Anthro in the news 5/26/14

  • Trafficking narrative databank for empowerment, research and policy

Reuters carried an article about the work of cultural anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi, a professor at Pomona College, who is collecting narratives of trafficked persons as testimony. The project, Stories Beyond Borders, seeks to contribute to a solution to the multi-dimensional problems experienced by trafficked people. It is a global online portal wherein survivors, activists, academics, and friends and families of survivors can tell their stories online. Beyond providing a global platform for survivors that could be anonymous (if the person so chooses), the portal will also generate a treasure trove of data for academics and policy makers to analyze. Policy makers, including officers of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report and other global initiatives have often asked for a way to locate the data reflecting lived experience; this portal will allow just that. In addition to providing data, and giving survivors a voice, the portal is a place for community building for survivors who often feel isolated due to their experiences, as well as a center wherein those seeking help and outreach can locate services based on country of residence or origin.

  • When addressing hunger, put everything on the table

The Omaha Sun reported on rising food needs in the future, noting that by 2050, the world population is predicted to increase from 7 billion to 9 billion people, a nearly 30 percent increase. To feed everyone, agricultural scientists are looking to biotechnology to find ways to boost crop yields and improve the nutritional value of food.

The article widens the scope by quoting Mary S. Willis, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who studies cross cultural health: “Everything should be on the table…It shouldn’t even be that (the U.S.) would decide who should have a particular food item or supplementation or fortification — it has to be done in collaboration with the community…It should include a discussion about ‘Here is the problem. Here are the options we could look at. What things would you be comfortable with? And what things do you think would be the least disruptive to your cultural tradition?’ That’s not typically the way things are done.” In other words, food policymakers have to be aware of the cultural context and ensure community participation in planning.

That would help put more food, and good food, on the table.

  • In Brazil: A murder prompted by rumors of witchcraft and organ theft

LiveScience quoted cultural anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes in an article about a woman accused of being a witch who was then beaten to death by a mob Guarujá, Brazil, near São Paulo. The attack was prompted by suspicions the woman was involved in a kidnapping related to organ theft, following a Facebook post by a local news outlet. Rumors of organ theft are not uncommon in Brazil. Scheper-Hughes, who has studied organ-theft rumors, noted that in many poor areas of the world, residents sometimes avoid treatment in public hospitals out of fear that their organs may be taken.

  • When cars can fly: Reading Graeber

Ross Douthat, a regular writer for The New York Times, included cultural anthropologist David Graeber, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, in his op-ed, “What I’ve Been Reading.” Douthat did not take on Graeber’s long book, Debt, but instead chose Graeber’s 2012 essay, “Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit”.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become assistant producer at a radio station. Bipasha Shom is the assistant producer at Uprising. She has an M.A. degree in Communications from the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her undergraduate work was in cultural anthropology at Cornell University.

…become a journalist. Senior journalist Anthony Martinez Beven writes for The Morning Sun (Michigan). He holds a double B.A. degree in sociology and anthropology from Oakland University.

  • Follow the bunnies

The Mirror (U.K.) reported on findings by archaeologists at Land’s End in Cornwall, one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks – with help from a family of rabbits. Three experts unearthed buried treasures dating back 8,000 years close to the spot where several rabbits uncovered ancient artifacts while digging their warrens. Following the bunnies, the research team found Mesolithic stone hammers, arrow heads, scrapers and waste from a flint tool-making factory during preliminary excavations.

Lead archaeologist Dean Paton, is quoted as saying: “We made more discoveries in a single one-metre hole than in our entire 20 years in archaeology. We’ve found about 60 flint tools and two stone hammers and they are stunningly beautiful. I’m lost for words – it almost sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones film. Everyone was so thrilled we cracked open a bottle of champagne.” [Blogger’s note: I hope the bunnies will get something out this discovery – bunnies’ should have protection of intellectual property rights?].

  • The naming of the Neanderthals 150 years ago

International experts on Neanderthals gathered in NUI Galway, the campus where the term for the Neanderthal species was first coined 150 years ago. Svante Pääbo, director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, will give the keynote address. Pääbo first sequenced the DNA of Neanderthal people. At the former Queen’s College, Galway, geology professor William King designated Homo neanderthalensis as a separate species. He was the first, and one of just a handful since, to name a new fossil human species and establish its antiquity.

  • In memoriam
George J. Armelagos. Source:

George J. Armelagos, professor emeritus of anthropology at Emory University, died at the age of 77 years. Armelagos played a major role in building the areas of paleopathology and bioarchaeology, providing invaluable contributions to the theoretical and methodological understanding prehistoric human health and disease, diet and nutrition, and human biological variation. Alan Goodman, former president of the American Anthropological Association and a professor of anthropology at Hampshire  College in Massachusetts, said Armelagos was one of the most influential, innovative and inspiring anthropologists of the last half century: “Of special note…is his work on the intersection of biology, culture and archaeology. He pioneered the study of health and nutrition in past populations, relating changes in biology to changes in culture and economy. At the same time, he tirelessly promoted a non-racial view of human biological variation. He saw how the old idea of biological races was scientifically inadequate and socially harmful.”



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