anthro in the news 2/6/17

Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons
Bet for Nothing. Source: Hapal. Flickr Creative Commons

trumped-up conflict with Iran

The Berkeley Daily Planet published an opinion piece by William Beeman, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In his view, “…the Trump administration appears to be renewing the possibility of violent confrontation with Iran using a questionable pretext—Iran’s testing of conventional missiles. No one in the U.S. government or the press seems to understand that Iranian ballistic missiles do not fall under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA (the ‘Iran Deal’). The JCPOA has nothing at all to do with conventional weapons, only nuclear technology. The current controversy over Iran’s missile testing has entirely to do with interpretations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (20 July 2015), which endorsed the JCPOA after it had been ratified. UNSC Resolution 2231 stated flatly that ALL of the previously existing UN sanctions against Iran were terminated…”

view of U.S. politics from Japan

World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons
World. Source: David Flores. Flickr Creative Commons

The Japan news reported on a 2016 poll in the U.S. asking how much the United States should be involved in international disputes. Fifty-three percent of Democratic Party supporters responded that the United States should keep its current level of involvement. Republican Party supporters’ views were divided: 40 percent called for reduced involvement, 30 percent for the current level of involvement and 29 percent for increased involvement. The article includes commentary from Yasushi Watanabe of Keio University, who specializes in cultural anthropology and United States studies. He interprets the results as “indicative of the divide within the Republican Party between the interventionist mainstream and the isolationist Trump supporters.”


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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”

the U.S. inauguration 2017 from the ground through foreign eyes

Source: Crystal H. Rie
The blue ticket for the 2017 Inauguration Source: Crystal H. Rie

On January 20th 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This was a historic moment for the U.S. in many different ways and depending on your political views you can judge the context around this inauguration, and the 2016 election as a whole, for yourself. But I am not here to do that. What I am here to do is to talk about what I observed on that fateful day. First, however, I would like to tell you a little bit about my background to illuminate the position which I was observing this event from.

I am a South Korean national who came to the United States to attend college in 2008, and I have alternated living in the U.S. and Korea since then. In 2015, I came to Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in Asian Studies. Although I live in the hub of politics and policy, my interests and passions diverge from what the city is typically known for. I am enthusiastic about studying the transformation of culture in historical contexts. As a result, this post does not intend to analyze politics or policies behind the inauguration; rather, this is my personal observations of the events of that day, from a foreigner’s perspective. Continue reading “the U.S. inauguration 2017 from the ground through foreign eyes”

anthro in the news 1/30/17

Paul Farmer, physician and medical anthropologist, at a Partners in Health clinic Source: Bending the Arc website
Paul Farmer, physician and medical anthropologist, at a Partners in Health clinic
Source: Bending the Arc website

documenting care and hope

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune the Sundance Film Festival premiered a documentary, called Bending the Arc, about Partners in Health (PIH). Co-founded by medical anthropologists Paul Farmer and Jim Yong Kim, PIH employs 18,000 people and brings health care to many  communities around the world.

fact checking

The Earth is Flat After All, by Ray. Flickr Creative Commons
The Earth is Flat After All, by Ray. Flickr Creative Commons

Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, contributed a piece to National Public Radio (U.S.) in which she discusses recent statements made and actions taken by the Trump team, providing a science fact check for each. Topics include climate change, vaccines and autism, human rights, and human evolution.


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anthro in the news 1/13/17

 Graffiti in Lisbon, 2009 Source: Dan Benton, Flickr Commons
Graffiti in Lisbon, 2009
Source: Dan Benton, Flickr Commons

public anthropology in the time of Trump

Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at West Chester University, published a piece in The Huffington Post, describing some public events organized by anthropologists around the Trump inauguration. He argues that anthropologists and other social scientists have the responsibility not to just produce knowledge but to move it into the public domain, and that this task is especially urgent now as a form of resistance to anti-social policies. [Note: one such event, hosted by Georgetown University, included a cultural anthropologist among the panelists; it has been headlined by Breitbart.com as a session for “instructing students” in “how to resist the Trump presidency” – in other words, it was more like brain washing than consciousness raising in their view. Thanks to Graham Hough-Cornwell of Georgetown for alerting me, via Facebook, to the Breitbart article.]

