Anthro in the news 4/21/14

• In Boston, after the bombs

An article in The Boston Globe explored the experiences of Muslims in Boston following the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Fortunately, an anti-Muslim backlash did not occur.

Islamic Society of Boston headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Islamic Society of Boston/Wikipedia

The article quotes Nancy Khalil, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at Harvard: Years ago, she remembered “trying to explain who we really are, in these really anxious, tense meetings” with Jewish leaders, who were then trying to reconcile their desire for better interfaith relations with their communities’ concerns about a mosque founder’s anti-Semitic statements and alleged extremist ties.

“It was an unbelievable moment for me, and it was really indicative of the type of relationships that we now have across institutions and across communities,” Khalil said. “Because it wasn’t just the leaders being welcoming … It was everybody in that temple being welcoming. And that Muslims were comfortable staying there and mingling afterwards, that was telling.”

• U.S. evangelical churches reach out to save minds as well as souls

In an op-ed in The New Times, Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University professor of cultural anthropology at Stanford University, writes about some movement in U.S. evangelical churches moving into the area of mental illness.

Rick Warren speaks at the 2006 TED conference
Rick Warren at TED, 2006/Wikipedia

She notes the pastor Rick Warren, whose son committed suicide one year ago after struggling with depression. Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of the nation’s largest evangelical churches, teamed up with his local Roman Catholic Diocese and the National Alliance on Mental Illness for an event that announced a new initiative to involve the church in the care of serious mental illness.

According to Luhrmann, the churches are not trying to supplant traditional mental health care but instead complement it: “When someone asks, Should I take medication or pray?” one speaker remarked, “I say, ‘yes.’”

Members of the churches think there are not enough services available. Further, many people do not turn to the services that exist because of the social stigma. [Blogger’s note: In other words: all hands on deck to help fight mental health problems. And heads up to the health care system to do more and do better work and try to address the stigma problem.]

• Knocking on heaven’s door: Documentary in review

The New York Review of Books carried a review of Manakamana, the new documentary by anthropologist Stephanie Spray and filmmaker Pacho Velez.

It takes the viewer “to a mountaintop Hindu temple, as well as back in time to the medium’s dawn.” Shot in Nepal, “the film uses a fixed 16mm camera to document a varied succession of pilgrims, some with gifts for the goddess Bhagwati, as they are conveyed via cable car over a jungle valley and up to or back from the seventeenth-century shrine, known as the Manakamana Temple.

“There are five ascents to and six descents from the mountain—an eleven-act vaudeville show in which the individual trips are separated by a clattering landing and an invisible cut made during the darkness of the turn-around.”

• Take that anthro degree and…

Jamyla and Pierre Bennu
Jamyla Bennu and husband Pierre of Oyin Handmade/Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun

…develop a line of natural beauty products, Oyin Handmade, for African-American women. Jamyla Bennu lives in Baltimore with her husband (who helped her develop Oyin Handmade) and their two sons. She sells most of her products online, though Target and Whole Foods and other stores are starting to stock them. Ebony magazine recently selected the Bennus as the “Coolest Black Family in America.” Jamyla did graduate studies in anthropology at New York University.

…become the curator and organizer of the Nowruz (Persian New Year) ceremonies in Berlin. Germans had the opportunity this year to attend a Nowruz festival organized by the Ethnologisches Museum of Berlin with the cooperation of the embassies of 11 countries celebrating Nowruz, including Iran.

Dr. Ingrid Schidlbeck is the chief curator in the Ethnologisches Museum and lecturing anthropology at the Institute of Anthropology in Berlin. She studied anthropology at Berlin. In her research, she concentrates on societies of West and Central Asia, particularly Turkey and Azerbaijan where she did extensive fieldwork focusing on the topics of socialization of children, kinship, gender, religion and material culture.

…be appointed director of an arts center. The Mesquite Arts Center in the City of Mesquite, Texas. James Mack was hired to be the center’s new manager, and he will also serve as director of the Mesquite Arts Council. Mack has a bachelor of science in cultural anthropology from Iowa State University, a bachelor of arts in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona and is currently pursuing a master’s in business administration and nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame.

• Old chapel found at the Easter Abbey

Archaeologists make new discoveries at the site where the date of Easter was settled
Archaeologists make discoveries at site where date of Easter was settled/Telegraph

Archaeologists have located a hidden chapel at the site of an abbey where the date of the U.K.’s Easter celebrations were first set. A team from English Heritage discovered the remains at Whitby Abbey, in North Yorkshire, as part of an ongoing 20-year research project.

Tony Wilmott, the English Heritage archaeologist who led the research, said: “Determining the date of Easter was a major religious and political achievement which has shaped our calendars for the last 1,350 years. You have to go all the way the Henry VIII to find a single event in ecclesiastical life which has had such an influence on us today.”

• Mummies are people, too

The National Post (Canada) carried an article about how the British Museum is using the latest technology to learn about eight mummies who lived in Egypt or Sudan between 3,500 B.C.E. and 700 C.E. Scientists are using CT scans and imaging software to go beneath the bandages, revealing skin, bones, preserved internal organs. Bio-archaeologist Daniel Antoine is quoted as saying that the goal is to present these long-dead individuals “not as mummies but as human beings.”

• If it smells like love…

Robin Dunbar
Robin Dunbar/Wikipedia

The New Straits Times (Malaysia) reported on pheromone parties. Apparently, this how it works: “You are given a clean cotton shirt, which you wear to sleep for three consecutive days without washing. You are also advised not to use any perfume or deodorant during this time, just plain old-school cave man style. You then keep it in a zip-lock bag and bring it to the party. There, your pack with dirty laundry in it will be given a number and placed on a table.” And it goes on from there.

The article quotes Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford: “Smell plays a very important role in sexual arousal for women in a way it doesn’t for men…Smell provides one of the best markers of who you really are. The reason for this is that your smell is determined by the same set of genes, the major histocompatibility complex genes, as your immune system. It is part of who you are, your personal chemical signature.”

[Blogger’s note: I am a major fan on Dunbar’s work…but I wonder if he may be missing something in terms of the importance of smell for men’s arousal as well].

• In memoriam

Robert Shanafelt, professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, died in March. Shanafelt’s research was on Lesotho. He received a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1989 from the University of Florida and joined the faculty at Georgia Southern in 2002. He was passionate about his profession and was much admired by students, colleagues and others who knew him.

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