anthro in the news 2/27/17

Multiculturalism. Source; True Tube U.K.
Multiculturalism. Source; True Tube U.K.

assault on multiculturalism

The Huffington Post published an article by Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Stoller is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post as well as a public lecturer and commentator on National Public Radio programs and the National Geographic Television Network. Stoller writes:

“There is an unmistakable assault on multiculturalism in America. Millions of Americans have come to believe that life was better in the past when multiculturalism was barely known and little practiced. Critics of multiculturalism suggest that it is a potential poison that could lead to social and cultural decline. Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a prominent critic of multiculturalism, provides a typical argument against it. ‘Multiculturalists argue,’ he wrote in a recent widely circulated op-ed, ‘that different cultural values are morally equivalent. That’s nonsense. Western culture and values are superior.’ [Blogger’s note: Money from the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors supports extremely conservative research and teaching, in economics especially, at George Mason University, including funding of its think tank, the Mercatus Center. Williams is John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, a position funded to some extent at least in the past by the conservative Olin Foundation. My kudos to universities across the U.S. that have refused such funding.]

cultural revival in New Zealand

A selection of Taonga pūoro from the collection of Horomona Horo. Source: Wikipedia
A selection of Taonga pūoro from the collection of Horomona Horo. Source: Wikipedia

New Hubs (New Zealand) reported on the appointment of Rob Thorne, an anthropologist and musician, the first in his field to be named as composer-in-residence at Victoria University. Thorne is a specialist in Taonga Puoro, Māori instruments, and, along with others, is helping to revive interest in their distinctive sound. Thorne says playing the distinctive sounds of Taonga Puoro has brought him closer to his culture: “The greatest thing that I may have learned about my own culture is that we were very deeply artist and musical.” Traditionally the instruments were used in entertainment, when planting crops, to sound a warning in warfare, and to communicate with the gods. [with audio].

take that anthro degree and…

…become an environmental activist. Dima Litvinov works as a campaigner for Greenpeace International. During his university studies, he did fieldwork for his graduate thesis in Ecuador.  While in South America, Dima found his passion for environmental activism after witnessing the removal of one of the indigenous communities he had met. Litvinov has a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from Wesleyan University. “As an anthropologist, though even just as a person, it was an amazing experience to meet people living so close to nature…The next year, when I came back to Ecuador, I thought I’d repeat the experience, so I went back down there. There was no rainforest, there was no river, and there were no indigenous people. There was a big oil field where Chevron and the Ecuadorian national company came in and looked for oil. They actually never found anything, but they destroyed everything in the process. For me that was the first time that I had a bit of an eye opener, thinking, ‘this is just wrong, something needs to be done about this.’”

…become a consultant. Dawn Lehman consults in the greater Chicago area on fund development, change management, program development and evaluation, and communication. She previously worked at Northern Arizona University on grant development for its College of Education and as a research professor in the anthropology department. Lehman has a B.A. from Madonna College in communication, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Wayne State University.

…work in higher education. James Fischer is director of the Lehigh University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Pennsylvania. He is responsible for delivering SBDC programs and services to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Center’s service area. He  also serves as an advocate for business development, expansion and retention in the region. Previously, he was a senior fellow and general counsel for the Social Enterprise Institute at Elizabethtown College. Fischer has a B.A. in anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an M.A. in anthropology from Cornell University, and a J.D. from New York University

old(est?) art

A drawing of the engraved stone highlights the individual pixels that make up a mammoth, or auroch, facing right. Souce: R. Bourrillon
A drawing of the engraved stone highlights the individual pixels that make up a mammoth, or auroch, facing right. Souce: R. Bourrillon

The Independent (U.K.) carried an article about of 38,000-year-old engravings found in the Vézère Valley of France. They could be the oldest pictures of any kind in the world, depending on the dating of others. The 16 decorated stone blocks were discovered during an excavation of a now-collapsed rock overhang used as a shelter by the Aurignacian people, the earliest modern humans in Europe. They were radiocarbon dated to 38,000 years old. Randall White, professor of anthropology at New York University, said the images were certainly “among the very earliest images of things we can actually recognise in the entire archaeological record.” And, “It’s not so much the final effect that we found interesting, it’s the conception of it – the use of individual points to form the body or the outline of a figure…If you look carefully at the aurochs, there’s really a significant control of the line.” The research is reported in the Quarternary International.

in memoriam

Jan Vansina, professor emeritus of anthropology and history at the University of Wisconsin Madison, died at the age of 88 years. He is one of the founders of the field of African history in the 1950s and 1960s. His insistence that it was possible to study African history in the era prior to European contact, and his development of rigorous historical methods for doing so, played a major role in countering the then prevalent idea that cultures without texts had no history. He remained a trailblazer in the field for more than five decades. Vansina combined an encyclopedic knowledge of linguistics, anthropology and history with a steadfast commitment to rigorous historical research, and a unique talent to recover intricate historical changes in places where little traces of the past could be retrieved. In scale, depth, complexity, clarity and significance, his work in African history was unique and will certainly remain so for many years to come. He twice won the African Studies Association’s Melville Herskovits Prize for the best book in African Studies, the first time for Kingdoms of the Savanna in 1967 and the second for When Societies are Born in 2004. Vansina was a recipient of the African Studies Association’s Distinguished Africanist Award and the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982, from which he quietly resigned when the group failed to denounce the use of torture during the presidency of George W. Bush, and to the American Philosophical Society in 2000.

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