rethinking schizophrenia

Foreign Policy published an article reviewing new research on schizophrenia that offers a culturally-informed critique of the bio-psychiatric model. The article mentions the work of Juli McGruder, professor emerita of anthropology and occupational therapy at the University of Puget Sound. Her research in Zanzibar indicates that anyone who violated social norms, including speaking out of turn to hallucinating, is viewed as possessed by a spirit. Rather than stigmatizing them, their communities offer support. Research by Stanford University anthropology professor Tanya Luhrmann points in a similar direction. She and colleagues interviewed voice-hearers in the United States, India, and West Africa. Americans were more likely to hear voices that threatened and belittled, while participants in other countries heard family members, friends, or deities, and engaged in conversations with them. Luhrmann is quoted as saying: “I think the consequence of the American idea that the mind is broken is so horrifying and upsetting for people that they feel assaulted by these voices.”

“masculinity crisis” in China

NBC News reported on a rising concern among some people in China about a possible “masculinity crisis” and what to do about it. According to Tiantian Zheng, professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Cortland, the issue of masculinity and the upbringing of boys is being treated as a priority of state level educational policy. She said that possible measures include “the establishment of all boys’ middle schools, the textbook…[‘Little Men’], experts’ psychology clinics and media discourse.” 

funding sought from a former colony 

Source: The Hindu Staff
Source: The Hindu Staff

According to an article in The Hindu (Chennai), the University of Oxford is seeking financial support from India to establish an endowed chair in honor of social anthropologist M.N. Srinivas, a mid-twentieth century scholar of rural southern India. The centenary of his birthday in 2016 has added impetus to the fundraising efforts.

take that anthro degree and…

…direct an arts company. Claudia Zeiske is the founding director of Deveron Projects, an arts company in the town of Huntly in northeast Scotland. The company, now 21 years old, supports artists from many countries who visit Huntly. The artists live and work in the town, engaging with its buildings, people, schools, and landscape. In turn, they leave their mark on it, in sculptures, drawings, events, songs, and even new paths. In March of this year, Deveron Projects will welcome its first Syrian artist, Manaf Halbouni. A visual artist, he studied in Damascus and Dresden and is now based in Germany. Zeiske sees his arrival as a chance to interact with Syrian refugees in north-east Scotland. She says: “I have quite an interest in Africa and the Middle East…we have so little understanding of the Middle East, culturally there is very little understanding, and perhaps art can help bridge that. Manaf Halbouni is Syrian, but he now lives in Germany – it is not possible to get an artist from Syria directly. We have also linked with the around 100 Syrian refugees now living in Aberdeenshire, but it is very difficult because hardly any of them speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, nor do any people in my team. So in order to link with those people, I try to link with artists from the Middle East. He [Halbouni] is the first one.” To mark the company’s 21st birthday, Zeiske made a film featuring 76 of the artists hosted.  Zeiske has (in chronological order) a degree in business administration from the Fachhochschule fuer Wirtschaft in Berlin, and M.Sc. in social anthropology from Freie Universität in Berlin, a bachelor’s in social anthropology from the London School of Economics, and an M.Sc. in social anthropology from University College London.

…become a nonfiction writer. Morvarid Fernandez has published her first book, ‘Seasoned’ for Family and Friends: Contemporary Recipes with an Old World Flavour and Reminiscences and Vignettes of Life in Provincial India. The book contains stories from the author’s life interspersed with recipes of soups, salads, dips, pork, stir-fries, foogath, Iranian Khoresh, and Anglo-Indian Brown Stew. Fernandez has an M.A. degree in anthropology from Pune University.

