Anthro in the news 4/22/13

Is egg freezing a good solution for professional women’s work-life challenges?

CNN carried commentary from cultural anthropologist Marcia Inhorn, the William K. Lanman Jr. professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University. Inhorn says, “Trying to balance career and family is difficult for many professional women. I am one of those educated career-driven women who completed my Ph.D., found a good husband and landed my first tenure-track job at a major public university by 35.” Egg freezing is the newest reproductive technology: a recently perfected form of flash-freezing that allows human eggs to be successfully stored in egg banks. Commercially available in American IVF clinics only since October 2012, egg freezing is being heralded as a “revolution in the way women age,” a “reproductive backstop,” a “fertility insurance policy,” an “egg savings account” and in particular, a way for ambitious career women to postpone motherhood until they are ready. With egg freezing, women can use their own banked eggs later in life to effectively rewind their biological clock, becoming mothers in their 40s, 50s and beyond. It’s a technological game changer that just might allow women to defy the notion that they can’t have it all.

Inhorn’s statements drew criticism from two other medical anthropologists, Lynn M. Morgan, Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College, and Janelle S. Taylor, associate professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Washington. In The Feminist Wire, they write that Inhorn’s CNN advice  to women, “consider freezing your eggs” is right about one thing: “Trying to balance career and family is difficult for many professional women.” Yet the solution to the problem of balancing career and family for women – egg freezing – is entirely wrong. They point out that egg freezing is a new addition to the repertoire of assisted reproductive technologies, so of course people are intrigued. But egg freezing is also invasive, dangerous, unregulated, and very expensive. Worse, it is not a social solution, so it cannot address the social causes that make it so difficult for professional women to balance career and family.

Lynn M. Morgan
Marcia Inhorn
Janelle S. Taylor








“Radical anthropologist” lives in academic exile

The Chronicle for Higher Education included an article on David Graeber, one of the most well-known and influential contemporary cultural anthropologists and his ongoing inability to get an academic position in the United States.  The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, published a review of Graeber’s latest book, The Democracy Project. The review quotes Graeber as saying: “It’s a difficult business…creating a new, alternative civilization.”

Jim Yong Kim in the news

Territory size shows the proportion of the world population living in poverty living there (calculated by multiplying population by one of two poverty indices).(Source: WorldMap.)

Last week the annual World Bank spring meeting took place in Washington, DC. Widespread media coverage before and after the meetings, and quoting  Jim Yong Kim, appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and more [blogger’s note: just do a Google News search using his name and you will find many links to newspaper articles in Japan, India, more].  The Washington Post carried an article in its “economics” section which states Kim’s goal of eliminating extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.25 per day) around the world over the by 2030. Another WaPo article, in the politics section, discussed the evolving mission shift of the World Bank as world poverty is apparently on the wane, to build the global middle class:  “It is going to be a laser focus” to ensure that bank projects directly address either benefits for the poor or better incomes for those approaching the middle class…We have a lot of evidence. . . . We actually know what works.” In The Guardian, Kim says: You can’t lift people out of poverty without growth [includes a video of an interview with him]. Kim himself published an article in The Huffington Post about the importance of expanding access to education in developing countries, especially for disprivileged groups. [Blogger’s note: it’s great that the current World Bank president is, for a change, someone with training in cultural anthropology and medicine; but readers should never lose sight of the fact that the World Bank is a bank; and a bank, in the end, is about making a profit from the people it purportedly serves].

Making fish soup

According to coverage in The Japan Times and other sources, Japan is the home of the oldest known pottery: charred food residues from the world’s oldest pots show humans used ceramics for cooking in the late ice age, long before foragers/hunter-gatherers settled down to become farmers. The findings raises questions about the turning point in history that saw hunters/gatherers abandon a roaming lifestyle 10,000 years ago to start domesticating animals and plants to secure their food.  The research is described in the journal Nature.  “Foragers first used pottery as a revolutionary new strategy for the processing of marine and freshwater fish,” said lead researcher Oliver Craig of England’s University of York. The pieces were found mainly on the western coast of Honshu. They date to the Incipient Jomon Period, named after aboriginal foragers who inhabited the archipelago in the late ice age. The idea that hunter-gatherers used pots is controversial because they are delicate objects that would seem to have no place for a people constantly on the move. Many anthropologists had presumed that Jomon pottery was brought out only for special rituals and ceremonies, and wasn’t used for day-to-day living. Barbara King, professor of anthropology at William and Mary College, blogged about this finding for NPR.

In memoriam

Linda Cordell, a senior scholar at the School for Advanced Research, passed away unexpectedly. She  was an eminent scholar of Southwestern archaeology, and her book, Archaeology of the Southwest, recently appeared in its third edition. Her skills as a researcher and writer were recognized over the years with many honors, from the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for American Archaeology and the A.V. Kidder Medal from the American Anthropological Association, to her election as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She was a mentor to many students and colleagues. More information on Cordell’s career can be found on her SAR Senior Scholar page.

Bernard Makhosezwe Magubane, a South African who was an emeritus professor died at the age of 82 years. He had taught at the University of Connecticut for 27 years. As a representative in the United States of the liberation movement, the African National Congress, Magubane led the successful, anti-apartheid divestment campaign in Connecticut, and helped coordinate similar activities throughout the U.S. He was also a prolific writer and publisher. Upon hearing of Magubane’s death, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma deplored the country’s “loss one of its best historians and an outstanding academic.” As a committed anti-apartheid activist, Magubane founded the Connecticut anti-apartheid movement, which successfully lobbied the state of Connecticut to divest from South Africa. After retiring in 1997, Magubane returned to South Africa where he joined the Human Sciences Research Council as a chief research specialist. In 2000, he was appointed project leader and director of the South African Democracy Education Trust, an organization set up to study the political history of South Africa since 1960. The Trust produced 10 volumes of The Road to Democracy in South Africa, a comprehensive history of the country. Among his many honors, he was awarded the Order of the Star by former President Mandela.

David Whitehouse, who died at the age of 71 years, did much notable work as a medieval archaeologist. His first love, however, was the study of ancient glass. A native of Worksop, Nottinghamshire, Whitehouse gained a PhD in archaeology at St John’s College, Cambridge. He spent most of his career at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. He became its chief curator in 1984, director in 1992 and then executive director and curator of ancient and Islamic glass in 1999. Under his direction, nearly 20,000 acquisitions were added, doubling the museum’s holdings. Its Rakow Research Library, the foremost in its field, acquired thousands of books, rare manuscripts and archives from artists and glass companies around the world. Whitehouse published more than 500 scholarly papers, reviews, monographs and books, including three volumes on the Roman glass at Corning. He curated several exhibitions, including Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome (2008), Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers (2007) and Glass of the Sultans (2001). The Glass of the Caesars (1987) was a joint venture with the British Museum and the Romisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne.


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