A Brief Note: Bourdain and Anthropology

I rarely react to celebrity deaths. And I typically avoid the social media detritus strewn in their wake. I don't identify with the famous. Perhaps what makes my sentiments around Bourdain’s passing different is that he was one of ours. We won’t admit it, but despite some quirks, many anthropologists envied him. His fieldwork. His …

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On Personhood and its Subjunctivity

The following post reflects on shifting and malleable forms of personhood--a construct that we often consider to be a given and fixed throughout life. This is an enhanced version of some material originally appearing in Spirit Children: Illness, Poverty, and Infanticide in Northern Ghana. [1,300 words] Elijah and I sat chatting with three elder men …

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A Brief Reflection on Learning and Doing Ethnography

I'm not big on business clichés and recycled quotes. However, I came across an interesting statement by someone describing Bruce Lee's method. It's pointless in isolation, but when I applied it to thinking about ethnography it made me consider the value of learning and doing "classic" ethnography (immersion and long-term participant observation). Having the opportunity …

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Narrative Transformations: Reflections on Frey’s “Carry Forth the Stories”

My commentary on Rodney Frey's latest ethnography, Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographer’s Journey into Native Oral Tradition, was reciently published. It was an honor to be able to review and comment on his book. Rodney was my first mentor and MA advisor. Much of what he taught, and what his mentors showed him, shaped who I …

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An Introduction to Spirit Children: The Case of N’ma

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of my recent book, Spirit Children: Illness, Poverty, and Infanticide in Northern Ghana. The following ethnographic vignette introduces the spirit child phenomenon through the case of N’ma. [2,600 words] Outside his office one morning Joe was urgently awaiting my arrival. With a notebook and mobile phone in hand, he quickly …

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Rituals for Suspicion, Rituals for Fate

This work in progress is part of my emerging collection of essays. Details on this effort and the first essay are here. This piece moves further into how culture shapes our our interpersonal concerns. [3,000 words] I must have seemed slightly unhinged. I was in the middle of a long period of fieldwork and starting to …

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Spirit Children and Family Misfortune: The Case of Victor

The following is a second excerpt from my recent book, Spirit Children: Illness, Poverty, and Infanticide in Northern Ghana. Within rural Northern Ghana, the Nankani people describe how disabled or ill children and those whose births coincide with tragic events are spirit children sent from the bush to cause misfortune and destroy the family. Upon identification, …

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The White Man is My Driver

I'm working on a new collection of essays and experimenting with different forms of writing. This post is from my book in progress tentatively titled, “The White Man is My Driver: Fieldnotes on Belonging.” Readability and narrative will be privileged over theory and abstraction. In other words, the book consists of mostly the good parts. [1900 …

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