Anthropology Blogging 101: The Rockstar Anthropologist

This post is part of the Anthropology Blogging 101 series.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Myeashea Alexander. I was born in Flagstaff, AZ, but raised in Brooklyn, NY and still live here in Brooklyn. I am a biological anthropology graduate student at CUNY Hunter College, and I have a BA from The New School in Culture and Media, and an Associate degree in International Relations. My focus areas include paleopathology and osteology.

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I am also interested in the human body and the future–how technologies will impact our relationship to our bodies, how we grow, heal, and define what it is to be human versus machine. This interest is very influenced by futurist Brian David Johnson.

Because of my background in culture, my current research topic is centered around the role of the skull in relation to race and social justice within the United States.

Where did The Rockstar Anthropologist come from?

I created and manage the blog, The Rockstar Anthropologist, beginning at the end of 2013, but it didn’t really get rolling until 2014. I thought about it long before 2013, but working with the public at museums really helped me flush out the concept and understand how it could be useful to people. I highly recommend working at a museum!

Teaching skeletal pathology at the Smithsonian 'Written In Bone' Forensic Anthropology lab (2013)

Teaching skeletal pathology at the Smithsonian ‘Written In Bone’ Forensic Anthropology lab (2013)

Television and movies have done something phenomenal for biology, anthropology, and archaeology by making the field accessible and exciting to every day people. Say what you want about Bones and Temperance Brennan, but so many people came to the Smithsonian’s ‘Written In Bone’ exhibit looking to enhance their knowledge about forensic anthropology! I spoke with people of all shapes, sizes and ages who wanted to nerd out on anthropology and skeletons because that show sparked an interest!

Following my work with ‘Written in Bone’, I realized how much value there was in talking about these more technical and complicated concepts in plain and relatable languages. Entertaining anecdotes were absolutely needed to share anthropology with people—people cared, they just couldn’t relate. Making the subject fun made it relatable.

We have a tendency to make people choose–science or art; brain or athlete; hippie or corporate. This binary thinking leads to so many misunderstandings. The holistic approaches in anthropology should not just be ‘ours’- the anthropologists. Anthropology is one of the few academic disciplines uniquely positioned to relate human relationships to everything and anything  because it illuminates and examines our connections to actions, behavior, language, art, biology, technology.

I started the blog as way of discussing topics, but giving those topics an anthropological read. Having a conversational voice is critical to attracting the audience that I wish to reach.

If enough of this information gets in your head, I’d like to think that expanding your mental pool of knowledge will help you think more critically or consider another point of view in other areas of your life.

I have a tendency to post about topics that are more bioanthro related because the majority of my homework is about that. Sometimes, I’m really just sharing my class or research notes. Occasionally, I’ll come in contact with a related topic, name, or situation that will lead to a different type of blog post. Much of the content is developed organically.

I first heard about anthropology at age 7 or 8 while watching a news special about Margaret Mead. I remember thinking ‘thats the best job ever!, and that I wanted to go to an island. They talked about how she wrote for a magazine. I didn’t really know what Redbook was, but my mom recalled her articles, and in my head, Mead was a celebrity and famous for being smart and traveling and meeting people! And she was a girl—I’m a girl–I could do that! This is why representation matters, right?

Since then, I’ve dreamed of a variety of careers. I wanted to be a rockstar, writer, marine biologist, actress, and over the last few years I’ve done a bit of it all. Yet, this time I know, I’m in the process of living my Mead dreams. I’m doing research, learning things, and sharing this information beyond the scope of academia. I’m hanging out in museums and doing anthro things with anthro friends!

This blog has allowed me to connect with the anthropological community in a way that I never expected. I’m not the most outgoing person in the world. I can be shy and quiet in class, but thanks to this blog, I’ve been invited to speak at schools and participate in cultural events. I was even invited to NASA to participate in a NASA social and report on a SpaceX launch.

