anthro in the news 2/27/17

Multiculturalism. Source; True Tube U.K.
Multiculturalism. Source; True Tube U.K.

assault on multiculturalism

The Huffington Post published an article by Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Stoller is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post as well as a public lecturer and commentator on National Public Radio programs and the National Geographic Television Network. Stoller writes:

“There is an unmistakable assault on multiculturalism in America. Millions of Americans have come to believe that life was better in the past when multiculturalism was barely known and little practiced. Critics of multiculturalism suggest that it is a potential poison that could lead to social and cultural decline. Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a prominent critic of multiculturalism, provides a typical argument against it. ‘Multiculturalists argue,’ he wrote in a recent widely circulated op-ed, ‘that different cultural values are morally equivalent. That’s nonsense. Western culture and values are superior.’ [Blogger’s note: Money from the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors supports extremely conservative research and teaching, in economics especially, at George Mason University, including funding of its think tank, the Mercatus Center. Williams is John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, a position funded to some extent at least in the past by the conservative Olin Foundation. My kudos to universities across the U.S. that have refused such funding.]

cultural revival in New Zealand

A selection of Taonga pūoro from the collection of Horomona Horo. Source: Wikipedia
A selection of Taonga pūoro from the collection of Horomona Horo. Source: Wikipedia

New Hubs (New Zealand) reported on the appointment of Rob Thorne, an anthropologist and musician, the first in his field to be named as composer-in-residence at Victoria University. Thorne is a specialist in Taonga Puoro, Māori instruments, and, along with others, is helping to revive interest in their distinctive sound. Thorne says playing the distinctive sounds of Taonga Puoro has brought him closer to his culture: “The greatest thing that I may have learned about my own culture is that we were very deeply artist and musical.” Traditionally the instruments were used in entertainment, when planting crops, to sound a warning in warfare, and to communicate with the gods. [with audio].


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anthro in the news 1/20/17

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not “beautiful”

A letter to the editor by Charles Thompson appeared in The New York Times. He is professor of cultural anthropology and documentary studies at Duke University and author of Border Odyssey: Travels along the U.S.-Mexico Divide. His letter responds to an earlier article in The New York Times, Life Along the U.S.-Mexico Border:

I have traveled the roughly 2,000 miles of the border and have witnessed every section of the wall up close. I have visited with dozens of people along the way and crossed at every crossing. I have learned these truths: The border wall is ineffective except for killing the poorest migrants and wildlife. It is a colossal waste of money and does little to prevent violence or curtail drugs. There is nothing “beautiful” about it. Instead of keeping us safe, our wall sends a message to our southern allies that we have closed off all communication. Any talk of a new wall serves only to underline our lack of imagination for solving problems collaboratively. I reject this symbol for the land of the free.

anthropology day

anthroday_button-width-600The Huffington Post published a piece called “What Is This Anthropology Anyway?” by Therese Muranaka, a retired California State Parks archaeologist who taught anthropology part-time for many years:  In honor of Anthropology Day on February 16, help the Anthropology students in your life celebrate the inherent value of their discipline. For those of you with college children not majoring in Anthropology, suggest an Anthropology minor. Those of you able to do so, take a community college or continuing education Anthropology class. Nothing would be more broadening of your horizons. The world is a very, very big place.” 


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anthro in the news 2/13/17

Contemporary version of a blue-eyed doll Source: covermyfb
Contemporary version of a blue-eyed doll Source: covermyfb

dolls in international relations

The Japan Times published an op-ed by Hirokazu Miyazaki, professor of anthropology at Cornell University and director of its Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies: “One hundred years ago this month, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917. The law was intended to keep out broad categories of immigrants, including those who were illiterate, indigent or mentally ill. It also barred entry to people from wide swaths of Asia and the Pacific. Japanese and Filipinos were exempted, but seven years later President Warren Harding pushed through an even stiffer measure, the Immigration Act of 1924, which extended the restrictions to citizens of Japan. The Japanese government protested, as did many American citizens and civil society groups. When it became clear there was little chance of changing the minds of the president or Congress, a man named Sidney Gulick decided to turn his attention to the next generation.” And thus began the exchange of dolls between Japan and the U.S. 

reflection on racism in the U.S.

Caption: President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2016.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Caption: President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2016.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The latest piece on U.S. public radio by Barbara J. King, emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, is a reflection on her visit to the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. “As I walked along, I experienced moments of emotion. Yet I was also aware, acutely so, that for some people also visiting the museum that afternoon, a ‘highly personal moment’ would be rooted in experiences I could never truly fathom. For decades, I taught College of William and Mary students about race and racism from the point of view of anthropology — explaining that race is not a biologically meaningful category, and sharing the American Anthropological Association’s statement that ‘the racial’ worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth.” A white American, she concludes by commenting that teaching important facts is not the same as living them. 


