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Hack my grad school application

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 02, 2012 at 4:38 AM

I'm applying for a PhD in Anthropology. My research focus is not so much on the biochemical and nutritional components as in the social components of the Paleo movement: questions from 'Can the world population be healthfully sustained on a paleo diet?' to 'How do followers use the Internet to modify their understanding of a paleo diet?' (It's a fascinating community we inhabit, more so when you take a step-back to consider the hundreds of people gazing at their computer screens in order to answer discussion topics like ['Hack my wife's vagina.'])1

What are the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community? If you were to read a book or article taking a holistic approach to the Paleo lifestyle, what are the questions you most want to see answered?

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:16 AM

I think that's the most interesting thing about the 'paleo' movement - the word as it pertains to anthropology. We're seeing a movement (and not just nutritionally) where evolutionary science/health/medicine/bio etc. is filtering into the mainstream. Witness the AHS sponsored by the Harvard Law Society, Fivefingers going mainstream, etc. Yes, still a group at the fringes, but I think the 'evolutionary' basis levels a sticking power also echoed by departments of evolutionary science and medicine springing up all over. Fully open to a wide-range of ideas - only asking to see thoughts out there

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:11 AM

I agree, and perhaps it would have been better to frame the question in the larger context of food systems, which is ultimately what I want to study. Nutrition, food systems, etc. are questions of power; the power of this community being, for example, access to information. Granted there exist a large number of posts of people trying to assuage their binge-guilt through answers related to 'refeeds' etc., but its also a well-educated forum. You don't see this, for example, in poorer communities, where nutrition is not a focus. Point taken - but this is also why I want to start the discussion.

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:04 AM

It does almost seem like a blog post on 'Stuff White People Like' at times.

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 02, 2012
at 05:16 AM

Self-sufficiency as a by-product (or focus) of the movement is really fascinating. It's interesting to think about Paleo as a vehicle toward self-sufficiency where the current Food Pyramid has so desperately failed. But then again, it's only a specific sort of person, I think, going in for the Paleo diet. But imagine its effects if McDonalds could box up Paleo. Thanks!

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5 Answers

5
71af3866ba45915e06061a627b40f31d

(235)

on September 02, 2012
at 04:09 PM

I think one of the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community (in the US) is, "How do we NOT become another elitist fad for skinny white people wearing goofy shoes?" (brilliant, thought-provoking blog post here.

What would 'Paleo' look like in poor or African American communities? What cultural or socio-economic obstacles would have to be overcome?

I think I might like to study that question too... :)

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:04 AM

It does almost seem like a blog post on 'Stuff White People Like' at times.

2
9a783f1b60e2936f07f1f38fc62c11e4

on September 02, 2012
at 04:55 AM

Maybe a broader look at some of the "side effects" of paleo, such as community supported agricultural, self sufficiancy (in the form of learning to cook/process food rather than relying on an industrial system). Child rearing choices within the paleo community? Good luck- interesting topic! personally, the things that bother me in this realm is the tendency for self absorbtion-- focusing too much on looks/ micros /macros/hypochondria, etc. One thing I really appreciate about MDA is his focus focus on having fun / building community / relaxing etc.

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 02, 2012
at 05:16 AM

Self-sufficiency as a by-product (or focus) of the movement is really fascinating. It's interesting to think about Paleo as a vehicle toward self-sufficiency where the current Food Pyramid has so desperately failed. But then again, it's only a specific sort of person, I think, going in for the Paleo diet. But imagine its effects if McDonalds could box up Paleo. Thanks!

1
Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on September 06, 2012
at 08:08 PM

"What are the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community?"

Depends on what kind of tack you want to take with your studies. The nutrition/physiology stuff absolutely fascinates me, but I've also found myself quite taken with so many of the non-food aspects of this "movement," or whatever you want to call it.

This is why I like Mark Sisson so much -- he's one of the few prominent voices out there that talks about a lot of these lesser considered variables:

