anthro in the news 7/17/17

Credit: Brazil Law Blog/Google Images Commons.

labor rights in Brazil under attack

An article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Brazil’s Senate approved an end to unemployment insurance, longer working hours, and reduced vacation time. The article quotes Silas Fiorotti, an anthropology researcher at the University of Sao Paulo: “…I will not support the dismantling of labor justice…The intention is to reduce the number of labor lawsuits against employers. They just want to impose criteria that make it so that workers don’t have free access to labor justice.”

liberation cricket vs. neoliberal cricket

Beausejour Cricket Stadium, St. Lucia. Credit: Timothy Barton ( Commons.

The Huffington Post published commentary by Adnan Hossain, a postdoctoral fellow in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He writes about changes in Caribbean cricket: “Once a site for anti-colonial resistance and consolidation of a West Indian identity, contemporary Caribbean cricket is devoid of such political connotations. This paradigmatic shift may account for the sad state of the West Indies cricket team this year. It seems that neoliberal cricket just can’t compete with the liberation cricket of yore.”

Roma seek new lives in Pittsburgh borough

Some 40 Roma, originating in Romania, have chosen to settle in California, Pennsylvania, a borough of Pittsburgh with a population of around 6800. Many local residents are concerned about the sudden influx of newcomers, while others have reached out to them. An article in The Pittsburgh Gazette quotes cultural anthropologist Anne Sutherland, professor at the University of California at Riverside: “They have been very disadvantaged and there is tremendous prejudice against them in Romania.” 

reducing prejudice against indigenous people

Free Malaysia Today reported on the views of anthropologist Alberto Gomes, a professor at LaTrobe University in Australia, who says Malaysian children should be exposed to the culture of the Orang Asli (indigenous peoples) in order to eradicate the stigma held against them and learn about their community values: “There are a lot of Orang Asli lawyers and doctors, but the moment they say that they are Orang Asli they are considered inferior.” He suggests that Malaysians can take inspiration from the values of the Orang Asli such as the concept of giving, the sense of community, respect, and empathy for others.

theme park anthropology

CBC News (Calgary, Canada) published an article by cultural anthropologist Scott Lukas, faculty at Lake Tahoe Community College. He discusses classic rides such as carousels, the Ferris wheel, and roller coasters historically and in terms of what they mean to people today. Lukas notes that Ferris wheels, which became popular in the late 1800s, offered a new and exciting perspective: “If you think about the time, 1893, people weren’t flying around in airplanes, so it was really quite a new thing for a person to get that high, 100 or 200 feet in the air, and see the ground below — just a marvelous experience.”

understanding pasalubong

Pili nut products sold at pasalubong center in Iriga market, the Philippines. Credit: Yawrei/Creative Commons .

BBC carried an article about the importance of a Philippine gift-giving tradition called pasalubong. It is the practice of someone who has been away giving a gift to the people he or she left behind. Such a gift conveys a sense of care and enduring ties even in separation. The article includes remarks by Nestor Castro, anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, who believes pasalubong is a pre-Hispanic practice, given that the term is indigenous to the Filipino language and that early Philippine communities engaged in long-distance trade. Another anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, Michael Tan, agrees: “…I suspect it referred to a time when travel was difficult, making the return more emotion-laden. The more distant and the more difficult the place one went to, as in the case of many of our overseas Filipinos, the more important it was to bring back something.”

fictional forensic anthropology has a new heroine

The Irish Times reported on the latest novel, Two Nights, by forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs in which she introduces a new heroine named Sunday Night. Reich says that she is “a lot less controlled than Temperance Brennan…She does [an investigation] because of something that’s personally compelling to her, because of her own childhood and the damage that she still carries from that.”

take that anthro degree and…

…work in tourism. Cindy VandenBosch is founder and president of Turnstile Tours. Turnstile offers immersive walking tours in Brooklyn covering a range of topics including social, architectural, military, and industrial history. She says: “By building a big body of knowledge, and working to bring new textures to each tour, we help the visitors really understand a sense of place.” VandenBosch has a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies and Honors Anthropology from the University of Michigan.

…become a researcher. Margrit Kaufmann is a senior researcher focusing on diversity at the University of Bremen. She has a Lic. Phil. in ethnology from the University of Zurich and a Ph.D. in ethnology from the University of Bremen.

…become a doctor. Laura Glenn is a general family practitioner at Rejuvena Health and Aesthetics in Scottsdale, Arizona. She specializes in women’s health, hormonal imbalances, fertility, fatigue, gastrointestinal conditions, and autoimmune and chronic diseases. Glenn has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California Los Angeles and a doctorate of naturopathic medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe.

so much for Trump’s kick-ass theory of evolution

The Washington Post published commentary by Holly Dunsworth, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. She addresses Trump’s view of gender relations in human evolution, expressed in his 2007 book, Think Big and Kick Ass, that “kick-ass” men are always — past, present, and future — winners who attract the most desirable women. Himself, for example: “The women I have dated over the years could have any man they want; they are the top models and the most beautiful women in the world. I have been able to date (screw) them all because I have something that many men do not have. I don’t know what it is but women have always liked it. So guys, be cocky, confident, smart, and humorous and you will be able to get all the women you want…” Dunsworth refers to this view as a just-so story that may fit with many people’s impression of human evolution but contradicts the actual science: “First, simple genetic explanations don’t exist for most complex behaviors. There are no known genes for kick-ass attitudes or wanting to have sex with someone who exhibits them. Further, it’s unlikely that Trump would exist had his ancestors not given ‘a crap about what other people in the tribe thought.’ Prosociality — cooperating with others, maintaining rich and mutually trustworthy relationships — is humanity’s bread and butter. Finally, although it’s true that we are primates descended from a long line of jungle-dwelling ancestors before they expanded into all kinds of habitats, it’s also true that evolution never stopped. Very little about us ‘always will be.’”

nature, culture, and sleep

CBS News reported on findings by biological anthropologists from research among the Hadza, contemporary hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania. Sleep patterns ensure that at least one adult is awake throughout the night, and usually more than a third of the group is alert or dozing lightly at any given time. “The idea that there’s a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during nighttime sleep,” said study co-author David Samson, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto in Mississauga. Another co-author, Alyssa Crittenden, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, commented: “They sleep on the ground, and have no synthetic lighting or controlled climate — traits that characterized the ancestral sleeping environment for early humans.” Another co-author. Charles Nunn, professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, comments: “If you’re in a lighter stage of sleep you’d be more attuned to any kind of threat in the environment.” Previous studies have made similar findings in birds, mice and other animals, but this is the first time it has been documented in people, according to Samson. Findings were published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. [Blogger’s note: night-time wakefulness has been documented among the Piraha, Amazonian foragers, by Daniel Everett in his book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes.]

making veterinary medicine more humane

Boise State Public Radio (Idaho) carried the latest commentary from Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary. She writes about a trend among some veterinarians in the U.S. to provide Fear Free settings and techniques to reduce anxiety of the animals they care for. King writes: “From my perspective as someone who works on animal cognition and emotion from within anthropology, I see a meaningful link between Fear Free techniques and recent animal-behavior science. Our pets may have profound emotional responses — both positive and negative — to the events in their lives. We can help our cats and dogs a great deal by recognizing this fact and joining with veterinary professionals to act on it.”

in memoriam

Russell L. Langworthy, professor of anthropology at Carleton College in Minnesota, died at the age of 92 years. He conducted most of his research in rural Italy on farming practices. His scholarly publications explored how technological advances in farming threaten traditional agricultural societies.

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