Anthro in the news 9/29/14

  • Relevance of cultural anthropology to business

The Huffington Post carried an article describing how concepts in cultural anthropology apply to business models as presented in a new book, Handbook of Anthropology in Business, edited by Rita Denny and Patricia Sunderland. Denny and Sunderland are anthropologists who run a consumer research and strategic consultancy, Practica Group. Their clients include SC Johnson, Whirlpool, Nissan, Pernod Ricard, Target, PepsiCo, Samsung, and Darden Restaurants. This Handbook demonstrates the links between the commercial arena and ethnographic research and cultural analysis. The book presents findings from 60 international scholars. Sections include: Dynamics of Tension, Forces of Change: With “Big Data” coming into the forefront, what is the anthropologist’s role in sorting through, applying reason, making sense, and ultimately turning it to a productive business use?; Boundaries Breached and Blurred: Where does anthropology come into play when we are dealing in a global marketplace? Can interactions with other countries be enhanced with better cultural understandings?; Plying the Trade: Who are the anthropologists that have managed to successfully insert themselves into the business paradigm? How do they co-exist with the number crunchers and old-line sales mentalities?; and The Energy of Memes: How do ideas, products, or behaviors circulate through a culture? Is there a way to enhance the process?

  • Tattoos on the rise

CNN reviewed a new book about body art by Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University. He argues that the tattoo has made a powerful comeback: “There has been an extraordinary, epochal change in the last 25 years…When I was a child in the 1960s, we didn’t see tattoos everywhere. But there has been an explosion in popularity, and this tells us a lot about who we are, both culturally and as individuals.”

  • New Task Force of the American Anthropological Association on Israel-Palestine

Al Jazeera reported on the announcement by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) of the creation of the Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine, part of a broad association effort to respond to members’ interest in dialogue about the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict. The Task Force is charged with helping the Executive Board consider the nature and extent to which AAA might contribute to addressing the issues that the Israel/Palestine conflict raises. Task Force members were appointed based on criteria including: significant expertise in relevant subject areas (such as conflict; historical memory); representation of the four fields of archeology, linguistics, biological, and cultural anthropology; and understanding of the association. Members of the group are Chair Don Brenneis (UC-Santa Cruz), Niko Besnier (University of Amsterdam), Patrick Clarkin (University of Massachusetts-Boston), Hugh Gusterson (George Washington University), John Jackson (University of Pennsylvania), and Kate Spielmann (Arizona State University).

  • Deep time thinking about the future of humanity

NPR covered the work of Vincent F. Ialenti, a U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Cornell University. Valenti has done fieldwork among experts developing a Safety Case, supporting what might, in Finland in the early 2020s, become the world’s first working geological repository for high-level nuclear waste. He explored how these experts dealt with geological, ecological and climatological changes that might occur over the coming millennia.

In this piece, he steps back: and thinks “about deep time — our very distant future — in a more holistic, speculative and global way. I do this because of my feeling that something about our collective experience of time is now undergoing a profound transformation.” He cites several studies that help provide a sense of the future and how to think about it.

  • The promise and perils of democracy in Europe

Al Jazeera convened several scholars and professionals for its weekly feature, Empire, to discuss this question: is neo-liberalism undermining European democracy? One of the participants was David Graeber, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and activist/anarchist. A leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Graeber is the author of The Democracy Project and many other books. [Blogger’s note: I cannot find anything about what these people said, only the listing of the participants].

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…be nominated to be the first U.S. woman ambassador to Mexico. The nominee to become the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico would be the first woman to hold the job in the two centuries that America has been sending diplomats to Mexico. Maria Echaveste has other distinctions: she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who grew up in Texas and California to farm-working parents, and she studied anthropology as an undergraduate at Stanford University before going on to get a law degree from Berkeley.

…become president of Afghanistan. According to The Guardian, to become president of Afghanistan, “… Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai changed his wardrobe and modified his name, gave up coffee, embraced a man he once denounced as a ‘known killer’ and even toyed with anger management classes to tame a notorious temper. An impressive intellectual who is as comfortable in a village meeting as an international boardroom, he has been a professor and World Bank technocrat, finance minister and top security official, and was once in the running to head the UN.” Ghani has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Columbia University.

…become a canine-care entrepreneur, researcher, and fiction writer. Rosanne Higgins works as proprietor of Puppy Playpen, a family-owned day care for dogs for about 60 hours each week. She is also an active participant in the University at Buffalo’s Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery Project; she helped research and chronicle asylum life in the 19th century. That job led to her another project, a piece of historical fiction set in 1836 Buffalo. Orphans and Inmates, the first of a trilogy, is available for purchase online and at some area museums and shops. Proceeds from its sale will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to further the study of pediatric cancer. Rosanne Higgins is trained as a biological anthropologist.

  • Hoard of Roman coins found in Devon

Several media, including BBC, reported on the discovery by an amateur. A treasure hunter from Devon has discovered the biggest hoard of 4th century Roman coins recorded in Britain. Laurence Egerton, a builder, took up metal detecting seven years ago and found 22,000 Roan coins dating from CE 260 to CE 348. He told BBC:  “Initially I found what I thought were two very small Roman coins, which in itself is unusual in Devon, so I decided to scan the area a bit closer and a few minutes later I got what I would call a 50/50 signal, which normally means there’s a bit of iron involved. I don’t normally dig iron because it’s usually a horse shoe, but in this case, I dug a bit deeper and found them.” The collection is on temporary display at the British Museum, where experts hailed it as an ”extraordinary” find. [with audio].

  • When a mother kills her child…

The Washington Post carried an article about a homicide case against a woman in Montgomery Country, Maryland, who recently disappeared with her two young children. This is the third time in a matter of weeks in the Washington region that a mother has been suspected of harming her offspring. The act of killing one’s child is unthinkable for any parent, but owing to long-standing cultural, emotional and biological factors, a mother who kills her offspring has the power to inspire special shock and revulsion. The article referred to the work of biological anthropologist, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis who has conducted research on the evolutionary, psychological and historical factors in infanticide: Her work is controversial since it argues that under certain stressful circumstances, infanticide could serve as an evolutionary adaptation, not necessarily a pathology, in the human struggle for existence. A mother faced with inadequate resources to ensure survival of herself, the child or other offspring might feel compelled to abandon or kill it.

  • Precision tool making happened throughout the Old World

The Christian Science Monitor reported on the discovery in Armenia of stone tools dating to 325,000 years ago, indicating that that Homo sapiens were not the first to develop precision tools. Analysis of more than 3,000 artifacts recovered from the site of Nori Geghi 1 shows that many branches of early hominids used a bi-facial stone tool making technique to create tools such as hand-axes. Bi-facial technology, likely developed 1.75 million years ago, involves shaping one stone, known as a core, by striking it with another stone.

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