anthro in the news 7/18/16

Colonial legacy and racism feed resentment in France

Following the attack in Nice, France. Source: Creative Commons
Following the attack in Nice, France. Source: Creative Commons

The Sun (U.K.) carried an article on factors behind the attack in Nice, France, quoting cultural anthropologist John Bowen, professor at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S.: “Unlike other European colonial powers, the French never really left their former colonies, continuing to intervene economically and militarily to defend France’s national interests in Africa and the Near East…Now this means battling al Qaeda and ISIS in Mali, Iraq and Syria. So when disaffected young men and women tune in to jihadi websites, they find French-speaking Muslims telling them of the sins their government is committing against their ‘brothers and sisters’ in Iraq and Syria. Resentment at French racism, at the series of largely symbolic measures taken against Muslims, such as the 2010 ban on wearing face-veils in public, add to this anger, and lead some towards fighting.”

Helping refugees in Hungary

Source: Creative Commons

The Monitor reported on the work of social activist Babak Arzani in Hungary. As a refugee from Iran in 2010, he was alone in a foreign land where he did not speak the language. His experiences fueled his passion for the work of Migszol, the Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary. Formed in 2012, it is an informal, independent group of immigrants, refugees, and Hungarians who serve as advocates for the political and social rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Hungary. The article includes insights from social anthropologist Prem Kumar Rajaram of Central European University (CEU) in Budapest where he is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology and academic director of CEU’s Roma Graduate Preparation Program.  He comments:  “Migszol has been important in thinking about new political possibilities and in questioning the government’s insistence on excluding migrants and refugees from everyday life…they have continued to struggle against the Hungarian government’s attempt to make migrants invisible in the public sphere, drawing attention to the injustice and even illegality of some of the government’s actions.”

Lazy Orientalism of journalists

The Nation published an article about journalistic reports that Saudi influence in the Balkans, especially Kosovo, has created a “hotbed” of “extremist Islamic terrorism.” The article draws extensively on commentary from Darryl Li, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago. His research in the Balkans points to problems with the common narrative of blaming the Saudis: “The question of Saudi influence on transnational jihad activity is notoriously difficult to parse…most of what has been written about ‘Islamic extremism’ in the Balkans isn’t journalism, it’s conspiracy theory.” He refers to these narratives as examples of lazy Orientalist thinking, whereby the analysis of the Gulf influence says more about journalists’ preconceptions than the situation they purport to analyze. [Blogger’s note: such lazy Orientalist narratives also seem to appeal to many readers of such accounts].

Toward diverse faculty and administrators at UCF

A notable lack of racial and ethnic diversity exists among faculty and administrators at the University of Central Florida, as reported in The Orlando Sentinel. At the second largest university in the U.S., the student population is more than 40 percent minority while the faculty are predominantly white. Only two women faculty members are African American. The article quotes Beatriz Reyes-Foster, assistant professor of anthropology, who is Hispanic: “There’s a recognition of a problem, and that’s a first step…There is hope.”

Advice to corporations

Finance.Yahoo carried a piece about a new book by cultural anthropologist Andi Simon, a practicing corporate anthropologist who has advised many business leaders on how to identify needs and address them. In  On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, Simon describes methods for harnessing innovation and revitalizing business growth and offers seven case studies. She has been a tenured professor of anthropology and American Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey and was a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis where she taught entrepreneurship to Arts and Science students.

Anthropologist as tour guide

9780807844793According to an article in the Southern Illinoisian, cultural anthropologist Jane Adams, emeritus professor at Southern Illinois University, will serve as a tour guide, providing interpretation and stories of the origins of Jackson and Union county farming, vineyards, and orchards. The tour will pass through the Shawnee hills, stop at the Union County Heritage Museum with its renowned Kirkpatrick Pottery, and visit Bald Knob Cross. Adams is the author of The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois, 1890-1990.

