anthro in the news 7/10/17

Maori flag. Credit: Wikipedia

“thuggish, stupid youth” stereotype banished

TheFIX (Australia) reported that Maori Television in New Zealand has pulled an Australian mini-series, Jonah from Tonga, from the air. The article includes commentary from social anthropologist Helen Lee, professor and head of La Trobe University’s sociology and anthropology department: “I just think it’s dreadful. It’s just awful. It’s creating a terrible stereotype that’s just deeply offensive to Tongans…It’s just a stereotype of this kind of thuggish, stupid youth which does not in any way represent what Tongan youth are like.”

educated women freezing eggs

Credit: Google Images Commons

The Independent reported on a study, led by medical anthropologist Marcia Inhorn of Yale University, of 150 women in the U.S. and Israel who had undertaken elective egg freezing. In-depth interviews reveal that the primary motivation among educated, professional women is the lack of a suitable spouse or partner. This finding contradicts previous reports, mainly in the media, that women freeze their eggs to defer pregnancy for professional reasons.

beyond pillow talk

The Huffington Post published an article by Agnès Giard, associate researcher in anthropology at Paris Nanterre University, describing findings from her study of men’s sex toys in Japan. She focuses on sex pillows and how they work: “For sex pillows to bring satisfaction, users must pretend that there is a real presence behind the artificial, balloon-like object…The attraction of these Japanese simulacra no doubt lies, in part, in the seductive game of hide-and-seek: on one side of the pillowcase hides a lady; on the other, just a pillow.”

digital divide in India

The Hindu (India) published commentary by Kathryn Zyskowski, doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Washington, based on her research about computer education in Hyderabad: “An ideology of computer education assumes that it will better the economic and social well-being of anyone who acquires such skills, but we know that job markets are intensely social and uneven — and my research shows how students’ knowledge of technology at times heighten the experiences of gender, religion or caste, rather than erase them.”

Sufi saints and the state

A review in Dawn (Pakistan) on the changing relationship between the state in Pakistan and Sufi saints draws on the work of cultural anthropologist Katherine Ewing of Columbia University. Ewing conducted research in Pakistan, starting in 1976 through the 1990s, on individual saints as well as the region’s historical Sufi culture and state-sponsored modernity. Over time, the Pakistani state has supported Sufi saints, distanced itself from them, and politically appropriated them.

international forensic collaboration

An article in The Houston Chronicle described the formation by forensic anthropologists of international ties to help locate remains on the U.S.-Mexico border through the Forensic Border Coalition. The article quotes Mercedes Doretti, director of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team: “There’s a gigantic fragmentation at every level, at the DNA level, at the justice system, in Mexico and the U.S.” In 2015, the [Texas] Legislature ordered the Texas Forensic Science Commission to develop a method for collecting forensic evidence of unidentified bodies located near the border, and Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Center in San Marcos was assigned the task of exhuming human remains for identification. “It was a mass disaster,” said Kate Spradley, the assistant professor of anthropology at Texas State University leading the effort. “It is some of the most unpleasant work you can imagine.”

like that scene in Casablanca…

Artist’s rendering of the Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C. Credit: website

NBC News (Columbus, Ohio) and other media reported on the smuggling of ancient Iraqi artifacts into the U.S. by the Christian organization, Hobby Lobby. It has paid a fine of $3 million, while claiming it was all just a mistake. Hobby Lobby’s president, Steve Green, has been collecting artifacts since 2009, and the organization is building an $800 million Bible museum in Washington. In a statement, Hobby Lobby said: “The company was new to the world of acquiring these items and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process…This resulted in some regrettable mistakes.” Bob Murowchick, assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology at Boston University, doubts the company’s claim that it did not know what it was doing: “It’s like that scene in ‘Casablanca’: ‘I am shocked, shocked, that there is gambling going on here.’”

high in the sky

CNN carried an article about so-called hanging coffins, found across central China. The oldest, said to be in the eastern province of Fujian, date back 3,000 years. Li Fei, researcher at the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Archaeology, said there were up to 100 cave coffin sites in the province and the burial practice was followed by Yao and Miao minorities in the region. Xu Jin, researcher at Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute, commented that, in a karst region where caves and cliffs are plentiful, burying the dead at a height might have seemed a better option than in land that erodes easily and is prone to sinkholes. Anke Hein, Peter Moores Associate Professor of Chinese Archaeology at the University of Oxford, noted that the phenomenon straddles different time periods, geographical regions, and disciplines, creating challenges for research: “I’m sure if someone really wanted to do this they could…But you would need the cooperation of difference [sic] provinces and local governments, which is difficult, and requires a lot of energy.”

they just walked out

The New York Times reported on a study of Neanderthal DNA from a femur found in Germany indicating that human migration out of Africa occurred much earlier than thought as did interbreeding with Neanderthals. Before 270,000 years ago, modern humans from Africa arrived in what is now Europe. The research is led by Johannes Krause, archaeogeneticist, professor, and director of the Max Planck Institute for Human History. Findings are published in Nature Communications.

in memoriam

Isabelle Clark-Decès, professor of anthropology at Princeton University, died at the age of 61 years from a fall in Mussoorie, India, while teaching there.  A scholar of South Asia, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on India, ritual, kinship theory, and ethnography and advised doctoral candidates. She directed Princeton’s Program in South Asian Studies since 2007 when it was established. Her books include Religion Against the Self: An Ethnography of Tamil Rituals (as Isabelle Nabokov); No One Cries for the Dead: Tamil Dirges, Rowdy Songs and Graveyard Petitions; The Encounter Never Ends: A Return to the Field of Tamil Rituals; and The ‘Right’ Spouse: Preferential Marriages in Tamil Nadu. She edited A Companion to the Anthropology of India, a volume of essays exploring the configurations of modernity and globalization in India.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s