Anthro in the news 9/24/12

• Hello, Big Organic

Cultural anthropologist Elisa Sobo published an essay in The Huffington Post based on her ongoing research on education and health in a U.S., school, including views of the students’ parents. She comments that, “As organic market shares have grown, the environmentally-friendly, healthful, and socially just diet that early advocates promoted seems to have been somewhat forgotten. Big Food has entered the organic business, changing fundamentally what it comprises. For example, now, over 250 non-organic substances can by law, be included in foods labeled ‘organic’. Plus, organic no longer by definition means locally or non-industrially produced.” Sobo is a professor of anthropology at San Diego State University. Her current projects include a study exploring cultural models of child development as applied in classroom teaching, particularly in the Waldorf or Steiner education system.

• More on women’s breasts in the news

An op-ed in The Irish Times, titled Fascination with Kate’s Breasts and Karen’s Clothes Makes Idiots of Us All, discusses the debate raised by Adrienne Pine‘s recent breastfeeding of her baby while teaching a university class. Pine is an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. The other women mentioned are Kate Middleton and Karen Woods, the wife of Seán Quinn, jr.

• American scholar of Nigeria honored

The Guardian (Nigeria) carried a story about Debra Klein, a cultural anthropologist from Gavilan College in  Gilroy, California, noting that she “is deeply in love with black culture, Yoruba cultural heritage especially…[and she] speaks Yoruba with relative ease, her genealogy as an American notwithstanding.”  She recently completed a Faculty Research Fellowship in the performing arts department at the University of Ilorin, ending with a public lecture on her study, Reclaiming the Orisa in Nigeria: The Intersection of Traditional Indigenous Religion and Islam in Yoruba Popular Culture.

• Anthropologists speak at workshop in India

A two-day workshop on Advanced Research Methods in the Social Sciences, concluded at the Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology & Sciences in Allahabad. The workshop was jointly organized by the department of anthropology and the department of agricultural extension education. Professor Jahanara, head of the department of anthropology and extension education, gave the welcome speech.  Professor  V.S.  Sahay, head of the department of anthropology at Allahabad University, gave a presentation on the Chowre people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

• Ethnography for business

The Memphis Daily News carried an article about the relevance of ethnographic research for businesses, including an interview with a Cole Bradley, a business ethnographer because  “…this discipline [cultural anthropology] is so rare in the Mid-South…”

• Viking site beneath a Scottish car park

More than 1,000 years ago, Vikings met to settle problems, swap news and punish criminals in what is now a Scottish town center parking lot. Oliver O’Grady, the lead archaeologist of the site, claims the site has been badly damaged by the car park. Efforts are ongoing to preserve the site in Dingwall, Ross-shire, where assemblies known as “Things” in old Norse took place. The word, Dingwall, means “field of assembly.”

• Very old tombs found in Philippines

Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of what they believe is a 1,000-year-old village on a jungle-covered mountaintop in the Philippines. It contains limestone coffins of a type never before found in the Philippines. National Museum official Eusebio Dizon said the site could be at least 1,000 years old based on U.S. carbon dating tests done on a human tooth found in one of the 15 limestone graves excavated since last year. The discovery of the rectangular tombs, which were carved into limestone outcrops jutting from the forest ground, is important because it is the first indication that Filipinos at that time practiced a more advanced burial ritual than previously thought and that they used metal tools to carve the coffins.

• Earliest evidence of systematic hunting in Tanzania

Evidence from an ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early humans were capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought. Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals. The discovery, made by anthropologist Henry Bunn of the University of Wisconsin, pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years. “We know that humans ate meat two million years ago,” said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution. “What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted.” The appearance of this skill so early in human evolution has implications for scholarly understanding of the development of human intelligence.

• Bio rules of attraction

The Toronto Star quoted biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, in an article about male-female rules of attraction related to body size and shape:  “In the trajectory of mate selection, you spot someone and instantly assess too fat, too thin, too pink, too scruffy and you decide not to bother, even before you talk to the person,” comments Fisher, author of the new book, Why Him? Why Her?

• Khoe-San genetics

Scientists have completed the most comprehensive genetic study of the Khoe-San peoples, confirming that they are descendants of one of the earliest known splits among the branches of anatomically modern humans. The research suggests that several population groups were living in Africa when people migrated to the rest of the world about 60,000 years ago. Scientists analyzed genetic variations across 220 individuals from 11 different populations in southern Africa to explore their relationships and commonalities. About 2.3 million DNA variations were analyzed per person. The investigators found the earliest diversification event in the history of all humans occurred about 100,000 years ago. That is well before modern humans migrated out of Africa and about twice as old as the divergences of central African Pygmies and East African hunter-gatherers and from other African groups, said researcher Carina Schlebusch at Uppsala University in Sweden. Schlebusch is a  post- doctoral student and lead author of the study which was published in the journal Science.

• Kudos

William E. (Bill) Davis is stepping down as executive director of the American Anthropological Association after 16 years in order to concentrate on writing. He is praised as an effective advocate of anthropology, and Davis in turn thanks the group’s elected officials for being “tremendously encouraging and stimulating.” He was offered the post with the world’s largest anthropological association—11,000 members—in 1996, despite never having worked in anthropology. He had, instead, completed his coursework and doctoral examinations at Syracuse University in political science. He proved skilled at working with the association’s 38 autonomous constituent “sections” while containing costs. Davis also brought the lessons of anthropology to audiences outside of academia.

• In memoriam

Brian Dobson, an archaeologist and ancient historian, died at the age of 80 years. In collaboration with David Breeze, he provided a new understanding about the function, structure, history and development of Hadrian’s Wall. Their book, Hadrian’s Wall, went into four editions, incorporating new discoveries with each revision, and it remains an indispensable source.

Philip Kilbride, professor of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, died at the age of 70 years. He was an internationally-renowned anthropologist, scholar, teacher, and author of seven books and many scholarly publications based on his research in Kenya and Uganda. He taught anthropology at Bryn Mawr for 43 years and touched the lives of many students, colleagues, and friends. He was the founder of and former academic advisor to the University of Nairobi Exchange Program, which sponsored many Bryn Mawr students since its inception in 1996.

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