anthro in the news 7/20/15

  • Trending: #BoycottGermany

BBC News carried an article about the social media buzz on boycotting German products in protest of its position on Greece. #BoycottGermany was first mentioned on Twitter in connection with the Greek crisis last weekend, but started picking up on Monday. At the time of the article’s publication, the hashtag had been used more than 30,000 times. One of the most retweeted messages came from David Graeber, American anarchist activist and anthropology professor at the London School of Economics. He references the post-World War II cancellation of debts accrued by the Nazi regime:

“My proposal: Germany now morally obliged to repay Nazi debt canceled in 1953. With interest. We must #BoycottGermany until they do.” David Graeber (@davidgraeber) July 13, 2015

  • Overkill on the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal

Cultural anthropologist William Beeman, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, critiqued the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal in the Huffington Post: “The deal is, in fact, overkill. There is no evidence anywhere that Iran had, has or will have a nuclear weapons program and that mere enrichment of uranium–something 19 other non-nuclear weapons countries do without any complaints from the US–is not tantamount to weapons manufacture, the inspections regime negotiated in the Vienna accords are quite incredible–the most serious ever enacted anywhere.”

  • Orwellian: U.S. military bases are lily pads

David Vine, professor of anthropology at American University, published an op-ed in the Boston Globe about a new model the U.S. military is using for bases in Iraq called the “lily pad.” Lily pad entered the lexicon recently when Army General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the Pentagon is considering the creation of new lily pads in Iraq. In fact, Vine points out, the lily pad model “…is nothing new for a military notorious for its use of Orwellian euphemisms, from ‘collateral damage’ (killing civilians) to ‘area denial munitions’ (landmines) to “kinetic strikes” and “kinetic military action” (lethal attacks and outright war). In the military’s lexicon of obfuscation, a lily pad is a kind of military base. The elegant-sounding name provides a convenient cover for what would be a significant escalation in the US involvement in the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Formally called “cooperative security locations,” lily pads allude to the aquatic flora allowing a frog to jump across a pond and suggest small installations allowing troops in isolated locations to deploy quickly into battle.”

  • We beg to differ

The Globe and Mail published an op-ed co-authored by Wade Davis, anthropology professor and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. The subject is the proposed construction by Woodfibre LNG Ltd. of a liquefied natural gas facility at the head of Howe Sound, a scenic fjord beloved by British Columbians, especially those of the Lower Mainland: “Supporters of Woodfibre maintain LNG is perfectly safe. We beg to differ. In its liquid state (-162 C), methane does not burn. An LNG spill on land could be a non-event. But a spill over water presents an entirely different and potentially dangerous scenario…There may be places along the B.C. coast where LNG facilities can be safely established. But Howe Sound is not one of them.”

  • Muslim women in China: Pros and cons

An article in Foreign Policy describes the challenges and opportunities for Muslim women in China. In some ways Muslim women in China have more wiggle room than in other countries, for example, as seen in the existence of several women’s mosques and as promoted by state policies about gender equality.

The article quotes Dru Gladney, professor of anthropology at Pomona College in California, who refers to it as an “old-fashioned feminism.” In a phone interview. Gladney related how in the 2000s, one women’s mosque in the historic city of Xi’an had spearheaded an effort to save the local Hui Muslim quarter from government demolition. The women helped transform it into a popular restaurant district that successfully remained, even in China’s drinking culture, alcohol-free. [Blogger’s note: the cons include being, in general, a Muslim in China].

  • Exhibit in New York City: The Young Lords
Denise Oliver-Velez

The Wall Street Journal highlighted a multi-venue exhibition, titled ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York, documenting the Young Lords’ role in civil rights activism in the 1960s and 1970s with photographs, publications, films and artwork that came out of the movement. The Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio and the Loisaida Center will each focus on different aspects of the Lords’ history, which began as a struggle for Puerto Rican independence and racial equality, before evolving into a much larger fight.

The article mentions Denise Oliver-Velez who in 1970 became the first woman elected to the party’s central committee. She was among the Young Lords who barricaded themselves inside Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx to protest the facility’s unsafe conditions—an event portrayed in the exhibition with both photographs and film footage. She is quoted as saying:  “It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen,” said Oliver-Velez, who is an adjunct professor of women’s studies and anthropology at the State University of New York at New Paltz. “Rats used to run across the operating table…and there would be cockroaches in the medicine cups.”

  • Supercute brand on the move

CBC Canada reported on the Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival which kicked off in Vancouver, Canada, and will continue its tour throughout North America. It’s an interactive experience with seven live shows featuring Sanrio characters like Keroppi, Dear Daniel, and Purin. Hello Kitty is the brainchild of Sanrio, a company known for making kawaii products. Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese, and is a subculture that started with Sanrio in the 1970s. Now there are not only Hello Kitty toys, clothing, and furniture, but also Hello Kitty branded cars, airplanes and even gravestones. For a scholarly interpretation of why the Japanese character is so popular, there is Christine Yano’s book, Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek across the Pacific. Yano teaches anthropology at the University of Hawaii. Yano comments that Hello Kitty’s success is due to the simple design: “I call it elegance of design. It’s saying more with less. She’s an abstraction. It’s not that she doesn’t have a mouth exactly, but you don’t have to put every little thing into this figure.” Yano has spoken with many women who loved pink and frilly things, but she was most surprised at Hello Kitty’s more rebellious fans.

  • Special vide in The Shoals

The Times Daily (Alabama) reported on a book project that asks what it is about The Shoals, a region in northwestern Alabama that makes it such a rich area for the arts. “I started out asking ‘why here?’” said Cameron Walker, a lecturer in the anthropology professor at California State University-Fullerton. “There (are) a lot of places with a river and with a small liberal arts college, but this place has a funky feel to it.”

