Anthro in the news 9/16/13

• Battle for Ground Zero

Boston’s NPR reported on the political and emotional struggles over what the site of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City should represent.

Battle for Ground Zero
Battle for Ground Zero book cover.

In a new book, Battle For Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center, Harvard University cultural anthropologist Elizabeth Greenspan documents America’s most fought over public space.

She says that as the memorial was being designed, there was tension between commerce and remembrance: “This is one of the most valuable pieces of land in the world — it held the largest office complex in the country … But then you had all these other people who said this is a now historic piece of land where so many thousands of people were killed.”

The memorial includes One World Trade Center, which will be used as commercial space, and a memorial area with reflecting pools and the names of those who died. While some families are pleased with the design of the memorial plaza, others hoped that there would be artifacts from that day incorporated into the memorial.

“For many families, they felt like there needed to be more that remembered the day itself and the attacks, and not just the twin towers,” Greenspan said.

• On the future of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Bloomberg BusinessWeek interviewed cultural anthropologist David Graeber on the future of the Occupy Movement. Here is an extract:

Q: Were you disappointed that the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t accomplish more?
A: I’m personally convinced that if it were not for us, we might well have President Romney. When Romney was planning his campaign, being a Wall Street financier, a 1 Percenter, he thought that was a good thing. That whole 47 percent thing that hurt him so much was something the right wing came up with in response to our 99 percent.

• Urban change in Angola

The Portuguese anthropologist Cristina Rodrigues said in Luanda that the independence of Angola caused a mixture of spaces of housing and mixing of the social groups, provoking a great urban, demographic and population transformation in the country. Addressing the theme of “Urban Transformation in Angola” at Agostinho Neto University, she said that in the post-independence period there was very high social mobility in the context of very limited in space.

• Pathways to chefdom

Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless/Wikipedia

According to an article in The New York Times, until recently, very few American chefs were born into the profession. The luminaries who led the American food revolution of the 1970s and 1980s found their own ways to the stove — through travel, like Alice Waters, or anthropology, like Rick Bayless.

[Note: This marks Rick Bayless’ fifth appearance on Anthro in the News. See these posts from 1/17/11, 8/23/10, 4/19/10, and 3/22/10.]

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become the vice president for the Ford Foundation‘s program on Education, Creativity and Free Expression. Hilary Pennington has been selected to lead the foundation’s work on school reform in the U.S. and higher education around the world, the next generation media policy and journalism, support for arts and culture, and sexuality and reproductive rights. [Blogger’s note: that’s quite a large remit!]

Pennington is a graduate of the Yale School of Management and Yale College. She holds a graduate degree in Social Anthropology from Oxford University and a Masters of Theological Studies from the Episcopal Divinity School.

… launch a syndicated radio show about health, a blog, and a newspaper column. Teresa Graedon has a degree in medical anthropology. Along with her husband, Joe Graedon, she has developed The People’s Pharmacy, a popular source of information about health topics such as head lice, safe drinking water, and the effectiveness of various antidepressants.

Laura Kabasomi Kakoma
Laura Kabasomi Kakoma. Source:

…become a soul/jazz singer. Laura Kabasomi Kakoma, also known as Somi, just signed with Sony Music’s historic jazz imprint, Okeh records, making her the first East African on the roster. Born in Champaign, Ill., she earned a B.A. in cultural anthropology and African studies at the University of Illinois. After a year and a half of research in Kenya, she planned to apply for graduate study in medical anthropology, that changed after she moved to New York City where she instead pursued an M.A. in performance studies.

…be appointed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as the Andrall E. Pearson curator in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The new Andrall E. Pearson curator is Joanne Pillsbury, formerly associate director at the Getty Research Institute. Pillsbury received her B.A. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University.

• At your service

According to an article in The Missoulian, as plans move ahead for a controversial copper and silver mine beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are trying to halt the project by designating a sacred peak in the area to the National Register of Historic Places.

Cabinet Mountain Wilderness
Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Flickr/Scott Butner

Maria Nieves Zedeño, an archaeologist from the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology and Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, is working as a consultant for the Kootenai Forest to document the cultural significance of Chicago Peak and determine whether it is eligible for listing.

She has been conducting field research, interviewing tribal elders who understand the peak’s traditional uses, and reviewing archival and ethnographic histories of the tribe’s relationship to the region. According to the article, Zedeno said: “Today and in recent history, the Kootenai have used Chicago Peak for seeking visions, acquiring knowledge and fasting …Right now, Chicago Peak is regarded by the Kootenai as the principal place for vision quests, so any activity that obstructs the peak, inhibits access or compromises its cultural significance is of grave concern to the tribe.”

• Size of testicles matters says a small study about big questions

Why are some fathers involved in child care and others not? NBC news and other media sources reported on a study in the U.S. of 70 men aged 21 to 55 saying that testicle size is correlated with fathering behavior, specifically larger testicles meaning less involvement with child care. The Emory University group, led by post-doctoral fellow Jennifer Mascaro in the lab of James Rilling, is the first to use testicle size as a physical marker, and to see if testicle size correlates with brain reward — positive feelings — from nurturing as a way to help explain variation in male parenting.

Father and child
Father and child. Flickr/absolut xman

Findings from the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Blogger’s note: if you are interested in learning more, please beware that it’s complicated. The researchers asked the men and their female partners to fill out a lengthy survey about the men’s level of parenting involvement. They tested the amount of circulating testosterone in the blood of 66 of the men. They scanned the men in an MRI machine while they looked at pictures of a strange adult, a strange child, and their own toddler all expressing “sad,” “happy” and “neutral” emotions. Then the MRI scanned the men’s testicles to check the volume. Men who were more strongly engaged in response to images of their own babies were also more likely to be nurturing according to the surveys and also tended to have smaller testicle volume.]

Rilling acknowledges that the study poses as many questions as it answers. For example, in which direction does the size difference flow: do men genetically predisposed to smaller testicles become more nurturing fathers, or does nurturing shrink testicles? Does life experience alter testicle size and then affect parenting? Are some men genetically predisposed to get more brain reward from nurturing, or do men who make a conscious effort to nurture get rewarded and learn to like it? Or both?

• Follow me (no app required)

According to several reports including Scientific American, male orangutans who about to set off on a trip broadcast their plan to move, letting potential mates and rivals know where they are headed. They do this through loud roars called long calls, audible more than a kilometer away.

Studies indicate that long calls announce the caller’s identity, attracting females while warding off rival males. By sharing their itineraries, males influence others. Females tend to move toward the caller’s path, while subordinate males avoid it. The findings are presented in the journal PLOS ONE.

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