Anthro in the news 9/30/13

El Paso, Texas by Robin Kanouse
El Paso, Texas. Flickr/Robin Kanouse

• Heavy toll at the U.S.-Mexico border

The Washington Post reported in the rising number of deaths of people attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. It mentioned the work of cultural anthropologist Lori Baker, a professor at Baylor University, who has lead a team to excavate unidentified immigrants’ graves.

• In South Africa, women burning to braai

September 24 is South Africa’s Heritage Day, a national holiday and a time when all people are supposed to come together and feel as one. A colloquial term for the day is National Braai Day, marking a connection to traditional meat grilling. Claudia Forster-Towne, lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Development Studies and Anthropology Department, published an opinion piece in Gender Links, asking for disruption of male dominance of the braai. She points to a spatial divide and the re-enactment of unequal gender roles. She demands the tongs!

Blogger’s note: here are links to two amusing videos on YouTube spoofing braai gender rules and practices:

• How gadgets can make us better people

The Independent carried an interview with cultural anthropologist, Genevieve Bell, director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research. She noted four ways that technology can improve our human future:

Technology needs to: be truly personal (“we want the devices to know us and being known to us to act on our behalf”); unburden us with fewer cables, chargers and passwords; interrupt us less (“keep us in the flow is how it comes up in our research a lot”); and, finally, make us better. “I know that sounds crazy,” Bell says, “but I think there’s that concept of technology allowing us to access our best possible selves.”

• The monkey in the dance

According to an article in The Straits Times (Singapore), Eric Sargis, a primatologist and professor of biological anthropology at Yale University, was watching classical Cambodian dance when he spotted elements of monkey movement in the body of a male dancer, who was portraying the classical Cambodian monkey character.

French-Cambodian choreographer Emmanuele Phuon, recalls how Sargis approached her after the show and told her how he recognized movements of gibbons and other types of monkeys. From that meeting, a partnership was formed: Khmeropedies III: Source/Primate.

Sargis’ input enabled Phuon, who is based in Brussels, Belgium, to create the third part of her Khmeropedies series with the Cambodian company Amrita Performing Arts.

Blogger’s note: A related YouTube video:

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become casting director of a top international fashion model agency. Daniel Peddle, casting director of The Secret Gallery, is known for its streetwise and wide-spectrum vision. He is known for developing racially diverse shows.

Tongue photo by Alexei Hay, Secret Gallery
Credit: Alexei Hay. Source: Secret Gallery website

The Secret Gallery scours the globe for models, and often brings in models who have not set foot on the catwalk before. He studied anthropology at the University of North Carolina before graduate film school at New York University. He found actors for his student films on the street.

…become adviser to the president of South Sudan. Telar Ring Deng is the legal adviser to President Salva Kiir and vows to help fight corruption in the country. He has a B.A. in political science and anthropology from a U.S. university.

• Very old boat building in South Wales

Archaeologists believe they have found the remains of a Bronze Age boat building community in Monmouth, South Wales. Excavations show 100ft-long (30m) channels in the clay along which experts think vessels were dragged into a long-gone prehistoric lake.

An artist's impression of how the channels could have been left in the ground at Monmouth Peter Bere
An artist's impression of how the channels could have been left in the ground at Monmouth. Source: BBC. Credit: Peter Bere

Archaeologist Stephen Clarke, is quoted as saying, “I started digging here with the society 50 years ago — I wish I had another 50 years.” The research is being published in a book called The Lost Lake, coming out in early October. The research will provide insights into pre-Roman times in Monmouth.

• That’s disgusting: let’s study it

Several mainstream media sources carried articles about a new book by so-called “disgustologist,” Valerie Curtis, an anthropologist, professor, and director of The Hygiene Institute at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her new book, Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat, will be out in October. In it, she takes an evolutionary view, arguing for a universal basis of revulsion which she calls the “parasite theory of disgust.”

According to Curtis, the study of disgust has become “something of a plaything for scientists … We’ve gone to other planets, we understand the Cosmos and have discovered the Higgs Boson particle but we still don’t understand our own heads and what makes us do the thing that we do. Disgust is a wonderful window into that and it’s something we can play with in the laboratory.”

Blogger’s note: here is a link to a lecture by Dr. Curtis:

Here’s the Q&A that followed:

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