Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!

It’s fascinating to see how certain holidays spread around the world, and how they are marked, celebrated, and “localized” in different countries and regions and among different groups. Valentine’s Day is clearly going global, but with many regional and local permutations. Some of those variations have to do with the very fact that Valentine’s Day is associated with love and romance and, let’s face it, sex. Here are some news bits about Valentine’s Day 2014 around the world.

Cupid. Flickr/Arwen Willemsen

Just wanting somebody to love:

In France, Internet dating rises before Valentine’s Day. According to an article in The Global Times, “The Internet is powering Cupid’s wings in France, with use of online dating sites soaring, according to matchmakers preparing to help singletons maximize their seduction opportunities this Valentine’s Day. Of the 18 million single people in France “one in two uses Internet dating,” said Jessica Delpirou, director in France of the Meetic dating website, which was launched in 2001 and recently taken over by the US website The run-up to St Valentine’s Day — before New Year resolutions are forgotten — is a particularly busy time. “

What’s Valentine’s Day all about?

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!”

Anthro in the news 12/30/13


Calgary Herald. Scott Platt, Getty Images.

  • E-cigarettes: good or bad?

As of the end of 2013, e-cigarettes are hot. According to an article in The Calgary Herald, one sign of the burgeoning popularity of e-cigarettes is that Internet searches for the products have grown exponentially in recent years. A study by U.S. researchers showed a several hundred-fold increase between 2008 and 2010 in searches for the devices over other smoking alternatives such as nicotine patches.

Richard Hurt, who runs the nicotine dependence center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests the expansion of the e-cigarette industry and market is harmful because it is turning back the clock on tobacco control.

Cultural anthropologist Kirsten Bell, in contrast, believes e-cigarettes deserve a chance. A professor at the University of British Columbia, Bell has researched the public health responses to the devices. She feels e-cigarettes aren’t being given a fair shot: “They were sort of being condemned without trial by the majority of people in mainstream tobacco control in public health…You have this sort of unquestioning extension of smoke-free legislation to cover e-cigarettes when of course an e-cigarette isn’t a cigarette. It’s not a combustible product.” Bell thinks a moralistic agenda is at play, equating nicotine use with smoking, even though the dangers of cigarettes relate to how they deliver nicotine, not the compound itself

Couple Snap a Selfie, Macedonia. Adam Jones, Ph.D. Wiki Commons.
  • The meaning in the selfie

The Philadelphia Inquirer carried an article on the selfie in which it referred to the research of archaeologist Dean Snow on Paleolithic handprints on cave walls. What’s the connection? The fact that women are more likely than men to post selfies today and that Snow’s analysis of the handprints indicates that the majority were made by women. The meaning: authenticate the event. [Blogger’s note: that still doesn’t explain the gender difference].

  • Faye Harrison and public engagement

In an article in The Huffington Post, Gina Ulysses of Wesleyan University describes the contributions of University of Florida anthropologist Faye V. Harrison to the ongoing conversations about the future of the university and the “value of a liberal education within a hostile market economy.” Ulysses conducted the interview with Harrison at the November meetings of the American Anthropological Association.

Faye Harrison. University of Florida, 2010.

Harrison’s three-decade long career has been marked by dedication to publicly-engaged work about people who produce and apply both academic and nonacademic knowledge. Her research agenda goes beyond the ivory tower, into what she calls “peripheralized” and “minoritized” areas, engaging people who are typically left out of processes of knowledge-making.

What’s next for Harrison? For one thing, she is co-organizing, with cultural anthropologist Yasuko Takezawa of Kyoto University, a three-session panel entitled “Engaging Race and Racism in the New Millennium: Exploring Visibilities and Invisibilities for the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences” for the intercongress in Chiba, Japan, that will be held in May 2014. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/30/13”

Article of note: Women’s education levels and sexual satisfaction in Iran

An open-access article in The International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, reports on findings from a study conducted in two cities of Iran with 270 married women aged 18-45 years.

International Journal of Women's Health and Reproduction Sciences
Journal cover

Responses were evaluated according to some established scales such as the Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women. The authors frame their study within the assumption that women’s sexual well-being is related to marital and family well-being and quality of life in general.

The authors point out that many studies in developed countries show a positive association between education and women’s well-being. In contrast, some studies in Iran have suggested that higher education is not clearly a positive factor in women’s psychological and sexual well-being. Findings from the study indicate that more education for women is not associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction and well-being.

Not to be too flippant, but as many studies have shown around the world, it’s difficult for women to “have it all.” Perhaps the studies from Iran indicate a complex ongoing transition in which women and men are juggling new roles and aspirations.

