Anthro in the news 3/30/15

  • Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried an article about the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology which was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, marking the 75th meeting of the SfAA. Over five days, 1,800 members of the Society convened to hear academic presentations at over 300 sessions as well as spending one day focusing on social challenges and real-life application of theory in Pittsburgh. Ten field trips included visits to museums and industrial sites including a coal-mining site in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The article quotes Kathleen Musante, anthropology professor at the University of Pittsburgh and president-elect of the Society. She said that the board members who chose the site of the conference “perceive Pittsburgh as being a symbol of the kind of community that has been able to not only adapt to changing circumstance but to flourish because of an enduring will to be a great place…Pittsburgh is also continuing to have the same issues that are true for other parts of the country. There is still inequality here, there are still adjusting economic circumstances. The board saw Pittsburgh as a place that really tries to address those issues.”

  • Anthropology should be taught from kindergarten on
AQA office in Guildford, England, one of several AQA offices throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Ed Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, published an article in The Huffington Post arguing in support of the teaching of anthropology in primary and secondary schools around the world. Given the importance of understanding human behavior and values to prevent and solve global and local challenges from racial bias to climate change, he points to the exemplary model developed by the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2010, after several years of careful curriculum design, the RAI succeeded in establishing an anthropology A-level course (roughly equivalent to high school Advanced Placement courses in the U.S.). Liebow bemoans the recent decision by the British Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) to discontinue the course and steering students to sociology or history courses. AQA said that it could not continue to offer the anthropology course because demand has been disappointing and the difficulty of finding graders.

Liebow writes: “Our world today is ever more interconnected. Our hopes for tackling these challenges effectively are pinned on better preparing our children for university, careers, and civic life in a way that helps us all understand and appreciate human difference in all its complexity. Anthropology is a field of knowledge that does just that, and anthropology professionals have been hard at work in making sure that methods and materials from this field are well integrated into primary and secondary school systems around the world.”

  • Transgender travails in Pakistan

Dawn (Pakistan) carried an article on discrimination against transgender people in the Peshawar region of northern Pakistan. It quotes the anthropologist Jamil Chitrali, lecturer at the University of Peshawar, as saying that the families of transgender people do not accept them due to shame. Chitral points to two factors that lead to the segregation of transgender people from mainstream society: “One is the push factor from the society and the other is the pull factor from the transgender community. After alienation from the society, a transgender person is pulled by their community they go to live with and support through dancing and prostitution.”

  • Culture of drinking among Korean American youth

Steve Han, a health journalism fellow at the University of Southern California, published an article in the Koream Journal on the culture of drinking among Korean American youth. He focuses on how fathers initiate their sons into drinking at a young age and the easy availability of alcohol in Los Angeles. He cites Kyeyoung Park, an anthropology and Asian American studies professor at UCLA, saying that she has said the exposure of Korean American children to alcohol is “blatant.” Even Koreatown parades feature many alcohol sponsor logos.

  • Russian eyes on Alaska

Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, published an op-ed in The Alaska Dispatch News on Russian expansion into Siberia and its implications for Alaska. He notes that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of Defense) is one of many Russians who believe that Alaska rightfully belongs to Russia. Boraas points to Russian development projects in the north including transportation lines and military bases and argues that they are tied to oil interests.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become the owner-operator of an event planning company. Jennifer Clark has turned her passion for people and a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Southern Mississippi into what has become a successful one-woman business, Emerge Events in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She says anthropology was a vital training ground for her future career: “Actually, the background in anthropology, dealing with people and learning about cultures has helped me a lot in event planning…That’s what you do, you work with people and their events.” Clark got a taste of different cultures while living for three years in Japan. After returning from Japan, she worked in Jackson for a non-profit, doing events and conference planning.

…and become a social worker. Alexandra (Ali) Sassos is a social worker at The Center for Court Innovation in Brooklyn, New York. After earning a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Pennyslvania, she earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University

  • Aztec geopolitics rethought

Fox News Latino picked up on a study in press by the Journal of Archaeological Science arguing that the Aztec empire did not enjoy total domination of its central Mexican heartland as previously thought.  The research on the geopolitics of obsidian supply in postclassic Tlaxcallan is based on a collaboration among researchers from North Carolina State University, the Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados from the Instituto Politecnico Nacional-Unidad Merida, El Colegio de Michoacan, and Purdue University. The group spent more than eight years studying the independent republic of Tlaxcallan, established in the mid-13th century some 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Mexico City. By 1500, Tlaxcallan was surrounded by the Aztec empire, but not dominated by it, and controlling its own source of obsidian which was used to make knives, arrowheads, and household items.

The article quotes co-author Verenice Heredia Espinoza of Colegio de Michoacan: “What this study does is to put Tlaxcallan on the map, the place where the Spaniards arrived and where they sought help for the conquest of Mexico…We found that, despite the Aztec siege, the local population could hold their own.” And, from another co-author, North Carolina State University anthropology professor John Millhauser: “It turns out that they got the material from a place called El Paredon, a deposit nobody was exploiting because it was on the outskirts of the Aztec empire…The question is why the Aztecs, who were openly hostile to Tlaxcallan, did not intervene.”

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