The article quotes Nancy Khalil, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at Harvard: Years ago, she remembered “trying to explain who we really are, in these really anxious, tense meetings” with Jewish leaders, who were then trying to reconcile their desire for better interfaith relations with their communities’ concerns about a mosque founder’s anti-Semitic statements and alleged extremist ties.
“It was an unbelievable moment for me, and it was really indicative of the type of relationships that we now have across institutions and across communities,” Khalil said. “Because it wasn’t just the leaders being welcoming … It was everybody in that temple being welcoming. And that Muslims were comfortable staying there and mingling afterwards, that was telling.”
• U.S. evangelical churches reach out to save minds as well as souls
In an op-ed in The New Times, Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University professor of cultural anthropology at Stanford University, writes about some movement in U.S. evangelical churches moving into the area of mental illness.
She notes the pastor Rick Warren, whose son committed suicide one year ago after struggling with depression. Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of the nation’s largest evangelical churches, teamed up with his local Roman Catholic Diocese and the National Alliance on Mental Illness for an event that announced a new initiative to involve the church in the care of serious mental illness.
According to Luhrmann, the churches are not trying to supplant traditional mental health care but instead complement it: “When someone asks, Should I take medication or pray?” one speaker remarked, “I say, ‘yes.’”
Members of the churches think there are not enough services available. Further, many people do not turn to the services that exist because of the social stigma. [Blogger’s note: In other words: all hands on deck to help fight mental health problems. And heads up to the health care system to do more and do better work and try to address the stigma problem.]
KPBS radio (San Diego) interviewed medical anthropologist and health activist Paul Farmer about how to improve health care around the world.
Farmer talked about how to ensure equal access to health care through smart aid and the need to avoid what he calls “stupid deaths.” He comments on the “equity approach” in responding to a question about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide.
He also addresses tough questions about HIV/AIDs and how to help the poorest people.
• Jim Kim: On leadership and cholera
The Washington Post carried a brief interview (embedded below) with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a medical anthropologist and physician.
Kim discusses leadership and the need to develop a thick skin, in some areas, and openness in others.
During the April 12 meetings of the World Bank, Kim called for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.
The Huffington Post carried an article marking World TB Day and this year’s focus on finding and treating the 3 million people with active TB who are missed by public health systems.
It presents responses from Paul Farmer — medical anthropology professor, doctor, and health policy advocate — to several questions including why he started working on TB, the specific challenges in working on TB, and more.
• Paul Farmer’s latest book
The National Catholic Reporter included a review of Farmer’s latest book, In the Company of the Poor, a collection of writings and an interview transcript with Farmer and Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Notre Dame professor who is considered to be the founder of liberation theology.
“In a particularly poignant section, Farmer recalls gathering in Peru for a conference ambitiously titled ‘The New World Order and the Health of the Poor.’ He [Farmer] and his colleagues learned directly from the experiences of the poor, a key hermeneutical approach for liberation theology, and they came up with a model of accompaniment, or pragmatic solidarity. Farmer’s works are cerebral but captivating and pay tribute to the ‘disciplined humility’ and hopeful praxis of Gutiérrez’s intellectual and pastoral accomplishments.”
• “Tender mercies” say much about a society
Sarah Wagner, cultural anthropology professor at the George Washington University, published an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about U.S. scientific practices in accounting for war dead in the past century, especially MIAs (those missing in action).
She argues that many complexities involved need to be taken into account in order to serve the relatives: “We as a public need to understand more fully the scientific work and its costs and judge for ourselves if those tender mercies reflect the values of this nation. The missing, unknown and yet unidentified deserve that much.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/31/14”→
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.”
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.
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 match.com. The run-up to St Valentine’s Day — before New Year resolutions are forgotten — is a particularly busy time. “
US Department of Homeland Security, US Border Patrol.
US-Mexico Border Patrol agents need training in every-day police skills
USA Today reported on the increasing number of cases nationwide in which Border Patrol agents back up local police or perform other police duties, such as serving warrants or responding to domestic disputes. Sometimes incidents turn deadly. Some critics say they aren’t adequately trained for this work. A report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released in September found that many Border Patrol agents don’t understand their own policies on when to use force. The report also said trainees who leave the Border Patrol Academy “are not fully prepared for possible real-life situations they might encounter.”
The article quoted Josiah Heyman, a cultural anthropology professor at the University of Texas-El Paso, who has studied the border for 30 years, “Border Patrol agents are not adequately trained to solve problems with words,” he said. “They don’t have these every-day police skills.”
“Life in India humbles you”
The Hindu carried an article highlighting the work of cultural anthropologist Assa Doron. The Hindu caught Doron while he was vacationing in Kerala with his family, taking a break from his new book on garbage and waste disposal systems in India, co-authored with Robin Jeffrey. They are tracing the issue from the Mughal times, to the era when the British ruled India, to the present-day.
