A blog for EPIC
The difference between a bottom line and a budget and how it affects practice with social services
A review of Pahl-Wostl’s book, "Water governance in the face of global change”
In Water Alternatives
Rewind and Fast-Forward, Parts 1 though 5 (242.3KB)
What "is" anthropology, looking back over decades of academic, applied and practitioner life. Original done for Savage Minds, savageminds.org
AWRA IMPACT article Who Owns Puebla Water? (280.5KB)
Rise of Asamblea Social del Agua, water anti-privatization movement in Puebla Mexico
Betwixt and Between: geological phase transition, adaptive co-management, and anthropology
Article for Anthropologies on Savage Minds
Op-Ed piece My Infrastructure Runneth Over
Santa Fe New Mexican on water in Eldorado
Review of Water Co-Management (83.0KB)
Forthcoming book review for Water Alternatives
Review of The Social Life of Water
Book review for Water Alternatives on an edited book of anthropological studies of water crises across numerous different kinds of sites
Ode (Owed?) to Baltimore
Blog about past research in Baltimore while thinking about recent killing and riots that followed, with thanks to Dick Powls for sponsoring it.
What Kind of Plant is Santolina?
New Mexico Mecury article about hearing to decide fate of a proposed suburban development near Albuquerque.
New Mexico Mercury article about lack of empathy and grounded understanding of human social issues in NM proposed legislation
Water Is For Talkin' Over
In the New Mexico Mercury: A report back from the 21st annual statewide New Mexico Water Dialogue meeting and thoughts on an inclusive governance strategy for our water's future.
Turbulence Real and Imagined: Water Governance in New Mexico
Abstract for a talk given at the Santa Fe Institute in January
Looking For Culture In All The Right Places (59.8KB)
Article on culture training through language for the journal Cultus, forthcoming
Why Human Social Science Needs to Be Used to Get "Stakeholders" and "Community" into Water Policy
NM Mercury article about a public meeting on changes in the use of the Gila River Basin
Forward to Torres book, a collection of his Growing Up Spanglish newspaper columns (102.9KB)
Introductory comments based in linguistic anthro to a collection of stories written in Northern New Mexican "Spanglish"
Lecture at School for American Research in Santa Fe 8/17
"A Game of Scientific Clue: It was the Human in the Anthropocene with Water." Talk on role of anthropology in water governance reform.
The Lively Science sample chapter (185.4KB)
A readable book about how an alternative social science that doesn't try to pretend it's a chemistry lab can do a better job. Available in print and e-versions on most internet bookstores
Review of The Lively Science (177.4KB)
Another Review of The Lively Science (129.4KB)
Putting water into aquifers instead of sucking it out
NM Mercury article story of a meeting where I live about water shortage and climate change and what to do about them.
Traditional irrigation in New Mexico
NM Mercury article on museum exhibit about traditional acequia irrigation in Nuevomexicano communities
Article on how the war on drugs corrupted public health epidemiology
Blog invited by Rachelle Annechino for the Ethnography Matters group
A version of translation as basis for ethnography with an AI influence (259.4KB)
Academic article, "Making sense of one for another: Ethnography as translation," for Language and Communication
Human Eddies and Flows, an article in Journal of Water History (1.3MB)
Academic article about a dynamic model that explains a case of water conflict in Albuquerque in the 1950s/60s
How water governance needs some "creative destruction."
NM Mercury article about a panel of experts talked about the need for water policy reform in the state.
Ethnography as essential part of the organizational development mix (180.8KB)
Academic article in Organizational Research Methods
An Outsider's Ethnographic Thoughts About Design (112.7KB)
Academic article in Arts and Humanities based on an interview about ethnography and design
Models for sharing water instead of going to court in times of drought
NM Mercury article about the "Water Dialogue" meeting, many different kinds of water users talking about how to get together and adapt to drought.
The state plans for a new water policy that looks like the one they planned for and never implemented
NM Mercury article about the kickoff meeting for a new water plan to base policy on.
Academic article on early days of ethnography in the drug field (97.0KB)
In press in a special issue of Advances in Criminological Theory on qualitative research in criminology.
