anthro in the news 9/21/15


North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons
North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons

Indigenous tourism offers hope

CBA Canada reported on a gathering of iIndigenous groups from around the world in Vancouver, British Columbia, to discuss and promote the burgeoning field of “indigenous tourism” or “indigenous cultural tourism” with attention to the value of the unique relationship between First Nations and the environment. Delivering the conference’s keynote address was Wade Davis, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of British Columbia and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. He said that indigenous tourism could potentially revolutionize the industry by encouraging a better appreciation of cultural diversity:

“I think there’s a moral and huge opportunity to become ambassadors for an entire new way of being, a new geography of hope,” said Davis. But it needs to go beyond leveraging quotas of First nations into the field. “Real tourism is when aboriginal societies on their own terms can share their visions of life in a profound way that gives the visitor a true sense of authenticity, such that a visitor goes away as an avatar of the wonder of culture.”


Protests for peace in Japan

Symbol for peace in Japanese


USA Today reported on a surge of youth protests in Japan opposing legislation that would weaken Japan’s post-World War II commitment to pacifism. Weekly gatherings have grown into the largest protest movement Japan has seen in half a century. A crowd estimated by organizers at more than 100,000 turned out on a recent weekend, and nightly demonstrations have taken place outside the parliament building and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence nearby. Young people provided the spark for mass protests this summer, said David Slater, a professor of cultural anthropology and director of Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture, in Tokyo:  “Young people have not been apathetic; they have just been disgusted with politics, as have most of the Japanese adult population… This last set of bills just pushed the whole citizenry too far…”


Tell the story: Calling Radio Haiti

Forbes published an article about how forensic anthropologists are helping to document a brutal attack on a pro-Aristide shantytown called Raboteau on April 22, 1994. This attack epitomized the period of unrest. Paramilitary forces broke into homes and beat, tortured, and killed civilians. Families were not allowed to collect the bodies of the dead, which were buried in unmarked, shallow graves on the nearby beach. It was not until late 2000 that military leaders were tried for their roles in the Raboteau Massacre. The six-week trial was covered by Radio Haiti, the first independent radio station in the country, and includes the testimony of forensic anthropologist Karen Ramey Burns, a specialist in using skeletal remains as evidence of human rights abuses.

The full archives of Radio Haiti, dating between 1957 and 2003, were given to Duke University in 2014. Since then, researchers and staff have been digitizing the nearly 3,500 recordings from ¼-inch magnetic reels and cassettes. Anthropologist Laura Wagner, the project archivist, has spent years living in Haiti and studying its culture. She explains that “ the Raboteau trial recordings are, as far as we know, a unique set of in-depth documents of one formal attempt to seek justice for victims of political violence.” They represent the kind of coverage Radio Haiti was known for, and the station itself was “a space in which the Haitian poor, long denied freedom of expression, long excluded from national discourse, long regarded as passive and apolitical, could express their experiences of injustice and oppression in their own national language.” Radio Haiti was the voice of democracy and human rights, particularly in a political era that had neither.


Starbucks culture shock in Seattle

The International Examiner (Seattle, Washington) carried an interview about culture in Japan, as viewed through the lens of visits to Starbucks there and, as an international student to the U.S., in Seattle. The student is struck by all the friendly chatting and smiles involved in ordering a coffee in Seattle – so are Japanese people, therefore more “close-minded?”

“What do the Japanese say in Starbucks in Japan? The customers will only say what they need to. They will not say anything before and after the transaction. Although Starbucks employees in Japan may say, “Thank you very much. Have a good day!,” customers will leave without saying anything or smiling.”

The author decides to do an email interview with a former a former professor at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London, cultural anthropologist Fabio Gygi, an expert on Japanese culture

The questions were: Is there a way in anthropology to explain this appearance of “close-mindedness,” this fear of foreigners, in the Japanese people? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? When you were in Japan, did you have difficulties in getting involved with the Japanese community? Do you have any opinions about this “closed” mindset?


Athletic woes at Rutgers

ESPN reported on ongoing problems at Rutgers University with its athletics department.  The university released a long-awaited report Wednesday, detailing a month-long investigation that led to a three-game suspension and $50,000 fine of football coach Kyle Flood, the university was dealing with its latest scandal, the disciplining of Flood for pressuring a teacher to change a player’s grade.  “This has been going on for years and years,” said anthropology professor David Hughes, president of the AAUP-AFT faculty union, in a phone interview. “That’s why faculty is so disillusioned with the athletic department. … Faculty gets treated like second-class citizens…Faculty is disillusioned because the athletic department hasn’t earned its keep. We’ve sold our soul to becoming part of the athletic-entertainment business…Yet it’s losing money and having its shortfalls covered from the general education fund and student fees.”


