ASA January 2009 AN Column

Anthropology News • December 2009 • Volume 50 • Issue 9
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

A Word in Your Ear
Last spring, I found myself on Facebook without full comprehension as to what was entailed. It was a virtual accident so to speak. The next morning I opened my email to discover that 70 people wanted to “be my friends.” Most of them I already thought were my friends, and some were folks I didn’t know or recognize. Their demand was that I “confirm” that fact— how off-putting is that! One learns from experience however, even in a “senior” fashion, but how much time does one really want to spend in front of the small flat screen?

That said, however, I thank Alice Kehoe for calling my attention to a recent Internet development of considerable interest to anthropologists in general and to seniors in particular. She referred me to a wonderful anthropological blog (that’s right, blog!) written by our own Walter Goldschmidt (http://waltergoldschmidt. wordpress.com). I am not surprised by this so much as being immensely impressed and pleased for several reasons. The first is that being 96 years of age, Wally is still on the front burners of intellectual action as he has been throughout his anthropological career beginning in the 1930s. The second is that he is in the process of artfully and systematically reviewing his life in the context of anthropological thought and practice. Third, he is opening his work up for instant review, comment and dialogue with those who make comments or ask questions. Having avoided Internet babble as much as possible (I am seldom responsive to Facebook’s demands) I became familiar with blogging nevertheless through the reading of my daughter’s blog about her life in Sweden, a personal and family “voyage” over the past year or so. Along the way she quickly collected an amazing readership reaching over 7,000 from more than 60 countries—”my community” she called it. Since her unexpected death this past spring, those numbers have risen to over 10,000 readers from 90 countries! A friend soon discovered that the entire blog could be purchased as a nicely bound paperback for $10 for the 283 pages with many photographs—a marvelous family legacy indeed.

Thus, as one considers Goldschmidt’s growing contribution in this same vein but on a far broader canvas, one appreciates the fact that his productive enterprise should reach a very large audience both in the US and abroad, as indeed it already has. His “Nota Bene” at the start strikes home for many of us: “I shall offer presentation of a book of memoirs that I have long intended to write but am only now getting around to.” In view of the fact that most of us won’t be able to wait to be 96 before writing, the intellectual pathway he is following could signal a direction in which many of us could go right now as a method of getting our professional thoughts and information out to the discipline and beyond. It means, of course, resorting to a new format for self-publishing, a much denigrated action as it bypasses the rigors of editorial and peer review. Nevertheless it allows a kind of freedom and openness not otherwise available, and in the blog context such works are open to critical and collaborative comment, available for all to see.

But how much time do you want to allot to the small screen? Wally has already written (as of this writing on October 15) eleven entries since August with many more to go, but these can all be downloaded and printed; read in your easy chair, cited and commented upon. Here, perhaps, is an answer to making one’s back data and various observations available to others. The requirements for successful publishing haven’t changed of course: one must be an able and interesting author, with something of value to say to another generation.

Regarding such legacy issues, and this being the “giving season,” Louise Lamphere reminds me that there is a way to make an immediate contribution to the future generations of anthropologists without peer review or other hurdles. Rather than writing a memoir (which you might not “get around to”) you should consider a contribution to the AAA fellowship endowments. I am told that the minority fellowship endowment is close to reaching its goal, so a significant number of modest donations could firmly establish our first such award. Think about it.

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