anthro in the news 6/15/15

  • Obama’s Trans-Pacific trade agreement may be tanking

KFOXTV (El Paso, Texas) commented on the defeat in the U.S. House of Representatives of President Barack Obama’s global trade agenda. Republican leaders, who generally support Obama’s trade objectives, signaled they might try to revive the package. Lack of support from Democrats in the House was pivotal in the defeat. Aurolyn Luykx, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, agrees with those opposing the trade agreement, saying that it helps corporations at the expense of workers:

“Again and again we see that these trade deals are good for the richest people in all of the countries that are being affected but bad for everybody else in the country they are affecting…I think the consequences could be very dire. We already saw under NAFTA how so many jobs left the U.S. and also went from Mexico. Then, we saw as well tens of thousands of low income Mexican families being put out of work and losing their land and we saw how that drove migration to the U.S..”

  • Shame on us: Remembering Rwanda

Matthew Emery, Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at McMaster University, published an op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), reflecting on 21 years since the violence in Rwanda:

“As people were being slaughtered the governments of the West remained silent, preferring instead to debate the definition of genocide and whether it was actually taking place in Rwanda at the time. It was not until post-July 1994 that the world finally paid tribute to those in peril. It was too late, however. It has been 21 years since the atrocities in Rwanda ended. This is a token in memorandum to those who lost so many family members in such a short amount of time between April and June, 1994. “

  • We were warned

Vox carried an article how infectious diseases have re-emerged as a major threat, reminding that we were warned about this threat 15 years ago by two medical anthropologists: “In a 1990 paper on ‘The Anthropology of Infectious Disease,’ Marcia Inhorn and Peter Brown estimated that infectious diseases ‘have likely claimed more lives than all wars, noninfectious diseases, and natural disasters put together.’ Infectious diseases are our oldest, deadliest foe.”

  • Gestational surrogacy on the rise

The Minnesota Star Tribune reported on the growing practice of gestational surrogacy for aspiring parents, thanks to advances in reproductive technology. It differs from traditional surrogacy, which uses an egg from the carrier, making her the baby’s biological mother. In gestational surrogacy, there is no biological link (in terms of the ovum) between the woman carrying the baby and the baby. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 1,939 babies were born to gestational carriers in 2013, up from 738 in 2004, the first year records were kept. Some parents seek a gestational carrier due to infertility, many are same-sex couples. The article quotes Ellen Lewin, an anthropology professor at the University of Iowa who researches gay family life:  “This is a big cultural transition…DNA is a big deal in our culture. People have ideas about how it forms kinship.”

  • Not so differently Irish regarding immigrants

The Irish Times carried an article about Vietnamese immigrants to Ireland, inspired by the high rates of mortality of migrants who have attempted to leave Africa this year only to drown in the Mediterranean.  It notes that Ireland has committed to resettling an extra 300 migrants over the next two years, while the Government is deciding whether to opt in to a relocation plan proposed by the European Commission. Mark Maguire, head of Maynooth University’s department of anthropology, reflects, “Ireland refused three times to resettle the Vietnamese refugees, so we haven’t gotten any better.” Maguire spent a year and a half with the “boat people” while researching his 2004 book, Differently Irish: A Cultural History Exploring 25 Years of Vietnamese-Irish Identity.

  • Parenting Gender Non-confirming Children

The Pacific Standard magazine carried an article asking how parents can best support gender non-conforming children. Many parents fear their transgender and gender-expansive children will be hurt and therefore try to reshape the children to fit into the dominant gender binary. Children can sense this, according to  Maura Finkelstein, assistant professor of anthropology at Muhlenberg College, and may pretend to be someone they’re not to protect their parents. So adults should become aware of—and manage—their own feelings first. [Blogger’s note: not only must parents be supportive and flexible, but schools have to as well, and of course…society at large. U.S. society is moving in the right direction, but very slowly and unevenly].

  • Changing food culture in Boston’s Chinatown
Chinatown, Boston

Cultural anthropologist Merry White published an article in the Boston Global Magazine on the influence of various waves of Asian immigrants to Boston on cuisine in Boston’s Chinatown restaurants. In other words, menus offer more than “Chinese” food – it may be Vietnamese-influenced, for example. She writes: “Chinatown is still the place to go for many regional Chinese foods — especially for dim sum, which few people make at home. Students in my food anthropology course enjoy it at restaurants like Chau Chow City, China Pearl, and Hei La Moon. I remind them, though, that dim sum lacks the shape, the template of a traditional Chinese meal, which includes soups and rice, etc. Instead, it’s a social event, a way of getting together with family and friends over tea and snacks — a pastime that never gets old.”