A talk in Maine on Chinese expansionism

The Free Press (Maine) noted a talk on September 24 on “Phoenix Rising: China’s Expansion in Africa and Latin America,” by Rob Wasserstrom. Wasserstrom graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in anthropology, did anthropological field work in Mexico and taught at Columbia University. In 1995 he cofounded the Terra Group, established to help international energy and mining companies with their overseas operations.


Take that anthro degree and…

…become an activity assistant for elderly and memory-impaired people. Aegis Living of Napa announced the appointment of Nancy Lee as an activity assistant. Lee has an M.A. degree in sociology and cultural anthropology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

…become a writer. Ceridwen Dovey has published her second book, the story collection Only the Animals. Her subject is not human societies, however, but the relationships between humans and and other species. She a joint B.A. from Harvard University in anthropology and in visual and environmental studies. During her time at Harvard, Dovey made documentaries that highlighted the relationships between farmers and rural laborers in post-apartheid South Africa and a documentary about wine farm labor relations in the Western Cape of South Africa, Aftertaste, as part of her Honors thesis, which is distributed by John Marshall’s Documentary Educational Resources. In 2004 Dovey worked briefly for the television program NOW with Bill Moyers at Channel Thirteen in New York before returning to South Africa to study creative writing at the University of Cape Town. She wrote her first novel Blood Kin as her M.A. thesis in creative writing

…become owner/manager of a business franchise. Joseph Mulherin is in the process of assuming leadership of the Dairy Queen in Mansfield, Ohio. His great grandparents established the business in 1948. Mulherin has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Notre Dame. He was an assistant bank manager before his move to the family business.

…become a food and agriculture activist… Ronaldo Lec Ajcot runs IMAP, the Institute of Mesoamerican Permaculture. The 15-year-old organization, which he founded, is making a meaningful impact in the Mesoamerican region by improving food security and, in turn, preserving ancestral Maya farming practices. He has a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in justice and peace studies from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.  “My idea was to apply my anthropology studies and give back to my country and community.” His first job as a researcher for the Forensic Anthropology Foundation, documenting the massacres in one Guatemalan community during the 1980s, seemed a perfect fit; however, in short time the work proved too overwhelming for his spirit, so he searched for another way to contribute to his community.

…become a Web services library promotion coordinator and animal therapy activist. Pamela Rose has seen a lot of changes over five decades at the University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library. She started at the library as a clerk in the mid-1960s, after struggling in UB math and engineering classes her freshman year and then dropping out. During the next three decades, she picked away at classes as she worked full-time, earning a B.A. in anthropology at the University of Buffalo and then a master’s in library science. She had been a longtime docent at the Buffalo Zoo, is a member of several animal support groups, and founder and webmaster for Therapy Animals of Western New York. She forged the UB Therapy Dog Program four years ago.


3-d printed fossils: As real as it gets

According to a piece on WVXU public radio (Ohio), Miam University (in Ohio) is making strides in using new technologies for imaging fossils in its teaching. “I am in the fortunate position of teaching paleoanthropology this semester,” said Linda Marchant, professor of anthropology. “How often does it happen that a momentous discovery happens while you are teaching a class on that subject…Thanks to these new technologies, I’ll be able to show them a sample of the hundreds of newly discovered fossils…This is as real as it gets in letting students see firsthand, and in their hands, what the fossil record looks like, even as more of it is being uncovered.”

Scott Suarez, assistant professor of anthropology, is developing a new lab exercise for his Foundations of Biological Anthropology class.  Students will measure the replicas and compare them to casts of Australeopithicus africanus and Homo habilis, the closest known relatives of Homo naledi.


Grandma: What a kind heart you have

The Chicago Daily Herald provided an overview of the importance of grandmothers in human evolution, focusing on the work of biological anthropologist Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah, who coined the grandmother hypothesis. It asserts that many of the characteristics that distinguish us from our ape ancestors are thanks to the thoughtful care of our mothers’ mothers. Taking a further step, In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she and her co-authors explain how grandmothering is a crucial factor behind the spread of monogamy.


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