Anthro in the news 2/14/11

• The language(s) of protest in Egypt
“Speaking truth to power” takes on cultural context in the 18 days of the Egypt uprising, so writes Ben Zimmer in “How the War of Words Was Won.” There are parallels to the use of language in other political uprisings. But the Egypt protests are distinct in many ways, such as the uses of “high” and “low” Arabic, and the use of other languages, notably English. Zimmer quotes Niloofar Haeri, professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, on the use of English as a way to “assert that the country is modern and its citizens know the global language.”

• Bt cotton controversy
Cultural anthropologist Glenn Stone, professor at Washington University, is publishing an article on Bt cotton in India in the March issue of World Development. Physorg comments on his study which used a different strategy to assess the performance of Bt seeds. One question is whether or not Bt seeds reduce the need for chemical pesticides.

• Zora Neale Hurston anniversary
2011 marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston is most known as an African-American writer. But she was also a doctoral student of cultural anthropology at Columbia University. Rachel Newcomb, associate professor of anthropology at Rollins College, Florida, writes about how Hurston has been “misunderstood, rejected, neglected, and then embraced…”

• Outrun: one more reason Neanderthals didn’t make it
Study of the performance of heels of modern-day distance runners in comparison to the heels of Neanderthals indicates that Neanderthals were good walkers but not good runners.

• Stone tools out of Africa to Arabia
Coverage by NPR of the discovery of modern stone tools in the Arabian peninsula includes comments by several archaeologists including Alison Brooks, professor of anthropology at George Washington University. She says that “it’s an intriguing find” and it should spur new research in new “places and directions…”

• Lucy: these arches were made for walking
New analyses of the fossilized foot bone of Lucy, the world’s most famous complete hominid fossil skeleton, indicate that she had arches in her feet. That means she had lost grasping ability in her big toe. But she was better able to walk upright.

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