dismal health statistics that show higher levels of malnutrition, poor reproductive health, and domestic violence for Indian women living in slums, this image leaves little room for acknowledging that there is a voice on the other side of the pallu. Because the overwhelming emphasis has been on what is done to women, there has been little question about what exploring women’s perspectives could contribute. Further, the emphasis on the low educational status of women living in slums inadvertently produces the sense that women don’t know what’s good for them. The women with whom I did my research repeatedly communicated to me how much more they have to say than their initial silence in public settings conveys! These women and families are not shy, much less without complex reasoning about their beliefs and health practices. The key is to ensure that women are provided with a forum that allows for prolonged reflection.

Claire Snell-Rood is an assistant professor in behavioral science at the University of Kentucky.

Paris Attacks Herald Strategic Shift By Islamic State

This guest post, by Abdel Bari Atwan, was originally published on Rai al-youm. It is being republished here with permission from the author.

Abdel Bari Atwan


The entire continent of Europe is in a state of shock after Friday’s attacks in Paris which have been claimed by the Islamic State. The sense of imminent danger spread across the Atlantic when the group’s Wilayat Kirkuk issued a warning, Monday, of a similar assault on Washington DC.

The West has consistently underestimated the strength and capabilities of Islamic State (IS) which first established itself in the incubators provided by security vacuums in Syria and Iraq, themselves the result in part or in total of Western interference, whether military or political or both. The sectarianism that enables IS to thrive and which drives the endless blood-letting in the Middle East these days was exacerbated by the West who, for example, imposed and supported the prejudiced, exclusive government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. Syria is in ruins because the West and its regional allies decided that President Assad should be toppled, seemingly forgetting that his opponents had no military experience (the rest of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions were played out politically), that Assad would fight to the death because he didn’t want to go, and that he has the most powerful allies in Russia, China, and Iran.

Now IS is spreading outwards, its Middle Eastern strongholds under attack by Kurdish troops and Western planes. It is motivated by revenge and the urge to conquer.

Islamic State has already issued a chilling warning that Paris was “just the beginning of the storm.” The impact of these attacks is already being felt, certainly in political terms: when the G20 leaders met in Antalya, Turkey, on Sunday, a plethora of mutually important subjects were meant to be on the agenda: Syria, youth unemployment, energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, the silver economy, Islamic finance, tourism, and agriculture among many other topics. All their talk, however, was dominated and overshadowed by the problem of what to do about IS. The conference’s final statement was a vow to co-operate in the fight against terror, with no new strategy agreed on the most pertinent associated question: the future of Syria.

John Brennan, Director of the CIA, warned in a television interview that Paris was probably not the only attack and that more were likely in Western cities. He spoke of beefing up the CIA’s intelligence role but acknowledged that IS has taken hi-tech measures to make electronic surveillance extremely difficult. Meanwhile, Michael Morell, former deputy CIA director under Obama, overtly criticized his former boss’s policy on IS but failed to pinpoint what could be done instead. It is this “dithering” which has allowed the current emergency to escalate: “I think it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy vis-à-vis ISIS is not working and it’s time to look at something else,” Morell told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is also placing his faith in intelligence to protect the citizens of London, releasing an emergency budget of $3 billion to fund, among other measures, an additional 1,900 security personnel.

If we carefully consider the literature put out by IS, and in particular its magazine, Dabiq, it is clear that the IS strategy is to provoke the West to send in ground troops to fight them after the failure of more than 8,000 air sorties.

IS strategy is largely informed by a 2003 internet treatise called “The Management of Savagery” by Abu Bakr Naji (pseudonym). Naji points clearly to a period of “conquest,” exploiting weak security in enemy territories, spreading terror, and destroying their economies. Tourism is specifically mentioned and IS has already hit hard at Tunisia, Turkey and, most recently Egypt, by downing the Russian passenger plane over Sinai killing all 224 people on board.

IS has, in effect, declared war on more than 100 countries, including the three great powers (America, Russia, China), those with slightly less clout (such as France, Britain and Germany), and regional powers (such as Saudi Arabia and Iran). It appears to have embarked on a new strategic path, adopting the approach of al-Qa’ida in attacking Western targets in European capitals, and, for the time being at least dropping its ambitions to expand its existing territories.

In other words, because IS is incapable of effectively combating coalition airstrikes—since it does not possess planes and lacks the necessary ground-to-air defence missile systems—it has decided to move from defence to attack and from a more conventional form of war to a guerrilla, urban, hit and run style. Clearly this represents a serious threat not only to Western countries, but countries in the Middle East and North Africa region too.

