anthro in the news 2/12/18

Le razza bovines. Credit: Alex Caputi/Wikimedia Commons

veganism and food taboos

The Guardian carried an article on how veganism may be shifting the categories of food in Western cultures. It refers to the thinking of British anthropologist Edmund Leach who: “…described how humans make categories of things in order to create social logic. Although the animal species around us form a continuum (of which we, Homo sapiens, are a part), we name, categorise, and then treat those animals differently according to separate logic that applies to each category. Where the distinctions are unclear, or transgressed, they’re troubling and become taboo. English people (Leach’s example from his 1964 paper) have a binary of edible-inedible. But also a tripartite categorisation: beyond SELF comes PET – LIVESTOCK – WILD ANIMAL. Pets get names, they share emotional moments with us and we definitely don’t eat them – they become a sacred category.” Food taboos are a longstanding and fertile area of research and thinking in sociocultural anthropology, and the analysis of possible changes in food taboos promises to keep anthropologists busy into the future.

a whole lot of networking going on

St Louis Public Radio reported on the Winter Olympic Games and how such games, as festivals that showcase athletic talent and provide sports entertainment, are more than just that. In a live radio program, a reporter talked to Susan Brownell, professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri at Saint Louis, who is attending the Olympics in South Korea and studying them.  She says: “…it’s a really interesting moment in Olympic history and maybe world history when this big mega-event has left the conventional western powers for the first time in its over 100-year-history for three Olympic Games.”  The 2018 Winter Olympics is the sixth Olympics Brownell will attend. She said that there are commonalities in the games over time, such as the street festivals and hospitality houses, which are buildings open to the public hosted by different nations. Commenting that the Olympics are a “global ritual” for celebrating humanity, she noted that tremendous amounts of global and internet coverage of the Olympics helps build shared experiences: “I’ve been interested in the ritual aspect of the Olympic Games ever since I was an undergraduate, just because there is this theory in anthropology that rituals build a sense of humanity and solidarity.” She will studying the hospitality houses in South Korea to see what goes on in the houses, where corporate sponsors and national Olympic committees have rooms to host VIPs and arrange meetings. She will also look at how host countries promote their own businesses during the games: “There’s actually a lot of very serious networking,” she said, particularly in the corporate world. “I feel that this is just a part of the growing integration of the global economy and the increasingly multinational nature of so many of the corporations in the world today.”

local grocery stores doing well 

The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania) reported on how small, independent grocery stores are succeeding in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania. The article includes comments from Clare Sammells, associate professor of anthropology at Bucknell University. A specialist in the anthropology of food, she says that the demand for all-natural, unprocessed foods comes from  increased anxiety. While Americans love food, they also fear that eating it could lead to health problems like obesity and cancer. She added that Americans are increasingly disconnected to their food: “The food industry has become increasingly industrialized…As we move away from food production, we grow nostalgic for it.” Sammells adds that local independent grocery stores, markets, and health food stores have done well in the Greater Susquehanna Valley:  “There are a lot of options in this area for people to form direct relationships with farmers.” 

London chef learns from food anthropologist

The Independent carried an interview with Michelin-starred London chef Andrew Wong. One question posed to him was about the key to the success of his first restaurant. Wong says:  I think a continual desire to learn and evolve has been key. I never stop exploring what’s new with Chinese cuisine, but also spend a lot of time exploring ancient Chinese history – which is what I’m working on at the moment with food anthropologist Mukta Das, to help develop some new dishes. I’m always reading and researching the country’s food scene, looking for ingredients I haven’t used before.”

law enforcement and human trafficking

The Idaho Statesman reported on how, in the U.S., victims of human trafficking do not seek help from law enforcement, and that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has added to the problem. The article quotes Denise Brennan, professor of anthropology at Georgetown University: “Before Trump, if a migrant was caught for speeding they might just get a ticket, now they’re calling in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)…That’s been carefully noted in these communities, and 3victims of exploitation are not going to go to those same law enforcement officers for help.”

shark anthropology magazine (India) carried an article about an anthropologist whose research brings him into direct contact with sharks: Raj Sekhar Aich says: “I am India’s only shark anthropologist, and possibly one of two or three in the world. For my fieldwork I had been based in 2016 for months in Bluff, the southernmost point of mainland New Zealand…As a shark anthropologist, I explore the life created in the intersection of humans and sharks, and challenge human exceptionalism in classical ethnographic investigation. Humans and sharks share a complex relationship, defined by cohabitation and, of late, conflict.” 

take that anthro degree and…

…work in health care. Tripp Craven became an emergency medical technician in 2001, and he has been working in medical clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices in North Carolina since then.  Now, he is gaining additional training in nursing. When Craven becomes a nurse in 2019, he says that he will be able to help more people in more ways. Craven has always been drawn to anatomy and biological anthropology but has also become interested in how people live with chronic illnesses. Craven has a B.A. in anthropology. 

blue-eyed, dark-skinned Briton ancestor

The Guardian and several other media reported on results from DNA analysis of the remains of so-called Cheddar Man, fossil remains from a site in England. Cheddar Man was a member of a population of nomadic hunters who thrived during the middle stone age, or Mesolithic age, about 10,000 years ago. Geneticists have published findings based on DNA analysis that the young man would have had black hair, blue eyes, and dark skin. Richard Bates of St. Andrews University is quoted:  “When we do more of this kind of deep genetics, on other ancient remains, we are going to find an incredible diversity among the people of this time.”

in memoriam

Robert McCormick Adams has died at the age of 92 years. Adams was a U.S. archaeologist and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1984 to 1994. He worked in both the Middle East and Mesoamerica. In scholarly circles, he is best known for his research in Iraq. His numerous books include The Evolution of Urban Society, Paths of Fire, Heartland of Cities and The Land behind Baghdad. In an American Antiquity article reviewing Adams’ work, Norman Yoffee wrote, “Few archaeologists have had the power to influence the course of their times as has Adams, nor to have done it so well.”


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