Earlier, Doron co-authored Cellphone Nation, also with Jeffrey. Doron’s book, Life of the Ganga: Boatmen and The Ritual Economy, is a study of the boatmen of the Ganga and their multi-layered, multi-hued relationship with the river and the people. He is working on an anthology, a collection of works on the Ganga, including poems, essays and notes written by the likes of Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, and also translations of poems in Hindi on the river. Doron has also edited Gender and Masculinities: Histories, Texts and Practices in India and Sri Lanka. It includes chapters on the idea of masculinity, tracing it in history, literature, and development.
When asked: what has India taught him over the years, he responded, “Never take anything for granted. Life in India humbles you and fascinates you.”
Interview with David Kertzer
In an interview with The Tablet, cultural anthropologist and university professor at Brown University, David Kertzer, discusses the impact the 19th century kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara had on both Italian and Jewish history. Renewed interest in the case is prompted by the Sotheby’s sale of the recently discovered painting, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. The painting, by 19th-century German-Jewish painter Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, depicts Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old Italian Jewish boy seized by church authorities from his family’s home in Bologna, based on a rumor that he had been baptized by the family’s illiterate gentile servant girl. If baptized, the boy would have to be considered a Catholic in the eyes of the church and would no longer be allowed to remain in the home of his Jewish family. Despite the family’s desperate pleas and protestations, Edgardo was brought to a monastery in Rome, taken in by the pope, and raised as a Catholic. When he grew up, he became a priest.
In 1997, Kertzer published a book on the Mortara case, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. A finalist for the National Book Award, it was adapted into an opera and a play. A feature film is now in the works. The interview includes questions about the painting itself, its historical context, where it should reside, and what it means today.
Kertzer has spent much of his academic career researching Catholic Church-Jewish relations, the role of religion in politics, and the formation of political identities. His 2001 book, The Popes against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Antisemitism, has been translated into nine languages. His forthcoming publication, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, the result of research conducted in the newly opened Vatican archives, will come out next month.
• Violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada: stop it
Canada paused on Friday to remember the 14 young Montreal women who were murdered by a misogynistic madman. As part of the tribute, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition unveiled a public art display of shoes in the square at City Hall to illustrate the lifetime loss of girls and women who are fatal victims of violence, often domestic abuse that forces them out onto the streets.
An article in The Toronto Star quoted Marlene McKay, a Métis anthropologist who has studied marginalized aboriginal women as well as the “broken women from Saskatoon’s 20th Street.” She said that history has inflicted so much pain and lowered the self-worth of Canada’s aboriginal women that the fact hundreds are missing has become little more than a sociological footnote. Feminism, she says, is still pretty much an F-word in indigenous culture: “We are just entering that conversation.”
• Belize in the news
The Huffington Post carried an interview with Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, Mayanist, tourism lecturer at a junior college, and one of Belize’s top tour guides. Awe shares facts and ideas about Belize’s history, culture, ecotourism, economy and sustainable development.
• 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.”
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.]
The New York Times reported on what is apparently growing discrimination in China against Uighurs (or Uyghurs), who live mainly in the northwestern part of the country and are Muslim. The article refers to Beijing’s “strike hard” internal security approach and rapid economic development, both of which increase resentment among Uighurs, who say the best jobs go to newly arrived Han.
Sean Roberts, cultural anthropologist and professor of international development studies in the Elliott School at the George Washington University, is quoted as saying: “The Chinese government is focused on a very outdated understanding of macroeconomic development, thinking that it will bring everyone up to the same level, but it’s clearly not working.”
• Belief in angels and ghosts as hard-wired?
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Stanford University cultural anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann considers various perspectives on how so many people in the U.S. believe in god and other aspects of the supernatural including angels and ghosts.
• Who’s crazy?
An article in Counterpunch about the recent killing of Miriam Carey in Washington, D.C., draws on insights from Luhrmann from her comparative study of narratives of schizophrenics in the U.S. and India.
The study showed that schizophrenics in both countries hear voices, “…but what was interesting was the voices were very different and clearly culturally generated. The Indian voices were ‘considerably less violent’ than the US voices. Americans heard voices suggesting suicide or violence to others, while Indians heard voices suggesting they do their chores or perform disturbing sexual acts. The voices mentally ill people hear are not completely generated from inside their heads; they’re based on things people have experienced in their lives or from the media.”
Implications are that it is important to pay attention to how culture constructs schizophrenia and learn to listen to the voices and respond to them in ways other than shooting them dead. The article raises questions about the voices that journalists do and do not listen to and the sanity of the police who killed Carey.