Cultural anthropology of 9/11

Cultural anthropology is not, overall, an events-driven field of study as are journalism and political science. But if, in recent times, there was to be an event that would inspire cultural anthropologists to apply their research skills and analytical insights, 9/11 is high on the list. Cultural anthropologists excel at looking at the local and seeing the global connections, or vice versa. Cultural anthropologists are about connections — between people, ideas, states, policies, contagion, and more.

Ground Zero ten years after 9/11/2001

What follows is a mini-bibliography, the result of a quick search in AnthropologyPlus through my university library’s electronic resources. It is not comprehensive. It is just a sample. But it offers tantalizing and important insights into what a cultural anthropology perspective has to offer in understanding the 9/11 event. Please note that AnthropologyPlus does not pull books or reports — only journal articles.

Of the over 30 articles listed below, several are focused on New York City. A few examine social responses and reactions elsewhere in North America and in some other countries around the world. Only one article, in this sample, looks at women. Some examine expressive culture (music, art).

Kelly (2002) published the earliest article, in this sample, about 9/11. Then, there is a bulge of papers in 2004. This gap between the event and anthropologists’ ability to collect and analyze data reflects both the positives and the negatives of traditional cultural anthropology. It takes so long (the negative) to produce high quality data (the plus).

How can cultural anthropologists become more engaged with, and ready to speak about, “events” and their effects? Or should they not aspire to do so?

Coming from another direction, an “event” can inspire important scholarly research that may take several years to publish. But it’s worth the wait. Consider, for example, Lisa Vanderlinden’s 2011 article in Medical Anthropology, “Left in the Dust: Environmental Illness in the Aftermath of 9/11.” She argues for the validity of WTC illness (World Trade Center illness) and discusses the power issues involved in toxicity-related illnesses. Coming from another direction, Johan Fischer’s article, “Boycott or Buycott: Malay Middle-Class Consumption Post 9/11” tracks a pattern of resistance to buying American goods in response to an Islamic call to boycott US goods following 9/11.

The following list includes more, much more. Once again, I apologize that most of these sources are not open-access.

Ben-Ari, Eyal. 2008. War, the Military and Militarization Around the Globe. Social Anthropology 16(1):90-98.

Bilimoria, Purushottama. 2007. “9/11:” Hindu and Asian Responses in Oceania. Man in India 87(1/2):83-101.

Bird, Jon. 2003. The Mote in God’s Eye: 9/11, Then and Now. Journal of Visual Culture  2(1):83-97.

Bornstein, Aram. 2005 Antiterrorist Policing in New York City After 9 /11: Comparing Perspectives on a Complex Process. Human Organization 64(1):52-61.

Brash, Julian. 2004. The Work of 9/11: Myth, History and the Contradictions of the Post-Fiscal Crisis Consensus. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):79-103.

Brohi, Nazish. 2008. At the Altar of Subalternity: The Quest for Muslim Women in the War on Terror – Pakistan After 9/11. Cultural Dynamics 20(2):133-147.

Carrithers, Michael. 2008. From Inchoate Pronouns to Proper Nouns: A Theory Fragment with 9/11, Gertrude Stein, and an East German Ethnography. History and Anthropology 19(2):161-186.

Clarke, John. 2004. What’s It for? The Work of Anthropology and the Work of 9/11. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):9-14.

Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip. 2011. “The Disappeared:” Power Over the Dead in the Aftermath of 9/11. Anthropology Today 27(3):5-11.

Crosston, Matthew. 2008. Compromising Coalitions and Duplicitous Diplomacy: US Support for Tajikistan After 9/11 and its Security Implications. Central Asian Survey 27(2):155-167.

Engle, Karen J. 2007. Putting Mourning to Work. Making Sense of 9/11. Theory, Culture and Society 24(1):61-88.

Fischer, Johan. 2007. Boycott Or Buycott?: Malay Middle-Class Consumption Post-9/11. Ethnos 72(1):29-50.

Gaskew, Tony. 2009. Are You with the FBI?: Fieldwork Challenges in a Post 9/11 Muslim American Community. Practicing Anthropology 31(2):12-17.

Gusterson, Hugh. 2003. Defending the Nation? Ethics and Anthropology After 9/11. Anthropology Today 19(3):23-26.

_____. 2003 Anthropology and the Military: 1968, 2003, and Beyond? Anthropology Today 19(3):25-26.

Hammond, Andrew. 2005. “The Danger Zone of Europe:” Balkanism between the Cold War and 9 /11. European Journal of Cultural Studies 8(2):135-154.

Hathaway, Rosemary. 2005. “Life in the TV:” The Visual Nature of 9/11 Lore and its Impact on Vernacular Response. Journal of Folklore Research 42(1):33-56.

Hurley, Molly, and James Trimarco. 2004. Morality and Merchandise: Vendors, Visitors and Police at New York City’s Ground Zero. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):51-78.

Kelly, John D. 2002. Western Universalism and the Suburbs of Humanity: A Commentary on 9/11. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 88:77-91.

_____. 2003. U.S. Power, After 9/11 and before It: If Not an Empire, then What? Public Culture 15(2):347-369.

Kromidas, Maria. 2004. Learning War/Learning Race: Fourth-Grade Students in the Aftermath of September 11th in New York City. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):15-33.

Langlois, Janet L. 2005. “Celebrating Arabs:” Tracing Legend and Rumor Labyrinths in Post-9/11 Detroit. Journal of American Folk-Lore 118(468):219-236.

Maira, Sunaina. 2010. Citizenship and Dissent: South Asian Muslim Youth in the US After 9/11. South Asian Popular Culture 8(1):31-45.

Mukhopadhyay, Bhaskar. 2008. Dream Kitsch – Folk Art, Indigenous Media and “9/11:” The Work of Pat in the Era of the Electronic Transmission. Journal of Material Culture 13(1):5-34.

Naber, Nadine. 2006. The Rules of Forced Engagement: Race, Gender and the Culture of Fear among Arab Immigrants in San Francisco Post-9/11. Cultural Dynamics 18(3):235-267.

Rahman, Shafiqur. 2010. Imagining Life Under the Long Shadow of 9/11: Backlash, Media Discourse, Identity and Citizenship of the Bangladeshi Diaspora in the United States. Cultural Dynamics 22(1):49-72.

Rousseau, Cécile and Kamil Uzma. 2008. Meaning of 9/11 for Two Pakistani Communities: From External Intruders to the Internalisation of a Negative Self-Image. Anthropology and Medicine 15(3):163-174.

Susser, Ida. 2004. An Anthropological Take on the Aftermath of 9/11, in New York City. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):9-14.

Swedenburg, Ted. 2004. The “Arab Wave” in World Music After 9/11. Anthropologica 46(2):177-188.

Tucker, Jed. 2004. Making Difference in the Aftermath of the September 11th 2001 Terrorist Attacks. Critique of Anthropology 24(1):34-50.

Valandra, Edward C. 2003. Remember 9-11! White Belligerency in the Academy. American Indian Quarterly 27(1/2):420-428.

Vanderlinden, Lisa K. 2011 Left in the Dust: Negotiating Environmental Illness in the Aftermath of 9/11. Medical Anthropology 30(1):30-55.

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