Iowa State Anthropologist Jill Pruetz describes the disturbing behavior following the death of a chimpanzee at her research site in Senegal. She and her colleagues captured what happened on video. Interview by Dave Olson. Video courtesy of Jill Pruetz
Shocking is one word Jill Pruetz uses to describe the behavior she witnessed after a chimp was killed at her research site in Fongoli, Senegal. The fact that chimps would kill a member of their own community is extremely rare – most aggression is between communities – but the abuse that followed was completely unexpected.
“It was very difficult and quite gruesome to watch,” said Pruetz, a professor of anthropology at Iowa State University. “I couldn’t initially make sense of what was happening, and I didn’t expect them to be so aggressive with the body.”
Pruetz has witnessed many things since establishing her research site in 2001. She was the first to document chimps using tools to hunt prey. However, what she observed in 2013 was different. Pruetz and her research team documented the chimps’ behavior after discovering the body of Foudouko, a former leader of the Fongoli community, who was exiled from the group for five years. As Pruetz explains in the video above, the chimps – many of which Pruetz suspects killed Foudouko – abused and cannibalized his body for nearly four hours. Continue reading “chimps’ behavior following death disturbing to ISU anthropologist”→
Quartz published an article about the changing use and meaning of the term tongzhi, “comrade,” in China. Originating in the early Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.E), the word tongzhi was a common form of address during China’s Communist Revolution of 1921-1949. The article quotes linguistic anthropologist Andrew Wong, associate professor at the University of California East Bay, who says that the term “signalled solidarity, equality, respect, and intimacy among the revolutionaries.” With the emergence of a market economy starting in 1978, the term’s popularity waned. In the late 1990s, Chinese gay people began to use tongzhi as a term of address, it is still in use today. Party rules published earlier in November outline stricter party governance, including the revival of the use of tongzhi to promote an atmosphere of social equality. In the meantime, complications will arise given the ongoing and widespread use of the term among gay people. [Blogger’s note: for related reading, see Tiantian Zheng’s ethnography, Tongzhi Living: Men Attracted to Men in Postsocialist China].
well worth revisiting
The Philadelphia Inquirer carried a review of a two-volume, edited set of works by Loren Eiseley. Eiseley, who died in 1977, was the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The Library of America and editor William Cronon have presented his work in Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos that “serves as a treasure trove of 20th-century science writing.” The review goes on to say that Eiseley had “a singular voice in American letters, one well worth revisiting.”
ABC News says relief efforts in Haiti are “ramping up” one week after Hurricane Mathew but Harvard University medical anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer is quoted as expressing concern that cholera may outstrip food needs: “I am pretty pessimistic about avoiding a major hunger problem in the coming months, and I am an optimist,” adding that a shortage of food coupled with a contaminated water supply, and a cholera outbreak could create a major humanitarian disaster…I saw a senior official in the health ministry and I’ve known him for 25 years…he said if you add all this up it could be worse than the earthquake.” Farmer, who is co-founder of Partners in Health, has been providing health care in Haiti since the hurricane struck.
Media are neglectful media as Haiti suffers
Mark Schuller, associate professor of cultural anthropology and NGO studies at Northern Illinois University, published an article in The Huffington Post pointing to the unimpressive media coverage of Hurricane Matthew’s impact in Haiti and noting the importance of media attention in securing much-needed aid. WORT radio (Madison, Wisconsin) provided a note about the UN extending its mandate in Haiti for an additional six months, including brief commentary from Schuller: “This hurricane shows for once and for all the dire importance of protecting the environmental resources and to be taking a look at climate change not just as climate change but as climate justice…The U.S., the World Bank and the United Nations do need to do better in terms of how we impose our will on places like Haiti.”Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/17/16”→
The recent French interventions in Libya and Mali, and the most recent one in the Central African Republic, raise the question of the very existence of the state on the continent according to Jean-Loup Amselle, an anthropologist and director of Studies at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris.
In an article in Worldcrunch, Anselle refers to classic studies by anthropologists that identified the existence in precolonial times of two types of societies: state societies represented by kingdoms and empires, and segmentary lineage societies, organized in tribes.
He states that the former’s characteristics are very different from those of the rational bureaucratic state, which one can observe nowadays in most developed countries.
For example, the Malian state machinery, like that of many other African countries, is “riddled by networks that feed on the range of resources available on the continent: mining and oil as well as international aid and drug trafficking.” The functioning of such networks is based on Marcel Mauss‘ theories of reciprocity and gift exchange, set out in his 1924 essay The Gift.
• G8 aid pledge for nutrition in developing countries
In June, the G8 Nutrition for Growth Summit pledged a landmark $4.15 billion to combat malnutrition in the developing world, the largest sum ever pledged to support nutrition. Nevertheless, a pledge is just a pledge, and a key step is to ensure the committed funds are realized. Then comes the implementation.
An article from Think Africa quotes Elizabeth Hull, a nutrition specialist and anthropology lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, as noting that the funding compact contains “a strong emphasis on private-sector principles such as value for money and so on … The approach promoted seems to be very ‘outcomes’ focused.”
[Blogger’s note: six months after the pledge of $4.15 billion, it appears that only a fraction of that amount is actually a secure commitment; and experts say that even the full pledge level is far short of what is needed to solve malnutrition in low income countries].
