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03.08.05: The blog has moved to www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/, and several broken links have been corrected

Here are the most recent posts on the new blog location:


Monday, May 23, 2005, 23:38

New articles on AnthroGlobe: Western Cybermythology / People of the open sea

Signs of activity at AnthroGlobe - one of the eldest anthropology web journals. Two new texts and they seem to work with the site layout, it seems:

Carmen Petrosian-Husa: Powerful & Powerless: The Rei Metau on the Outer Islands of Yap

Since 1982 I visited the islands of the rei metau several times. My main focus of research were the "rites de passage", weaving, structures of authority and medicine. In due course of my research I visited all their islands and atolls and analyzed the differences in the social structures of each single atoll. The way I will describe the rei metau in this paper represents the lives and self-esteem of the people as it can be experienced today. >> continue

Darrell A. Joyce: Modern Folklore: Cybermythology in Western Culture

Throughout the years, humans have used the oral tradition of folklore and legend to share stories, entertain, and to teach moral social lessons. The purpose of this paper is to briefly look at the evolution of urban legends from their “beginnings” in the turn of the 20 th century to present day, with specific attention to contemporary urban legends, and the application of internet/e-mail communications as a medium to further spread this modern form of folklore. Also, this paper attempts to answer the question of whether or not folklore continues to exist and be propagated in today’s society. >> continue

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Monday, May 23, 2005, 22:39

Culture and Environment - New issue of Pro Ethnologica is online

Pro Ethnologica (published by the Estonian Eesti Rahva Muuseumi in Tartu) is one of the few anthropology Open Access journals. Their recent volume is dated back in December 2004 but the articles haven't been onliner until now - probably due to copyright issues as Pille Runnel explained in an email to me. Runnell confirmed: "Pro Ethnologia is still an open access journal".

From the editorial:

The texts illustrate the fuzzy quality and interdisciplinary nature of the debate in the broad tradition of ecological anthropology. This situation is represented in this volume by the fact that the articles are written by ethnologists, folklorists, and human geographers who share the same concern for human beings relation to the environment although the interpretations are different. >> continue

>> to Pro Ethnologica 18: Culture and Environment

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Monday, May 23, 2005, 20:57

Office Culture -exciting overview about corporate anthropology in FinancialTimes

I've collected lots of articles on Corporate Anthropology but maybe this one here in the Financal Times, written by an anthrologist (Gillian Tett)who has "tried to incorporate what I learnt about “people watching” into financial journalism", can be used as the standard introductory text as it provides lots of examples of anthropologists in the business field.

Among others, she interviews Simon Robert, who many of us know from his blog at Ideas Bazaar. For his PhD, Robert had investigated the impact of satellite TV on households in an Indian city and on how they looked on the world (see Ideas Bazaar's website for some of his papers)

He explains how he is studying the Office culture at the company Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC):

“Studying PwC is like looking at a town - you try to see how the bits all interact, and you are looking for patterns,” he says. “What we try to do is describe what is happening, but we don’t present solutions. We let the company decide that.”

The article starts explaining that anthropologists ask unusual questions based on their unusual knowledge they gather via their unusual method - participant observation. Anthropologists "translate" as they have alwas done:

"“Many companies assume that if they want to have a global website, say, all they have to do is translate it into different languages,” explains Martin Ortlieb, an anthropologist who now works at a global software group. “But that isn’t true - what works in German can’t just be translated into Japanese with the same effect."

Here is a good explanation of the anthropologists' different way of asking questions. Anne Kirah, who was hired by Boeing to study passenger behaviour on flights, and is now the senior design anthropologist at Microsoft, is interviewed:

"Kirah does not ask much about technology per se - let alone about how people might use computers. But that is the whole point - and part of the defining nature of anthropology. A normal marketing person might approach a family with a barrage of highly directed questions about computers. But that way, Kirah argues, they are likely to just get the answers they expect to hear - and will only offer the consumers products that the software designers have already created. The anthropologist starts by observing everyday life, with all its odd little patterns, and then tries to work out how computers might eventually fit into that. Microsoft’s hope is that this will inspire entirely new applications for technology.

But I doubt everyone agress with Kirah here when she says:
"Yes, there have been periods in history when anthropologists have been abused by governments... but as long as I believe that I am helping the voice of the consumer to be heard, I am happy to do my job at Microsoft." >> continue (Link updated with copy 26.5.05)

The article was already commented by Anne Galloway, Dina Mehta and Alexandra Mack (another blogging anthropologist!!)

