Main | June 2005 »

May 31, 2005

Past or Future?

An interesting (and accessible) article in the New York Times (via IHT) about another example of archaeology coming to the rescue. Amid all the violence, genocide, and horrible atrocities in Sudan, progress seems to be coming in the form of a $1.8 Billion dam that is to provide parts of the third-world country with sustainable electricity. As with any large construction project anywhere in the world, previously unknown archaeological resources have been discovered all around the dam site and have only come to light because of it. Unfortunately, the project waits for no one so archaeologists have been brought in from all over the world in an effort to salvage as much of the past as they can:

The affected locations, according to government scientists, include the noted towns and cemeteries from the Pharaonic period and the Napato-Meroitic era, which stretched from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, at Gebel Barkal, the post-Meroitic tumuli, or grave mounds, of Zuma and the Christian monastery of Ghazali, among others.

Along with environmental concerns, the preservation of archaeological resources is a touchy issue, especially in situations like these. On one hand, the ethical archaeologist in all of us would spend years excavating any and all important sites that can illuminate the past, without regard to other circumstances. Of course, such a scenario is virtually impossible and we are forced to deal with the issue as is. On the other hand, Sudan is a terrible situation right now and bringing electricity to some parts of the county may just help bring the country the help it needs. I'm not an expert in the history of the Darfur conflict but it seems to me that the situation could only be mitigated if the country's leaders looked to bettering the quality of life. Consistent, sustainable electricity may end up being a small step toward that goal.

So, as the article mentions, no archaeologist in his or her right mind wants to race against the clock but in this case it must be done and with good reason. At least it's not a Wal-Mart...

Posted by Will at 07:50 PM

Back

Hopefully you didn't stray too far because over the weekend the community of which Nomadic Thoughts is a part, AnthroBlogs.org, underwent some changes that affected our hosting situation. Nothing visible or functional has changed, just our affiliation. As usual, continue to check out the other blogs as well as the community one as it continues to grow.

When I last posted I was leaving for Tampa, Florida to visit the University of South Florida, where I'll be going to graduate school in the fall for archaeology. I was there for four days with my father and incredibly, we got virtually evertything done on the first morning. Practially a repeat of everything I did for undergraduate: getting an ID card, turning in my health form, visiting financial aid, and registering for classes. This Fall I'll be taking a Masters seminar, Cultural Resource Management, Chiefdoms, and an undergraduate linguistics course because I didn't take any at UNCW. More than a full graduate load, but I think I'll be so gung-ho the first semester that it won't be too much.

Also got some good news earlier today: I've been awarded a 10 hour graduate assistantship. This gives me a tuition waiver (a HUGE cut considering I'm out-of-state) and a job. Not sure what I'll be doing yet, though.

Posted by Will at 03:43 PM

May 21, 2005

The First Impression

I'm flying out of Raleigh Charlotte tomorrow morning to visit South Florida and take care of some pre-Fall business. I need to stop by the financial aid office, of course, and get some things situated. I learned early on that of all the stuff that's involved in getting ready for graduate school, pretty much all of it depends on being able to get it paid for. I haven't been offered anything from the Anthro Department yet, but I'm hoping for an assistantship. Maybe teach or something? So far what I have are some general government grants and a work study grant. Who knows, maybe I'll be serving mashed potatoes at the cafeteria.

Another important little detail I need to check out while I'm down there is a place to live. I'm considering living on campus in graduate housing for the first semester if possible. Since I've never been to Tampa in my life, I know nothing about the layout of the city or what the good and bad sections of town are. So, if the grad housing seems decent then I might end up there. But I really am spoiled having lived in my own off-campus apartment for the past two years.

Also have a meeting with one of the profs to talk about classes and such. Nothing formal but will hopefully give a good idea of what to expect. I have already talked about my schedule with my advisor and it's pretty straightforward. A couple of classes on how to be a graduate student, some archaeology-based stats, and a handful of other anthro courses plus the big internship/research project.

I'll try to post if I'm around a computer but otherwise I'll be back Friday with all the latest. Can anyone say "excited"?

Posted by Will at 09:22 AM

May 20, 2005

Academic Blogging

This is a re-post of an entry at my other blog, The Journal, but it's quite relevant to the creation of Nomadic Thoughts:

I have finally pinpointed my latest obsession: academic blogging. AnthroBlog Blog referred me to an article in the Village Voice about academic blogging and it's brief history. The obvious appeal from the viewpoint of academics is that it enables them to bounce ideas off one another and otherwise organize and develop their thoughts in their area of expertise. Of course, I am mostly interested in blogs having to do with the humanities (i.e. anthropology, philosophy, and religion) and indeed these fields seem to make up the bulk of the academic blogs out there (unless I'm missing something). Anthropology and philosophy in particular are perfect for a blogging community because so much of the subject matter has to do with discourse and the exchange of ideas. Read the Village Voice article for elaboration on this; it's very interesting.

