Jan. 13, 2023

Why the World Needs Tricksters with Shepherd Siegel

Why the World Needs Tricksters with Shepherd Siegel

Indigenous cultures around the world have a trickster god or figure in their mythos. For example, the Pacific Northwest Native Americans have the Raven, a selfish, hungry, and mischievous figure who transforms the world. Stories tell how the Raven...


Indigenous cultures around the world have a trickster god or figure in their mythos. For example, the Pacific Northwest Native Americans have the Raven, a selfish, hungry, and mischievous figure who transforms the world. Stories tell how the Raven brought out the sun, moon, and stars to light the world only by cleverly deceiving others.

In today’s episode of This Anthro Life, Dr. Shepherd Siegel, activist scholar and author of “Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love: How Tricksters Through History Have Changed the World,” discusses the Trickster archetype with host Adam Gamwell. Together, Shepherd and Adam explore attributes of the Trickster, Shepherd’s favorite Tricksters, and examples that demonstrate Trickster archetypes confronting power and tricking it into love.

Show Highlights:

  • [04:05] Breaking down the title of the book
  • [11:00] What love has to do with the trickster archetype
  • [17:04] How Shepherd’s background came into play in writing his book
  • [24:48] The different kinds of play and how they relate to the warrior and the trickster
  • [29:46] The Burning Man as an example of a cultural experience premised on disruptive play
  • [37:01] Why the trickster is anti-war
  • [45:45] On Richard Pryor narrating George Floyd’s murder in 1979
  • [56:07] Bugs Bunny as an example of a character that exemplifies the trickster archetype
  • [59:07] Closing statements


Links and Resources:

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Adam Gamwell: Hello and welcome to This Anthro Life. I'm your host, Adam Gamwell. I wanna wish you a Happy New Year's if you're listening to this when it first drops in January 2023. And if you're listening later, well, I still wish you a Happy New Year and I also hope you're having a good day. Now, did you know that This Anthro Life has quietly been expanding? In case you haven't heard, This Anthro Life now has a new blog or newsletter on Substack. It's called Anthrocurious. And if you haven't, I'd love for you to check it out and subscribe if it looks like something of value to you. There's a link to it in the show notes. I'm still getting this spun up, but we'll be creating more written content to accompany episodes, including today's episode. We'll be sharing original writing from me and the Anthrocurious community, which is you, and a whole lot more. And if you get something out of This Anthro Life and you want to support it further, you can become a paid subscriber on Substack. That supports both the blog and the podcast. And a huge thank you to those who have offered their support so far. It means the world to me and helps make this possible. 

[00:00:56] Indigenous cultures the world over have a trickster god or figures in their mythos. For example, the Raven figures in many tales of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans and even Siberian groups and Coyote in the southwest First Nations myths. There's also the spider-like Anansi and Eshu-Elegba — figures that come from West Africa but have also influenced Afro-Atlantic culture across the Caribbean, South and North Americas. There's also h To get Jungian in for a second, you can think about tricksters as an archetype. Across cultures, archetypes share characteristics, themes, and symbols that make them appear universal in human consciousness. Examples include the Mother, the child, the Warrior, and of course the trickster. Cultural critic Lewis Hyde describes tricksters as boundary-crossers who break physical and societal rules. They violate principles of social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis. The idea of playful violation of rules and norms also suggests that tricksters aren't good or bad. And as my guest today points out, tricksters are morally indeterminate. That is, they discover morality through experience, not ahead of time talk to them through some kind of doctrine. The common characteristics of tricksters across cultures suggest something important about humanity. And it's not that we share some collective unconscious, but rather, wherever there is authority or unequal power structures, there are those who seek to resist, to disrupt, and to redistribute it. 

[00:02:25] So, today, I'm very excited to be talking with Shepherd Siegel. He's an activist, scholar, and author of the book Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love: How Tricksters Throughout History Have Changed the World. Tricking Power explores the way that Trickster archetypes can be used to confront power in revolutionary ways. And one of the most compelling moves that Siegel makes in the book is to show how the Trickster archetype is alive and well in the likes of classic slapstick comedy like Laurel and Hardy but also cartoons like Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes and art movements like Dada in the early 20th century and in performance artists like The Yes Men, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Yoko Ono. We're gonna dive into the world of tricksters and disruptive play and come away with some new tools for not simply how to understand the world today but also how to be more playful. And in doing so, we won't just confront power. We might just change the world. So, I'm super excited to get into it and we'll be right back afterward from this episode's sponsor.

[00:03:30] Shepherd, so excited to have you on the podcast today. It's really exciting. I mean, I've really enjoyed diving through the book and understanding and getting a sense of what's happening in the world of tricksters. This was new to me on some levels, but then there was also these really interesting examples that were very familiar like Bugs Bunny, who I grew up with. So, I'd love to start by breaking down the title of the book. And so, there's a lot going on here. There's tricking power, performing, or tricking power into performing acts of love, which I think is a really exciting title, too. But what's going on here? Like this is a really, really interesting and provocative way to get somebody into a book in the first place.

[00:04:05] Shepherd Siegel: Yeah. You know, thank you. It was just something I've been thinking about recently because when I say that I write about tricksters to folks as I'm meeting them, Americans in particular, they kind of take a step back because nobody likes to be tricked. And so, when you talk about tricks, you know, immediately trust is on the table. But in fact, you know, tricksters have a, in the final analysis, they have a very benevolent effect on the world and that's what they do is they trick power into performing acts of love. So, one thing to know about the Trickster archetype is that they just want to have fun. And fun doesn't have a moral value. It's neither good nor evil. It's just, it's fun. And so, in trickster tales in particular, the oldest ones known to humanity, Wakdjunkaga of the Winnebago Tribe, they kind of stumble through life and they play tricks and eventually, they're going to come up against a moral dilemma and they will move from a place of moral indeterminacy — a term that Henry Louis Gates uses and that I borrowed from him — and they transform from a state of moral indeterminacy into a state of moral discovery. So, it is only by kinda letting go of our moral doctrines and wandering through the world and having experiences that morality is once again discovered. 