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Friday, May 20, 2005, 23:57

The Internet Gift Culture

(post in progress)

Cultures of Exchange and Gift economies are traditional anthropological topics. Famous are the Kula in Melanesia, the Potlatch in Northwestern America, the Moka and often cited books are among others Marcel Mauss: The Gift and Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time.

Contrary to what many (esp. postmodernists) believe, modernisation and globalisation do not automatically lead to more individualism and "fluidity". Internet and social software lead to the creation of new networks and to a revitalisation of cultures of exchange and gift economies.

As Judd Antin comments, describes Alireza Doostdar in his recent article "The Vulgar Spirit of Blogging" some of the ways that bloggers exchange links, trackbacks, and comments as a way of developing social networks and expanding blog readership.

Many of us know collaborative projects like the encyclopedia Wikipedia, photosharing at flickr and copyright based on sharing like Creative Commons. People help each other in online-forums and what should we all do without all the great freeware software, partly developed by the Open Source community?

One of the best places to stay informed on social software and networks is Dina Mehta's Blog "Conversations with Dina"

There are many articles on internet gift economy.

Lars Risan: Open source movement is like things anthropologists have studied for a long time (Jill Walker)

Eduardo Navas: The Blogger as Producer. He reviews "The Hi-Tech Gift Economy" by Richard Barbrook who also has written "Giving is Receiving"

Steve McGookin: Politics, E-Mail And The Gift Economy (Forbes)

Eric Raymond: The Hacker Milieu as Gift Culture

Jem Matzan: The gift economy and free software (NewsForge)

Howard Rheingold: The Internet and the Future of Money (see also Interview with Bernard Lietaer on complementary currencies and the Internet and info on LETS - local exchange trading systems)

David Zeitlyn: Gift economies and open source software: Anthropological reflections (pdf)

Eric Lease Morgan: Gift cultures, librarianship, and open source software development

Markus Giesler and Mali Pohlmann: The anthropology of file sharing: Consuming Napster as a Gift

First Monday - Internet Economics

Culture's Open Sources (pdf, Anthropology Quarterly)

There are many more articles on the internet gift economy: http://opensource.mit.edu/online_papers.php

(post inspired by comments on More and more blogging anthropologists - but the digital divide persists)


This post caused some funny comments in the Livejournal-community:

museumfreak writes:

so . . . many . . . social . . . software . . . and . . . gift . . . economy . . . links . . .

Further down in in the comment-section apropos writes:
"all these new anthro blogs are freaking me out!" :)

[ 3 comments / write comment ]


Friday, May 20, 2005, 00:43

Savage Minds - our first anthropological newspaper?

The anthropology group blog Savage Minds is only five days old, but there are already lots of blog entries and even more comments - or you should rather call the entries for articles: they are well written, detailed - "ready to print". It looks like as if Savage Minds is on its way to be the most important anthropology site on the net.

These are at least my euphoric thoughts after reading today's posts Armchair Anthropology in the Cyber Age? (Topic: How the web changes anthropology and its methods) by Kerim Friedman and Alex Golub's answer Anthropology and the Clash of Civilizations where he draws the attention to the influence of popular ethnocentric online-videogames on the relation between "us" and "them" and Dustin M. Wax's reflections Nothing Is Just after an anthropology lecture he held. He discusses one of the most central issues in anthropology: "Nothing is Just. Filmmaking isn’t “just” making movies. Marriage isn’t “just” a marker of committment. Family isn’t “just” the people you are related to. Giving gifts isn’t “just” a form of exchange."

Savage Minds makes one (once more) think of the old-fashioned publishing conventions in social science where only paper publications are "accepted". Here in Norway, the Norwegian Anthropological Association has started to include debates on published articles in their journals. But how is discussion possible when you have to wait three months for the next issue? How up-to-date can paper journals be? Their reviews are about books that are at least two years old! In their last issue they were "happy to announce" that they are going to present some papers of their last years' annual conference in their next issue. Maybe Savage Minds can change their mind?

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Thursday, May 19, 2005, 23:07

Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of Their Curious Relations

Call you call it prostitution if anthropologists work for the military? Opinions are divided on this issue. As a pacifist, my answer is obvious. Others will stress that they've done their job as an anthropologist if they have succeeded in teaching soldiers cultural awareness and respect to other customs (as stated on a conference in Norway last year).

In a long article in Red Nova, cultural anthropologist Montgomery McFate discusses anthropologists' possible role in the U.S. military. She criticizes anthropologists' "retreat to the Ivory Tower" after the Vietnam War. Does she want anthropologists to take up their questionable role they played role during the colonial era? It seems so. She writes:

"From the foregoing discussion, it might be tempting to conclude that anthropology is absent from the policy arena because it really is "exotic and useless." However, this was not always the case. Anthropology actually evolved as an intellectual tool to consolidate imperial power at the margins of empire."

