anthro in the news 12/5/16


better voting projections with ethnography

Anthropologist and writer for the Financial Times, Gillian Tett argues that U.S. election polling would have benefited from ethnography: “…pollsters and political pundits need to move beyond their obsession with complicated mathematical models, and participate in more ethnographic research into subtle cultural trends of the sort that anthropologists do.” A letter to the editor, in response to her article, says that sedation of respondents would provide more accurate information about voting preferences, a “truth serum” effect.

combating hate

vqobabc2Paul Stoller, professor of cultural anthropology at West Chester University, published a piece in The Huffington Post describing some recent hate incidents in the U.S., framing his words as a “letter to our students.”  The examples are: incidents in New York City in a supermarket and in a diner, booing of a Gold Star family on a flight, and negative social media during the Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony.  He concludes by saying: “You can take your knowledge and transform it into practice. You can observe small-scaled interactions and ethnographically describe incidents of hate as well as examples of social tolerance. You can post these descriptions on social media to create an ethnographic record of both intolerance and tolerance that will spread far and wide on the Internet—an anthropology of us.”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 12/5/16”

GW event: From incitement to violence to conflict mitigation

When: Monday, December 16, 2013
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Where: Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
1957 E Street NW

This panel discussion will cover topics including:
How do we know when atrocities are imminent for a country facing conflict?
Does media have the potential to provide early warning of mass violence?
Are there media interventions that can work to prevent violence?


Alison Campbell, Internews Humanitarian Communications Partnership Manager and former Country Director for Burma
Ida Jooste, Internews Country Director for Kenya
Will Ferroggiaro, Internews Project Director – Conflict and Media
Mark Walsh, Internews Country Director for Kyrgyzstan

Matthew Levinger, Visiting Professor of International Affairs, GW


Sponsored by the International Development Studies Program and Internews


Washington, DC event: Briefing on Explosions of Violence in Latin America — Landmines & the Context of Conflict in Latin America

When: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10 AM

Where: Congressional Meeting Room South, Capitol Visitors Center

This briefing is part of the monthly briefing series hosted by Sam Farr, Member of Congress, called Latin America on the Rise, which brings in speakers to address issues in the Western Hemisphere.

Latin America struggles with chronic violence and insecurity. In 2012, 1 in 3 citizens reported being impacted by violent crime and 50% perceived a deterioration in security. While insecurity has many manifestations, the presence of landmines in one third of Latin American countries contributes to the face of violence in many parts of the Western Hemisphere.

Colombia alone has the second highest number of landmine victims in the world, surpassed only by Afghanistan. Since 1990, over 10,000 citizens, including nearly 1,000 children, have been wounded or killed by landmines and estimates suggest clearing all the active mines in Colombia could take over a decade.

Colombia is not the only Latin American country affected by landmines. For the seven mine-affected states in the Americas, the context of this violence is a complicated picture of civilian, military, economic, and development factors. Addressing this larger context of violence is essential to resolving the conflicts and insecurity that can result in the use of landmines.

Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director, Handicap International

Dr. Suzanne Fiederlein, Associate Director, Center for International Stabilization & Recovery, James Madison University

Beth Cole, Director, Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, United States Agency for International Development

June Beittel, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, Congressional Research Service

If you have any questions, please contact Caitie Whelan (

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event:

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.

Anthro in the news 11/4/13

An anti-terrorism force holds exercises in Hami, in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July
An anti-terrorism force holds exercises in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July/CNN

• Just blame it on Uyghur terrorism

CNN invited cultural anthropologist Sean R. Roberts to write an article on the accusation by the Chinese government that the October 28 car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that resulted in the death of five people and the injury of dozens was a terrorist attack by Uyghurs.

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.]

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 11/4/13”

Washington, D.C. event: Our Walls bear Witness – The Plight of Burma's Rohingya

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Burma, have long considered among the world’s most persecuted peoples.Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by the Burmese government, the 800,000 Rohingya lack basic rights, including the right to work, marry, and travel freely, and routinely suffer severe abuse.

Following violent attacks in 2012 that destroyed numerous Rohingya communities, more than 100,000 are now confined to displacement camps and segregated areas, where they continue to be subjected to violence including crimes against humanity.

When: November 4th, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Rubinstein Auditorium
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC

Greg Constantine, Photographer

Holly Atkinson, MD, Director of the Human Rights Program
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Past President, Physicians for Human Rights

Maung Tun Khin, President, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK)

The speakers will discuss the photographs and the stories of individuals whose lives have been affected by violence against the Rohingya and Muslims elsewhere in Burma.

Images of the Rohingya displaced in Burma and in exile taken by prize-winning photographer Greg Constantine will be projected each evening from November 4th to 8th on the Museum’s exterior walls on 15th Street SW (Raoul Wallenberg Place). This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Register and learn more here.