[00:05:32] Now, the cover of the book has a picture that depicts the trickster god of the part of the world I am from — the Pacific Northwest. And it tells the tale of how the Raven steals the sun. So, you will see Raven as the trickster god for indigenous tribes starting in northern California going all the way up through British Columbia to Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and even into Siberia. The Raven represents a trickster god. And there's many versions of the tale. This is the Tlingit version. So, what happens is Raven goes by the riverside and the world is dark. And ravens in this time are white. So, ravens are white and the world is dark, and Raven goes down to the river and sees the daughter of the chief collecting water. So, Raven turns himself into a speck of dirt and floats through the river. And the chief's daughter is drawing water, she captures that piece of dirt, and she drinks the water. And as a speck of dirt, Raven impregnates her. So, she goes home and she gives birth to this baby. And the chief — we need to know — represents power. The chief controls the sun, the moon, and the stars but keeps them in a satchel and keeps the world dark. And so, Raven is born as a little baby and the little baby that won't stop crying. And we've all had, well, not all of us, but many parents have had that experience of a baby who won't be consoled. And so, the baby is driving everybody in the lodge crazy. And the chief says to his daughter, "Can't you keep that baby quiet?" And she can't. And the baby keeps pointing at the satchel, pointing at the — more like a gunny sack. And so, finally, the daughter says, "Father, please give the baby something out of the sack. Maybe that will appease him and he'll stop crying." So, the father, the chief is very reluctant, but ultimately gives the stars to the baby. And the baby releases the stars into the world and they go up the smoke hole of the lodge and into the sky. But as you might guess the cycle is repeated. And after a short while, the baby starts crying again and won't be consoled; won't stop crying. We go through the same routine. The daughter begs the chief to give him something out of the gunny sack. And finally, the chief gives the moon and the baby releases the moon through the smoke hole. And the world now has the stars and the moon. Well, the third time it plays out a little bit differently. That once again, after a period of time, the baby is crying and crying and crying. The chief is more reluctant than ever because of all his possessions, the sun is his favorite and his most prized. But the baby won't stop crying. It's incessant. And finally, finally, the chief relents, gives the sun to the baby. Now, at the moment that the baby takes the sun, he transformed back into his true shape and he's the Raven. And the chief goes, "Oh my god, I've been tricked! This was no baby at all. This was Raven the Trickster god." And Raven does something akin to a Bugs Bunny cartoon, frankly. And it says exit stage right. I better — a Snagglepuss, actually — but says, you know, I better get outta here. And so, as you always see pictures in the indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest, the Raven always has this orange circle in his beak and that's the sun. And so, the Raven makes the hasty exit through the smoke hole. Well, all the ash in the smoke is what turns the raven from white to black, and that's why ravens are black. But to me, it's an almost perfect tale of how the king representing power, the trick representing changing into a baby, and the act of love giving the son the moon and the stars to the world. And that is kind of how I stumbled into the title of the book. 

[00:09:41] Adam Gamwell: Well, that's great. And I, that's a really wonderful like illustration of the story of how this happens, too. And I think that what struck me about it, too, just even as we kind of entered into the conversation around tricksters is like the question that kind of immediately caught my attention to is this idea of why does power need to be tricked into being perhaps more loving or kind of having acts that would in fact be more loving. And so, I like even how you kind of talked about this in the Raven tale that the idea of giving something in this case to a supposed baby, right, to one's offspring kind of functions that way. And I think this is interesting. So, how do we think about that, too? Like is love kind of the, I'm thinking about the archetypes that we have of the different, you know, we have Trickster, I wanna break it down. Some of these like the Warrior, the Mother. They are kind of the bigger, the Pantheon we might say without — I don't know if it's a Pantheon but you know. How does love play a role here? I think this is a really interesting piece 'cause I know that a lot of the other work and I wanna dig into, we mentioned this a little bit up top about your other book Disruptive Play is also helping us think about this question of how do we bring the idea of trickster thinking into politics, into cultural life today? And so, I wonder if love is one of the mechanisms — or is that kind of how you are articulating or thinking through this idea? 

[00:11:00] Shepherd Siegel: Just as I think about playfulness and fun as being morally indeterminate, to use the term again, they just are what they are. There are certain pathways. I don't know if love is a moral value either, but it leads to it. But I think love is perhaps something that we intrinsically have. So, to tell the difference between somebody who uses tricks to accumulate power, uses tricks to steal in a malicious way, uses tricks to hurt people, uses tricks in the service of hate frankly generally doesn't fit with the Trickster, even though the Trickster is not going to articulate a moral doctrine. The Trickster, because they're of pure heart, I had to ask this question myself. When they, there's this publication called RE/Search — RE-slash-Search — comes outta San Francisco and they have this wonderful, wonderful book called Pranks and they interview all the great pranksters. And they were doing this celebration of 20 years since the publication online. And, you know, in the current political scene with a lot of, some of our political figures, you know, tricks is a, it's a hazardous word I think to throw around. And I asked that very question. I go, well, us tricksters we're getting a bad name here because we've got some, you know, if you can go back to Richard Nixon, right, who was called, you know, Dirty Tricks, you know, came up around the Watergate, you know, and our recent president was play tricks to an extent. And the answer was it's, you know, is of a pure heart; that the Trickster's of a pure heart. 

[00:12:46] And, you know, you mentioned the other archetypes as well. And you said, "Well, what does love have to do with it?" Thank you, Tina Turner. And what about this relationship between tricks and power and love? And I just wanna say that the ideas that seeded both of these books happened to me at a very young age, as a teenager. And then I went and had a career as an educator. And then, when I left that job, I said, "Well, I'd really finally need to start to write down these ideas that came to me during a very utopian time." I grew up in the sixties and I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it was, and I was at a very impressionable age, so what was impressionable became indelible. So, anyway, we're in a world now where we are infatuated with the Warrior; where there's so many who believe that our problems need to be solved by defeating our adversaries. And we're stuck in this power — I don't know the word for it but just this frustrating game of power versus power and that we fight power with, you know, when power is doing damage in the world, all we can come up with is fighting it with more power. And I'm saying, well, you know, let's try tricks, you know? Let's try that, too, you know? Let's use everything at our disposal. And there's this very complicated situation going on with Ukraine, right, to bring it up to date; that Zelenskyy is this comedian who became a politician because he was a political satirist. And he's this interesting hybrid because he's been forced by circumstances to wage war, a war of defense, defending his country, but he's got a trickster soul. And so, this thing that I came upon this week even is NAFO. Have you heard of NAFO? It's a goof of NATO and it's the North Atlantic Fellas Organization. And it's a comic group of Ukrainians, but they're deeply involved in raising money for that war of defense. And so, once again, it's this complicated hybrid where they're mocking power. So, I think the polite term to use is "utopian." I'm a utopian and so, I believe that power itself is part of the problem. So, to the extent that the Trickster mocks power and all tricksters compulsively mock power, that by laying power low, we get a broader vista of what our futures might be. And it's by laying power low that we allow ourselves to perhaps get a glimpse of what a better world might look like — a world frankly without war and without these kinds of malicious power relationships.

