2010 In Review

2010 has been a great year for Zero Anthropology, with so much to celebrate that it’s difficult to know where to begin (and when to stop). From July onward we witnessed a steep comeback in terms of the number of our on-site readers, eventually breaking all of our records to the extent that now for the past three months we average more than 1,200 on-site views per day, and often (depending on the post and where it was most circulated) we can get twice that number from off-site views in addition. We have now passed 525,000 on-site views since this site began three years and two months ago, with more than 1,000 posts published, and more than 6,000 comments on this site. We have also spread and diversified across media, to the extent that we can no longer really know how many people are watching, that belongs to the ZA assemblage. This year we added ourselves to MySpace and Facebook, with our Facebook page gaining more than 200 followers in just a few months (and as I like to say, some of the best followers we could ever hope for, anthropologists and not, students and professors, journalists and activists, people from all over the world). Our collaborative efforts have increased markedly this year, even if only the product of the collaboration is all that is visible. We have doubled our number of bloggers, making this now a group blog more than the one-man show it has been. Via Twitter and email, our correspondence has led to several pieces that resulted from conversation and collaboration, with the help of people as diverse as a journalist in Malaysia and another journalist in South Africa; an artist in Milan; a computer hacker in Germany; a party activist in Venezuela; a Maori writer in New Zealand; anthropology students in Canada, France, and the U.S.; Egyptian workers’ rights activists; and some current and former members of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System. Earlier this year, Zero Anthropology was featured in an article in the American Anthropologist, available here. And then there is one of our most important collaborations to date, with Wikileaks, in setting up a mirror site, providing financial support, and advocating in defense of Wikileaks.

Then there are the successes that are relevant and sometimes related to ZA that deserve mention. One was the March launch of Anthropologists for Justice and Peace (AJP), to which I belong, an exciting collaboration all on its own, with much more to come from that. Another was the creation of Alert Press and the release of The New Imperialism, Volume I, which also reflects my changing academic practice, thanks in part to the New Imperialism seminar (about to start again in a few days). Then there is the fact that I have begun to write articles as a paid columnist for Al Jazeera Arabic (only three so far this year), and freely for CounterPunch (also three articles), with all six of these different articles being about Wikileaks. As I discuss below, 2010 was the Year of Wikileaks, and it is a gift that keeps on giving. In addition, John Stanton wrote a multitude of articles that appeared in newspapers around the world, and I gave several media interviews this year as well. Also somewhat related, perhaps minimally, was this year’s release of Indigenous Cosmopolitans.

Back to this site, 2010 also saw the beginning and/or completion of a number of special series, dealing with the Human Terrain System, empire and anthropology, Wikileaks, and Afghanistan. Features of ZA that have virtually disappeared are the spontaneous blogging and essays about music–in favour of almost rigidly planned series. I expect to continue/renew our Encircling Empire Reports in the new year, while it is more likely that the “Zero Series” (originally meant to bring the blog to a conclusion) may be left incomplete…until a future time in another format (hint, hint). EE Reports has been important for various reasons, one of them being that you cannot have an “anthropology against empire,” let alone “after empire,” if you never write about empire, do not engage in public debates, and immerse yourself in the ideas and discussions surrounding current events. Some might call this “blogging about the news.” I call it anthropology, which is supposed to be about us being “out there,” participating and immersing ourselves with others, answering to others. That is perhaps the greatest success of ZA, in that only a minority of those who follow it with sustained interest and commentary (here and elsewhere) are anthropologists themselves. I do not think that blogging about anthropology is anthropology; it is institutionalism, professionalism, and disciplinary rarification and objectification that is conducted in the name of anthropology. In less charitable moments, I would call such a stance orthodox and reactionary. It sometimes seems to be an impossible task to get anthropologists to realize that anthropology is supposed to be about something other than itself. Simply “communicating anthropology to the public” (which always ends up being public communication among a small circle of white American academics), is not only often boring, and an arrogant principle, but is simply not anthropology except as a hollow formalism. More importantly, it reinforces the backward trend of anthropology as a form of consumption. But hey, this is a celebratory post, and here I am doing the usual…when there is all of 2011 for that.

2010, the Year of Wikileaks. Now we get to our top posts on this blog for this year–yes, some might have been placed higher, but they were published recently and have not had chance to get more views. Our top ten posts, from this year’s 201 posts, based on on-site views and feed reader views (email subscribers and others not included), were:


  1. Wikileaks: Defend Julian Assange” (10,168)
  2. M. Jamil Hanifi’s “Is TIME’s Afghan ‘cover girl’ really a victim of mutilation by the Taleban?” (3,067)
  3. Continued: Debating the Pros and Cons of Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary” (2,822)
  4. Collateral Murder: U.S. Soldiers Killing Civilians in Cold Blood” (2,751)
  5. Torturing the Whistle Blowers: The Case of Vance and Ertel in Iraq, Substantiated by Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs” (2,720)
  6. Wikileaks and the Moral Dualism of the U.S. State Department” (2,013)
  7. Mapping the Terrain of War Corporatism: The Human Terrain System within the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (1,914)
  8. Professor Tom Flanagan: Glib about Murdering Julian Assange” (1,697)
  9. Multiplying Human Terrain Dreams of Victory and Fortune” (1,690)
  10. Human Terrain Teams in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary: Raw Data” (1,316)

Other essays and reports that deserve mention, if anything for being unique contributions, are John Stanton’s several scoops in 2010, including: “Human Terrain System Under Investigation: HTS Link to JIEDDO & US Death Squads;” “The New Face of the Human Terrain System;” “Human Terrain System Criticized by U.S. Congress;” and of course the pair, “Human Terrain System Program Manager Dismissed: Georgia Tech Wants Out” and “Montgomery McFate: Gone from the Human Terrain System.”

