anthro in the news 4/9/18

Plate scraping. Credit: jbloom/Flickr

reducing food waste

Tri-States Public Radio (U.S.) reported on how the Food Recovery Network aims to reduce food wasted in college cafeterias. Food Recovery Network unites students on college campuses to fight food waste and hunger by recovering perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from their campuses and communities and donating it to people in need. The group delivers cooked but unserved food from the kitchen to local nonprofits, amounting to more than 13,000 pounds of food last year. Food waste is, however, not just a problem in college cafeterias. The article quotes Heather McIlvaine-Newsad, professor of anthropology at Western Illinois University, who said food waste is a global issue. It also contributes to global warming because discarded food from kitchens or grocery stores produces methane when it reaches landfills, and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. McIlvaine-Newsad noted that, at the household level, people can decrease the amount of food they waste: “If you go to a little more effort of planning your meals before going to the grocery store and buying exactly what you need, chances are you’re going to have less left on your plate after you finish.” [Blogger’s note: And let’s not forget composting]

culture and Irish literature

The Irish Times carried an article about a new book by Helena Wulff, professor of social anthropology at Stockholm University, about the culture of Irish literature and the Irish literary scene. The reviewer writes: “The patronising hauteur once maintained by anthropologists has long since been dislodged. In Wulff’s work, it is replaced by partisan but at times flinty commentary. In carrying out her fieldwork, she made friends, moreover, with many of the authors she dissects. Dinner party discussions as well as formal interviews form the basis of her analysis. As she admits, there is a fundamental kinship between authors and anthropologists; examining Irish writers involves ‘studying sideways’, making sense of one’s peers. But this closeness does not prevent her from grappling with besetting but seemingly jaded debates. Foremost among these is the question as to whether the term Irish writer carries any validity.”

dumpling complexity

Steamed dumplings (shu mai). Credit: America’s Test Kitchen

An article from SuPChina about the complexity of Chinese dumplings quotes Gene Anderson, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California Riverside and author of The Food of China: “There is a vast number of Chinese dumplings — at least three dozen canonical ones…I’ve lost count!”

hamburgers: masculine and violent

For National Public Radio (Illinois) Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at The College of William and Mary, reviewed a new, short book on burgers, including meat burgers and meatless burgers. She writes: “Consider this list of names for hamburgers that are now, or have been, on the market: Thickburger, Whopper, Big Mac, Big Boy, Chubby Boy, Beefy Boy, Super Boy. Notice a pattern there? Writer Carol J. Adams does. This list comes from her book Burger…As the hamburger business gradually grew over time, Adams explains, so did the size of the hamburger — and the gender associations…Adams approaches her topic as an animal rights advocate as well as a feminist. She reminds us what the  ‘everyday object’ of a hamburger really is: ‘The burger — minced, macerated, ground — is the renamed, reshaped food product furthest away from the animal.’ In this way, taking into account the lives of cows, as well as women, Adams convincingly explores the ‘violence at the heart of the hamburger.’

take that anthro degree and…

…become a researcher and social activist. Emile Schepers is a longtime civil and immigrant rights activist, now writing from northern Virginia. He has worked in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966 and is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, and other issues. Schepers has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University.

…become an herbalist and writer. Lisa M. Rose is an herbalist, forager, and author. An expert at using natural resources to make food and herbal remedies, she has been exploring the outdoors since she was a young girl living in Michigan. But it was not until college that Rose realized her passion for foraging: “It was during university that I studied anthropology and the rise of agriculture in the Neolithic age, which solidified my love of food systems and ethnobotany. It’s been a passion of my life ever since, a calling even…Eating foods from the wild binds me to where I live: the lakes, rivers, animals, smells, sights, and sounds. Ingesting bits of the land make the place literally a part of you…I think foraging wild foods is a skill that should be accessible to everyone, not an exclusive trend that is just featured in high-end markets. So, without getting into food justice issues, I like to make sure everyday people know how foraging and preservation can be tools to extend their family’s food budget and be healthful, too.” Rose has a B.A. in anthropology and an M.A. in public administration from Grand Valley State University.

long-awaited repatriation

USA Today reported on the return to Mexico of two Mesoamerican busts that had been missing since the 1980s. German authorities found the wooden pieces in 2008, when they seized them from an artifacts dealer. In a ceremony in Munich, German authorities returned them. The busts are from the Olmec civilization and are dated to around 1,200 B.C.E. Stolen from their excavation site, they eventually ended up in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection. Maria Villarreal of Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology said that the return of the ancient pieces was important for her country: “The recovery is very significant, since Olmec culture represents one of the first civilizations in ancient Mexico and only 13 pieces exist with the same characteristics.” Mexican archaeologists believe that the Olmec people had wrapped all 15 pieces in a fiber-like material before burying them at El Manati. The find consisted of the two recovered busts, axes, knives made of stone, and wooden containers. The archaeologists believe that the theft of the two busts could have occurred shortly before the excavation that uncovered the remaining 13 pieces. The busts will eventually be exhibited at the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology.

modern humans out of Africa: follow the inner ear

United Press International reported on how the human inner ear changed as early modern humans migrated out of Africa. The article quotes Marcia Ponce de León, an anthropologist at the University of Zurich: “This typically human variation pattern is also known from comparative genetic data…It shows that all humans are very closely related and have their roots in Africa.” Researchers also found that the further away a population was from South Africa, the more likely the population’s bony labyrinth differs from a South African bony labyrinth. The pattern mirrors the relationship discovered between genetic and geographical differences identified by previous genomic surveys. Despite the important role the bony labyrinth plays in assisting balance and hearing, human evolution has allowed for a surprisingly large amount of variety inside the ear. “This is probably due to random changes in the genetic material,” said Christoph Zollikofer, professor of anthropology at the University of Zurich. “Such changes may have few or no functional consequences, but the associated structural changes provide a record of human dispersal and evolution history.” The study is published in the journal PNAS.



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