anthro in the news 10/3/16

UN ineffectiveness in Middle East peace

Source: Google Images

The Tehran Times carried an interview with cultural and linguistic anthropologist, William Beeman, head of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota. He says that the rivalries between the United States and Russia have made the United Nations unable to be an influential player in building peace in the Middle East: “For example, Russia and the United States both have different interests in Syria, and so a UN Peacekeeping force would have to have the agreement of both Russia and the United States, since both have veto power in the Security Council.” Further, he notes that “There are no new active peace missions in the Middle East, and have not been since 2012.”

Cargo shorts: You don’t care or you are cool?

Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy
Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy

An article in New York Magazine about the cargo-short boom quotes Brent Luvaas, associate professor of anthropology at Drexel University, who says that the shorts’ “thoughtless” convenience appeals to American males with a particular set of priorities: “What’s offensive about cargo shorts…is that it’s the kind of thing you wear if you want to be comfortable and truly do not care what people think of how you look — which itself is a kind of privilege. It does not signal striving. Maybe this is why people wear it on weekends or days off; it’s not associated with work, even though it’s supposedly utilitarian.” On the other hand, Kim Jenkins, a visiting assistant professor of fashion design at the Pratt Institute who studied anthropology, points to the coolness factor. Cargo shorts are evolved from cargo pants which were worn by servicemen during World War II. American fighter planes had narrow cockpits, so your pants needed front-facing pockets to get at your cigarettes, pens, and whatever. Like bomber jackets, peacoats, and desert boots, cargo pants and cargo shorts have ended up on the street.

Home again

BBC News reported on the release of social anthropologist Homa Hoodfar from prison in Iran after several months. Along with several other Canadians, she had been detained without charges. Hoodfar, professor emerita at Concordia University in Montreal, has a chronic health condition, and was apparently released on humanitarian grounds. A Canadian-Iranian, Hoodfar had traveled to Iran to visit family.

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a farmer. Micha Ides and her husband are co-owners of a farm in Washington state’s Snohomish River Valley, part of the “greenhorn” movement back to the land. They concentrate on ethically raised meat, which they feel is more difficult to come by than good organic vegetables. This year they are raising 1,400 meat chickens, 100 laying hens, 40 pigs and 100 turkeys. They are also moving into raising sheep and goats. Their customers love the more complex flavor that accompanies slow growth and a diet rich in grass, bugs and fresh-milled non-GMO grains. Besides hawking their wares at farmers markets throughout the summer, and trading their meat at the markets for foods like fresh berries and fish, Micha works on a friend’s food truck and her husband pours concrete to supplement their income. “Last year our net for the entire farm, for us, our whole net was 20 grand,” Micha said. “So that means we each took in 10 grand income, which is really not much of a living wage.” But they eat really well. Micha has a B.A. in anthropology with an emphasis on archaeology. After graduation, she went to work for a biotech company in San Diego where she learned about sales and marketing: “you can farm all you want, but if can’t sell your product, you might as well not farm.” She has always had a passion for animals and has volunteered at animal sanctuaries and worked at a private zoo.

…become a journalist. Mandalit del Barco is an arts correspondent based at National Public Radio (NPR) West. She reports on and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance, and social topics such as street gangs, Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, and urban street culture. Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. She also spent a year in her birthplace, Peru, working on a documentary and teaching radio journalism as a Fulbright Fellow and on a fellowship with the Knight International Center for Journalists. She mentors young journalists through NPR’s “Next Generation,” Global Girl, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and on her own, throughout the U.S. and Latin America. Del Barco has a B.A. in anthropology and rhetoric from the University of California Berkeley and an M.A. in journalism from Columbia University.

…become an expert on fashion design. Kim Jenkins is a New York-based educator teaching about fashion design as a visiting professor at the Pratt Institute. She has interned as a curatorial assistant for the Dallas Museum of Art’s first two fashion exhibitions, African Headwear: Beyond Fashion and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Since 2014, she has hosted and assisted in organizing “Fashion Talks,” a fall conversation series that features influencers in culture and design, highlighting crucial topics and achievements in the world of fashion. She is working on an edited book entitled, Fashion and Race which examines fashion and the social construct of race, investigating visibility and power, aesthetics and difference. Jenkins has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas Arlington and an M.A. in fashion studies from The New School for Design.

…work in health care information. Charlotte Weaver is a member of the Board of Directors of Partners in Health. She has worked in nursing informatics, patient safety/quality, evidence-based nursing practices, and healthcare automation in acute/ambulatory/post-acute care, and she has board experience in the public/non-profit sectors. She created a breakthrough in nursing education by introducing an electronic health record (EHR) into learning and virtual environments, and pioneered the Chief Nurse Officer role. She has worked for 15+ years at the C-suite level in the corporate HIT industry and healthcare delivery organizations and had Board-reporting responsibilities. She is active in health IT policy and legislative efforts. Weaver has a B.A. in anthropology and an M.S. in Public Health from the University of Washington, a nursing diploma from St. Elizabeth’s School of Nursing, and a Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the University of California San Francisco.

…become an artist. Agnes Burns, of Clintonville, Ohio, is a sculptor whose work includes a public installation titled, Cynthia’s Compass, commissioned by the town to commemorate its role in the Underground Railroad. The 40-inch-tall piece of art celebrates the life of Cynthia Bull, daughter of Clintonville abolitionist the Rev. Jason Bull. She often brought food and water to runaway slaves being helped along their way to freedom by her father at Underground Railroad stops in the neighborhood. In approaching the project, Burris said she sought to avoid creating something that celebrates “heroic white people…I wanted to illustrate how it was really a remarkable collaboration between disparate parts of society…I wanted to highlight that idea of people working together with mutual trust.” Burris, who grew up in a small town in rural Mississippi, has a B.A. in art and anthropology from Columbia University and an M.A. in anthropology from Mississippi State University.

Early trade links across Eurasia

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

CNN and other media described the finding of Roman coins from 300-500 C.E. in the excavation of castle on Okinawa. Archeologist Hiroyuki Miyagi of Okinawa International University first thought the finding might be a hoax: “I couldn’t believe they’d found coins from the Roman empire in Kasturen castle.” The ten coins were discovered recently when Toshio Tsukamoto, a researcher from Gangoji temple cultural properties department, spotted them. How the coins traveled from Europe to Japan is not known, but the finding suggests the existence of early trade networks.

Taking the message to the young people

The Washington Post reported on a visit by primatologist Jane Goodall to a school in Virginia where she shared her commitment to conservation with grade school students. The article mentioned her daunting travel schedule of being on the road 300 days a year.


Anthropologist, explorer, filmmaker, writer, and environmentalist, Wade Davis of the University of British Columbia, is an Order of Canada recipient. He was recognized for his important contributions to our understanding of Indigenous peoples and their relationship with the natural world. Trained as an anthropologist and ethnobotanist, he spent much of his early career as a plant explorer searching for new medicines. Later, as explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, he became a leading voice celebrating the wonder of culture and the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide, through his distinct ability to convey complex information in a straightforward and inspirational manner. Now a professor at the University of British Columbia, he remains committed to conservation as the B.C. Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk.

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