anthro in the news 6/18/18

Tape magic. Credit: frankieleon/Flickr

a bullshit job might actually be important

An article in The Washington Post connected sociocultural anthropologist David Graeber’s latest book, Bullshit Jobs, with a Politico story about two former “records management analysts” in the White House whose $65,000-a-year jobs entailed preserving the president’s memos, letters, emails and papers for the National Archives. Under President Trump, part of their job became Scotch-taping papers back together that Trump had torn into pieces. The story went viral, and one Twitter user noted the Scotch-taping duties were an unusual but apt example of “bullshit jobs.” [Blogger’s note: Scoth-taping torn Trump documents may actually be an important job and not a bullshit job, sadly, because it may contribute to future interpretation of important world issues by preserving information that would otherwise have been lost to history].

HAU in transition

Logo of HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.

Open-access devotees in anthropology had high hopes for HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory upon its launch in 2011. The idea behind HAU, named after the concept of “hau” described in Marcel Mauss’s The Gift, was intended to shake up academic publishing’s subscription model and elevate ethnography. Now, according to this source, the free, independent “gift” of a publication is moving to a modified subscription model as part of an agreement with the University of Chicago Press. While HAU’s Board of Trustees says the move is due to the publication’s growth, current and former journal staffers are blaming the broken free-access promise on what they describe as failed and even abusive leadership.

more than a housekeeper

Sixth Tone (Shanghai) reported on the high demand from the well-off in China for women from the Philippines as housekeepers. Wealthy Chinese who seek out Filipinas for their English skills, says Shen Haimei, professor of anthropology at Yunnan Minzu University. “The Filipina ayi’s abilities are considered better than those of the local Chinese ayi.”

going to the dogs

The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina) reported on a course on “Canine Cultures” taught by Margaret Wiener, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The course explores dog-human relationships. The article quotes Wiener as saying: “What sociocultural anthropology is about is making the strange familiar and the familiar strange…I can’t think of anything more familiar than the dog.” She points to two common misconceptions about dogs: all dogs are pets and all dogs belong to breeds. In fact, the majority of the world’s dogs are not pets, but free-roaming dogs, and , second, although people tend to identify dogs by breed, free-roaming dogs defy such labels.

forensic anthropology and the U.S.-North Korea agreement

Forbes magazine published commentary by Kristina Killgrove, biological anthropologist and science communicator. She writes about the meeting of U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un and how, of the four main points in their stated agreement, the last one is relevant to forensic anthropology. It notes that “The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.” While this is in keeping with Rule 114 of the post-WWII Geneva Convention International Humanitarian Law, which states that “parties to the conflict must endeavour to facilitate the return of the remains of the deceased upon request of the party to which they belong or upon the request of their next of kin,” the poor relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has meant that as many as 5,300 bodies of American GIs who went missing in North Korea have not been recovered or repatriated.

tracking early tobacco use 

from the article

The Cherokee One Feather (North Carolina) carried an article about research into the use of tobacco that has yielded findings including dating the practice to around 4,000 years ago, about 1,500 years older than previously thought. The research was led by Stephen B. Carmody, assistant professor of anthropology at Troy University (Alabama). Carmody is quoted as saying: “For the past eight or nine years, I have been exploring pipe use, pipe-smoked plants, and the use of tobacco here in the eastern woodlands of North America…Until recently, the earliest evidence for the use of tobacco was discovered in a pipe that was approximately 2,500 years old, dating to what we refer to as the Early Woodland Period…One of my great interests has always been the disconnect between this evidence and the appearance of pipes in the archaeological record much earlier. Recently, myself and a group of researchers tested a pipe that is much older, dating to the Late Archaic Period, and it tested positive for nicotine. This find pushes tobacco use back almost 1,500 years and into a time period when we see people first starting to domesticate other plants.”


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