Anthro in the news 12/26/11

• In-sourcing life-saving peanut food
The Guardian mentioned the role of Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist, physician, and health activitist, in an article about ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs). RUTFs are small packets of a peanut butter-like paste, fortified with minerals and vitamins. Products such as Plumpy’nut can reverse child malnutrition within weeks. But most RUTFs are produced in the US or Europe, then bought by aid agencies such as Unicef, and transported to reach those in need. Some social enterprises question this business model and seek to promote production in developing countries. Partners in Health, leads the way. It has been producing RUTFs in Haiti since 2006.

• U.S. public universities in crisis
Nancy Scheper-Hughes published an essay in the Chronicle for Higher Education on the current crisis in U.S. public universities: “Although public universities are under attack throughout the United States, the University of California is taking a particularly hard beating, metaphorically and literally…state support for the University of California is steadily shrinking, undergraduate tuition has almost doubled since 2007, and classroom spaces once reserved for California residents are being sold to affluent students from out of state and abroad. Diversity is good for any institution, but a diversity limited to those who can buy it is not diversity at all…”

• The meaning of money
Cultural anthropologist David Graeber of Goldsmith’s College, London, reflects on the meaning of money in the Guardian: “It affects every aspect of our lives, is often said to be the root of all evil, and the analysis of the world that it makes possible – what we call “the economy” – is so important to us that economists have become the high priests of our society. Yet, oddly, there is absolutely no consensus among economists about what money really is.”

• Russian middle class protesting
The Times of India carried an interview with Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov who teaches social anthropology at Cambridge University, England. Currently in Moscow, he spoke about anti-government protests in Russia, a changed public mood and influences like the Arab Spring and a global economic slowdown.

• Two anthro books named best of the year
In The Australian, writer Peter Carey, states his preferences: “In a period where all our old assumptions must be in question, it can be a tonic to read the works of those who have never shared them. I’m speaking about anarchists, who seem to be finding new readers every day. Here are two books so brimful of ideas they made my heart sing, both by anarchists, one an anthropologist and the other a geographer. The geographer is a Yale professor, James C. Scott, who made me think about the Marsh Arabs and the Asian hill peoples with new respect in The Art of Not being Governed. David Graeber is an anthropologist, an American professor from Goldsmith’s in London, who has been widely credited with inventing the great slogan for Occupy Wall Street: “We are the 99 per cent.” His new book Debt: The First 5000 Years speaks very clearly to our present world. It is a history of social and economic transactions, an interrogation of debt, tribute, gifts, the curiously economic language of religion, the fairytales we have told ourselves about the origin of money (and on, and on.) Not every argument is concluded or tied together, but line for line it is lucid. Graeber’s knowledge in encyclopedic. He offers more astonishments than I can count.” [Blogger’s note: Scott is an anthropologist/political scientist].

• Take that anthro degree and….
…become a farmer. According to an article in USA Today, Laura Frerichs of Hutchinson, Minnesota, discovered her passion for farming about a year after she graduated from college with an anthropology degree. She planned to work in economic development in Latin America and thought she ought to get some experience working on a farm. She did stints on five farms, mostly vegetable farms, and fell in love with the work. Frerichs and her husband now have their own organic farm. While she doesn’t expect it to make them rich, she is confident they’ll be able to earn a living.

…become a documentary filmmaker. Sam Dunn is an anthropologist and filmmaker. Along with Scot McFayden, he has made a cottage industry of their love of heavy metal. Their first film, 2005’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, followed Dunn across the globe as he waded through heavy metal culture. Global Metal continued the quest in 2008, tracing metal’s explosion outside of the Western world, and again casting Dunn as the long-haired, inquisitive escort through the annals of the music. The duo (with their aptly named production house, Banger Films, Inc.) also turned out docs on Iron Maiden and Rush, which ditched the anthropological element for a more straight-ahead profile approach. McFayden and Dunn’s latest project, the documentary series Metal Evolution (currently airing Fridays at 10 p.m. on Much More) sees the two returning to their more academic roots. The 11-part series traces the whole history of metal, from 18th-century Italian violinist Nicolò Paganini through to surf rock, thrash, and post-grunge. In an interview with Dunn on The A.V. Club, he talks about his continued interest in metal, the problems of subcategorizing musicians, and why Nickelback may get a bad rap.

• Which way syphilis
The Toronto Star picked up on a recent article published in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology concerning the 500-year-old debate in anthropology about whether Christopher Columbus and his crew brought syphilis back to Europe. The study’s authors George Armelagos, an anthropologist at Emory University along with Molly Zuckerman, a former student and now assistant professor at Mississippi State University, and Kristin Harper, a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University, conclude that there is no adequate evidence to suggest syphilis was prevalent in Europe prior to Columbus’ voyage in 1492.

• Kudos
Carol Worthman of Emory University has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Worthman is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology at Emory. She combines laboratory, field and population research for the study of biocultural dynamics in human development, reproduction, and mental and physical health.

• In memoriam
Marc J. Swartz, an American anthropologist and long-term faculty member of the anthropology department at UC San Diego, died in December at the age 80 years. Swartz earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1958 where he studied under leading social scientists of the time, including Clyde Kluckhohn and Talcott Parsons. He was a founding member of the department of anthropology at UC San Diego, where he served as a member of the faculty for 36 years. Swartz was a founding member of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, former chairman of the American Society for Political Anthropology, a life member of the American Anthropological Association, a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a member of the National Geographic Research board of editors.

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