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best cultural anthropology dissertations of 2016

Here are my 50 cultural anthropology dissertation selections for 2016. As in past years, my search was based on Dissertation Abstracts International, an electronic database available through my university library which consists of almost 100 percent U.S. dissertations. As always, I rely only on the abstract of each dissertation as the basis for my selection. I have taken the liberty of trimming long abstracts so that all entries are roughly the same length. My apologies to the authors for any possible offenses created by my editing.

The search terms I used reflect the focus of the anthropologyworks blog: food, resources, and livelihoods; power and politics; health; conflict and violence; population dynamics; stratification including race, class, gender, and age; activism, programs and policies; and the importance of cultural anthropology in describing and analyzing the complexity of these topics within particular and changing contexts – local, regional, and global. 

The selected dissertations of 2016 offer a rich array of topics and approaches. Health-related research predominates. Other recurrent subjects are politics and power, migration, rights, and the effects of policies and programs. Cities are a notably frequent site, while several studies are based on multi-sited research. 

Congratulations to writers of these 50 dissertation. Best wishes to you all.

See also the best cultural anthropology dissertations of 2009, 2010, 2011,20122013, 2014, and 2015.


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anthro in the news 2/6/17

Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons
Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons

trumped-up conflict with Iran

The Berkeley Daily Planet published an opinion piece by William Beeman, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In his view, “…the Trump administration appears to be renewing the possibility of violent confrontation with Iran using a questionable pretext—Iran’s testing of conventional missiles. No one in the U.S. government or the press seems to understand that Iranian ballistic missiles do not fall under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA (the ‘Iran Deal’). The JCPOA has nothing at all to do with conventional weapons, only nuclear technology. The current controversy over Iran’s missile testing has entirely to do with interpretations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (20 July 2015), which endorsed the JCPOA after it had been ratified. UNSC Resolution 2231 stated flatly that ALL of the previously existing UN sanctions against Iran were terminated…”

view of U.S. politics from Japan

World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons
World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons

The Japan news reported on a 2016 poll in the U.S. asking how much the United States should be involved in international disputes. Fifty-three percent of Democratic Party supporters responded that the United States should keep its current level of involvement. Republican Party supporters’ views were divided: 40 percent called for reduced involvement, 30 percent for the current level of involvement and 29 percent for increased involvement. The article includes commentary from Yasushi Watanabe of Keio University, who specializes in cultural anthropology and United States studies. He interprets the results as “indicative of the divide within the Republican Party between the interventionist mainstream and the isolationist Trump supporters.”


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the U.S. inauguration 2017 from the ground through foreign eyes

Source: Crystal H. Rie
The blue ticket for the 2017 Inauguration Source: Crystal H. Rie

On January 20th 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This was a historic moment for the U.S. in many different ways and depending on your political views you can judge the context around this inauguration, and the 2016 election as a whole, for yourself. But I am not here to do that. What I am here to do is to talk about what I observed on that fateful day. First, however, I would like to tell you a little bit about my background to illuminate the position which I was observing this event from.

I am a South Korean national who came to the United States to attend college in 2008, and I have alternated living in the U.S. and Korea since then. In 2015, I came to Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in Asian Studies. Although I live in the hub of politics and policy, my interests and passions diverge from what the city is typically known for. I am enthusiastic about studying the transformation of culture in historical contexts. As a result, this post does not intend to analyze politics or policies behind the inauguration; rather, this is my personal observations of the events of that day, from a foreigner’s perspective. Continue reading “the U.S. inauguration 2017 from the ground through foreign eyes”

anthro in the news 1/30/17

Paul Farmer, physician and medical anthropologist, at a Partners in Health clinic Source: Bending the Arc website
Paul Farmer, physician and medical anthropologist, at a Partners in Health clinic
Source: Bending the Arc website

documenting care and hope

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune the Sundance Film Festival premiered a documentary, called Bending the Arc, about Partners in Health (PIH). Co-founded by medical anthropologists Paul Farmer and Jim Yong Kim, PIH employs 18,000 people and brings health care to many  communities around the world.

fact checking

The Earth is Flat After All, by Ray. Flickr Creative Commons
The Earth is Flat After All, by Ray. Flickr Creative Commons

Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, contributed a piece to National Public Radio (U.S.) in which she discusses recent statements made and actions taken by the Trump team, providing a science fact check for each. Topics include climate change, vaccines and autism, human rights, and human evolution.


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