Anthro in the news 4/2/11

• You’re most welcome
Hugh Raffles, cultural anthropology professor at the New School and newly embraced U.S. citizen, published an op-ed in the New York Times–above the crease and with a large color illustration. Congratulations! The gist of the essay is that immigrant humans, like immigrant non-human biological species, do more good than harm by introducing variety and creativity.

• Fog of…what
The question is: can computational science help to prevent or win wars? As covered in an article in Nature, the Pentagon is betting yes (to both preventing and winning, presumably). The U.S. government is moving millions of dollars into computational social science programs within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Nature called on Robert Albro, cultural anthropologist in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the American Anthropological Association’s Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the Security and Intelligence Communities. Albro comments “…voodoo science is all too frequently generated from the work of computational social science.” [Blogger’s note: like you, I wondered what exactly computational social science is. I searched, in Google, and found this definition from a George Mason University website: Computational social science is the interdisciplinary science of complex social systems and their investigation through computational modeling and related techniques].

• Sugar daddies not so sweet
Schools in South China’s Guandong province are launching a crash course for girls about self-respect and how to resist the sweet talk of sugar daddies. The China Daily quotes Li Xia, an anthropologist/women’s studies scholar, who says “Wanting to rely on men is a complicated social phenomenon caused by various factors and it is improper to attribute it to personal immorality.” [Blogger’s note: that would be whose immorality–his or hers?]

• Identifying war criminals in Central Africa
William Samarin, professor of linguistics and anthropology at the University of Toronto, has testified about the ability of Central Africans to identify Lingala, a Congolese language, as the language spoken by their alleged aggressors from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). His views are contested.

• What’s going on? Racial/ethnic shifts in U.S. cities
Newly released census data show that the black population of Detroit and Washington, D.C., has declined in the past ten years. NPR speaks with Roderick Harrison, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Harrison is former chief of racial statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau. [Blogger’s note: around five years ago, I had a conversation with a black taxi driver. in D.C., in which the topic of “race” in D.C. came up. He told me something like this: he had recently driven two white men–maybe businessmen or political people–who discussed how they were going to turn D.C. into a white city. I was appalled. I said: really, they said that? He said, yes, and here I am, a black man, driving this cab, listening to them talk like this.]

• Racial identity shifting in Puerto Rico
The racial identity of the Puerto Rican population appears to be changing, according to analysis of recent census figures. Jorge Duany, anthropology professor at the University of Puerto Rico, says that the new information “truly breaks with a historic pattern” in which people’s responses generated a “blurred racial mosaic.” Now, more people are choosing to identify solely with categories such as American Indian or black.

• Obesity stigma spreading
Biological anthropologist Alexandra Brewis, of Arizona State University, uses “community based” research and surveys of several hundred people around the world to assess changing attitudes about body size. The major finding is that, even in cultures previously accepting of large body size, a preference for small body size, especially for female bodies, is taking over. This story caught the attention of the mainstream media last week and was covered by the New York Times, on its front page, Time magazine, and others.

• Dam versus ancient town in Turkey
A town in southeastern Anatolia is contesting one of Turkey’s largest and most controversial hydro-power projects. An expert report, including input from two archaeologists, is expected in three months.

• Nothing new about abrupt regime change in Egypt
The New York Times carried a review of Toby Wilkinson’s new book, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt. The review is titled, “Abrupt Regime Change in Egypt is Nothing New: Just Ask Thutmose III.” Wilkinson describes everyday life for the poor in ancient Egypt as involving too much or too little water, the constant threat of famine, debilitating diseases, and lack of access to health care. It sounds familiar. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Wilkinson says that Egyptian history has a “depressing habit of repeating itself.” [Blogger’s note: and whose fault is that?]

• Not much new here, either
Egyptologist Zahi Hawass took a position in Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet just a few days before the downfall. Rumors, since then, have been circulating as to where Hawass would land. Latest reports indicate he has been named Minister of Antiquities in Egypt’s new government.

• Something old: ancient brain found in Europe
Dating to 2,500 years ago, some soft tissue brain has been recovered in a muddy pit on the University of York Campus in England. A student researcher found the solitary skull and was stunned when she reached inside and found soft gray matter. Dr. Sonia O’Connor, of Bradford University, called the find “exciting…The survival of brain remains where no other soft tissue is preserved is extremely rare.”

• Something new: brains and breast feeding
A new study shows that brain growth in infants is linked to the time they have been breastfed. The study, by anthropologists at Queen’s University Belfast and Durham University, compares several mammal species including gorillas, elephants, whales, and humans. Findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• In memoriam
Jean Le Patourel died on January 25 at the age of 95 years. After the Second World War, she blazed a trail as one of the few women archaeologists in a field dominated by men. She was an expert on the material culture of the Middle Ages, especially medieval ceramics of Yorkshire. In 1960 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1976 she was appointed associate lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Leeds University, a position from which she retired in 1980.

2 thoughts on “Anthro in the news 4/2/11

  1. Don

    Why would an anthropologist who celebrates the value of humanity equate us with other species, some of which are harmful and even disgusting? Introduced worms, slugs, snakes, weeds, rats, etc. are not among the images that should be applied to our new brothers and sisters.


  2. Pingback: Current Items April 1-10 | Living Anthropologically

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