anthro in the news 10/26/2015

source: NPR

Happy slaves?

A piece on National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on how the coconut industry in Thailand thrives on the use of the labor of trained monkeys. Some observers claim that this work constitutes animal abuse. Skeptics of allegations of abuse include Leslie Sponsel, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Hawaii:  “…the monkeys are very similar to family pets, and for some households, even like family members to some degree. Young ones are trained, and they are kept on a chain tethered to the handler or to a shelter when not working. They are fed, watered, bathed, groomed and otherwise cared for. They often ride to the coconut palm plantation on the back of a motor bike or in a cart driven by the handler…That is not to say that there is never any cruelty or mistreatment.” Sponsel added that overall he respects “the poor farmers and others who are just trying to survive and prosper in support of their families.” A trained monkey can pick an average 1,000 coconuts a day while a human can manage to pick 80.


Domino effect of violence in northern Afghanistan

Al Jazeera published an op-ed by Morwari Zafar, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the University of Oxford and visiting scholar in the Institute of Global and International Studies at the George Washington University. She argues that violence in northern Afghanistan threatens the country’s vulnerable populations and jeopardizes stability in the country as a whole. Faryab province used to be a stable, economically self-sufficient home to nearly one million multiethnic inhabitants: “But today, Faryab simmers dangerously. Against the backdrop of the US government’s latest extension of its military commitment to Afghanistan, it is worth noting that the province is precariously situated along the same political fault lines that recently rattled Kunduz province.”



Who sleeps with whom…in the family

source: Google Images/

The Washington Post carried an article about an American family of seven, all of whom sleep in the same bed. On the positive side of co-sleeping, the article quotes James McKenna, professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, said co-sleeping is an option that works well for some families: “Society and people assume that it’s okay to judge co-sleeping, separate-surface co-sleeping and bed sharing…Parents have the right to decide what is right for them, what’s safe for them, what works best for them and baby, and what is the best practice they will follow…If you feel comfortable doing it — and you’ve made as many safety precautions as you can — trust your intuition that this is the right sleeping arrangement for your family.”


David Vine’s Base Nation in the spotlight

An op-ed in the Washington Post by Celeste Ward Gventer, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a military spouse, stationed in Vilseck, Germany, draws heavily on David Vine’s new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America. She argues that superficial thinking “…still pertains when it comes to the largely unstated and unexamined assumptions that support the massive infrastructure of U.S. military installations around the world. As he [Vine] argues, ‘The presence of our bases overseas has long been accepted unquestioningly and treated as an obvious good.’” Moreover, it seems that no one knows, or is saying, how many overseas military facilities the U.S. has. Vine found an official tally of 686, but he thinks the number is closer to 800. Vine is associate professor of cultural anthropology at American University.


Beyond Indigenous People’s Day

The Oregonian published an op-ed by Robert Boyd, affiliated research faculty in the anthropology department at Portland State University and lead editor of Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia. He argues that the city of Portland, Oregon, should do more than declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day: “A commendable step, and nice words, but now let’s back it up with some action, ‘walk the talk,’ and bring Portland’s rich Native American heritage and the descendants of its ‘first peoples’ back into civic affairs and city life where they belong.” He describes how, in the early 1800s, there were upwards of 30 native villages recorded in the Portland Basin. He offers several ideas for greater government and civic collaboration with and recognition of the tribes today.


Center of vice in Hong Kong moves on

CNBC News carried an article about the changing landscape of “vice” in Hong Kong which has moved on from one central location, Chungking Mansions, to other sites. The article quotes Gordon Mathews, professor and chair of the anthropology department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong: “Chungking Mansions as a center of vice, that doesn’t ring true anymore.”


India grants research permit to U.K. medical anthropologist

As reported in the Times of India, the government of India has taken a major step in granting a research permit to a medical anthropologist, Seema Solanki of the University of Kent, to conduct an ethno-medical study. The permit for research, issued by India’s National Biodiversity Authority, is the first internationally recognized certificate of compliance under the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. Her research will be conducted with the Siddi, and Afro-Indian community in Gujarat, western India.


Take that anthro degree and…

…work in the film and television industry. Bill Wiggins is a set dresser who has worked in the film and television industry in New York since 1985. He has worked with all-star directors and filmmakers including Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese and has contributed to nearly every motion picture set in New York, including Midnight in Paris, Batman, and Spider-Man 3, as well as many major TV productions such as 30 Rock and Gotham. He currently works on the popular TV drama The Affair. In addition to spending 60 hours on set per week, Wiggins is the owner of Black Elk Images, in which he sells rental images for film and television. Wiggins majored in anthropology as an undergraduate student at Bowdoin College in Maine.

