anthro in the news 12/7/2015


A view of Mauna Loa taken from a Pu'u near The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at Mauna Kea. source: Wikipedia

Saying no to big telescope in Hawaii

Indigenous peoples everywhere seek the right to say no to various outside interventions. The National Post (Canada) reported on the controversial plan to build a giant telescope in Hawaii on top of Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain. A proposal to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) makes claims that it will benefit the whole world, and that Mauna Kea is the best and most rational place to build it. The article quoted, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology and American Studies at Wesleyan University: “…telescopes on Mauna Kea are “supplant(ing) our indigenous temple of worship” and the TMT would constitute a “desecration” of the cynosure of Hawaiian existence. The Post article goes on to comment: “Canadians know well what this sort of fight looks like at home. It turns out other places have aboriginal peoples who want the right to say no, too.”


U.S. military is working on a bomber that later could be nuclear-certified. Source: PressTV

U.S. as major threat to world peace and security

PressTV (Iran) carried an article about the possibility of a new nuclear arms race involving Russia and China and untold financial costs. It drew on comments from Dennis Etler, professor of anthropology at Cabrillo College in California. Etler noted that the United States has “a military budget which exceeds that of all other countries combined, ” adding that the U.S. “has hundreds of military bases spread across the length and breadth of the globe, it has invaded sovereign nations throughout the world to protect what it claims is its national security, it has imposed economic sanctions on countries it deems adversaries, and supports subversion and separatism in order to dismember nations it wishes to control…This has all happened time and again. The U.S. as a result of its unilateral actions has become the major threat to world peace and security.”


On self-radicalization

A piece on WANE News (Indiana) about the mass attack in San Bernardino, now being investigated by the FBI as a terrorist act, included commentary from Lawrence Kuznar, anthropology professor at Indiana Purdue University at Fort Wayne. He said that what Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik did Wednesday in California fits the definition of terrorism. According to authorities, Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS online during the attacks. “This couple had a political agenda and they wanted to attack civilians…That’s pretty much a basic definition of what a terrorist act is, but that’s different from if ISIS planned and executed this themselves.” Kuznar said Farook and Malik were self-radicalized, given the lack of evidence that they were part of any terrorist network.


Shameless cultural appropriation

U.K. design label, KTZ, copied an Inuit shaman's parka. Sources: Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC from book Northern Voices and Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

CBC News (Canada) carried a piece about how an Inuit shaman’s parka was copied by KTZ, a U.K. design label. The parka has been the subject of study for generations including by Franz Boas, a founding figure of American anthropology. Experts consider the parka to be the “most unique garment known to have been created in the Canadian Arctic.” The KTZ fall 2015 men’s collection includes a number of garments based on traditional Inuit designs including a sweater that has a pattern almost identical to that on a shaman’s caribou skin parka that dates back to the early 1900s. The design was used without the consent of the shaman’s descendants in Nunavut.  KTZ has apologized to the family and pulled the garment from its online stores. [Blogger’s note: You can see the parka modeled in a London show on Youtube].


Talking hair

Classic style for a married woman, especially in South India, is a single braid with flowers, ornaments, and possible hair extensions. Source:

The Indian Express published an article by cultural anthropologist Barbara Miller of the George Washington University and editor of anthropologyworks. In response to an exhibition in Delhi on Hair Styles in Indian Art, She discusses the challenges of “reading” the messages in hair styles in Indian history as depicted in art: “Hair talks. It has meaning — lots of hair, no hair, straight hair, curly hair, tamed hair, wild hair, black hair, white hair, uncovered hair, covered hair. A person’s hair conveys meanings about social and moral identity, including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, and more.”








Asphalt versus Alaska heritage

Dipnetting season at the mouth of the Kasilof River, north side. source: Alan Boraas


Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College in Alaska, published an article in the Alaska Dispatch addressing the increasing pressure on the north side of the Kasilof River from fishing and SUV parking: “In addition to shorebirds, migratory birds and wetlands, the area is the location of some of the most significant archaeological and historic sites in Alaska. The river mouth has Riverine and Dena’ina prehistoric sites; an 18th century Russian fort, Georgievisk Redoubt (although its exact location is not known); and the remains of the second cannery built in Alaska and the first in Cook Inlet. At this one place we can visualize at least four of the most important historic eras of Alaska — Riverine and Dena’ina salmon cultures, Russian occupation and salmon canneries. All but the brief Russian presence were shaped by harvesting salmon.” The Legislature provided more than $2 million for the Department of Natural Resources to come up with a solution. DNR’s plan is to put in paved roads and more than 300 paved RV parking locations. In effect, they are going to destroy the area…” Borass offers two alternatives.


Nerd Night in Providence, Rhode Island

The Providence Journal (Rhode Island) reported on its first ever Nerd Night. This event, which takes place in more than 90 cities worldwide, made its debut in Providence on Wednesday. Attendees eat and drink while academics discuss their research to the public. One of the speakers was Holly Dunsworth, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. Her presentation was entitled, Do Gorillas Know Where Babies Come From?