  • NDD - what I think of as Nature Deficiency Disorder. I know some people hate the outdoors, and that's cool, but I gotta tell you, when I get into a forest, hiking trail, or other wooded area, I can honestly feel a change inside me. Literally the energy in the air all around me is different, and I can feel it doing something to me. A little woo? Yeah, maybe, but don't try to convince me I don't like that better than sitting in my cubicle under artificial light for 9 hours a day. Same goes for a coastal area, watching and listening to the tides go in and out. Heck, even a big garden makes me feel better! And I find it a shame of epic proportions that I have to drive about 30 miles away from my house just to be able to see some decent stars at night! What is with all the porch lights on all night long? My neighborhood is bright as day in the middle of the night. Eek. (Yes, I know...it's not the neighborhood, it's me. I don't belong in the city, and do have a long-term goal of getting away from it when I can.)
  • Social ties - tons of psychology books written about this -- we're more connected than ever before, yet many of us are more isolated than ever. 250 Facebook friends? Fabulous. How many of them will be physically by your side and holding your hand when there's a crisis?
  • Child rearing - Extended vs. nuclear family - now we have moms & dads who both work full time and have strangers caring for their children. Used to be that grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, and trusted family friends/tribespeople would look after everybody's kids. How much does this have to do with adrenal burnout now that most people are on their own when it comes to the huge demands (both physical and emotional) of raising children?
  • Joy - seems like many of us spend a lot of time just sort of muddling through. We merely "survive" until the weekends, which always pass too fast. Monday morning, coworkers are like, "Only 5 days 'til Friday!" I dunno...maybe some of it is keeping up with the Joneses. Some of it, I think, is feeling like we "have to" have a certain kind of life. Whether that means live in a certain area, have a certain "kind" of job, or even have kids because it's "expected" of us. How many of us are truly living our dreams? How many of us have daily routines we enjoy? (Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying every day for your entire life should be perfect and happy and filled with magical unicorns that poop gold coins, but you know what I'm getting at. How many of us are surviving, but not thriving? Just sort of making it from one day to the next, and all of a sudden, 5 years have gone by and you don't have much to show for it? I think sometimes we feel like it's supposed to be a struggle. You're supposed to put in as many hours as you can. (If you don't, the next guy will, and he'll get the promotion.) I think this is a difference between the U.S. and a more European work ethic -- the sense of pleasure, balance, and not being defined by your type of employment.
  • Self sufficiency -- other people have already touched on this, so I'll keep it short. I think that aside from the food safety/security issues, there's a great deal of pride and sense of accomplishment in raising or growing your own food -- particularly because so few of us do it. What's more "Paleo" than providing for yourself with the resources you have around you? (Hehheh...looking at it that way, I guess going to the supermarket and loading up your cart with meat and veg counts here, but you know what I'm saying!) I'm a born and raised city girl, but I worked on a small farm for about 6 weeks a while back and freaking LOVED IT. I LOVED being in the country. (Central PA...tiny town outside State College.) Not only were we growing and raising a lot of food, but there were so many other farmers, artisans, and craftspeople in the area, and a lot of food and other items were bought/sold via barter or just plain exchange. No written contracts, no lawsuits...just honest people sharing their wares and trading fairly. And there was so little waste. A lot of food scraps went to the pigs and chickens, what could be recycled was, and they had a beautiful fire pit on the property where we had bonfires and got rid of some more paper waste. It was a whole different perspective for me on sustainability, local food, and commerce.
  • Community -- with email/Twitter/whatever, we have instant contact with people all over the world. We can import the fanciest, most pristine foods from wherever we want. In many ways, this is GREAT. But in some ways, I think we might do well to turn more insular - focus on building better resources and food/socially connecting infrastructure right in our own zip codes. I live in Northern VA, and I guarantee you some of the city dwellers here have NO IDEA that there are a ton of amazing farms within a 40 minute drive. Drive west out of DC and you have some really fantastic grassfed beef being produced right here. (Now again, instant connection is great. There are a lot of Paleo meetup groups forming, and these like-minded people probably never would have met otherwise. So I'm not saying we need to be Luddites. The technology has its place. But there's also so much potential to do things in our own backyards.

Sorry for the long answer. Just wanted to add some of the things that are outside the n-6/n-3 nitty gritty food stuff.

0
Af382f5a5e7fa8992d13b47ae92100a1

on September 02, 2012
at 08:16 PM

Yeah, I wouldn't mention "paleo" going into an anthropology program, unless you are prepared to discuss that word as it pertains to anthropology, not nutrition. Any academic program you look at is going to want you to be open to a wide range of ideas, not because what you want to study is inappropriate, but because you--right now--probably don't know enough to ask the really juicy questions. (Which, I guess, is why you are asking us? Eh, we don't know either.) Other fields that may get you to a point where you can ask some really juicy fun questions about social and cultural forces that shape nutrition/food policies and beliefs and how those forces interact with health care, science, industry, the environment, the economy, etc: global studies, agronomy, communication, American history, health policy, public policy, (food/agricultural) law. Heck, you could even study nutrition.

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:16 AM

I think that's the most interesting thing about the 'paleo' movement - the word as it pertains to anthropology. We're seeing a movement (and not just nutritionally) where evolutionary science/health/medicine/bio etc. is filtering into the mainstream. Witness the AHS sponsored by the Harvard Law Society, Fivefingers going mainstream, etc. Yes, still a group at the fringes, but I think the 'evolutionary' basis levels a sticking power also echoed by departments of evolutionary science and medicine springing up all over. Fully open to a wide-range of ideas - only asking to see thoughts out there

0
26e2364f7966432bbf8acfe930583674

(460)

on September 02, 2012
at 07:26 PM

Your goal is to get into grad school, and you will have to negotiate the bulk your projects with your advisors for the forseeable future. A good way to disqualify yourself in the application process is to come off as someone who does not appear to have any room to negotiate and depart from their preconcieved notions - nobody wants that guy as an advisee.

I think it better to go into the application process looking like someone who has interest in a process or form of interaction and who thinks a particular group a good case study and has a rationale for that. I think the recency or the development of a paleo community would serve as justification enough as you are more likely able to observe the formation and negotiation of boundaries, etc.

It is largely semantic and procedural, but you have a career of dealing with the semantic and procedural BS of academia in order to continue doing the research you want to do.

Two final thoughts: 1) You may want to consider disciplines beyond anthropology depending upon where in that broad spectrum of potential topics you note above you find the majority of your interests to lie. Addressing issues such as the global sustainability of paleo for all seems a bit removed from the purview of anthropology. And 2) the questions that a community most want to see answered (your solicitation above) are not necessarily those that are best to base a research program upon, assuming that they are questions that can be answered. If nothing else, I think this lends to your appearing more a zealot than someone with an academic interest (read- unadvisable).

Ba99a15e6bf870b81286791617050593

(671)

on September 03, 2012
at 04:11 AM

I agree, and perhaps it would have been better to frame the question in the larger context of food systems, which is ultimately what I want to study. Nutrition, food systems, etc. are questions of power; the power of this community being, for example, access to information. Granted there exist a large number of posts of people trying to assuage their binge-guilt through answers related to 'refeeds' etc., but its also a well-educated forum. You don't see this, for example, in poorer communities, where nutrition is not a focus. Point taken - but this is also why I want to start the discussion.

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