anthro in the news 5/9/16

What is “India”: Textbook debate in California

Source: The New York Times

The New York Times reported on a debate in California about content related to “India” in high school textbooks. On one side, is the Hindu American Foundation which is lobbying for retention of the term “India” for what others say should be termed “South Asia.” Discussion also includes descriptions of Hinduism and the caste system. Thomas Hansen, professor of anthropology and South Asian studies at Stanford University, has butted heads with the Hindu American Foundation for more than a decade over how Indian history is taught in California:  “This group has a lot of interest in calling everything Hindu and Indian so that it can equate modern-day India with historic roots. But it’s absurd. It would be like calling Ancient Rome Italy…Our duty is to make sure that the history is keeping with the scholarly research rather than give in to what a particular group wants.”

Rethinking environmental determinism

The Anthropologist Movie Poster.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

An article in The Pacific Standard considers the concept of environmental determinism, shared by some anthropologists and geographers, in the light of global warming. It draws on the work of Susan Crate, cultural/ecological anthropologist at George Mason University in Virginia: “[O]ne of the first papers to explore the cultural impacts of climate change in Siberia, Gone the Bull of Winter…describes the impacts of shorter, cooler winters on a group of horse and cattle breeders who live in northeastern Siberia, known as the Sakha. The Sakha personify winter in the form of a white bull with blue markings, huge horns, and frosty breath, which traditionally descends during the months of December and January. But as Sakha elders told Crate, the bull symbol is losing its power in Sakha culture as the winter’s power wanes. They’re not saying that the symbol is transmuting or evolving; they’re saying that the climate changes are directly endangering this central symbol. It’s not just Sakha symbols, either; it’s their livelihood, too.” [Blogger’s note: Susan Crate is the focus of a documentary, The Anthropologist, which follows Crate and her daughter as they visit several people who are affected by global warming.]

Shaming young mothers

The Huffington Post published an article co-authored by cultural anthropologist Elizabeth Krause, professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her student Katie Waldron who will receive a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this month.  Their research, through the Hear Our Stories project with young Latina mothers in Holyoke, Massachusetts, reveals stark social and reproductive health inequities. They argue that in the U.S. surveillance of mothering practices and pronouncements about the “ideal” age of first-time mothering has intensified. Women now “…face tremendous pressure to avoid having a child until their lives are perfectly set: college degree(s), career on track, financial stability, and a supportive and employed partner. When these criteria are not met, being pregnant becomes a physical indicator of shame and what are viewed as poor choices.”

Accountability and war crimes

An article in The Huffington Post reviewed insights from a talk at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law by Richard Wilson, professor of law and anthropology at the University of Connecticut Law School. In his forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press, Propaganda on Trial: The Law and Social Science of International Speech Crimes, Wilson explores how international tribunals hold individuals accountable for inciting genocide and crimes against humanity.

Latinos’ experiences in the U.S.

Cover of The Latino Threat by Leo R. ChavezAn article in The Boston Global discusses several social science books on Latinos’ experiences in the U.S. including The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation by cultural anthropologist Leo R. Chavez, professor at the University of California Irvine. In terms of the perceived “threat” of Latino immigration to the U.S, the reviewer comments: “[The book is] both scholarly and subversive…Chavez steadily debunks the fictions through facts…”

Anthropology and the Holocaust

The Plattsburgh Press Republican (New York State) reported on a talk by Andrew Buckster, professor of anthropology at SUNY Plattsburgh and dean of its school of arts and sciences. Buckster shared insights from his research about the rescue of Jews by Danes during World War II.

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a museum curator. Besarta Reçica is a curator working in the Museum of Kosovo. She has an M.A. in ethnology from the University of Prishtina.

…become a multidisciplinary scholar and academic leader. Steve Rayner is James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization and Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at Oxford University. Climate change policy is a key research of his, in particular adaptation and geoengineering as ways to mitigate climate change’s effects. Rayner has authored or co-authored over 175 published works, including nine books, and is Series Editor of the Earthscan Science in Society book series. He is co-editor of the four volume assessment of social science relevant to understanding climate change and its governance. Rayner was recognized for his contribution to the joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . He describes himself as an “undisciplined social scientist” having been a B.A in comparative religion from the University of Kent and a Ph.D. in political anthropology from University College London where he was a student of Mary Douglas.

Revisiting a massacre

The Santa Barbara Independent (California) carried a book review of The Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre by James Brooks, professor of anthropology and history at the University of California Santa Barbara. Brooks analyzes a massacre by some Hopi of other Hopi in 1700, framing it within the pervasive contemporary view of Hopi as peaceful people.  Brooks is quoted as saying: “How could perfectly decent people do terrible things?…I thought there was an opportunity to look at a moment when what appears to be a stable, enduring community has this terrible conflagration, and maybe it would speak to other issues on a more contemporary setting.” He also seeks to forge a path toward forgiveness among the Hopi, many of whom see this incident as a stain on their past.


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