International conference in Oslo

This Africa Center for Information & Development conference, “Africa’s triple threat — The rise of transnational and jihadist movements on the continent,” will cover Boko Haram, Al Shabab, and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Sahel. Speakers include:

Norad logo Twitter
Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation Twitter page

  • Dr. Emmanuel  Franklune Ogbunwezeh, Head, Africa department of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt
  • Stig Jarle Hansen, Associate Professor, Department of International Environment 6 Development Studies, Noragric. UMB
  • Morten Bøås, Senior Researcher at Fafo’s Institute for Applied International Studies in Oslo
  • Imam Ibrahim Saidy, Imam at Darus Salam Islamic Center Masjid Attawwabin, Oslo
  • Ms. Samia Nkrumah, Ghanaian politician and Chairwoman of the Convention People’s Party
  • Mr. Mohamed Husein Gaas, PhD Fellow at Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a Research fellow a Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies

When: October 17, 2013, 10am – 5pm
Where: P- Hotels, Oslo, Norway
Conference funded by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

DC conference: Student proposals sought on diversity in conflict/divided societies

The Georgetown University Conflict Resolution Program is calling for student papers, art, and videography for their conference, “Managing Diversity in Divided Societies.” Submissions should address the following questions:

What tools and mechanisms best promote diversity? How is diversity best approached in conflict societies? How can the arts be used to engage diversity and enhance societal well being?

Cash prizes will be awared to the top three finalists in the categories of diversity, conflict, and peace-building. Submissions are open to third and fourth year undergraduate students and graduate students.

Abstracts will be accepted until October 15th. Submissions are due on December 1st. The conference will be held on January 30-31st.

Send questions and submissions to:

Washington, D.C. event: Crisis in the Central African Republic

You are invited to a Great Lakes Policy Forum on the crisis in the Central African Republic, co-sponsored with the National Endowment for Democracy.

On March 24, 2013, the Seleka rebels seized control of the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), Bangui, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee. Current President Michel Djotodia faces the difficult task of restoring order and organizing elections once the 18-month transition period expires. Please join us for a discussion with Central African legislature and civil society members on the latest crisis situation in the Central African Republic, affecting the Great Lakes region as a whole.

When: Friday September 27, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Where: Main Conference Room, National Endowment for Democracy, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004


Emilie Beatrice Epaye, Member of the National Transitional Council

Nicolas Guerekoyama Gbangou, Member of the National Transitional Council

The Right Reverend Nestor Nongo Aziagbia, Bishop of Bossangoa

Mathias Morouba, Attorney and head of Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l’Homme Dave Peterson, Senior Director, Africa, National Endowment for Democracy


Ambassador Laurence D. Wohlers

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic



Word choices, word choices

I rarely blog about my personal peeves. I try to keep it all professional. So excuse me if I rant a little bit here. It’s about words that annoy me. I am sure you have your favorites, too.

More than a decade ago, the word “issue” moved from teen talk (“You got an issue with that?”) to my academic world. I first noticed it when called to serve on an ad hoc committee about an “issue” between a department chair and a faculty member. They had a problem, a big problem. But we all referred to it as an “issue.”

I have seen issue take over, since then. We, at least in my academic world, rarely talk about problems. Only issues. A student has an issue with her grade. A student has a health issue. In our curriculum, we teach about issues. Interpreting the meaning, and impact if any, of this circumlocution is outside my area of expertise. I have noted its existence for many years and, may I say, its robustness.

Ballistic Missile Lockheed Martin
Trident II D5 Fleet ballistic missile (FBM). Source: Lockheed Martin

So let’s talk about the word “robust.” This word seems to have had a surge a few years ago, in my experience at least, as related to annual reporting on such matters as my blog readership and twitter following: robust. Robust is still with us; it conveys muscularity, strength, and growth, everything capitalism loves.

Well, I want my social media impact to continue to grow in numbers and quality, don’t I? So, I want my social media numbers to be robust. Indeed, I want my textbook sales to be more robust. But “robust” has a limited use, for me. … I want my teaching to be engaging, not robust … and in terms of my own body weight, something less robust would be welcome (but that’s another issue).

And now, we have “boost,” as in “boost phase” which comes from rocketry and refers to a particular stage of a ballistic missile, a missile that carries a warhead. I am no rocket scientist so I could be wrong on this — I just checked Wikipedia on “boost phase.” Boost phase may also apply to non-weapon bearing rockets. And, more benignly, having been around little kids, I do know about “booster chairs” which allow small children to enjoy adult company at the dining table.

Nor am I a linguist, but note the similarity between robust and boost … consonant “b” followed by a vowel or vowels, then ending with “st.” Perhaps that combination in English conveys a sense of positive force, strength, growth, and optimism — all dearly held values of capitalist culture (and maybe that’s why “sustainability” has proved to be so robust in the language of green approaches to our future).

Wires at the Hotel
Wires, including Internet, at a Beirut hotel. Flickr/Markus Hündgen

This essay is prompted by my seeing, this morning, the use of “boost” in a World Bank statement about a new project in Lebanon. The report begins with this description: “A new World Bank Group project will boost Lebanon’s mobile Internet systems and create quality jobs for a high-skilled labor force to help reverse the spiraling trend of unemployment especially among youth and women.”

On a positive note, I end this commentary by arguing that the phrase “to boost” is preferable, in spite of its likely origins in the world of war, to the extremely awkward phrase “to grow” — prevalent during the Clinton era when “to grow the economy” was a sacred mantra. If “to grow” replaced “to boost” in the World Bank statement, it would read:

“A new World Bank Group project will grow Lebanon’s mobile Internet systems and create quality jobs for a high-skilled labor force to help reverse the spiraling trend of unemployment especially among youth and women.”

Things could always be worse.