Award recognizes impact of anthropologist’s work on human organs trade

*This post was originally published on UC Berkeley’s News Center and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.

Guest post by Kathleen Maclay

UC Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes is shown here talking with Alberty Alfonso da Silva in the Recife, Brazil, slum he called home before and after being transported to South Africa to sell his kidney to a recipient flown there from New York City. Photo by John Maier.

UC Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes has been honored by the American Anthropological Association with its first ever Anthropology in Public Policy Award for her trailblazing work shedding light on the dark practice of human organ trafficking.

The award, recognizing anthropologists whose work has had a significant and positive influence on government decision-making, was announced at a recent American Anthropological Association conference in Chicago.
In 1999, Scheper-Hughes, director of UC Berkeley’s medical anthropology program, helped found the Berkeley Organs Watch project. It monitors the organ-transplant trade for abuses among the transnational networks that connect patients, transplant surgeons, brokers, medical facilities and live donors, who often live in the poorest parts of the world.

“When I began the Organs Watch project, it was heretical to suggest that human trafficking for organs was not just a hyperbolic metaphor of human exploitation, but was actually happening in many parts of the world,” Scheper-Hughes said in her acceptance remarks.

But the project generated international headlines, particularly as Scheper-Hughes has called for more accountability from the medical profession in the field of medical anthropology. She also has been asked to testify before national and international governmental and medical panels, and has helped law enforcement agencies uncover illicit organs trafficking around the globe.

In recent years, Scheper-Hughes has advised the European Union, the United Nations and the Human Trafficking Office of the World Health Organization. She has also testified before Congress, the Council of Europe and the British House of Lords. In addition, she has consulted on several documentary as well as commercial films exploring organ trafficking.

In accepting the award, the self-proclaimed “agent provocateur” acknowledged that the complex social issues that anthropologists explore often have no single, simple solution, and one answer can prompt a new problem.

“So, yes,” Scheper-Hughes said in her speech, “I did help interrupt kidney trafficking in Moldova, only to have the international brokers use my Organs Watch web site … to set up a robust scheme in illicit transplants using Afro-Brazilian men from the slums of Recife to service Israeli and European transplant tourists to South African hospitals … And, yes, I contributed to the ban on the use of executed prisoners in China as organ suppliers, only to learn that new organ suppliers could be found in China among rural village girls and Vietnamese immigrants.”

Scheper-Hughes said agent provocateurs must continue “to put their bodies, as well as their words, on the line, and work on behalf of communities and populations under siege…”

For more information:

A 2004 story on the UC Berkeley NewsCenter reported on Scheper-Hughes’ transplant investigations in South America and Africa.

A 2007 story posted by UC Berkeley’s Center for Latin America recounted a presentation by Scheper-Hughes on the “medically disappeared” of Argentina during that country’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s and ‘80s.

More than Just a Numbers Game: Bingo as a Tool against Disengagement among the Elderly in Adams County, Pennsylvania

Student post by Kaitlin Chiarelli

Introduction

My interview with Grace started out light-hearted, as she responded matter-of-factly when I asked her age, that she was exactly fifty-nine and three-quarters. When I asked her to explain why she played bingo, her tone became slightly melancholy. She told me she had moved to Fairfield around nine years before because her husband took a job with the local fire company, and he encouraged her to come to bingo one night when he was working as a volunteer. She was worried that she would not know anyone and would have difficulty making friends, but she quickly met Sue and Darcy, who were sitting next to her then and have continued to do so for the past nine years. The fire department and bingo played integral roles in her and her husband’s life, making it a common sphere of public interaction for them. Unfortunately, Grace’s husband had passed away less than two months before our conversation and she was still quite emotional, her voice quivering when she told me this. Grace still attends bingo because she believes that it “gives balance” to her life during this difficult time; she can rely on bingo as an opportunity to be with her friends, which allows for a break from the stresses of home life (Grace, interviewed 8 April 2013, Fairfield).

While not everyone who plays bingo has a story like Grace’s, her narrative does show some of the unique aspects of bingo which I believe make the game important in two Pennsylvania towns, Fairfield and Bonneauville, and in the lives of the players, many of whom are senior citizens. In small, rural towns with few opportunities for social interaction, the bingo games coordinated by the local fire and EMS organizations provide an ongoing and dependable opportunity for creating and maintaining a social community. Bingo brings the players, mainly the elderly, out of their isolated private spheres and into a stable and reliable public sphere together. Participation in bingo encourages social interaction, allows for the creation and maintenance of friendships, has positive physical and mental health benefits, and brings people together to improve their local community.