On CENSA's website we read that McFate "has spent the past few years trying to convince the Department of Defense that cultural knowledge should be a national security priority".

>> read the whole article on Red Nova

UPDATE (20.5.05): I've only quickly scanned the article. Shortly after, Savage Minds' author Dustin M. Wax has written a detailed review (!) of the McFate's article:

"Her long article is a backhanded compliment to stubborn anthropologists whose knowledge and expertise is “urgently needed in time of war” but who, “bound by their own ethical code and sunk in a mire of postmodernism”, “entirely neglect U.S. forces”. I'll cut straight to the chase: a functioning anthropology can never be on the side of “U.S. forces”. This is a practical as well as an ethical argument—it simply is not possible, even were there enough anthropologists who shared McFate’s priorities. >> continue

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005, 00:14

More and more blogging anthropologists - but the digital divide persists

Savage Mind - the new anthropology group blog is big news and is being discussed in many blogs (interesting to see how fast the news is spread). Recently I mentioned several new anthro-blogs - Kerim Friedman has discovered even more, for example The Old Revolution by "tak", a cultural anthropologist and New Yorker and a Tokyoite who has compiled a list of Anthropology and Japan blogs - even more to explore.

I began to work with this blog (which also includes a kind of Norwegian anthropology journal), because I missed anthropological content on the web. Much has changed since then. But nevertheless, my impression is that Internet is still a quite new medium for many anthropologists - at leasts in Norway. People here do read the national and regional newspapers online, send mails and transfer money. But none of my friends and people I know at the University know what a blog is, let alone RSS. Only a few have heard about Wikipedia. They're not familiar with the gift economy principles on the Internet either (I heard of anthropologists who don't publish online because they don't want their ideas to be "stolen" (!) before they can elaborate them in a traditional paper-journal.

Those people (the majority) don't participate in discussions. They are the unknown passive readers. It's quite striking: All the (few) comments to entries in my Norwegian blog are made by people who already have a website or an own blog.

I think here we see another type of a digital divide - between those who know how to use the internet actively (or are interested in it) and those who don't.

UPDATE: See also the post by Alexander Knorr on xirdalim on academic blogging and its difficulties: "What struck us most was the fact that the vast majority of our institute's anthropology-students (and we have 1200+ !) never made good use of the ethno::log >> continue"

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005, 11:39

Today's National Day - or "Something rotten in the state of Norway"

As today the people here in Norway celebrate the National day you might want to take a look at the essay collection SOMETHING ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF NORWAY, written by anthropologists and other social scientists four years ago.

From their introduction:

"In spite of the fact that the country possesses enormous financial resources, Norway is unable to administer this capital in an appropriate manner on behalf of the population. It is not invested in education, either at school or university, the health service is deteriorating, cultural institutions are not regarded as important and become balance sheet items.

We have brought about a country that stigmatises and excludes those inhabitants who do not conform to an increasingly uniform and standardised citizenship ideal. In the Norway of today market liberalism is the dominant attitude among the people and leaders."

>> continue to Something Rotten in the State of Norway

See also:

Sámi flag will not fly in Oslo
Oslo Municipality will not hoist the Sámi flag on Constitution Day, 17 May, the Oslo Municipal Board decided. “We are not one people with two flags, but rather one people with one flag,” stated Labour Party member Runar Gerhardsen. >> continue

Of course you can read an official description of the National Day with typical Norwegian statements like "there's no celebration quite like it anywhere else in the world." or take a look at some 17.may-pictures with lots of people in their national costumes. There are also some photos on flickr. Or check Aftenposten (newspaper) for today's photos.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Immigrants - The Norwegians who don't exist
Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Being Norwegian in a shrinking world. Reflections on Norwegian identity

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005, 11:14

New anthropology group blog: Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology

Great! A new anthropology group blog! Something like an American version of the German Ethno::log. It was started the day before yesterday. We know some of the authors from other blogs. The authors are Alex Golub, Kerim Friedman, Dustin M. Wax, Nancy Leclerc, Antti Leppänen and Christopher M. Kelty.

From their self-description:

"Savage Minds is a collective web log devoted to both bringing anthropology to a wider audience as well as providing an online forum for discussing the latest developments in the field. We are a group of Ph.D. students and professors teaching and studying anthropology and are excited to share it with you. You can find out more about the contributors by clicking on the ‘about’ pages on the right for each of us."

