the Mammal Chronicles: January 2007

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Saga Continues

I'm depressed.

It was bad enough when it was one grumpy, old anthropologist who was hellbent to stop my class from being offered, but it is the entire college of humanities and social sciences. There's only a day left for consultations to come in, and so far not only did that one faculty member (speaking on behalf of the anthropology faculty: all two of them) post, but then the college curriculum committee and now the geo/anthro department curriculum committee. The sad thing is that I know someone on the college curriculum committee who teaches folklore in english who always said her class was too different from mine for there to be a conflict, but the new committee letters say my class encroaches on that one and I don't think she'll say what she said before on record. And, I had a nice lunch with someone from the geo/anthro dept the other day and thought she was on my side, or at least helpfully neutral, but I doubt she'll break rank to say anything on record either. I can't really blame them -- they have to work with those people everyday.

It's all a territory battle for dollars and students during a time of reprioritization, and not really what they say it is about at all -- sort of like a stupid fight you have with a boyfriend or girlfriend -- but, like that, it is hard not to take personally.

I just want to crawl in bed, eat candy and sleep, but I am too busy and diabetic to boot.

You don't have to feel sorry for me -- clearly, I'm having no trouble in the self-pity department.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

old, grumpy anthropologist part two

Apparently the last letter, which was both emailed to various chairs, deans and senate committee chairs AND printed on paper and addressed to all faculty in my department was not enough. OGA had to post another, slightly different but no less insulting letter online on the official course consultation website. Here 'tis:

I Disagree that Interdisciplinary 321 Folklore, Folklife & Folk Art should be adopted as part of the University Curricullum.

This course is essentially a truncated version of ANT 102, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; as such it infringes on an already existing offering of long standing. Its components are imbedded in the ANT 102 where the material can be given a holistic, comparative, and contextual perspective of the discipline To the extent that this is literally a lower division course proposal, it could not begin to qualify as a synthesis course regardless of its other flaws. In this period of Prioritization and Recovery it is a particularly insupportable submission.

The rationale for proposing the course actually includes, in fact, the completely invalid appeal to need for faculty development through its implementation. Courses are not proposed for the dubious benefit of individual faculty: such proposals do not enhance overall University curricula.

It is also a groundless argument that the course would be interdisciplinary merely because it comes from the Interdisciplinary Department -we teach students
this is a tautology- and certainly in this instance fallacious on the face of it. The fact that Interdisciplinary Department faculty would be diverted from their
approved offerings raises serious questions about the integrity of team teaching-the basis for styling itself interdisciplinary in the first place-not to mention the viability of the basic program.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Old, grumpy anthropologist

There's a soon to retire anthro professor with a lot of pull who hates my department. You may think this is not a problem because of the "soon to retire" part, but apparently he actually postponed his retirement to fight this battle. When he couldn't dismantle our departmental status (acquired only a year or so ago -- before that we were a program) or challenge our right to propose upper division classes, he changed tactics and decided to challenge our course proposals individually. Mine is the second course on the list (321):

The anthropology faculty emphatically, strenuously, and unalterably opposed to the proposals put forward by Interdisciplinary Department faculty for Interdisciplinary 321 and 323 on the grounds of curricular infringement. They oppose all three proposals on the grounds that emanations from Interdisciplinary Department -whether identified with Department or Program-are not authorized by their charter nor by precedent in any other curriculum proposals.

Interdisciplinary 323 is the most egregious proposal of the three in terms of overlapping existing course offerings. Even a cursory comparison of the proposal with Anthropology 360-Magic, Shamanism, and Religion-shows a blatant, if faulty, knock-off. The attempt to mask the overlap/intrusion is transparent: "Domestic Religion" is nothing less than 'folk religion' or 'Little Tradition,' that has been researched, analyzed, published, and taught by generations of anthropologists. The entire content of the proposal is, in fact, subsumed in Anthropology 360, which unlike "Interdisciplinary 323,"provides the thorough contextual basis for studying a huge array of belief systems. Cosmetic labeling cannot disguise the redundancy at hand, and on the face of it this course, of itself, short changes the subject area

Interdisciplinary 321 is a close second to Interdisciplinary 323 in replicating already exisiting course offerings. This proposal is a narrowly defined course in cultural anthropology, with the term "folklife" being a synonym for "Culture." "Folklore," was the term first used for anthropology when the discipline was being founded in the 1870s by students of cultural systems [the term, broadly translated, meant 'the knowledge, or learning, of the people' (folk, from the German volk=people; lore, also from German, lernen=to learn)]. Therefore, the proposal for "Folklore, Folklife, and Folk Art " is "the learning of the people" (aka Culture), Culture, and The People's Art. Art, as a constituent of this proposal is, not incidentally, being pulled from the cultural matrix where it actually appears in the real world of integrated, interrelated, and interdependent sociocultural elements. In sum, it is a flawed, thinly camouflaged, truncated cultural anthropology introduction.

Finally, Interdisciplinary 340 "Encounters Between East and West" does violence to academic conceptions of what "East" and "West" might mean in contemporary usage. With overuse, and abuse, of East (Orient? Middle East? Far East?) it is equivocal whether this term has any worth in defining an academic offering. Likewise, "West" (Occident? Western Hemisphere? New World?) is equally vague. A cursory examination of the course outline shows, in fact, that the proposed offering is actually Islam v. Christianity. The equation of "civilization" with "Dar al-Islam " and/or "Christendom" is appallingly simplistic and misleading. As with the two other proposals, the redundancy of this flawed conception should not be further indulged.

I hate the notion of "little tradition" as much as I despise the notion of "high" and "low" art -- it is insulting, as is his overall tone, both to the people we study and to the scholars who study them. Where he really shoots himself in the foot though is where he says "Folklore was the term first used for anthropology when the discipline was being founded in the 1870s" -- he admits folklorists came first, but assumes we became anthropology. How can that be when there are still folklore PhD granting institutions? But apparently I can't rant back at him. My chair advises us to just be even-tempered and calmly note how are classes are similar or dissimilar to others.

It's awfully hard to be even-tempered when you're being insulted!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A decade of love and intermittent illness

On January 4th, husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Not our tenth anniversary of being husband and wife, but of meeting in person (yes, we were an early adopter of online courtship). That first weekend, I came down with stomach flu and husband-to-be spent a good deal of time holding my hair back as I vomited. He should have seen it as a sign of things to come: in the years since he has nursed me through a broken collarbone, an extended bout with gallstones, adult onset diabetes, and innumerable other ailments. Appropriately enough, on the day of our tenth (that's tin/aluminum for you traditional folks), I was battling the onset of my third cold in three weeks, so we didn't do much to celebrate. Inside though, I smiled alot. He's a patient man, my husband, and I love him.