There is a distinct lack of attention paid to events like bingo in the anthropology of aging, since this field generally focuses on disconnection seen in events like retirement and death, instead of connection, seen on both a personal and community-wide level in events like bingo. The intrinsic disengagement theory, which posits that old age is a universal time for withdrawal, with three potential circumstances for such disengagement, has been an influential albeit controversial theory. Those scholars who support the first scenario of the intrinsic disengagement theory suggest that society pushes elderly people away and inhibits their ability and opportunities for social interaction as a way to remain engaged (Keith 1980:343). In this thesis, I use bingo to argue against the idea that the elderly choose to accept this disengagement; the other possible circumstances associated with this theory are explained and elaborated in detail on page four. My fieldwork demonstrates that elderly players make a significant effort to attend bingo and value the social connections and interactions this activity provides. Furthermore, I argue that we must nuance our understanding of the processes of disengagement and engagement by considering key contextual factors, including town structure, dependence on automobile use, and cultural values such as independence. I suggest a new approach to the study of social isolation and connection in elderly populations, which is particularly applicable to the elderly living in rural areas.

To begin, I provide a concise history of the anthropology of aging and the prominent theory of intrinsic disengagement in particular. Next, I use ethnographic fieldwork to detail bingo as an event and then to critique intrinsic disengagement, particularly on the issues of social isolation, mobility and American values. I conclude my paper with an analysis of other organizations in Fairfield and Bonneauville that provide opportunities for social interaction in order to establish what is unique about bingo and how it best meets the needs of the community and players, particularly in terms of combating social isolation.

Continue reading “More than Just a Numbers Game: Bingo as a Tool against Disengagement among the Elderly in Adams County, Pennsylvania”

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event: go.gwu.edu/LCWU

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.

Cybersecurity algorithms, techniques being developed through anthropology methods

This article is a repost from Newswise and is written by Kansas State University’s Greg Tammen.

Experts in anthropology and cybersecurity at Kansas State University are examining the unspoken knowledge shared by cybersecurity analysts as a way to develop new automated tools that help analysts strengthen their cyberdefenses.

Xinming “Simon” Ou, associate professor of computing and information sciences, and Mike Wesch, associate professor of anthropology, recently received nearly $700,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund a three-year project that takes an anthropological approach to cybersecurity. Data will be used to develop algorithms for improved cybersecurity.

Ou and Wesch, along with Sathya Chandran Sundaramurthy, India, and Yuping Li, China — both doctoral students in computing and information sciences — are working alongside analysts in the university’s office of information security and compliance. The researchers are using anthropological techniques to understand how analysts perform their job duties. These techniques help them learn tacit knowledge rather than traditional formal knowledge about the job duties and manpower requirements for security operations centers.

“Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that we have about something that we can’t verbalize,” Wesch said. “You cannot walk into a New Guinea village and just ask people what their culture is. You have to live it and experience it to understand it.”

Researchers will translate this tacit knowledge into algorithms that will speed up various tasks and job duties performed by the analysts. For example, it takes a professional analyst between five and six minutes to find the Internet Protocol address and physical location of a computer that has been compromised by viruses and malware. An algorithm could complete the process in five to six seconds.

“We’d like to automate the boring, repetitive part of the tasks that aren’t heavily reliant on human intelligence but are more about humans doing them because they do not have better tool support,” Ou said. “That would free analysts to concentrate on the more complex tasks, such as investigating more large-scale, sophisticated attacks and plugging potential security holes in a network.”

The lack of understanding of the tacit knowledge in cybersecurity may be why so few commercial and open-source support tools are available to help cybersecurity analysts understand an attack in detail, Ou said. Often the tool developers do not understand the job and time requirement of security analysis, which limits the ability for them to design useful algorithms for these tools. As a result, finding information such as how the attacker got into the system and what data was compromised and damaged is a very labor-intensive process.

“A network is bombarded with attacks all of the time, and many of those attacks themselves are automated,” Wesch said. “We’re trying to automate parts of the defense.”

In addition to streamlining the repetitive tasks, researchers said their findings about what is needed for comprehensive cybersecurity analysis in this unique collaboration will lead to better training and education for the field.

“We’re ultimately building something like a conceptual model of how cybersecurity actually works, not just how it should work from a researcher’s perspective,” Wesch said.

