anthro in the news 10/31/16

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Tweeting hate   

USA Today reported on the surge in hate speech on Twitter during the U.S. presidential campaign especially via social media. The article quotes Sophie Bjork-James, post-doctoral fellow in the anthropology department at Vanderbilt University:  “While various groups have been targeted with hate speech on Twitter during this election, I don’t think anything compares to what Jewish journalists are going through…Many white nationalists have been inspired by the Trump campaign to increase their involvement, and a central part of this ideology is anti-Semitism.” 

Behind the presidential masks

An article in Smithsonian magazine asks, what’s behind America’s obsession with presidential masks? Among several interpretations reviewed is that of Nancikeriyo_emoticons_by_delekete Loudon Gonzalez, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Maryland. College Park. She links the role of performance during political campaigns to the theory of carnivalesque in which people use humor to come together and seek social change through expressing both hope and fear. 


In an op-ed in The Huffington Post, Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at West Chester University, takes on proposed changes to public higher education in Pennsylvania: “The politician-bureaucrats who run the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have demonstrated little respect for the professoriate or for the needs of the students. In their various contract proposals—to eliminate faculty research funding for professional development, to increase the workload of temporary faculty and pay them less, to require health care give backs that result in salary losses—they have demonstrated disdain for the faculty, for the students and for pursuit of scholarship.”

Graeberian thinking can help save the earth 

Source: Utopia of Rules
Source: Utopia of Rules

The work of social anthropologist David Graeber, professor at the London School of Economics, is acknowledged in an article in Quartz magazine supporting a four-day work week and its reduced energy consumption: “As anthropologist David Graeber has recently contended, many of us work jobs that, at least partially, seem pointless…. Rather than work longer hours for little productive benefit, we could embrace a shorter working week and help save our planet and our own well-being.”

Placebo effect is real

The Irish Times carried an article about non-biomedical healing practices including herbalism. Experts contest the efficacy of such practices with scientific assessments of “what works” held as the standard by many. Scientific evidence, however, is mounting for the efficacy of the placebo effect. The placebo effect functions in biomedicine as well as in non-biomedical systems. Knowing that one is being cared for can help to ease symptoms, boost the immune system, and even prevent sickness in the first place.  People can get better, says anthropologist Dan Moerman of the University of Michigan, because of the meaning they attach to the treatment, whether that from a medical doctor or a traditional herbalist.

Ethnography with and through photographs

The Kathmandu Post carried an interview with visual anthropologist Christopher Pinney of University College London. Pinney, who has spent many years doing research in India, is in Kathmandu as a participant in the film festival, Photo Kathmandu 2016. In response to a question about how he takes images and uses them in his ethnographic research, he replies:  “The most rewarding data are ones acquired from people you know very well. I have been going to the same villages and towns (in India) since 1982; there are many people who I can ask about almost anything. So, if I see that they have got an interesting image on their phone, it’s not a problem to say, ‘Oh that looks great! Let me see it…I want a copy of it.’”

Don’t whitewash the history of slavery in the U.S.

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Julia A. King, archaeologist and professor of anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, responds to a claim that the 17th century was a golden age of social equality in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a public interest advocate and writer. Wenonah Hauter has worked as a public interest advocate for 35 years and is the executive director and founder of Food and Water Watch, a national advocacy agency working to protect the planet for future generations. One of its major campaigns is to ban fracking. Hauter’s book, Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment, was published in June. She has a B.A. in sociology from James Madison University and an M.A. in applied anthropology from the University of Maryland.

…become a filmmaker. Saumiya Sharma is an independent ethnographic filmmaker based in Gurgaon, India. She has produced several films and is currently working on a documentary about the Gond tribal people of the Bastar region of eastern India. She has an M.A. in anthropology from Indira Gandhi National Open University.

…become a yoga instructor and writer. Kathy Smith is the founder of Yoga Off East, a yoga studio in Durham, North Carolina. At the forefront of the fitness and health industries for over 30 years, she has sold more than 20 million exercise DVDs and  been featured on many media outlets including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, and Good Morning America. Smith has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Duke University and an M.A. in cultural anthropology from the University of Oregon, where she wrote a paper on the commercialization of yoga in the U.S. That project inspired her to obtain certification as a professional yoga instructor. 

…become a museum director. Michael Wellen is the incoming curator of international art at the Tate Modern in London. He will focus on the representation of art from Latin America in Tate’s collection and its exhibition program. Wellen served as assistant curator of Latin American and Latino art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, since 2011. He co-curated numerous exhibitions, including Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona and Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America. Previously, he worked as a researcher and writer for the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art in Austin and was a lecturer at Rice University where he taught a seminar on Latin American Art and Film Since 1960. He has a B.A. in history and anthropology from Rutgers University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in modern and contemporary art from the University of Texas.

…become a singer and songwriter. Martha Stuckey is a Philadelphia-based theater artist. She has performed and devised work with Pig Iron Theatre Company, Team Sunshine Performance Group, Bearded Ladies, and BRAT Productions. Red 40 and the Last Groovement is her latest project. A trained, classical soprano and gigging funk/R&B singer, she is fascinated by the connection between musical and theatrical performance. She uses her background in anthropology in her music to understand what it means to be human. She uses storytelling to define the meanings in social constructs such as those informing her new album—sex, food, and female identity. From her certificate program, she learned the importance of sensitivity to the audience, of learning to be playful and responsive, and of being able to interact spontaneously with the audience. Stuckey has a B.A. in sociology/anthropology & women’s studies from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and a certificate from the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training in Philadelphia. She is now pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with the goal of teaching, especially teaching sound engineering to young women who are underrepresented in the field.

The message in the toe bones

Representation of Cave Lions, Chauvet, France. Source: Wikipedia
Representation of Cave Lions, Chauvet, France. Source: Wikipedia

The Monitor and other media reported on findings by archaeologists from a site in Spain indicating a possible human role in the extinction of the cave lion around 12,000 years ago. Cave lions once roamed across Europe and Asia to northern North America. The accepted explanation for their extinction is climate change, but a study the journal PLOS ONE suggests that might not be the whole story given the finding of human-made cuts appear on toe bones of a cave lion discovered in a cave on Spain’s northern coast. The bones bear cut-marks emblematic of expertise in skinning lions. Says study lead author Marián Cueto, an archaeologist at the University of Salamanca: “They had knowledge of the anatomy, where to cut in the exact place.” The cut marks appear to have been made by an adept tool-user, suggesting humans were skinning lions often. Further, the cut marks are consistent with those made when modern hunter and taxidermists want to keep an animal’s claws attached to the hide. Given where the bones were found in relation to stone structures constructed in the cave, the hides were likely stretched across the floor or roof.

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