anthro in the news 11/7/16

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-49-39-amnot all hair is equal   

BBC News reported on the research of social anthropologist Emma Tarlo tracing the global industry in human hair, especially wigs, weaves, and extensions. Tarlo, professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, is the author of Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair. While China is the biggest exporter and importer of human hair and harvests huge amounts from its own population, European hair is the most valuable because of its fine texture, variety of its colors, and relative scarcity. Tarlo is quoted as saying: “People who work in the industry are conscious of the fact Made in China is viewed as a negative label and market it in more glamorous ways instead.” [with audio]

welcome to the Drone Age9780262034678

Foreign Affairs published a review of five books on drone warfare including one by Hugh Gusterson,  professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. The reviewer refers to Drone as “gently critical” and a “thoughtful examination of the dilemmas this new weapon poses.”


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Anthro in the news 2/17/14

• Lessons learned about AIDs?

The Washington Post published an op-ed by medical anthropologist, health advocate, doctor, and professor at Harvard University, Paul Farmer.

Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer/Wikipedia

He asks whether, a decade after the global AIDS response began in earnest, the lessons learned will be sustained over time and used to fight other diseases. He notes the similarities between the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C infections today and AIDs in the 1990s.

Hepatitis C inflicts 170 million people worldwide, is the leading indication for liver transplant in the United States, and a common cause of liver failure around the world. For some, however, Hepatitis C is about to become curable thanks to the knowledge doctors and researchers gained fighting AIDs.

• Source your chocolate

Cultural anthropologist Mark Schuller, anthropology professor at Northern Illinois University, writes in The Huffington Post about where chocolate comes and options for the future. He highlights a documentary film, “Nothing Like Chocolate,” by sociologist Kum-Kum Bhavnani of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Noting that over 40 percent of the world’s chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire, the film documents the violence behind its harvest, including civil war and child labor. It reveals the growing consolidation of the chocolate industry by transnational agribusiness corporations like Nestle and Hershey’s who continue to buy up small producers.

On a more positive note, the film highlights an alternative to this process in the Grenada Chocolate Company: “Within 5 years, the co-operative was producing 9 to 10 tons of local organic chocolate. Nothing Like Chocolate looks at this revolutionary experiment, focusing on how solar power, appropriate technology and activism merge to create a business whose values are fairness, community, sustainability and high quality.”

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Anthro in the news 11/18/13

Tropical Cyclone Bingiza
Tropical Cyclone Bingiza, Feb. 13, 2011. Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

• Cyclone in Somalia: Does anybody really care?

A report from AllAfrica about the devastating cyclone in Somalia, which has left hundreds dead and many thousands in need of aid, said that the government of Puntland appealed for help from the international community, but response was not strong. This does not surprise Markus Höhne from the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Leipzig, who is doing research on Somalia. He said “Somalia is generally seen as a hopeless case that doesn’t affect us any more … The fate of the people who have been hit by disasters, natural or manmade, attracts little attention.” Instead, topics such as the terrorism and piracy that originate in Somalia sparks international interest.

• China newspaper says anthropologist’s opinion piece is “vile”

A Chinese government-backed newspaper criticized CNN for publishing an opinion piece disputing the Communist Party’s claims that Muslim Uighur extremists were behind the recent attack on Tiananmen: “CNN is way out of line this time,” the Global Times‘ editorial read, referring to the American news organization’s piece titled, “Tiananmen crash: Terrorism or cry of desperation?” written by Sean R. Roberts, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in the Turkic Uighur ethnic group. “It is of a vile nature to present such a view at the mainstream media,” the Global Times stated.

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Anthro in the news 8/12/13

• How long must we dream?

Bloomberg news reported on World Bank president Jim Young Kim’s dream: ending poverty. Or, ending extreme poverty. And by a certain date. A wonderful dream.

Carabayllo Peru
Carabayllo Peru. Flickr/Gaia Saviotti

The article zooms in on Kim, who:

once slept in his office and drove dusty roads to help his patients in a slum near Lima. When he returned to Carabayllo in Peru two decades later as World Bank president, a motorcade whisked him from a luxury hotel past welcome signs on banners and brick walls. The reunion in June, a year after the Harvard-trained physician took over the bank, was as much about the future for Kim as it was the past. In the 1990s, his Partners in Health organization helped Carabayllo patients suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project, relying on community health workers for the treatment, got a better cure rate than U.S. hospitals, was expanded in Peru and influenced other countries.

According to the article, there has been progress in the hills of Carabayllo; Kim can use 4G Internet and his mobile phone in areas where he once waited in line to make calls. But what motivated him in 1993 has not changed: “If we can show that even in these poor communities we can deliver, we could have a much, much broader impact … There’s no question that’s still what I am here to do.”

• Big mining and indigenous people in Australia

Marcia Langton
Marcia Langton/University of Melbourne

According to an article in The Guardian, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of the mining giant Fortescue Metals Group, says that he has delivered more $1 billion in contracts to indigenous companies and so now the government must provide training for Aboriginal workers to thrive in the newly created jobs.

At a company event with guests including the MP Ken Wyatt, indigenous academic and anthropologist Marcia Langton, and indigenous leader Noel Pearson, Forrest announced that the program had “smashed” its target six months ahead of schedule, and with most companies being above 50 percent Aboriginal ownership.

• Black is black, especially for adoptive dogs

In the U.S., at least, black dogs have a slimmer chance of adoption than lighter-colored dogs. And the same may be true for cats.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on color-based adoption practices in Bay Area animal shelters mentions the research of Amanda Leonard, who heads the Black Dog Research Studio in Maryland and whose anthropological study is perhaps the only — or one of the very few — scholarly works on the subject.

“Black dogs are usually portrayed as mean, threatening dogs,” says Leonard who earned a master’s in anthropology from George Washington University, with a thesis about the “black dog syndrome” in the U.S. based on her work in an animal shelter. She is attempting through her research to legitimize what shelter workers have long said is true and plans to earn a doctorate on the subject. “It’s a totally ingrained and significant part of our culture that we associate black with negative,” Leonard said in a phone interview.

[Blogger’s note: I am very pleased to see Amanda Leonard’s M.A. work get deserved recognition. She published a summary of her M.A. thesis findings in the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers].

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/12/13”

Love you dad, but…

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that the blogger doesn’t see much use in country-level data. But if that’s the only thing you have, and the topic is compelling, let’s see what it says.

Take a look at the findings from a Pew Research Center Report of 2006, with the unlikely but intriguing title “Gauging Family Intimacy: Dogs Edge Cats (Dads Trail Both). ” The report is based on telephone interviews with a sample of 3,014 adults in the United States. Questions posed to the respondents included: “Do you feel close to your cat, dog?” “Do you feel close to your mom, dad?”

Dogs are the paws-down winners in the closeness competition. Owners of dogs are the most likely (94 percent) to describe their relationship with their pet as “close.”


Dad and dog seem to be getting along in this photo (creative commons licensed Flickr content by Kim Scarborough), but don’t let that fool you. According to a recent report, they are rivals.

What do the same people say about feeling close to their parents? Answer: 87 percent say they feel close to mom, and 74 percent say they feel close to dad.

Final score (out of 100) on family intimacy based on the Pew 2006 survey:

    Dog: 94
    Mom: 87
    Cat: 84
    Dad: 74

Dads: What’s going on? Do you want to be a loser in this competition or what?

Maybe the survey just asked the wrong questions. Maybe the question should have been: Who do you feel is the most cool and detached member of your household? Can dad win on this one? Don’t think so. I’m betting on cats. Meow.

Happy father’s day out there!