Dr. John L. Jackson Jr., Book Talk and Signing

The Berman Center for Jewish Studies

Thursday, October 16, 2014
4:10PM - Humanities Center
Reception following with book signing
This event meets the 5x10 requirement for Identity Development

Co-sponsors: Africana Studies, Global Studies, Departments of Religion Studies, and Sociology & Anthropology

Thin Description: Ethonography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

Dr. John L. Jackson Jr. 
Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice
Richard Perry University Professor
University of Pennsylvania

The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem are often dismissed as a fringe cult for thier beliefs that African Americans are descendants of the ancient Israelites and the veganism leads to immorality. But John L. Jackson questions what "fringe" means in a world where cultural practices of every stripe circulate freely on the Internet. In this poignant and sophisticated examination of the limits of ethnography, the reader is invited into the visionary, sometimes vexing world of the AHIJ. Jackson challenges what Clifford Geertz called the "thick description" of anthropological research through a multidisciplinary investigation of how the AHIJ use media and technology to define their public image in the twenty-first century.

Moving far beyond the "modest witness" of nineteenth-century scientific discourse or the "thick descriptions" of twentieth-century anthropology, Jackson insists that Geertzian thickness is an impossibility, especially in a world where the anthropologist's subject is a self-aware subject--one who crafts his own autoethnography while critcally consuming the ethnographer's offering. Thin Description takes as its topic a group situated along the fault lines of several diasporas--African, American, Jewish--and provides an anthropological account of how race, religion, and ethnographic representation must be understood anew in the twenty-first century lest we reenact old mistakes in the study of black humanity. 


John L. Jackson Jr., is Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and Richard Perry University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Jackson received his B.A. in Communications (Radio, TV, Film) from Howard University and his Ph.D. in Anthropolgy from Columbia University. As a filmmaker, Jackson has produced fictional films and documentaries that have screened all around the world, including Amsterdam, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobogo, Curacao, London, Puerto Rico, Toronto, and South Africa. He has published serveral books: Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity (University of Chicago Press, 2005), Racial Paranoia: The Unntended Consequences of Political Correctness (Basic Civitas, 2008), Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Harvard University Press, 2013), and (co-authored by Cora Daniels) Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion (Atria/Simon and Schuster, 2014). His most recent film, co-directed with anthropologist Deborah Thomas, is Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens (Third World Newsreel, 2012).

For information Office of Interdisciplinary Programs 610-758-3996 or incasip@lehigh.edu