St.Petersburg-St.Anford Journal of Anthropology (SPSJA)

Editor: German V. Dziebel  St.Petersburg, Russia/Stanford, USA

The St.Petersburg-St.Anford Journal of Anthropology is the only periodical in earthly, heavenly and webly space devoted specifically to the social life of anthropologists. SPSJA promotes interdisciplinary and holistic research focusing on social approaches to cultural and four-field anthropology, opening up new debates and new areas of exploration. It engages with and contributes to theoretical developments from any other discipline, including philosophy of science, social studies of health and medicine, indigenous philosophy, cognitive anthropology, social archaeology, post-processual and pre-Clovis archaeology, conflict sociology, political science, economics, effeminism, eco-masculinism, queer-and-straight theory, american indian movement, and misbehavioral science. Contributors should be advised that this is not a journal for theory or methodology, no matter how “reflexive” they purport to be. This is a journal about what we, anthropologists, actually do, do not do, and do not know how to do.

The editor is proficient in all branches and subfields of anthropology and holds a black belt in all discursive martial arts known to man. Hence, submissions should reflect that level of engagement with the discipline. The SPSJA is inspired by the editor’s first-hand knowledge of the anthropological crowds in St. Petersburg and in Stanford. The journal is dedicated to the memory of Professor Vine Deloria, Jr. (1933-2005), whom I was lucky to know personally, and to the manifest destiny of his brain-child, the great Indian chief, Custer-Died-For-Your-Sins (1969-). Custer-Died-For-Your-Sins preempted by some 20 years the now-suddenly-fashionable scepticism towards the “anthropologist’s authority.” Anthropologists directly responded to Deloria’s critique only thirty years later in a volume entitled Indians and Anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr. and the Critique of Anthropology (1997), edited by Tom Biolsi and Larry Zimmerman. The tardiness of anthropologists’ reaction to Deloria that spanned the golden years of constructivism, postmodernism, feminism, and interpretivism points to the superficiality and selectivity of anthropological reflexivity. Although all these –isms contain a good deal of healthy concern for the effectiveness of intellectual labor, the most proper designation for the bulk of writings produced by American anthropology between late 1960s and late 1990s is “ethical formalism.” (Formalism and reflexivity are easily confused.) Ethical formalism resulted in Deloria’s literary legacy being largely neglected, although the importance of Vine Deloria, Jr.’s social criticism for the U.S. far surpasses the significance of such an icon of the Civil Rights Movement as Martin Luther King, Jr.Â

Once at a student party at Stanford I met a Native American fellow (NAF) who went to Law School. The party was near its end, and we were pretty well-filled with beer. The following is the transcript of a part of our psychedelic conversation:

NAF: I am now reading Vine Deloria’s Red Earth, White Lies.

GD: Oh, yeah? It’s a great book, isn’t it? By the way, I visited Vine in Boulder.

NAF: You did!? Man, this is just great! You actually met the legendary Vine Deloria in person!? I can’t believe my ears! How come? (Nearly falls down from enthusiasm.)

GD: Well, I am an anthropologist… So, we corresponded for a while regarding…

NAF: You are an anthropologist? Fuck you, man! (Leaves the party.)

In St. Petersburg, I studied at the Department of Ethnography and Physical Anthropology of the History Faculty of St. Petersburg State University from 1988 to 1993. I was employed at the Russian Museum of Ethnography for three years between 1993 and 1996, while being a doctoral candidate at the Department of Africa of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology “Kunstkamera” from 1993 to 1997. I was therefore exposed to the inner life of the three main centers of anthropology in the cultural capital and the second largest city of Russia. These were the sites of my decade-long half-conscious fieldwork.

