Anthro in the news 1/27/14

  • From Davos, with anthropology
    Jim Yong Kim. Photograph: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters

Several media sources connected with Jim Yong Kim during this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. According to coverage from CNN in Davos, World Bank president and medical anthropologist Jim Yong Kim has called for a concerted global effort to help Syria’s refugees, saying the international community has failed to formulate an adequate response to a “humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions…”

CNBC also reports on Kim and his view that that Southern Europe is facing the risk of losing a whole generation to chronic unemployment: “Among the things that we’re especially concerned about are the extremely high rates of youth unemployment because that has implications not just for the short term, but especially in the medium to long term.”

The Huffington Post presents Kim’s views on pollution, noting that he has called on global leaders to address climate change: “This is the year to take action. There are no excuses.” His clarion call comes shortly after a WEF report revealed that failure to arrest, and adapt to global warming is one the greatest threats facing our planet.

  • More about Jim Kim: The World Bank and big dam problems

Chixoy Dam.

The Washington Post, in its business section, published an article about the U.S. pushing for greater oversight of the World Bank as it pushes ahead with its new plan to solve extreme poverty through major hydro-elective projects: “In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies throughout the bank’s history including the ongoing case of the displacements and human rights abuses related to the Chixoy dam in Guatemala. The measure also demands that the organization undertake ‘independent outside evaluations’ of all of its lending.” [Blogger’s note: In October, CIGA hosted a talk at the Elliott School by Barbara Rose Johnston who is a leading advocate and expert on the Chixoy dam project and the human rights abuses it involved].

  • Forcing women into marriage

An article in Al Jazeera on forced marriage among Hindus, Muslims, and Jews around the world, mentions the work of cultural anthropologist Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Curtis, along with some of his students, interviewed 100 students at several City University of New York campuses, focusing on students from Middle Eastern, North African and Southeast Asian (MENASA) countries to try to determine the extent of forced marriage, an issue he suspects is more widespread than what the research shows: “All that we are seeing is the ugly tip of the iceberg, but how much more is there?”

  • Muslim women and sexuality: who knows what about whom

An article in The Vancouver Sun discusses three recent books about Muslim women. It is by a male journalist who has “been fortunate in my journalistic life to be able to converse with scores of Muslim women – mostly in North America, but also in South America, the Netherlands, France and Turkey.” He notes that all three books “offer detailed portraits of women in Muslim-majority countries – and all regret how beliefs about their supposed abuse have been used to justify military attacks, espionage and industrial exploitation from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan and Egypt.” For various reasons, the reviewer dismisses the first two books, by reputable scholars, and praises the third, by a fellow journalist.

The books are:

Do Muslim Women Need Saving, by Lila Abu-Lughod, professor of cultural anthropology and women’s studies at Columbia University.

Sexuality in Muslim Contexts: Restrictions and Resistance, edited by Anissa Helie, a researcher at John Jay College and Homa Hoodfar, an anthropology professor at Concordia University.

Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, by Shereen El Feki is an award-winning journalist for The Economist and The Huffington Post, as well as a scholar.

  • Why people in India vote
    Mukulika Banerjee. London School of Economics.

The New York Times carried an article based on an interview with Mukulika Banerjee, associate professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics and author of a new book, Why India Votes. The interview begins with the question: What is it about ethnography that lends itself useful to the study of politics? Other topics include what motivates Indians to vote and why voting is so meaningful for the majority of Indians.