[00:15:31] Adam Gamwell: Oh, that's really interesting. And I was actually, I wanted to ask you about this one of these pieces here, too, that you kind of mentioned; that both the impressionable timing becomes indelible ink that we might, you know, might say. And also 'cause so you worked in public education overall and also you did some studies in anthropology and obviously as I have a lot of anthropologist audience members for a podcast called This Anthro Life as one might guess. And so, I thought this was interesting, too, in terms of both the political act of laying power low but then also the intellectual act of looking cross-culturally to understand what are we seeing across archetypes again and why archetypes themselves might matter to humanity, right, as a way of seeing and giving ourselves also this broader vista 'cause we can and I think should tell individual stories like we're doing, but then also what's the bigger connective tissue we might say in that piece. And so, I'd love to kind of think about this, too, and get a sense of both how these pieces of your background also came into play, whether anthropology and public education as frameworks of seeing. I mean, obviously I think working with young people, you know, in an educational setting is an incredibly important and formative also set of experiences that — I've taught for a number of years myself and it's, you know, you learn the most. I think on one level, being in front of a classroom is, you know, it's being a student also in its own way, I think. And but also outside of the classroom, too, when you talk to folks and students of what they're trying to figure out in their lives, you know. Oftentimes, the informal education is part of that. And so, I'm curious about these pieces, too, in terms of that how does education, how does anthropological views help us think bigger, better, you know, more openly?

[00:17:04] Shepherd Siegel: So, yeah, and this is the part that made me nervous. Of course, I'm not an anthropologist. But it was part of my doctoral work and I was in special education. So, I did an ethnography of a young man with lupus and followed him from high school and beyond high school and how he fared. And that was the moment in a young person's life that I focused on was as they are aging out of the educational system, what happens to them beyond that? A couple, well, there's a gentleman named Robert Edgerton out of UCLA who did a really great study of people with developmental disabilities and who were released from the institutions that they were in. And he followed them to see how they fared without those supports. And I was at Berkeley and worked there with John Ogbu, who is fascinating because he was a Nigerian anthropologist. So, under the rules of anthropology back then, he was highly qualified to study US Americans, which he did. So, his book was called The Next Generation long before Star Trek used it and it was a study of Stockton, California and folks there. So, you know, I picked up some tools there. But frankly, the book is very interdisciplinary. I look at mythology, I look at folklore, popular — I'm very big with popular culture — as I'm sure you noticed; you read the book — and art history as well as just my own experiences. So, they all fed into it as I developed this sensibility around the Trickster archetype. Certain things, whether it was a movie that I was watching or a book I was reading or an experience I was having, certain things would resonate with me as trickster-like. So, you know, going back to my childhood, I think probably, you know, if I was gonna write my life's bibliography in chronological order, Mad Magazine would probably be on the top of the list and Rocky and Bullwinkle would come in not soon after that. So, is this getting to your question? 

[00:19:09] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's totally, I'm just getting a sense of, you know, if we're thinking about how do you see the pieces kind of coming together from your story into the stories. Yeah, a hundred percent. 

[00:19:18] Shepherd Siegel: And you talked about cross-cultural things, too. And I had a very recent experience. Just last month, I went to Cuba, which was something I'd always been interested in doing. And it was a very personalized tour with only about 10 or 11 of us there. And so, our guide had, he'd been there over 50 times. And so, he had a lot of connections and I said, "Well, I have a lot of interest in Santería," and that's where Eshu reappears. And so, we spent a morning with Babaaláwo — I think that's the right pronunciation. And they're kind of like a priest, I guess, or a minister of the Santería religion. And right off the bat, they know they're practicing an African religion in the new world and cite the Yoruba of Africa. And I think probably the most important thing I learned in terms of my own, what I write is that like many religions, people use the guidance of these gods. And we can call them gods or archetypes. You know, I take an amateur's Jungian approach to it that it's not important to me whether you believe there's this demigod or this deity out there, but I do believe that they exist in our minds and they inhabit our personal psychologies. And once again, every day living in the United States in 2022, I feel — what's the word? You know, "saturated" is the best word I can come up with. The Warrior consciousness, it's just everywhere. We are fighters. We don't like to admit it as Americans because we've had important peace movements, but we're a Warrior culture. At any rate, my point was that in Santería, people would come to the Babaaláwo for advice in their personal lives. Should I marry this person? I'm having a problem on the job. My child is sick. And it's really important and it provides something for folks at that level. But my interest — to come to your question about why should we look at it in multiple cultures — is that I believe that the Trickster has a message for us in terms of making a better world and more interested in the societal level and the Trickster having an impact on how governments evolve hopefully to be better at doing their job and that our society becomes more playful. 

[00:21:53] Adam, let me just add one one last thing as a background is that when I first wrote the first book Disruptive Play, I didn't know anything about tricksters because I was influenced by the kinds of hippie activism, if you will, and what the Yippies were up to in the sixties. Because I was inspired by that, it just occurred to me, I'm going, we are seeing grown-ups who are being playful in the same way they were as children. They haven't lost their ability to be playful. And so, they're creating a playful, utopian kind of life. And even when it comes to levitating the Pentagon 300 feet off the ground or throwing dollar bills into the New York Stock Exchange to watch people scramble after them or running a pig for president, these pranks, it's, they're being playful the way a child were. So, I wrote the book just being about play and was investigating play from an academic perspective until I met someone who turned me onto the Lewis Hyde book Trickster Makes This World. Came out in 1989. And I had to completely renovate what I was doing and go back and write the book all over again. Fortunately, I was introduced to the book and the idea of Trickster before I tried to get it published. So, and it has been very rewarding in that it's given me touchstones all over the world, you know, like as far as China. The huli jing, the nine-tailed fox, is a Trickster character that's sometimes demonized. And so on. So, that's a piece of background.

[00:23:31] Adam Gamwell: I appreciate the background story there, too, because it, I think it's both important because it makes sense in terms of why we are, like, why we write what we write, but then also how those messages come into play. And so, I think this, it's, I mean, particularly important, too, as we again, think about like, you know, and this may not be the right term, but the political project of how do we actualize sort of trickster thinking to enact a better world, right? And I think that it's important always to then get a sense of like, how and where did that story come about? And I think even what you said there, I think, I mean there's a ton of stuff I wanna unpack here. And part of it I think is that you noted like both in working in Disruptive Play and then also it's a huge, I mean, it kind of opens up the Tricking Power work, too, is the role of play and that you've seen, you see, can see adults be playful, I think is something that's really important. So, just a little maybe, you know, not to sound boring, a little vocabulary help for folks as they're coming to this idea perhaps for the first time is like, there are three kinds of play that you break down, right, to kind of open it up. And then this gives us an idea of like what it is that tricksters do. 'Cause this has helped me actually conceptualize, you know, when you kind of open this idea that we are a Warrior-obsessed culture here, really resonated with me, too, as I thought through that. It's like, that's, yeah, I do see that. And then how this relates to different kinds of play. So, can you break down the different kinds of play and how that relates to Warrior and Trickster? 

