When Nikki Stern asked if I would like to submit an article for DTMS, one of the requirements was that I write under my real name. The timing dovetailed with research I’m planning for a follow-up article to my Extinction piece. I want to formally interview a few experts, and I was thinking that if people are willing to talk to me, I should publish under my name--even if they want to remain anonymous. All of which forced me to revisit the reasons I write under a pseudonym.
When I first started writing in pubic, I had a different pseudonym. The main reason for choosing to write under a pseudonym was that I was terrified. I imagined random, total strangers reading my work, disagreeing, and causing problems for me IRL. My hope was that the Internet, my pseudonym, and obscuring the specifics would provide a buffer to safely step back and explore a variety of topics related to parenting in a specific type of subculture. The entire effort failed miserably, and I abandoned it.
I then took what I had learned and became Anthropologist Underground nearly two years ago. I’m much more careful about personal narrative now, and I’ve shifted the focus onto broader issues. I think I’ve also become more sensitive to ethical conundrums. I’m still terrible at predicting which pieces will resonate with readers and generate interesting and challenging discussions. Stellaa has a great piece about the personal challenges of writing in front of people.
I find the subversive nature of my pseudonym very appealing. Writing as Anthropologist Underground helps me to take a step back and view my own experiences through the lens of anthropology. It also reminds me to be vigilant in keeping my own biases from getting in the way of facts. Sometimes I get it wrong, but I do make an honest and good-faith effort to find credible, objective sources and to apply logic and reason. I also alter my paradigms as credible evidence challenges my assumptions.
Still, every single time I click “publish” or submit a piece to another site, it feels like jumping off a cliff. It’s both thrilling and terrifying. More so under my real name. Over time the voice of Anthropologist Underground and my own voice have become increasingly indistinguishable, and this is why I’m gathering the courage to publish occasional pieces here on OS and elsewhere under my real name. Wish me luck!