Anthro in the news 5/12/14

  • David Graeber in the news

Cecily McMillan outside court as the jury was deliberating. Credit: The Villager.

An article in The Villager described recent developments in the case of a 2012 Occupy activist in New York City who has been found guilty of assaulting a police officer. A Manhattan jury on Monday convicted Cecily McMillan, a 25-year-old New School graduate student, of felony assault of a police officer. She has been remanded to custody at Riker’s Island without bail, pending sentencing on May 19. She could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but also could get probation with a suspended sentence and no jail time.

The article mentions David Graeber, an anthropology professor at the London School of Economics, often called an Occupy Wall Street founder and credited with coining the movement’s slogan, “We are the 99%.” He disagreed with the decision, saying the McMillan case sent a chilling message: “You do not have the right to freedom of assembly. Do not show up at a protest unless you are willing to face the possibility of torture, physical injury and years in jail.”

  • David Graeber in the news again

Should your job should exist? PBS Newshour interviewed David Graeber about his category of “bullshit jobs” Americans are now working more and more hours. But what, Graeber asks, do BS workers actually do: “It’s as if…we’ve created entirely new jobs to accommodate the workaday world. Administrators (think telemarketing and financial services) and the growing number of human resources and public relations professionals can’t pick up their own pizzas or walk their dogs.” Therefore, we have all-night pizza delivery men and dog-walkers, just to keep other people working. The interview follows up on an essay Graeber wrote in 2013 in Strike Magazine.

  • Reviving Quechua

The Wall Street Journal carried an article about one woman’s efforts to save the Quechua language: “From her tiny lime green kitchen in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, Elva Ambía is trying to save a centuries-old language. The 73-year-old grandmother originally from Peru is co-founder of the 2-year-old New York Quechua Initiative, a small group dedicated to celebrating and spreading the official language of the Inca Empire.” Ambía is a retired teacher and social worker. Her efforts range from planning cultural events across the city that promote Quechua to teaching the language to small groups or one-on-one.

The article quotes Bruce Mannheim, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, who points to several factors, including discrimination, that have contributed to the decline of Quechua, particularly in urban areas: “Quechua speakers in urban areas make sure their children speak Spanish…And their grandchildren only speak Spanish.”

  • Film about missing migrants on the U.S. Mexican border

Public Radio International reported on a new film, Who is Dayani Cristal, which follows the journey of a body found in the Arizona desert. The name “Dayani Cristal” is tattooed on the body’s sunburned chest. Bernal’s character walks in the shoes of the unnamed man, tracking his journey from Central America, on the treacherous train ride to the Mexican border, and eventually to Arizona, to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner.

In addition to the film’s 15 screenings in the U.S., it is promoting a Tucson-based non-profit group called The Missing Migrant Project. In the film, and in real life, the Missing Migrant Project is a small team that cross-checks a growing stack of missing person reports from Mexico and Latin America with the remains of bodies found in the Arizona desert. If there’s a match, they work to reunite the remains with family members.

The Missing Migrant Project began when Robin Reineke, a doctoral student at the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, agreed to tackle a pile of 800 files on missing persons trying to cross the border. She began to work with Bruce Anderson, a forensic anthropologist at the medical examiner’s office and a professor at the university. Reineke is quoted as saying: “He handed me a stack of missing persons reports and I started databasing them…I didn’t even speak Spanish that first year. I was one of those eager young people who wanted to help, but I realized quickly that this was an escalating problem.”

  • King David’s citadel:  A contested site

Time and several other media sources reported on the possible discovery of the site of King David’s citadel (or the Tower of David) in the Old City of Jerusalem. An Israeli archeologist, Eli Shukron is quoted as saying: “the whole site we can compare to the bible perfectly.” According to the second Book of Samuel, King David was said to have captured the walled city via an entrance in a water shaft. Shukron says this citadel houses a similar, narrow shaft. He also found two pottery shards dating back to the appropriate conquest date 3,800 years ago.

The discovery has been met with criticism both for religious reasons, as some historians claim there is little physical evidence of King David’s existence in Jerusalem, and also for political reasons. The $10 million excavation in an Arab neighborhood was funded by an organization that has been active in Jerusalem’s controversial settlements. Ronny Reich, Shukron’s collaborator until 2008, said that “the connection between archaeology and the bible has become very, very problematic in recent years.”

  • On a need to know basis: What to do in the afterlife
[/caption]According to the National Post, a newly discovered, 3,100-year-old Egyptian tomb includes intricate hieroglyphics describing the afterlife. Archeologists have found a tomb dating back to around 1100 B.C. E. south of Cairo, according to Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.  The tomb belongs to a guard of the army archives and royal messenger to foreign countries. Ibrahim said the Cairo University Faculty of Archaeology’s discovery at Saqqara adds “a chapter to our knowledge about the history of Saqqara.” According to archaeologist Ola el-Egeizyl of Cairo University, the tomb contains “very nice inscriptions” of the funerary procession and the afterlife of the deceased. 


  • It’s a brain thing

Scientific American published an interview with biological anthropologist Chet Sherwood of George Washington University whose research explores the qualities that make the human brain special: “When I got started, there were extraordinarily few scientists who considered it their main area of research…It seemed like a really opportune subject because there’s a lot we still don’t know. You can make significant discoveries by simply putting some elbow grease into it.” Sherwood talked about what experts know about the human brain at various scales, from the molecular to the whole brain.

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