• “The thieving craft” redeemed
A review in the Australian of a new exhibit, “Yirrkala Drawings,” in Sydney praises the richness and beauty of art works displayed and provides some context of how they were collected.
Cultural anthropologist Ron Berndt conducted fieldwork in Arnhem Land, one of the five regions of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the early-mid twentieth century. His goal was the creation of a record of clan beliefs and the links between place and story-cycle. At the same time, he collected many drawings and marked down the drawings with numerals referring to expositions about them in his notebooks.
This is the first formal display of the large body of the drawings in an exhibition context, allowing for their full originality to be explored, and taken in. The principal scholar of Yolngu art history, Howard Morphy, professor of anthropology and director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University, offers an account of the works and their visual grammar in a catalog essay. Thus anthropology, that “thieving craft,” in this case, in some way, redeems itself by preserving and documenting art once taken away. Yirrkala Drawings is at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney until February 23, 2013.
• Breast cancer screening in Israel: opportunity or not?
In Israel, a push to screen for a breast cancer gene leaves many women conflicted, according to an article in The New York Times. Israel has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, and many scientists are advocating what may be the first national screening campaign to test women for cancer-causing genetic mutations that are common among Jews. But the tests mean that women have to choose between what they want to know, when they want to know it, and what to do with the information.
Jews of Ashkenazi, or central and eastern European, backgrounds, make up about half of the Jewish population in Israel and the vast majority of those in the U.S. They are much more likely to carry mutations that pose risks for breast and ovarian cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The debate about screening is economic — will the state cover the costs of testing — and ethnic — will only Ashkenazi Jews be routinely tested? Israel is a melting pot of both Arab citizens and Jews from all over the world, and only half of the country’s six million Jews are of Ashkenazi ancestry.
Moreover, even though the testing would be voluntary, women could feel pressured to participate, said Barbara A. Koenig, a professor of medical anthropology and bioethics at the University of California, San Francisco. “When you institute mass screening, you’re making a collective decision that this is a good thing.”
• Sharing amidst poverty in the U.S.
An article in The Los Angeles times described how L.A.’s close-knit Tongan community struggles with poverty while maintaining their strong cultural tradition of sharing. Statistics show half of Tongan Angelenos live in poverty. But, they say, a culture of sharing means “no Tongan is here to get rich”—because even the smallest thing is given.
Scholars believe the numbers of people in the Tongan diaspora is larger than the population of Tongans on the islands. The article quotes Cathy A. Small, a Northern Arizona University anthropology professor who has long studied Tongan communities. When visiting a classroom in Tonga a few years ago, children were told to write letters to their mothers in New Zealand, saying what they wanted for their birthdays. “Nobody found the assignment strange.”
The UN’s Making Cities Resilient campaign is calling for papers on the State of Disaster Risk Reduction at the Local Level to consider experience and actions related to effective DRR at the local level. Submission deadline: 15 November 2013
Papers can be submitted to five specific topics:
a) Local patterns of risks
b) Local actions on DRR
c) Central policies for enabling local DRR actions
Tom Franks and colleagues in the Department of Geography at King’s College, London, have written a Working Paper on “Evolving Outcomes of Water Governance Arrangements: Smallholder Irrigation on the Usangu Plains, Tanzania.” The paper reviews the development of water resources management over the past 40 years in the Kimani catchment of the Usangu plains in southwest Tanzania, showing how water management has changed over time. Experiences in the area show the importance of mapping the whole institutional landscape to ensure that physical infrastructure relates to it in order to ensure social equity among water users.
The Global Call for Climate Action is awarding Adopt a Negotiator (AaN) Fellowships to exceptional young people that we think possess the ability to effectively push their countries toward unlocking climate solutions nationally and internationally. Applications will be accepted through midnight September 3rd.
Several mainstream media sources discussed the findings of a comprehensive new assessment led by UNICEF about the practice of female genital cutting in Africa and the Middle East. The data indicate a gradual but significant decline in many countries.
Teenage girls are now less likely to have been cut than older women in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. In Egypt, for example, where more women have been cut than in any other nation, survey data showed that 81 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds had undergone the practice, compared with 96 percent of women in their late 40s.
Generational change appears to be playing an important role in the decline with the difference in Egypt especially marked: only a third of teenage girls who were surveyed thought it should continue, compared with almost two-thirds of older women.
Researchers say the progress in Kenya makes sense, given efforts there to stop female genital cutting starting in the early 1900s. But they were at a loss to explain why the rate has plunged in the Central African Republic, to 24 percent in 2010 from 43 percent in the mid-1990s. Concerning the findings about the Central African Republic, The New York Times quotes Bettina Shell-Duncan, a cultural anthropology professor at the University of Washington who was a consultant on the report: “We have no idea, not even a guess, noting that researchers need to study the causes of the decline there.
She says indigenous people have an important contribution to make to knowledge about climate change, and scientists should listen to them because they are very well informed about their local climate as well as the natural world. Their knowledge, she says, is not a “treasure” of data to be stored and used when wanted by others, but a living and evolving process: “It is important to understand that traditional wisdom is not something simply transmitted from generation to generation. It is alive, and traditional and indigenous peoples are continually producing new knowledge.”