anthro in the news 3/21/16

Sorry is not enough

Source: Pixabay

The Star Phoenix of Saskatoon (Canada) reported on a lecture at the University of Saskatchewan by Audra Simpson, professor of anthropology at Columbia University. She raised the question: How can reconciliation succeed if the wrongs against indigenous people continue to go on? Emotional apologies from the government of Canada and churches that ran the Indian residential schools have evoked emotional responses in indigenous people and are expected to somehow make up for their stolen land and lives, Simpson said in an interview. Also: “It’s governing through an appeal to emotions … to allow the same things to continue and still allow for extractive industry in our territories (and) not address fully the problem of our murdered and missing indigenous women…Apology is not sufficient because it attempts to stop time between the past and the present and pretend like the suffering is over. It’s not over.”


A Mixe huipil. Source: Pinterest

In the face of cultural appropriation, UNESCO lacks teeth

As reported in The Huffington Post, clothing designer Isabel Marant says she had no idea that some of her spring 2015 designs would prompt action against her for plagiarism from Mexico’s indigenous Mixe community. Oaxaca’s congress has declared the Mixe community’s traditional designs as Intangible Cultural Heritage per UNESCO guidelines. The protected status is not legally binding, but it recognizes that the designs are unique to, and originate in, Mixe culture. In question is a women’s blouse, known as a huipil, made according to centuries-old design. Marant’s version, which they recently pulled, retailed for as much as $365. The article quotes Jane Anderson, assistant professor of anthropology and museum studies at New York University: “While the Oaxaca congress made this declaration, that does not make it legally binding, because Mexico a) is not a signatory to UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and b) Mexico has not submitted the Mixe’s ‘intangible heritage’ to the Convention Committee for approval to list.” Moving forward, Anderson suggests that given the fashion industry’s frequent appropriation of indigenous designs, some kind of industry standard is needed.

Just do it: Raise the minimum wage

Thomas Hill, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Northern Iowa, published an op-ed in The Gazette (Iowa) arguing for a raise in the minimum wage in Iowa: “Raising the minimum wage not only makes economic sense, it is the moral thing to do. Do we want to live in a society in which a single parent working full time to provide for her family must live in poverty and be dependent on outside support to survive? Although raising the minimum wage will not drastically change our society’s gross wealth disparity (for that we need tax reform), at least it will help make life more tolerable for the poorest among us. Such considerations may explain why a majority of Americans and Iowans support raising the minimum wage.”

Social costs of malls in Mexico

Marketplace carried a piece examining the social costs of malls in Mexico. It quoted Arlene Davila, an anthropology professor at New York University, who wrote a book about the global shopping center boom:  “You have cheaper lands, easier conditions for getting permits…you have lax urban planning conditions… Who has access to deciding how our communities and our cities should run when you have megadevelopments that are basically unchecked, making all the decisions?”

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a program officer and researcher. Arupendra Mozumdar is Senior Program Officer in the New Delhi office of the Population Council.  He has an M.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Calcutta and was a research fellow in biological anthropology at the Indian Statistical Institute before joining the Population Council.

…become a director, photographer, and digital artist. Indrani Pal has directed a variety of music videos including David Bowie’s Valentines’s Day, Alicia Keys’ New Day, and Mariah Carey’s You’re Mine. Her first video campaign with TBWA-Chiat-Day for Keep a Child Alive Day against AIDS in India won two gold lions at Cannes in 2011. She was selected by Pepsi as one of its “Most Dynamic Directors” for its Beats of the Beautiful Game film series alongside luminaries like Spike Lee. She has a B.A. in anthropology from Princeton University.

…become a consumer researcher. Brian Odero is a research assistant at Consumer Options Ltd., in Kenya. He has a B.A. degree in sociology and anthropology from Maseno University.

Cooking hypothesis under fire

Boise Public Radio (Idaho) carried a piece by biological anthropologist Barbara J. King, emeritus professor of biological anthropology at William and Mary, in which she reviews thinking about the role of cooking in human evolution. She starts with Richard Wrangham’s hypothesis, laid out in his 2009 book Catching Fire, that “cooking made us human.” Maybe yes, maybe no.  On the no side, are the slicers who argue that the importance of stone tools used for processing food cannot be overlooked and was much earlier. Evolutionary biologist Katherine D. Zink and evolutionary anthropologist Daniel E. Lieberman, both at Harvard along with Wrangham, have published a challenge to the cooking hypothesis in the journal Nature. They argue that, millions of years before fire was used for cooking, early human ancestors were processing foods with stone-tool technology. Thus, if food processing is taken as a key sign of humanity, it came well before cooking.

Before the Neanderthals

Canada News and other media described findings of DNA sequencing of fossil remains from the Sima de los Huesos cave site in northern Spain. The remains are over 400,000 years old. The DNA evidence helps fill in the timeline of early human evolution during the Middle Pleistocene era. The article quotes Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, lead author of an article published in Nature: “The recovery of a small part of the nuclear genome from the Sima de los Huesos hominins is not just the result of our continuous efforts in pushing for more sensitive sample isolation and genome sequencing technologies.”

Juan-Luis Arsuaga of the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, who has led the excavations at Sima de los Huesos for three decades comments: “We have hoped for many years that advances in molecular analysis techniques would one day aid our investigation of this unique assembly of fossils…We have thus removed some of the specimens with clean instruments and left them embedded in clay to minimize alterations of the material that might take place after excavation.”

In memoriam

1.jpgCultural anthropologist William Rowe died at the age of 89 years. He taught at the University of Minnesota from 1968 to 1995 when he retired. Rowe’s commitment to social justice lives on. He was the founder of the nonprofit Open Arms of Minnesota. For it, Rowe cooked and hand-delivered meals to friends living with AIDS starting in the mid-1980s. As his personal mission expanded into a full-fledged organization, he continued to take special note of birthdays by delivering cakes. Open Arms now has a $2.5 million budget, 30 staff members, and 5,000 volunteers. It delivers about 500,000 meals annually to people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases.

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