Year in Review: 2015 Contributing Editors’ Picks

Over the weekend, we published a top ten list of the most-visited content on the Cultural Anthropology website during 2015. But what were some of the high points from the perspective of graduate students who produce and promote digital content for the website?

In 2008, Cultural Anthropology established an editorial intern program to help extend the journal’s readership and to mentor the next generation of anthropologists during their graduate training. In recognition of the invaluable (and largely uncompensated) labor that graduate students provide, the name of the program was changed in 2014 and participants now carry the title of Contributing Editor. You can find an updated list of our Contributing Editors here.

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Image by Shomari Stafford | Creative Commons

Below, a handful of our contributing editors call out their favorite pieces that appeared on the Cultural Anthropology website in 2015.

Hilary Agro chose “The Colombian Peace Process” Hot Spots series: “In a country where the nature of the conflict(s) has continually shifted out of the reach of a consensus of understanding, this series managed to insightfully think through the beginnings of post-conflict resolution. But most importantly, the processes of reconciliation explored within the series were reflected in the text itself by the choice to make many of the pieces available in both Spanish and English, a small but welcome step towards fostering interregional academic exchange and the larger decolonization of anthropology.”

Hilary Agro is a Master’s student at the University of Western Ontario whose work focuses on recreational drug use, knowledge production, governance, gender, and political economy.

Darren Byler chose Charlene Makley’sThe Sociopolitical Lives of Dead Bodies.” “This groundbreaking article on Chinese-Tibetan politics unpacks the concept of immolation as ‘any kind of a sacrifice of a living being’ and forces us to ask why immolation by fire has escalated in the past decades while other forms of self-sacrifice have been ignored or devalued. As Makley notes in her interview with contributing editor Jonah Rubin, to begin to understand these events as more than suicides we must consider ‘how many of them are trying to address wider publics as end-runs around central state leaderships . . . as embodied petitions made spectacle that, in the process, bring to the fore particular histories of necropolitics.’”

Darren Byler is a doctoral student at the University of Washington whose work focuses on aesthetics, ethical living, migration and minority politics in Chinese Central Asia. He blogs at The Art of Life. 

Ned Dostaler chose the “Reclaiming Hope” Curated Collection: “While this Curated Collection focuses on articulations of hope in the contemporary Pacific, I found that the pieces in this collection—including a interview with Vincent Crapanzano, a commentary by Webb Keane, and article by Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington—offer a set of reflections worth reading for anthropologists working in diverse environments across the globe. These pieces draw upon the often-contradictory nature of hope as something ‘capable of acting as both poison and remedy’ and thus elucidate its capacity to perform interesting conceptual work in the crafting of ethnographic theory.”

Ned Dostaler recently completed his MPhil at the University of Oxford. His work focuses on India (Tamil Nadu), social suffering, poverty, politics of the poor, and ritual.

Susan MacDougall chose Daniel Miller's “The Tragic Denouement of English Sociality.” “I've found myself continually passing this essay on to colleagues, because I think it puts ethnography to very elegant use in complicating the simplistic equation of modernity—and the autonomy and anonymity it requires—with social fragmentation, and more tightly-knit 'traditional' communities with greater social cohesion. Miller's poignant work with aging English villagers point to the role of good manners and affluence in keeping up divisions between people and invites us to rethink the utility of this approach.”

Susan MacDougall is a doctoral student at the University of Oxford whose work focuses on ethics, femininity, friendship, gender and the Middle East. You can follow her on Twitter at @macdougallsm.

Jonah Rubin chose Paul Stoller’s review of Ethnographic Terminalia's 2014 exhibition, “The Bureau of Memories: Archives and Ephemera.” “Paul Stoller challenges us to move beyond conventional approaches to memory as textual narratives. By asking us to consider memory's sensory and tactile dimensions, this review challenges those of us who work on this issue to avoid reducing past experience to a problem of information processing in order to consider its world-making potentials.”

Jonah Rubin recently received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. His work focuses on Spain, historical memory, death, affect and democratic politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @js_rubin.

Jenny Shaw chose the “#BlackLivesMatter” Hot Spots series: “This series demonstrates the ways in which anthropologists are engaged in important discussions about race and racism, and active in naming and addressing anti-Black racism and police brutality. The series came out amidst the larger #BlackLivesMatter movement and generated further discussion on Twitter, with Orisanmi Burton's ‘Black Lives Matter: A Critique of Anthropology’ receiving a lot of positive attention within and beyond the discipline.”

Jenny Shaw is a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University whose work focuses on children and youth, transnational migration, affect, precarity, and participatory and visual research methods. You can follow her on Twitter at @jennyshaw011.

Julia Sizek chose the "Generating Capitalism" Theorizing the Contemporary series: “While these posts draw on feminist anthropology to track constructed relations within and around contemporary capitalism—for example, in the assumed categories of public and private in a silk joint venture—they also show how to engage feminist anthropology as method without focusing on gender as such. Along with the "Queer Futures" series and its examination of how queered analytics influence later projects, these essays show how today’s anthropologists are thinking around, with, and through queer and feminist anthropology both analytically and methodologically.”

Julia Sizek is a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley whose work focuses on native California, environmentalism, deserts, nonprofits, and land and resource management.