Anthro in the news 1/6/14

  • Hope for the world in 2014

    Blue Fireworks by Neurovelho. Wikimedia Commons.

Wade Davis, as reported in an article in The Province says, “Each culture is a unique answer to a fundamental challenge: What does it mean to be human and alive?”  So, while he recognizes problems with population growth, eco-degradation, and the rapid loss of the world’s languages, he offers a New Year message of hope, “The world is not dying. It’s not falling apart. It’s changing…What young generation has ever come into its own in a world free of peril? I personally believe that pessimism is an indulgence, despair an insult to the imagination. There are wonderfully positive things out there.”

Davis will take up his position as professor of cultural anthropology at the University of British Columbia this fall.

  • What’s important in Ireland in 2014? Ask a cultural anthropologist

Ireland has transformed over the past six years. Attitudes towards money, work, marriage, masculinity and femininity, care of the elderly and the very idea of society are changing. New technologies are transforming the way we live, work and play. The impact of social media on youth culture is obvious, but technological innovations are also revolutionizing healthcare and work.

So what happens next? An article in The Independent provides insights from several cultural anthropologists who have been tracking changes in Irish society for more than 30 years and, more than ever, are influencing policy as health planners, educators and activists.

  • Complications of sending sacred objects back to Kenya
Richard Wicker. Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science plans to return the 30 vigango (pronounced vee-GON-go; the singular form is kigango) it received as donations in 1990 from two Hollywood collectors, the actor Gene Hackman and the film producer Art Linson. The approach balances the institution’s need to safeguard its collection and meet its fiduciary duties to benefactors and to the public with the growing imperative to give sanctified objects back the country or community of origin. An article in The New York Times quotes Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the museum’s curator of anthropology, “The process is often complicated, expensive and never straightforward…But just because a museum is not legally required to return cultural property does not mean it lacks an ethical obligation to do so.”

The museum this month will deliver its vigango to the National Museums of Kenya. Officials there will choose whether to display the objects, hunt through the nation’s hinterlands for their true owners and original sites, or allow them to decay slowly and ceremoniously, as was intended by their consecrators. Kenyan officials say sovereignty over the objects should be theirs and not in the hands of foreign museums.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a professional singer and song writer. Ayana Haviv, recently profiled in an article in the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a Grammy Award winner who works as an ensemble singer and soloist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. She is also a session singer who has recorded many film and TV soundtracks, including Avatar, The Lorax, and Wreck It Ralph. Her repertoire ranges from ethereal solo and background tracks to klezmer, Jewish traditional music and Middle Eastern melodies, as well as South African and Bulgarian women’s folk music, jazz, Baroque and Renaissance stylings. She has even been a pop singer and has written her own music. Haviv earned a doctorate in anthropology at UCLA after undergrad work at Cal Berkeley. Through UCLA’s ethnomusicology department she studied with one of the top Bulgarian singers in the world and joined the Bulgarian Women’s Choir.

…be recruited to head health services by the mayor of New Haven, Connecticut. According to the New Haven Register, Mayor-Elect Toni Harp is trying to woo a behavioral health expert, who is currently connected to a medical school in Georgia, back to Connecticut to be the city’s community services administrator. “I think she would be great,” Harp said Sunday, referring to Martha Okafor’s evidence-based research into early childhood learning. Okafor earned her doctorate in medical anthropology, health care management and social services at the University of Connecticut.

…work as an advocacy associate in a peace organization in Washington, D.C. Annie Callaway recently earned her B.A. from Tufts University with a double major in anthropology and peace and justice studies. She was recently hired by The Enough Project, founded in 2007, which has a staff of about 15 and a stated mission to end genocide and crimes against humanity, focusing on areas where some of the world’s worst atrocities occur. She’s in charge of spreading information to college campuses as part of a larger effort to bring attention to human rights abuses. At Tufts, she began as an archaeology major, then switched to anthropology and added a second major in peace and justice. She studied abroad in Uganda focusing on post-conflict transformation in the Acholi sub-region.

… be an interpretive planner in a museum. According to The Kansas City Star, Sara Wilson was recently hired by the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. She is redefining the look and feel of one of Missouri’s most off-beat attractions. An early challenge for her included creating an informative, eye-pleasing exhibit on lobotomy. Wilson earned master’s degrees in museum sciences and anthropology from Arizona State University.

  • Preserving archaeological heritage in a conflict zone

According to an article in The Express Tribune, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), a region most famous for being at the core of India and Pakistan’s differences, has much more to offer the world than just the wars fought over it. A team of archaeologists and research students who undertook the documentation of 100 archaeological sites in Muzaffarabad Division presented their findings during a seminar earlier this week. Sharing their observations, the researchers said heritage sites built by Mughals, Dogras and Sikhs represented historical treasures which were under threat due to neglect and natural calamities. During the seminar held at the Quaid-i-Azam University Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisation (TIAC), scholars urged authorities to preserve heritage sites, which in turn would also attract foreign tourists. “For the first time in 120 years, these 100 archaeological sites in AJK have been mapped and documented,” said TIAC Director Muhammad Ashraf.

  • Travancore historical archaeological sites need documentation

Many of the versions in the Travancore Archaeological Series (TAS) which carry the interpretations of the ancient inscriptions relating to the history of India’s Kerala state are wrong, according to some historians. The TAS was first published in 1910 by the then Archaeology Department of Travancore. Its aim was to throw light on Travancore’s history through study of inscriptions engraved in temples and other monuments. TAS was stopped in 1938 owing to the apathy of officials concerned.  “Ignorance of our past is disastrous as our knowledge of history plays a key role in guiding us in future. It’s been over seven decades since the TAS has been corrected and updated with the latest information,” said M. G. S. Narayanan, noted historian in the New Indian Express.

Supreme Council of Antiquities. Associated Press.
  • Very old beer brewer’s tomb

The Huffington Post and other media reported on the findings of Japanese archaeologists of the tomb of a beer brewer in Luxor, Egypt. The head of the Japanese team, Jiro Kondo, says the tomb was discovered during work near another tomb belonging to a statesmen under Amenhotep III, grandfather of the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun. It is over 3,000 years old.

  • In memoriam

Colin Murray, Scottish social anthropologist, archaeologist and author best known for his field work in southern Africa and particularly in Lesotho, has died at the age of 65. Early in his career, he taught children in a school in the Ugandan bush during a stint with the international development charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). His studies of migrant labor and forced resettlements in apartheid South Africa were not without personal risk. He investigated the forced displacement of black South Africans from farms and towns, working mostly in two large “reserves” (slums) where displaced people were concentrated in the Orange Free State. He juggled fieldwork in Africa with teaching posts in Cape Town, the London School of Economics, and the universities of Liverpool and Manchester. More recently, he was studying and writing about the social history of the tiny island of Ardwall in the north Irish Sea, focusing on the role of the islands’ families within the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. His publications include Families Divided: The Impact of Migrant Labour in Lesotho;  Black Mountain: Land, Class and Power in the Eastern Orange Free State, 1880s to 1980s; and (with Peter Sanders), Medicine Murder in Colonial Lesotho: The Anatomy of a Moral Crisis.

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