A Brief Note: Bourdain and Anthropology

I rarely react to celebrity deaths. And I 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 voice.… Continue reading A Brief Note: Bourdain and Anthropology

On Personhood and its Subjunctivity

Elijah and I sat chatting with three elder men outside a compound. Earlier we were discussing spirits, but the postlunch conversation soon switched to more mundane topics. There was a brief lull in the conversation before Akolbire declared, to our astonishment, “I am a spirit child."[i] “What are you talking about? You shouldn’t be revealing… Continue reading On Personhood and its Subjunctivity

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

On the “Reality” of Witchcraft

The following are some thoughts I shared with my Culture, Health, and Disease students on belief and reality.  “Why would anyone admit they are a sorcerer or a witch?” is a question that arises when I teach topics related to witchcraft, sorcery, and belief. This is a well-trod theme for anthropologists. However, it remains significant… Continue reading On the “Reality” of Witchcraft

Rituals for Suspicion, Rituals for Fate

I must have seemed unhinged. I was in the midst of an extended period of fieldwork and appearing irrational, anxious, and paranoid to outsiders. Julien, a visiting Swiss vaccine researcher, joked that I might "go bush" if I was not careful. I was not losing my mind. Nor was I "going native," a term describing… Continue reading Rituals for Suspicion, Rituals for Fate

The White Man is My Driver

In rural Northern Ghana if you own a vehicle you likely hold a powerful position or are successful. Using a personal driver is even more indicative of status. I was little prepared for what I would learn by having a truck and by “being a driver” during my first weeks in the field. While preparing… Continue reading The White Man is My Driver

Theories of Culture in Uncertain Times: Anthropology and the Rise of Financial Risk Culture

This post originally appeared on Linkedin. At the time, I intended it to be the first in a series exploring the role that anthropology can play in risk culture. I remain interested in this area; however, due to other priorities it will likely be sometime before I write more on this theme.  Since the 2008 financial crisis,… Continue reading Theories of Culture in Uncertain Times: Anthropology and the Rise of Financial Risk Culture

Finding Empathy Through Troubling Stories

As I wrote about infanticide and the “spirit child” phenomenon in Northern Ghana, I became interested in how narratives of vulnerability and difficult human experiences can evoke powerful emotional and imaginative reactions in listeners and readers. Spirit children are, most often, disabled or ill children believed to be spirits sent to destroy the family. In… Continue reading Finding Empathy Through Troubling Stories