anthro in the news 11/6/17

Credit: Pixabay

the casting couch

The Guardian published commentary by David Graeber, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, about his awakening to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the U.S.: “This is a very difficult column for me to write because it’s about my mother…Mom was a prodigy. Arriving in America at age 10, speaking not a word of English, she skipped so many grades she was in college by 16. Then she dropped out of college to help the family (it was the Depression) by getting a factory job sewing brassieres. The union had the crazy idea at that time to put on a musical comedy performed entirely by garment workers. The play (Pins and Needles) surprised everyone by becoming a smash hit on Broadway, with mom (then Ruth Rubinstein) as female lead…[she] was featured in Life, met FDR and Gypsy Rose Lee, and for three years hobnobbed with celebrities and was gossiped about in gossip columns. Then she went back to working in the factory again…When I later asked [why she left show business] she’d just say, “I lacked self-confidence.” But once I remember the phrase “casting couch,” came up and I asked her if such things had existed in her day. She threw her eyes up and said, “well, why do you think I never pursued a career in show business? Some of us were willing to sleep with producers. I wasn’t.” …In endless ways, the violence of powerful men plays havoc with our souls. It makes us complicit in acts of mutual destruction. It’s too late now for my mother. She died ten years ago…Let’s stop pretending these things can’t really be happening…

transgender health and social justice

Waria of Indonesia, 2015. Credit: Sharyn Davies/Flickr. No changes were made to this photo.

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried an article about the challenges that socially excluded transgender people, waria, in Indonesia face in accessing health care. It provides a profile of Sandeep Nanwani, a doctor from Indonesia who is a candidate for a master’s in global health delivery at Harvard University. As part of his graduate studies field work, Nanwani provides medical care to many   waria in Yogyakarta. The article quotes Byron Good, professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University, who says the young doctor’s commitment to social justice is rare even among global health physicians. Good compared him to medical anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer, who is known for his work providing health care to the rural poor in Haiti. “Sandeep has a remarkable commitment to the poor and to issues of social justice,” Good said. “It’s difficult to find physicians anywhere in the world like that.”

divorce rate variation in India

An article in The Hindu (India) described findings about state-by-state variation in reported marital divorces and separations in India. While rural-urban differences within states are not marked, those between regions are, with northern states having the lowest rates compared to states in the south and east. The article quotes Sreeparna Chattopadhyay, study co-author and faculty member in the School of Advanced Studies and Research of the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bengaluru, Karnataka: “In some of these States where rates are higher, patriarchal norms are less entrenched, women have greater workforce participation and support from their natal family — so the socio-economic penalty of divorce is lower.”  Among the northern states, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Bihar had the lowest rates of marriage dissolution.

still here: Monocan Indians of Virginia

Page from an 1862 manuscript, Smithsonian collections. credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Daily Press (Hampton, Virginia) reported on a talk in a lecture series at the Virginia Air and Space Center about Virginia Indian history, entitled Stone, Bone and Clay, given by anthropologist and poet Karenne Wood (Monacan). Wood is director of Virginia Indian Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in Charlottesville and research professor at the University of Virginia. According to Wood, the mainstream view of Virginia Indians basically covers Pocahontas and John Smith and by 1700 “we disappear — we become extinct or something…We were taught it was only great white men who did anything…And the names and the dates. That’s not what history is about — it’s about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. So many people of all colors, and women, have done extraordinary things, and we haven’t told those stories.”

take that anthro degree and…

…become a professional martial artist. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is a professional mixed martial artist and currently the Flyweight champion of the Bellator Fighting Championship. A pupil from Punahou High School, Honolulu, an establishment attended by President Barack Obama, from a middle class family, she seemed headed to become a teacher after college. In an article in The Telegraph, Macfarlane says that her journey to becoming a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter is as much a surprise to her as it is to friends and family: “I did my undergrad in Cultural Anthropology. I did my Masters in Liberal Studies with a focus on indigenous issues. It’s something I hold dear to my heart. I’m always working with indigenous people, natives, organisations. I still try to do that whenever I can, when I’m not in training.” So how did it happen? San Diego State is in the heartland of MMA, and, according to The Telegraph article, “She had wrestled a bit. But partied a lot more. Unhappy with getting out of shape, Macfarlane hit the gym. Hit it so hard, in fact, that those in MMA sat up and took notice, and encouraged and cajoled her to up her game. It was a no-brainer…” Macfarlane has a B.A. in cultural anthropology and an M.A. in liberal arts and sciences from San Diego State College.

…become a design researcher.  Loic Shorter is design director and principal user researcher with Orange, in the Paris area. Shorter’s work involves conducting user research studies (analytics, survey, and ethnography), building strategic design vision, contributing to anticipatory projects, and evaluating user tests, so far, in France, Ivory Coast, and Morocco. Shorter has a Master’s in international relations from the Université Panthéon Sorbonne and a Master’s in ethnology and ethnomethodology from the Université Denis Diderot (Paris VII). 

…work in business administration.  André Englert is commercial assistant at Vitamin Delta in Munich, having recently returned from a year working with Pagos Digitales Peruanos in Peru. Englehart has a B.A. in social anthropology from Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich, an M.A. in general management from Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, and an M.A. in business administration and management from the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Lima.   

13,000 year-old site in Alaska

Alaska Public Radio reported on the work of archaeologists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in excavating a site near the Delta River west of Fort Greely that was first inhabited by people some 13,000 years ago. “Ten different times people came to the site and laid material down,” said Ben Potter, professor of anthropology at UAF. “The earliest is around 13,000 years ago – so (they were) some of the earliest people to the continent.”

sourcing Hopewell copper

Hopewell copper falcon. credit: Wikimedia

An article in The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) reported about research on the source of 52 copper artifacts found at six Ohio Hopewell sites.The team includes Mark Hill, associate professor of anthropology at Ball State University; Kevin Nolan, director and senior associate at Ball State University; Mark Seeman, emeritus professor of anthropology at Kent State University; and Laure Dussubieux, laboratory scientist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. They compared the chemical signatures of the copper artifacts with the signatures of raw copper specimens collected from sources in the Lake Superior region and the southern Appalachian Mountains. They found that, as expected, the majority of the copper came from Lake Superior. But, surprisingly, 21 percent came from southern Appalachia.

highway revelations and collaboration

The Citizen-Tribune (Iowa) carried an article about how local officials, archaeologists, and historians are collaborating with local descendants of American Indians in order to recognize and preserve sites and artifacts that have recently been found in Little Sioux Valley near U.S. Highway 20. The sites date to 1,000 years ago. Preservation plans include an area dedicated to showing how indigenous Americans lived in the area. There have been some seminars in recent months on items found through the highway digging, and officials and experts are committed to undertaking “good consultation” with the local American Indian community. In September 2017, the Iowa Department of Transportation released a video on YouTube titled Landscapes that Shape Us as partial mitigation for damages incurred in the construction of Highway 20, part of the Memorandum of Agreement with local tribes.

modeling the Neanderthal demise

The Washington Post and other media reported on the results of a simulation study by evolutionary biologists that uses ecological and migration data to show that the Neanderthals could have died out simply because of the far greater numbers of Homo sapiens migrating into their regions, and not because of a selective advantage of Homo sapiens. The article includes a comment from Wil Roebroeks, professor of archaeology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, saying that this study fits with other research that aims to understand the Neanderthals’ demise without suggesting humans had an evolutionary leg up on our cousins.

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