anthro in the news 2/6/17

Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons
Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons

trumped-up conflict with Iran

The Berkeley Daily Planet published an opinion piece by William Beeman, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In his view, “…the Trump administration appears to be renewing the possibility of violent confrontation with Iran using a questionable pretext—Iran’s testing of conventional missiles. No one in the U.S. government or the press seems to understand that Iranian ballistic missiles do not fall under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA (the ‘Iran Deal’). The JCPOA has nothing at all to do with conventional weapons, only nuclear technology. The current controversy over Iran’s missile testing has entirely to do with interpretations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (20 July 2015), which endorsed the JCPOA after it had been ratified. UNSC Resolution 2231 stated flatly that ALL of the previously existing UN sanctions against Iran were terminated…”

view of U.S. politics from Japan

World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons
World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons

The Japan news reported on a 2016 poll in the U.S. asking how much the United States should be involved in international disputes. Fifty-three percent of Democratic Party supporters responded that the United States should keep its current level of involvement. Republican Party supporters’ views were divided: 40 percent called for reduced involvement, 30 percent for the current level of involvement and 29 percent for increased involvement. The article includes commentary from Yasushi Watanabe of Keio University, who specializes in cultural anthropology and United States studies. He interprets the results as “indicative of the divide within the Republican Party between the interventionist mainstream and the isolationist Trump supporters.”


transfer of power in The Gambia

The International Business Times covered the recent transition to power of the newly elected president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, who faced a challenge to his ascendancy by his predecessor.  In spite of signs that a conflict was about to break out, diplomatic talks and the deployment of Ecowas (Economic Community Of West African States ) troops resulted in former president Jammeh agreeing to step down and go into exile to Equatorial Guinea. The peaceful transfer of power has seen the country hailed as a beacon of African democracy with many urging other leaders across the continent to follow the “Gambian example” rather than clinging on to power after their constitutional term limits expire. Marloes Janson, reader in West African anthropology at SOAS of the University of London, believes that fears of a potential civil war were a factor in the prompt intervention by Ecowas troops.

bully diplomacy

According to The Canary, Donald Trump’s “Bully Diplomacy” claimed its first victim on Friday 27 January. The U.S. President allegedly “humiliated” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a “very offensive” phone call. George Washington University’s Hugh Gusterson, professor of anthropology and international affairs, is quoted as saying: “Trump is an insecure man who pumps up his ego by bullying others and publicly performing dominance over them… his first instinct—and with Trump the first instinct is also the last instinct—is to bully, bluster, and threaten.” This type of diplomacy, he notes, “often turns out to be disastrous”.

from Intel tech to Oz academia

Oregon Live reported that one of Intel’s best-known social science researchers, cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, is leaving the company to teach at the Australian National University in Canberra. Originally from Sydney, Bell earned a doctorate in anthropology at Stanford University. She joined Intel in 1998 and helped lead its research into how people use technology, guiding efforts to predict long-term changes in the direction of technology. Bell liked to observe people in their homes — watching them in living rooms, kitchens, and verandas, to see how they used technology. “It’s easy inside a technology company to get seduced by the technology itself,” Bell told The Oregonian in a 2004 interview. “We’re all sucked in by the whistles and the bells. One of the nice reality checks that an ethnographic perspective provides is a sense of what people really care about, these kind of unexpected truths.”  Bell will have an appointment as senior fellow at Intel.

archaeology dating clash

The Irish Times reported on a disagreement between two archaeologists about the dates of north Mayo’s Céide Fields complex, a site of some of Europe’s earliest farmers. Seamus Caulfield, responding to new research by NUI Galway archaeologist Andrew Whitefield suggesting the field complex may be 2,500 years younger than previously thought, says he feels subjected to a “silent ambush” over his life’s work. The complex dates from the later Bronze or Iron Age rather than from the late Stone Age, according to Whitefield’s study published in the European Journal of Archaeology.

date pushback in the Americas

As reported in an article on Yahoo News, anthropologists from the University of Montreal, along with a radiocarbon dating expert from the University of Oxford, have determined that humans lived in what is now Yukon, Canada, near the border with Alaska, as early as 24,000 years before present. The researchers base their conclusion on examination of 36,000 bone fragments found in the Bluefish Caves, a location in Yukon. They found undeniable human traces on at least 15 of the bones, including tool markings on a horse mandible, thereby proving the presence of human activity, according to research published in the journal Plos One. Jacques Cinq-Mars, an archeologist who was the first to excavate the site in the 1970s and 1980s, made the hypothesis that humans may have spent time in that region as early as 30,000 years ago by carbon dating bone fragments found in the caves. Lauriane Bourgeon, an anthropology doctoral student at the University of Montreal and first author of the new study, confirmed his hypothesis in part through advances in taphonomy, the study of burial practices and bone markings.

unusual chimpanzee in-group attack

The Daily Mail (U.K.) and other media reported research published to the International Journal of Primatology detailing an attack on a group member, Foudoko, which lasted even after he was dead. “It was striking…The female that cannibalized the body the most, she’s the mother of the top two high-ranking males,” commented Jill Pruetz, Walvoord Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University, a biological anthropologist who has been studying the group since 2001. Intra-group violence is rare among West African chimpanzees.

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