Anthro in the news 9/9/13

• Bullshit jobs a new category of employment

The Sydney Morning Herald published an article by cultural/economic anthropologist David Graeber of the London School of Economics on nonsense, or bullshit jobs, jobs that involve a lot of time devoted to activities that really do not need to be done.

The Office cast
The kinds of bullshit jobs under The Office's Michael Scott are all too real for some. Credit/Wikipedia

Graeber argues that by eliminating the bullshit work, people could be freed to “pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas.”

The last century in the U.S. has seen the decline of productive jobs in industry and farming along with “the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations.”

The Guardian picked up on bullshit jobs and published an article with tips about how to tell if you have a bullshit job as well as help assessing the amount of bullshit that may be involved in your not-totally-bullshit job.

• Interview with Jim Kim on Syria and more

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president and medical anthropologist, was interviewed by Bloomberg News. He discusses the possible military strike against Syria in terms of its economic consequences. He also mentions the humanitarian connection, from his perspective as a medical doctor, about the use of chemical weapons. When asked about his views on who might be the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen or Larry Summers, he said that both are excellent.

[Blogger’s note: it seems that Dr. Kim may have an advanced degree in diplomacy, along with his anthropology and medical degrees].

• More from Jim Kim: Eye on the trigger

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Press Conference at the 2012 Tokyo IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Press Conference at the 2012 Tokyo IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings. Photo by Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

The Wall Street Journal reported on World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s comments on how emerging economies are suffering amid recent market volatility, yet noting the importance that the “trigger” is the recovery of the world’s largest economy.

Kim, speaking from the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, mentioned that things are largely better than they were a year ago. He urged “affected countries” to take action, with insights from policy packages that the World Bank has put together, providing measures they the countries can adopt to deal with the volatility.

• So-called “uncontacted” groups

The Washington Post, in its Health and Science section, reported on the recent appearance near a settlement of some indigenous people in Peru’s Amazonian region. It raises the question of the status of “uncontacted” groups (“uncontacted” is in quotation marks given its ambiguous meaning) and how “Western” societies should “respond” to them.

The article reports that Peru has laws that prohibit outsiders from contacting isolated groups. Brazil has similar laws. The article mentions the work of Glenn Shepard, an ethnologist at the Emilio Goeldi Museum in Belem, Brazil, and his findings about the effect of rubber companies’ intrusion into the Mashco-Piro area in the early 20th century.

North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island/Wikipedia

The article mentions the ethics code of the American Anthropological Association as emphasizing “do no harm,” but, as Kim Hill, of the Arizona State University, says, it’s not anthropologists who make “first contact” with remote indigenous groups.

[Blogger’s note: Yet, everywhere, external pressures from mining companies, dam-builders, loggers, ranchers, and more, constitute something like “contact” even if it is indirect. It reduces the livelihood areas of indigenous peoples, acre by acre, river by river. So their “choice” to remain “uncontacted” is not really a choice at all.

Final note: the article says that there are two uncontacted groups in India’s Andaman Islands; in fact there is only one, on North Sentinel Island and that’s not for lack of the outside world trying — the island dwellers remain resistant to intruders and have excellent bow-and-arrow skills].

• Selling sperm vs. selling eggs: kind of different

An article in The Huffington Post commented on California Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have allowed researchers to pay women for having their eggs harvested and retrieved. His move was warmly welcomed by women’s health and public interest groups including Our Bodies Ourselves, National Women’s Health Network, Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, Alliance for Humane Biotechnology, and the Center for Genetics and Society.

The article quoted cultural anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California at Berkeley who responded to the following argument: “AB 926 supporters say that paying for eggs for research is a matter of ‘equity for women,’ which seems to mean several different things at once. One is that women should be paid for providing eggs because men are paid for providing sperm.”

Scheper-Hughes points out the fallacy of this analogy: Selling sperm and selling eggs are totally different matters, she wrote: “One is pleasurable and safe, the other is a complicated and invasive procedure.”

• Organ trafficking a protected trade

Nancy Scheper-Hughes published an article in MercatorNet on how human organ trafficking continues largely unchecked.

She notes that: “Organ trafficking and illicit transplant surgeries have infiltrated global medical practice. But despite the evidence of widespread criminal networks and several limited prosecutions in countries including India, Kosovo, Turkey, Israel, South Africa and the US, it is still not treated with the seriousness it demands.”

