Anthro in the news 7/11/11

• To tell the truth or not the truth: a complicated question
Cultural anthropologist Mike McGovern, assistant professor at Yale, published an op-ed in The New York Times in which he provides context about Guinea and why someone from Guinea might choose to misrepresent his or her background in order to get out. As you might imagine, McGovern’s essay is about the DSK case. His description of the grim poverty and violence in Guinea, fueled by big mining, adds a new level of understanding, no matter what happened at the Sofitel: “As the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn seemingly disintegrates, he is enjoying a political renaissance at home, yet I keep asking myself: does a sexual harassment encounter between a powerful and wealthy French politician and a West African hotel cleaning woman from a dollar-a-day background not in itself constitute a gross abuse of power?”

• Men just want to cuddle, maybe
A new study by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University finds that more frequent cuddling and kissing in a long-term relationship predicts happiness for men but not for women. They study included 1,000 heterosexual couples in the United States, Japan, Brazil, Spain, and Germany. Cynthia Loyst, a Toronto-based relationship expert comments that the finding may relate to the fact that cuddling and kissing may lead to sex…in other words, they are not ends in themselves for men. Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, links cuddling to the release of oxytocin. Beyond kissing and cuddling, the study also addressed orgasm. Findings are published in the journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior. [Blogger’s notes and queries: I would love to know what a “relationship expert” is and how you get to be one, and I definitely plan to check out the article in hopes of finding if there are country-specific, culture-specific patterns that exist).

• Labels matter
Cultural and linguistic anthropologist William Beeman wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to a columnist’s essay, Where Words Can Never Do Justice. Beeman objects to the phrase used in your column, referring to certain readers who objected to Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters in the Golan Heights as “pro-Palestinian.” Beeman says: “There is no reason to label people who object to misleading, skewed reporting in this case as ‘pro-Palestinian.’ Any fair-minded reader might come to the same conclusion, whatever his or her views. I have long felt that The New York Times is consistently biased in its reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and your column only reinforces that impression.” Beeman is professor of anthropology and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota and an expert on Middle East culture, society, and politics.

• Water, water is not everywhere anymore
The first of a three-part Washington Post series on water reviews three new books on the topic including archaeologist Brian Fagan’s Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind. Fagan is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

• Kudos
President Obama nominated archaeologist Rosemary A. Joyce as a member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. Joyce is professor of Mesoamerican anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

• In memoriam
Ricardo Alegria, a Puerto Rican cultural anthropologist, died at the age of 90 years. Alegria is known for studies of the island’s Taino culture and is credited with preserving the capital’s colonial district. He studied at the University of Puerto Rico before earning a master’s degree in anthropology and history at the University of Chicago and a doctorate in anthropology at Harvard University. He returned to Puerto Rico where he focused on the island’s indigenous cultures and fought to preserve historic structures in Old San Juan and elsewhere on the island. Governor Luis Fortuno declared five days of mourning in Puerto Rico in his honor.

Edmund Carpenter, archaeologist and anthropologist, died at the age of 88 years. He did groundbreaking work in anthropological filmmaking and ethnomusicology. In collaboration with his friend Marshall McLuhan, he laid the foundations of modern media studies.

Rosamond Moate Vanderburgh, a cultural/social anthropologist and a founding faculty member of the University of Toronto Mississauga campus, died at the age of 84 years. Her research focused on Aboriginal culture, and she published several books and articles in academic journals. She was also a founding member of the Toronto Township Historical Foundation (now Heritage Mississauga).

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