In a new video released by the organization on Monday, the speaker urged “Moslems” everywhere to “target the Crusaders on their own turf and wherever they are.” He also explicitly threatened Europe with bombs and further menaced France saying, “We haven’t forgotten your crimes.”

Attacks in Europe in the past have mostly been by “sleeper cells” or “lone wolves,” but IS is actively recruiting young men from third generation immigrant populations in France and Belgium who have never even been to the countries of their parents and grandparents. This makes the security services’ job much harder since these are young men (and sometimes women) who are exactly the same as everyone else on the crowded streets of Paris, Bruxelles, London, or Berlin and who speak with the same vocabulary and accent.

The French air strikes in response to the attacks of Paris can be understood in terms of the popular desire for justice and revenge but policies born of anger rarely succeed. It may be useful to recall the reaction of President George W. Bush who invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks and occupied Iraq two years later.

The current security emergency in Europe can only be ended by a political solution to all the issues facing the region, not only the Syrian crisis. A full review of all Western and Arab policies in the region is required since they brought us to this terrible situation. Meanwhile, the terrifying lion that is Islamic State has stretched its leg across the seas and into Paris. God only knows where it will reach next.

Islamic State cover

Abdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian writer and journalist. He was the editor in chief at the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi for twenty-five years and now edits the Rai al-Youm news website—the Arab world’s first Huffington Post–style outlet. He is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including the Guardian and the Scottish Herald, and he is a frequent guest on radio and television, often appearing on the BBC’s Dateline London.

Purchase Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate on our website for 30% off with discount code 15M4426 at checkout.

Praying and Preying

By Aparecida Vilaça, author of Praying and Preying: Christianity in Indigenous Amazonia

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.


What implications does your research have for the anthropology of religion amongst indigenous peoples overall? 

Praying and Preying is one of the few existing ethnographic descriptions of the Christian experience of a contemporary indigenous Amazonian group, in this case the Wari’. Working with these people for 30 years has allowed me to observe transformations over time and obtain a historical view of their interaction with the Evangelical Christianity brought to them by missionaries from the New Tribes Mission.

It is also the first ethnography of Christianization in Amazonia to debate directly with works produced in the Anthropology of Christianity. This I do through the use of key concepts developed by Amazonianist ethnographers and anthropologists who have foregrounded this ethnographic area, and in close dialogue with concepts derived from Melanesian ethnology.

In my analysis, the concepts of ‘dualism in perpetual disequilibrium’ (Lévi-Strauss) and of ‘perspectivism’ (Viveiros de Castro), which synthesize the instability of bodies and of persons in the Amazonian worlds, are put into dialogue with the Melanesian concept of ‘dividual’ (M. Strathern), as well as with Roy Wagner’s model of the oscillating movements of native symbolization. This allowed me to develop an original theoretical synthesis of a specific cultural transformation. In contrast to notions of syncretism, adoption and encompassment that provide the basis for many analyses of the Christianity of native groups, the present book proposes a model of transformation based on the idea of alternation, in which the Christian and pagan universes alternate according to specific relational contexts.

Do any developments amongst the Wari’ people still surprise you? What were some unique challenges that you faced during your involvement with them? 

Oh, yes! After 30 years working among them, the Wari’ are always surprising me. When I first arrived there in 1986, they did not define themselves as Christians, although they told me that they had been Christians in the 70s. When I went back in January 2002 to start a new phase of fieldwork after a five year absence, they had become Christians again, in response, they said, to the September 11th attacks in the USA and the fear that the end of the world was about to come. Recently some young adults have been studying at an Intercultural University and have begun to be concerned about their culture.

Is there anything on the subject that you would be interested in studying further?

Currently I am interested in the Wari’ interaction with the culture concept taken to them principally through the schools. Over recent years the school curricula have adopted, from primary school onwards, subjects like ‘Ethnic-Historical Identity’ and, at high school and university levels, subjects like Anthropology and the Brazilian legislation concerning education and indigenous peoples. My hypothesis is that this new knowledge is thrown into a complex dialogue with the Christian experience, counterpoising it in the sense of a valorization of former practices condemned by the missionaries, including festivals and shamanism, at the same time as leading to transformations in the same direction as Christianity, especially in relation to conceptions of person and world. The complexity and nuances of how Christianity, science and culture interact among the Wari’ can only be revealed through ethnographic research and, this aim in mind, I began a new phase of fieldwork, focused on school and university life. So I’m embarking on my fourth decade of research among them. As I said earlier, the Wari’ never cease to surprise and excite me.

