A 2018 Anthropology Day Manifesto

By Emma Backe and Nick Mizer


Happy Anthropology Day! So far this year at The Geek Anthropologist we have been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about what we want to accomplish with the site. We’re setting new goals and dreaming big about what the intersection of anthropology and geek culture has to offer.

In 2012, The Geek Anthropologist began as an experiment in anthropological blogging, bridging the gaps between academia and public understandings of culture often encapsulated in fabulist media. In that first post, Marie-Pierre laid out the twin driving forces behind what we do: “As a geek, I want to share my passion and wish for geeks and geek culture to gain more proper respect….as an anthropologist, I strive to share my passion for my discipline as well as my conviction that the humility and willingness for intercultural dialog that underline it are essential tools for solving many of the problems we face today in the world.” From the beginning, topics like gender dynamics and representation have been central to what we do, and that has only increased with the rise of the “Fake Geek Girl Debate” and Gamergate.

Since The Geek Anthropologist’s inception, the blog has expanded to include a community of anthropologists and self-identified geeks not only interested in interrogating the cultural politics embedded in the zeitgeist of geek culture like graphic novels and video games, but similarly dedicated to fostering conversations that explore the potentialities and possibilities of worlding, the opportunities for social redistribution and recalibration proposed by science and speculative fiction, as well as the pedagogical interfaces that fantastical media and weird fiction provide us with. We are a collective of social scientists borne from Ursula Le Guin, Donna Haraway’s cyborg, Isaac Asimov’s manifesto, William Gibson’s cybernetic web, a community embedded in and emboldened by the theoretical and methodological trappings of ethnography, an ethnography that nonetheless interrogates the role of anthropology in public discourse and considers both the utility and futurity of critical analyses of difference and alterity. For while the crucial interfaces between the Other and the alien have become well-trod territory, the more radical sociopolitical and economic prospects of the Chthul(h)ucene need to be put in concert with the process and praxis of world-building and cultural change scholars and citizens find themselves in, the chimerical qualities of social inquiry and cultural interrogation fundamental to the resistance.

As a writing and intellectual community, The Geek Anthropologist is dedicated to pushing the outer spaces of ethnographic expertise and public knowledge, exploring the liminal places and digital enclaves that increasingly account for the margins pushing closer to the center. We recognize the power of storytelling and its ability to un-world and re-world the terrestrial, Western conceptions of reality we take for granted, while encouraging authors and readers to consider the ongoing processes of contestation over the stories we tell about ourselves, and about others. We seek space cadets and explorers, xenographers and interpreters, Dungeon Masters and cosplayers, digital anthropologists and doctors–who is a matter of when and how and why. We know that the domains of anthropology and geekdom are in flux, what Haraway and Tsing might refer to as an inflection point, and that this prospect of a paradigmatic shift is should be accompanied by writing and research that continues to push the boundaries of what is possible and what is necessary, moving away from the vanguard of the classic to instead posit a new, more inclusive and radical canon. We remain dedicated to Ruth Benedict’s notion that anthropology exists to celebrate, understand, and defend difference, while remaining attentive to the fact that the category of difference may itself be outdated.

About Nick Mizer

Although much of my work focuses on tabletop role-playing games, I think that geek culture in general has a lot to offer for anthropological study, from understandings of modernity and consumerism to the role of the imagination and wonder in the midst of those more “serious” trends. As I explore these things, I find myself straddling the borders between anthropology, folkloristics, and performance studies.

There is one comment

  1. Anthro Reckoning and Reconnaissance | The Geek Anthropologist

    […] The Geek Anthropologistbegan in 2012 as the personal blog of a graduate student in Canada. The platform has grown to include numerous writers, editors, and guest contributors, all of whom contributed their time without financial compensation or reward, who collaboratively built a community. The project was dedicated to the belief that anthropology was not only of interest to the public, but that there were dimensions of ethnographic analysis edged out by the finer lines of high academia. Many of us spent our lives already at the margins, seeking out the outer spaces and darker edges of imagination that proposed alternative ways of being. Yet our interest in certain kinds of media, consumption, and communities also meant that we drew a more focused readership. Whether by virtue of our small collective of writers, our limited resources as a community blog, or the subject matter of our work, we have remained somewhat outside of the wider anthropological blogosphere. For this reason, we’ve thought of ourselves as the Anthro “B Team.” […]


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