anthro in the news 9/14/15


Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe [source: Al Jazeera]
Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe (Photo from Al Jazeera)

Refugees in Europe: Care is reasonable and possible

Bloomberg News carried an article on the European refugee crisis, noting that Europe appears to be swinging between two responses:  xenophobia and a compassionate pragmatism. Most migration experts agree that a longer-term solution will require the participation of Canada and the U.S. It draws on commentary from Dawn Chatty, a professor of anthropology and former director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She reminds us that, to deal with the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the 1980s, “the biggest countries got together, and between them they divvied up a million boat people and resettled them. It’s reasonable and possible.”

Base nation U.S.

WAMC public radio (U.S.) did an interview with cultural anthropologist David Vine, associate professor at American University, about his book Base Nation, on U.S. military bases. According to Vine, among all countries, the U.S. has by far the majority of military bases outside its national boundaries. Vine argues that this strategy dates from the cold war and is outdated, and counter-productive.





The future of jobs

Reuters reported on discussions about the geopolitics of technology at the Ambrosetti Forum held recently at the Villa d’Este Hotel on Italy’s Lake Garda. In relation to the implications of new technology for jobs, the article mentions the perspective of cultural anthropologist David Graeber of the London School of Economics:

“Jobs have been created — but many, in the service sector, are both insecure or what the academic-activist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs” — jobs which give neither pleasure to their holders nor benefit to society (he instances public relations, lobbying and telemarketing). ‘It’s as if,” he writes, “someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.’”


Chicken tikka masala has been voted the most popular dish in the U.K.
Chicken tikka masala has been voted the most popular dish in the U.K.

British curry night in danger

The Independent (U.K.) published an article by cultural anthropologist Sean Carey of Manchester University describing how new U.K. immigration rules could mean the end of the great British curry night because the rules will limit the number of immigrant skilled workers to staff the restaurants:

“…skilled workers, including chefs, from outside the EU are now required to earn at least £29,570 a year before they can gain entry to the UK. This is considerably more than the average chef can earn, even in very profitable central London restaurants. It’s far more than is on offer to most Bangladeshi-origin chefs who run the curry kitchens of around 80 per cent of the nation’s 10,000 South Asian restaurants and takeaways.”


Fire balloons in the sky

The Frontier (Myanmar) reported on the growing popularity, and danger, of Taunggyi’s dazzling Annual Balloon Festival which occurs on the full moon day of the eight month of the calendar. In what began as a modest affair in the 1950s, now fire balloon teams spend six months and millions of kyat building their creations, which compete for tens of millions of kyat in prize money. Champion meesaya, or “firemasters,” are local heroes with corporate sponsorships. Taunggyi native Aye Aye Aung, an anthropology professor at Yangon University who is researching the festival, says that her home town has little to offer tourists except for the one week in November devoted to the event, but for that event, “There is not a limit to what they will do.”


Take that anthro degree and…

…become a writer, translator and Sinologist. Bill Porter, who often writes under the pen name Red Pine, is a noted translator of Taoist and Buddhist poems and sutras. Among his works are Diamond Sutra, Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits, and The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. He has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later attended graduate school at Columbia University where he studied Chinese and anthropology.

…become a strategy director. San Francisco agency Heat announced the appointment of Molly Cabe as strategy director. She comes to Heat from Pereira & O’Dell, where she has served as brand strategy director for the past year and a half, following ten months as associate strategy director. That followed over two and a half years at as brand strategy director and a similar period at Draft FCB as a brand planning director. Prior to joining Draft FCB, she spent nearly seven years as an account planner and account planning supervisor at BPN. Cabe has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Reed College.

…become a professor of American studies. Ben Chappell is an ethnographer and associate professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. His interest in Latino/a culture began when he was a student at Bethel College and has most recently extended to his study of Mexican-American fast-pitch softball. He has a B.A. music and peace studies; and anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin

…become a renowned entertainer, comedian and highly sought-after master of ceremonies (MC). There are many sides to the man known throughout the world as Ragashanti. He has been a controversial radio talk show host, owing to his views on sensitive subjects such as sex and sexuality. He lectured for nearly a decade at the University of the West Indies and remains active on the speaker’s circuit, delivering speeches on a transformation from being self-destructive to successful. He is the popular entertainer and MC who hosts his world-famous Mix Up Party. Ragashanti, whose real name is Kingsley Stewart, has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Connecticut.

….become an award winning swimmer and doctor. The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming program has inducted former team member Ted Brown Jr. into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame. Brown served as one of three team captains his senior year, and was a four-time BIG EAST All-Academic honoree. He was tabbed as an honorable mention Scholastic All-American by the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) his first three seasons at Notre Dame. Brown was a double major in biological sciences and anthropology at Notre Dame University and then went on to medical school.

…become a museum curator. The new director of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute is Andrew Bolton, a graduate of anthropology from the University of East Anglia. Bolton spent 10 years at the Victoria & Albert museum in London before moving to New York. The New York Times comments: “With its choice, the board of directors may be signaling more than the quiet passing of a baton. Scholarship in the field has been radically redrawn in recent years to accommodate an evolving understanding of the sociocultural and even anthropological role of costume and fashion.”


Coffee B.S.

Yes, there was coffee a long time Before Starbucks (B.S.). The China Post reported on how, more than 1,000 years before coffeehouse chains, caffeine was an international market mover. People traded holly and cacao-based chocolate beverages between what is now modern-day Mexico, the U.S. Southwest and the U.S. South. Research led by University of New Mexico anthropology professor Patricia Crown reveals that the trade lasted for around 700 years and may have been driven by caffeine addiction.



CNN and other media reported on the results of five years of research at Durrington Walls, a Neolithic site near Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Archaeologists working with the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project have discovered beneath Durrington Walls one of the largest known henge monuments. It was built about a century after Stonehenge, which is believed to have been completed 3,500 years ago.

“Our high-resolution ground penetrating radar data has revealed an amazing row of up to 90 standing stones, a number of which have survived after being pushed over, and a massive bank placed over the stones,” said Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology.

Paul Garwood, archaeologist, senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, and lead historian on the project, is quoted as saying: “The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which the new discoveries at Durrington Walls exemplify, is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it.”


Super find: Fossil trove deep in a narrow passage cave

The media darling of this week was the report of another likely new human ancestor species found in a dramatic location in South Africa and providing startling implications for the evolution of human behavior. The Guardianthe New York Timesthe Washington Post, CBS, among other mainstream media picked up on the story that has been two years in the making since spelunkers first found the cave. Since then, a team of some 60 international researchers has been led by paleoanthropologist Lee Berger of the University of Witswatersrand. Berger and colleagues argue that this fossil represents a new species which has been named Homo naledi. Although impossible to date with precision, the fossils are about 2.5 million years old, thus representing a very early human ancestor who could both easily climb trees and walk bipedally. Its brain was about the size of an orange, and its height was around five feet.

What is most striking is that the fossils come from a hard-to-access cave, suggesting that Homo naledi somehow managed to transport adult and juvenile and infant males and females into the recesses of the cave. Why and how are big questions that prompt rethinking of the long-held claim that modern humans are the only animal species to care for the remains of the dead especially through burial.

Findings are published in two papers in the open-access journal eLife.

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