[-empyre-] about Brooke's post

Gabriela VargasCetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Mon May 27 11:37:03 EST 2013

Hello everyone and, Adam, thanks for asking.

 From my point of view we are an excellent anthropology department, and 
our graduates have been successful i grad programmes around the world; 
in fact, we have a very high rate of employment for our programme's 
alumni as a whole.  Several of our former students now work with the 
culture agencies of the municipality and the State, as well as with 
culture-related NGOs.  One of our graduates is the head of the State 
Ministry of Culture while another one is the head of The Office of 
Popular Cultures.  We teach students to think theoretically, 
methodically and 'outside the box'.  We have also encouraged them to 
form teams, support each other and work together.  My classes, in 
particular, have been a good place to engage the local art community, 
and to get the students to think about non-academic ways to represent 
theoretical concepts and research results, through performance, dance 
and team-developed websites (by the way, this is a style of teaching I 
developed during my stay at The Society for the Humanities, where I met 
several of you, became familiar with the type of art Tim, Renate, Brooke 
and others do, and was encouraged to connect art and music to the 
teaching of theory).

Our programme was recently reviewed and one of the main criticisms is 
that we teach too much theory and research methods and not enough 
'useful' things in our undergraduate courses.  Dishearten by this, 
because it could mean less support for our programme, I posted on my 
blog an entry discussing the social relevance of research on music and 
of research methods in general, the two subjects I teach the most 
besides my annual course on post-structural theory, 
Students reacted discussing my post on Fbook, and some of their comments 
are that the reviewers only repeated what they (the students) told them: 
that we are not teaching them useful skills that can be then taken to 
the local job market.  Now, the local job market in Merida features 
mainly local franchises of transnational corporations.

My anthro department is a great place, where professors support each 
other and learn from each other, and we all try to get our students to 
be sound scholars.  So it has been quite a shock first to be told by the 
reviewers that we teach too much esoteric stuff, and now to be told by 
the students that they don't find 'marketable' uses to what they are 
learning.  My colleagues and I are deeply troubled and right now don't 
really know how to take all of this.


On 5/26/13 7:30 PM, adam wrote:
> hi
> Your post is very interesting Gaby. I work as a facilitator of 
> collaborative knowledge production and was really amazed when talking 
> to a dance choreographer how much the two had in common. It struck me 
> very deeply.
> If you had a moment it would be very interesting to hear a little more 
> about what you think the students dont understand about the process 
> and any strategies to get them to appreciate more what they are 
> gaining from it...
> adam
> On 05/23/2013 10:22 AM, Gabriela VargasCetina wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Dear all,
>> I am enjoying this discussion very much.  What I know of Brooke's work
>> is very inspiring, and it is difficult to see how the scale or her
>> projects would make them manageable by a single person, so the question
>> group / individual becomes very relevant.
>> I am an anthropologist and we have pretty much the same problems you
>> have all been describing: the humanities and social sciences train
>> students to work individually, and not together with other people.
>> Furthermore, it is very difficult to get an anthropologist to work with
>> others from mixed training, including mathematicians and artists.  I
>> have been allowed by our Faculty of Anthropology to put together courses
>> where students have to dance or perform their theoretical concepts, or
>> design anthropologically-meaningful websites using theories derived from
>> fiction, always in teams.  However, many of my colleagues (especially at
>> other universities) think this is all bizarre and nonsensical, and even
>> the students think that they do not develop 'useful skills' in my
>> courses.  And yes, like art students, as per Ana's comment, anthropology
>> students today are being told they should find ways to 'market'
>> themselves to corporations, individually, and follow instructions
>> instead of questioning the world.  There is the job market problem,
>> though: where will graduates from anthropology find employment, other
>> than at the local branches of multi-national corporations?  I don't have
>> any answers, but the fact that the questions are so difficult is sad and
>> troubling.
>> Gaby Vargas-Cetina
>> Facultad de Ciencias Antropologicas
>> Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan
>> On 5/22/13 4:43 PM, Ana Valdés wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Brooke I loved your rethoric question:
>>> I teach collaboration too and just a few days ago during final
>>> presentations saw the power of bringing people together who do not know
>>> each other well -- or at all-- for a common cause or, as Paul notes, 
>>> shared
>>> agendas. I pair groups of students to make media work for non-profit
>>> organizations in Westchester, a pro-bono approach with a participatory
>>> design bent. But I guess I am left wondering why collaboration is to 
>>> this
>>> day is still seen as unusual or something special in art practice 
>>> and art
>>> education and not the modus operandi? Now we are going to study
>>> individuality ... the methods of and reasons for working alone!!
>>> I agree totally with you and wonder why all artist educations
>>> are headed to educate artists as "entrepreneurs", as they were
>>> heads of an unipersonal enterprise with only them as contracted.
>>> I think that's the problem when you try to create the idea
>>> artists and writers are "professions" as doctors, podologists,
>>> architects, dentists or other.
>>> The writing educations grow as swamps, the "creative writing" is now
>>> an accepted part of the curriculum in many of the world's universities
>>> but do we have seen the growing of a talented writing group
>>> of people equivalent to all who are being educated as writers or
>>> do we see the same amount of people writing without any
>>> academical education?
>>> My point is: we are evolving from the concept the artist or the writer
>>> as gifted by God and part of an elite to another myth:
>>> the artist or writer as part of a corporation, skilling them in
>>> selling of their own works, marketing it and publishing it.
>>> I think collaboration is nearly mandatory today if you want to make
>>> changes and leave a trace in the world we live into.
>>> Ana
>>> -- 
>>> http//congresomujeresdenegromontevideo.wordpress.com
>>> <http://congresomujeresdenegromontevideo.wordpress.com>
>>> http://www.twitter.com/caravia158606060606060
>>> http://www.scoop.it/t/art-and-activism/
>>> http://www.scoop.it/t/food-history-and-trivia
>>> http://www.scoop.it/t/urbanism-3-0
>>> cell Sweden +4670-3213370
>>> cell Uruguay +598-99470758
>>> "When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth
>>> with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you
>>> will always long to return.
>>> — Leonardo da Vinci
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> -- 
>> Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
>> Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas
>> Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
>> Carretera a Tizimín km 1
>> Mérida, Yucatán 97305.  México
>> Tel. +52 999 930 0090
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas
Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
Carretera a Tizimín km 1
Mérida, Yucatán 97305.  México
Tel. +52 999 930 0090

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