I want to work in public engagement for science and art while continuing my academic research. I’m working towards a PhD. This blog is becoming a pretty awesome portfolio. It showcases my range, my ability to engage research with a larger audience, my passion, and my versatility.

It has also helped me to come out of my shell. Sometimes academia can feel, necessarily, restrictive. I respect this process and have learned to love those challenges in a different way. But the blog is creating a different experience for  me. It’s a more playful space where I can be smart, creative, funny, a bit irreverent, thoughtful, political and loosen up that top button. I want to be known for my intelligence, but I also want to be known for my wit, humor, imagination, frankness and sass. I always tell people that I’m a geek on the right side of sexy.

As an anthropologist, why do you blog?

I think blogging has a lot of benefits! Part of me is fulfilling my Margaret Mead fantasy of writing about the extraordinary work of anthropology in a very ‘every day’ kind of way, but it also helps to make me become a better writer because I am encouraged to write all the time. My brain gets a workout and I get a chance to see what I know based on how well and plainly I can explain it. That’s good practice for anyone.

I love when someone texts or emails me about a post that they’ve read on my blog, or to ask more questions because they got sucked in! I’m expanding my network of other anthropology and science enthusiasts and professionals. I’m meeting new people and I’m getting people hyped about anthropology!

 What advantages does anthropology blogging provide?

I think the biggest advantage is being able to speak to a large human audience about major human stuff! The issues that we have faced- past, present, and future, require critical thinking, reflection, interdisciplinary approaches, and participation at every level! Anthropology has a massive range and many approaches. Blogging helps us to facilitate the dissemination of information in a way that is global.

What disadvantages or obstacles do you face?

The internet can be a scary place–especially for strong women. I talk about women’s issues. A few times, I’ve had to ban or report people for threatening and intimidating me or other people on my blog or social media pages. I doubt anyone actually does anything about this, so I’m sure those folks live to be a jerk another day.

Also, I’m Black and I’m female. I live in a world where those two things make everything I do or say a political act. This can be a lot of pressure because I’m actively pursuing a more public forum and wider audience.  At first, I actively tried to avoid subject matters that highlighted either of those two aspects of who I am. I was scared of being a target. I was worried that people wouldn’t pay attention to me or would be jerks. Then I realized that those two things are so unbelievably essential to who I am as a person, a student, a member of society, and a voice that I was stupid to actively avoid certain topics on my blog. People will be jerks. I got over it.

For some people, I represent a problem. For others, I represent a possibility.

Blogging is a very public activity, and you have to be tough sometimes. The fear of being a public figure, or being humiliated in front of peers and colleagues can be overwhelming. I think this fear is the reason why many people may start and then stop, or never start at all.

 What kind of work do you think is most appropriate for an anthropology blog?

I think this depends on your blog. You have to know your audience. And no matter what, I think it’s important to create and manage your reputation well.

Be as honest and transparent as possible, cite your sources, and don’t post false information. That’s how people will trust you as a reliable source.

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of blogs, posing as news blogs, but when you scroll to the bottom of the page it says, “this site is satirical” or something like that. When you read the story and headline, you realize it isn’t satire. It’s flat out lies! These stories fill up my Facebook feed simply because they “look and sound real”.

Nope. Just lies.

Put intention and integrity in your work. You may make a mistake, but if you have created a reputation of being trustworthy and producing quality content, then hopefully you’ll bounce back from your mistake. But whatever you do, don’t lie.

Don’t make it up. If you write fiction, say it loud and proud!

In your opinion, who reads anthropology blogs?

Everyone! As interesting as anthropology is as a discipline, ultimately, it is about ourselves. We like to talk about ourselves, understand our motivations, connect through our experiences.

What changes have you seen in the anthropology blogging scene over the last few years?

I think I’ve just seen more anthro blogging, in general. Five years ago, I feel like the only people that I knew with blogs used them for classroom purposes or it was their job. Now, new ones are popping up all time. It seems that more people are finding them to be legitimate sources of information—that helps.

