anthro in the news 6/11/18

The lights of Tucson. Credit: Bill Morrow/Flickr

climate-change migrants in the U.S.

The Arizona Daily Star reported on the trend of internal migration from coastal areas of California to parts of the U.S. southwest, with a focus on the city of Tucson. It notes that Arizona’s capacity for population growth has its limits due to, perhaps more than anything else, water shortages. The article quotes Thomas Sheridan, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona: “The Southwest, ever since the Second World War, has experienced this absolutely explosive urban growth, and that growth has been based on cheap water and cheap electricity…There’s no major new source of water on the horizon.”

proposed U.S. food labels are pro-GMO propaganda

The USDA’s options for what the labels might look like. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried a piece about proposed food labeling in the U.S. to indicate if it is a GMO item. Critics of the options say that they are confusing because they use the obscure term B.E. (biologically engineered) instead of the widely known term GMO. Further, the images convey a happy, positive message. The article quotes Glenn Stone, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. This fight, he says, is about “clashing visions of agriculture,” where people concerned about the practices of powerful corporations such as Monsanto should be able to easily choose not to purchase those products…”People who aren’t in a place where there’s good wi-fi won’t know if it’s a GMO, and people who don’t use smartphones won’t know if it’s a GMO and also people who are in a hurry won’t know if it’s a GMO.” The public has until July 3 to submit comments on the USDA’s proposal.

kids doing chores is a good thing

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried an update on the positive effects of children, even so-called toddlers, doing tasks. The article includes a comment that “Toddlers are very eager to be helpful” from David Lancy, emeritus professor of anthropology at Utah State University, who documented this universality in his new book, Anthropological Perspectives on Children as Helpers, Workers, Artisans, and Laborers. Overall, the article emphasizes work by psychologists and fails to mention the ground-breaking cross-cultural research conducted nearly 50 years ago by anthropologists Beatrice Whiting and John Whiting, published in their classic book, Children of Six Cultures.

bush foods are super foods

An article in The Border Mail (Albury Wodonga, Australia) points out that so-called smart foods or super foods are nothing new to indigenous peoples who have been eating and using healthy food products for thousands of years. John Carty, professor and head of anthropology at the Museum of South Australia, states that: “People felt the way about Aboriginal art that we do now about our native food. And in one generation, that perception has shifted so dramatically.” Aboriginal people were sustained by a thriving food culture, with research revealing bush foods as superior sources of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.

tracking Russian soccer fan “hooligans”

ITV (London) reported on concerns about Russian “hooligans” during the World Cup which runs from June 13 to July 16. The matches will spread through 11 cities, with the finals in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Concerns have been raised about possible violence from “ultra” groups of fans with a spotlight on Russian “hooligans.” The article includes comments by Julia Amatuni,of  the anthropology department at the European University in St Petersburg, who said the crackdown started even before Euro 2016, after Russia was awarded the World Cup in 2010. She adds: “The key hooligans have been located by the police and now are either in prison or avoiding the risk of provocatively active fighting on the streets of big cities.”

more to dancing thatn fun and mate-seeking

A video carried on BBC offered insights from Bronwyn Tarr, an evolutionary anthropologist in the department of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, about the significance of dancing in human evolution. She explains that when people dance with others, especially in full-body synchrony, they are rewarded with feel-good endorphins that change how they feel about themselves and those around them. Tarr refers to the effect as self-other merging.  Thus dancing might have helped human to survive as a species through enhancing sociality.

still fighting “Man the Hunter”

Homo erectus adult female model. Credit: Tim Evenson/Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Fifty years on in anthropology, “Man the Hunter” remains a sticky brand, one that’s hard to replace with the more accurate alternatives such as “Woman the Gatherer” and the “Grandmother Hypothesis.” Nevertheless, we must keep trying. National Public Radio (U.S.) carried a round-up of some recent thinking on women’s critical roles in early human evolution, spotlighting the research of biological anthropologist Kristen Hawkes, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah, who framed the “grandmother hypothesis” on the basis of her field research among the Hadza, foragers of northern Tanzania, and Sarah Hrdy a primatologist at the University of California at Davis, who studies connections between child-rearing and human evolution: “An ape that produced such costly, costly slow-maturing offspring as we have could not have evolved unless mothers had a lot of help.” First among these helpers, she thinks, would have been grandma. The NPR piece, however, completely overlooks the groundbreaking work of early feminist anthropologists such as Sally Slocum, whose 1975 essay, “Woman the Gatherer: The Male Bias in Anthropology” provided an enduring critique of the Man the Hunter model. Thank you to Sally Slocum, a pioneering “grandmother” of deconstructing a sexist model. And, while we are at it, let’s not forget Woman the Hunter.


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