  • Wearing technology: past, present, future

The Wall Street Journal carried an audio interview with cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, director of interaction and experience research at Intel. She places wearable technology in a historical context including suits of armor and tools that people have put on or attached to their bodies for centuries as well as more recent forms, through to the present and emerging possibilities of smart phones and so-called “wearables”. She notes that differences of contemporary technologies are that they are smaller, more efficient, connected to the Internet, and customizable.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…found a social innovation company and develop a water wheel that provides a way to transport water instead of carrying it. The WaterWheel eases that burden by storing water in a round 50-litre container that doubles as a wheel. Designed after consultations with villagers in the dry northern Indian state of Rajasthan, the WaterWheel is made from high-quality plastic that can withstand rough terrain. “Our goal is to distribute on a large scale, on small margins to 10,000-20,000 customers a year,” says Cynthia Koenig in an article in The Guardian. As founder and chief executive of Wello, Koenig studied anthropology in the U.S. and is now working on ways to deliver clean water in poor countries. Wello won a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel. Koenig says: “One of most exciting things is that men love using it, they see it as a tool…Men take on the primary role so the women are freed up to do other things. Or the role is split so men use it four days a week and the women use it two days. It has reduced the burden on women. A nurse told me she is not late for work anymore because the husband collects the water.”

…become a New York City councilman and rising power broker. According to an article in The New York TimesBrad Lander, a cerebral and unassuming city councilman from Brooklyn with a degree in anthropology, has abruptly become the sort of person who endlessly fascinates scholars of the modern metropolis: a power broker.

…own an artisanal apparel company. Hurlbut Zander owns the Peruvian Connection, which began as an online source. She has recently expanded the enterprise by opening stores in several American cities and also London. Zander is a Yale-trained social anthropologist and archaeologist as well as a collector of antique furniture and textiles. Her home in Kansas City was recently profiled in The New York Times.

  • Forensic anthropologist reviews evidence of Syrian war crimes

According to an article in The Courier (U.K.). forensic anthropologist, Sue Black, of the University of Dundee, has examined thousands of photographs from Syria and confirms that the photographs showing multiple deaths are authentic and not different images of the same victims. She is quoted as saying: “We saw that the victims had been starved and there was also evidence of death by strangulation…The injuries were not consistent with those that would be inflicted through conflict in war but were consistent with torture. Our task was to see if the evidence of torture was credible and to see if the deaths warranted further investigation. Our answer to both questions is emphatically yes.”

Black’s forensic expertise has been crucial in high-profile criminal cases including the conviction of Scotland’s largest pedophile ring in 2009. In 1999 she headed the British forensic team’s exhumation of mass graves in Kosovo.

  • Forensic anthropology in Maine

Bangor Daily News carried a profile of Marcella Sorg, forensic anthropologist for the Maine medical examiner’s office and professor at the University of Maine. She conducts skeletal investigations to make determinations about a person’s identity and cause of death and whether the person’s death was a result of a crime.

  • Heritage structures in Kashmir crumbling

Hundreds of heritage buildings in Kashmir remain unprotected. Speaking to the Kashmir Times, Nasreen Khan,

Heritage preserved in Jammu and Kashmir: an art deco palace now a “heritage hotel.”

Director of Archives, Museumology and Archaeology in Kashmir, said that the department is trying to preserve the heritage structures. Buildings, houses and shops as old as 200 years, which are spread in different parts of the valley that have not yet been identified by the archaeology department and subsequently stand unprotected. These buildings not only display the history of Kashmir but provide an account of the architectural excellence of Kashmir.

  • Child sacrifice in Carthage: yes or no

According to an article in The Guardian, some Carthaginians did kill their own infant children, burying them with sacrificed animals and ritual inscriptions in cemeteries to give thanks for favors from the gods. The article quotes Josephine Quinn, a lecturer in ancient history at Oxford, who participated in the study cited: “…when you pull together all the evidence – archaeological, epigraphic and literary – it is overwhelming and, we believe, conclusive: they did kill their children, and on the evidence of the inscriptions, not just as an offering for future favours but fulfilling a promise that had already been made. This was not a common event, and it must have been among an elite because cremation was very expensive, and so was the ritual of burial. It may even have been seen as a philanthropic act for the good of the whole community.”

The December 2013 issue of the journal Antiquity presents Quinn’s co-authored study [not open access]. Opposing views, in what is an ongoing heated debate in historical archaeology, are presented.

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