Anthro in the news 11/29/10

• Investment banking works for her
Insider Higher Ed carried an article about Gillian Tett’s presentation at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in which she described her use of anthropological training when she entered the world of investment banking (she has a doctorate in social anthropology from Cambridge University). Tett is the US managing editor and an assistant editor of the Financial Times. For her coverage of world financial markets, she was named Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards in March 2009. She is the author of the prize-winning book, Fool’s Gold. During her AAA talk, she urged cultural anthropologists to move out of their comfort zone and to get engaged in new arenas.

• Shaping the new philanthropy
The new philanthropists want to do more than make a donation: they want to make a difference and they choose a DIY approach. A connection at a dinner party with Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and co-founder of Partners in Health, informed one such philanthropist of how to connect to an ongoing health care program run by Partners in Health in Rwanda. She dined, she met, she gave.

• Anthro of humanitarianism
A new series of the Times of Trenton, called Profiles in Knowledge, profiled Didier Fassin, the James Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. A cultural anthropologist and sociologist, Fassin has done fieldwork in Senegal, South Africa, Ecuador, and France. He studies the ethics and power relationships in humanitarian intervention.

• Thumbs up for home brew in India
Felix Padel, the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, is quoted in the Times of India as favoring a local alcoholic beverage, mahua, over scotch: “it is not only good for health but also economical and great to taste.” Padel has been active in anti-mining movements in India and was in India to look at the economics of coal mining in Jharkhand. Drinkers beware: adulteration is a problem in some local brews.

• Applied anthropologists rising
About half the members of the American Anthropological Association are employed outside academia. The Chronicle for Higher Education carried an article about applied anthropology including interviews with several practitioners and how the AAA is responding to this growing population in its membership.

• Still grappling with research ethics
Inside Higher Education described the ongoing discussions and debates in the American Anthropological Association about research ethics as the AAA moves toward writing a new ethics code. Beyond the longstanding rule of “do no harm” is a growing sense of obligation to help, or at least give something back to, those who generously share their time, lives, and knowledge with researchers.

• There be gold
A new documentary, NOVA: Quest for Solomon’s Mines, aired on PBS courtesy of NOVA/National Geographic. It features the work of Thomas Levy, professor of anthropology and Judaic studies at the University of California at San Diego and his work at three sites in southern Jordan.

• Roaming soldiers
DNA data from villagers in north-western China, near the Gobi Desert, show more than 50 percent “Caucasian” origin. Many villagers have green or blue eyes, fair hair, and long noses. The presence of “European blood” may be explained by the presence of a lost Roman legion who settled in the area after fleeing a disastrous battle with the Parthians in what is now Iran in the first century BCE. Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, said the theory is “a fairy tale” and that: “For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries.”

• All aboard: American Indian sailing with the Vikings
According to DNA data from Iceland, it is highly likely that an American Indian woman sailed from North America to Iceland and gave birth to the first Indian-Viking child “several hundred years” before 1700, or as early as 1000 CE. Debates are ongoing as to the reliability of this conjecture.

• My dog is smarter than your cat
Says who? Biological anthropologist Robin Dunbar says. Along with Susanne Shultz of Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, he has conducted experimental studies showing that dogs are good at learning cause and effect relationships, but cats are not. Hypothesis: dogs’ propensity for social interaction with humans is related to their relatively large brain size. Analysis of brain size of many other mammals supports the sociality thesis.

• Kudos
Two more anthro Rhodes scholars: Priya Sury graduated in spring 2010 with a BA from Washington University in St Louis; at Oxford, she will study for an MsC in medical anthropology. Renugan Raidoo, a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in chemistry and anthropology, will pursue either a master’s or doctorate in social anthropology at Oxford. Blogger’s note: Of the total 31 Rhodes scholarships for 2011, the running total of anthro winners is three, or 10 percent. Well done!

Susan Buck Sutton, a noted scholar of modern Greece, has been appointed senior advisor for international initiatives at Bryn Mawr College. Sutton received her BA from Bryn Mawr College and her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She then joined the faculty at Purdue University where she began as assistant professor of anthropology and left as Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and Vice Chancellor for International Affairs as well as Associate Vice President of the IU system. Professor Sutton developed an extensive body of research on contemporary Greece including migration, settlement, the construction of community, and the relationship between ancient and modern Greece. She is the author of three books and numerous articles. She served as the editor of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies from 1999-2002 and is the incoming President of the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association.

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