anthro in the news 5/29/17

Ready-to-drink food. Credit:

programmers hooked on Soylent

Salon reported on the popularity of Soylent, a meal replacement powder, in California’s Silicon Valley. The article quotes Jan English-Lueck, professor of anthropology at San Jose State and Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. She has been studying Silicon Valley culture for years and points to how “people are fascinated with speed and efficiency.” Further, “Food is very much a part of how we express our culture…Soylent is one form of highly functional, highly efficient food that isn’t going to interfere with your ability be productive.”

luxury cultures

Scene from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Credit: Wikipedia

The Huffington Post published an interview with cultural anthropologist David Abèlés, director of the French-Argentine Centre in Buenos Aires, about his latest research on luxury markets and arts around the world. He comments: “We cannot distinguish the trends affecting the industry and commerce of luxury from broader changes within capitalism. Anthropology provides a multifaceted point of view by approaching luxury as a total social artefact.”

rethinking Afghanistan

The Daily Times (Pakistan) carried an article about the longstanding contributions of Magnus Marsden, professor of social anthropology at the University of Sussex and director of the Sussex Asia Centre. Marsden’s latest project focuses on Afghan trading networks and the lived experience of being an Afghan trader in and beyond Afghanistan: “Marsden works to show the human side of Afghan trade and to counter the common stereotypes facing Afghan traders and the Afghan people more broadly through his rich, detailed ethnographic research. Noting that much of the international coverage of Afghanistan focuses on tribal and ethnic divisions and portrays the Afghan people as backward and insular, Marsden aims to convey the sophistication of Afghan traders and their interactions with cultural environments around the world.”

school feeding programs as sharing 

An article in The Times of India about school feeding programs for poor children in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu quotes S. Sumathi, professor and head of the anthropology department at the University of Madras. She says food is not just a basic human necessity, but the glue that binds society through sharing:  “…All rituals or festivals we celebrate, say Diwali or Christmas, revolve round sharing of food. When this sharing of food is implemented at the policy level, it makes a huge physical and emotional impact on the beneficiaries. And one who is fed always remembers.”

tracing a people’s continuity

The Mariana Islands. Credit: Wikipedia.

The Guam Daily Post reported on the research of cultural anthropologist David Atienza Frutos, professor at the University of Guam. His research considers the continuity of the CHamoru cultural experience in spite of the trauma they experienced after the Spanish, Filipinos, and Mexicans arrived in the Mariana Islands. Among other sources, he is consulting historic census documents. Atienza wants to give legitimacy to the CHamoru identity, proving that they can connect themselves to the historical past: “The CHamoru were victimized but they didn’t remain victims…”They were change agents, they were people who made choices for themselves.” He is working on his third television series on the Peopling of the Mariana Islands.

take that anthro degree and…

…become an international peace strategist, author, and consultant. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini is the co-founder and executive director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN). For over two decades she has been a leading international peace strategist. In 2000, she was among the civil society drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. In 2011, she was the first Senior Expert on Gender and Inclusion on the UN’s Mediation Standby Team. She has provided guidance and training to senior personnel in UN agencies, governments and NGOs worldwide, and has worked in conflict affected countries globally, including leading assessments in Maoist cantonments in Nepal. She has published extensively on peace and security issues, including the book, Women Building Peace: What They Do, Why It Matters. She was the 2014 recipient of the UN Association of the National Capital Area Perdita Huston Award for human rights and the 2016 Greeley Peace Scholar at the University of Massachusetts. She is a member of the board of the UN Democracy Fund, a Senior Fellow of the MIT Center for International Studies, and a Non-Resident Associate of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. She has an M.Phil in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge.

…become a dancer and activist. Kyle Abraham and his company, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, have toured the world, presenting a unique blend of hip-hop, jazz, and contemporary dance that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. His work connects with issues of race, urban violence, civil rights, and incarceration. He calls his style a “postmodern gumbo” — an approach he arrived at by combining his classical dance training from college with the social dance skills of his youth. A 2013 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed a “genius award”), Abraham has a B.A. in anthropology and dance from the State University of New York at Purchase.

…become a food writer, cookbook author, and television star. Gail Simmons has worked as a food columnist for two Canadian newspapers, published a cookbook, and developed several videos. Since the show’s inception in 2006, she has served as a permanent judge on BRAVO’s Emmy-winning series Top Chef. She has been featured in such media outlets as New York Magazine, Travel + Leisure, GQ, People, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times and was named the #1 Reality TV Judge in America by The New York Post. She is an active supporter of Common Threads, an organization that teaches low-income children to cook wholesome, affordable meals. She was a founding member of Food & Wine’s Grow for Good Campaign to raise funds and awareness for sustainable agriculture programs in the United States. Simmons has a B.A. in anthropology and Spanish from McGill University and later attended the Institute of Culinary Education.

…become a business manager. Collins Moore is a business manager with NFC Africa Kenya Limited. His work involves identifying potential customers, creating contacts, developing new opportunities for the company, handling business activities of the company, providing customer support assistance to clients, and producing proposals and invoices for clients. He has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Nairobi.

excavation versus preservation by not excavating

As reported in The Daily Mail, archaeologists disagree about whether or not to undertake further excavations at Mohenjo Daro, a Bronze Age site in Pakistan. The site faces multiple challenges including extreme heat and damage from humans. On one side, is Michael Jansen, a researcher at GUTech University of Technology in Oman, who favors further excavations along with promotion of the site around the world and finding ways to preserve the excavated area. He comments that “There is enormous thermo-stress,” adding that salt from the underground water table is also damaging the ruins. Tourists and the use of the site for public events add to the stress. Yet he argues for further excavation because so little of the site has been uncovered so far and therefore much is to be learned. Other experts, however, argue against further excavation: “It is actually preserved when it is buried,” said Richard Meadow, senior lecturer in the anthropology department at Harvard University.

Brexit and academic funding

A short article in The Financial Times noted the implications of Brexit for various disciplines in British academia as detailed in a recent report. Some fields of study, including archaeology, are more dependent on EU funding than others.

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