The dream of drinking all that deep brackish water under the desert
NM Mercury article about a visit to the national research center on desalination in Alamogordo
Ethnography as a nonlinear dynamic system in process and outcome (104.5KB)
Academic article in Complexity
"Knowledge transfer" has to move in several directions in an organization, not just top down (175.7KB)
Article in Practicing Anthropology with several examples of how power squelches innovation
Chapter 1 of Culture: An Upgrade (575.2KB)
Preprint of article on Ethnographic/organizational research for Org Research Methods 13(2) 2010 (113.0KB)
E:CO article on complexity, narrative and the organization, wonders what ordinary language in a complex organization would look like from the perspective of linguistics (475.2KB)
Agents in Living Color article in JASSS, describes going from ethnography to an agent-based model that describes how narrative drives or brakes an illegal drug epidemic
My Kingdom for a Function article in JASSS, describes ways to convert ethnographic complexity to language a computer can understand
Working on water in New Mexico is starting to feel like working on drugs used to. Intellectually interesting as it all is, there are a lot of problems, a growing amount of information, and a large number of people willing to put those two things together. But, like both the drug issue with its decades long "war" and current alarms about water and climate change, the political will to change how we do things is absent. I'm speaking of the US now, not necessarily the rest of the world. I could tell plenty of stories of how US influence blocked not only its own, but also global drug reform. And at the moment we have a presidential candidate and many members of Congress who want to withdraw the US from the recent climate change agreement in Paris. And in New Mexico? Good luck with the state, something I wrote about in a recent op-ed piece for the Santa Fe New Mexican. The land of enchantment is paralyzed by the top.
So, in my old age, I started thinking about a more fundamental problem, human cooperation and conflict. The truth is, I first muttered "the hell with it" and went back to my days at the Language Behavior Research Laboratory at Berkeley and started thinking about language and culture, about "languaculture" as I called it in Language Shock. Back in the day, we discourse types focused on language as the publicly available symbolic system that served as an inroad to understanding and explaining biographical and historical differences between "us" and "them." We never talked much about the evolutionary origins of language and culture among humans as a species. So, a few months ago, I thought maybe I'd go way back in time and take a look at that to get some perspective. Drugs and water? No way to be of any use there.
Holy Mother of God, as we used to say at St. Michael's. The amount of recent work on the emergence of languaculture, across species and through time, has already blown up my bibliographic software. The topic has grown into its own transdisciplinary field. I'm exploring it now, trying to construct a framework that lets me put a few of the pieces together in my own twisted way. ("Putting something together in a twisted way" is an interesting clause. It reminds me of several home improvement jobs I've done.)
But a funny thing happened on the trail through a few sources. One theme in several I looked at was the question, languaculture, what is it good for? A functional view, sometimes in an imaginative way even from an early human point of view. The question has many answers, the traditional evolutionary measure of natural selection, the imaginative answer of better living among early humans, the logical answer of building on communicative abilities that were probably already present based on interspecies comparison, and laboratory-based answers given the spectacular amount of relevant brain science in recent times. All deserve their own elaborate discussion in addition to other areas not mentioned in that preliminary litany.
One thematic answer across several areas is this: Languaculture is a tool that facilitates flexibility in service of cooperation. The traditional empirical anchors for this claim are tasks like hunting and warfare. More recently the notion of allo – parenting has come to the fore, the idea that it takes several kin in collaboration to increase the chances of human infant survival and growth. It's not all helping each other out though. With languaculture also came refined skills at deceit and manipulation. And cooperation in war brings up all the insider – outsider hostility issues that have to be part of the story as well.
But that link between the emergence of languaculture and its use to advance flexibility and cooperation in some of the ancestral tasks that fulfilled early human Maslovian needs – it returned me to the frustration with earlier work in the drug field and more recent work in water. Whatever happened to flexibility and cooperation in those areas? At low levels of scale, it had always been – and still is – possible to find little islands where languaculture worked its magic. Once in while you see it at higher levels of scale as well. Drug policy in the Netherlands, though I'm not sure of its current status, used to be the poster child for national drug policy reform. And California under Gov. Brown initiated a serious effort at the state level to foster cooperation in the face of climate change. The jury is of course still out on that one – some decisions have been criticized because they are anthropocentric without consideration of what nature would say if it had a voice.
At any rate, the notion that the origins of languaculture might be examined to understand and develop new approaches to human cooperation in contemporary times looks like a useful and interesting path to follow for a while. Probably there are libraries full of books, 20 new research institutes, and a new job title – CCO, chief cooperation officer. Why are you laughing? Just watched a Trump rally? I know for sure that there is a massive amount of relevant material about conflict and cooperation in general, though most of it, as far as I know, doesn't look back to the beginning of Homo sapiens sapiens where languaculture got its start.
So I think I'll read and maybe do a couple of book reports to get started, especially given a recent omen. No sooner did my fuzzy question take shape than a new book caught my eye, another example of the principle that you are what you notice. Actually my significant other spotted it and said "maybe you oughtta take a look at this." It's called Tribe: On Homecoming And Belonging, by Sebastian Junger, the guy who wrote The Perfect Storm. Maybe I'll write a blog about that in awhile. It's trade nonfiction – so likely to be a migraine free read – that drives for that non-reductionist link between human origins and contemporary human problems that I'm after.
My own writing is dormant at the moment, except for the occasional journal or book manuscript evaluation. I want to read for a while now. I'll be back next time with a book review.
Life is interesting.