Anthro in the news 4/20/15

  • On human understanding

Tanya Luhrmann published an op-ed in The New York Times exploring how people around the world can use multiple angles that might include both Western scientific ways of thinking and “belief”-based thinking. She cites the work of psychologist Cristine H. Legare and colleagues “…who recently demonstrated that people use both natural and supernatural explanations in this interdependent way across many cultures. They tell a story, as recounted by Tracy Kidder’s book on the anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer, about a woman who had taken her tuberculosis medication and been cured — and who then told Dr. Farmer that she was going to get back at the person who had used sorcery to make her ill. ‘But if you believe that,’ he cried, ‘why did you take your medicines?’ In response to the great doctor she replied, in essence, ‘Honey, are you incapable of complexity?’”

  • Not a “medical moon shot”

An article in The New York Times reviewed Partners in Health’s aspirations and challenges in addressing Ebola in West Africa:

“Partners in Health, a Boston-based charity dedicated to improving health care for people in poor countries, signed on to the Ebola fight last fall with high ambitions. Unlike Doctors Without Borders and other relief agencies that specialize in acute response to crises, Partners in Health pledged to support the deeply inadequate health systems in Sierra Leone and Liberia for the long haul. Its leaders also publicly criticized the low level of care provided to Ebola patients and promised that its treatment units would do better. “’Let’s have a medical moon shot,’ the group’s co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, said last October.  But the medical group, which had never responded to an Ebola outbreak before and had rarely worked in emergencies, encountered serious challenges.” [Blogger’s note: Nonetheless, without a doubt, PIH did save lives. Whether or not they will be able to effect long-term preventive changes awaits to be seen.]

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a community life director and chef. Liana Hernandez is the community life director and executive chef at the YWCA in Tucson, Arizona. Having studied anthropology at the University of Arizona, she gained from it an understanding of the imbalance that exists between marginalized communities of color and the dominant ones in the U.S. This insight, coupled with a strong sense of social service, drives her work at the YWCA where she says she is “setting the table for change,” an image that she takes seriously.

…become a researcher at a non-profit organization. Denise Hạnh Huỳnh graduated from Macalester College with a major in anthropology and a minor in psychology. After receiving her master’s in public policy from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, she works as a research associate at Wilder Research, a part of the non-profit community organization Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. She also spends her time working and volunteering for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, the Vietnamese community, and other communities that public decision-makers often overlook.

  • From the mouths of babies
An Irish famine memorial in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA.
An Irish famine memorial in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA.

The Guardian reported on a study of the teeth of babies who died in the Irish famine in the 1840s, or in London shortly afterwards. It is possible that findings could provide information for the prevention of medical problems among children today and in the future. Babies’ remains discovered at burial sites on Lukin Street in London and in County Kilkenny, Ireland, have allowed researchers to investigate the deaths of children born to malnourished mothers and who did not survive infancy. Findings indicate that the dead babies’ bodies contained high levels of nitrogen, much higher than levels found in the bones of those who survived infancy. High levels of nitrogen were previously believed to be a sign of good nutrition, but current research indicates that they are an indicator that the mothers were using up their own bodies in an attempt to produce milk for their children. Julia Beaumont, a lecturer in biological anthropology in Bradford University’s department of archaeological sciences and lead author of the publication, told the Guardian, “Babies born to and breastfed by malnourished mothers do not receive all the nutrients they need, and this is possibly why these babies didn’t survive.” The research has previously uncovered patterns between milk teeth collected from Anglo Saxon and Bronze Age burials and of children recently born in Bradford, England, and in Sudan.

  • Oldest Neanderthal DNA recovered

CNN and other mainstream media reported on the publication of an article describing the oldest Neanderthal DNA analyzed so far. The DNA comes from the Altamura Man, a skeleton that still remains lodged in the bottom of a pool in a cave in Italy, dated to around 150,000 years ago. The remains were discovered 20 years ago, when it was decided to leave it in situ to prevent damage. Recently, though, researchers removed a section of the right shoulder blade which confirmed that Altamura Man was a Neanderthal, according to the report published in the Journal of Human Evolution and

  • In memoriam

Zenshin Thomas Buckley died at the age of 73 years. During his long career, he was a visiting professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, a Zen priest affiliated with the San Francisco Zen Center system, and a teacher at Great River Zendo near West Bath, Maine. Zenshin practiced with Suzuki Roshi at San Francisco Zen Center and at Tassajara in the late 1960′s. Zenshin was an ordained priest and received dharma transmission from Yozen Peter Schneider. He also trained with Harry Roberts, a Native American teacher. Zenshin completed a B.A. at Harvard University and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago. He wrote ground-breaking works on the anthropology of menstruation and on the Yurok Indian way. Zenshin had a full life as a spouse, father, academician, sailor, and accomplished Zen practitioner.


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