anthro in the news 2/1/2016

Source: Creative Commons

U.S. football violence

Cultural anthropologist William Murphy, lecturer in the department of anthropology at Northwestern University, published an op-ed in the Chicago Sun Times about how U.S. football turns a person into a commodity: “In football calculus, knocking a skilled player out of the game is sometimes (but not always) worth the penalty for some form of unnecessary roughness. Some players specialize in this tactic, and are rewarded by fans and coaches when they get away with it. Unnecessary roughness is necessary in this calculus.” He draws on Homer, Simone Weil, and others to connect the violence of war and U.S. football with dehumanization.


U.S. football pride: It hurts not being first

Source: Creative Commons

An article in the San Diego Union Tribune reported on the decision to keep San Diego’s football team, the Chargers, for at least another year. The article quotes Seth Mallios, professor of anthropology at San Diego State University and the author of multiple books on San Diego history: “In terms of our collective psyche…we feel like we are in L.A.’s shadow. Los Angeles has two NBA teams, and one of them is one of our former teams. And look at the difference between the Dodgers’ payroll and the Padres’. When you start thinking about the giant money donations they can get up there, we can feel a little inferior.”

Anthropology and the paranormal

The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania) reported on a case of a “demonic infestation” in a local home and the paranormal investigator who says he drove it away. It will be featured on an episode of “A Haunting” on Destination America television. A woman was recuperating at home following surgery when she began to see orbs. She believed it was her deceased parents keeping watch, then later she heard sounds of footsteps and black shadows. The article draws on commentary from cultural anthropologist DeeAnne Wymer, professor at Bloomsburg University, who expressed skepticism. Wymer has developed and taught a course to explore paranormal claims in an effort to prompt critical thinking. She has also worked with PhACT (Philadelphia Association of Critical Thinking) in challenging the claims of psychics such as Uri Gellar who is featured in the documentary, An Honest Liar. She says that if someone claims to be having visions, especially after surgery, there could be a medical explanation such as lucid dreaming:

“There is a lot that I don’t understand or can not explain today, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an explanation…Just because you don’t understand something does not necessarily mean that the causation is not explainable or thus in the realm of the paranormal…The problem is that, surprisingly, there are a lot of folks out there who fall under the spell of magical thinking and these shows, and the TV channels, give a veneer of respectability and a ’where there is smoke there must be fire’ feel of legitimacy to such bunk.”


Another jab at David Graeber

A contributing writer at Forbes magazine who has a graduate degree in economics from the London School of Economics, where cultural anthropologist David Graeber teaches, published another essay in which he disparages Graeber’s critique of contemporary capitalism. The point is: no problem here, everyone is doing fine and doing what they choose to do. So Graeber’s critique is meaningless. Here is the first paragraph:

“I have to admit to being rather amused by David Graeber. He’s an anthropologist who teaches at my own Alma Mater, the London School of Economics. For all I know he may be a very good anthropologist. It’s not a subject I know much about so it would be difficult for me to judge. However, Graeber does so want to tell us all about economic matters, and there I can judge at least some of this [sic] claims. And if we’re honest about it usually he would have been better off if he’d wandered down the corridor to the economics department and asked for a little guidance before constructing his theories.”


Take that anthro degree and…

become a professor of health care policy and research. Linda Gerber is professor of health care policy and research and of epidemiology at the Weill Cornell Medical College. Linda Gerber is Director of the Biostatistics and Research Methodology Core, professor of public health in the Department of Public Health, and professor of epidemiology in medicine in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is an expert in hypertension research who has investigated the relationship between psychological characteristics and responses to antihypertensive drug therapy, as well as the role of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and behavioral and genetic factors on diurnal blood pressure patterns. She has collaborated as an epidemiologist and medical anthropologists in a variety of clinical epidemiological research projects. Gerber has a B.A in anthropology from the State University of New York at Binghamton, an M.A. and Ph.D. in physical and biological anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a postgraduate degree in epidemiology from Cornell University Medical College.

work in college sports. Justin Wilcox, who has spent the last 10 years as a defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, and USC, has been named the University of Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator. He has a B.A. degree in anthropology from Oregon State University.

co-found a video social network company. Shikha Uberoi is co-founder of, a video social network where anyone, including brands, retailers, nonprofits, celebrities and individuals, can connect with fans and supporters to interact directly, utilizing exclusive video challenges and video threads which are tailor-made by the person or company. A former Indian American professional tennis player, she has a B.A. in anthropology from Princeton University.


Ancient ball game site in Mexico City

Source: Creative Commons

The Yucatan Times reported on findings by researchers at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) who discovered an ancient Aztec ball game field located in  the heart of what used to be the city of Tenochtitlan. The research was done by the team of the Urban Archaeology Program (PAU) that works to save the ancient structures under the Historic Center of Mexico City. The first part of the structure was uncovered in 2014. Anthropologist María García Velasco and archaeologists Fernando Orduña Gómez and Lorena Vázquez Vallín said that they have found offerings of small knives and maguey stalks, elements which indicate a ritual sacrifice. According to historical facts recovered from the codex, the ancient ball game was related to sacrifice and fertility.


The limits to weight loss through exercise

CBS News and other media reported on findings from a multi-country research project assessing the role of physical exercise in weight loss. Findings indicate that there is a limit to how many calories a person can burn through exercise. Data are from a small study of 332 adults living in the United States, Jamaica Ghana, South Africa, and Seychelles. Participants who were more active also burned more calories, but only up to a point. The most active people hit a plateau. Although the researchers did not look at the specific activities that participants were doing, the level on the accelerometer at which calorie burning flattens out would be achieved “if you’re walking a couple miles a day, like to work and back, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and trying to exercise a couple times a week,” said Herman Pontzer, associate professor of anthropology at Hunter College, and lead author of the study which was published in the journal Current Biology.


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