From 1997 to 2005, I was a doctoral student first at the Department of Anthropology and then at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. I came to Stanford’s Anthropology a year before its historic split into the departments of Cultural and Social Anthropology (CASA) and Anthropological Sciences (AnSci). (Needless to say, the split was not advertised on the Anthropology website the year I applied to Stanford.) During the first year of the collapse of anthropology at Stanford, I was an exchange refugee at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Chicago from October 1998 to March 1999, taking classes from Michael Silverstein, Ray Fogelson, Terry Turner, Tom Dillehay, and the late Kostas Kazazis. Since I could not comprehend the rationale behind the Stanford split, the politics that brought the split about were alien to me, and I had no personal grudges against any member of Stanford Anthropology, my original attempt to become an American anthropologist turned into participant observation over the curious behavior of American anthropologists. While taking a native‘s point of view is easy, taking a colleague‘s point of view is not. Thus a null hypothesis (for an American, to take a point of view of another American should be easier than for the same American to take an Ilongot point of view) was instantly rejected. After taking one of the most exotic classes in my graduate career, namely Renato Rosaldo‘s “Cultural Citizenship” (Fall 1997), I began hypothesizing that anthropologists’ penchant to take native points of view was the result of prolonged exposure to Southeast Asian cultures of headhunting. Alternatively, in Americanist anthropology, taking a native point of view would sound slightly superficial, and it has never been a scholarly practice. North America was not an area of headhunting but an area of captivity, torture, and adoption into family/tribe. This indigenous tradition has left its impact on both American literature (captivity narrative, Indian autobiography) and Americanist anthropology, which emphasize radical border-crossing, effective native-colonizer crossover, ethnic drag, and personal transformation (Richard Slotkin would say “regeneration through violence”). Frank Cushing (or even Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and Michael Taussig in South America) is the epitome of an Americanist anthropologist. In the U.S., since the Boasian revolution, the Americanist tradition in anthropology has largely been in exile in its own country.

Anthropological practice (as opposed to theory) is therefore hardly different from native practice. The interaction between the etic and the emic levels in anthropology can be further illustrated by the following example. After reading Akhil Gupta‘s celebrated piece The Reincarnation of Souls and the Rebirth of Commodities:  Representation of Time in “East” and “West” (1992) and especially the more recent Reliving Childhood? The Temporality of Childhood and Narratives of Reicarnation (2002), which both constitute steps towards a monograph on reincarnation as a social theory, I noticed that Gupta (born and raised in India) not only questions Western ideas about time and maturation, but also Western ideas about education and employment. In the spirit of his academic writings, he subverts the “natural” assumption that one should first become an anthropologist and then a professor of anthropology. Having a Ph.D. from Stanford in Engineering-Economic Systems (1988), Gupta became a  professor of anthropology at Stanford in 1989. His present work on reincarnation is his first truly anthropological project, which would make a perfect topic for a Ph.D. dissertation in our field. Not without a battle with the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and Vice-Provost Condolezza Rice, Gupta became a tenured professor in 1997 (the year I came to Stanford). He was lucky enough to be backed by many respectable anthropologists in the field, the privilege that Robert Warrior, a Native American professor at Stanford’s Department of English, did not have in 1999. In the case of Warrior, the Dean raised concerns about the “public” aspect of Warrior’s book Like a Hurricane, which was devoted to the history of American Indian Movement. The “public aspect” of Gupta’s writing had remained hidden. Columbus again confused Indians with Indians.

While observing anthropologists, I continued to single-footedly pursue both the “interpretivist” and the “positivist” trails responding in a single breath of intellectual creativity to the whole range of new/old anthropological problems that CASA and AnSci, for some reason, consider to be mutually exclusive. This website is my version of undivided, unsplit and unsullied anthropology. Hence, although I reflect on anthropology sometimes with a great deal of irony, this is not an idle bashing but rather a diligent contribution to anthropology’s mental health. No comments in the SPSJA are intended to be personally mean (we, anthropologists, never consider our “analytical” observations as offensive to the natives), and I welcome any rejoinders, letters to the editor, constructive critiques, or simply thoughts. No complaints.

This being said, I am happy to announce the first issue of the first and only transnational life journal of anthropology containing the uncensored, unrated and uncut version of my lead article for the latest issue (No. 6, 2006) of CASA Newsletter. The article intended as a showcase for CASA was based on short unstructured interviews with Sylvia Yanagisako, Jim Ferguson, and Lynn Meskell. Its style falls into the category of irony: it can be read as a sincere praise of the CASA department or as its biting critique. Both readings are legitimate. Ironically, the original version of the article did not make it into the newsletter because it appeared to be “too cute.” Another irony: on p. 28 of the Newsletter I am listed as an “editor.” However my lead article is accompanied by the phrase “edited by Jim Ferguson.” The question is: who can edit an editor? The answer is: a censor. Why is “censor” not listed as part of the team preparing the newsletter? Because this information was also censored. Why was the article censored in the first place? Because of its ironic tone.

No. 1, 2006

The second issue of the journal features my ongoing essay entitled “How ‘Natives’ Think: About Dr. Girenko, For Example.” It contains a discussion of the murder of St. Petersburg anthropologist, Nikolai Girenko, by ultra-right Russian nationalists in 2004. I look at it through the lens of my reminiscences of the politics surrounding the defense of my Ph.D. dissertation at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography “Kunstkamera” in St. Petersburg in 1997, in which Girenko was notoriously involved. These two ostensibly unrelated events may cast light on the way anthropologists apply their craft to the contemporary legal and political process.

No. 2, 2006


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