Anthro in the news 7/6/10

• A bridge too far: belated apology to Ngarrindjeri women
Labor Party Mike Rann, South Australia’s 44th Premier, formally acknowledged this week that Ngarrindjeri women did not fabricate claims about their secret “business” in the mid 1990s. They argued that construction of the Hindmarsh Bridge linking their territory to the mainland would violate their sacred and secret beliefs. Many years later, most of the women originally involved in the protest are no longer alive. The bridge still stands. Controversy among cultural anthropologists still roils. Cold comfort that the women’s claims are now recognized as valid.

• Should we or shouldn’t we?
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, so too continues the question of anthropological involvement in supporting US efforts. Time carried a piece reviewing pros and cons. It included commentary from cultural anthropologist David Price, a member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, about how it takes at least a year of hands-on fieldwork for trained anthropologists to get their bearings. His implication is that the HTS process does not allow for competence among the social scientists they hire.

• Our technology ourselves
Intel’s Ninth Annual Research Day was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The theme was about who will use the devices of the future, and how. This kind of forward thinking requires anthropological/social science knowledge about people’s behavior, perceived needs, and current “users’ experiences.” To support this effort, the company announced the launch of the Interaction and Experience Research Division led by cultural anthropologist and Intel fellow, Genevieve Bell.

• Cannibalism nouveau
In an opinion piece about Australian politics, Philippe Mora draws on the work of cultural anthropologist Shirley Lindenbaum on cannibalism and the false “primitive/modern” divide. He likens the demise of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as a form of acceptable cannibalistic politics.

• Welcome to Timbuctoo, New Jersey
A newly discovered site in northern southern New Jersey is perhaps the most important African American site and one of the most significant in the US. Called Timbuctoo, it was likely founded by freed slaves in the 1820s. David Orr, Temple University historical archaeologist and professor, says that the site offers the opportunity to see how an African American community changed over time, from its founding through World War II. Many descendants of Timbuctoo families live in the area, and some have volunteered to help with the research.

• Paleo show time
The latest twist on interpreting European cave art is that it was “part of an audiovisual performance.” Researchers at Cambridge University and Sankt Poelten’s University of Applied Sciences in Austria say that the images created sequences that could create a visual narrative for the viewer. Along with Bauhaus University in Germany, the researchers are launching the “Prehistoric Picture Project” using computer technology to animate the sequences like a cartoon show. Stay tuned for men hunting, fighting, and dancing, but apparently no paleo of Wonder Woman.

• The high life
The pace of human biological evolution is generally thought to be very slow, many thousands of years at least, more often millions of years. Several independent studies, however, indicate that biological adaptation to high altitude life in Tibet occurred relatively rapidly, as recently as 3,000 years ago. Most of the studies are conducted by biologists, but one is carried out by a group led by Cynthia Beall, a biological anthropologist and professor at Case Western University. Their report appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• In memoriam
Jack A. Tobin, a cultural anthropologist who devoted his life to research in the Marshall Islands, died June 14 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Tobin served in the US Navy in the Pacific during World War II and earned a Bronze Star. He earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and then worked for many years as a community development officer in the Marshalls.

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