The American Anthropological Association has named Justin Shaffner as Book Review Editor for its new digital book review platform. This innovative project is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Justin is currently completing his PhD thesis in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He previously studied anthropology and philosophy at the University of Virginia.
He brings to the AAA Book Review editorship nearly fifteen years of experience in academic publishing, as well as involvement in various other digital projects, such as the Open Anthropology Cooperative and The Melanesian. Some of the former includes working with Prickly Pear Pamphlets (1999-2004), helping to found two open access journals, OAC Press (2009-2014) and Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory (2011), and being assistant (2003-2005) and associate editor (2009-2015) for Anthropology and Humanism, the journal of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, a section of the AAA.
He conducted 18 months of fieldwork (2006-2008) with Marind speakers living in Middle Fly and Lake Murray region of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. His research focused on the experiences of kamok-anim, or community leaders, as they attempted to elicit and maintain productive relations across various global alliances, from regional ritual networks to relations with transnational mining and logging corporations, NGOs, and the state.
His doctoral thesis takes the Marind concept of “dema” (cf. Van Baal 1966) as a starting point to analyze and describe the trans-Fly, which spans both sides of the international border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, as a complex regional system. Taking inspiration from the Melanesian philosopher Bernard Narokobi (1977), he attempts to take the concept seriously, not as a “religion” (cf. Jensen 1963), but rather as a geophilosophy, or philosophy of nature, in its own right, one which affords an opportunity to redescribe the environment, history, and political economy of the region.
More recently, his ethnographic research has served as impetus for co-organizing (with Rachel Douglas-Jones, Casper Bruun Jensen, and Brit Ross Winthereik) a workshop in Copenhagen in 2015 on capacity building, “Hope and Insufficiency: Capacity Building in Ethnographic Comparison.” The international workshop, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, seeks to bring into dialogue scholars whose work offers a comparative basis for analyzing capacity building from which to advance the first edited volume dedicated to theorizing capacity building in ethnographic comparison.