[00:24:48] Shepherd Siegel: Sure. And so, we should know that there's play scholars out there and they've got their associations and their journals and so forth. And they've come up with like 308 different kinds of play. But I concern myself with three. Now, the first one I call "original play." I borrowed the term from Fred Donaldson, who did wonderful work, continues to. And original play, it's a bit of an exaggeration to call it a state of grace, but it's kind of like that. It's non-competitive. It's what all animals do, even humans. But humans only do it as infants. As we become toddlers and our parents start turning this more gleeful play that's really just a "frolic" is the best word I can think of. And it includes games, but you don't keep score with these games. You get down on the ground and you're wrestling and stuff. And maybe it starts to turn into some kind of a structure, but then the structure dissolves as quickly as it emerges. So, it's a space of frolic, for lack of a better term. 

[00:25:50] But then we start learning how to keep score. Then it turns into sports and it turns into trying to, even just if you're playing by yourself, still trying to get to your personal best. Or if you start competing with others and then winning becomes very, very important. Obviously, learning how to lose is important, too. And that second form is cultural play. And I'm not condemning it, you know? I think only to the extent that we do too much of it. It's part of this Warrior consciousness and we're infatuated with it. And it's not a bad thing in and of itself, but it's been — is "hyperbolized" the right word? — in our society.

[00:26:30] And then you get to this thing that I call "disruptive play," the third kind. And disruptive play is when you inject original play into the arenas of cultural play, which is very upsetting to the cultural players. So, there's an example and it's rather banal, but it works. And the, and there was this time, I think it was in the late not seventies, maybe the early eighties, with this thing called streaking. And somebody would like, take off all their clothes and they'd run across a field in the middle of an NFL football game. So, an NFL football game is like, you know, that's the crème de la crème of cultural play. It's hardcore competition. Very serious. Millions of dollars are at stake. Very serious, serious stuff, even though it is cultural play. And running onto the field naked is really kind of, you know, approximates original play. And so, that just disrupts it. 

[00:27:29] So, once again, and I mentioned this earlier, you know, in the Vietnam War, you know, what is the planetary center of cultural play? Because as cultural play escalates, it can turn into fighting and it can turn into war. So, you know, the United States Pentagon is the planetary center of power. There's no greater concentration of military power than there is at the US Pentagon. So, in the middle of the Vietnam War, you know, Abbie Hoffman gets a meeting with the generals because in this country, you are allowed to protest. It's legal. It's one of our rights. And so, he gets a meeting with the generals and says, look, we're gonna have several thousand people and we're gonna come to the Pentagon to protest the war in Vietnam. And the generals get out their pencils and pads and they go, okay. And, you know, they start asking questions about how many people, when are you gonna do it, what time, and so forth. And they're nodding their heads and taking their notes and doing their jobs. And he says, and what we're gonna do is we're gonna encircle the Pentagon. And they go, yeah? He goes, yeah. And then we're gonna perform an exorcism and we're gonna levitate it 300 feet off the ground. You know? At which point they drop their pencils and they go, what are you talking about? That's crazy. You know, obviously, it was. It was a prank. It was a joke. And they tried to kick him out of the room and he goes, no, no, no, no. Don't. I'm a reasonable man. Could you see yourself get 30 feet off the ground? Would you, can we compromise there? And, of course, the demonstration happened. And an interesting note, and I leave it to others to connect it to the way media works today, but the media knew that Abbie and the Yippies were playing a prank. And so, they refused to cover it. You know, if you go onto the internet and you look for stories, The New York Times maybe had one paragraph. The TV networks did not cover it. So, as far as I'm concerned, it happened. 

[00:29:31] Adam Gamwell: That's a good point. 

[00:29:36] Shepherd Siegel: I mean, it's a great myth. It has now become, it now enters the realm of mythology. But that's what I mean by disruptive play. And I think folks understand that. 

[00:29:46] Adam Gamwell: Oh, yeah. That's a really great example, too. And another one that stood out to me, too, you mentioned in the book and also just from personal experience, too, is Burning Man itself, right? As an entire cultural experience that's both an intentional community but like it's premised on disruptive play, right? Both a rejection of capitalism and commercialism, but then on top of that, too, that it's a, it's, I mean, I think one of the best words I can describe it is it's "playful," right? I've been to a number of different Burns and it's a, it's one of the, it's perhaps the most playful thing I've done as an adult. And there's something really magical about that, too, which is interesting and that, something that has always stood with me, too, is that there is, I don't, for lack of a better term, too, there's a magicality or magic-ness to this kind of originary play, right? That, and especially when it is disruptive, too, in this space 'cause it's intentionally opposed to the kind of cultural like winner loser like not having fun space. And I think that's really interesting.

[00:30:42] Shepherd Siegel: And also, I mean, there are rules during Burning Man, but there are as few rules as possible. And I'm so glad you brought it up because I think what is so beautiful about Burning Man is that I tend to talk about Trickster and disruptive play as entering these arenas of conflict and creating, you know, stirring things up and which Burning Man does. But because it's out in the desert, because it separates itself from all the cultural play, which, you know, one of its other forms is commerce, you know? When you log onto the internet, you have entered a game of cultural play and you are trying to read an article. And if the article is interesting, you've entered that cerebral space of playfulness, of you reading and understanding and wondering about the ideas that you're reading about. But holy cow! Ads are popping up every five seconds and they are trying to win something. They are trying to win your attention and then they're trying to win your credit card number. To me, it's a horrible way to conduct commerce. And commerce is also a form of cultural play that. And so Burning Man separates itself from all those things. And thus, while we commonly see the Trickster emerge in an arena of conflict, the beauty of Burning Man to me is that Trickster spirit can emerge and be playful without having any power structure out there to mock. You get this other view of it. And the other thing I love about it is that it was started by sculptors, you know? You had, and we can come back to this, but to me, the great tricksters of the first part of the 20th century were the Impressionists and then Dada. Dada, in particular, and then to some extent, the surrealists as well. That they were, and it was painting, you know, it was painting and it was art and they were also an anti-war movement. And then, a few generations later, you had the Beats, right? And the Beats did it with poetry and literature and they kind of attached themselves or the hippies attached themselves to the Beats, and then it flowered through music and rock and roll and music festivals. And to me, it was the kinds of artists who started the Burning Man kind of complete the picture as they were into the plastic arts. And to this day, I mean, music's become a big part of it, but it really is the sculptors I think who define the ethos of Burning Man. So, it makes it, for me, it makes a nice historic hundred-year picture.

