anthro in the news 1/11/17

Toman Sasaki, a genderless danshi, at a Japanese shopping mall where he performed with his band, XOX. source: Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

gender blending in Japan

The New York Times carried an article describing how some young Japanese men are bending fashion gender norms, coloring their hair, wearing colored contacts, and applying brightly colored lipstick. The small but growing group of “genderless danshi” (danshi means young men in Japanese) are developing a public identity and sometimes a career out of a new androgynous style. The article quotes Jennifer Robertson, professor of anthropology and the history of art at the University of Michigan: “It’s about blurring the boundaries that have defined pink and blue masculinity and femininity…They are trying to increase the scope of what someone with male anatomy can wear.”

Monsanto as the “big bad” of GMOs

An article in World Finance on GMOs spotlights Monsanto as the “big bad” of GMO manufacturers and distributors. The article quotes Glenn Davis Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at Washington University in St. Louis:

“Herbicide tolerance is by far the most widely planted GM trait. Its advantage is not in yield – it actually tends to have a yield drag – but because it makes the use of cheap herbicide convenient.”

source: Slate

bourgeois imagination in Bangkok


The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported on ongoing efforts by Bangkok’s  urban developers to dismantle am 18th century fort and its neighborhood.  Fort Mahakan, in Bangkok’s historic core, is only one of two surviving city forts. The deadline for eviction of the residents is the end of February. Community members have offered a compromise proposal, giving up part of their land and staying on to help manage the site as a living heritage museum, but it was rejected. The article quotes Michael Herzfeld, professor of anthropology at Harvard University and author of a book about Fort Mahakan called Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok: The city planners “…are living in a kind of world of bourgeois imagination that has little to do with reality.”

take that anthro degree and…

…work for a conservation organization. Kimber Wukitsch, who lives in San Diego, works from home on   digital marketing for the nonprofit Galapagos Conservancy in Fairfax, Virginia. She manages the conservancy’s websites, doing email fund-raising, social media, and online newsletters. She has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder and an M.P.H. in health communication from Boston University.

…become a photo archivist. Renea Dauntes is an archivist working with Texas photographer Scott Hyde. In January, she announced that she is running for mayor of Amarillo, Texas, focusing her campaign on better advocacy for the city’s homeless and celebrating Amarillo’s rich diversity and art culture. She has a B.A. in anthropology and philosophy from Texas Tech University.

old skull found on Florida beach

As reported in The Orlando Sentinel (Florida), a beachgoer found a large, rounded object while walking along Ormond Beach. After some investigation, officials determined it was a piece of a human skull, perhaps “hundreds” of years old, and not a matter for criminal investigation. Plans are to send the specimen for study at the department of anthropology of the University of Florida.

“people thought I was mad”

The Guardian and other media reported on how persistence, in the face of doubt over several years, has substantiated Stuart Wilson’s claim to have found a medieval city on the English-Welsh border. Wilson, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in archaeology, from the University of Edinburgh is employed by AOC Archaeology. He became interested in a farmer’s field when he learned that moles, digging in the earth, had revealed fragments of what appeared to be medieval pottery. He took a gamble and bought the field for £32,000. Over the past 15 years he and a group of volunteers have been excavating what he believes are the remains of the lost medieval city of Trellech. He is applying for planning permission for an interpretation center and a campsite for tourists and helpers. “People thought I was mad and really I should have bought a house rather than a field,” he said. “But it turned out to be the best decision of my life. I don’t regret it at all.”

The site of the lost city of Trellech. source: Stuart Wilson

food trade in prehistoric New Mexico

The Durango Herald (Colorado) reported on research led by Larry Benson, a geochemist at the University of Colorado Boulder in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon site.  Salty soils and dry conditions in the region would have made it difficult to grow enough corn to sustain the population, according to his findings, thus pointing to a reliance of food imports. The archaeological record includes evidence of a network of roads that lead to Chaco as well as pottery and tool-making materials that indicate the inhabitants regularly traded with others. Nathan Hatfield, chief interpreter at Chaco Culture National Historic Park, said that archaeologists and others who have studied Chaco have long assumed that food was coming into the community from elsewhere and the study helps confirm that belief. Despite the lack of water and other natural resources in the immediate area, Hatfield said residents of Chaco were not totally reliant on imports because archaeological evidence shows cultivated fields and forms of irrigation and water control.

from dust to DNA

While most DNA of ancient human ancestors is extracted from bones, including teeth, as reported by National Public Radio (West Virginia), new techniques allow researchers to extract DNA from remains that are little more than dust.. Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig says not much bone material is needed — less than a thousandth of an ounce will do: “You just take a shovel with some dirt, and then you look for DNA.” Meyer now has some of this ancient human DNA from cave floors, and he’s been able to begin analyzing it. But there are problems to solve before he can make sense of the data. He’ll have to develop methods to be certain that the DNA came from an ancient human bone, and not a more recent human cave explorer or some contaminating bacteria. The DNA they will get will be in tiny snippets, so it will be challenging to construct the larger picture.

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