Graeber: Engaged author

Le Monde carried an article [in French] about the work of cultural anthropologist David Graeber with a focus on his latest book, The Utopia of Rules. The article quotes him as saying: “Nous [les anthropologues] avons étudié comment d’autres sociétés fonctionnaient ; nous sommes les gardiens d’un trésor de possibilités qu’il nous faut partager pour rappeler à nos contemporains que notre modèle de société n’est pas le seul. Il est possible de vivre autrement.” [Blogger’s note: Graeber has nailed one of the great values of cultural anthropology: the knowledge of other ways to live beyond that of contemporary hyper-capitalism, and its responsibility to share that knowledge with the public].


What a line-up

A review in the Financial Times of Review of a new book called The Refusal of Work by David Frayne (a non-anthropologist) places David Graeber in an impressive line-up of thinkers: “The first part of this book is a well-written romp through theory and critiques of work. Frayne scrutinises the cultural importance of work to modern society, through writers including Karl Marx, William Morris, Max Weber and David Graeber. Some work is meaningful, he concedes, but is thin on the ground and unevenly spread.” Graeber, a cultural anthropologist, teaches at the London School of Economics.


Take that anth degree and…

…become a photographer and company owner. Sherrie Austin is a photographer, videographer, and owner of Austin ImageWorks in Hawaii. The company describes itself as a group of imaging professionals committed to having a positive influence on the world and having at least one belly laugh a day. Austin has worked with community members on Maui and from neighboring Hawaiian islands to weave a mile-long lei that has been delivered to the people of Paris. She has a B.A. in media studies and anthropology from Radford University in Virginia.

…become a film festival director. John Biaggi is the director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, a position held since 2008 though he began working with the festival in 1999. Biaggi is involved with every aspect of the festival which includes the two flagship festivals in New York and London as well as festivals and film events in Amsterdam, Beirut, Chicago, Nairobi, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington D.C., and Zurich. He screens upwards of 250 films each year, both at festivals worldwide and through the festival’s extensive submissions. He has a B.A. degree in anthropology/archaeology from Stanford University.

…become a museum curator and cultural researcher. Bernadette Driscoll Englestad is an independent curator of Inuit art and cultural history who often works with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Her recent exhibits include Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben at the National Museum of the American Indian and an exhibition of Inuit graphic art, The Artist as Cultural Historian; at the Ripley International Center. While going through materials at the Smithsonian’s American Museum of Natural History in 1978, Driscoll Engelstad found the shaman’s robe mentioned earlier in this post under shameless cultural appropriation: “It was packed away in a storage box in the storeroom…and I don’t think it had been exhibited or even maybe looked at since its collection.” She has an M.A. in art and anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University. [Blogger’s note: how KTZ learned of the robe is not clear).

…become a writer. Trish Nicholson is a writer of short stories and narrative non-fiction. Her latest publication is a travel memoir, Inside the Crocodile: The Papua New Guinea Journals. Her work-in-progress includes a narrative non-fiction celebration of story and storytelling from a social-historical perspective. After gaining a M.A. in social anthropology, she pursued an administrative career in Scotland, where she worked in various regional government roles. She went on to positions in Europe as a regional government administrator, a management trainer and an Open University, and Open Business School, tutor, before spending fifteen years on aid and development projects in the Asia Pacific region. During five years working in the West Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea she was also Honorary Consul for the British High Commission. She then spent several years researching indigenous tourism in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Australia, with partial funding from the UK Department for International Development. Earlier writings included a monthly magazine column; newspaper features in the U.K. (The Guardian, The Times, and The Times Educational Supplement) and in Australia (Melbourne Age), and three non-fiction books on anthropology, staff development, and responsible travel tourism. Somewhere during her career, she also earned a Ph.D. in social anthropology. [Blogger’s note: none of my sources reveal where she got her degrees].


Temple of archaeological dreams

Archaeologists are hopeful that a passageway in an Aztec time in Mexico may lead to important royal tombs including, perhaps, that of Moctezuma I. U.S. News and World Report, among several other media, carried an article about ongoing archaeological excavations in Mexico City’s Templo Mayor site. Archaeologist Leonardo López Luján said his team has found a tunnel-like passageway that apparently leads to two sealed chambers: “Obviously, this [project] includes re-excavating the passageway and finding out what lies behind the two sealed doorways…The hypothesis is that there will be two small chambers with urns holding the ashes of Mexica rulers, but we could be wrong.” The article also quotes University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, who was not involved in the project: the find “could be quite significant…We have pictures from the 16th century documents of the wrapped corpses of kings. Their ‘cremains’ should be somewhere in the Templo Mayor vicinity according to the documents, but one cannot expect a great tomb chamber as was the case of the earlier Maya kings.” .


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