A short film produced by Square, Inc. tells the story of a refugee family living in Knoxville, TN.
Yassin Falafel, as some people call him, runs a popular restaurant in downtown Knoxville. After fleeing the war in Syria, he and his family settled in East Tennessee. Initially without a work permit, Yassin began selling his sandwiches at the local mosque. With a little help from an imam at the mosque, Yassin opened his downtown store.
Yassin says that anyone who comes in his restaurant is family – from the fellow refugees he employs to those who have never tried falafel before.
Al Jazeera published an op-ed by Andrzej Mirga, anthropologist and chair of the Roma Education Fund, and a Roma from Poland. He argues that racism is the reason why Europeans fear refugees, not the failed integration of Roma into society. Muslims and Roma share the condition of being the most hated minorities in the region. A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that 64 percent of Hungarians hold unfavorable views of Roma and 72 percent have a negative opinion of Muslims. Mirga writes, “In Poland, my home country, these figures are 47 percent and 66 percent respectively, even though both groups together total just 40,000 in a country of close to 40 million, mostly white Catholics.” According to a report by the Polish National Prosecutor’s Office, hate crimes increased by 13 percent in the first half of 2016 in Poland, affecting primarily Muslims, but also Roma, Jews, and blacks.
land conflict in Mexico
An article in Reuters described the conflict between ranchers and Huichol Indians in Mexico over the ranchers’ intensive grazing and planting. Deforestation, and use of chemicals. It includes commentary from Paul Liffman, a research associate professor of anthropology at Rice University in Texas and Huichol expert:The conflict echoes the Standing Rock dispute in the U.S. state of North Dakota where Native American activists and supporters have demanded a halt to an oil pipeline project. He noted that indigenous groups have been making land claims more forcefully since a 1989 United Nations convention provided a legal framework.
The Los Angeles Timesreported on a rising trend of lone teenagers and even children crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. While the overall number of undocumented immigrants has slowed compared to five years ago, a new surge of immigration includes children and teenagers traveling through the rugged area into south Texas.
Up to 120 unaccompanied youths are arriving each day, a number that has tripled over the last five years. The young immigrants tell harrowing stories of being abused before and during their journeys, according to Susan Terrio, cultural anthropology professor at Georgetown University who interviewed 40 youths:
“They witnessed or survived robberies and fell victim to brutal attacks and sexual assaults. They outran or hid from federal police and border patrol agents. They struggled with hunger, illness, and exposure to the elements and saw fellow migrants lose limbs or die while jumping on or off cargo trains.”
Roberts notes that while the deaths are a tragedy, it is not clear that they are a representative of a serious terrorist threat to the Chinese state as is now being suggested by official sources. According to Chinese security organs, this act of driving a jeep into a crowd of people and setting it on fire was a “carefully planned, organized, and premeditated” terrorist attack carried out by a group of Uyghur Islamic extremists from Xinjiang Province.
Roberts continues to say that given the lack of transparency historically in the Chinese state’s conviction of Uyghurs on charges of political violence, “we may never know whether this characterization of Monday’s events is accurate.” Roberts is an associate professor and director of international development studies in the Elliott School of the George Washington University. He has done substantial fieldwork in China’s Xinjiang region and is presently writing a book on the Uyghurs of Kazakhstan.
• Interview with medical anthropologist Seth Holmes
Mother Jones carried an interview with medical anthropologist Seth Holmes of the University of California at Berkeley. Holmes recounts his year and a half among the people who harvest food for consumers in the U.S. in his book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. Questions address how he became interested in anthropology, in U.S. farm workers, as well as what it’s like to illegally cross the Mexico-U.S. border.
[Blogger’s note: I assigned Seth’s book in my fall seminar on Culture, Risk and Disaster. It got a thumbs up from all the students, and I will assign it again next year.]
September 24 is South Africa’s Heritage Day, a national holiday and a time when all people are supposed to come together and feel as one. A colloquial term for the day is National Braai Day, marking a connection to traditional meat grilling. Claudia Forster-Towne, lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Development Studies and Anthropology Department, published an opinion piece in Gender Links, asking for disruption of male dominance of the braai. She points to a spatial divide and the re-enactment of unequal gender roles. She demands the tongs!
The New York Times highlighted the work of Nicolas Janowski, a freelance photographer who was trained as an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. In recent years, he has traveled around the western part of the Amazon in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. One result of his ongoing project is a photographic essay called The Liquid Serpent, referring to an indigenous term for the river that flows through the heart of the Amazon. The title offers a glimpse into Janowski’s conception of the region as having magical and mystical qualities. He says in his introduction: “The Amazon is neither man nor animal; she is nature’s hybrid.”
The undercurrent driving the book is the very high rate of infant and child mortality at the time. Parents responded through delayed bonding until a child made it through the early years.
Fifty years later, fertility rates are down in Alto as are infant and child mortality rates. Scheper-Hughes writes: “…the bottom line is that women on the Alto today do not lose their infants. Children go to school rather than to the cane fields, and social cooperatives have taken the place of shadow economies. When mothers are sick or pregnant or a child is ill, they can go to the well-appointed health clinic supported by both state and national funds. There is a safety net, and it is wide, deep, and strong.”
Yet, now “The people of the Alto do Cruzeiro still face many problems. Drugs, gangs, and death squads have left their ugly mark. Homicides have returned with a vengeance, but they are diffuse and chaotic … One sees adolescents and young men of the shantytowns, who survived that dangerous first year of life, cut down by bullets and knives at the age of fifteen or seventeen by local gangs, strongmen, bandidos, and local police in almost equal measure.”
As Scheper-Hughes has written so compellingly for many decades, the “modernization” of life and death churns on, taking different shapes in different contexts. One wonders what the next fifty years will bring to the people of the Alto.
The University of South Florida News carried an article about ongoing research into the consequences of new Latino immigrants, African Americans and working class Whites coming face to face at work in the U.S. South and how to better bridge differences. The project is led by cultural anthropologist Angela Stuesse, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida. Here are some excerpts, with some paraphrasing, from the article:
Recent immigrants and people descended from earlier immigrants – whether voluntary or forced – often eye each other warily, sometimes finding themselves at odds. Making a connection can be as simple as knowing how to start a conversation – one that can become the basis for working together – rather than a fight. But as Stuesse has found, such conversations often don’t just happen. And if they do, they can be touchy. “Across cultures, knowing what not to say can be as important as knowing what to say and how to say it,” points out, and “Immigrants, too, may hold racial and other biases toward those they come into contact with. There’s a need to help groups understand each other. Ideally, they can work together and develop mutual respect.”
Stuesse’s research has produced her forthcoming book, Globalization ‘Southern Style, which describes the transformation of small-town Mississippi when Latino immigrants begin working and organizing alongside African Americans in the area’s chicken processing plants.
While working in Mississippi, Stuesse was a founding collaborator of the poultry worker center, MPOWER, where she drew upon her research to help facilitate structured dialogue and spaces for political education and cultural sharing among immigrant and U.S.-born poultry worker leaders.
She has also developed Intergroup Resources, a comprehensive new online resource center that is becoming a national network. The user-friendly Intergroup Resources website built and designed by Stuesse’s research team offers curricula, dialogue guides, educational materials and descriptions of the efforts of various groups.