Anthropology and anthropological teaching in Kerala

Guest post by Dr. S. Gregory

The year 2012-13 marked a milestone in the History of Anthropology in Kerala for multiple reasons. Among many things, it marked the 25 years of PG teaching in Anthropology in Kerala and the Department of Anthropology had the unique privilege of organizing the Indian Anthropological Congress, the 10th Congress of the Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists (INCAA). The INCAA Congress, which was held as a full Congress once in three years and inter-Congresses in between, would henceforth be holding its full Congress every year under the name ‘Indian Anthropological Congress’, for which Kannur sets its beginning. The 2013 Congress held between 14 and 16 February 2013 aimed at taking a fresh look at the anthropological identities and approaches in the context of the emerging challenges and examines its potentiality for the future of the humankind. Hence, the focal Theme of the IAC 2013 was ‘Anthropology and the Future of Humankind. The theme of the Congress was chosen in the context of the dilemma Anthropology confronts between its professional commitment and the tendency to compromise its autonomy in order to erase out its anti-establishment stance, and hence of the urgency to examine the role of Anthropology vis-à-vis the future of humankind. The Congress attracted senior and young Anthropologists, from all over India, from the North, North East, East, West and South, with a total of about 250 participants, more than two third of them being from outside Kerala.

The inaugural function was presided over by the National President of INCAA, Prof. R.K. Mutatkar. Prof. A.P. Kuttikrishnan, the then Pro-Vice Chancellor of Kannur University inaugurated the Congress. Prof Gregory welcomed the gathering and provided a glimpse of the decade evolution of the Congress. Prof. PRG Mathur, the senior-most Anthropologist in Kerala, and Prof. B. Ananda Bhanu, the former Head of the Department of Anthropology were felicitated on the occasion by the President of INCAA, Prof. Mutatkar. This was followed by Prof. B.M. Das Memorial Oration by Prof D.K. Bhattacharya, from Delhi University, and was presided by Prof I.J.S. Bansal. The INCAA publications were released on the occasion. The academic exercise of the Congress started with the Round Table, which was moderated by Prof A.K. Danda, the Member-Secretary of INCAA. Fourteen eminent Anthropologists from all over India made deliberations on the conference theme: Anthropology and the Future of Humankind. It brought out a few significant concerns related to the academic and social situation which demands some methodological and analytical changes within anthropology as a discipline.

The second day of the Congress started with the Plenary Session. There were two speakers in the plenary session. Prof B.V. Sharma from Hyderabad Central University deliberated on ‘Culture and Development’ while Dr. Kannan P. Nambiar from George Washington University, Washington DC talked on the ‘Feminization of Migration and Human Rights’. This was followed by the S.C. Dube memorial lecture by Prof. Parasuram, Director of TISS, Mumbai and was presided by Prof Yogesh Atal. Prof Parasuram also released the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Department on the occasion, which provides a comprehensive picture about the Department and its overall profile.

The Scientific Sessions, which followed the SC Dube Memorial Lecture, involved six symposiums on varied themes, ranging from Ethnic Identity to sustainable Development, Health and Disease, Human Genetics, Growth and Developoment, Multiculturalism and Anthropological Identities and Approaches, and were held parallel in six different venues, each with three Technical Sessions. More than 80 papers had been deliberated in these sessions, followed by academic discussions. The Poster Session of the Congress had papers across all the themes of the Symposium. The cultural banquet offered by professional artists and by our own students, giving a few glimpses of Kerala Culture, enthralled the participants to its peak.

The third day started with a Special Interactive Session on Tribal Development, with the participation of the tribal activist, from Kerala Ms. C.K. Janu and moderated by Dr J.J. Pallath. The interaction was made lively and truly enriching and enlightening with the participation of Dr Jakka Parthasarathy, the former Director of the Tribal Research Center, Dr Francis Kulirani, the former Deputy Director of the Anthropological Survey of India and Shri Mohankumar, the former Director of KIRTADS. This was followed by the valedictory function which was presided over by the senior anthropologist, Dr. PRG Mathur. The Valedictory address was delivered by Prof Hussain Khan of Karnataka University. The winners of the Quiz program, conducted for the higher Secondary Anthropology students, which was one of the pre-Congress exercise, were honored with cash awards and memento.

The participants expressed a deep sense of appreciation for an excellent organization and arrangement as well as academic deliberations during the Congress. The Congress, organized under the aegis of INCAA, was made possible with the financial support from IGRMS, ICSSR, KIRTADS, Praxis India and from the University. The INCAA Kerala Chapter and the Faculty and students from the department had been the backbone in making the Congress a grand success. The extensive coverage given by the Press was unprecedented and provided the necessary boost to take Anthropology in Kerala to new heights. It had also provided an opportunity for the young anthropologists to get exposed to the wider canvas of Indian Anthropology.