…work in information technology and become a gender equality activist. Meg Randall is a quality assurance engineer at the automotive web solutions company and has become a go-to guru for local Vermont women in tech. She got her first tech job fresh out of college after earning a B.A. degree in religious studies and anthropology from St. Lawrence University. She later worked for the Feminist Majority Foundation in Washington, D.C., and doing the email, website and coding, and realized she had a knack for it. It wasn’t until Randall took a similar position at Burlington-based Localvore Today in 2012 that she noticed the scarcity of females in her field. Randall recalls finding hope and solidarity at a Lesbians Who Tech Summit in New York City, where all of the presenters, and the majority of participants, were female. On her way back to Burlington, she decided to launch a local chapter of Lesbians Who Tech.

…become a college president. Susan Scrimshaw has served as President of the Sage Colleges since 2008. In addition to her numerous roles in the higher education community, Scrimshaw is a medical anthropologist whose work has focused on health disparities and health equity, minority health, health literacy, social determinants of health and has included areas ranging from reproductive health to global health to HIV/AIDS, health literacy and violence prevention. She has 38 years of service with the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM), now called the National Academy of Medicine. Scrimshaw has served on a total of 25 IOM and National Academy of Sciences committees, boards and workshops. She was recently awarded the Adam Yarmolinsky Medal for her service to the National Academy of Medicine.  Scrimshaw has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University.

…become an international consultant on humanitarian aid and public health. Mayling Simpson-Hebert began her career teaching at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. She won a research grant to study infant feeding practices in the Philippines from 1981 to 1985 and produced a number of publications. During this period, she became involved in water, sanitation and hygiene and worked as a consultant for the UNDP/World Bank Water and Sanitation Program. Throughout her career, she has worked in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, Africa, living in seven countries: Iran, Philippines, Nepal, Switzerland, Serbia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. In 1991, she became a Senior Technical Officer for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland in the Department of Environmental Health. In 2004, she took a position as Regional Technical Health Advisor for Catholic Relief Services in East Africa. She introduced innovations to CRS to improve the success of their programming, such as ecological sanitation and participatory learning methods for health. After retiring from CRS in 2010, she spends her time volunteering for various organizations and consulting.  Simpson-Hebert has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Looting in Syria: Not only by ISIS

An article in Artnet News described how, in addition to ISIS, other groups are looting cultural heritage sites in Syria. Researchers at Dartmouth University conducted an analysis of satellite imagery of roughly 1,300 Syrian archaeological sites. Findings indicate that Kurdish opposition forces and even Syrian authorities may also be involved in the lucrative antiquities market. The study, led by Dartmouth anthropology professor Jesse Casana, compared data compiled by Digital Globe from 2007 to the present with older images, including CORONA satellite photos from the 1960s that have since been declassified. She is quoted as saying: “Instances of severe, state-sanctioned looting are occurring in both ISIS-held and Syrian regime areas.”


Eternal life through death rituals

An article in the Arizona Daily Star described the research of Mary C. Stiner, a Regents’ Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and curator of Zooarchaeology at the Arizona State Museum. She delivered the second of this year’s Downtown Lecture Series on Immortality in Tucson. Her lecture, “Love and Death in the Stone Age,” explored the emergence of funerary rituals in ancient peoples. There are two paths to immortality, according to Stiner. First, we achieve immortality by passing along our genetic material to an offspring. Secondly, we achieve a measure of immortality by persisting in the minds of the living. According to Stiner, burial rituals help achieve this immortality.


In memoriam

Patricia Rieff Anawalt, a University of California at Los Angeles anthropologist who later became the chairman of Anawalt Lumber Company, died at the age of 91 years. Anawalt was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Regional Dress at UCLA’s Fowler Museum. An authority on Mesoamerican ritual and attire, she wrote several books, including The Worldwide History of Dress, which examined the costumes of a wide range of peoples, including Neolithic plant-fiber skirts, ancient Egyptian linen shifts and Mongolian shamanic robes. Before founding the center, Anawalt was curator of costumes and textiles at UCLA’s Museum of Cultural History. After the death of her husband in 2000, she succeeded him as chairman of the family-owned lumber company founded in Los Angeles in 1923.

Eugene Cooper, professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California died at the age of 68 years. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Hong Kong University before joining USC in 1980. In a career at USC that spanned 35 years, “Coops,” as he was affectionately known, won the respect and affection of generations of students. A sinologist who specialized in Chinese folk custom, Cooper was also an expert on Chinese civilization, the overseas Chinese diaspora, economic anthropology/political economy, marriage, family and kinship, peasant society, popular culture and American folklore. He consulted with businesses, industry leaders and legal professionals on Chinese rural industrial production, the import/export sector and Chinese culture. A fluent Mandarin and Cantonese speaker, Cooper was one of the first foreigners to enter China after the Cultural Revolution and had met the wife of Chinese Communist revolutionary and People’s Republic of China founding father Mao Zedong. Among Cooper’s recent research topics were China’s market temple fairs of Jinhua municipality in Zhejiang province. His latest book was The Market and Temple Fairs of Rural China: Red Fire.  An earlier book, Adventures in Chinese Bureaucracy, chronicled his personal tales of woe and intrigue as he endured five years of false starts, detours, dead ends and disappointments while seeking approval from Chinese authorities to mount an ethnographic research project in rural China.

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