anthro in the news 8/24/15

  • Islamic State vision driven by dreams

An article in the Independent (U.K.) draws on a recent paper by Durham University emeritus reader in anthropology Iain Edgar regarding the role of night dreaming in Islam in general and violent sectarian offshoots in particular. Edgar follows IS twitter posts and other sources to learn about dream-motivated activities including frequent dreams about “green birds” – jihadi fighters who are on their way to paradise.

  • New Orleans cuisine ten years after Katrina

Building back better? The Australian Financial Review reported on the changes in the restaurant scene in New Orleans ten years after hurricane Katrina. The article draws on insights from cultural anthropologist David Beriss of the University of New Orleans who points out that the shuffle of post-Katrina cultural influences is just another example of Creole culture expressing itself through food:  “Creolisation – that way of adapting and being in the world – shows up everywhere.” Others express concern about gentrification and loss of a more traditional Creole menu.

  • The rise and fall of McDonald’s in Iceland

Kristín Loftsdóttir published an article in the Grapevine (Iceland) about the story of McDonald’s in Iceland. She says the story “…is interesting for various reasons. The omniscient fast food chain was present for the nation’s staggering ascension to economic prosperity, as well as its subsequent fall from grace. Along with accompanying Icelanders through some tumultuous times, the fast food chain’s history in Iceland furthermore strangely embodies their aspirations for belonging in a rapidly modernising world.” Loftsdóttir is professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland. She focuses on Iceland’s national identity, as it has been shaped by its status as a Danish colony until 1944, and the historical desires and anxieties of belonging within the space of Europe. For further reading: Kristín Loftsdóttir, “Iceland, Rejected by McDonald’s: Desire and Anxieties in a Global Crisis,” Social Anthropology, 22(3):340-352, 2014.

  • Walking it

The Register Guard (Eugene, Oregon) reported on public performance art by Ana-­Maurine Lara, assistant professor at the University of Oregon. The event, called Landlines, unfolded over two days this past weekend. Saturday’s portion consisted of a 7.5-mile walk led by Lara, who stopped to erect historical markers of stones and other objects, combining them with poetry and performance to tell the story of Native American, African-­American, gay-lesbian and migrant communities who have added to the richness of Eugene’s history. Lara also is an award-winning novelist and poet.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a diplomat and environment/sustainable development activist. Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team since 1995 involved in both UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol negotiations, and has contributed to the design of key climate change instruments. A frequent public speaker, she is also a widely published author. Figueres has a B.A. in anthropology from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics.

…become an NGO founder and director. Luke Dowdney founded the Fight for Peace gym in Rio de Janeiro in 2000 and is extending this project globally. Drawing on Dowdney’s passion for boxing, the organization promotes sports to achieve social objectives. Dowdney has an M.A. in social anthropology from Edinburgh University where he wrote his dissertation on street children in Brazil. He has coordinated research on children in organized, armed violence.

…become the director of an academic program on international development. Edward R. Carr is the new director of the International Development, Community and Environment Department at Clark University. He was formerly with the University of South Carolina’s Department of Geography where he directed the Humanitarian Response and Development Lab (HURDL). HURDL has projects in Mali, Senegal, Zambia, and Ghana, and policy and implementation projects with a global remit. Carr brings HURDL with him to Clark where the HURDL lab will reside in the George Perkins Marsh Institute. He has an M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from Syracuse University and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Kentucky.

…become a museum operations coordinator. Jennifer Winter, who holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and art history from Hofstra University, serves as museum operations coordinator at the Museum of Frederick County History and the Roger Brooke Taney House in Maryland.

…become a professional diver, model, and actress.  Meghan Heaney-Grier is a U.S. champion freediver, fashion model, actress, conservationist, and television personality. She is known for her work on Into the Blue, Turistas, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She has a B.A. degree with highest honors (Summa cum laude) in ecology and evolutionary biology, and anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

…become a journalistic writer. Shawn Saleme is a contributing writer at the Culture Connect. He has a B.A. degree in anthropology from Vanguard University of Southern California.

…become a tech salesman and then quit. Bryn Stembridge, from California, was working as a salesman for a tech firm and earning $100,000 per year. He was due to go and live in Australia after his company offered him a position out there but instead he decided to quit. He is now biking from coast-to-coast across America and back again, and has already passed through 17 states. His trip, which began on June 5, has taken him from New Mexico and into Canada and will last until October.

…become a fiction writer. Camilla Gibb is the author of five books including the novels Mouthing the Words, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life, Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement, and a memoir, This Is Happy.  She has been the recipient of the Trillium Book Award (for best book in Ontario) the City of Toronto Book Award and the CBC Canadian Literary Award and has been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Oxford and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia. She is an adjunct faculty member of the graduate creative writing programs at the University of Guelph-Humber, the University of Toronto and the Humber School for Writers and is currently the June Callwood Professor in Social Justice at Victoria College, University of Toronto.

  • Massacre in prehistoric Germany

The Guardian reported on the publication of archaeological findings from a prehistoric farming site in Germany which contains a mass grave containing battered skeletons. In 2006, archaeologists were called in after road builders uncovered a ditch filled with human bones as they worked at a site in Schöneck-Kilianstädten, 20km north-east of Frankfurt. Researchers found the skeletons of 26 adults and children who were killed by devastating strikes to the head or arrow wounds. The skull fractures show blunt force injuries caused by Stone Age weapons. More than half of the individuals had their legs broken. Christian Meyer, an archaeologist who led the study at the University of Mainz, believes the attackers meant to terrorize others and demonstrate that they could annihilate an entire village. The site of the mass grave, which dates back to about 5000 BCE, is located near a border between different communities. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Trying and dying to save Syria’s pre-Islamic antiquities

CNN and other media reported on the challenges facing antiquities organizations in Syria and, most tragically, the execution by the Islamic State of Khaled al-As’ad, an antiquities expert, in Palmyra. CNN reported further that the walls of the National Museum of Damascus are stripped bare, with empty spaces which once held priceless artifacts.  Mamoun Abdulkarim is Syria’s Director-General of Antiquities and Museums. He oversees a gigantic logistical operation to evacuate artifacts from areas of fighting, or places in danger of being seized by ISIS, and bring them to secret and safe locations. He says he is the “saddest” antiquities director in the world.

Forbes carried a piece on the response of archaeologists to the murder of Khaled al-As’ad

  • Earliest human hand bone

Fossil bone overlaid on modern human hand. Credit: Jason Heaton, CBS News.

As reported by CBS News, the earliest human hand bone so far has been found at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The finding demonstrates that human features such as the ability to grip go much further back than previously believed. The bone from a little finger of a left hand of a human ancestor dates back least 1.84 million years, more than 600,000 years older than the next-oldest example, a human-like hand bone found at Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain. The findings are published in Nature Communications. Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and lead author, said that this is the first evidence of an early hominin species that made the transition from having hands of tree-dwellers, known for their curved, more primitive finger bones, to ones with features that would be almost identical to modern humans: “This discovery… is the oldest evidence of a completely terrestrial creature.”

  • Stone Age(s) of the Primates

BBC News provided a round-up of recent knowledge from primate archaeologists about stone tool use among several non-human primate species. “Orang-utans, bonobos and gorillas have been seen using plant tools but never stone tools,” says Michael Haslam at the University of Oxford and leader of the Primate Archaeology (Primarch) project. However, chimpanzees of West Africa have developed and passed on their stone-based technology which they use to crack open nuts, as shown in a landmark study in primate archaeology published in 2007. “Primate archaeologists” led by Christophe Boesch at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, set about applying these principles to chimpanzee tools.

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