Anthro in the news 8/12/13

• How long must we dream?

Bloomberg news reported on World Bank president Jim Young Kim’s dream: ending poverty. Or, ending extreme poverty. And by a certain date. A wonderful dream.

Carabayllo Peru
Carabayllo Peru. Flickr/Gaia Saviotti

The article zooms in on Kim, who:

once slept in his office and drove dusty roads to help his patients in a slum near Lima. When he returned to Carabayllo in Peru two decades later as World Bank president, a motorcade whisked him from a luxury hotel past welcome signs on banners and brick walls. The reunion in June, a year after the Harvard-trained physician took over the bank, was as much about the future for Kim as it was the past. In the 1990s, his Partners in Health organization helped Carabayllo patients suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project, relying on community health workers for the treatment, got a better cure rate than U.S. hospitals, was expanded in Peru and influenced other countries.

According to the article, there has been progress in the hills of Carabayllo; Kim can use 4G Internet and his mobile phone in areas where he once waited in line to make calls. But what motivated him in 1993 has not changed: “If we can show that even in these poor communities we can deliver, we could have a much, much broader impact … There’s no question that’s still what I am here to do.”

• Big mining and indigenous people in Australia

Marcia Langton
Marcia Langton/University of Melbourne

According to an article in The Guardian, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of the mining giant Fortescue Metals Group, says that he has delivered more $1 billion in contracts to indigenous companies and so now the government must provide training for Aboriginal workers to thrive in the newly created jobs.

At a company event with guests including the MP Ken Wyatt, indigenous academic and anthropologist Marcia Langton, and indigenous leader Noel Pearson, Forrest announced that the program had “smashed” its target six months ahead of schedule, and with most companies being above 50 percent Aboriginal ownership.

• Black is black, especially for adoptive dogs

In the U.S., at least, black dogs have a slimmer chance of adoption than lighter-colored dogs. And the same may be true for cats.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on color-based adoption practices in Bay Area animal shelters mentions the research of Amanda Leonard, who heads the Black Dog Research Studio in Maryland and whose anthropological study is perhaps the only — or one of the very few — scholarly works on the subject.

“Black dogs are usually portrayed as mean, threatening dogs,” says Leonard who earned a master’s in anthropology from George Washington University, with a thesis about the “black dog syndrome” in the U.S. based on her work in an animal shelter. She is attempting through her research to legitimize what shelter workers have long said is true and plans to earn a doctorate on the subject. “It’s a totally ingrained and significant part of our culture that we associate black with negative,” Leonard said in a phone interview.

[Blogger’s note: I am very pleased to see Amanda Leonard’s M.A. work get deserved recognition. She published a summary of her M.A. thesis findings in the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers].

• Condors, chicha, and celebration

The New York Times carried an article describing an annual festival held in some villages of highland Peru in which a condor is tied to the back of a bull and both take on amateur bullfighters while spectators drink chicha and most participants emerge unharmed.

The article quotes cultural anthropologist Juan Ossio, a professor of anthropology at the Pontifical Catholic University in Lima, who says the bullfight corresponds to an Andean vision of the duality of the world that dates to pre-Columbian times and that joining the two is a ritual that re-creates the wholeness of the community. The exact historic origins of the event are unclear.

• Our recipes, our selves

Helen Leach
Helen Leach/Timaru Herald

According to an article in the Timaru Herald (NZ), precious handwritten recipes lurk in the bookshelves and kitchen drawers of many New Zealand families. Recipes for delicacies such as Marmalade Tart, Spanish Cream, Crispy Pie, Brown Nut Dainties, Border Pudding, and other comestibles.

For the keepers of these collections, there is the somewhat worrying question of what happens next? Will the next generation, more given to Googling their recipes than trawling family treasures, eventually dump Nana’s culinary folders? And do people even pass on recipes any more, as they did in times past?