[00:33:26] Adam Gamwell: I've actually not thought about it that way. That's a really great connecting tissue that makes a lot of sense. And I love that idea, too, because I mean, that is, I think, you know, if folks have not been to a burn, like both Burning Man itself but then also regional Burns, too, like they're — one of the highlights of them are the art, the sculptures that people make, and especially Burning Man itself. It is like another planet in terms of the size of artworks that are out in the middle of a desert where there's a 40-foot, you know, silver octopus, you know, blowing fire at you, you know? And it's like, there's something incredible about that because it also doesn't make sense there, right? You're in the middle of a desert. 

[00:34:04] We're gonna take a quick break. Just wanted to let you know that we're running ads to support the show now. We'll be right back.

[00:34:14] This, the connective tissue just made, I think it's really, really important to touch on, too. And I know that's something else that also stood with me in the book, too, is thinking about like the role of art in kind of trickster thinking. And then like to me again, Marcel Duchamp is one of the Dada artists is one of the greatest examples of this, too. Just the idea of, you know, bringing a urinal to like the high society of art, you know, marking it as "R. Mutt" as writing on there. And I think that like, you know, I mean, I remember this from taking an art history class back in high school back in the day, too, but it always stood out to me as, at first I didn't get Dada when I was younger. But then, you know, the more time, I don't know, one spends on the planet or it just got to me later, that it suddenly made sense, you know, of why we need this kind of art to question the establishment. It's not questioning art itself necessarily. I mean, "What is art?" is a question we should ask, but it's also then I think to this point, disrupting the cultural play of art, of winning over who's better, who's more sophisticated.

[00:35:08] Shepherd Siegel: And refusing to cooperate with capitalism; refusing to cooperate with the commerce people who wanted to make the Dada art saleable and they did instant art and people, they were the first hippies. And people forget. And sometimes the books forget that Dada was only 50% art movement. It was 50% anti-war. It was only the absurdity of World War I that led artists to, so, oh, you want absurd? Well, we'll show you absurd, too, you know? And it's a birth of absurdity in art, yeah.

[00:35:42] Adam Gamwell: That's a key point, too. And you mentioned this up top, I think it'd be good to return to this point that the Trickster is vehemently anti-war also, right? So, this is an interesting, an important part actually of who a trickster is or what a trickster kind of stands for and around. And so, I think there's this one piece that we see that like that Dada helps us think about. And then again, in the, just the like incredible amount of different people that you go through and different kinds of movements in the book itself in terms of performers, musicians, artists, you know, even comedians, you know? And so, across this space, to kind of get on one level thinking about who is making and like putting something out there like. So, I think part of the Tricking Power involves, obviously, this may sound overly obvious, but there's something that we have to do, right? We have to put something out there that's, you know, that's gonna be in conversation with the existing society. But the other side to your point there is what is it against? And so, anti-war is one of the main fundamentals it seems that this is anti-Trickster. On part I think, you know, this is one of the things that you shared is that it's the least fun thing on the planet, which is legit. But tell me a bit about this, too. Like, so I think there is an important connection I think between the idea of the anti-war movement, anti-war thinking, and what the Trickster does for us. And maybe we could think about this, I mean, either by itself and, or like, is there a trickster story we could think about that we've seen, you know, there's, you know, some myths that we can kind of draw on, too, from this piece but.

[00:37:01] Shepherd Siegel: You know, and you captured it. It's as simple as that. If you are defined by having fun, there is nothing on the planet that is less fun than war. Now, I allow for the fact that human beings can do anything. And there are some sick folks out there who maybe think, you know, going out and killing or risking being killed is fun. But I think I speak for the vast majority of humanity that war is the least fun thing in the world and there's a lot of people suffering of it right now. Here's the way I look at it. It's kind of a historic example and it brings us right back to what we were talking about. If a society decides it's going to be, it's gonna build empire. So, you had, you know, Greek. You had Chinese, Asian empires. You had the Romans. But let's look at Western Europe, you know? England, France, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, and the United States are all imperialist powers. And so, if you're building empire, let's use the Crusades as an example. If you're building empire and you're gonna do it by conquering other countries and other peoples and conducting war, you have to convince your army that we're the good guys and they're the bad guys, so it's okay to kill them and it's okay to conquer them in war. And so, what you need is a doctrine of good and evil, and religion often fulfills this function. And so, that's why the Crusades are a good example, right? Because it was Christianity versus Islam. And so, you convince your armies that your religion is right. You are good; they're evil. And you rely on this doctrine. Well, every culture on the planet has a trickster god. Tricksters, by definition, are morally indeterminate. They question moral doctrine as much as they question power in general. So, if you're trying to get your army to obey you and do your bidding and do your killing for you, you can't have this powerful Trickster God running around saying, "Really?" You know? Really, you know? Let's go back to this good and evil thing. Let's take a fresh look at that religious doctrine that's convincing people of this. And so, what the imperialists had to do was they had to imprison the Trickster. They had to defang the Trickster god. And so, that is the birth of the court jester. So, the jester is a disempowered Trickster. Because you can't kill an archetype, right? You can't kill a Warrior, can't kill the Mother, can't kill the Trickster either. But you can repress the Trickster. And Lewis Hyde talks about this quite a bit about what a bad move it is to repress the Trickster. So, you get the court jester. You get the guy in the cheap seat saying the emperor has no clothes. And they are allowed to speak truth to power, but they don't have any power at all. And that is why Dada was so important to me because I called Dada the jailbreak of the Trickster. Because art, up until daa, even with the Impressionists, art did not pose political questions. It just depicted society as it was. Dada questioned society as it was. And so, I call Dada the jailbreak of the Trickster from being a court jester to being an actual player. So, we've had a hundred years, right? Dada goes back a hundred years. And yes, I agree with you. The Duchamp's urinal is a real milestone there. And the Dadaists were children. They were playful. They were playful throughout. So, they, that's how I would speak to that.