II

Though the roots of anthropology in India could be traced back to the early phase of the colonial era, Anthropology as an Academic discipline had its beginning in India, only in 1920, with the starting of the Department of Anthropology at Calcutta University, with L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer from Kerala as one of the founding fathers of the Department. The 22nd Indian Science Congress held at Calcutta in 1935, under the Presidency of Dr J.H. Hutton, with the theme Anthropology and India, and the establishment of Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) in 1945, carving it out from the Zoological Survey of India are worth mentioning here.

In Kerala, the ethnological tradition of L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer was continued by his son L.A. Krishna Iyer, and carried forward further by his grandson L.K Balaratnam, the living continuity of this trio. Yet another doyen of Anthropology was Prof. A. Aiyappan, former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University. The line of Anthropological stalwarts in Kerala would be incomplete without the name of Prof. PRG Mathur. The Tribal Research and Training Institute (TR&TI) established in 1970 with Professor A. Aiyappan as its Founding Special Officer, later became a separate Department of the Government of Kerala and renamed as Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS) in 1979, under the Directorship of Professor PRG Mathur, to conduct research on socioeconomic status of tribes, and impart training to officials posted in tribal areas about the tribal culture. KIRTADS became a center for Anthropological doctoral Research as well at a time when there was no Anthropology Department in any of the Universities in Kerala. Prof. Mathur had also been instrumental in the establishment of the Ananthakrishna Iyer International Centre for Anthropological Studies (AICAS) in 1979, at Palakkad, with the main objective of promoting anthropological research in South India.

Continue reading “Anthropology and anthropological teaching in Kerala”

Cultural anthropology methods: Summer short courses in the U.S.

1. Now in its tenth year, the SCRM (Short Courses on Research Methods) program is for cultural anthropologists who already have the Ph.D. Two, five-day courses are offered during summer 2014 at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Statistics in Ethnographic Research (Instructors: Daniel Hruschka and David Nolin) July 28-August 1, 2014

Cultural Domain Analysis (Instructors: H. Russell Bernard and Rosalyn Negron) July 21-July 25, 2014

Apply HERE. Deadline March 1, 2014.

2. Now in its 19th year, the SIRD (Summer Institute on Research Design) is an intensive, three-week course for graduate students in cultural anthropology who are preparing their doctoral research proposals. The 2014 course runs from July 14-August 1, 2014 at the Duke University Marine Laboratory. Instructors: Jeffrey Johnson, Susan Weller, Amber Wutich, and H. Russell Bernard.

Apply HERE. Deadline March 1, 2014.

3. Now in its sixth year, the SIMA (Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology) is open to graduate students in cultural anthropology and related, interdisciplinary programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) who are interested in using museum collections as a data source and who are preparing for research careers. The course runs from June 2-July 18, 2014. Instructors: Candace Greene, Mary Jo Arnoldi, Joshua Bell, and Gwyneira Isaac, plus visiting lecturers Jason Jackson and Marit Munson.

Apply HERE. Deadline March 1, 2014.

5. Now in its tenth year, the WRMA (Workshops in Research Methods in Anthropology) program offers one-day workshops in conjunction with the national meetings of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

6. Now in its third year, the DCRM (Distance Courses in Research Methods in Anthropology) is open to upper division undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. Five courses are offered in summer 2014: Text Analysis, Geospatial Analysis, Network Analysis, Video Analysis, and Methods of Behavioral Observation. The development of these fee-based courses is supported by the National Science Foundation. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants.

Washington, D.C. event: Our Walls bear Witness – The Plight of Burma's Rohingya

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Burma, have long considered among the world’s most persecuted peoples.Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by the Burmese government, the 800,000 Rohingya lack basic rights, including the right to work, marry, and travel freely, and routinely suffer severe abuse.

Following violent attacks in 2012 that destroyed numerous Rohingya communities, more than 100,000 are now confined to displacement camps and segregated areas, where they continue to be subjected to violence including crimes against humanity.

When: November 4th, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Rubinstein Auditorium
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC

Featuring:
Greg Constantine, Photographer

Holly Atkinson, MD, Director of the Human Rights Program
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Past President, Physicians for Human Rights

Maung Tun Khin, President, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK)

The speakers will discuss the photographs and the stories of individuals whose lives have been affected by violence against the Rohingya and Muslims elsewhere in Burma.

Images of the Rohingya displaced in Burma and in exile taken by prize-winning photographer Greg Constantine will be projected each evening from November 4th to 8th on the Museum’s exterior walls on 15th Street SW (Raoul Wallenberg Place). This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Register and learn more here.