The reassuring person to talk to about this is Helen Leach, food historian, author and emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Otago. Leach has written The Pavlova Story and The Twelve Cakes of Christmas: An Evolutionary History, with Recipes.

Leach says cooks are still collecting recipes, modifying them, passing them on to friends and family. As they’ve always done. And hard copies are still in use. Leach says such sharing and circulation — and the inevitable modification of ingredients and techniques — ensures that recipes keep evolving: “One person passes on her modified version, the next person makes changes. That’s how it works.”

• Take that anthro degree and…

… become director and founder of a major organization that helps the homeless. In Oakland County, an average of 3,000 people are homeless at any given time, according to Ryan Hertz, president and CEO of South Oakland Shelter (SOS), an organization that has engaged 67 local congregations of all denominations in the work of alleviating homelessness. The goal of SOS is to help people get from emergency shelter to permanent housing within 30 days. The emergency shelter rotates between the participating congregations that take turns sheltering and feeding 30 to 35 people each week.

Approximately 60 more people receive rent subsidies and housing case management, as well as support services such as a computer lab and financial literacy classes. And at any time, SOS provides follow-up support to 50 to 100 people to help them maintain their housing. Hertz, originally from Farmington Hills, came to the work by way of a Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

“I grew up surrounded by art,” said Hertz, who studied anthropology and folklore as an undergraduate at Indiana University. “What drew me to the reservation was the beauty of the traditions, the music, the culture. Being exposed to that level of poverty definitely changed me.” Hertz did his graduate studies in human rights at Wayne State University, where he received a Masters of Social Work, going on to do work in Lebanon and Haiti. Ultimately, Hertz decided he wanted “an opportunity to work locally on an issue that was important to me — where I could see movement in my community.”

… get a job in global women’s health, work in South Sudan, and be a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria. Beth Phillips majored in gender studies and anthropology at Willamette University, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship to study maternal health issues in Nigeria.

“I was in the middle of the bush in South Sudan when I got the email, and I remember being surprised and humbled by getting the grant,” Phillips says. “It seemed like a whole other lifetime ago that I applied for it.” Phillips will leave for Nigeria in March. She will then spend the following nine months working with doctors, nurses, medical students and patients to study treatments for obstetric fistula.

Since graduating from Willamette, Phillips spent five years with the Peace Corps, working in reproductive health in both Namibia and Uganda. She completed her master’s in public health at the University of Arizona and currently works in South Sudan with the Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program. Phillips says she’s been passionate about women’s health since she was a child, attending pro-choice and women’s rights marches with her family in Washington, D.C. Her interest was nurtured at Willamette University, where she forged strong ties with her anthropology and gender studies professors, many of whom she remains close to today. Phillips is now focused on continuing her work in maternal health across Africa, and to perhaps advise health policies through the U.S. State Department or the United Nations one day: “I hope to continue improving my ability to combine research with advocacy and program development,” Phillips says. “I’m curious to see what new things I will learn and experience. Every day, there’s something new, and that keeps me going.”

… own a traditional medicine apothecary. While many people enjoy walks in the woods, they need to beware of ticks, mosquitoes and poison ivy while they’re out there, according to medical anthropologist Mary Ryan, owner of the new Blue Dragon Apothecary in Greenfield, MA.

Herbal remedies are nothing new to Greenfield and Franklin County, she says. Now considered an alternative, they are part of our heritage, along with developments in standard Western medicine. Ryan graduated from Oxford University with a master’s in human biology and a Ph.D. in medical anthropology and has worked with numerous doctors throughout the Himalayas and in Europe. Locally, she collaborates with medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists and works with teens coping with depression and anxiety.

