Anthro in the news 8/8/11

• Angles of review
Paul Farmer‘s new book, Haiti: After the Earthquake, was reviewed in the Economist and the Washington Post. The first reviewer sniped at Farmer, who is a professor of anthropology and public health at Harvard University, for being thin on history and having no basis to talk policy. The second reviewer chides Farmer for a rush to publish and praises one of the accompanying essays in the book by anthropologist Timothy Schwartz. Neither review mentions that Farmer is a medical anthropologist, doctor, and health advocate. Blogger’s note: Could it be that Farmer brings to the table much more than the reviewers do?

• Indonesian government welcomes cultural anthropology’s “soft” approach
The National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) plans to use cultural anthropology to better understand Papuan aspirations to maintain stability in the area. According to the National Resilience Institute governor, Budi Susilo, anthropology is necessary because there are many tribes and more than 400 languages in Papua, and anthropological insights will inform the government about how to raise awareness among Papuans regarding their relationship with the central government. The Jakarta Post quotes Budi as saying: “We want to invite anthropology experts to study this as part of soft approach to better understanding Papuan aspirations.” Budi also said that the idea of holding a referendum in Papua is not acceptable.

• Political accountability for high-level Chagos decisions
AW’s contributing blogger Sean Carey wrote an article for the Mauritius Times that likely means he will be stuck in academia forever. In response to a question posed to him by Professor J. Manrakhan, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, Sean said: yes, former U.K. Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw and David Miliband should be held accountable for their decisions about Chagos. [Blogger’s note: in an email to me, Sean commented with irony: “End of my chances of being employed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office!”].

• Ethno-tainment and gross misrepresentations of Amazonian people
According to the Independent online and several other sources this past week, anthropologists claim that a British television company faked scenes and mistranslated quotations from an Amazonian tribe to make them look “savage” and “sex-obsessed.” The series in question is Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga, which aired on one of the BBC’s international channels.
In one scene the subtitles indicate a tribesman saying: “We use arrows to kill outsiders who threaten us.” But a respected anthropologist, who speaks the tribe’s language, says the correct translation is: “You come from far away where lots of gringos live.”
The program also features a “wild pig dance.” An anthropologist with 35 years of experience with the people had never seen such a dance.

• The future of Facebook
Daniel Miller, professor of anthropology at University College London, has finished a year-long study of the Facebook phenomenon, published in the book, Tales From Facebook. The research has been used to predict how the site will evolve. Evidence suggests that for Facebook, the future is among older people. Miller says: “We assume that Facebook is something we should associate with the young, but my evidence suggests that this is entirely mistaken. If there is one obvious constituency for whom Facebook is absolutely the right technology, it is the elderly. It allows them to keep closely involved in the lives of people they care about when, for one reason or another, face-to-face contact becomes difficult… Its origins are with the young but the elderly are its future.” The article describing Miller’s work also mentioned an earlier study by cultural anthropology professor Ilana Gershon, of Indiana University. She studied Facebook’s role in the structure of relationship breakdowns among American college students. Miller situated his research in Trinidad and Tobago where people adopt new technology quickly.

• Study anthro and become a movie star
Brit Marling co-wrote and stars in two new movies, Sound of My Voice and Another Earth. Marling is a former Georgetown University anthropology student.

• Expelled from teaching position
Sociology and anthropology professor Eyal Ben-Ari, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was dismissed from his position on Sunday. He was accused of raping multiple students over a period of 15 years. The decision was made by an academic disciplinary court, and overturned his previous sentence of a two-year suspension.

• Nothing like a good war story
Nicholas Wade of the New York Times picked up on a recent finding that supports the view of prehistoric warfare as a catalyst of first states (see last week’s anthro in the news for details). The archaeologists leading the research, Charles Stanish and Abigail Levine of the department of anthropology at UCLA, report on their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• A crowning discovery in Egypt
The earliest known image of an Egyptian ruler wearing the “White Crown” associated with Egyptian dynastic power has been discovered by an international team of archaeologists led by Egyptologists from Yale University.

One thought on “Anthro in the news 8/8/11

  1. Just Saying

    It’s not fair to dismiss anyone who disagrees with Paul Farmer by simply questioning their credentials, as this Blogger’s Note on “Angles of Review” does : “Could it be that Farmer brings to the table much more than the reviewers do?” I admire and am grateful for both this blog and Farmer’s work, but this sort of dismissive attitude toward anyone who disagrees with the anthro groupthink does a disservice. Better to try to see both sides of the story, engage the debate, and give the critics a fair chance.


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