anthro in the news 4/17/17

Pro-“Yes” protests outside the Dutch embassy in Turkey. Credit: Wikipedia

macho-man Erdogan

BBC News reported on how Turks in the Netherlands feel about Turkey’s controversial referendum on April 16.  The article quotes Thijl Sunier, professor of cultural anthropology at the Free University of Amsterdam: “It just makes them more passionate about him.” He says that Dutch-Turks see Erdogan through rose-tinted glasses: “They don’t experience the negatives caused by his policies, all the economic crumbling… they’re looking at him from a distance, they’re impressed by the macho way he does politics.”

gender rights

Transgender model Natachat Chanchiew. Credit: The Bangkok Post.

An article in The Bangkok Post described how The Face Thailand, a reality model contestant show, will feature a transgender model among the remaining nine contestants.  It is the first time that the reality model competition has allowed transgenders to compete alongside other aspiring female models. The article includes a comment from Wipavee Phongpin, a gender expert from Thammasat University’s faculty of sociology and anthropology: “Compared to other countries, Thailand is considered quite open for the LGBT community, but it has still has some way to go.”

Armenian rights

The Armenian Mirror Spectator reported on the third annual Hrant Dink Memorial Peace and Justice Lecture at Harvard University on the topic of minorities and human rights in Turkey. A panel discussion featured Ayse Gul Altinay, professor of anthropology at Sabançi University. She spoke about her early interest in studying the tendency toward militarization in Turkish culture. Her first book, The Myth of the Military-Nation: Militarism, Gender and Education, had only one reference to the Armenian Genocide, and it was a footnote and the phrase itself was put in quotation marks. She expressed shame and blamed herself for her lack of curiosity in investigating what the real story was. In effect, she said, “I was contributing to the silence” about the Armenian Genocide.

hot dogs on the move

Japanese-style hot dog with mayo, grated daikon, and dried seaweed.
Credit: Flickr/Personal Creations (

The San Francisco Chronicle carried an article about the travel of the American-style hot dog to Japan where it became assimilated and adapted and now the migration of the Japanese-style hot dog back to cities on the west coast of Canada and the U.S. The article quotes Merry White, professor of cultural anthropology at Boston University: “Whenever a new food came to Japan, from the 1880s on, it came to cafes…A cafe was a logical place to eat spaghetti, or pilaf, or sandwiches or pudding. All new foreign foods first came to cafes, where they became assimilated as Japanese.”

sperm whale teeth are hard to find 

The New York Times carried an article about tabua (pronounced tam-BOO-ah) which roughly translates to “sacred” in Fijian. The valuable relic, associated with good luck and supernatural is the traditional engagement gift. But sperm whale teeth are scarce and prices are rising. Despite the cost, giving tabuas “is very much still alive and a part of our culture,” said Apo Aporosa, a New Zealand-based anthropology researcher with Fijian heritage. The practice is more common in rural areas, he said, but even in the urban areas, the tradition continues among some families.

Bangkok and ruthless politics

KhaosodEnglish (Bangkok) published an op-ed by Claudio Sopranzetti, research fellow in anthropology at Oxford University. He quotes Michael Herzfeld, a Harvard University anthropologist and long-term observer of what he calls “spatial cleansing” in Bangkok: ’The present military-dominated government, which has assumed extraordinary powers that it can use at will, can move more quickly and more ruthlessly than elected governments can…History will judge its actions, but this will be too late for the people whose lives have been destroyed by socially irresponsible policies.”

batik exhibit

The Jakarta Post reported about an exhibit of batik at the Textile Museum in Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta. It quoted Notty J. Mahdi, a researcher from the Indonesian Anthropology Research Forum: “Batik pesisir is more populist and even until now it can be used by anybody on any occasion.” At the opening of the exhibition, she discussed the historical traces of the assimilated Chinese community living along the Java coast, also known as Peranakan.

traditional medical knowledge needs protection   

The Financial Express (Dhaka) published an op-ed by Saifur Rashid, professor of anthropology at the University of Dhaka. He describes the importance of indigenous medical healing practices in Bangladesh and argues that steps must be taken to “Protect, promote and safeguard the various cultural properties associated with traditional medical practices for ensuring the low cost, easily available and less-harmful use of traditional medicines by the people of Bangladesh.”

take that anthro degree and…

…become a researcher and journalist. Kyle Knight is a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. Prior to joining the LGBT rights program, he was a fellow at the Williams Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles and a Fulbright scholar in Nepal. As a journalist he has worked for Agence France-Presse in Nepal and for IRIN, the UN’s humanitarian news service, reporting from Burma, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He has previously worked for UNAIDS, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and in the children’s rights and health and human rights divisions at Human Rights Watch. He has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Duke University.

very large capstone

India Today and other media sources reported on the discovery of what may be the world’s largest capstone at a site in the south Indian state of Telengana.  The Megalithic human burial site, excavated by Telangana Archaeology in Narmeta village, contains a 40 ton capstone. 

great apes are smart and nice

The Japan Times reported on a study of 34 great apes — chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans — at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany. They round that the apes were able to detect “false beliefs” related to the location of an object and were also willing to help a person who was mistaken about the location of an object. David Buttelmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany said: “This study shows for the first time that great apes can use an understanding of false beliefs to help others appropriately.”  Findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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