Street Smart Chicago

Anthropology of War: U of C wonders what can be accomplished

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“Culture” was not in the quiver of NeoCon concepts launching Operation Iraqi Freedom. When insurgents started targeting occupiers, the Departments of State and of Defense asked cultural anthropologists: “Why do they hate us?” and “How can we target Iraqi hearts and minds?” Now, twenty-four anthropologists gather at the University of Chicago to ask what mission their discipline might accomplish.  Run on military time, the Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency conference occurs in ivyed Haskell Hall. “Lux ex Oriente” (“Light from the East”) is chiseled in stone near the entrance. “All hail to the glorious and imperial future, rich with the increasing spoils of learning and the multiplied triumphs of faith,” declared a reverend professor in his July 1, 1895 corner-stone address for the Haskell Oriental Museum, now home to the Anthropology department.  Samuel Huntington’s best-selling battle cry “clash of civilizations” is tactically useless for thwarting improvised explosive devices. “Culture” is now deployed to pacify local populations. “Human Terrain” teams include civilian anthroplogists. Military planners “dream that culture can fix what thousands of tons of munitions broke,” argues Washington prof David Price. “We should use anthropology to keep us out of these invasion fiascos in the first place.”  Price researches the history of American anthropologists colluding with the American government. He notes one employed by the White House who scanned the Chicago Defender and other newspapers to pinpoint labor uprisings that might strike munitions plants during WWII.  A University of Chicago political scientist diagnoses our “clinically insane intervention” as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The generals are trying to “get it right” in Iraq and Afghanistan, after screwing up Vietnam. Lending expertise to counter-insurgency was roundly condemned. “I think it’s a sin to help occupy another country,” shares one scholar. Yet another adopts military metaphors for his talk about working for the Air Force: “Teaching Anthropology to the Military Masses: Reflections of an Academic Insurgent.”

Museum review: And Freedom for All

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With the echoes of his words sweeping over the exhibit through speakers fixated in the ceiling, the “And Freedom for All” exhibit at DuSable Museum highlights Martin Luther King and the famous civil-rights march in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Containing fifty unpublished photographs taken by famed photojournalist Stanley Tretick, the exhibit is exceptionally powerful as it lets the photographs speak for themselves. Instead of the usual factoids that go hand in hand with an exhibit, “And Freedom For All” bucks the trend by merely offering quotes from leaders who in some way helped or participated in the march, such as A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King himself, as supplemental anecdotes. The simple presentation forces visitors to take in nothing but the photos themselves and in some way feel as if they are a part of this great event in history. Located in the downstairs exhibit hall of the DuSable Museum, you are greeted with an oversized photo of Martin Luther King delivering a speech at Soldier Field in Chicago with an equally large plaque displaying the words to his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. These images juxtaposed to hearing his speech when walking up to the first photos create a chilling effect. While some may argue that it lacks any real substance beyond the photos that are on display, having the opportunity to see such well-done unpublished photographs is quite a treat—especially when they pack the narrative quality that Tretick’s photographs possesses. (Thomas Barbee)
“And Freedom for All” runs at DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 East 56th Place, (773)947-0600, through June 1.

As Fast As You Can: The annual Polar Bear Run braves the elements

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It’s supposedly twenty-eight degrees but it feels ten times more bitter when the crowd gathering around the Quadrangle at the University of Chicago spots the nudes, a flesh-colored train of runners furiously chugging along with no respect to frostbite or hypothermia. Hundreds of onlookers lining 58th Street collectively gasp as their eyes brace for impact. “Do you have a camera?” a spectator asks a friend. “If there’s no camera, then there’s no point.”
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Bohemian Rhapsody: University of Chicago profs study the migration of hipsters and other urban phenomena

Andersonville, Bridgeport, Bucktown, City Life, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Kenwood, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Little Village, Logan Square, News etc., North Center, Pilsen, Roscoe Village, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Washington Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville No Comments »

By Sean Redmond

Entering Wicker Park by the Blue Line, you emerge into the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee to a long-familiar sight. There’s the Double Door across the street, Flash Taco and, until just recently, the façade of Filter, Wicker Park’s former hipster coffeehouse extraordinaire. These staples, like many along these primary roadways, fade into the background with repeated visits; yes, you know you can find Reckless Records and American Apparel and the venues and art galleries in the surrounding area, but getting where you want to go requires little thought once you’re situated enough to put your eyes to the sidewalk and your feet into autopilot. But then one day, you get off the train and, surprise, the boarded-up shell of Filter is replaced with an expansive Bank of America, and your mind jolts back into motion. Suddenly, a wave of thoughts bursts forth: “Man, there are a lot of banks in the area,”or “Wicker Park really is getting commercialized,” or  “Maybe I need to start spending more time in Logan Square.”
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Saved Treasure

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When Dr. Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, stops by the Oriental Institute Museum in a few weeks, he’ll probably try to tell you the real story is the artifacts themselves, the archeological treasures from the cradle of civilization. But George has a helluva story, too. The acclaimed archeologist witnessed firsthand the looting of the priceless antiquities inside the Iraq Museum when the U.S. forces invaded in 2003. “It was worse than we expected because whole premises were under attack,” he says. “They were taking everything: furniture, computers, printers, fax machines.” Things turned worse for George in 2006, when he heard from close friends that high-ranking officials wanted him out because he was a self-professed Christian, forcing him and his family to flee to Syria. “I am sure I would have been assassinated had I not left,” he says. George will lead tours of the Oriental Institute  on Sunday, January 6, at 1:30pm and 2:30pm.

Academic Alliance: Noam Chomsky comes to U of C…or does he?

Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park, News etc., Politics No Comments »

There are at least a thousand people struggling to pour into the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, trying to witness a roundtable discussion on academic freedom, and many are surely there for one person: Noam Chomsky, MIT linguistics professor, harsh critic of U.S. foreign policy and iconoclastic superstar. The problem is that there’s a wall of activists with handouts, revolutionist newspapers and clipboards in the way.
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