Anthro in the news 3/17/14

  • Beauty pageants: women’s empowerment via male purview?

Future political leaders? December 30, 2010.

An article in The New Statesman leads with this line: “In the US, beauty pageants are an increasingly popular way for young women to begin a career in public office.” The article begins by discussing (female) beauty pageants as a business, noting that in the U.S. there are two main franchises, Miss America and Miss USA, which run competitions nationally and statewide, down to local level. In addition, countless small, independent events occur annually with a high degree of specificity: Miss Chinatown USA for Chinese Americans, Miss Latina US, Miss Black Deaf America, and Miss Earth United States.

The article describes the work of Beverly Stoeltje, a professor of cultural anthropology at Indiana University. She says that although American culture was founded on the rational principles of a republic, a yearning remains for something of the Old World: “We have these pageants, which crown these queens. In this culture, since we don’t have monarchs, we create them.”

In terms of the gender angle, Stoeltje is quoted as saying: “While the ideal woman of ‘our community’ or ‘our country’ is expected to be intelligent, she is still expected to appeal to the males who will be looking at her, whistling at her…She represents the embodiment of female power – restricted by male tastes.”

Stoeltje observes that beauty pageants, like politics, tap in to a competitiveness that is innate in the American cultural psyche: “I would argue that the pageant is a space of contestation . . . Pageants’ role today is to reflect the advances of women in society, that women can be empowered – but to say that women should continue to be seductive, and to be governed by the powers that be, who are generally male.”

  • Nature tourism harms India’s “tribal” groups
Kerala, India.

The Hindu (India) carried an article describing research by two German social anthropologists that shows the negative effects of nature tourism on the so-called tribal people of Wayanad and the biodiversity of their region in India’s southern state of Kerala. Tourism promoters list Wayanad as one of the top 50 must-see destinations in the entire world. A long-term study finds, however, that “…tourism has resulted in ‘zooification’ and ‘exoticisation’ of tribals and that verges on racism,” according to Daniel Munster of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittneberg, and Ursula Munster of the Department of Anthropology, Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Their six-year research reveals the negative side of nature tourism which they say has turned highly exploitative in Wayanad.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a writer. Joshua Ostergaard’s first book, The Devil’s Snake Curve, will be published in April. He got the idea for his book about the cultural force of baseball a decade ago: “It’s gone through tons of iterations…It started out as a novel, but I scrapped everything I had in 2009, and it turned into something different entirely.”  Ostergaard, who has an M.A. in cultural anthropology, left his “dream job” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to participate in the University of Minnesota MFA program’s three years of coursework. His work incubated during his time in the program. “Like anything else, it is based on discipline,” Ostergaard said of writing a book. “Getting into the habit of attempting every day is crucial.”

…work in a special education school program and be a photographer and entrepreneur. Alanna Allen works for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) in Alaska as an intensive needs specialist. She earned her B.A. in anthropology from the University of Alaska Anchorage: “Although Special Education has nothing to do with my degree I am very passionate about my job, the kids I work with and advocating for individuals with special needs.” She has also launched a new business called Free Spirit Photography. Her work is available for framing, cards and cell phone covers through her Facebook page, AKfreespiritphotography.

…become a painter and sculptor.  Marvin Gaye Chetwynd was born in London and now lives in Glasgow. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012. Chetwynd studied social anthropology and fine art. Her first solo show in a U.K. public gallery is open until March 23 at Nottingham Contemporary. A reviewer comments that her work is, “bawdy, tumultuous and often hilariously free-form extravaganzas…carnivalesque performances which combine an eclectic range of sources from history, literature and culture high and low – from Hieronymus Bosch and Rabelais to Meatloaf and Conan the Barbarian…gregarious and improvisatory affairs involving gangs of participants and elaborate, gloriously wonky homemade costumes and props.”

  • Archaeological insights into inequality

As noted in the Alaska Dispatch, UAA professor of archaeology Ryan Harrod will speak about “Violence against Women: Towards a New Understanding” as part of a series on Women and Agents of Violence held in honor of Women’s History Month and sponsored with the UAA Anthropology Department. Harrod’s research involves the identification of social inequality and violence within a community through archeological findings. His projects have focused on the U.S. Southwest, South-Central Alaska, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau.

  • Siberians used the Bering Land Bridge (dark green) to reach North America. New research suggests that some may have returned home, taking their dialect with them.

    Connected by language long ago

The Daily Mail (U.K.) and other media sources reported on research by linguistic phylogeny experts that demonstrates the common roots of language in Russia and American Indian languages and sheds light on migration patterns into the Western Hemisphere. Specifically, researchers found a link between the current Na-Dene languages of North America and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia. The story is complicated. Around 40 languages were found to have diffused across Asia and the U.S. and findings reveal that migration may not have been a one-way trip, with some people returning home, taking their dialects back with them.

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