Anthro in the news 11/15/10

• Floods, drones and misery
Saadia Toor, assistant professor of anthropology and social work at the College of Staten Island and member of Action for a Progressive Pakistan, talks about the relief efforts, the role of the Pakistani military in the crisis, and the escalating use of drones by the US and NATO.

• Spotlight on Sabiyah Prince
The Atlanta Post launched a new series exploring the work of African-American professors around the US. An interview with Sabiyah Prince, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at American University in Washington, DC, offers insights about her use of history and cultural anthropology to explore changing patterns of racism in Harlem, Washington, DC, and elsewhere.

• Get down and dirty
Students at universities in China are being required to spend time in villages for a period of time as part of community service and learning how others live. The Guardian quotes Zhou Daming, professor and dean of anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University: “It is good for them to go and learn about another kind of life.”

• Ourselves, our wars, our woes
Roy Richard Grinker, professor of cultural anthropology at George Washington University in Washington, DC, comments on the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and notes the effect of war on changes in categories and labels.

• Australian Indigenous runners in New York Marathon
A group of Australian Indigenous runners competed in the New York Marathon, among whom, Central Australian Charlie Maher crossed the finish line first and is believed to be the first Australian Indigenous runner to finish the New York Marathon.

• Sleeping around in Amazonia
Robert Walker, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri, in collaboration with two other biological anthropologists, Mark Flinn of Northwestern University and Kim Hill of the University of Utah, has found that sexual promiscuity was the norm in “traditional” Amazonian societies. It was also acceptable for a child to have several fathers. Findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• British Natural History Museum expedition decried
A proposed expedition in Paraguay by the British Natural History Museum came under fire in the media because of its potentially harmful effects on the Ayoreo Indians who have no immunity to western diseases. Jonathan Mazower, director of advocacy at Survival International, noted that the tribal people may throw spears at the scientists, so scientists beware.

• Beer as a civilizing force
Archaeologist Brian Hayden of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver proposes that Neolithic farmers in the Middle East began growing grains not so much as a food source but as a source of beer which was important in feasts.

• Our baby brains and Neanderthal baby brains
Endocasts of modern infant brains and a Neanderthal infant brain are remarkably similar, thus differences emerge after birth. Philipp Gunz of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Frankfurt led the study. Findings appear in Current Biology.

• Kudos
Michael Christie, professor at Darwin University, was named the Northern Territory’s Australian of the Year for his work helping to keep Australian Indigenous languages and cultures alive. Along with Yolngu elders, he established a Yolngu studies program at Darwin University. He comments: “I think we’ve got a long way to go.”

• In memoriam
Kathleen Forgey, adjunct professor of forensic anthropology at Indiana University Northwest, passed away after a long illness. She contributed importantly to Northwest’s growing anthropology program. Many students have eulogized her teaching in Facebook messages.

Peter Gathercole passed away on October 11 at the age of 81 years. In addition to his many publications, he is remembered for his contributions to museum anthropology. He served for many years as lecturer in ethnology at Oxford University jointly with the Pitt Rivers Museum until he became principal curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge from 1970 to 1981, and then served as dean at Darwin College.

Ellen Lutz, executive director of Cultural Survival, died on November 4, after a long battle with breast cancer. The following is quoted from a release from Cultural Survival: Ellen’s contribution to Cultural Survival is beyond measure, and we all had enormous affection for her personally and respect for her professionally. She will be sorely missed, but her influence will shape all our work for many years to come. Ellen’s six-year tenure at Cultural Survival was part of a lifetime of human rights work that included positions with the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution and Human Rights Watch, teaching at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and books on subjects that ranged from consequences of torture to trying heads of state for human rights violations. It would be impossible to put a number on the thousands of people helped by her efforts, but small measure of her impact is found in the flood of emails from every continent that have been pouring into Cultural Survival’s offices since news of her passing has spread. She faced her death as she lived her life: with unbending dignity and unflinching courage. Even while suffering the depredations of cancer she continued to work at Cultural Survival until three months before her death, and after stepping down, she continued to be engaged with the organization from her bed. That level of dedication is emblematic of her whole life, which she spent making this world more like the one she assuredly now occupies. Cultural Survival is planning a fund in Ellen’s name to benefit Indigenous rights; if you would like more information about that fund or would like to make a donation, please contact Polly Laurelchild-Hertig at

2 thoughts on “Anthro in the news 11/15/10

  1. Interesting study on “promiscuity” in the Amazon, but a couple of things jump out at me: 1) the mixed verb tenses, and lack of a context. Was this a historical practice or is it still practiced in the Amazon, in which indigenous people still reside? and 2) the use of the word “promiscuity”. I have NEVER seen this word used in reference to polygamy, but it’s acceptable to use it in reference to polyandry?! Not very scholarly…


  2. Hi Allie,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Are you referring to the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or the news coverage in Science Daily, or the five lines in anthro in the news?

    All the best,


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