Aparecida Vilaça is Associate Professor at the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology at the Museu Nacional, UFRJ. She is the author of Strange Enemies, Quem somos nós and Comendo como gente and co-editor of Native Christians.


By Deborah Boehm, author of Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation

This guest post is published in advance of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.


Do you consider deportees/returnees and their loved ones to be “lost citizens” as you mention in your afterword? How do the many factors surrounding deportation and transnationalism complicate this classification? 

When I first heard a Mexican national use this term, “ciudadanos perdidos” or “lost citizens,” it was not entirely clear what he meant by it. The label seemed somewhat dismissive of his fellow Mexican citizens. But, as my research about deportation and its effects on communities developed, the notion of “lost citizens” became central and ultimately guided my fieldwork. Profound loss—of home, family, community, belonging, membership, nation, and so much more—defines the experience of deportation, for those who are formally expelled from the United States and for the many more who are connected to them through family and community ties. During previous research about migration and kinship, I repeatedly heard belonging, or not belonging, described as fluid or liminal: people situated themselves as “between here and there” or even “from neither here nor there.” The trope of “lost citizens” echoes this idea of geographic movement linked to ambiguous national membership, but in a way that signals how deportation also constitutes exclusion of a new magnitude.

Deportation creates an absence or void that cannot be denied and is unlikely to ever be entirely remedied. In this sense, the man’s term was an accurate one: deportees are indeed “lost citizens.” Deportation shuts people out of their homeland and also closes the possibility for future lives and imaginings in ways that are much more devastating than the migrations that preceded it. So, “lost citizens” are perhaps best understood as those who experience loss or those who lose precisely because of state action in the early 21st century. In other words, although the category of “lost citizens” emphasizes those who cross borders rather than the institutions that create and fortify them, concrete government policies and politics have directly produced the current global milieu of exclusion. The category of “lost citizens” implies an almost nomadic detachment from place, but for the millions of people affected by deportation, these are forced disconnections that prevent migrants from ever acquiring formal citizenship within countries to which they in fact belong.

In what ways has deportation, chaotic by nature, also become paradoxically ordered? Has this changed since you began your research?

Deportation is characterized by multiple contradictions: policies meant to expel migrants from the nation can strengthen one’s ties to it, a legal process explicitly focused on individuals reaches far beyond the person being deported, government action ostensibly designed to create “security” results in unprecedented insecurity in the lives of millions of people living in the United States. Similarly, despite chaos in every stage of deportation, there is an undeniable order to it, especially given that it is carried out through intentional and orchestrated government action. This kind of structured chaos has intensified since I first started fieldwork. When I began research focused on deportation in 2008, migrants and those of us working with them were hopeful that some form of immigration reform or federal legislation would come to fruition. However, with current legal challenges to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), a pledge from the leadership of the U.S. Congress not to consider any form of immigration legislation, and xenophobic actions in communities throughout the country, such reform seems unlikely if not impossible in the foreseeable future. And, as the likelihood of reform has dwindled, the extensive apparatus that supports ongoing deportations continues to grow: the privatization of detention and prison facilities, coordinated efforts between different levels of government and law enforcement, and federal programs such as Operation Streamline and Expedited Removal combine to create mass deportations that are certainly ordered and likely to expand in the years to come.

Is there anything on the subject that you would be interested in studying further? 

I recently started a new project specifically about immigration detention. Although deportees I interviewed often spoke of their memories of detention, much of my research has focused on migrants’ lives before and after federal custody, on both the migrations that brought them to the United States and the effects of the deportations that forced them to leave. Now I intend to study detention itself, and the implications of heightened policing and incarceration of foreign nationals in the United States. A relatively small group of scholars has presented provocative research on this topic, but because of difficulties gaining access, ethnographic work in detention facilities can be very challenging to conduct. But—perhaps precisely because of these barriers to access—ethnographic study seems more urgent than ever. Anthropologists are well positioned to provide critical perspectives on detention and to bear witness to the growing prison industrial complex in our country that increasingly intersects with immigration control.

Deborah Boehm is Associate Professor, Anthropology and Women’s Studies/Gender, Race, and Identity at University of Nevada, Reno, and the author of Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans.