chimps’ behavior following death disturbing to ISU anthropologist

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”

Anthro in the news 2/24/14

• Bolivia under water

As described by an article in the Christian Science Monitor, Bolivia is suffering from weeks of heavy rains that have caused rivers to swell, homes to flood, and crops to rot.

Bolivia map
Bolivia map/

More than 58,000 families have been affected in the past month, and 56 people are reported dead, but limited reporting from isolated communities could mean that these numbers are significantly higher.

The article quotes Matthew Schwartz, a doctoral student at the University of New Mexico, who works with the Tsimane, an indigenous group:

“As dire as the situation is for campesino and Tsimane communities close to San Borja, it’s really bleak for the further-out communities.”

Members of the University of New Mexico’s research team are currently at work in flood-affected areas, helping to deliver supplies and provide other support.

• Youthful trend in illegal U.S. border crossing

The Los Angeles Times reported 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.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/24/14”

Anthro in the news 9/30/13

El Paso, Texas by Robin Kanouse
El Paso, Texas. Flickr/Robin Kanouse

• Heavy toll at the U.S.-Mexico border

The Washington Post reported in the rising number of deaths of people attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. It mentioned the work of cultural anthropologist Lori Baker, a professor at Baylor University, who has lead a team to excavate unidentified immigrants’ graves.

• In South Africa, women burning to braai

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!

Blogger’s note: here are links to two amusing videos on YouTube spoofing braai gender rules and practices:
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/30/13”

Anthro in the news 9/16/13

• Battle for Ground Zero

Boston’s NPR reported on the political and emotional struggles over what the site of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City should represent.

Battle for Ground Zero
Battle for Ground Zero book cover.

In a new book, Battle For Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center, Harvard University cultural anthropologist Elizabeth Greenspan documents America’s most fought over public space.

She says that as the memorial was being designed, there was tension between commerce and remembrance: “This is one of the most valuable pieces of land in the world — it held the largest office complex in the country … But then you had all these other people who said this is a now historic piece of land where so many thousands of people were killed.”

The memorial includes One World Trade Center, which will be used as commercial space, and a memorial area with reflecting pools and the names of those who died. While some families are pleased with the design of the memorial plaza, others hoped that there would be artifacts from that day incorporated into the memorial.

“For many families, they felt like there needed to be more that remembered the day itself and the attacks, and not just the twin towers,” Greenspan said.

• On the future of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Bloomberg BusinessWeek interviewed cultural anthropologist David Graeber on the future of the Occupy Movement. Here is an extract:

Q: Were you disappointed that the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t accomplish more?
A: I’m personally convinced that if it were not for us, we might well have President Romney. When Romney was planning his campaign, being a Wall Street financier, a 1 Percenter, he thought that was a good thing. That whole 47 percent thing that hurt him so much was something the right wing came up with in response to our 99 percent.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/16/13”

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”

Anthro in the news 7/1/13

• DOMA and beyond: it’s complicated

The Los Angeles Times published an article by Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. She is quoted as saying: “One doesn’t have to go far afield to question the idea that marriage has always been defined the same way.”

The Huffington Post published an essay by Tom Boellstorff, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Irvine. He offers four points, the first of which echoes Joyce’s:

Defense of Marriage Act
January 10, 2009 Chicago protest of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Flickr/Kevin Zolkiewicz
  1. social scientists and historians have shown that many forms of marriage and kinship exist, and have existed, around the world, and heterosexual marriage itself takes many forms;
  2. the victory is bittersweet given the Supreme Court’s finding of a key element of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional;
  3. both the DOMA and Proposition 8 decisions were 5-4 rulings and this split represents divisions in society and suggests that heterosexism and homophobia will not disappear with these court rulings;
  4. finally, it is important to anticipate questions about what is “normal.”

• Structural violence and popular revolts

A Brazilian news source carried an article about the uprisings there and mentioned cultural anthropologists Paul Farmer, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, and Philippe Bourgois.

The article points to how social exclusion plays a role in fomenting protest and predicts that given structural limitations, the government, even if it wants to, cannot resolve the major issues on the table in the short term. [Blogger’s note: the article is in Portuguese; my thanks to my colleague, David Gow, for this synopsis].
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/1/13”

Anthro in the news 6/17/13

• Unexpected result in Iran’s presidential election

Presidential Election Map of Iran/Wikimedia Commons, Nima Farid.

For New America Media, William Beeman, professor of cultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Minnesota, commented on the recent presidential election in Iran: “Much of what transpired in Iran during the presidential election on Friday, June 14 (Flag Day in the U.S.), won by Hassan Rowhani should be familiar to American citizens: A candidate replacing a term-limited president contrasting himself with a former conservative government, campaigning on social and human rights issues along with a promise for an improved economy, combined with a split vote for his opposition that assured his victory by less than a one per-cent margin. Echoes of the American election in 2012 and many earlier elections are clearly present in Iran in 2013. Apparently Iranian and American voters are more alike than either group realizes.”

Paradoxical consequences of elections in Malaysia

In The Malaysia Chronicle, Clive Kessler analyzes the how, paradoxically, the election of a reduced Barisan Nasional presence and increased opposition numbers in parliament has amplified, not diminished, the power of the UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), specifically its power within the nation’s government and over the formation of national policy. He also examines the election campaign that yielded this paradoxical outcome. Kessler is emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of New South Wales.

• Studying abroad at home

Paula Hirschoff, two-time U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and M.A. in anthropology, published an article in The Chronicle for Higher Education on the value of student exchange programs within a country. She describes her positive experiences in a program which placed her in a traditionally black college in the U.S.

Investigation of unmarked graves in Florida delayed

DNA testing begins to further unravel the mystery of the unmarked graves at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys./ Tampa Bay News

According to several sources, including The Tampa Bay News, a request to dig up remains at the controversial Dozier School For Boys in Marianna, Florida, has been put on hold. Researchers at the University of South Florida requested an archaeological permit from the state at the end of May to excavate. Through ground penetrating radar, researchers earlier discovered the remains of close to 50 boys buried in unmarked graves there. The State Archaeologist sent a letter to USF researchers asking for more information before making a decision on granting the permit. Families of those believed to be buried there are frustrated by the delay. Despite the permit delay, forensic experts from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office proceeded with the next step for families, taking DNA samples of three relatives. Researchers are hoping to match the DNA with the remains at the reform school. USF Archaeologist Erin Kimmerle said they will  review the questions from the state archaeologist next week. Once the answers are received, it will be at least another two weeks before a decision about the permit is made. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/17/13”