anthro in the news 10/12/2015


Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug [source: Wikipedia].
Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug, source: Wikipedia
Nobel Prize catalyzes controversy in China


The New York Times reported on reactions in China about its first Nobel prize in science which was awarded to Tu Youyou, a retired researcher who worked at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences) in Beijing. The award recognizes her role in extracting the malaria-fighting compound Artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua. It is the first time China has won a Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline. Bu the award has refueled a longstanding debate in China between Western science approaches to medicine and Chinese traditional medicine. Critics of the award say that it valorizes Western science while seeming to recognize traditional Chinese medicine. The article quotes Volker Scheid, an anthropologist at the University of Westminster in London who refers to Chinese traditional medicine:  “It’s part of the nation, but the nation of China defines itself as a modern nation, which is tied very much to science…So this causes a conflict.”


source: Wikipedia

Guinea elections

The New York Times carried an article about the presidential election in Guinea, noting that ethnic clashes marked the last presidential election threaten to resurface. President Alpha Conde is running against seven candidates in the West African nation that has been hard hit by the Ebola crisis. The main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, is the same man he ultimately defeated in a 2010 election marked by clashes between their supporters along ethnic lines. The article quotes Mike McGovern, a West Africa expert and associate professor of anthropology at University of Michigan: “What Ebola has made clear is many ordinary Guineans’ deep mistrust of government.”

Aboriginal relations in Canada: Re-set needed

The Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Canada) carried an article by Michael Asch, author of On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada and professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Alberta and professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria. He said, iIn a talk at the University of Saskatchewan: “If Canada really were the fair and decent nation it imagines itself to be, it would immediately reset the way it relates to indigenous people based on the meeting of equals employed at the time of treaty…We [Canadians] think of ourselves as fair people, as not racists, and yet we have justifications for sovereignty based on some assumptions that are clearly from a colonial, racist view.”


India #1 in global used clothing market

The Business Standard (India) reported on the booming import business of worn clothing, placing it first in the world in this market. In 2013, the top three exporting countries were the U.S., the U.K., and Germany. The article mentions a research paper in Geoforum titled, The Limits of Ethicality in International Markets: Imported Second-hand Clothing in India, by Lucy Norris, researcher in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. One of her findings is that Panipat, India, is the home to the world’s largest “shoddy wool industry,” which supplies, low-quality blankets across India, South Asia and East Africa to the poor, while slightly better versions are commissioned by institutions such as railways, prisons and the army, and are also a staple item in global disaster relief provided by international charities.


U.S. military bases counterproductive

ISN Zurich carried an article by cultural anthropologist David Vine of American University about how U.S. military bases actually undermine U.S. national security. Vine writes that foreign bases complicate the use of diplomacy to solve problems and even create the very threats that they’re supposed to prevent: “We may think such bases have made us safer. In reality, they’ve helped lock us inside a permanently militarized society that has made all of us — everyone on this planet — less secure, damaging lives at home and abroad. “


Just taking artifacts, obviously

An article in the Huffington Post by Lewis Borck, anthropology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona, describes the alleged removal of American Indian artifacts from a site by members of a film crew. The context is the filming of the second Maze Runner movie, which was filmed around Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is a petition being circulated which can be found via a posting on Yahoo. Maeve Cunningham, a 19 year-old self-described fan of Dylan O’Brien, the movie’s star, created the petition. She did this after hearing Dylan admit, during a televised interview, that he “obviously” took artifacts from an archaeological site where he was filming scenes for the movie.


Take that anthro degree and…

… become the CEO of a museum.  Lucinda Blackley-Jimson is the newly appointed CEO of the Nelson Provincial Museum in Auckland, New Zealand. Previously, she was the Exhibition Manager at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology. Blackley-Jimson’s academic background is in cultural anthropology (B.A. Hons) from Victoria University, and she has a postgraduate diploma in library and information studies. She is a qualified Project Manager (NZ Institute of Management) and holds many industry-related qualifications, including the National Services Te Paerangi / Victoria University Business School’s ‘Strategic Leadership for Museum Professionals, He Kahui Kakakura.’

…become a human rights professional. Stephen Cody directs the atrocity response program at the Human Rights Center at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. He has a B.A. in political science from Temple University; he studied as a Fulbright scholar at Cambridge University where he received a master’s degree in social anthropology; and he has a Ph.D. in sociology and a law degree from the University of California-Berkeley.


Eat what you kill:  Local resistance to the Spanish invasion in Aztec times

The Guardian reported on updated details from a site in Aztec-era Mexico indicating that local people captured many Spanish conquistadors, women, children, and horses, kept them for several months, then sacrificed and ate them. Archaeologists are providing details of what happened, as announced by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Apparently, a convoy of conquistadors and allies encountered a local people known as the Acolhuas. They were captured, and, over the next six months, met a grisly end. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Acolhuas had to remake the town of Zultepec to accommodate the prisoners, according to archaeologist Enrique Martinez. Skeletons show cut marks consistent with flesh cleaved from bones, suggesting that the local people ate the captured horses and people. The town was later renamed as Tecoaque, which in the Nahuatl language means: “The place where they ate them.”

Related to the human sacrifice aspect of this research, the Guardian includes commentary from archaeologist Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley: “Different deities needed different sacrifices…It was traditional in the back and forth between the Aztecs [and contemporaries] to sacrifice people who were captured, specifically warriors.” Women and children were also chosen, said Joyce, who was not involved in the excavations. “Children in particular were selected for rain deities.”

The question remains, however, of whether local people did indeed capture, sacrifice, and eat Spanish people? Clay figurines, some represented in European-looking garb, are among the 15,000 artifacts unearthed from the site. Martinez says: “We have figurines of blacks, of Europeans, that were then intentionally decapitated.” Lisa Overholtzer, a McGill University anthropologist who has studied similar figurines, expressed skepticism about the artifacts, saying that despite their trappings “there is nothing that clearly indicates the individual is Spanish.”

Martinez argues that the findings show that indigenous people fought back against the conquistadors, in contrast to the prevailing narrative that Mesoamerican peoples ceded to the Spanish quickly. But betrayal was a way of life as much in the Americas as in Europe in the 16th century, University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie said, and: “Cortes learned of, and exploited, these political rifts to his advantage.” [Blogger’s note: Archaeology News Network provides several photographs].


It goes on and on: ISIS and cultural heritage destruction in Syria

Time Magazine published an article about the destruction of pre-Islamic cultural heritage in Syria in which is drew extensively on commentary from Amr Al-Azm, associate professor of history and anthropology at Shawnee State University. The destruction of the Arch of Triumph is the latest atrocity to shock the world.


In Colorado yardwork yields very old tools

Channel 9 News (Colorado) reported updates on the 2998 finding in 2008 by landscapers digging in a Boulder, Colorado, front yard of a collection of tools that are likely 13,000 years old. It launched years of analysis by anthropologists at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “I knew what I was looking at was completely unique in Boulder County. I knew the material was from a really long way away,” said anthropology professor Douglas Bamforth.


Beards as “adaptive badges?”

The Daily Beast published a piece on a study of the trend among men to grow beards. It quotes Cyril Grueter, associate professor of biological anthropology at the University of Western Australia in Perth and lead author of the study: “In general, our new research shows that body ornaments appear to be more elaborate in larger groups of primates (where signaling quality and status to strangers is of great importance) and the same may apply to humans which live in fairly large societies.”


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