  • Feminist hashtags that rule

Elle (U.K) provided a list of top feminist hash tags, one of which was created by Kate Clancy, assistant professor of biological anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. Clancy launched #girlswithtoys in response to hearing a CalTech (male) professor refer to scientists as “boys with toys” on America’s National Public Radio and making plain the gender bias that keeps women from entering STEM fields. “

  • Where have all the great French thinkers gone?
Claude Levi-Strauss

The Guardian published a lengthy article on trends in French thinking and intellectual culture by Sudhir Hazareesingh, author of the forthcoming book, How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People. He gives a strong nod to cultural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and his theory of structuralism as one of the great intellectual contributions of the second half of the twentieth century. Readers will recognize the names of several other theorists who, while not self-identifying as anthropologists, are important to the discipline.

  • Forensic anthropologist takes on femicide

The Daily Mail and Globe interviewed forensic anthropologist Luis Fondebrider about his work in Argentina on victims of state political violence and his new involvement in investigating victims of femicide around the world including Canada.  This story is part of an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation into the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Fondebrider was in Canada as a consultant on The Globe and Mail’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women project.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a media star and author. Michael Savage is a multimedia icon in the conservative movement, heard by millions of listeners a week across the United States. He is also the author of 25 books, including four New York Times best-sellers. In 2007, his media presence and profile earned him the coveted “Freedom of Speech Award” from Talkers Magazine. Savage holds a master’s degree in medical botany and another in medical anthropology. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in epidemiology and nutrition sciences.

…become a freelance journalist. Casey Coombs was working for The Intercept online news site and other publications in Yemen when he was taken hostage by the Houthis in May. He had been in Yemen for three years doing stories about humanitarian issues. Coombs has B.A. degrees in English and anthropology and a master’s in international affairs, all from the University of Utah. He has been released and will likely resume work as a freelance journalist but perhaps not in Yemen, according to his mother.

….become a flying enthusiast, would-be astronaut and competitive equestrian and sailor. Jane Briggs Hart, who recently died, was also the wife of a congressman, and she stood out in Washington at a time when congressional wives were expected to be ornamental. In the early 1960s, at the age of 40, she took part in a privately financed project to test women for fitness to enter NASA’s astronaut training program, submitting to the same physical and psychological tests administered to the Mercury 7 astronauts. She and 12 others who made the cut became known as the Mercury 13. NASA, however, continued to insist that only qualified test pilots could enter its astronaut program and did not admit women until 1978, in a class that included Sally Ride, who became the first American woman in space in 1983. Hart had a B.A. in anthropology from the George Washington University.

…become a musician and musical activist and be awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE). Johnny Clegg, who was born in England but grew up in Zimbabwe, combined music with the study of anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. After receiving a master’s degree in anthropology, he taught anthropology at Wits for several years. At that time, he was influenced by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was assassinated in 1989.  He cultivated both his academic and his practical involvement with the arts and culture of the local Zulu people. He gave up teaching to focus on music, with the aim of creating a blend of white and black South African artistic traditions. Clegg has been named on the diplomatic and service overseas list for the Queen’s Birthday honors. He says that an OBE is a “tremendous recognition and validation of my involvement over the past 40 years of music and cultural activism”.

…become a senior strategy and marketing manager and a social commentary writer. Saba Karim Khan works for Qanect, a marketing consulting agency in Doha. She has a B.Sc. (Honors) in Social Sciences from Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and an M.Phil. in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford. Her latest article looks at consumerism in the Middle East.

  • Tick-borne diseases rising in the U.S. noted how warm weather brings on the tick-borne illness season and reported on the recent discovery of Borrelia miyamotoi disease in the northeastern United States, found in deer ticks, the same species that carries Lyme disease. In regions where Lyme is found, more than 75 percent of all ticks carry the virus, according to Ralph M. Garruto, professor of biomedical anthropology and biological sciences at Binghamton University in New York who studies Lyme disease in ticks. He is quoted as saying:  “I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, we’re threatened by a much higher risk of these tick-borne illnesses than we are now, or than we have been in the past.”

  • The feminization of males in human evolution

The Telegraph (U.K.) carried an article discussing a 2014 study published in Current Anthropology arguing that the relatively rapid cultural development of Homo sapiens over a period a few thousand years, including advanced hunting tools and the earliest cave paintings, was attributable to changes in the male body, making men more “feminine.” Morphological changes include the narrowing of the brow and less muscular bodies, which coincided with hormonal changes, notably reduced levels of testosterone, therefore making Homo sapiens more sociable and capable of co-operation. The paper grew out of Robert Cieri’s senior thesis at Duke University.


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