Introducing Dispatches

In my first post to the Cultural Anthropology website as the journal’s managing editor (almost a year ago now!), I wrote about the need to . . .

wind down previous experiments. Cultural Anthropology’s willingness to say yes to new things has always been one of its hallmarks, but as individuals behind particular projects move on to other endeavors, we need to develop mechanisms for deciding when a project has run its course. Retiring selected content from the website, while making sure that a record of it remains, is how we make room for what’s next.

Through conversations with previous managing editors, student board members, and then–web editor Alberto Corsín Jiménez, I learned that the Episcope and Commentary sections of the website were features that had never quite caught on. Episcope was imagined as a channel for “relating anthropology to pressing matters of concern,” but it was overshadowed by the popularity of our existing Hot Spots series. Commentary aimed to provide a “forum for responses, elaborations, and reflections on material published in Cultural Anthropology,” but after an initial frisson of interest in the wake of our Theorizing the Contemporary series on “The Politics of Ontology,” its focus drifted.

Even as we began to think about phasing out these two sections, we realized that the website lacked an open-format section for one-off posts by Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) members and other invited contributors. If the newly created Dialogues section could provide us with a platform for “interviews with other scholars and public figures, transcripts of roundtable discussions and para-sites, or other content that hinges on the interplay of two or more voices,” we needed a counterpart that was more monological and self-contained (to the extent that writing ever is).

Enter Dispatches. In the weeks ahead, we’ll publish a timely reflection on the use of statistics on the presidential campaign trail and an essay by an SCA board member that looks back to Franz Boas to recast current debates over what anthropology is or should become. We’re especially interested in reports on fieldwork in progress, accounts that pulsate with events that researchers are witnessing in real time. Now, our production capacity for new website content is already near its limit (and we aren’t out to compete with other outlets for short-form pieces, like Anthropology News), but feel free to email me at if you have an idea for a Dispatches post.

In the meantime, all posts that were originally published under the Episcope and Commentary sections of the website have been reclassified under Dispatches. A note has been added to the bottom of these posts, indicating the name of the section under which the post was originally published. If you wish to cite one of these posts, we encourage you to do so using the original section name. The URLs for these posts remain unchanged.