I don’t know why, but anthropologists like to come up with all sorts of titles for their papers, articles and books that they regard as clever and catchy, but which often sound esoteric and mean very little in themselves.
They then usually add subtitles to define what a particular piece of research is all about. My first book, for example, was titled Lost Innocence: Folk Craft Potters of Onta, Japan.
As a publisher friend later advised me, this was a bad move. At the time at least, university libraries’ data processing methods dealt with titles only, and ignored subtitles. As a result, Lost Innocence was likely to be followed up by someone interested in romance or soft porn, rather than in pottery.
At the recent meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose, I encountered in one panel after another the customary failure of anthropologists to state clearly what they wanted to talk about. While a few paper titles (such as “Myth, magic and materiality” and “Washlets, capsule hotels, and fembot receptionists”) gave good indication of what an audience was to expect of its presenters, others (such as “The power of Mary” and “Wilted but not ruined”) were somewhat more obtuse.
In spare moments of despondence between panels that too often turned out to differ markedly from my expectations, I found myself noting down paper titles from the programme. When I got down to re-reading them back home, I realised that they often made for rather cryptic, even fun, haiku. So here are a few to remind you of how silly some academics must appear to the outside world. And, lest you think I’m being superior, let me point out that the Eau My God title is my own.
Over the fence
Funeral strippers in Taiwan
Creating internal heterotopia –
The dead wait
The frog in the well
De-rendering the industrial pig –
Wild boar chase
Stay away from certain people
It’s all about me –
The triumph of the id
K-pop fandom in periphery
Marching to a different tune –
One click at a time
Files, floppy disks, and morbid metadata
Rule by decree
Eau my God!
The ideal Japanese papa
Big soda, Sea of soy,
Broccoli on my plate –
They poisoned our cacao fields
Free-range kids in Shanghai
Putting parents back in place –
War of words –
I said, they said –
The answer is “yes”
Pockets of peace
Recovering from ruin –
Wilted but not ruined
Emancipate yourself –
To be or not to be a corpse
Travellers don’t pack a pest –
Taking on fake news –
The politics of joy
Concrete buys time
Size (and shape) matters –
A manifesto for bridge builders
Gut feelings Going feral
I don’t want to be a zombie –
We punk tattooing
Brian Moeran is honorary professor of anthropology at the University of Exeter.
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