The article was picked up and republished by LifeSiteNews, a pro-life organization. Embedded within the reprint is an option to click on a link if you are pro-life.

[Blogger’s note: I am not quite sure what the pro-lifers’ position is on organ trafficking … insights welcome!]

• Women who keep their own names

The New York Times published a “letter to the editor” from cultural anthropologist Maxine Margolis, professor emerita at the University of Florida. She responds to an article in the August 25 issue by Pamela Paul, “The Problem That Has Two Names,” noting that she is amazed that in the 21st century it is still an issue for a woman in the U.S. to keep her natal name.

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become a founder and director of a theater and dance company. Allison Orr is the found of Forklift, an innovative theater and dance company in Austin, Texas. She has a B.A. and cultural anthropology and a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Forklift Dancework’s PowerUP is the third installment of PowerUP, a free event running September 21-22 at the Travis County Exposition Heritage Center. It is a choreographed performance that features the employees and machinery of Austin Energy. The contemporary movement piece is set to an original score by Graham Reynolds and is choreographed and directed by Orr. The performances offers a postmodern piece of art that showcases the daily routines of everyday workers. Most recently, Orr directed The Trash Project, a performance work that celebrated Austin’s sanitation employees and garnered national attention.

• International collaboration to study and preserve Yup’ik artifacts

A full-sized mask bears both wolf and human traits. Transformation is a common theme in Arctic artwork.
A full-sized mask bears both wolf and human traits. Transformation is a common theme in Arctic artwork/University of Aberdeen

A partnership between Alaska Natives and a Scottish university is uncovering thousands of items in an Alaskan site dating between 1350 and 1670, preceding the arrival of Europeans.

According to The Seattle Times, Warren Jones, general manager of Qanirtuuq Inc., the village corporation, took pictures of the site and sent them to anthropologist Rick Knecht, formerly a professor at the University of Alaska and now with the University of Aberdeen. Knecht, who helped establish museums in Kodiak and Unalaska, recognized the artifacts as prehistoric, that is, before contact between the Yup’ik and Europeans in the 1800s.

A partnership between Qanirtuuq and the Aberdeen University was formed to undertake research at the site. “This is easily the largest collection of pre-contact Yup’ik material anywhere,” Knecht said of the thousands of items dating from between C.E. 1350 and 1670.

• Creative destruction: digging site for Canadian Museum for Human Rights reveals artifacts

Some of the more than 400,000 artifacts unearthed during the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg were recently unveiled by archaeologists and museum officials. The collection includes arrow points, tools, and pieces of ceramic pots. Many of them were found directly underneath where new classrooms will be built to host elementary and high school students.

“I feel that it’s going to lend us good vibes for teaching,” said Mireille Lamontagne, the museum’s manager of education programs who is also an archaeologist. Some of the artifacts date back to 1,100 C.E.

• Developers bulldoze archaeological site in Libya: no good news here

Cyrene ruins lie in a lawless area still recovering from Libya’s civil war
Cyrene ruins lie in a lawless area still recovering from Libya’s civil war/Times (UK)

According to The Times (London), an ancient Libyan city described by Unesco as one of the world’s most important archaeological sites is being bulldozed by property developers. Tombs at Cyrene, once settled by the Ancient Greeks, are being torn up to make way for a housing project, horrifying conservationists who fear that a precedent is being set that puts sites across the country at risk.

The article quotes Khalid Mohamed, a consultant for Libya’s Antiquities Authority: “What we’re seeing here is an illegal land grab … the security situation means there is nothing we can do [in Cyrene] … there are no police, no government, no laws.”

• Whose mines are these?

Copper mines discovered in Israel’s Timna Valley were previously thought to be mined by Egyptians in the 13th century. As reported in The Telegraph, new research led by Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist and metallurgist, indicates that the mines date from era of King Solomon and are thus “King Solomon’s mines.”

King Solomon's pillars, in the Timna Valley. Photo: Mark Bassett/Alamy
King Solomon's pillars, in the Timna Valley. Photo: Mark Bassett/Alamy

A related but somewhat contradictory report from NBC News says that the mines do indeed date from the era of King Solomon, but that does not necessarily mean they were “King Solomon’s mines.” The alternative view says the mines were likely operated by some of Solomon’s rivals, the Edomites.

• Evolutionary anthropology, creationism and science education

The New York Times, in its Science Section, reported on the role of biological anthropologist Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education for nearly 30 years, in supporting a scientific view of human evolution versus creationism and intelligent design.

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