[00:40:49] Adam Gamwell: No, I think that that's a really, really wonderful connection there and really well said, too. And I think that that's something that's helpful for us to think about as people may be contemplating and thinking through like what is, again, like what is a Trickster today, right? So I think like kind of as we're talking about here and I think that it's really helpful for us to then think backwards, right, to this kind of history of imperialist or colonialist thinking in that if one of the, again, fundamental characteristics of this Trickster archetype is to not only question power but then like how you said also questioning moral doctrine that says this is the right thing to do, that has to be neutered in a sense, right? Because if it's always questioning power and itself has power to then get other people to say, huh, I never thought about it that way, recognizing that like there is a capacity to put that in a space where it then also loses that power. I like, you know, I like how you said, I got the Nancy Scheper-Hughes reference of speaking truth to power of this idea here of this, which is like — actually I had a phrase written down, too, I wanted to talk about for this. So, this is great. You already brought it up. But this idea, right, that like, how are we able to not only talk to power but then to find a way to actually enact and work through it and kind of disrupt it in the sense. And so, this is, I think, a really, really compelling piece for us to think with is that recognizing how and when the kind of Trickster archetype can be quashed a little bit or neutered, right? Never taken away,but just kind of put in a box for jailbreaking or put it in jail. And then, but then I think as you point out here, too, it's possible to then jailbreak it again, so it never will stay locked away forever, which is fun, too. I mean, this actually adds, it only adds to the mythology, I think, of that we are living ourselves in a modern myth, in essence, too, right? Not in that it's not true, but like that this is, I think you said before, it doesn't matter if you believe that this is a, there's a God out there or God's doing things or that, but there are ways of helping us understand why our world is the way that it is, right? And there's incredible power in being able to do that in a way that says, actually, it doesn't have to be like this though, right? And tricksters are giving us this other way of being able to ask those questions.

[00:42:39] Shepherd Siegel: Well, so, you know, the Western artist has had a hundred years of this freedom since this jailbreak occurred. And I don't know if anybody can give the most substantial answer to "So, how does art change society?" And it's, that's probably the closest I come to faith; that Trickster is ultimately a form of love, even though they can play mean tricks sometimes, and that that will happen. What I'd like to do is, you know, I dedicated the book to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and he passed away at 101 years old, at which point you don't grieve the loss. You go, "Way to go, dude." I mean, wow. But I just wanna read this quote because that's what inspires me. He says, "I really believe that art is capable of the total transformation of the world and of life itself and nothing less is really acceptable." So, I mean, if art is going to have any excuse beyond being a leisure class play thing, it has to transform life itself. And I think the Trickster is right in there as the energy capsule for that very dynamic.

[00:43:56] Adam Gamwell: Yeah. No, I think that that's great, too, ‘cause it's important, right, that if people don't think too deeply about art, right, they may contemplate its aesthetic sense, right, that it like provides something nice to look at, to maybe feel, sometimes to question, you know? But oftentimes again, I think a lot of questioning stops at "What is art?" not "What does art do?" And I think that that's the, I think the quote you just read there I think is really powerful that that's actually what, like art itself actually is this mechanism we may say, right? And the Trickster has kind of the, capsule's part of that, the grease on the wheel that enables it to make that change. I think that that's really cool. But so with that, too, I think that that's a really, really powerful piece for us to then think about what is the power of that. And you're right, that we've had a hundred years for taking kind of Dada as our bookmark to then think about where we've gone and then what does that kind of, you know, jailbreak look like. Within that, too, I mean, there's also this really interesting piece, again. There's another example I'd love to kind of think about here that going from art a little bit to comedy, right, there's the piece you write about with Richard Pryor and George Floyd. Those are really important pieces that like is a cultural nerve that we've been wrestling with in terms of police brutality and violence in the treatment of Black people, you know, in the United States and also just around the world, too. But just raising these questions of what does inequality do to us and for us and what are we allowing? And in this case, too, like the, I'd love to kind of break down this 'cause like oftentimes, people probably didn't jump to Richard Pryor in 1979 thinking about what was happening in comedy at the time. But this is I think one of the other pieces of thinking about when we say art, too. We are talking about sculptors in, you know, in pieces, but then also it's this, right, the art form of the word and comedy itself, right, as perhaps the most blatant of trickstery-sounding art forms 'cause you're like literally poking fun at things. But this is I think this is a really interesting connection that you made. So, tell us a bit about this idea of Richard Pryor and George Floyd. 

[00:45:45] Shepherd Siegel: Sure. Because, you know, right here now in 2022, 2023, we're on this pivot where the comedians are refusing to be the court jester. And you've got folks like Chappelle out there and other comedians who are really pushing the boundaries and their political import is being felt more deeply, and we have yet to see where that might lead. But in the early chapter of the book, I talk about the 10 attributes of the Trickster, and one of the attributes is time travel, which is not what I was looking for, but it showed up when I did my research. And I'm not the only person who's caught onto this, but there is this rather famous Richard Pryor film and he was, it was in Long Beach, 1979, as he said, and he is describing the exact chokehold that killed George Floyd. And he, of course, he's making a joke kind of, but I mean, he's describing a person getting killed by this chokehold, you know? And that the cops checking their manual to say, is it alright to kill a Black man? They use the N-word or he uses the N-word and they go, yeah, it says right here, page eight, you can kill a Black man. And the audience was mostly white. The audience is laughing. And it says seem funny, but then the second you laugh, you go, well, what's funny about a person being killed by a cop? And so, I really believe that Richard Pryor was planting a seed that he saw. He got the audience on his side. And right in that moment, he created a psychological change in this, in the psyches of that audience, that when their reality, which in 1979 was pretty sheltered from the kinds of things that were happening to young Black men on the streets; that when it got closer to them, when the media started covering it more, when we got the little cellphones and then murdered — that they, he, Richard Pryor was priming them to actually have an attack of conscience. Did Richard Pryor know he was doing that? You know, I think maybe at some level he did. I think maybe at some level he did, but maybe he didn't. That's not the point. The point is that, you know, life is a collective experience and we play our roles sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously. You know, I think your audience is gonna have to buy the book 'cause I say it a little bit better in the book with the written word. But that is the story. 

