Anthro in the news 09/10/12

• Chinese exceptionalism

SOURCE: Jim Watson/AP/pool
Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, right, hands a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2012. SOURCE: Jim Watson/AP/pool

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s insistence on a democratic approach to controversies involving China has brought out similarly insistent statements from defenders of the “Chinese way.” They point to flaws of democracy while touting China’s special Confucian values. This is dangerous thinking, according to op-ed contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, Kevin Carrico. He writes: “The notion of Chinese characteristics portrays the people of China as so unique, on account of their longstanding cultural traditions, as to be immune to the political and cultural change that has swept the world in recent decades.” Carrico is a Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Cornell University, researching neo-traditionalism, nationalism, and ethnic relations in contemporary China.

• Women’s second class citizenship extolled in Egypt

An article on an apparent rising tide of attitudes in Egypt that women should be good wives and mothers but not leaders or rulers quotes Hania Sholkamy, an anthropologist and an associate professor at the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo: ”The woman is the symbol of a moral platform through which easy gains can be made…Those who deprive women of their rights, limit their freedom or place them in a subordinate position believe that the political cost of doing so is very low.”

• Mines vs. people in Oz

A cultural heritage specialist and archaeologist has claims that a mining company’s environmental impact statement is not based on proper consultation with Cape York Aboriginal groups on a proposed sand mine. An article in the Courier Mail quotes Mick Morrison, a Flinders University archaeologist.

• Lapdancing is not the Bolshoi?

In a tax case in New York City, New York State’s Court of Appeals considered whether lap dancing constitutes a form of art. A lawyer representing Nite Moves, a strip club in Latham, New York, asked the judges to rule that the club was exempt from paying $124,921.94 in sales taxes on its door admission fees because it offered artistic, choreographed performances, invoking a provision that exempts Broadway shows and ballet performances from taxes on admission fees. An un-named cultural anthropologist who is an expert on exotic dance was cited as saying that lap dancing is an art form. A ruling is expected next month.  Judge Pigott, who appears to disagree with the anthropologist’s views, commented, “We need to get past the idea that somehow this is the Bolshoi.”

• Take me home: The Irish diaspora and American football

Anthrowork’s Sean Carey does a take on the recent football competition between Notre Dame University’s “Fighting Irish” and the U.S. Naval Academy in Dublin. Carey notes that this is only the second American football game held outside the U.S. Around 35,000 American fans, mostly men, flew in for the event, making it possibly “the largest movement of U.S. citizens in peacetime.” Carey discusses strong attachments to homeland among diaspora groups and acknowledges the importance of cultural anthropologist Agehananda Bharati‘s classic book, The Asians in East Africa, a foundational  anthropology study of diasporas.

• Tuition politics

The Université de Montréal has pulled the plug on seven anthropology courses that had been scheduled to resume August 27. The planned resumption of the courses was scuttled by a fresh series of on-campus disruptions and votes to continue the boycotts. The University made the announcement the day after student protesters learned that the tuition hike planned by the Liberal government of outgoing premier Jean Charest will be rescinded by the incoming government of Premier-elect Pauline Marois.

• Anthropology major reinstated

Florida State University’s Board of Trustees approved the reinstatement of the anthropology major. In 2009, during a major restructuring as a result of dramatic cuts in state funding, FSU’s board decided to suspend its anthropology programs along with several other academic programs. FSU does not offer a graduate degree in anthropology.

• Forensic anthropology at work

Forensic scientists identified a mutilated corpse that washed up on the shore in Argentina in 1976 as that of a Chilean leftist who was among the first victims of the Argentine dictatorship. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team used genetic evidence and fingerprints taken by Uruguay’s military government at the time to identify the body as Luis Guillermo Vega Ceballos, an activist with Chile’s Revolutionary Workers Party.

• Artifact deals

Following a scientific analysis that suggested its collection of ancient, Trojan-style gold jewelry was looted from northwestern Turkey, the University of Pennsylvania announced that it had lent the 24 items to Turkey for an indefinite period. In exchange, the Turkish government pledged to lend other artifacts for a one-year exhibit at Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and promised support for ongoing excavations by Penn scholars in Turkey.

• Still searching for King Richard III

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester who are leading the search for the lost grave of King Richard III announced today that they have made a new advance in their quest. Archaeologists have found what appear to garden paving stones. The University of Leicester is leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society

• A very old battle

Human remains, along with axes, spears, clubs and shields, were unearthed at an archaeological site in the wetlands of Denmark. The findings indicate that the 2,000-year-old site was the scene of a major battle, said Mads Kahler Holst, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark and one of the leaders of the excavation. They also point to the involvement of religious sacrifices: ”There’s a religious dimension, because we’ve found goat skulls and ceramic pots that probably originally contained food offerings…There also seems to be some kind of secondary destruction of the warriors that ended up in the lake, after they were killed.” Exactly what the battle was about, and who the warriors were, is unclear.

• So much to learn beneath Mexico City

The New York Times carried an article about the “archaeological wonder” that continues on more than three decades after a chance discovery set off a systematic exploration of the Aztecs’ ceremonial spaces and the many layers that accumulated over them in ensuing centuries.  “It’s a living city that has been transforming since the pre-Hispanic epoch,” said Raúl Barrera, who leads the exploration of the city’s center for the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City.

• Ancient obsidian trade

An archaeologist from the University of Sheffield has revealed the origin and trading routes of razor-sharp stone tools 4,200 years ago in Syria. An interdisciplinary research team hopes this new discovery, which has major implications for understanding the world’s first empire, will help to highlight the importance of protecting Syria’s heritage. In an interdisciplinary collaboration, researchers from social and earth sciences studied obsidian tools excavated from the archaeological site of Tell Mozan, located in Syria near the borders with Turkey and Iraq. Using novel methods and technologies, the team successfully uncovered the hitherto unknown origins and movements of the coveted raw material during the Bronze Age, more than four millennia ago.

Dr. Ellery Frahm, Marie Curie Experienced Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, led the research. He said: “This is a rare, if not unique, discovery in Northern Mesopotamia that enables new insights into changing Bronze-Age economics and geopolitics. We can identify where an obsidian artifact originated because each volcanic source has a distinctive ‘fingerprint’. This is why obsidian sourcing is a powerful means of reconstructing past trade routes, social boundaries, and other information that allows us to engage in major social science debates.”

• In memoriam

David Allen Fredrickson, an archaeologist noted for his sensitive excavations of California’s ancient American Indian sites, died at the age of 85 years. During his long career as a professor of archaeology at Sonoma State University, Fredrickson was also widely known for his more informal career performing as a guitar-playing singer of cowboy songs. His immense folksong repertoire has been recorded by the Smithsonian Institution‘s Folkways program.

He founded Sonoma State’s anthropology department in 1967, nine years before he became a full professor there, and also created its nationally known Anthropology Studies Center, which maintains Northern California’s prehistoric and modern collections of Native American artifacts and documents, available to scholars worldwide.

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