Anthro in the news 10/14/13

Gregale cliffs lampedusa
North-Eastern cliffs of Lampedusa, photo by Arnold Sciberras/Wikipedia

• We need a bigger boat

The Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media reported on the second incident of a capsized boat near Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean.

The article quotes Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who says that the sinking on October 3 hasn’t deterred smugglers from bringing refugees into Europe from the Libyan coast:

“And it cannot possibly deter migrants who have gone through countless stages of peril and exploitation in their own country, especially in Syria and the Horn of Africa.”

• On U.S.-Afghan relations

In an article analyzing current U.S.-Afghan relations and the troop draw-down, Global Post referred to the work of cultural anthropologist Thomas Barfield of Boston University.

Barfield notes that Karzai faces a political conundrum, that: an Afghan ruler, “to be successful … will need to convince Afghans that he will not be beholden to foreigners even as he convinces these same foreigners to fund his state and its military.”

And, pondering the future stability of the country, Barfield is quoted as saying: “In the absence of [a strong leader] and the departure of foreign forces, Afghanistan will not survive as a unitary state. The most likely event in that case would be a sundering of the country along regional lines.”

• Profile: Gladys Reichard

Arizona Public Radio carried a profile of Gladys Reichard, who said she started her study of Navajo society “by accident.” But, that “accident” turned into a lifetime career as a cultural anthropologist.

Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters.
Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters book cover

After attending Swarthmore College, she went on to earn a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University where her mentor was Franz Boas. She became a professor at Barnard College, and herself mentored many future female anthropologists.

In 1930, she went to Arizona to live among the Navajo. She settled in with a well-known medicine man named Miguelito and his wife, Maria, at Ganado. Maria taught her the art of rug weaving. Reichard’s first book, Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters, is based on her first fieldwork experience that began in 1930

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become a photographer and art teacher. Fiona Amundsen has a new exhibit in Auckland, New Zealand called Operation Magic, at City Gallery until November 24.

Her focus on the Pacific Theatre of World War II is “because it’s the war we’re still seeing repercussions of. Even at this moment America still has an imperialist regime. It’s just less obvious, strategic bases all over the world, in Tokyo and Okinawa because of the close proximity to China. There’s an American base in Darwin.”

Amundsen is a social anthropologist by university training and teaches art theory and photography at Auckland University of Technology. Social anthropology and photography have strong similarities, she says, as both are subjective and objective.

• Watch the hands: Rethinking gender roles in European Paleolithic cave art

Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men.
Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men. Credit: Dean Snow/National Geographic

National Geographic reported on the findings of archaeologist Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University that women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings. Snow analyzed hand stencils found in eight Paleolithic cave sites in France and Spain.

By comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers, Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female. Taking as his starting point previous research that found average finger lengths in people vary by gender, Snow has been studying ancient hand prints in caves for nearly a decade.

• Greek archaeologists protesting

In a protest organized by the Association of Greek Archaeologists, about 200 people gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki to protest government plans to remove a large section of a 4th century Roman road at the site of a planned subway station. One banner read, “Culture Is Not Business.”

• Water, water

The New York Times carried a review of four books about water including one by archaeologist Steven Mithen of the University of Reading. His book, Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World, explores water storage in early civilizations.

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