• Well, well: In Florida, before the Europeans

City archaeologist Carl Halbirt looks at an area of one of his digs off May Street on Thursday, where he believes he has uncovered a Timucuan Indian well that is more than 500 years old.
Archaeologist Carl Halbirt at one of his digs, where he believes he has uncovered a Timucuan Indian well that is more than 500 years old/Peter Willott

An archaeological discovery this summer could show that indigenous people in the St. Augustine, Florida, area once built and used wells before being exposed to European influence. Local archaeologists previously assumed that the Timucuan Indians, who settled in the area before the Spanish arrived, received fresh water from “seeps” in nearby embankments. “We’ve never found an example like that, that predates the European settlement here,” city archaeologist Carl Halbirt said. “It gives us an idea of where the indigenous population possibly obtained their water.”

• Human sacrifice among the Inca

Analysis of the mummified remains of three children retrieved from on top of a volcanic mountain in Peru indicates that they had consumed alcohol and coca for weeks before their deaths. Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford, is the leading the study which analyzing the mummies’ hair. Findings are presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (abstract available; full article is not open access).

• Lost and found: Maya frieze

The Huffington Post, ABC News, and several other media reported on the discovery in Guatemala of an “extraordinary” Maya frieze richly decorated with images of deities and rulers and a long dedicatory inscription. The frieze was discovered by Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor in Tulane University’s anthropology department, and his team in the northern Province of Peten: “This is an extraordinary finding that occurs only once in the life of an archaeologist,” Estrada-Belli said. The archaeologists were exploring a Maya pyramid that dates to C.E. 600 in an area that is home to other classic ruin sites when they came upon the frieze.

• Why aren’t people more hairy?

An article in USA Today asks why people are not hairier. It reviews several theories and then turns to biological anthropologist Barbara King of the College of William and Mary.

King is skeptical of an evolutionary explanation for hairlessness that works for both chimps and people: “After all, the pattern of hair density in humans results in a unique (within primates) visual presentation,” says King, the author of How Animals Grieve. “As other anthropologists have noted, we humans possess a whole ‘skin canvas,’ a place of vibrant self-expression, that may well have played a significant role in our behavioral evolution.”

• Kudos

Sara Quandt, medical anthropologist and professor of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has received the Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award from her alma mater, Lawrence University. This award is presented for outstanding contributions and achievements in a career field.

As an applied medical anthropologist, Quandt works to address health disparities experienced by rural and minority populations in the U.S. Her research focuses on occupational health concerns of Latino immigrant farm workers and poultry-processing workers, particularly pesticide exposure and occupational injuries and illnesses. She also investigates food and nutrition issues among older rural residents. Quandt is the co-founder of the North Carolina Field Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increase awareness of farm workers’ health and rights.

• In memoriam

Christy Gentry Turner II
Christy Gentry Turner II/The Republic

Christy Gentry Turner II, professor emeritus of anthropology at Arizona State University, died at the age of 79 years. He spent most of his life studying ancient civilizations that left behind rich legacies and a wealth of information. Turner was a professor in the anthropology department at Arizona State University for 40 years. Known for his dry humor, intelligence, methodical research and controversial writing, he published several books and countless research articles on anthropological topics, specializing in civilizations in the Americas. Turner’s most controversial work, Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest, was the first book of its kind to dispel misconceptions that cannibalism was isolated in Mexico and Central America, showing examples of similar practices in Southwestern Native American tribes. Turner received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona in the late 1950s and earned a doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1967.

Aaron Podolefsky
Aaron Podolefsky/
Aaron Podolefsky, former University of Central Missouri president and Buffalo State’s eighth president, died at the age of 67 years. Podolefsky was president and professor of anthropology at the University of Central Missouri from 2005 to 2010, where he raised the university’s academic profile, initiated strategic and master planning efforts, cultivated mutually enriching campus-community partnerships, enhanced regional economic development, and launched landmark energy savings and sustainability initiatives. “His commitment to Buffalo State, to Western New York, and to the public mission of our State University was unwavering,” said Buffalo State Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. “Under his leadership, Buffalo State realized a renewed commitment to the arts, community, diversity, and student life.” Podolefsky was the author of many books, textbooks, and articles. He was a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, elected by the organization’s executive committee in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of anthropology.

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