anthro in the news 11/16/15


France as terrorist target

ATTN (France) published an article documenting recent terrorist attacks in France along with commentary from cultural anthropologist John Bowen’s article in Time. January 8, 2015, following the Hebdo attack. Bowen, who teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote that the causes of the many attacks in France are complex and include France’s longstanding connections with Islam and its large Muslim population which is 7.5 percent of the total.


Sickness and the city

The Financial Times reported on findings from a study led by researchers at University College London (UCL), which sheds light on why most diabetes sufferers live in cities. Risk factors include increased junk food consumption, lack of safe spaces for exercise, social isolation, and economic inequalities. The research was based on interviews with diabetics and those at risk of the disease in five cities: Copenhagen, Houston, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Tianjin. The goal is to develop policies to break the link between diabetes and urbanization. The article provides commentary from David Napier, professor of medical anthropology at UCL, who said that, by focusing on medical factors, traditional research has failed to capture “the social and cultural drivers” that made urban populations especially vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, the type often linked to obesity. Napier noted that policymakers and urban planners must come up with strategies to promote healthier living in cities to avoid accelerating the growth of diabetes and other chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.


Go for the big kahuna

The Dallas Morning News published an article about the work of photographer and journalist Dennis Darling of the University of Texas at Austin, focusing on his time in the 1970s with KKK leader David Duke. Darling acknowledges a key lesson from cultural anthropology:

“In college I had learned a valuable technique from John Collier’s book, Visual Anthropology. Collier was an anthropologist who used photography extensively during his fieldwork in South America. One of the most valuable lessons he learned during his work, and one that I adopted, was this–when beginning an exploration of a culture, do everything in your power to make your initial contact with the person most powerful or respected within the community–the chief, the president, the elder, the guru, the spiritual leader, the ring-leader, the boss – THE BIG KAHUNA. Once you are seen as being embraced by the top of the food chain, the lower castes will accept your presences without question.”


Beyond Québec: French speakers in Canada

Oswego County Today (U.S.) spotlighted the work of SUNY Oswego cultural anthropology professor Lindsay A. Bell. She is co-author of a book tracing labor mobility among French-speaking Canadians across the country, from Alberta oil sands and Arctic diamond mines to a fishing-and-tourism village in New Brunswick.  Bell was a member of a five-person team who researched and wrote Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation. Monica Heller, linguistic anthropologist at the University of Toronto and Bell’s dissertation supervisor, was also on the team and is lead co-author. The book uses the experiences of French ethnic minorities to examine the increasing difficulty of maintaining the construct of “nation.”



Take that anthro degree and…

…work in theater and performance arts. Anna Frangiosa is a theater artist, costume designer, burlesque performer, director, instructor, and model. After earning an associate’s degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, she decided she wanted to know more about the world, so she earned a B.A. in anthropology from Temple University. Her work is infused with a social justice ethic:  “You don’t have to be a whiz to address social concerns,” says Frangiosa, whose current pet project, CAP Comcast, seeks to encourage the corporation to contribute more to communities. And, her view on activism: “Many people claim not to know enough to subject themselves to discussions on how to improve life; that’s a crutch. Becoming informed is a key to growing.”


Sacrificed boy provides DNA from Inca times

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on research using DNA extracted from the remains of a seven year-old boy who was sacrificed 500 years ago. Hikers discovered the mummified and frozen boy at the edge of Argentina’s Aconcagua Mountains in 1985. Thirty years later, scientists have sequenced some of the boy’s DNA and are using it to learn about the Inca Empire. Researchers are from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. Findings were published the journal Scientific Reports.


Early childhood learning makes a difference

An article in the Huffington Post on early childhood development and parenting mentioned the contribution to this area by biological anthropologist Robert Boyd of the University of California at Los Angeles along with other noted scholars: “Researchers from many different fields, like Robert Boyd from anthropology, evolutionary psychology and social change, and Peter Richerson from biology and environmental science, and Noam Chomsky from linguistics, philosophy, politics and cognitive science have clearly identified the main sources of conditioning: often politely referred to in the literature as the agents of cultural transmission or enculturation.”


Do not fear your pet kitty

WCBE News (U.S.) published a piece by Barbara King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, in which she debunks some recent findings that domestic cats secretly want to kill their owners.  She writes: “Recent media headlines like “Your cat may want to kill you, study finds” and “Bad news, your cat probably wants to kill you” suggest that our feline companions have aggressive thoughts toward us. That, like big cats, our mini-cats are predators that want to kill us, too.” King argues that such views erroneously equate lion behavior and motivations with those of domestic cats.



Autism rising, or methods artifact?

NDTV (U.S.) reported on a new study showing that autism affects one in 45 children in the United States, almost twice the rate from a few years ago. The survey used a new approach to assess the frequency of the developmental disorder. The piece also mentions a study out earlier this year led by Santhosh Girirajan, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and of anthropology at Penn State, found that the rising rate of autism seen in recent years resulted from reclassifying individuals with related neurological disorders. Asked for comment on the new figures, he said: “When people say (there is an) epidemic of autism, I am not really sure.”

In memoriam

Cultural anthropologist Terence Turner died at the age of 79 years. Terence Sheldon Turner was emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago and visiting professor of anthropology at Cornell University. Known best for his ethnographic and activist work with the Kayapo communities of central Brazil, Turner’s work, which includes many publications and classic ethnographic films, addressed social organization and kinship, myth, ritual, history, the construction of personhood, the ontology and epistemology of representation, political organization and mobilization, values, and inter-ethnic relations. In addition to his scholarship, Turner was deeply involved in advocacy and human rights work and was interested in indigenous peoples’ political struggles and associated ecological, cultural and rights issues. In 1998 he received the Solon T. Kimball Award from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) for outstanding contributions to the application of anthropology to human rights and development. He was also a founding member of the AAA’s Ethics and Human Rights committee and president of Survival International, U.S.A. [Blogger’s note: I am proud and honored that Terry Turner published a recent piece (2010) on the Altamira dam struggle in anthropology works].




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