2016: Trends in Teaching, Publishing, and Anthropology

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  • posted byAnne
  • dateJanuary 19, 2016
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Top 102015 was a bit of blur for me. I spent the bulk of the year in a post-concussive haze. Thankfully, our team pulled in some great syllabi to share with you, and we relied on experienced instructors to offer us interesting classroom activities. We even corralled a more artsy group of anthropologists to take us on Graphic Adventures in Anthropology. We hope to build on that this coming year, and are kicking things off with our Top Ten Trends for 2016. It’s a strange list perhaps—an intersection of teaching, publishing, and anthropology—and one you might not see elsewhere, but we hope you find some value in it.

So, with apologies for being a little late in getting this out, here are our top trends for 2016 (drum roll, please):

#10 Sustainable Publishing. We’re expecting that academic publishing will continue its bipolar trend toward expensive, commercial publishing on one end and open-access on the other. We are hoping, however, that this will be the year that a discussion about a viable middle ground emerges, one where non-profit university presses can continue to exist (and who knows, maybe even thrive), and where sustainable business models can be not just imagined, but worked out.

#9 Transmedia Storytelling. Instead of choosing between publishing a book and doing something more experimental, academics will take a page from Hollywood and successful YouTubers, and think about how to tell a series of related stories across different media. Think: podcasts that provide backstories and context, narrative comics based on characters outlined in monographs but designed for popular or pedagogical purposes, or interactive digital games that allow elements of the book to be experienced differently. The key to transmedia is to make sure that the stories told on each platform use the platform appropriately, are satisfying and self-contained but attached to a larger story, and that taken together, this larger story offers something greater than the sum of its parts. While experimentation abounds, it is the conscious attempt to develop an effective transmedia strategy that will mark a departure for scholarly dissemination in 2016.

#8 Public Anthropology. With the help of Rob Borofsky and the Center for a Public Anthropology, the interest in engaging in research that deals with important issues of the day, and in translating that research to as broad an audience as possible, has reached an all-time high. This will become institutionalized in 2016, reflected in the launch of SAPIENS and new institutional and funding opportunities. It will also become more deeply embedded in the curriculum with new textbooks designed to make public anthropology a key component of doing anthropology.

#7 Fun and Games. In 2015, Krista Harper got us thinking about what we might gain by bringing anthropology and games together. In 2016, Matthew Durrington’s Cards Against Anthropology will be a, ahem… game changer. Using a rip-off of the game Cards Against Humanity to bring questions about ethics and fieldwork into focus, Durrington’s creative-commons-licensed material will travel widely in anthropology classrooms, morphing and mashing up into endless creative iterations. Look for an upcoming post on our site with Matthew about this initiative in the near future.

#6 Turning the Visual Corner. Since the 1990s, Lucien Taylor has been writing about how the linguistic turn in anthropology is giving way to the visual. This has accelerated in recent years, and in 2016 we may well turn that visual corner, moving from thinking about, and experimenting with, to cementing visuality in methods, curriculum, and research output. Lindsay A. Bell will continue to share her thoughts on the Visual Turn on the TC blog in the near future, so stay tuned. As well, look for a new book we will be publishing later this year called Drawn to See: Drawing as an Ethnographic Method by Andrew Causey.

#5 Comics. Comics took the academic world by storm in 2015—from Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening to the Graphic Medicine Manifesto. The year was bookended with our Graphic Adventures in Anthropology blog series, culminating in the announcement of our exciting new series ethnoGRAPHIC last spring, and the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography’s exceedingly popular series Comics and the Anthropological Imagination in December. These aren’t your kid’s superhero comics. Anthropological comics promise to embrace the medium not just to reach a broader audience, but to address some of the discipline’s ongoing challenges vis-a-vis collaboration, representation, and narrative experimentation. Remember, you heard it here first.

#4 Imaginative Ethnography. Beyond the visual, ethnographers are experimenting with methodologies that allow for greater creativity and anticipatory engagement in their work. This “Different Kind of Ethnography” engages with the sensory ethnography movement, but extends it in even more creative ways, capturing those not-always-visible, but most-definitely-felt, experiences of fieldwork that include both the human and the “beyond the human.” These imaginative alternatives, carefully curated by our friends at the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, are moving from the margins to the centre, and will be published as a methods book designed for teaching in 2016.

#3 Imaginative Teaching. There’s nothing new about using innovative assignments and techniques in the classroom to engage students in anthropology. But scaling these ideas up so they can work in larger classes will be the challenge for 2016. We have two new guest bloggers on the blog this winter/spring: Erin McGuire, Assistant Teaching Stream professor at the University of Victoria, and Leah McCurdy, a member of the Anthropology Teaching Forum (ATF) at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Erin will write about the challenge of engaging large introductory classes, sharing some of her more interesting tricks with us, while Leah will provide her thoughts on teaching anthropology through imaginative literature (hint: Tolkien and Harry Potter will make appearances in her posts).

#2 Anthropocene. There’s no question that the Anthropocene is hot. It will most definitely get hotter in 2016. As Todd Sanders and Elizabeth Hall note, Anthropocene Anthropology has its work cut out for itself. Collecting and sharing sample syllabi for teaching about the Anthropocene is at the top of our own To Do list. We’re pretty sure thinking through, and teaching about, the Anthropocene is at the top of yours as well.

#1 Connective Anthropology. Uber and the so-called “connection economy” defined 2015. In 2016, this trend will only deepen, resulting in new, lasting communities that are forged out of specific needs, but that will outlast their initial purpose. We’re not really sure what that will look like—but we’re pretty sure that anthropologists will expand their already lively presence on the web. We’re honoured to be a part of that online community and hope we can continue to earn your trust by providing useful content and connections that you value—in teaching, publishing, and anthropology.

Happy new year!

Anne Brackenbury
Executive Editor, University of Toronto Press

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