David Bowie and Sonic Parody

For most of my 20s and early 30s, I was an avid --some friends might even say rabid -- karaoke singer. I often sang Bowie songs, even when I knew it was a terrible idea. ("Ziggy Stardust," anyone?) "China Girl" was a staple when I sang weekly at Deon's karaoke gig at the now-defunct Irish Eyes, in... Continue Reading →


“It don’t take a semiotician…” Or, what we talk about when we talk about bush meat.

This weekend, Newsweek published a relatively controversial article about the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Here’s the cover:Let’s just say it’s not exactly an original piece of journalism either.I found myself frustrated not only by the cover and the article, but also by the editor-in-chief’s condescending response to his critics:@texasinafrica radical suggestion: put twitter down.... Continue Reading →

Rich people’s shit and other fun things in humanitarian pop culture

A few years ago, I wrote a paper about the brouhaha over Salma Hayek’s breastfeeding a Sierra Leonean baby. I delivered that paper a few places and it started a relatively long and fairly complicated relationship with what I’ve been calling “humanitarian popular culture.” Into this category, many things fit: the satirical Matt Damon’s Children ad on... Continue Reading →


Intimacy in Africa (on film) Chandani Patel writes: When Hollywood does Africa, there’s little in the romance and love department, unless it’s about Karin Blixen making ill-fated choices (in white colonial men) or some random family who move to Africa and fall in love with the land … and the flame trees (you know the... Continue Reading →


On bureaucracy

Last week in my anthropology and global social problems class, students learned about bureaucracy and how anthropologists engage with the concept. We read the introduction to Hummel's famous book on The Bureaucratic Experience, which is a pretty good primer on how bureaucracy transforms social action, human relations, and bureaucrats themselves. We started class with this... Continue Reading →


Matt Damon’s children

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRQHraheNzQ In this clip from Showtime's House of Lies, we see a parody of celebrity 'humanitarianism' and charity. The critique begins with Damon's hiring a management consulting firm to cultivate his humanitarian brand. The video draws together all the tropes of celebrity humanitarianism: suffering children; war-torn, dusty African town; members of the clergy protecting the... Continue Reading →


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