Many students and professors are really beginning to understand the impact of blogging as a tool for communication and participation. I also see more specialty anthro blogs- blogs dedicated to more niche approaches in anthropology. That’s pretty cool!

 Why do you think it is relevant or useful for anthropologists to blog and use social media to promote their work?

Blogging and social media widens your audience and connects you to people already in your field. This is so advantageous! You get feedback, suggestions, and possibly may inspire someone.

I think public engagement is so important for researchers and for humanity as a whole. We need to become more comfortable with sharing ideas, collaborating, being proactive with our learning and purposeful with the information that we share.

What advice or tips would you give to someone who wants to start blogging about anthropology?

Just do it.

It’s just like anything else. There’s a learning curve and requires some amount of dedication.

Don’t expect to have everything figured out all at once.

Get involved and build relationships within the anthropology and blogging community. Do not be afraid to ask questions and make sure that your blog reflects your personality.

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Technical Aspects of Anthropology Blogging

How do you promote your work?

I do A LOT of social media. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and I post a variety of anthropological and science related topics every day. I would say 70% of my followers come from social media. My social media is more active than my blog because I want my audience to always be engaging with ‘Rockstar Anthro’ in some way.

Email is statistically still the most efficient way to engage with members and fans, but I don’t have time to create email newsletters right now. I hope as the blog expands I can do weekly or monthly newsletters (maybe one day I’ll get help).  I also do public engagement events. I volunteer to present anthro workshops at schools and try to volunteer or attend science festivals, and work press for tech conferences. It’s a good way to meet people and build connections in real life.

Are there any websites, apps, tools, blogs, etc. you wish to recommend to fellow anthropologists interested in blogging?

Get great resources to help you out. I use Creative Commons for images, along with Welcome Trust library, and a few other libraries. No matter what, though, be sure to properly attribute credit. Other great sites are problogger.net, copyblogger.com, bloggingbasics101.com, and theblogstarter.com.

Also, read and look at different types of blogs. Take notes. Lifestyle blogs are GREAT at using clean layouts that makes a user want to click around: The Sartorialist, Design Sponge, and PS I Made This (gorgeous site!).

I check my Google alerts and feeds first thing in the morning. I also use HootSuite and Klout to schedule my posts.

Learn to read the metrics and analytics that come with many tools like Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. This may help you see where your traffic is coming from and how far your reach is. You may use this information to develop posts, change your self promotion, or to even inform yourself of how your blog is doing.

Make use of Google alerts and RSS feeds to stay aware of the news and events that are related to your community.

What are you three favorite anthro blogs?

Works Cited

Alexander, Myeashea (2012). “Mummies That Rock Out With Their ‘What’ Out?!” The Rockstar Anthropologist. https://therockstaranthropologist.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/the-presence-of/

Alexander, Myeashea (2014). “The Rockstar Goes to NASA.” The Rockstar Anthropologist. https://therockstaranthropologist.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/the-rockstar-goes-to-nasa/

Alexander, Myseashea (2012). “Why I Wont’ Be Adopting #AllLivesMatter.” The Rockstar Anthropologist. https://therockstaranthropologist.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/why-i-wont-be-adopting-alllivesmatter/

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2015). “Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake.” http://anthropology.si.edu/writteninbone/

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About Emma Louise Backe

MA in Medical Anthropology and Global Gender Policy from George Washington University, focusing on the intersections of international development, global health, reproductive health justice, gender-based violence, and the politics of care. Social justice sailor scout working on behalf of survivors of sexual violence, gender equity, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health among vulnerable populations.

There are 4 comments

  1. Myeashea Alexander

    Reblogged this on The Rockstar Anthropologist and commented:
    This week, I am headed to ComSciCon national workshop to level up my science communication skills across a variety of platforms. I’m really excited to have been invited to participate in the program!

    I thought it would be appropriate to reBlog this interview I was asked to do for the outstanding anthropology blog, The Geek Anthropologist!

    Like

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