>> continue to Savage Mind

PS: Their newest entry deals with Anarchists in the Academy: Yale anthropologist David Graeber has been recently fired for his anarchist activism - something that was mentioned in Kerim Friedman's blog before and shortly afterwards by Alex Golub. See some reviews of Graebers "Fragments of an anarchist anthropology". Or download the whole book (pdf, 220kb) and visit the webpage Solidarity with David Graeber

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Saturday, May 14, 2005, 11:28

Spring (or summer) has finally arrived in Oslo, so just a short note about another anthropology blog. Just saw it in my site statistics: Antti Leppänen is cultural anthropologist, a Ph.D. candidate at the University in Helsinki, Finnland, working on a thesis about Korea. In an earlier post he explains:

"I have been making net notes on Korea since last spring, to keep up with the developments since my last visit in summer 2002 and make notes of what interests me. Beginning this year I finally decided to change to a blog format. As my anthropology thesis is about keepers of small neighborhood shops, and that kind of an environment is where I've spent the longest periods of time in Korea, my blog entries are mostly about small businesses, "ordinary people", social categories, urban space, and the like."

>> continue to Antti Leppänen's notes on Korea

In his most recent entry he links to a beautiful website: Cycles of Life in a Bengali Town based on the fieldwork of the anthropologists Ákos Östör and Lina Fruzzetti. (I see that also Ideas Bazar commented on this website yesterday)

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Thursday, May 12, 2005, 23:39

Another Anthro-Blog: FieldNotes - Occasional Musings on Anthropological Topics

(via my site statistics) FieldNotes is a brand new anthropology blog, the first entry was written only two weeks ago by its author Thomas ‘Tad’ McIlwraith, PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, NM, USA. Seems to focus on Native Northern America / First Nations. Good to know that there are anthropology-bloggers who are not mainly interested in media and technology stuff. There are many links to other bloggers with related interests to explore. This is good news! >> continue to "Field Notes"

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005, 16:39

Two Books Explore the Sins of Anthropologists Past and Present

The Chronicle of Higher Education

In her new book, From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich, Gretchen E. Schafft, an applied anthropologist(George Washington University) explores how the principles of early-20th-century physical anthropology, were put to work by the Nazis. Several months after the invasion of Poland, Hitler's aides established the Institute for German Work in the East, which employed scholarly anthropologists to complete such tasks as "racial-biological investigation of groups whose value cannot immediately be determined" and "racial-biological investigation of Polish resistance members."

A few years after her discovery at the Smithsonian (75 boxes full of material produced in Poland by the Nazi anthropologists), Ms. Schafft was contacted by a physical anthropologist who wanted to use the Nazis' data to shed light on "patterns of migration and population settlement." She resisted, arguing that the information had been collected through cruel means and for evil purposes, and is in any case highly suspect.

Some related moral dilemmas are chewed over in Biological Anthropology and Ethics: From Repatriation to Genetic Identity (State University of New York Press), a collection edited by Trudy R. Turner, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. >> continue

Murray L. Wax: Some Issues and Sources on Ethics in Anthropology (American Anthropological Association, Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology - Chpt 1)
Book review: Worldly Provincialism: German Anthropology in the Age of Empire (American Ethnologist)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005, 12:38

Technologies of the Childhood Imagination- new text by anthropologist Mizuko Ito

Mizuku Ito has published a new text, a keynote speech she gave at “Digital Generations: Children, Young People and New Media”. Ito is involved in the new research project on "Digital Kids".

From her introduction:

"I've been trying to develop ways of studying, from an ethnographic perspective, processes that are more commonly pursued from a macro sociological perspective, such as the relationships between production, distribution, marketing and consumption. The work I'll be describing for you today is based on several years of fieldwork in Tokyo, focused on the period between 1999 and 2001."

"Rather than see centralized and highly capitalized sites as the sole sites of cultural production, I have been looking at the activity of children and young adults as sites of not only consumptive activity -- that is, buying, watching, and reading centrally produced media -- but also productive activity – not only reinterpreting these texts, but actually reshaping and recreating related media content and knowledge and selling and trading those locally created products."

From her conclusion:

"I would suggest that media mixes such as Pokemon and
Yugioh are tied to a changing politics of childhood. I think part of the appeal of these media mixes for children and young adults is that it explicitly recognizes entrepreneurism and connoisseurship in children's culture, traits that, by some cultural standards, are not considered appropriate for children. In part, these media mixes are becoming ambassadors for a Japanese vision of childhood internationally. >> continue

Ethnographic Study on "Digital Kids"
Introduction to "Media Worlds": Media an important field for anthropology

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Friday, May 06, 2005, 16:54

Corrected: Drinking Cultures - Anthropology of Food

UPDATE (5.6.05): Link is corrected. They have moved the article to an earlier issue of the journal

