Self Study

So, I’m “officially” started on my year of self-study. As discussed in a previous post, my core plan consists of reading a review article from the Annual Review of Anthropology each week and writing something about the experience. I have various textbooks for general reference, a few other books, the Internet and the public library. I don’t feel ready or prepared or organized, but here I go. I’ve picked Mondays as the due date for writing a first response to the current article I am reading. I may blog about the article several days during that week or just on Monday.

The Annual Review of Anthropology lists reviews under five main headings: archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics, regional anthropology and cultural/social anthropology. I won’t try to choose evenly between those topics, but I will read some in all. I’ve chosen my first five reviews to read:

Death:  A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Cultural-Social Anthropology
Phyllis Palgi and Henry Abramovitch

Language and Disputing
D. Brenneis

Hominid Paleoneurology
Biological Anthropology
Dean Falk

The Archaeology of Equality and Inequality
Robert Paynter

India:  Caste, Kingship, and Dominance Reconsidered
Regional Anthropology
Gloria Goodwin Ratheja

I chose to read “Death: A Cross-Cultural Perspective” first as someone special to me died suddenly this year. At the time, I found that I had no strong attachment to any particular beliefs about death, and that was a problem. I had decided as a tween that the benefit of rituals and/or spiritual beliefs was not dependent on any connection to truth, so that type of struggle wasn’t an issue. I had just left the matter of death beliefs unresolved. In the short-term I borrowed from the strength of belief of people I respected. I engaged in special prayers and chanting for 49 days in Buddhist fashion. I found it helpful. I’ve started the article. I will write more about it next week.

Being without the net for a few days, I was hit with the realization that I never watch TV news anymore, not even the headlines on CNN or The Daily Show. All my news comes for the net and the occasional foraged newspaper. I have a seemingly intact Wall Street Journal from September 17. While I do learn about bits of TV news on the net, maybe I will try to watch occasionally in an effort to feel less untethered when without the net.

I keep saying that I will get myself a Sunday New York Times and read it all in an effort to feel sorta caught up. That’s the nice thing about a tangible paper — being able to get that sense of having read the whole thing.

And I’m getting my list of English-language newspapers from around the world back together. I used to have a world news blog. I cut and pasted from my old list to create the World News Sources in English page. I still need to check the links and resort the page.

During my net free days, I worked on sorting the list of articles from the Annual Review of Anthropology that I will read over the coming year. I’ll write more about that process in a different post.

I’ve been reading articles in various volumes of the Annual Review of Anthropology.  These articles are reviews of the literature on a given topic.  The writers give a snapshot of trends and consensus.  In thinking about my year of reading anthropology, part of me wants to read as many of these reviews as possible thus creating a collection of snapshots.  The other part of me wishes to focus on a collection of related reviews and read as much of the referenced literature as possible.  As much as I am drawn to the latter choice, I believe I am at a stage where a survey of anthropology might be more appropriate.

Now it’s on to constructing a plan of study.  My initial premise is to read one review a week for a year.  That sounds vaguely reasonable given work and life and all that.  What remains is to figure out how I plan to digest the reading.  Each review could easily spawn months of reading.  I need a clear plan of approach.  Ok, I read the article and write a summary/notes.  Then what?  How do I blog about that experience?  Perhaps, I will be able to figure that out as I go along.  It seems if I try to get it all clear in my head before getting started then I will never get started.

As much as possible, I would like to lift what I can from the review on its face.  However, I imagine that as I read a variety of reviews, certain works will move to the front as essential background reading.  How do I fit those into my reading schedule?  Should the schedule be more flexible?  I think reading one review a week and writing “something” about it will have to be the baseline.  I will have to trust that something meaningful and enriching will come of that.  So, stick to the baseline and be flexible as far as other reading.

Which reviews do I read?  Do I set out the 52 reviews from the beginning or do I schedule them a few at a time? Do I set a tentative schedule of 52 reviews, but remain open to changing them around and/or switching one out for another?  I like the idea of getting a list together.  I hate the idea of being tied to a list, but I know there will be times when I would otherwise spend too long deciding what to read next.  So, I will make a tentative list of 52 reviews, but leave open making adjustments as I go along.

That’s my thinking so far.  Now I have to fight this notion that I have to commit this general plan before getting officially started.  I’m on a test drive.

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