Anthro in the news 11/14/11

• Multiple realities and the Occupiers
ABC published an opinion piece by two cultural anthropologists, Ghassan Hage, professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne, and Gerhard Hoffstaedter, a researcher at La Trobe University who take up a lectureship in anthropology at the University of Queensland. They both do research on the politics of multiple realities. At the end of their essay, they say:  “…there is an important and growing body of work in anthropology showing that rather than being defined by individualism, or territorialism and private property, or instrumental reason, what marks our modernity is that it has increasingly limited us to become mono-realist…This is not to say that the Occupiers want to revert to a non-modern mode of existence. It is to assert that, the idea of societies that allow the co-existence of multiple realities is not a figment of someone’s utopian imagination. It is to assert that, as the saying goes: another life is possible.”

• On the European economy
The Guardian carried a debate between cultural anthropologist Gillian Tett, writer for the Financial Times, and a television journalist, Paul Mason. She is quoted as saying: “Just as the past four years have raised questions about the way modern finance works, they are raising profound questions about our systems of government: we have no institutions to plan for the future, nor institutions that can quickly respond to a crisis. This is one of the reasons faith in so many public institutions is collapsing, alongside faith in the bankers. It’s why you’ve got this Occupy Wall Street protest.” Go, Gillian!

• Paul Farmer on Cuba’s humanitarian role in Haiti
An article in the New York Times on Cuba’s health aid to Haiti quotes Paul Farmer — cultural anthropologist at Harvard University, doctor, United Nations deputy special envoy to Haiti, and co- founder of Partners in Health — who said the Cubans sounded an important early alarm about the cholera outbreak and helped to mobilize health officials and lessen the death toll.

• Speaking truth to Governor Scott about anthropology and anti-racism
Cultural anthropologist John Moore, emeritus professor at the University of Florida, wrote about the importance of anthropology in the Florida Sun. He traces the connections of anthropology to anti-racism. That’s important, and it affects us all including those in the sacrosanct STEM fields. Thanks, John.

• Review All-American Muslim
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, assistant professor of anthropology and African American studies at Purdue University, published an article in Religion Dispatches magazine that offers a positive review of the new reality TV show, “All-American Muslim.” Set in Dearborn, Michigan, the show follows five Muslim-American families as they struggle to balance faith and nationality in a post-9/11 world.

• Anthro and a new idea: speaking truth to power, another example
More than 25 years have passed since graduate student Diane Hanson reported to the Alaska Anthropological Association about an Adak archaeological site that was out of place, well inland instead of along the Aleutian coastline. Anthropologists since the 1950s had been insisting that coastal communities were all that mattered in the Aleutians.

The audience of anthropologists was not kind to the findings of the young graduate student. “Crucified,” was how Hanson describes the experience to the Anchorage Daily News. Hanson, now a professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, has a major research grant from the National Science Foundation to support further excavation at the site.

• New exhibition celebrates Ann Dunham’s research
An exhibition celebrating Dunham’s life and work in Indonesia is opening in Hawai’i featuring her personal art and artifact collection. An article in CNN quotes her daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng: “She had so much respect for the communities where she conducted her research. Always logical and rigorous, our mother’s scholarship was made truly meaningful by the fact that she loved the people she wrote about and hoped others would hear their song.”

• Human evolution and magical numbers
ABC news carried an article about the unique pattern of numbers that occurred on 11/11/11. The magical date inspired weddings, New Age ceremonies, and caesarean births. According one anthropology professor, the human fascination with numeric patterns is a by-product of human evolution: “If you’re walking down a rainforest path and you see something that could either be a root or a snake, it’s better to assume it’s a snake and step around it carefully than to think it’s a root,” said John Hoopes, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas. Our senses are “geared toward pattern recognition,” Hoopes told, “because it gives us an advantage for survival…If you’re going to pick a number to focus on, ‘1’ is a good place to start…All these ones are something people notice and pay attention to.”

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