anthro in the news 7/24/17

University of Wisconsin students protesting Trump’s presidency and proposed policies. Credit: The Badger Herald/Google Images Commons.

run for it: anthropologists in politics

The Huffington Post published an article by Tori Jennings, adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, about the need for anthropologists to seek political roles in the U.S. After watching with dismay the effects of a conservative takeover in Wisconsin including the state university system, she decided to get involved in local politics the night Trump was elected. Now a member of the Stevens Point City Council, she writes: “An anthropologist running for city council should hardly be that surprising. Our discipline after all, is highly applied. Not only is anthropology interesting we tell our students, it’s useful for tackling real-world problems. Two decades before Laura Nader challenged anthropology to ‘study up’ in her provocative 1972 essay Up Anthropology, the idea of ‘action anthropology’ had already taken root in the renowned work of American anthropologist Sol Tax.”

no jobs, no babies

An article in The Atlantic proposes that a key neglected factor in explaining Japan’s low and declining birth rate is the lack of well paid jobs for men in a context in which men are still largely understood to be the family income-earner. The article quotes Anne Allison, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of Precarious Japan: “The gender stuff is pretty consistent with trends around the world—men are having a harder time…The birth rate is down, even the coupling rate is down. And people will say the number-one reason is economic insecurity.” 

women in business leadership

The Columbia Star (South Carolina) carried an article describing the insights of corporate anthropologist Andi Simon about the value of women business leaders. In her research with women business leaders in the U.S., Simons finds that the women who know how to create success are not just building better businesses, they are changing the way people work: “The corporate cultures in women-run businesses reflect the personal beliefs and values of the women leading them….And those businesses tend to be highly successful.” Author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, she is founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants.

faith and health (Alabama) reported on findings published in the Medical Anthropology Quarterly by Mary Rebecca Read-Wahidi, former anthropology doctoral student, and her advisor, Jason A. DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama. Read-Wahidi conducted interviews with Mexican immigrants in Scott County, Mississippi, which has a large Hispanic population. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the research indicates, helps people cope with the stress of immigration. Read-Wahidi says: “Our results show how people who fit the model of what it means to be a Guadalupan devotee in Scott County, Mississippi, don’t have that expected decrease in well-being when faced with some pretty intense daily stressors.”  De Caro adds: “It [faith] has provided a kind of buffer of the stresses impacting their health…It does not mean they are unaware of the stress and everything is roses, but they are able to let it roll off their back, more or less.”

interactive film screened around the world reported about the success of an interactive film, The Maribor Uprisings, which lets audiences experience the massive protests in the Slovenian city in 2012. Viewers make choices along the way, for example, as to whether or not to follow the protestors. In its many screenings around the world, audience participation has taken the film in different directions. Co-directors of the film are Milton Guillen, a former Colby College student, and Maple Razsa, professor of anthropology at Colby.

bringing anthropology to the public

An article in Noozhawk (Santa Barbara, California) reported about the work of cultural anthropologist Kohanya Groff who founded the nonprofit BOAS Network to provide public education and entertainment related to anthropology. “The Anthropology Straight Up series was my idea to make free education and information accessible about anthropology through public outreach, social media and videos,” said Groff, who has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology. The series offers an event every other month, with the September presentation featuring the history of and cross-cultural perspectives on psychics, shamans, and mediums.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a teacher, activist, farmer, and aspiring politician. Paul Spencer teaches government and history at Little Rock Catholic High for Boys, is the founder of the political activist group Regnat Populus, operates a small family farm, and is seeking a nomination for Arkansas’ 2nd congressional seat, running against a Republican. He says: “…Arkansans now stand to suffer real physical and material harm at the hands of the 115th Congress.” Spencer has a B.A. in anthropology from Franciscan University in Ohio.

…become a musician. Rebecca Lomnicky is a fiddle player with The Fire, a traditional Scottish music band. Lomnicky has a B.A. in music and sociocultural anthropology from Cornell University.

U.S. heritage claims on the moon?

USA Today reported on the views of Beth O’Leary, space archaeologist and emerita professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University, who argues that the Apollo 11 moon-landing should be a U.S. National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site: “The Apollo astronauts knew they were taking a giant leap for mankind…But they probably did not realize they were creating a lunar legacy that needs to be preserved for future generations.” [Blogger’s note: staking a claim to a national site on the moon seems to raise huge questions that are in the realm of international space law — far beyond my scope — but something to think about].

archaeology of the Depression era

National Public Radio (U.S.) covered archaeology research on everyday life in a Depression-era migrant labor camp in Pennsylvania. The project is co-directed by Daniel Sayers, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at American University. He describes the site as what was once called a “hobo jungle:”  “What we focus on typically are the things that people often just aren’t paying as much attention to…It’s the stuff that we leave behind, it’s the garbage, it’s the things of daily use, it’s the places we create — and the places we make reflect ourselves.”

landmark archaeological research in Australia

Credit: G. Grullón/Science (Data) Patrick Nunn/University of the Sunshine Coast.

Several media, including ABC News, reported on archaeological findings from the Madjedbebe rock shelter in northern Australia placing the date of earliest human settlement in Australia at 80,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. Archaeologist Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland said the new date has a major impact on the understanding of when humans left Africa: “This site confirms, once more, that this is an incredibly important region — not only in Australia, but on the world stage, in terms of cultural heritage and understanding human origins.” Clarkson said the discoveries, published in the journal Nature, demonstrate strong cultural continuity at the site across thousands of years.

Excavation at the site has been conducted under a landmark agreement between the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation representing the traditional owners, and the researchers. Under the agreement, the Mirarr people have had a right to veto the excavation at any time, control over the artefacts, and final say about findings announced about the site. Justin O’Brien, CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, said the agreement ensured the Mirarr people could have control over how the excavation was conducted: “We said, okay, these are the conditions on which you come upon this country…”  Clarkson said the agreement is one of the strongest agreements ever negotiated in Australia between traditional owners and archaeology teams: “Aboriginal involvement, Aboriginal permission, Aboriginal rights over the excavation itself are very important in this kind of endeavor.”


The British Academy seal depicts the Greek muse, Clio, as redrawn by illustrator Debbie Cook.

Social anthropologist Melissa Leach CBE, professor and director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, has been elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in recognition of her significant contributions to research in the social sciences. Her election reflects her outstanding academic record in anthropology, global development, and social change. Examples of her work include co-founding and directing the ESRC STEPS Centre, with its pioneering pathways approach to innovation, sustainability, and development issues and her leadership of the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP) and its rapid and effective response to the Ebola epidemic. She was also the lead social scientist in the U.K. and WHO Ebola scientific advisory committees during 2014-15. She has made a significant contribution in her international role as vice-chair of the Science Committee of Future Earth, an international research platform to advance Global Sustainability Science; was lead author of the UN Women’s World Survey on the Role of Women in Economic Development 2014, and co-director of the World Social Science Report 2016, Challenging Inequalities: Pathways to a Just World. She was recently appointed to the expert advisory board to support the U.K.’s Department of Health Global AMR Innovation Fund.  She is author or editor of over fifteen books and dozens of research papers, and in 1996, her co-authored book, Misreading the African Landscape, received the Amaury Talbot Prize from the Royal Anthropological Institute for the best book in African Anthropology.

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