anthro in the news 9/25/17

Money. Credit: Pixabay/Creative Commons.

disaster capitalism

The Sun Sentinel (Florida) published commentary by Yarimar Bonilla, associate professor of anthropology and Caribbean studies at Rutgers University and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. She mentions a fieldwork interview she had with a financial manager on the island who advised her to buy stock in Home Depot in anticipation of a hurricane, because such disasters bring in federal money. And, indeed, not one but two hurricanes hit Puerto Rico in September. She writes: “But if history is any indication, they [the funds] will do little to alleviate long-standing disparities or to remedy the conditions that put Puerto Rico at greatest risk. More likely, the expedited management of emergency money will only serve to fuel the drive for increased privatization and the gutting of public services…Vulnerability is not simply a product of natural conditions; it is a political state and a colonial condition.”

street fashion in Tokyo

An article in Japan Today highlighted a book on Tokyo street fashion by Philomena Keet, a freelance researcher and writer with a Ph.D. in anthropology from SOAS University in London: “Tokyo’s fashion-obsessed inhabitants are the subject of Keet’s latest book, ‘Tokyo Fashion City,’ which is part guide book and part fashion photography album…The book effectively takes readers on a stroll through eight districts of Tokyo that each have a reputation for an interesting fashion scene, be that cutting-edge, traditional or the embracing of a subculture.” The article includes commentary by Keet: “Some Japanese are so fanatical about what they wear that they will push the boundaries of a certain style, often creating new sub-subcultures…It also means that rarely does a ‘style tribe’ totally disappear, as there are likely to be at least a handful of hardcore fans keeping it alive somewhere…”

choice and Muslim women

The Jordon Times reported on a conference titled Muslim Women and the Right to Choose Freely, held at the Columbia Global Centers in Amman. Lila Abu Lughod, the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University, gave a presentation about choice and Muslim women. She noted that some writings misleadingly depict Muslim women as oppressed :  “By convincing readers that other cultures, especially Muslim cultures do not value freedom of choice, they produce this comfort fantasy that, in contrast, Western women do have choice…when the ideological loaded categories of choice and consent are applied to non-Western women in this way, they stigmatise these groups.”

choreography of robot-cars

The San Francisco Chronicle carried a piece on the multidisciplinary work going into developing self-driving cars including that of cultural anthropologist Melissa Cefkin, principal scientist and design anthropologist at the Nissan Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. She has studied folk dancers in Turkey, salespeople in Spain and Germany, and bus dispatchers in the United States. Her research has focused on how people express themselves through body movements and form their identities through workplace practices. She is now applying her ethnographic skills to solving the problem of how self-driving cars can communicate with people. She is quoted as saying: “what happens on the road is very much like an impromptu choreography…“Cars are profoundly intertwined with our lives…he increasingly autonomous future will reconfigure how that will feel. What will it mean for these vehicles to be good citizens in the world? How will they interact with everybody else on the road? That’s a job for social scientists to understand.”

anthropology connection between Ken Burns and the U.S.-Vietnam War:

An article in The Washington Post about the new television series on the U.S.-Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick points out how they and their colleagues had to confront their own memories and preconceptions about the war: “Burns, who was 11 when American ground troops landed in Vietnam in 1965, grew up feeling divided about the conflict. His father, Robert Burns Jr., taught in the anthropology department at the University of Michigan, where his colleague Marshall Sahlins eventually came up with the idea of the ‘teach-in.’ The wide-ranging forum on the war, held on the Michigan campus in March 1965, would become a model for similar events around the country. Burns’s father attended the teach-in, though Burns himself remembers little about it. Burns was preoccupied with his mother’s illness; just a month later, Lyla Burns died after a long struggle with breast cancer.”

take that anthro degree and…

…become a documentary filmmaker, social researcher, and social activist. Hermon Farahi is a multi-media artist, working in filmmaking, photography, and music production.  He has done research on undocumented sub-Saharan African refugees in Morocco;  the impact of continual US colonization and militarization on indigenous populations in to Guam and the Mariana Islands, Micronesia; and grassroots social justice movements in Washington, D.C. He has presented and published his research, films, and photographs at academic conferences, film festivals, photo exhibits, and with community-based programs. Farahi has B.A. in anthropology and ethnic studies from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and an M.A. in anthropology and a Masters Certificate from the Institute of Documentary Filmmaking at George Washington University.

become an epidemiologist. Loranne Stallones is Director of the Graduate Program in Public Health and professor of epidemiology at Colorado State University. Her research interests include relationships between pesticides and mental health, adolescent farm work, fatigue and injuries, pesticide exposures and traumatic injuries among women and men, farm work injuries among children, suicide among farmers, and preventing traumatic brain injuries and school playground related injuries. She has authored and co-authored over 150 refereed journal articles as well as several books and book chapters. Stallones has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from the University of California Santa Barbara, and an M.P.H. in community health and a Ph.D. from the School of Public Health at the University of Texas.

divine king burial in Guatemala

Newsweek and other media reported on archaeological excavation of the tomb of a fourth century divine king in Guatemala. The burial chamber, the oldest uncovered in the Maya city of Waka, was discovered through the work of the U.S.-Guatemalan El Perú-Waka’ Archaeological Project. Previous research at the site revealed six royal tombs and sacrificial offering burials dating to the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries. “The Classic Maya revered their divine rulers and treated them as living souls after death,” said research co-director David Freidel, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. “This king’s tomb helped to make the royal palace acropolis holy ground, a place of majesty…”

growth of Neanderthals

Several media reported on findings about childhood growth and development of Neanderthals based on the analysis of a Neanderthal boy’s skull found in the 49,000-year-old archeological site of El Sidron, Spain. The results suggest that he grew much like a modern boy would. The Guardian quotes co-author Luis Rios, member of the Paleoanthropology Group at Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales: “What we see in this Neanderthal is that the general pattern of growth is very similar to modern humans.” Adam Van Arsdale, associate professor of anthropology at Wellesley College who was not involved in the study, described the differences between Neanderthals and humans in the paper as “subtle.” Milford Wolpoff, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, agreed “that Neandertals may have had extended period of brain growth.” Findings are published in the journal Science.

words of hope from Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Providence Journal (Rhode Island) covered a talk by activist and primatologist Jane Goodall at the University of Rhode Island. Sounding a positive note, she offered her short list of hope: her first hope in young people, for the many she has worked with quickly move past despair to a resolve to make a difference. “You are my hope for the future…” Having witnessed the rapid return of animals and plants to areas restored after destruction — quarries, for example — Goodall also places her hope in the resilience of nature. More hope is found, Goodall said, in growing international environmental and peace movements whose message is amplified by social media: “Eventually the voice of the people will be so strong that politicians and business will have to listen.” Last, she places her hope in “the indomitable human spirit.” She cited Nelson Mandela, who emerged from years of imprisonment to forgive his captors and end apartheid, but “every single one of us,” Goodall said, has that same spirit.


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