Anthro in the news 10/17/11

• Anthro roots of Occupy Wall Street movement
According to an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education, Occupy Wall Street’s most defining characteristics are rooted in the scholarship of anarchism and, specifically, in an ethnography of central Madagascar by cultural anthropologist David Graeber. Graeber holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He transplanted the lessons he learned in Madagascar to the globalism protests in the late 1990s in which he participated, and which some scholars say are the clearest antecedent, in spirit, to Occupy Wall Street.

• Anthro under attack by Florida governor
Blogger’s note: since Florida governor Rick Scott’s negative remarks about the uselessness of an anthropology degree hit the media, a wave of responses have appeared. I hope a sister blog will do a “round-up” and analysis. This post provides links to the governor’s statement and just a few follow-ups.

The Herald-Tribune reported on Monday, October 10, that governor Rick Scott believes that anthropology programs do not contribute to Florida’s economy, and he wants to cut state funding for them. Scott is quoted as saying: “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs…So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state…Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

It did not take long for the media to learn that Governor Scott may have singled out anthropology degrees as job market losers because he had “inside knowledge.” His daughter, Jordan Kandah, has an anthropology degree from Virginia’s College of William and Mary. Kandah did not go to work in the field of anthropology. She was a special education teacher before enrolling recently in a Masters of Business Administration program.

The Atlantic joined in the discussion with commentary about how useful, in fact, an anthropology degree can be for jobs in U.S. security operations overseas and business in the U.S.: “The real irony of Governor Scott’s remarks is that anthropology can be so practical that it even makes many anthropologists uneasy, as in the Defense Department’s Human Terrain Program, condemned as unethical by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 2009. But that leaves many other business-oriented careers for anthropologists as promoted by the American Anthropological Association itself. Anthropologists have been helping improve Silicon Valley and could no doubt do the same for Florida. ”

• Pay for the funeral of organ-donators
An article in the The Guardian (London) reports on the recommendations of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a medical ethics think tank in the U.K. Dame Marilyn Strathern, professor emeritus of social anthropology at Cambridge University, chairs the committee. She is quoted as saying: “Paying for the funeral of organ donors would be ethically justified…it would be a form of recognition from society. We think a pilot scheme to test the public response to the idea is worth trying.” The official response, so far is: nice idea but not likely.

• Culture and alcohol consumption
Social anthropologist Kate Fox contributed an essay to the BBC news magazine on cross-cultural patterns of alcohol consumption with a focus on Britain. She offers suggestions for changing “dysfunctional drinking.”

• Seeking reparations in Namibia
The Namibian government is seeking return of 20 skulls from Germany and reparations for atrocities committed against Namibians from 1904-1908. An article in Africa News says that the skulls were shipped to Germany as part of “racist anthropology.”

• Facebook community of paleolithic eaters in Montreal
According to an article on the Montreal Gazette, many people are adopting a paleo diet and joining a Facebook group called Eating Paleo in Montreal that started a year ago. The group has about 100 members. The article called on Michael Blisson, associate professor of anthropology at McGill University, for commentary: “There are lots of things that are unhealthy in modern diets that it looks like they are avoiding…More power to them!”

• Go big red (ochre)
Findings from excavations in Blombos Cave, South Africa, show that Middle Paleolithic people, around 100,000 year ago, were mixing paint from bright red ochre. An article in the New York Times cites archaeology professor Alison Brooks of George Washington University and Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut who have long supported the a view of early dates for human symbolic thinking and behavior.

• Are we still evolving?
Columnist Faye Flam of the Philadelphia Enquirer takes on this question and mentions a study by biological anthropology Professor Cynthia Beall of Case Western University. Beall shows that mountain dwellers in Tibet are being selected for better tolerance to their thin-air environment. She has found that some family lines carry greater oxygen-carrying capacity and that women with this trait have significantly more surviving children.

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