anthro in the news 1/25/2016


Eritrea landscape. Source: Creative Commons

Misguided U.K. asylum policy

As described in an article in the Guardian, John Campbell, reader in the anthropology of Africa and law at the University of London, U.K. asylum policy for Eritreans is misguided. Campbell analyzed two Country Information Guidance documents issued by the Home Office last year which say that it is safe to return asylum seekers to Eritrea. Campbell argues that this position over-relies on one outdated source and does not take into account other available evidence and. Campbell is reported to have said: “An undergraduate would be failed for this sort of thing.” The Home Office has not responded.


Haiti: Still seeking an elected president

Poster encouraging citizens to vote in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 2016. Source: Nicholas Johnson, IGIS

An article in the Huffington Post offers insights into the unresolved presidential election in Haiti. It focuses on one candidate who is closely linked with the banana industry. Co-authors are Jennifer Vansteenkiste, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of Guelph and Mark Schuller, associate professor of anthropology and NGO leadership development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti.

Leftward ho, anthropology

An article in the Economist about how economics may or may not be a “science” mentioned results from a 2003 survey about left/right leanings in the social sciences, presumably in the U.S: “A survey conducted in 2003 among practitioners of six social sciences found that economics was no more political than the other fields, just more finely balanced ideologically: left-leaning economists outnumbered right-leaning ones by three to one, compared with a ratio of 30:1 in anthropology.” [Blogger’s note: The article does not provide a source for the survey, and I have no idea what the phrase “finely balanced” means].


Working together for health

The Native American Times (Oklahoma) reported on a new research and health policy collaboration between the University of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. The partnership is focused on tobacco use and associated high rates of cancer among the Cherokee. With two, four-year grants totaling $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health, the collaboration will develop a research program, training, and education for American Indian students and investigators. Leading the effort are Paul Spicer, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Oklahoma University and Sohail-Khan, director of health research at the Cherokee Nation, along with Mark Doescher of the OU Health Sciences Center and program leader of the Cancer Health Disparities Program at the Stephenson Cancer Center.

Spicer is quoted as saying: “The collaboration is especially exciting because it links undergraduate and graduate students from the Norman campus to an emerging tribal research program.  OU leads the nation in the number of American Indian students at a Carnegie I research institution.  There is real opportunity here in Oklahoma to grow tribal research as a key component of economic development.”


Facebook, theology, and tenure

The Washington Post carried an article about the ongoing challenge to the tenure of political science professor Larycia Hawkins at Wheaton College in Illinois. Wheaton is an evangelical institution where professors are required to sign a 12-point statement of faith annually. The challenge to Hawkins’ tenure began after she posted on Facebook in December that she would wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim women during Advent and her comment that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The article quotes Wheaton anthropology professor Brian Howell: “I think there needs to be a point at which the college has to say, ‘Yes, your theological statement is approved or ‘No, it isn’t and you’re fired…There can’t be something like, ‘Say it another way.’ If tenure is something real, then there is a trust.”


The political economy of place names

The Tampa Tribune (Florida) reported about ongoing place name changes in Florida, including communities, roads, and shopping plazas. For example, in recent years, one county has designated a large part of what historically was Lutz and Land O’ Lakes as Wesley Chapel. The article quotes cultural anthropologist Susan McManus of the University of South Florida, a lifelong Pasco County resident, who was asked to name the community in which she grew up: “’Over the years, the post office changed the boundaries. So I’ve had a Lutz address and I’ve had a Land O’ Lakes address without ever moving,’ said the government and international affairs expert. ‘But I can definitely tell you I’ve never lived in Wesley Chapel.’”


Graeber ‘s Utopia in review

The Los Angeles Review of Books published a review of cultural anthropologist David Graeber’s book, The Utopia of Rules. At the end of the piece, the reviewer comments: “Even if you find Graeber’s direct democracy too radical, he is correct that citizens need to communicate their desires themselves, directly. The Black Lives Matter movement, which has largely kept itself separate from bureaucratic political parties, while still pressuring elected officials, offers one example of an independent left. More are needed.”


Take that anthro degree and…

become a qualitative researcher working in entertainment marketing. Cultural anthropologist Susan Kresnicka works at Hollywood’s leading integrated branding and marketing agency Troika, spearheading their Research and Insights group. With such clients as AMC, A+E Networks, CW, FOX, PBS, Starz, Amazon, Cirque du Soleil, Sundance Institute, UFC, and MSG Network, she and her team study how and why viewers consume entertainment and sports. She describes herself as “a business anthropologist with a passion for understanding connections between culture and the consumer landscape and a commitment to helping my clients use those insights to make more effective business decisions.” She has a B.A in international development from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and an M.A. in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas.

become an executive in a private foundation. Aranthan Jones has been named chief policy and communications officer of the Kellogg Foundation. This is a newly created executive position that will set the leadership direction for the foundation’s policy, communication and advocacy investments worldwide. He received a B.A. degree in anthropology from Iowa State University in sociology and anthropology and minored in African American studies. He has a Master’s in Public Health in international health policy, with concentrations in economic development and finance, from the George Washington University.

become a qualitative researcher in a research and policy institution. Tahsin Rahaman is a qualitative researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC. In his spare time he is an actor, lyricist, and film critic. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh.


Earliest warfare?

Skull from Nataruk, Kenya. Source: Newsweek

Newsweek and several other media reported on a publication in the journal Nature about findings from a 2012 discovery in Nataruk, Kenya dating to 10,000 years ago. A skull shows multiple lesions consistent with wounds from a blunt implement, such as a club. Remains from several other bodies at the site suggest that it may have been a scene of “war” among hunter-gatherer groups. This finding, if arguably accurate as “war” would support the view that “war” did not begin only when humans started living in permanent settlements. Marta Mirazon Lahr, a paleoanthropologist, leads the research team from Cambridge University’s Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies.






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