Anthro in the news 6/2/14

  • Los Angeles rediscovers Carlos Castaneda
Castaneda made it to the cover of Time Magazine.

Cultural anthropology icon of the 1970s, and subsequently discredited, Carlos Castaneda rises again. The Los Angeles Times reviewed an exhibit at the Fowler Museum at UCLA displaying a collection of twelve masks from the Yaqui people of Sonora, Mexico that Castaneda put together as a graduate student at the university. They are on view in The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda along with five others and accompanying accessories used in Yaqui ceremonies for celebration and commemoration. These pahko’ola masks are made of carved wood, mostly painted in vivid red, white and black, with goat hair added for bushy eyebrows and beards. Sometimes they resemble goats, most important of Yaqui domesticated animals, or monkeys, which were seen as tricksters in the wilderness.

David Delgado Shorter, associate professor and vice chair of the World Arts and Cultures/Dance department at UCLA, who has done extensive field work with the Yaquis of Sonora, Mexico, acknowledged the problems in Castaneda’s books: “Much of it seems completely fabricated and not based at all in Yaqui traditions…There are also ways of talking about speech and mannerism that are undeniably Yaqui.” For him, the masks themselves, which would have been very difficult to obtain outside of Mexico in the 1960s, are the clincher. “It attests he was right there,” Shorter said, “in that specific area where he said he was doing field work.”

  • A son rediscovers his Amazonian mother

The New York Post carried an article about the ongoing twists and turns in the life of a family created by the union of American cultural anthropologist Kenneth Good and Yarima, a member of a Yanomami tribe of the Venezuelan Amazon. Recently, the son of Kenneth and Yarima sought to reconnect with his mother, who had spent only a brief period in the U.S., before returning to her village in the Amazon. A subsequent piece offers a critique of Kenneth Good’s marriage to Yarima. [Blogger’s note: Researchers’ relationships with the Yanomami are a very sad story overall, and this particular family story is set within those relationships].

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become an actor and singer.  British actor Hugh Laurie, played Dr. Gregory House, the irascible, drug-addicted (and very American) diagnostician, on the hit Fox TV show for eight seasons. It was the kind of career-defining role that some screen stars have a hard time moving on from. But Laurie isn’t only an actor. He also is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who launched a music career in 2010 with Let Them Talk, an album of traditional New Orleans blues, followed by Didn’t It Rain. Laurie studied anthropology at Cambridge University. Laurie’s big-screen credits include Sense and Sensibility and Stuart Little.

…become a chef and artist. Outstanding in the Field is a series of dinners that occur across the United States and different parts of the world to honor and enjoy what is produced and made from a specific place or region. They began in 1999, the vision of founding chef Jim Denevan, an avid artist and surfer, who held the first one at Mariquita Farm in Santa Cruz County, California. His inspiration came from having worked on his brother’s apple farm, organic since 1974, time Denevan spent earning money to buy a surfboard and wetsuit. A cultural anthropology major in college, Denevan delved deeper and deeper into what food meant to communities and what getting people together around a table could mean for their lives. The idea was to gather a chef, purveyors and diners together out on a farm to enjoy a meal prepared in that environment. Denevan recalls that in the late 1990s, restaurants were just beginning to mention a farm or purveyor on a menu by name. “I saw cultural change coming…A movement was coming to know where your food came from and know the people behind the food. You could feel it back then, people going to farmers markets or seeing a farm listed on a menu or people getting into gardening.”

…become a hip-hop musician with a message for troubled youth. The Figureheads is one of Wisconsin’s most popular hip-hop groups, but unlike other hip-hop artists, The Figureheads play to a much younger demographic, as young as kindergarten age, with songs that promote positive thoughts, confidence and acceptance of self and others. Dave Olson, one of the members, has a B.A. degree in psychology and anthropology from Bethel University as well as extensive experience counseling disabled kids and runaway teens with drug problems.

…run for president of Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani, presidential hopeful, is an ethnic Pashtun who served as Afghanistan’s finance minister from 2002-2004 and finished fourth in the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan. He holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Columbia University in New York.

  • Arch 101: Climate change problems are not a “hoax”

Archaeologist Eric Cline, professor at the George Washington University, published an op-ed in The New York Times, arguing against Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax.” Cline says:

“…Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad. One of the most vivid examples comes from around 1200 B.C. A centuries-long drought in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions, contributed to — if not caused — widespread famine, unrest and ultimately the destruction of many once prosperous cities, according to four recent studies. The scientists determined the length and severity of the drought by examining ancient pollen as well as oxygen and carbon isotope data drawn from alluvial and mineral deposits. All of their conclusions are corroborated by correspondence, inscribed and fired on clay tablets, dating from that time.”


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