anthro in the news 2/29/16

Prisoners attending a prison concert which is meant to be a positive activity for them. Source: Noisey

Inmates take control in many Mexican prisons

Quartz reported on the rising trend of prisoner gangs being in control of prisons in Mexico with a reported nearly 60 percent of state prisons under “inmate self-rule.” Inmate groups run many aspects of prison life, including family visits, the use of phones, and food. This situation is partly related to overcrowding of prisons which in turn is due to “preventive jailing,” according to social anthropologist Elena Azaola, a researcher at the Center for the Investigation and Higher Education of Social Anthropology. “There are many innocent people [in prison] who have still not been proven guilty,” said Azaola.

Sorry, sort of

1BBC News carried an article about the frequent use of the word “sorry” in the United Kingdom.  A recent survey of more than 1,000 people found that a person in the U.K. says “sorry” eight times a day on average. The article mentions the research of social anthropologist Kate Fox on English culture and language. In her book Watching the English, Fox describes experiments in which she deliberately bumped into hundreds of people in towns and cities across England. She encouraged colleagues to do the same abroad, for comparison. She found that around 80 percent of English victims said “sorry” even though the collisions were clearly Fox’s fault. Similar experiments in other countries yielded a similarly high use of “sorry” only in Japan.

[Blogger’s note: my, generally unpleasant, experiences on the DC metro system during rush area often involve me in scrum-like situations; in many instances, I say “sorry” when someone is pushing me or claiming my space in a line. I think I am actually asking them to apologize to me…they rarely do. In other words, my “sorry” means: “I am sorry that you are behaving so badly and sorry that you are not even apologizing to me for your bad behavior.” Sorry is complicated].

Before the money economy, what?

The Atlantic carried an article presenting various arguments about the origins of a money-based economy and what may have preceded it. The article cites several cultural anthropologists including Caroline Humphrey of the University of Cambridge, David Graeber of the London School of Economics, and, of course, the founding scholar of culture and exchange, Marcel Mauss. The driving questions are whether or not pure barter systems ever existed and whether, if they did, they were the foundation for a later money system.

Safety of researchers

As reported in Channel NewsAsia, many social science professors say they now face a dilemma related to their personal safety: should they suspend fieldwork on sensitive topics or push on with research despite the risks it might involve. Scholars in Egypt say they have long worked under threat of arrest or deportation, but the murder of Giulio Regeni, a University of Cambridge graduate student, has heightened fear in Egypt and beyond. Regeni, who was researching the rise of independent labor unions following the 2011 revolt, was found dead at the side of a motorway nine days after he vanished. His body showed signs of torture. The article quotes Hanan Sabea, associate professor of anthropology at the American University at Cairo: “We need to be clear about what to do. Can we do research or should I censor my students? It is a very serious issue whether for Egyptians or foreigners.”

Take that anthro degree and…

become CEO of a chocolate company. Alex Whitmore is co-founder and CEO of Taza Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturing company in Somerville, Massachusetts. Taza makes and markets stone ground organic chocolate. It is one of a handful of companies in the U.S. that are bean-to-bar chocolate makers. Whitmore has a B.A. in anthropology from Vassar College.

Ancient Peruvian beer on tap at Chicago’s Field Museum

The Field Museum’s beer is backed by history. Source: The Field Museum, Chicago 

Chicago Tonight covered an upcoming event at the Field Museum in Chicago that will involve the launch of a limited-edition beer made with the ingredients used by the Wari, an empire which flourished in southern Peru from 600 to 1000 C.E. The beer uses purple corn and molle berries, both of which were found in artifacts at the site of an ancient Wari brewery at Cerro Baúl. The site was excavated by a team of Field Museum researchers and collaborators. “The Wari people at Cerro Baúl held festivals in large feast halls,” said Ryan Williams, the museum’s associate curator of anthropology and one of the lead researchers involved in the excavations. “As part of the relationship building with local authority figures, nearby lords were fed and feasted in reward for their loyalty and tribute to the Wari state.”

The museum debuts the beer March 3 with a tasting event which will also showcase artifacts from the Wari brewery site. The $35 tickets include a glass of Wari and food pairings. [Blogger’s note: How much are the Wari making out of this?]

Very early tavern in France

Haaretz published an article describing findings of a tavern more than 2,100 years old in the town of Lattes, southern France. It is the oldest Roman restaurant in the Mediterranean.  “Public taverns and dining halls were the locus of socializing among the various social classes of Roman society, and were also an important means for laborers and artisans to obtain a quick and easy daily meal,” says  Benjamin Luley, head of the excavations and visiting professor  in the Gettysburg College anthropology department. Along with remains of large platters and bowls for cooking, eating and serving, the type of ware found in the largest quantity was drinking bowls. “The presence of organized drinking was shown not only by the amphorae, but also by imported drinking vessels found in large number,” comments Steve Dyson of Buffalo University.

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