My realization that anthropology is a field of ideas is the basis of the appeal of academic blogs. Whereas a hundred years ago an elite group of intellectuals would sit around parlors and universities and discuss their work, public blogging seems much of the same except that it allows for a potentially unlimited audience who are able to comment on what a particular author posts. Thus, it is fundamentally different than what has been going on for the past century. Should an academic choose to maintain a blog, he or she is inviting criticism not just from his peers but from laypersons as well. This forces the academic to exercise his or her ability to espouse ideas and theories so that nonspecialists can understand them. Of course, I am sure there are academic blogs out there that are highly specialized and retain field-specific jargon, but the majority of them are out there because they want to be read by a wide audience outside of their immediate circle. Otherwise, there is no point in maintaining a public blog. That is what academic journals are for.

I have always felt that anthropology is a very critical position in that it must maintain its status as a respectable scientific endeavour but at the same time be accessible to a general audience when necessary. This is because of the immediate social implications of virtually all anthropological research. I am not trying to advocate anthropology as superior to any other science, but rather that because anthropologists study human beings the field must make a conscious effort not to distance itself from the general public. This doesn't always happen, but on a personal level I will enter graduate school with this in the back of my mind.

All that being said, here are some of my favorite academic blogs and a short description of what they're all about:

General Academic Blogs:

Crooked Timber - This one is written by a group of about 12 academics with various backgrounds, so it makes for an interesting mix of opinion and ideas. From what I can tell, this is the granddaddy of academic blogs because I've seen it cited on many others. Usually one of my first stops when I sit down to read.
The Valve - Somewhat new, The Valve was primarily started to serve the literary community. There are plenty of posts on literary theory but also some relating to anthropology and culture. Also written by a collective.

Anthropology Blogs:

Savage Minds - Savage Minds is written by a group of anthropologists about anthropology (duh). Great design and excellent writing make for a good read. It's just getting started but already they have some great posts.
Field Notes - Another great blog that seems to be geared to the author's students and a wide audience. Easy to read with great topics, nice design/layout too.
Motes and Theories on Anthropology - Simple layout and straightforward discussion. I can see this one becoming one of my favorites.
Gloublog - Written by Alex Golub, a PhD candidate at U. of Chicago. Fun to read about his personal experiences as well as his opinions on academia and his journey to achieving his doctorate.
Stranger Fruit - John M. Lynch of Arizona State writes fun posts with some satire. Haven't read much of it yet but there seems to be several posts critical of Intelligent Design (yay!).

Posted by Will at 01:03 AM

May 19, 2005

About

Nomadic Thoughts is a part of the AnthroBlogs community.
Questions or comments? Send me an e-mail at nomadicthoughts(at)gmail(dot)com (replacing the (at) and (dot) with the corresponding symbol).

The Basics

NT_aboutphoto.jpg
Location: Tampa, Florida, United States
Occupation: Grad Student
Interests: history, religion, anthropology, philosophy, music, computers, politics
Favorite Music: Radiohead, The Beatles, Interpol, Beck, Secret Machines, Nine Inch Nails
Favorite Movies: The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, Vanilla Sky, Scarface, Gladiator, Bad Santa, Indiana Jones trilogy (of course)
Favorite Authors: Wade Davis, Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2005 with a BA in Anthropology and a second major in Philosophy & Religion. I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC and came to UNCW intending to major in film studies. I lost interest in film pretty quickly and for some reason declared Anthropology as my major. The history and "prestige" of the field was the initial attraction but I soon realized that the subject matter itself was incredibly interesting and very important. At that point it was pretty clear that I wanted to study humans for a living.

My first extensive field experience was at the Ancient Maya site of Lamanai, located in present-day Belize. I attended a month-long archaeology field school there and became very interested in the religious significance of the ceremonial architecture (hence the second major). I worked closely with the field school director in producing the follow-up report. The whole field school experience is what led me to apply to The University of South Florida in order to continue my studies in Central America.

In the summer of 2006 I conducted research at the Lenca site of Palos Blancos near the prehispanic site of Palmarejo, located in northwest Honduras. Specifically, I am interested in ancient agriculture, subsistence, land use, and human-environment interaction.

About the title and banner image

I chose "Nomadic Thoughts" only after realizing that it's virtually impossible to pick a cool title for a nerd blog (as my girlfriend affectionately calls them). It basically refers to how my personal thoughts materialize, change, and develop. It also has an anthropological ring to it.

The banner image is a photograph that I took in the town of Indian Church, Belize (Summer 2004).

Favorite Websites

Personal Links

Blogroll

Anthropology:

Science and Nature:

Philosophy and Religion:

Academia:

This page was Last updated on Sunday, March 5, 2006

Posted by Will at 10:00 PM