Tom WILSON: Globalization, Differenciation and Drinking Cultures: an anthropological perspective. Drinking culture in Ireland, at home or in more public domains, has not been a major interest in the ethnography of Ireland, but it should be. The pub, or public house, is a particularly important ethnographic arena, wherein drinking practices and other aspects of Irish culture merge, and where the questions of identity and identification continually matter. >> continue (pdf)

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Friday, May 06, 2005, 12:04

Photoethnography Blog and Blogging Asia

(via delicious)Karen Nakamura is a cultural anthropologist who focuses on disability and minority identity issues in contemporary Japan, currently in Kyoto for fieldwork. While you'll find many camera reviews on her blog, her homepage lists many links related to photoethnography and discusses some techniques. There's also a very interesting photo gallery. Nakamura is also mentioned in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Asian Blogging.

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Friday, May 06, 2005, 11:34

Anthropology in a Time of Crisis. A Note from Nepal

Sara Shneiderman, PhD candidate in anthropology at Cornell University, Anthropology News May 2005

Although Nepal’s “regional ethnography traditions” have long focused on classic themes like religion and culture, recent years have seen anthropologists of Nepal expanding their study to deal with history, politics and the nation-state. With our access to information from trusted Nepali informants and colleagues all over the country, as well as detailed local knowledge, experienced anthropologists have something unique to contribute in this time of crisis.

Anthropological analyses of issues like conflict, state terror, trauma and political action are more necessary than ever. It is our responsibility as scholars, both Nepali and foreign, to continue contributing our skills to understanding the conflict, working for peace and rebuilding Nepali society. >> continue

Sara Shneiderman has published several articles on her research in Nepal in fulltext on her homepage at Cornell University

Challenges of Providing Anthropological Expertise: On the conflict in Sudan

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Thursday, May 05, 2005, 23:14

The Problems with Chinese Anthropological Research


In China, whenever researchers refer to ethnology, it means the study of 55 ethnic groups instead of 56. That means Han is a standard, a criterion, from which the study of other 55 ethnic groups must learn. There are many famous anthropologists who have been aware of his but never speak of it. Mr. Fei Xiaotong is one of them. Chinese anthropological study will not have its own position before Chinese anthropologists realize that all 56 and other people within Chinese boundary are of equal significance in anthropological research and there is no ethnic group that should be in a position of supervision.

The evolutionary scheme another obstacle in Chinese anthropological research. If we say that people in plains are in a stage of highest civilization, these who in plateau are less civilized, and these who in mountainous areas are the least civilized or primitive and savage, we are not doing social science but constructing social science. >> continue

(inspired by Ethno::log: Fei Xiaotong dies age 94)

Book review: Yan Yungxian: Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village (American Ethnologist)

The New Chinese Anthropology: A View from Outside by J.S. Eades The Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent, UK)

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005, 10:50

"Stone Age Tribes", tsunami and racist evolutionism

The belief that the so-called Western civilisation represents the final goal of human evolution, the idea that we're on the top of the evolution is still alive - both among journalists and anthropologists as the coverage of the tsunami disaster has shown. Today, again such a story full of racist evolutionism appeared - the Daily Telegraph writes: Chief's death brings end of Stone Age tribes a step nearer. Quote: "Some anthropologists believe that the tribes are a vital link in the chain of human evolution. They have no written script." >> continue

19th Century Social Evolutionism - Anthropological theories
(Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama)

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005, 23:43

New Eurozine issue on Politics of border making and (cross-)border identities

Eurozine is a netmagazine that publishes both own texts and articles previously published in European magazines. Their new "focal point" looks very interesting. From their introduction: "Have borders become irrelevant with the project of a united Europe, which is supposed to overcome the historical divisions of the continent and the political isolation of its East? No, just the opposite. Essayists and researchers look at the dilemmas of border building and cross-border cooperation in the EU and its neighborhood. >> continue

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Sunday, May 01, 2005, 22:39

New full text journal: Ecological and Environmental Anthropology

"Time in Service to Historical Ecology" - "Roads Diverging in Yellow Woods: New Paths for Ecological and Environmental Anthropology" - "Ecology & Anthropology: A Field without Future?" are some the names of the articles in the new journal Ecological and Environmental Anthropology which is produced by the graduate students of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia.

From their introduction: "We would like the journal to serve as a nexus for the free flow of ideas of scholars and practitioners in a wide range of fields, since many disciplines are both contained within, and influenced by, ecological and environmental anthropology." This means that all articles can be read by everyone in full length! Very userfriendly are also their print-versions - both in HTML and pdf!

>> Ecological and Environmental Anthropology, Current issue 1/2005

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