Anthrodoodles Update #3: A snippet from my script

Today’s Sunday Monday update: I finished the script!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, kinda. It needs a lot of touching up here and there—better transitions into citations, more concise descriptions of anthro jargon, fewer run-on sentences, and a bunch of other things that if I continued to list here you’d shake your head and say honey, that is not what “done” means.

But a week ago I just had the essence of the thing. Now the thing has life. It breathes and stirs in the autumn wind along with the foliage paving my driveway. It exists.

To prove its existence on the interweb, I’m sharing a chunk of my script below, just to put it out there. If you have any thoughts or suggestions or questions or secrets you’d be willing to share with me, I’d greatly appreciate reading them 🙂

. . . . .

Let’s begin by looking at our definitions of nature and culture as we use them colloquially.  If you simply Google the definition of “nature,” you get something like this:

the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. 
— Oxford Languages

. . . Basically, everything in the physical world, except for humans, and anything humans have touched.  In our lexicon, the term “nature” essentially refers to the environment around us, but it usually never includes us.  There are aspects of our lives that intersect with natural elements, sure, but that’s more like crossing over into the sphere of the natural, or the natural into the sphere of the cultural—stepping into extrinsic territory. And as soon as humans are present in the “natural” sphere, it’s assumed that humans have altered the landscape and made it less “natural.” 1  We have a romanticized view of nature as this wild, eternal realm that reflects a prior, untouched way of the world, sans humans.

So then, what is culture?

Whereas nature exists free from human interference, we think of culture as a uniquely human creation, arguably the [hallmark of humanity] in the Western canon.  We use culture as a dynamic and diverse identity marker comprising different languages, different ways of life, and different world views that define different social groups.  So, while nature is a universal and fixed entity that exists outside of us, culture is the part of the world where all humans belong, taking different shapes and forms across communities and constantly changing throughout history.

But if we’re defining culture and nature by the presence of humans, or lack thereof, we face the age-old philosophical question: what does it mean to be “human”?  To be less abstract, what I’m really asking is, should all humans be grouped into the category of “culture,” just on the basis of their humanity—and should all nonhumans be excluded from being a part of our societies by that logic?  If so, who gets to determine the parameters that set us apart from other beings, such as personhood, agency, and social relationships?  And if we go back to the fact that it was just some guy in France 2 who established this binary of nature and culture over three hundred years ago… Why should that be the norm today?  

1 Spence, Mark D. 1999. Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2 The guy in France is René Descartes, who I mention earlier in the video

. . . . .

And then I go on to discuss why a lot of anthropologists think the nature-culture divide is silly and dumb and no fun at parties!

Okay that’s all for now, see you next week & thank you for reading ❤

Anthrodoodles Update #2: One Frame In

We have made it to Week Two of updates for Anthrodoodles!
Today, I’m very happy to announce that:

  1. The video is not ready
  2. But! Hear me out,
  3. The script is also not ready

I can explain. You see, as all self-employed (?) creatives do when they’ve set an arbitrary deadline on a project that has yet to exist, I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun if I started a second thing before I finish the first thing and created more work for myself and gave myself less time to work on both of those things?” and emphatically replied, “Yes, yes it would!”

So while I was chugging away at the Nature-Culture script, an inner voice crept up and cajoled me into starting a second script against my will, and my attention had to be poured into an introductory video for Anthrodoodles. Now I have two incomplete scripts.

Just a detour, not a derailment. The intro will eventually need to get made, as a kind of “Welcome to Anthrodoodles, here’s the kind of content you’ll find here!” message. So in a sense, I’m actually ahead of schedule—overachieving, even! But we’ll focus more on just the Nature-Culture video for the entirety of next week because gosh darn it I just wanna get this first video started (although the phase after scriptwriting is voiceover recording which is easily my least favorite phase).

But since you came all this way to read this blog post today, I will give you a sneak peek of the animation style I’m picturing for this project by sharing the first and only frame I’ve illustrated, to be used in my introduction video:

Graduation in the age of corona

In this shot, I was thinking I’d briefly cover my background and say something along the lines of recently I got a degree in Anthropology blah blah blah. I actually prefer to have the voiceover recorded and laid out and edited before I start storyboarding and piecing together the visuals with the script, but I just needed a visual affirmation that this project is real. Every time I look at this, I convince myself a little bit more that this video will get made.

So I’m not even going to think about the fact that the two hours I put into this single shot will translate to 1.7 seconds in the video.

Baby steps, folks. The babiest of baby steps, but a step nonetheless.

Anthrodoodles Update #1: Coming Soon!

It’s been 3 months and 15 days since I graduated from college, which means that for roughly 107 days, I have been telling anyone who will listen that I am starting a video project where I discuss topics in anthropology that I find interesting and break them down for a non-anthropologist audience to enjoy and see how cool anthropology can be, presented in the form of silly little drawings.

“Sounds great,” you say. “So where do I find these videos?”

A crippling silence fills the room. Emerging from the stillness in the space between our bodies, the silence responds on my behalf: nowhere. My gaze clings to a speckle of dust left on the floor, too weak to confront your eyes stained by disappointment.

. . .

Over the past several weeks of trying to get this project off the ground, I have come to a profound discovery: it’s kinda hard to make stuff inside your brain make sense in someone else’s brain. But earlier this week, as I was wallowing in defeat over the continued nonexistence of my video project, my partner—who has a personal research blog of his own, and who is much better about posting regularly than I am—suggested that we strike up a deal: we must both commit to posting an update on our projects every Sunday, and hold each other accountable, no matter what. Even if we have only a tiny morsel of progress to report, we must post something.

I don’t wanna say I’m a competitive person . . . But few things are more intolerable than having your pride wounded by someone who has outlived a deal longer than you, right? So that is what has brought us here, to my very first update.

I am still in the research + scriptwriting phase. All I have to show for the hours I have poured into this project is the screenshot below, of the five drafts of this script I’ve created (four of which I have abandoned and none of which have yet to see the light of day):

Since I don’t have the actual video to share with you just yet, today I am posting a play-by-play of how the video will turn out. It’s kind of like how movie studios release the trailer way before they’ve finished making the film, probably just so that they no longer have the option to back out of the project and pretend like the idea was never born. So grab your popcorn and put on those 3D glasses and enjoy this poorly outlined teaser for my new series, anthrodoodles!

Anthrodoodles #1: The Nature-Culture Divide

  • A jaunty jingle performed on the ukulele and edited on Garage Band begins to play in the background
  • The title appears in big bold letters: the nature-culture divide!
  • Act I: The origin story (aka “the inciting incident”)
    Descartes, the gift that keeps on giving
    The film’s central characters, “nature” and “culture,” are introduced
    Haeckel’s beef with amoeba sheds light on the shortcomings of Western positivism
  • Act II: An unexpected obstacle
    A big twist results in a battle of epistemologies!
    A bitter confrontation with the inescapable fate of humankind in the 21st century
    leaves the audience feeling stranded at a point of no return
  • Act III: Resolution
    New perspectives lead to new pathways
    An emotional journey brings the audience home
  • Fade to black
  • fin

That’s all I have for now—a fetus of a dream. But I’m gonna make it happen. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it happen, and I will have an update here every Sunday to show for it. But let us keep our expectations under moderation. In the wise words of my wise friend Chadwick: Dreams take time.

I will see you next Sunday.