Anthro in the news 3/2/15

  • Big dam problems in China and beyond

The Business Spectator (Australia) published a piece by Bryan Tilt, associate professor of anthropology at Oregon State University and author of Dams and Development in China: The Moral Economy of Water and Power. He asks: “China’s steep escalation in hydropower development is unlikely to slow anytime soon. So, how can China develop hydropower in a way that best protects ecosystems and people?” He then proposes three basic principles for moving forward.  Tilt also reminds us that:

“This is not just China’s problem. The repercussions of the current hydropower boom are being felt far beyond the country’s borders. Armed with the best hydropower engineering capacity in the world, and the backing of government financial institutions like China Exim Bank, Chinese firms are involved in the planning and construction of more than 300 dam projects in 70 countries, from Southeast Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. As hydropower development continues to build momentum as an important source of renewable energy, more public scrutiny is needed.”

  • Before reading further, fill out this form in triplicate

Reviews of David Graeber’s latest book, The Utopia of Rules, continue to appear, one published by National Public Radio and another in The Boston Globe. NPR comments: “Full credit to Graeber…When he eventually gets to a point, it’s almost always insightful, thought-provoking and, as befits the roundabout way he got there, unexpected.” The Boston Globe says: “David Graeber’s critique of bureaucracy, is meant to stop the reader short. It does.”

  • Nepal and Laos: Anthropologists, please compare notes

The Nepali Times published a piece by David N. Gellner, professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, in which he compares Nepal and Laos. He suggests that despite differences, the two countries have much in common and academics should meet and compare notes. Nepal has been likened to a yam between two boulders: “Laos is a yam between five boulders – and perhaps, given the legacy of US bombing, that should be six boulders.”

  • Interview with Claudio Lomnitz

Counterpunch carried an interview with Claudio Lomnitz, Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, about his new book, The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. It examines the life of renowned Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón (1874-1922) within the context of those closest to him—principally, his elder brother Jesús, younger brothers Enrique, Librado Rivera, and Práxedis G. Guerrero, all of whom were associates of the Junta Organizadora of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM). As a result of his lifelong commitment to social revolution, Ricardo was a political prisoner for much of his life. In this interview, Lomnitz discusses the book’ title, the PLM, and more.

  • Anthropology in, about, and for India

The Indian Express reported on the two-day Indian Anthropology Congress (IAC) held at Utkal University in the eastern state of Odisha. Governor S.C. Jamir launched the conference, stressing the need for comprehensive inclusion of tribals in India’s development schemes and urging anthropologists to play a major role in research pertaining to tribal upliftment. Professor of anthropology L.K. Mahapatra was honored on the occasion.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a restauranteur. Geeta Verma manages Dawat India which opened last year in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and is owned by her husband. She has a bachelor and master’s degree in education, as well as a master’s degree in anthropology. Upon arriving in Regina, she worked as a medical office assistant but she yearned to open a restaurant and serve the food of her native country. Dawat is a Hindi term meaning a feast.

…become a world language teacher and aspiring school board member. Dalia Palchik is a world language teacher at Sheridan School in Washington, D.C. She is also running for the position on the school board. She received her B.A. in anthropology and French from Tufts University and a Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Certificate from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to teaching, Dalia was the Media and Communications Director to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, an international organization bringing together stakeholders from around the globe. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and French, and proficient in Italian.

…become a singer-songwriter. Joan Shelley is a Kentucky-born singer-and songwriter. To date, she has published three albums, the latest being Electric Ursa. A turning point in her life was when she went to the University of Georgia to study anthropology. She admits the move south was more about location than education. Athens, Georgia, was a music-friendly town with bars and clubs that gave a newcomer like Shelley the chance to shape her songs in public. [Blogger’s note: And perhaps her anthropology coursework contributed to her creativity as well].

  • Mortuary practices for people on the move

USA Today reported on findings from an ancient mortuary at a religious complex called Khonkho Wankane in Bolivia, at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Parts of human corpses were defleshed by boiling and then cleaned. The process created “portable ancestors for a mobile population,” said study co-author Scott C. Smith, an archaeologist at Franklin & Marshall College. The discovery shows “the dead still played an active and important role in the lives of the living.”

Smith and his colleague, Maribel Pérez Arias of the University of Pittsburgh, are excavating the site which includes a circular building whose floor was strewn with a variety of objects including nearly 1,000 teeth and small bones, mostly from the feet and hands and most sheathed in a thin layer of white plaster as well as plaster-coated ceramic pots and plaster-coated tools made from llama bones.

  • Follow the wheat

BBC News reports on underwater archaeology research that reveals prehistoric trade links between Britain and mainland Europe. Fragments of wheat DNA recovered from an ancient peat bog suggests the grain was traded or exchanged 8,000 years ago, long before it was grown by the first British farmers. The grain was found at what is now a submerged cliff off the Isle of Wight. The research, published in Science, suggests the existence of a network of links across Europe.

  • In memoriam

Mark Joseph U’thixide Awakuni-Swetland, died at the age of 58 years. He was an associate professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Awakuni-Swetland’s accomplishments were many and likely will have longstanding impact on the Omaha Tribe. He led the effort to create a comprehensive Omaha and Ponca digital dictionary, which is now available online for native communities, students, researchers and the public at

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