Anthro in the news 10/18/10

• The call of the Yeti
Reports of Yeti sightings in Russia’s rugged Kemerevo region, in Siberia, are attracting record numbers of tourists to the area. Moscow News quotes Sergei Vasiliev, anthropology department head of the Moscow Ethnology and Anthropology Institute as saying that there is no scientific evidence of the Yeti, or Bigfoot. Nonetheless, the region joins Loch Ness in Scotland as an important site of a form of tourism that is still in search of a name. Fictional tourism doesn’t seem to capture it. Readers: please send in suggestions.

• This law is our law
The New York Times carried an article about customary law in Bali, including severe ostracism via the process of kapsepekang. The article quotes Balinese anthropologist Degung Santikarma who says that Balinese society “appears to be orderly, but it’s really coercive…In Bali, culture is to control people.”

• Getting it straight on Hezbollah
William Beeman, professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, published a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which he addresses Joe Klein’s review of a book by Thanassis Cambanis. Beeman, contra Klein, supports how Cambanis presents the role of Hezbollah in Iran.

• Count down: a last tribe under state gaze
Please keep your fingers crossed that the Indian state will not crush the life from the Andaman Island group called the Jarawa (with apologies: this group name is likely to be inappropriate, since it is what other groups have named them and not what they name themselves). A recent population count put their number at 365 which is 125 more than the previous census estimate of 2001. An article in The Telegraph (Calcutta) quotes V. S. Sahay, professor and head of the department of anthropology at Allahabad University, explaining that previous population counts were only estimates because the Jarawa have long resisted “contact” from outsiders. Sahay says, “much of the confusion” about Jarawa demographics has been clarified since “The Jarawas…are now in direct contact with us.” Blogger’s note: “contact with us” does not sound like a good thing, at all, for the Jarawa. I have been watching the Andaman situation for over a decade, and the Indian state continues to justify its unwanted presence among the “uncontacted” tribes on the grounds that they need to count them, for the state’s decadal census, and they want to deliver health care and other aspects of modern life to them. Recommended reading: James Scott’s, Seeing Like a State

• One of the new tribes: global digital workers
Sean Carey, cultural anthropologist and research fellow at the University of Roehampton, interviewed Tom Jordan, a “new breed” digital entrepreneur about his business in the Greater Shoreditch area of London. During the interview, Carey asks Jordan if smaller international players, such as Mauritius, can be part of the global digital work.

• Enough to make you sick
Catherine Trundle, lecturer in cultural anthropology at Victoria University (New Zealand) has received a research grant to study the effects of nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s at Christmas Island in the Pacific on British and New Zealand servicemen. About 1000 surviving veterans are seeking millions of pounds in compensation for themselves and their families.

• Anthro and an acting career
Jesse Eisenberg who plays the role of Mark Zuckerberg in the new movie, The Social Network, studied anthropology in college. This background will do him well in getting into, and presenting, Generation X culture. At the age of 27 years, he is already outside that world.

• Young men cruising
Daniel Kruger, research fellow at the University of Michigan, and colleagues, examined census data for the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see if the sex ratio (males to females in the population) affects marriage rates. Findings: men aged 20-24 years are more likely to “cruise” than to commit to marriage in areas where women outnumber men. Findings are published in Evolutionary Psychology.

• Small steps forward, big steps back
Findings from archaeology and linguistic anthropology indicate that societies come together slowly but tend to fall apart quickly.

• Hear them roar
Archaeologists are protesting the opening of the tunnels beneath the Colosseum in Rome to tourists for the first time. It was in these tunnels that gladiators prepared to do battle and animals were brought in before facing their death above ground in the ampitheater filled with 50,000 people. Here is a possibly mistranslated quotation from Darius Arya, director of archaeology  of the American Institute for Roman Culture: “You can imagine being a gladiator and listing to the roar of those 50,000 people coming through the floorboards — that is what is magnificent about being down here.”

• Golden hoard in Scotland
A metal detecting amateur will receive nearly ₤500,00 for his discovery of a hoard of Iron Age gold including four finely crafted neck bands (torcs) that will become the property of the National Museums of Scotland.

• Dirt not gold in Ireland
An impressively large medieval earthwork in the Boyne Valley of Ireland has been identified by an archaeological survey. It is unfortunately outside the zone of a nearby Unesco World Heritage site and is in danger of destruction due to a road building project. Archaeologists and others are protesting, but any alternative routes would also have negative heritage impacts.

• Another road to ruin
A 40,000 year old meeting place for Aboriginal Tasmanians, and the oldest evidence of human habitation in the wider region, is under threat from a bridge and road project which the Australian government considers essential state infrastructure. The government says the project will not destroy the site. Opponents are working to get the site listed as National Heritage and are appealing to the prime minister. Aboriginal people are prepared to block the bulldozers. Michael Mansell, legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center is quoted in the New Zealand Herald as accusing the government of cultural vandalism and says that “They really have no appreciation of anything that’s different from their white culture.”

• Bonobo gals and tools
Findings from a study of captive bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo indicate that bonobos are as adept at using tools as chimpanzees, and, within bonobos, females have the edge on males. Scholars are still debating the implications for human evolution. It seems likely that Thibaud Gruber of the University of St. Andrews, lead researcher, has it right when he says: “It’s females the foragers”. Blogger’s note: his comment juxtaposes his findings with the longstanding but inaccurate model, “man the hunter”.

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