Anthro in the news 11/10/14

  • Managing the Himalayan Viagra harvest

The International Business Times carried an article about the harvesting of the plant in two isolated Tibetan communities that is the basis for Viagra. The medicinal fungus is fetching big money in the Chinese market. The fungus used as an aphrodisiac, yartsa gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) results from a fungal infection in ground-burrowing ghost moth caterpillars. Research from Washington University in St. Louis reports on the unique management plan to conserve the natural resource. Most villages in the region earn 80% of their annual income during the caterpillar fungus spring harvest season.

The communities have since evolved a management plan to harvest the fungus, writes Geoff Childs, associate professor of anthropology at Washington University and graduate student Namgyal Choedup in the journal Himalaya. Prohibiting yartsa gunbu harvest on mountain slopes long considered sacred, restricting yartsa gunbu harvest to members of local households, penalties for harvesting the fungus outside of the season, daily roll calls to ensure no one is illegally harvesting and a small tax to finance the projects are among some of the plans drawn up.

  • Let’s hear it again: Race is social

The Washington Post reviewed a book by Robert Wald Sussman, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea and concludes: “It’s a broad, thoughtful, 310-page argument against racism.” Sussman argues that many if not most people would be surprised to learn that race is a social rather than a scientific construct. He explores how race emerged as a modern social construct, tracing its origins to the Spanish Inquisition and its legacy as a justification for Western imperialism and slavery. He discusses how this tradition co-opted the evolutionary theories of Darwinism to produce the eugenics movement, the foundation of the Nazis’ theory of Aryan supremacy and, eventually, genocide.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become director of children and student ministries with a church. Jonathan Hikes, who has a B.A. degree in anthropology from Pennsylvania State University, is responsible for all programs, curriculum and events for ages ranging from newborns to college students, including programs like mid-week studies, Vacation Bible School, annual Teen Missions trips and a 30-Hour Famine event.

…become a novelist and social critic. Amitav Ghosh, author of many renowned books, has a Ph.D. in anthropology. Ghosh is the author of The Circle of Reason (his 1986 debut novel), The Shadow Lines (1988), The Calcutta Chromosome (1995), The Glass Palace (2000), The Hungry Tide (2004), and Sea of Poppies (2008), the first volume of The Ibis trilogy, set in the 1830s, just before the Opium War, which encapsulates the colonial history of the East. Ghosh’s latest work of fiction is River of Smoke (2011), the second volume of The Ibis trilogy. Most of his works deal with an historical setting, especially in the context of the Indian Ocean [from Wikipedia].

  • ISIS funding from archaeological raiding

Newsweek carried an article about ISIS funding through: energy assets, private donors, levies on captive populations, ransoms from kidnappings and the plundering of antiquities excavated from ancient palaces and archaeological sites. The article quotes Abdulamir al-Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist specializing in Mesopotamia at the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook: “You could say ISIS is destructive on an unprecedented scale, because it is not just destroying human lives today…We’re talking about the destruction of humankind back to the beginning of humankind.”

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