Anthro in the news 10/27/14

  • Viewpoint: Rethinking Ebola death risk

Slate Magazine commented on an article in the London Review of Books by renowned medical anthropologist and physician, Paul Farmer. He argues that:

“An Ebola diagnosis need not be a death sentence. Here’s my assertion as an infectious disease specialist: If patients are promptly diagnosed and receive aggressive supportive care—including fluid resuscitation, electrolyte replacement and blood products—the great majority, as many as 90 percent, should survive.” In other words, the survival rate for the disease in the U.S. and other high income countries with good health systems should be close to that.

  • Viewpoint: Supporting the Kurds is essential

An opinion piece in The New Statesman, which argues for supporting and arming the Kurds, mentions cultural anthropologist David Graeber:

[The Kurds] are worth fighting for. Take northern Syria, where the three autonomous and Kurdish-majority provinces of Rojava have avoided the worst excesses of the civil war and engaged in what David Graeber, of the London School of Economics, has described as a ‘remarkable democratic experiment’, ceding power to ‘popular assemblies’ and ‘women’s and youth councils’. Why would any progressive want to allow the revolutionary Kurds of Kobane to fall to the theocratic maniacs of IS?”

  • Upcoming elections in Mauritius

The Mauritius Times carried an article by cultural anthropologist Sean Carey,  honorary senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester. He discusses changes over this year in upcoming political contestation in Mauritius. New leaders have emerged, adding complexity to what seemed like a straightforward fight between the MMM-MSM and the Labour Party and its junior partners.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

….become a welder. After Aleasha Hladilek received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, she returned to school to become an auto mechanic and a welder. She graduated from the welding program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, in Superior, and was hired by Northstar Aerospace in Duluth, Minnesota. Hladilek then became a teaching assistant job at the technical college while she also works as a welder for some local companies: “I have never had a problem finding employment in welding.” Manufacturers are having trouble finding people in welding and other skilled trades as a wave of older workers retires and younger people aren’t stepping up to take their place. They say women represent manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent, but that it is difficult to sell them on the careers. While women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, the number of women in manufacturing has been declining.

…become a journalist, diplomat and international consultant. Elizabeth Colton has worked in more than 100 countries as an Emmy Award winning journalist for ABC News and as a former employee of the United Nations and the U.S. State Department. Colton holds a doctorate in social anthropology from the London School of Economics and also served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. She now runs the consulting firm EO Colton and Associates Global Collaboration. Integrating her lifetime work as a diplomat, news media executive and educator, she helps individuals, businesses, nonprofits and universities make worldwide connections.

…become a bartender and musician. Keesha Renna is drawn to stories, and in her adopted city of Williston, North Dakota, the tales of struggle, heartache and loneliness are boundless. She moved to Williston in 2013 after reading a story on North Dakota’s fracking boom in Harper’s Magazine.  Armed with a degree in anthropology from Boise State University, a stint as a bartender and three years as a music promoter, she hopes her musical take on the Bakken will reflect the many perspectives she has experienced in, “one of the most pivotal moments in my time…I wanted to write about this place and document what I was seeing.” In her song “Rig Up,” Renna tells the story of a man who takes a train to Williston, coming with expectations like so many others from across the county, and is suffering through a long, lonely winter. The man is working constantly in the oil fields — his family stayed behind in a different state — and he’s asking himself, “Is it all worth it?” Her project, “Dakota Tales”, will be a compilation of personal stories that she is collaborating on with a few other artists writing about the Bakken. She hopes this will become an album. A friend commented: “Renna’s ‘Bakken Blues …is a about a bartender told from a woman’s point of view that speaks to the challenges of being single amid a sea of lustful men, many of whom are married.”

  • Drones in aid of archaeology
Julie Adams, Vanderbilt University.

NBC News reported on the use of research drones to identity archaeological sites in Peru. The article quotes Steve Wernke, an archaeologist and associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University: “Sites are disappearing all over the world due to looting, urban sprawl, warfare and other threats.” Using unmanned aerial vehicles and advanced imaging techniques help address the urgent need to document sites before they are destroyed by providing faster and more accurate data.

“I imagine in the future archaeologists won’t have just one of these things, but have a sort of quiver of drones,” Wernke predicted, “from large-scale survey ones to lower-altitude stuff, the quad-rotors, to site-specific ones.” At the very least there will be plenty of options as to what kind of gear to put on these drones.

Jesse Casana of the University of Arkansas uses a highly original technique of capturing thermal imagery of the landscape, revealing features that were nearly invisible to the naked eye. “People have been theorizing it was possible since the ’70s,” Casana explained to NBC News. “There was just no way to do it. You needed this liquid nitrogen-cooled camera flown overhead by a plane. Today, they’re tiny, the size of a quarter.”

  • Very old human DNA recovered

Several media outlets, including The New York Times, reported on the reconstruction of the genome of a man who lived in Siberia 45,000 years ago. It is by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on in the journal Nature, provides new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia. It also adds strong support to the likelihood that early humans interbred with Neanderthals. The research team is led by Svänte Pääbo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Over the past three decades, Paabo and his colleagues have developed tools for plucking out fragments of DNA from fossils and reading their sequences.

The article quotes John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the study: “It’s irreplaceable evidence of what once existed that we can’t reconstruct from what people are now…It speaks to us with information about a time that’s lost to us.”

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