Faculty Writing: On Totalitarianism, Digital Anthropology, and Broadway Musicals

In the New Yorker, Christine Smallwood reflects on the musical Cats and childhood memories as the show makes its return to Broadway. 

“Several years ago, during a routine game of Trivial Pursuit, I was asked who had written the book on which the musical “Cats”_ _is based. I reached for the dice to roll again before I finished saying the words “T. S. Eliot,” in a voice that telegraphed the sentiment “Duh.” My fellow-gamers were aghast. None had an inkling that the author of “The Waste Land” had also penned, as a gift to his godchildren, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” There immediately followed an interrogation: How did I know so much about “Cats”? I did not think that having the soundtrack memorized meant that I knew “so much,” but it is the way of faux pas that we reveal ourselves more by what we think is normal than by what we think is strange.”

In a recent blog post, Jordan Kraemer reflects on the state of digital anthropology and social media practices in light of the international anthropological research project Why We Post

“This great diversity of practices on social media make it possible—and necessary—to theorize what it means to talk about some networked communication technologies as “social media,” and to examine what worlds and forms of social life take place on and through them. Ultimately, Miller and his team concluded that studying social media offers a way to study diverse, often localized, social formations, because media practices are entwined with everyday living in specific cultural contexts. Studying social media becomes a way to study human social worlds.”

Also in a recent post, Samantha Hill discusses the totalitarian elements in contemporary American politics in light of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism.  

“Arendt’s account of the rise of totalitarianism can provide a kind of guidepost, but we must do the work of unraveling this specific moment. This is precisely why Arendt undertook her study of totalitarianism in the way that she did: to describe the conditions and elements of totalitarianism in her own time, as a unique set of circumstances that lead to a unique totalitarian regime. In this way her work is historical, but it is not a work of history. It serves to guide us in thinking about and recognizing where and how totalitarian practices might emerge. Arendt’s account helps us to be historically attuned to what elements signal the emergence of totalitarianism and fascism.”

Finally, Raphaële Chappe recently appeared on the Laura Flanders Show to discuss the activist hedge fund Robin Hood Coop. 

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