Unsolicited Advice for Students about Sex

Unsolicited advice is often worth about as much as you pay for it, but I was so impressed by these two videos that I felt obligated to share them.  The first is about campus ‘hookup culture,’ and without moralizing against casual sex in any way, makes clear how damaging hookup culture can be to the students who find themselves in it.  The second is about how pornography is transforming actual sex, in ways very few of us would appreciated.


TEACH: Ritual and Ecology in Southeast Asia

I’m very pleased that I have been awarded a grant from the Presidential Initiative on Curricular Renewal (PICR) here at Macalester College. The topic of this year’s PICR grants was ‘sustainability,’ and the class for which I received the grant is titled Ritual and Ecology in Southeast Asia.

Here’s the description of the class from the grant proposal (after the jump):

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khmer, teach

Khmer Transliteration System – Free Download

Dear friends, owing to a lack of easily available transliteration systems for Khmer, I have decided to make the one I prefer to use in my academic writings available as a free download.

The file contains a brief explanation of the difference between transliteration and transcription, explains why I have elected to focus on transliteration, and provides (last two pages) a nearly-complete table of conversions.

Please note that I said “nearly-complete”: I have not put much effort or time into figuring out how to deal with some of the diacritics that appear in Khmer script.

Enjoy, share, and please comment or suggest additions.

Davis Khmer Transliteration


Laryngitis=Typed Class Notes Introducing Victor Turner

I feel pretty good, but have no voice whatsoever.  So, since I have four and a half hours of class to teach today, I’ve spent the morning typing out my introduction to Victor Turner for my class on Ritual.  We’ve spent most of the first three weeks discussing Durkheim’s Elementary Forms and van Gennep’s Rites of Passage, but the students have not been given formal introductions to Marx or Weber in this class (though they’ve likely encountered them elsewhere).

The reason I’m really posting this here, though, is that I’d like to submit these notes to the collective wisdom of both of my readers.  Anything in here you’d care to quibble about?  Let me know!

RITUAL – Introducing Victor Turner
Erik W. Davis

In many ways, Turner sets the stage for contemporary interventions in the anthropological theory and study of ritual. He combines in his person and scholarship a lot of the concerns from conflicting and previously unassociated theoretical approaches: Marxism, Durkheim, and Van Gennep.

Durkheim and His Competitor Trains of Thought

Recall that Durkheim is considered one of the three major founders of Social thought (inclusive of both Anthropology and Sociology), along with Karl Marx and Max Weber. Each of these founders has a distinctive approach to key problems: the nature of the social division of labor, the relationship of economic and social organization to ideology and religion, ‘modernity,’ and the role of institutions in social life.

Each of them were confronted by an apparently radically novel social situation – capitalism – which seemed to break definitively from all previous forms of traditional society. It is difficult to overemphasize the extent to which all three of these thinkers, regardless of their differences, saw the contemporary modern period as a period of profound social flux and change. All of them also tied these changes to capitalism, the new division of labor in society into classes, and the role of religion. Summarizing any of these individual’s thought does violence to their subtlety. However, schematically, we can characterize them in the following ways:

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