anthro in the news 10/17/16

Cholera threat in Haiti

Haitians displaced by Hurricane Matthew Source: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters
Haitians displaced by Hurricane Matthew,  Source: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

ABC News says relief efforts in Haiti are “ramping up” one week after Hurricane Mathew but Harvard University medical anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer is quoted as expressing concern that cholera may outstrip food needs: “I am pretty pessimistic about avoiding a major hunger problem in the coming months, and I am an optimist,” adding that a shortage of food coupled with a contaminated water supply, and a cholera outbreak could create a major humanitarian disaster…I saw a senior official in the health ministry and I’ve known him for 25 years…he said if you add all this up it could be worse than the earthquake.” Farmer, who is co-founder of Partners in Health, has been providing health care in Haiti since the hurricane struck.

Media are neglectful media as Haiti suffers

Source: The New York Times
Hurricane Matthew hits southwest Haiti, Source: New York Times

Mark Schuller, associate professor of cultural anthropology and NGO studies at Northern Illinois University, published an article in The Huffington Post pointing to the unimpressive media coverage of Hurricane Matthew’s impact in Haiti and noting the importance of media attention in securing much-needed aid. WORT radio (Madison, Wisconsin) provided a note about the UN extending its mandate in Haiti for an additional six months, including brief commentary from Schuller: “This hurricane shows for once and for all the dire importance of protecting the environmental resources and to be taking a look at climate change not just as climate change but as climate justice…The U.S., the World Bank and the United Nations do need to do better in terms of how we impose our will on places like Haiti.”

Marking LGBTQ History and Heritage Month in the U.S.


As reported in an article in The Bay Area Reporter (California), the National Parks Service has published a 1,200-page document about LGBTQ history and historic sites in the U.S.: LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History. It was released on October 11, National Coming Out Day. Megan Springate, who is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Maryland, was the prime consultant and editor of the report. Sandra Hollimon, professor emerita of anthropology at Santa Rosa Junior College in California, peer reviewed the document and suggested including historic battlefields where third and fourth gender Native Americans participated.

Saving endangered languages in Canada

The Globe and Mail (Canada) reported on intensified efforts by First Nations across Canada to save their native languages as half of their elders will likely die within the next decade. Efforts focus on children’s books, grade-school programs, and smartphone apps. One dying language is Chinook, a trade language that began more than 200 years ago. From 100,000 speakers, it now has only one fluent speaker: Jay Powell, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Powell says: “A lot of loggers knew it well and spoke it, especially after they had a few drinks. Up until 1975, it was easy to find people on the coast who spoke it. As far as I know, I may be the last person who is quite fluent. I might be a museum piece.” He is also the last speaker of a language used by the Hoh Tribe in Washington State. 

Whistling as communication endangered

The Augusta Free Press (Virginia) carried an article about the research of Mark Sicoli, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Virginia. He studies whistled speech, which is declining in use in the few places around the world where it still exists. His 2014 documentary, Whistles in the Mist, won an Emmy Award for its presentation of the whistled speech of indigenous people living in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, the whistled speech of Oaxaca is seriously endangered: It is “…nearly completely out of use in the community where I documented it,” Sicoli said. Local police used to communicate with whistled speech, but they now use walkie-talkies.

The richest king has died 

An article in Time on the death of Thailand’s long-ruling King Bhumibol quotes cultural anthropologist Charles Keyes, emeritus professor at the University of Washington, on the king’s strong ties to the military which ensured his position as  “…the preeminent figure in Thailand.” In addition, his immense wealth placed him as the world’s richest monarch at the time of his death.

Champion of media anthropology

Source: Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal reported that cultural anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, the David B. Kriser professor of anthropology at New York University and the director of its Center for Media, Culture and History, was honored at this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York City. In 1994, she received a MacArthur “genius grant” for her work as a visual anthropologist studying and working with activists in contemporary social movements and for her 1989 book, Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community, about activists on both sides of the issue in Fargo, North Dakota.

Take that anthro degree and…

…work in information technology. Amber Lambers provides tech support for Silent Circle in National Harbor, Maryland. She assists customers with technical devices and problems and creates support videos for the company website. She has a B.A. in anthropology from George Mason University in Virginia.

…work for an NGO. Rhiannon Lloyd-Jones is working in a clinic in Haiti for London-based NGO Hope Health Action (HHA). She read social anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

…become a photographer. Stefano Klein has a B.A. in social anthropology and sociology and a master’s degree in public health and epidemiology from Imperial College London. Since completing his graduate studies, he decided to follow his passion for travel and photography.  He has been to Ethiopia, Venezuela, Brazil, and several Caribbean islands, the U.S., France, Japan, and South Africa. His show, Against All Odds, shows youth in Haiti learning to play musical instruments. During the first half of 2016, he created a new collection about some organizations in Freetown, Sierra Leone, that help orphans and troubled young boys find a place in society.

…become a political leader and gay rights activist. Annise Parker is a former three-term mayor of Houston, Texas, and the first openly LGBTQ elected official of a major American city. For 45 years, she has been an LGBTQ activist, influencing American politics in spite of the persistent stigma of homosexuality in the U.S. She now holds a position on the Rice University faculty teaching in a leadership capacity. She has a B.A. with a triple major in anthropology, psychology, and sociology from Rice University.

…become a project manager for a consulting firm. Rhyannon Berkowitz works in Washington, D.C, for Addx Corporation where she does project management, instructional design, content development, and cultural advising for federal, state, and non-profit sectors. She previously worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and was American Indian curator for the Virtual Jamestown Project.  She has a B.A. with a triple major in political science, American Indian Studies, and history from Virginia Tech University and an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Virginia.

Early burial site in Japan

The Asahi Shimbun (Japan) reported about archaeological research on human remains at the Iyaiiwakage site dating to the Jomon Pottery Culture period (8000 BCE to 300 CE). They are among the oldest in Japan to have been given formal burial. A team from Kokugakuin University estimated the remains to be 8,300 years old. Researchers believe humans first settled there and built a burial site around 15,000 years ago. “The finding will help us figure out how people in the early Jomon period were living in a mountainous area,” said Yasuhiro Taniguchi, a professor of prehistoric archaeology at the university.

Large site of preserved footprints in Tanzania

The Washington Post and other media reported on a multidisciplinary study of several hundred preserved footprints in Tanzania that are 10,000-19,000 years old. The site, which as discovered by a resident of the nearby village of Engare Sero about a decade ago, came to the attention of scientists in 2008. Since then a large international team, including paleoanthropologists, have been analyzing aspects of the site. “Knowing that somebody was walking through this exact spot, at this moment in time, thousands of years ago,” said Kevin Hatala, a paleoanthropologist at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, footprint expert, and  co-author of the study, “it does provoke lots of questions about what were these people doing there, who were they with?”

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