She is offering the book, Small Town, Big Style: Music, Textiles and Food in Alabama’s Shoals Region, to the University of Alabama Press for publication. “It explores the creative community here and why it’s persisted,” Walker said. While music is a major part of the local artistic history, Walker is looking at everything from the area’s cuisine to its textile industry.

  • Novelist inspired by Graeber

According to the Irish Times, Paul Murray, novelist and author of Skippy Dies, hadn’t planned to write his next novel, The Mark and the Void, about the financial crash. But he couldn’t help himself once he read about bankers’ antics. As he delved into the world of finance, one of the books he turned to was David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

  • Ultrarunners powered by plants, really

Barbara J. King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the University of William and Mary, wrote a piece for National Public Radio in the U.S. about how an ultramarathon runner, Scott Jurek, is also a vegan. King comments on the widespread skepticism about how vegans can consume enough protein to be superior athletes. She quotes ultrarunner and biological anthropologist Melissa Raguet-Schofield on the cultural embeddedness of the skepticism:

“I think that skepticism still exists with regard to vegan diets because the importance of meat consumption is so culturally engrained in many people’s minds. The assumption is that protein is the most important dietary component and that consuming animal products is the only way to get enough of it. Personally, I try to stay away from these types of debates because I don’t find them productive. No one likes to have someone else call into question their dietary choices and preferences, particularly when these conversations happen around the dinner table.

“Everyday runners like myself [*Barbara’s note: Melissa routinely runs 50 miles at a time, so she’s being modest here] tend to look to the elites to see what they are doing and how we might implement their techniques in our own lives. Jurek’s record is important because it was highly publicized and is the culmination of a long career of ultrarunning success. I suspect that his achievement may provide the evidence that motivates people to investigate veganism, or at least be less skeptical of it.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a qualitative researcher. Gina Crivello is a senior qualitative research officer at the Young Lives project in the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. She has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California where her research focused on the role of gender in youth migration from Morocco to Europe.

…become an award winning folklorist, language professor, and cultural preservationist. Barry Jean Ancelet has a B.A. degree in French from the University of Louisiana, an M.A. in folklore from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in anthropology and linguistics from the Université de Provence in Marseille, France. He recently retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and will be presented with the Acadian Cultural Preservation Award which goes to a person in recognition of outstanding lifetime contributions to the preservation of the culture and the community.

…become a champion rower. Molly Bruggeman has a B.A. in anthropology with a supplementary degree in pre-health from the University of Notre Dame. She recently claimed first place in the women’s pair at the 2015 Pan American Games. The gold medal is the third of Bruggeman’s international career, as she claimed first place as part of both the four and eight boats at the 2014 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Varese, Italy. Bruggeman has competed in international competitions three times in addition to this year’s Pan Am Games – the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Under 23 World Championships. She was named a first team Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Pocock All-American as a sophomore and junior and a second team All-American as a senior.

…become a dance/movement therapist. Julia Cuccaro works as a dance/movement therapist for a public school district in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has a B.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. degree from Drexel University.

…become a business strategist. Robert Caleb Greene has a B.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and an M. A. degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago.  He works at Snagajob in Richmond, Virginia.

[Blogger’s note: I often discover references for the feature, “take that anthro degree and…” from engagement and wedding announcements. This is the first time I found two people with anthro degrees in one announcement: Julie Cuccaro and Robert Caleb Greene are planning a wedding in October. Could it be that anthropology brought them together?]

…work for a non-profit organization dedicated to human rights. Ryan Gayman has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the coordinator for outreach and admissions for Humanity In Action in New York City. The organization works to educate and connect a global network of students, young professionals, and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship in their communities and worldwide.

  • Bonobos the tool makers

The Daily Mail carried an article describing research forthcoming in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology about tool-making and tool-using behavior of bonobos living in a zoo in Germany and a sanctuary in Iowa. The researchers gave them a series of problems that required tools to solve such as burying food under rocks. They left a tray of potential tools such as sticks, antlers and stones nearby. Two of the eight zoo animals made use of the tools and four of seven in the sanctuary. They used antlers, sticks and rocks to dig and longer sticks to lever rocks out of the way. In some cases the bonobos used different tools in sequence, rather like a tool kit, to access the food.

Itai Roffman, a research fellow at the International Graduate Centre of Evolution at Haifa University in Israel who led the study, said: ‘The bonobos used modified branches and unmodified antlers or stones to dig under rocks and in the ground or to break bones to retrieve the food. ‘Antlers, short sticks, long sticks, and rocks were effectively used as mattocks, daggers, levers, and shovels, respectively One bonobo successively struck a long bone with an angular hammer stone, completely bisecting it longitudinally. Another bonobo modified long branches into spears and used them as attack weapons and barriers.”

A testimony to the feistiness of female bonobos: one female bonobo sharpened a stick with her teeth to create a spear-like weapon that she then jabbed at the researchers.

  • In memoriam

Archaeologist Fred Wendorf died at the age of 90 years. His career included seminal discoveries in the American Southwest and Africa, as well as a stint as associate director of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. At Southern Methodist University, Wendorf founded the Anthropology Department and spent four decades on the faculty. His first archaeological milestone was the 1954 excavation of the so-called “Midland Man” in sand hills near Midland, Texas. The Late Pleistocene human burial was at the time one of the oldest human remains found in the Americas. In the early 1950s, he directed the world’s first pipeline archaeology salvage project during construction of a natural gas pipeline in New Mexico. He also conducted archaeological salvage projects on highways in New Mexico and later contributed wording to federal highway legislation requiring site excavations during construction. Among numerous awards, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1987.

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