[00:48:17] And let me say something, Adam, that, you know, I've talked about when I grew up and my heroes from Marcel Duchamp and Alfred Jarry to Abbie Hoffman and even as late as Andy Kaufman and all these folks I write about. And I don't apologize for it, but they're white, they're white males. I mean, it's, it was who emerged as my heroes in my youth. But as I was touring behind that book Disruptive Play, I got audience feedback about, well, where are the people of color, you know — even though I do talk about Eshu and West Africa in Disruptive Play — and where are the women. And so, I had to go back to the drawing board and write a second book. And I think the books are really good companions to each other because I was able to flesh it out. And looking for female tricksters, forgive the pun, but it's tricky. It's hard because, you know, the oldest one we know of is Wakdjunkaga of the Winnebago Tribe and tricksters have no gender and they gender-switch. And as you know, I'm a big fan of Bugs Bunny as the great American Trickster. Show me a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he doesn't cross-dress and try to seduce Elmer Fudd and kill Elmer — not kill, kiss Elmer Fudd, right? But in fact, there are female tricksters. And I discovered a wonderful book called Scheherazade's Sisters — and Scheherazade is a great example of a female trickster — by Marilyn Jurich. So, she wrote a whole book about it. But here was the other revelation. When I was between the two books, the people said, "Well, do you think tricksters should run for president?" You know? "Do you think tricksters should govern?" And I went, no, no, no, no. They do a lot better sitting in the cheap seats and speaking truth to power and mocking power and ridiculing it and making fun of it and not taking things seriously. But I really don't think you wanna give him the reigns of power. But as I read about the female trickster, I had to really revise my definitions. And there are those chapters in there. I gave a whole chapter to Yoko Ono, who I think her Trickster qualities have been obscured by what we know about her. And in fact, I came to the point where I said, "Well, you know, when we're more conscious of the feminine in the world and bringing the feminine into where idea of Trickster, maybe they can govern." And then the next thing you know, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is president of, he's not a woman, but he's probably pretty in touch with it if he's retaining his trickster qualities and governing Ukraine at the same time.

[00:50:56] Adam Gamwell: That, I mean, that's a great point. That is an interesting piece to the question 'cause that was — and I recall, yeah, I mean, there's two I think two really important threads there. One, I think you're a hundred percent right, where, you know, we recognize obviously as we both how we perceive the world and how we tell stories, right, is a reflection of our own upbringing and, you know, our gender si part of that oftentimes. So, I think it's very cool like on one level that, you know, in the cultural play world, there's a push for like, if you don't have a book, you're not telling a story, which is, you know, it's one thing we have to question. But then on top of that, like in this case, I even appreciate the idea of like thinking about Disruptive Play and Tricking Power as like a continuation of each other, right? It's not a, like I did this one, now it's done. Now, okay. Oops. I gotta fill it in. It's like, there's actually just a story continues, you know? And so, it's interesting to like see, I start here, then I end up over here. I think that was one of the powerful parts of this book, of Tricking Power, too, is that like Yoko Ono, I had not thought about as a Trickster figure, right? And I think because, yeah, because my relationship to Yoko Ono is through The Beatles, right? And that's, and like many of us, that's kind of how we get there versus through the art side of her work. But even her own, like, you know, anti-war protest movements and the way that she did her art and staging public events, I think is such an important part. And so, it was, yeah, I think that was like a really instructive way to also say let us not always be caught up also in the idea of, when I say Trickster, I might think WinnebagoT ribe, right? But then it's like, let's jump forward and then we can think about Dada artists. Okay, we get there, too. We can think about like early performers in vaudeville and slapstick as these important parts also. But then also let us not forget the, you know, contemporary and mid-century artist also. So, it's like, I think it is really kind of interesting to hammer home the important, this is an archetype that we're talking about, too, right? It's not that this is the figure itself, but this is like, there's qualities to help us kind of think about that of what a Trickster can do and be. And so, to your point, like then it's not improbable then that we could have a politician that also embodied some of these archetypes. We may more readily see an artist, but yeah. Yeah, go ahead, sorry. 

[00:52:51] Shepherd Siegel: Yeah. Well, and, you know, and John Lennon admitted in one of his final interviews that she, that he says, I was too wrapped up in my own ego and she really was the co-writer of his most famous song "Imagine" And that he should have given her songwriting credit. But if you read Grapefruit and you read Yoko Ono's, shall we call it poetry, although they're instructions, you know, you can see how "Imagine" is very much like it. But I would love to just mention this. So, when she and John put up posters all over the world during the middle of the Vietnam War that said "War is over" and I was just scratching my head. I didn't get the joke. And but what they were trying to do was tricksters tell lies to reveal greater truths. The war wasn't over. But they said, screw it. We're putting up billboards all over the world and we're declaring that the war is over in hopes that we can trick power into performing an act of love.

[00:53:54] Adam Gamwell: I love that, yes. That's a great point, too. I mean, that stuck with me throughout the book and thinking about the characteristics is both this idea of telling lies to reveal greater truth but then also like there's the flip side, too, is like they're both liars and saviors and this was something else that, you know, that was interesting to me to this point, that it's, if we're, you know, war's over if you want it, right? It's both a lie and a savior, a promise of save, saviorness — I don't know what the word is. Salvation, that's the word.

[00:54:23] Shepherd Siegel: And the Raven tricks the chief; tells lies; pretends to be a baby; but in the end, gives the sun to the world as a savior. 

[00:54:31] Adam Gamwell: Yeah. And so, and I think that that like highlights this importance of the moral indeterminacy to kind of come back to that idea, which I think also is really important because whether it is the Warrior, there needs to be a good, bad, I'm right, you're wrong perspective and or just, if we might say that, I don't know, the puritanical roots of the United States, that's like, there is a moral goodness and there is a moral badness out there. And that there, and it is black and white and you can see why the United States and kind of western culture has not leaned into the Trickster because it, like, it just says, "Nope. Those two things are not the case." So, you can see why it's so particularly tricky. And then on top of that, too, why in this case, if we're looking at, we're talking about a number of the different Native American Trickster gods, you know, also we mentioned the nine-tailed fox from China as well, the huli jing. You know, these kind of trickster characters don't play well, right? It's funny. I guess to me, like Bugs Bunny is like the thing that came through in the United States, which is weird, right? Like the, like this, like Looney Tune cartoon is the thing that like does that, but I wonder about that, too. I mean, is that a way of, who was it, was it Mel Blanc that did the Looney Tunes. Was, you know, was that version of trying to bring tricksters to this part of the world or was it putting them in the court jester box? I don't know, you know? Maybe it was both, you know? Maybe it was the liar and the savior at the same time of like, how do we tell the Trickster in a way that that is gonna resonate with it with this part of the world? I don't know. I'm not sure what the question is here. I'm just trying to think through like in terms of like both what your book does in terms of kind of cracking or thinking in terms of there's actually been tricksters the whole time. We just haven't always thought about them that way. But then recognizing, too, like why we haven't seen them, you know? Yeah. 