GW event: Prenatal sex selection — global patterns and a focus on South East Asia

The  Global Gender Program will host “Prenatal sex selection: global patterns and a focus on South East Asia”.

In this seminar Christophe Z Guilmoto, demographer and director of research at the Center for Population and Development (CEPED), Institute of Research for Development (IRD), Paris, will discuss current global patterns and trends relating to pre-natal sex selection, as well as the relationship between the practice and kinship structures in Vietnam and Indonesia.

When: October 9, 2013, 2:00-3:30pm

Where: Lindner Family Commons
1957 E Street NW
The Elliott School of International Affairs
Washington, DC 20052

To RSVP for this event:

Anthro in the news 8/19/13

• In Cairo: the Morsi camps

Supporter of President Mohamed Morsi
A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Aug. 12, 2013. VOA/Reuters

Early this week, Voice of America reported that supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi were defiantly remaining at their protest camps in Cairo, despite days of warnings that the government would soon move on the sites. The article quoted Saba Mahmood, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, who told VOA the interim government has not broken up the camps because the resulting bloodshed would be a “very serious political cost.”

But she says Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is facing bigger stakes than getting him back in office: “So there is that issue that if indeed they back down, they’re going to not just simply lose Morsi, but they’re going to lose even the basis — the political, social basis — they have built over the last 40 years.”

[Blogger’s note: since then, much blood has been shed and are yet to see what the political costs for the military government will be].

• A probable first in history of anthro: U.S. President fist-bumps anthropologist

While on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, according to the Boston Globe, U.S. President Obama played golf with World Bank President Jim Kim.

[Blogger’s note: Jim Kim, as most aw readers know, is not only the president of the World Bank but also a medical anthropologist, doctor, health advocate, and former university president].

President Barack Obama and World Bank President Jim Kim
President Barack Obama and World Bank President Jim Kim playing golf on Aug. 14, 2013. Darlene Superville/Associated Press

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/19/13”

Book note: Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico

Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico by Vania Smith-Oka. Vanderbilt University Press, 2013.

Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico book cover
Vanderbilt University Press
Mainstream Mexican views of indigenous women define them as problematic mothers. Development programs have included the goal of helping these women become “good mothers.” Economic incentives and conditional cash transfers are the vehicles for achieving this goal.

This book examines the dynamics among the various players – indigenous mothers, clinicians, and representatives of development programs. The women’s voices lead the reader to understand the structures of dependency that paradoxically bind indigenous women within a program that calls for their empowerment. The cash transfer program is Oportunidades, which enrolls more than a fifth of Mexico’s population. It expects mothers to become involved in their children’s lives at three nodes–health, nutrition, and education. If women do not comply with the standards of modern motherhood, they are dropped from the program and lose the bi-monthly cash payments.

Smith-Oka explores the everyday implementation of the program and its unintended consequences. The mothers are often berated by clinicians for having too many children (Smith-Oka provides background on the history of eugenics and population control in Mexico) and for other examples of their “backward” ways. One chapter focuses on the humor indigenous women use to cope with disrespectful comments. Ironically, this form of resistance allows the women to accept the situation that controls their behavior.

Row over corn rows hairstyle

By contributor Sean Carey

An 11 year-old African-Caribbean boy was refused entry to a Roman Catholic secondary school in North London in 2009 because he was wearing ‘corn rows’ (braided hair close to the scalp). Two years later, he has won a significant victory in the High Court.

Cornrow mohawk
Cornrow mohawk. Flickr/J Daniel Gonzalez.
The decision by St. Gregory’s Catholic Science College in Harrow to exclude him was ostensibly based on two reasons.

  1. His hair style contravened the school dress code. Boys are obliged to wear their hair in a military-style “short back and sides.”
  2. His hair style might encourage separatism, and possibly a “gang culture,” within the institution.

The judge ruled that the school’s decision was “unlawful” and encouraged “indirect discrimination” by not taking into account an individual’s cultural background and heritage.

“There are a number of Afro-Caribbeans for whom cutting their hair and wearing it in corn rows is a matter of their cultural background,” he said, “and can work against them on the basis of their ethnicity.”

Sewing in the braids. Flickr/Samantha Steele
Sewing in the braids. Flickr/Samantha Steele
The case is unusual in the U.K., although exceptions have been made in the case of male Sikhs. Because of their religious tradition of wearing turbans, they are exempt from wearing crash helmets while riding motorcycles and scooters.

But the new ruling on corn rows was based on secular customary behaviour — in this instance, family and a wider cultural tradition amongst some African-Caribbeans (and Black Africans).

A spokesperson for St. Gregory’s said that it is “naturally disappointed” (press release PDF) with the ruling and is considering taking the case to the Court of Appeal.