Anthro in the news 6/27/2011

• The trauma of war and rape
In the first of a two-part story, CNN highlights the work of cultural anthropologist Victoria Sanford, whose research has involved listening to victim narratives of Maya women in Guatemala since her doctoral studies at Stanford University in the early 1990s. A Spanish speaker who had worked with Central American refugees, she befriended the few Maya in the area. “I was moved by their stories, but even more so because they were intent on someone hearing them,” she said, “And no one was listening.” She joined the nonprofit Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology investigative team and went to Guatemala. Sanford talked to the women, who told other women about her, and soon she was recording their stories. Over time, and after hearing many stories, Sanford suffered from a kind of “secondary trauma” including paralysis.

• Conflict in Uganda and a possible love complication
The New York Times quoted Mahmood Mamdani, professor anthropology and government at Columbia university, in an article about an ongoing bitter personal rivalry in Uganda that involves President Musaveni and his rival and former friend, Kizza Besigye. Things may be complicated, the article suggests, by a woman, Winnie Byanyima, who is married to the president’s rival but who may have had a romantic involvement earlier with the president. Other matters are likely part of the story as well. Mamdani comments that the government is “clueless” about how to deal with Besigye’s opposition movement. He didn’t comment on the love factor.

• Culture and asthma
Cultural context and behavior shape the diagnosis and treatment of asthma according to David Van Sickle, medical anthropologist and asthma epidemiologist of Reciprocal Labs in Madison, Wisc. Van Sickle’s fieldwork in India revealed that physicians were hesitant to diagnose patients with asthma because of social stigma.

• Treating autism: two cases in Croatia
Drug Week covered findings from a study conducted in Osijek, Croatia, which discusses the treatment of autism in a boy and a girl with risperidone. K. Dodigcurkovic and colleagues published their study in Collegium Antropologicum.

• Profile of a forensic anthropologist
The Gainesville Sun carried a profile of Michael Warren, an associate professor of anthropology and director of the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. He has conducted hundreds of forensic skeletal examinations for the state’s medical examiners and has participated in the identification of victims of mass disasters and ethnic cleansing, including the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina and the recovery and identification of the victims found within the mass graves of the Balkans. He recently testified in the Casey Anthony murder trial.

• Medieval persecution
The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence suggests. DNA analysis indicates that the victims were Jewish. They were likely murdered or forced to commit suicide. The skeletons date to the 12th-13th centuries, a time of persecution of Jewish people in Europe. Professor Sue Black leads the research team. She is a forensic anthropologist in the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification.

• Tiny camera shows details of Maya royal burial
A tiny remote-controlled camera peered inside a Maya tomb that was sealed for 1,500 years. It shows frescoes, pottery and pieces of a funerary shroud made of jade and mother of pearl. Archaeologist Martha Cuevas is quoted as saying, “The characteristics of the funeral site show that the bones could belong to a sacred ruler from Palenque, probably one of the founders of a dynasty.”

• Ice age art excitement in Florida
Researchers have discovered a bone fragment in Florida at least 13,000 years old with the incised image of a mammoth or mastodon. It may be the first example of Ice Age art found in the Americas. “This is an incredibly exciting discovery,” said Dennis Stanford, anthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study. Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Florida and lead author of the team’s research, said, “The results of this investigation are an excellent example of the value of interdisciplinary research and cooperation among scientists.”

• Paleo species excitement at BBC
The BBC is talking about the big human evolution questions, including why are modern humans a single species and how did this singularity come about? Stay tuned to BBC for this and more.

• Anne Pusey and the Jane Goodall dataset
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the hiring by Duke University of biological anthropologist/primatologist Anne Pusey and its significance not just because of Pusey’s accomplishments, but also because of the massive and important data “dowry” she brings with her.

• Guardian book review
The Guardian carried a review of a new book by British paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer. It is called The Origin of Our Species.

• Kudos

Environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad was named one of the National Geographic “Explorers of the Year” for his extraordinary achievements in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas in 2010.

Three cultural anthropology professors have retired: Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban from the Department of Anthropology, Rhode Island College; David Gow from the Department of Anthropology and the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University; and James Boone from the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University.

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