[00:56:07] Shepherd Siegel: Yeah. Wakdjunkaga is the oldest story known to humanity. And the book came out 1956. Carl Jung wrote the introduction. The author was a gentleman named Paul Radin. It's called The Trickster, so not a difficult book title to remember. And so, it's kind of the origin story of my writing is I'm starting the research and I get this book called The Trickster and I'm reading about Wakdjunkaga and these, they're these little episodes that could last about seven minutes, you know? They're just these real short little folk tales, one after another, and he's stumbling through the world and he's playing tricks. And part of being a Trickster is you have to accept the possibility of humiliation. That the trick is gonna backfire. And I get through 10, 15, 20 of these things and I went, oh my god, these are Bugs Bunny cartoons. And the book came out in the fifties. So, Bugs Bunny made his debut in 1939. And so, then I started looking into Bugs Bunny. And if you researched, you know, there was a writers' room. And sure, Mel Blanc did all the voices and Carl Stalling did a lot of the music. And there were like three different directors, famous directors — Chuck Jones, a guy named Bob Clampett, and a third one. But there was this collective sensibility sitting around the table of what did and didn't fit Bugs. And I contend that these guys, there was a collective consciousness that was, without using the word "trickster" or even knowing they were doing it, they had this collective sensibility as they rejected some storylines and embraced others of which were the ones that really fit Bugs. And so, they channeled it, for lack of a better term.

[00:57:56] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, interesting. Yeah, I mean, these are these funny moments where you're like, okay, wait, is there something else going on here? Some tricks are floating around that we didn't realize was there the whole time, you know? Which I think is actually one of the I think more compelling parts about this work, too, is that it does help us, you know, like good art, too. It helps you see the world in a slightly different way than you had before. And I think that's like the, I think one of the really interesting pieces about this 'cause it's, you know, I mean, anthropologically, it's, I like that we see a ton of different cross-cultural connections, but then also again, through time also, right? And that through different mediums, right, whether it's cartoons and slapstick or it is, you know, anti-war art protest movements, you know, all the way into today of questioning police brutality and that like, that's also I think this important part for us to not kind of toss out or not not pay attention to things that somehow feel, quote unquote, you know, part of a, that's something else, right, there's actually something, you know, that if we're in like kind of the secular United States of today that we don't, we may not think of tricksters like, that's some story from some book, you know? And it's like, actually no. If you really think about how we've seen throughout history these archetypal characteristics that keep coming back, you know, I think it is onto something. 

[00:59:07] So, thanks for helping me think about the world a bit differently. This has been a, it's been both a great book and great to talk with you, too, 'cause it's, this is the best kind of work that does this, I think. 

[00:59:16] Shepherd Siegel: Yeah. Yeah, it's really been a pleasure so far, and yeah, thanks for having me. I mean, you know, it's like, look, I've talked about the Warriors. And look, you need the Warrior too. You need them all and you can't kill them. I don't wanna see our reaction nationally to the Warrior to be an overembrace of the Mother, and when I say the Mother, I mean someone who knows what's best for me and, you know, part of a lot of the right wing's resentment is they recognize what they're gonna call the, you know, the nanny state, right, or the social engineering, and they are apprehensive and perhaps rightfully so of some kind of a left wing moral doctrine coming down. And so, I'm not too worried about that, frankly. And I think the fears are pretty much unfounded. But I think that's partly if I'm gonna psychoanalyze, you know, politics, you know, I think that's part of what's at play here. But all I'm saying is I know the Warrior has its place in the world. I just want the Warrior to sit down and shut up for a little while and let some other voices be heard.

[01:00:28] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, that sounds right on, you know? And so, to that, I mean, that's why I appreciate this work and this conversation 'cause it is giving us to then slightly different way of thinking about this, right? That if people probably haven't necessarily started, I think we should probably have a second conversation on union archetypes to like to show 'cause that's important for us to get a sense of that there is value in this way of rethinking what's happening in our world today from these, you know, archetypal characteristics that make sense. And that's, again, I also had not thought of it this way with like, that's the, like everything you said outside of the, like the Mother, I know it's best for you context makes perfect sense in terms of like right wing concerns, but then that's like, yes. Oh, that's, that is an archetype that exactly makes sense for that, like naming that kind of, what that might look like. So, I think that's really important. So, a double win today, I would say. But thank you so much for joining me on the pod today. This has been fun and definitely I'd love to have you back and kind of continue the conversation in the future.

[01:01:23] Shepherd Siegel: I would love to be back. Thanks very much, Adam. This is great. 

[01:01:27] Adam Gamwell: Thanks again to Shepherd Siegel for joining me on the pod today. As I noted in the end of our conversation, I'm coming away with a new lens for understanding society today and I believe there's a lot of value in rediscovering how to play and using this as a form of courage to confront unequal power systems. And maybe the Trickster can just help us do it a little bit better. 

[01:01:46] And I'd love to hear your thoughts. What characteristics of the Trickster stood out to you and who are some of your favorite tricksters and why? Are there other examples you know of that demonstrate Trickster archetypes confronting power and tricking it into love? So, as always, get in contact with me over on the website thisanthrolife.org or hit me up on email at thisanthrolife@gmail.com. And as I mentioned off top, if you haven't, be sure to subscribe to the Anthrocurious newsletter on Substack. That link again is in the show notes. And again, we're still getting this spun up. We're gonna have new kinds of written content — original writing from me, from the Anthrocurious community, and a ton more. If you get value out of the podcast and/or the blog, please consider being a supporter of the show on Substack. You can give monthly; you can give yearly. It helps everything run a bit more smoothly and helps me make more of this content. Thanks as always for tuning in. That's all from me. I'm Adam Gamwell, and we'll see you next time on This Anthro Life.

Shepherd Siegel, PhDProfile Photo

Shepherd Siegel, PhD

Activist Scholar

Bio ||| Shepherd Siegel

Dr. Shepherd Siegel, a descendant of oil barons and bootleggers, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the midst of that whole utopian sixties thing. He was a rock and jazz musician, then educator. His first teaching assignment was with youth in lockup in the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Detention Center, the only un-mellow job in bucolic Santa Cruz, California. He earned his doctorate at UC Berkeley, with studies in anthropology and special education, all the while implementing innovative internship programs for troubled and troubling youth, including those with disabilities. Siegel has over thirty publications in the education field and has been recognized for many achievements, including but not limited to awards from Foreword Reviews and from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association for his previous book, Disruptive Play: The Trickster in Politics and Culture. Somewhere in there he played with the jazz trio Swingmatism and the power pop band Thin Ice.

Disruptive Play: The Trickster in Politics and Culture came out in 2018 to spread its message of playfulness and progressive change. The essential follow-up to Disruptive Play is Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love: How Tricksters through History have Changed the World. It explores the Trickster archetype in African American culture; the female trickster; slapstick, and what vision trickster holds for us today. Shepherd works hard to make you laugh, make you wonder. His favorite hobby is to be with groups of people large and small, suss out the energy, find the funny bone, and see if he can provide some of the beat to get the group rhythm to swing. Dr. Siegel has lived the longest in Northern California, and in Seattle, where he now resides.