anthro in the news 2/13/17

Contemporary version of a blue-eyed doll Source: covermyfb
Contemporary version of a blue-eyed doll Source: covermyfb

dolls in international relations

The Japan Times published an op-ed by Hirokazu Miyazaki, professor of anthropology at Cornell University and director of its Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies: “One hundred years ago this month, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917. The law was intended to keep out broad categories of immigrants, including those who were illiterate, indigent or mentally ill. It also barred entry to people from wide swaths of Asia and the Pacific. Japanese and Filipinos were exempted, but seven years later President Warren Harding pushed through an even stiffer measure, the Immigration Act of 1924, which extended the restrictions to citizens of Japan. The Japanese government protested, as did many American citizens and civil society groups. When it became clear there was little chance of changing the minds of the president or Congress, a man named Sidney Gulick decided to turn his attention to the next generation.” And thus began the exchange of dolls between Japan and the U.S. 

reflection on racism in the U.S.

Caption: President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2016.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Caption: President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2016.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The latest piece on U.S. public radio by Barbara J. King, emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, is a reflection on her visit to the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. “As I walked along, I experienced moments of emotion. Yet I was also aware, acutely so, that for some people also visiting the museum that afternoon, a ‘highly personal moment’ would be rooted in experiences I could never truly fathom. For decades, I taught College of William and Mary students about race and racism from the point of view of anthropology — explaining that race is not a biologically meaningful category, and sharing the American Anthropological Association’s statement that ‘the racial’ worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth.” A white American, she concludes by commenting that teaching important facts is not the same as living them. 

improving U.S. farm workers’ health

The Hub-City Times (Marshfield, Wisconsin) published a piece about the research of several cultural anthropologists on U.S. farming organization and farm worker’s health that has appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Agromedicine.  Agriculture has a fatality rate eight times the average of all other industries in the United States. Migrant and seasonal farm workers, in particular, make up a vulnerable community that experiences substantial occupational injury and illness. The collection, entitled Agri-CULTURAL Health and Safety: Anthropologists in the Field, features five research articles addressing the need to understand the communities at risk in agricultural work. Commentaries from three anthropologists offer insights on the history and future of anthropological research on the topic:  Kendall Thu of Iowa State University; Thomas Arcury of Wake Forest, and Kim Fortun of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Casper Bendixsen, an anthropologist and research scientist at the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, served as guest editor.

take that anthro degree and…

…become an ecologist, writer, birder, and photographer. Erika Zambello, who lives in Maine, has a B.A. in government and anthropology from Cornell University and an M.A. in environmental management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned there for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.

what lies beneath, in Brazil

The New York Times carried an article reporting on findings about prehistoric life in Acre State in the Brazilian Amazon. It draws on a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:  “Our study was looking at the environmental impact that the geoglyph builders had on the landscape,” said Jennifer Watling, an archaeologist at the University of São Paulo, who conducted the research while a student at the University of Exeter in Britain. “A lot of people have the idea that the Amazon forests are pristine forests, never touched by humans, and that’s obviously not the case.” Thousands of years before the earthworks were built, humans were managing the forests, using what appear to be sustainable agricultural practices.

For centuries, the enigmatic structures remained hidden to all but a few archaeologists. Then in the 1980s, ranchers cleared land to raise cattle, uncovering the extent of the earthworks.

many layers of humanity in PA

WFMZ TV (Allentown, Pennsylvania) published a piece about the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg: “People have been living in Pennsylvania for 16,000 years,” said Kurt Carr, the senior curator of archaeology at the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology. For example. eleven layers have been found in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in the Meadowcroft Rockshelter.

evolutionary view of FGM

U.S. National Public Radio carried a program discussing recent anthropological work on FGM/C (Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting): “In societies where cutting is the norm, being cut gives women social status and more social support among women,” says Janet Howard, lead author of the study and doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Bristol. “They have more and better marriage opportunities” — and thus a better chance of bearing children, or, in evolutionary terms, “enhanced fitness.” Strong beliefs in many groups prevail that if a woman is not cut, she is unclean and must be ostracized and in some cases, should not marry. In those circumstances, “not being cut is a detriment” to bearing children, says Bettina Shell-Duncan, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Washington, who was not part of the study. The findings are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Katherine Wander, biological anthropologist and assistant professor at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, wrote an accompanying News & Views commentary in the journal.

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