Jamil Hanifi’s articles about Afghanistan get wide distribution, many reprinted in whole or in part on other sites, and quoted by journalists. In addition to this essay (at #2 above), other memorable essays included: “The ‘Dirty Secrets’ that Purify a Dirty War: A Colonial Tale of Dancing Boys, a Journalist, and the Human Terrain System in Afghanistan” (which we recently followed up); “The Killing Fields of Marja;” and, of course, “The Loaded Goat: Revisiting Pine Cone Anthropology in Afghanistan.”

In addition to the above, I would include the following as other large efforts on my part: “Bibliography and Archive: The Military, Intelligence Agencies, and the Academy (with special reference to anthropology) – Documents, News, Reports” which took months to prepare, and is even now continually updated; “Time Line and FAQ for the Human Terrain System and Responses by the Network of Concerned Anthropologists and the American Anthropological Association;” and, most important of all my HTS essays (in my view), “Revealing the Human Terrain System in Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary.” I also enjoyed preparing three satirical items: “U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM): Commemorating Columbus Day 2010,” “Burlesque Afghanistan: Pulp Fiction from an Embedded ‘Reporter’,” and still my favourite, “Counterinsurgency: It’s Bloody Horrible.”

It has been a privilege and an honour working together with Jamil, John, and Eliza. I wish them, you, and all of our new readers a very…exciting 2011.

Now, if you want to leave 2010 in the laughing critical spirit of ZA, you must see our friend Guanaguanare’s post featuring “Judge 1000 Years” (Mutabaruka) putting “post-colonial” independence sellouts on trial (you can read along there too). There’s also a wonderful Part II, on religion, Judge 100o Years still presiding.

8 thoughts on “2010 In Review

  1. Pingback: 2010 In Review (via ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY) | First Praxis

  2. Donald S

    I confess! I’m still catching up on November’s posts, looking for that elusive zero series and here you say “no more.” Happy new year anyway! That doesn’t mean I will stop reading, just that one of my favorite features has stopped. You also seem to have started some sort of trend of “2010 in review” anthro blog posts all coming out after yours. Pretty cloistered bunch, aren’t we :)
    One question-“anthropology is supposed to be about something other than itself.” Not sure I follow what >you< mean here because the zero series was definitely about anthropology. Do you mean that anthropological training should be in something other than anthropology itself, or that when anthros write it should be about something other than anthropology, or that we should drop (if we ever really took it up) the anthropological study of anthropology, or that doing anthropology is not writing about anthropology?
    What's planned for 2011? You didn't mention that in your post. Whatever it is, looking forward to more. I won't be joining Facebook or twittr to stay in touch, sorry, but best of luck with those. I just learned what RSS was this week. Anyhow: Happy 2011!

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Donald! I am so glad you wrote, after what seems like a long “absence.” I have also sent messages to both of your email accounts over the past months, only to see them returned as “undeliverable,” which is surprising because one of them is your university address. I see you are using the same one here, so until you email me at max.forte@openanthropology.org, there are some things that will have to wait.

      By the way, to be fair, I have seen that “year in review” type of posts for a while, I did not invent it (I am pretty sure). Are we “cloistered”? No, I think the politically correct term now is “community of practice” (so amorphous that it could describe inbreeding).

      For 2011…I have nothing planned! The next few weeks are super busy for me anyway. Later this year my sabbatical begins. I have said before “I should be posting less in coming weeks,” only to suddenly reverse it, so I won’t say if I will be active here or not–only that I am really tired, really busy, and really want a break from this. Encircling Empire, for now, is my only planned type of post, also because it helps me to take notes and keep a record of items I might find useful later on. That Zero Series…in some cases a single post took me a week to prepare, quite the opposite of how easy I thought it would be, and I certainly do not have that kind of time, and not for here.

      Quickly: about “anthropology being about something other than itself,” you were close, but you took the line out of context and so it can acquire almost any imaginable meaning. Here I am talking about “anthropology blogging” as NOT being “blogging about anthropology” (which, actually, anyone could do, even a non-anthropologist in the formal academic sense). Likewise, public anthropology should be much more than anthropology in public. In broader terms, it reminds me of how many courses universities have with the title “Anthropology of…” or “Anthropology” somewhere else in the title. Funny: I do not see “The Political Science of Transnational Politics,” or the “Economics of Fiscal Policy.” Maybe we remain deathly aware of our own shaky existence and floppy claims to authority. However, to students, it sends the wrong message: “this course will be about anthropology, and what anthropologists say,” rather than about human rights, film, tourism, etc., as such. What we have then is an anthropology that is for itself, rather than anthropology as a means of learning something more important: about the world, beyond the world of anthropologists and what they choose (not) to write.

      Is that clearer, or far messier?

      Please send me an email, I do have a few questions I wanted to discuss with you, and in fact related to that zero series which you seemed to like so much (thanks very much!). Very best wishes for the new year to you too!

  3. Jérémy

    Congratulations to the four of you !

    Looking forward to an exciting 2011, after a successful 2010 !

    Best Wishes.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks very much Jérémy, and had I remembered, I should have included special thanks to regular, special commentators such as yourself, Ishtar, and CM. My apologies for that, and a very happy new year to you too!

  4. Pingback: Wednesday Round Up #136 | Neuroanthropology

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