Anthropology for All (Nika Dubrovsky & David Graeber)

is creating trouble but hopefully in a truthful and edifying fashion

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About

SHORT VERSION

We are Nika Dubrovsky (artist) David Graeber (anthropologist) who, are with our friends (you perhaps), producing politically challenging children's books for adults (children too). We have discovered something interesting: no one will publish books like that. Even if you're a famous author, great artist, etc.. But we want to change the culture. And the culture needs to change. You can help! Not just with money - though we definitely need some of that - but in all sorts of ways that can make you part of the team, as editors, translators, contributors, researchers, even possibly someday authors. Nothing here is locked. Please help disseminate! Once things are up and running, we hope to operate as a publishing house supplying physical books, art works (cups, curtains), but in the meantime, enjoy! Help! Spread the word!


LONG VERSION

So a lot of us are spending a lot more time at home with our computers these days, so we figure it might not be a bad time for self-education. (We know that's what we've been doing.)

One thing we've been thinking about for a long time is how to make genuinely challenging ideas as broadly accessible as possible. One of us is an artist. The other is an academic. Both of us are in fields where one is encouraged, almost expected, to say or do things that are at least a little shocking and scandalous, or at least, that defy conventional wisdom, but also, to do it in such a way that only a tiny and most very privileged audience is likely to have the slightest idea what we're even talking about (or indeed, to know or care that we ever existed.)

Now let's consider the opposite extreme: children's books. These are read by millions of people at probably the most impressionable time of their lives, when their very ideas of what life is basically like and about are being formed. And their contents are controlled by gestapo-like ideological control. We should know, as we've been trying to create alternative children's books for some time, and the number of walls we've hit our heads against defies imagination. There are rules about everything. How many words on the page, how large the heads in drawings have to be in proportion to the bodies, what sorts of format are admissible and inadmissible, all depending on carefully specified target age groups. They'll never tell you “no that's too radical” (or, well, okay, sometimes they will) but if you try to get in a radical message, everybody and their brother suddenly feels they have the right to intervene.

So to hell with them we're going to do this ourselves. Hopefully you can help.

Here's our plan:
  • On the academic side, we're going to put up video and audio snippets from David's lectures, as well as recording and posting occasional conversations with friends and comrades of one sort or another, or just with each other. Little ideas or exchanges that people like might to share. We hope to soon start putting up small ones fairly frequently. After that, who knows? We can't promise but we have lots of ideas (also this rather expensive equipment we don't quite know how to use. But we'll figure it out. I'm pretty sure.)
  • We don't like charging people money for stuff so all content on this Patreon account will be free of charge. It can be downloaded, shared, and distributed by anyone interested in it, provided obviously you don't start claiming exclusive rights or charge anyone else money for it or do any nasty things like that. Thank you for reading, watching, sharing, commenting!

The content must be free!

We would be delighted if you make suggestions about who to talk to (and have reason to believe might be interested in talking to us – i.e., the Dalai Lama probably isn't interested.)

We would like to see unexpected conversations - not only with friends and acquaintances, not only with people we share an opinion with but also with those with whom we disagree.

However we don't want to just showcase David here, let alone reduce Nika to a support role – anyway, if you just want to know David's take on current events or even ask him questions, he's already pretty easily available on twitter. We want this to be an equal relationship, since, as noted, as artist and academic respectively, we kind of feel ourselves trapped in the same situation. So, let's get back to those children's books:
  • on the less academic side, we have been working for some years on a project that is very important to both of us, sometimes called “Anthropology for Kids”, sometimes “Anthropology for All”, which is precisely, how to bridge that gap. It's a simple fact that most of the best children's books either weren't originally written for children at all, or are written in such a way that they can be just as much, even sometimes more, enjoyed by adults.

We believe that it makes sense to talk to children on equal terms. We also believe that much of the knowledge hoarded by scholars would do well to prove itself by its ability to answer the sort of questions of a child might ask. Think of this as the "point Zero" test. The artist (Nika) takes on the role of imaginary child, throws out ideas, questions... the academic (David) tries to respond, there are no final answers, and everything is open for discussion.

"Anthropology for All" is a series of children's books each of which sets out to address one of what Dostoevsky once called the "cursed questions", in the sense that, human beings everywhere are cursed to always be asking them, and never finding definitive answers (in anthropology they might be called "the universal human issues"): what is gender, what is power, wealth, life, death, time, art, family, the state and so on. We wanted to see if academics, even famous ones, were even capable of translating their ideas into language that children could understand, partly, as a way of testing if those academics had any idea what they were talking about themselves.

In the process we started a second series, which is less about the Great Questions as based on things children like to play at being – Kings, Pirates, Witches, Native Americans… We've already almost finished one, which is called (appropriately) “What are Kings?” and is very very loosely based on a book that David wrote with his old mentor, Marshall Sahlins. We're already thinking about how to follow up with "Who were the Pirates, Really?" and some others.

Ultimately, we'd like to involve some of our friends in writing some of these books. Here are a few we've talked to, and who have expressed some interest; but again, we don't want to make any promises, it'll just give you a sense of the sort of thing we have in mind:
  • What is an Artist? (with Boris Groys)
  • What is Time? (with Michael Hudson)
  • What is Art (with Brian Eno)
  • What is a Civilization? (with David Wengrow)

But since the children's book industry is at least in our experience not interested in kooky, subversive and experimental work (just, pretending that they are), we need your help to actually make this happen, and especially, to help us publish it and make it accessible to everyone who'd want to see it. Here's where the whole patreon element comes in.

We are going to put a new page or two of our book-in-development on a regular basis, along with the snippets and videos, perhaps alternately, perhaps sometimes we'll get all enthusiastic and do both at the same time. We'll start with What Are Kings.

We won't charge anything for that.

You however can give us money anyway, to help with the project, and our projects in general. Since this is customary, we will propose four levels:
  1. 1-4 dollars a month and you are a Truly Discerning Individual of a Generous Nature
  2. 5-14 dollars a month. You are officially a Magnificent Person Who Helps Us Even Though She Doesn't Have To.
  3. 15-49 dollars a month. You are officially upgraded from Magnificent to Larger than Life Character, in our estimation, and after four months, we'll send you a paper copy of the book, and, if all goes right, we have our eye on creating . We're pretty sure of this.
  4. 50 dollars a month – officially receive the title of A Veritable Small God of Giving Us Money. For this you get absolutely nothing. But gods don't need anything; obviously, otherwise they wouldn't be gods.

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