Mining versus cultural heritage site in downstate New York

Entrance to Cave 8. Source: Holly Kellum/Epoch Times
Entrance to Cave 8. Source: Holly Kellum/Epoch Times

The Epoch Times (Orange County, New York) reported on the efforts of anthropologist Barry Kass to halt the pending sale of mining land next to a prehistoric American Indian site. Kass is emeritus professor at the State University of New York Orange. In the 1980s, he worked on a team that excavated eight of the Dutchess Quarry Caves in Goshen, southern New York State, where artifacts date to 12,000 years ago.  He was spurred to action when he learned that the county plans to sell 34.6 acres adjacent to the caves to a mining company, believing that mining activities will damage the site. In 2012, the county commissioned a study of the site to serve as a guide in creating a management plan for it. It recommends creating a committee to oversee the caves, increasing security around the site, opening it up to research and guided tours, and designating the site as parkland or seeking National Historic Landmark Status with the National Park Service. The sale is temporarily on hold.

Global Youth Award winner

Northeast Today (India) published an interview with Yougan Tamang, doctoral student in anthropology at the University of North Bengal. His research is on the culture and health of Tamang tribes of Sikkim.  He is also a social entrepreneur, a YouTuber, social content writer, singer, and songwriter. He was recently awarded the Global Youth Award which is given on the basis of quality of impact, level of innovation, achievements, and quality of evidence. In the interview, he talks about his motivations, achievements, and what he hopes to do in the future.

Take that anthro degree and…

…be a volunteer. For more than eight years, Susan Parr has volunteered weekly for the hotline Human Options in Laguna Beach, California. She works a four-hour shift each week, handling about five calls that often last 30 minutes each. She has also logged nearly 500 volunteer hours to bring an art therapy program to the homeless and others served by several nonprofits. She has a B.A. in anthropology from Duke University.

…be an arts director. Nicole Nathan of Portland, Oregon, is an arts and culture advocate with more than 20 years of experience at institutions across the Northwest U.S. She is the new executive director of the Arts Council of Lake Oswego in Oregon, one of the area’s most respected arts organizations. The Arts Council offers a series of rotating exhibits, its Public Art Committee oversees the city’s permanent art collection, and its Arts in Education program brings a variety of activities to local schools. The Council also supports the Gallery Without Walls, a collection of sculptures that are on display in public spaces throughout the city. Nathan has a B.A. in anthropology and art history from Linfield College and an M.A. in museum studies from the University of Washington focusing on exhibitions and collections management.  She has held previous positions focusing on the public’s interaction with objects in settings ranging from museums to historical sites.

New World monkeys are tool-users, too

The Los Angeles Times reported on research showing that wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts for at least 700 years. The semi-arid region of northeast Brazil offers little for monkeys to eat other than hard-shelled fruits and seeds. When capuchins arrived in this region about half a million years ago, they had to access the only food available to them. “It may be that part of the reason that capuchins were able to colonize this area is that they found a technological solution — stone tool use…” said University of Oxford primate archaeologist Michael Haslam. Haslam and colleagues from Oxford and the University of São Paulo discovered dozens of stone hammers and anvils in northeastern Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park. The find, described in Current Biology, represents the oldest non-human tools found outside of Africa and the oldest known tools not belonging to humans or chimpanzees.

Walking the walk 1.5 million years ago

The Daily Mail (U.K.) published an article about analyses of prehistoric footprints in Kenya, some of which were discovered in 2009 and another 97 tracks at five sites from at least 20 different individuals, all thought to be made by Homo erectus. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and an international team of scientists say the footprints are indistinguishable from those of modern humans, with similar foot anatomies and mechanics. The article quotes paleoanthropologist Kevin Hatala of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and George Washington University in Washington, DC: “Our analyses of these footprints provide some of the only direct evidence to support the common assumption that at least one of our fossil relatives at 1.5 million years ago walked in much the same way as we do today.”

Interview with biological anthropologist Debra Martin

Vegas Seven (Nevada) carried an interview with biological anthropologist, Debra Martin, professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Topics range from what attracted her to anthropology, her teaching, her research in forensic anthropology and on war crimes, and anthropology and STEM fields.

Menstrual synchrony an urban myth

The Daily Mail published an article by biological anthropologist Alexandra Alvergne, associate professor at the University of Oxford, who argues that previous research documenting menstrual synchrony is wrong. She says that apparent synchrony is better explained by variations in cycle length. Thus, it is chance and not evolutionary adaptation at work.

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