…become a novelist. Wang Weilian has gained success in the “traditional” mold of writing in an era spearheaded by avant-garde poets and novelists. “As serious writers, we regard literature as the criticism of life, and the seriousness of life as the only rule to judge a great writer,” says Wang. A recent publication, The Sound of Salt Forming, is a collection of 16 short stories by these post-1980s serious writers. Wang’s piece was chosen as the title of the book. Set in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, his story describes the life of two young men who have been good friends since their school days. Wang’s major works include the novels A Man without Fingerprints and The Second Person. Wang has a degree in anthropology and a PhD. In literature from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

…become a health policy professor. Jessica Mulligan is assistant professor of health policy and management at Providence Coll9780814770313_fullege, Rhode Island, with specializations in medical anthropology, insurance, managed care, health policy, and ethnography. Her current research project uses life history interviews to explore the health and financial impacts of insurance coverage on the formerly uninsured. She has published journal articles in Medical Anthropology; Medical Anthropology Quarterly; and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law; as well as a book, Unmanageable Care: An Ethnography of Health Care Privatization in Puerto Rico. She serves on the Expert Advisory Committee of HealthSource RI. Mulligan has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the George Washington University, an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University.

…become a professor of sociology. Kirk Dombrowski is John Bruhn Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. According to his university web page, his research focuses on broad interdisciplinary approaches to addiction and its related social and personal harms. He works across sociology, anthropology, psychology and political-economy. He has developed specialized research methods in network analysis and hard-to-reach populations that are highly stigmatized. He teaches undergraduate courses on social and cultural theory, criminology, social psychology, and systems science approaches to the social and behavioral sciences.  At the doctoral level he teaches courses in research methods and core-social theory, with a focus on public health and health disparities. He is the Principal Investigator of the UNL Research, Evaluation and Analysis for Community Health Lab, which is currently conducting several NIH-funded projects in locations ranging from Puerto Rico to Alaska. He is also the director of UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative, a project aimed at understanding and addressing health disparities in the Great Plains. Recently, he was selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. In that role, he will be sharing his knowledge and expertise on social network analysis in health, rural public health, and drug abuse. Dombrowski has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. in anthropology from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from City University of New York Graduate School and University Center.

working together toward shared goals 

An article in The New York Times described an unusual collaboration between an archaeologist and a metal detectorist. Archaeologist Kevin McBride, associate professor at the University of Connecticut and research director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Connecticut, welcomes visits from Keith Wille who often goes metal detecting in the woods of Connecticut. His findings can help McBride in his work with and for the local Mashantucket Pequot Nation, researching a  “history that’s written by the conquered and not by the conqueror” according to tribal spokeswoman Lori A. Potter.

wild primates in increasing danger

Several mainstream media, including The BBC and The Daily Mail, reported on new research indicating the increasing threats to the world’s primates, with 60 percent of species now facing extinction.  The global study, involving more than 30 scientists, assessed the conservation status of more than 500 species, including apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises. The article quotes Jo Setchell, a professor at Durham University, who referred to main threats of “massive habitat loss” and illegal hunting. Further, “Forests are destroyed when primate habitat is converted to industrial agriculture, leaving primates with nowhere to live…primates are hunted for meat and trade, either as pets or as body parts.” Other threats – all driven by human behavior – are forest clearance for livestock and cattle ranching; oil and gas drilling and mining. “The short answer is that we must reduce human domination of the planet, and learn to share space with other species,” Setchell commented. The study also cited poverty and civil unrest as a driving force for hunting – in the poorest parts of the world many people are being driven to hunting primates in order to feed themselves. For others living in high income countries, the message is:  “… don’t buy tropical timber, don’t eat palm oil.” The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

anthro in the news 1/17/17

Friday the 13th fears

The Apopka Voice (Florida) carried an article about the roots of fear surrounding the date of Friday the 13th. The article includes commentary from Phillips Stevens Jr., associate professor of anthropology at Buffalo University:  “Most buildings don’t have a 13th floor, you won’t find 13 people seated a table and some airlines don’t have a 13th row…The taboo comes directly from Biblical stories.” The main story is that of the Last Supper.

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source: The Telegraph

silencing sanctuary

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Sanctuary sites in the U.S., January 2016. source: Center for Immigration Studies

The Centre Daily (Pennsylvania) reported on a teach-in on immigrants’ rights held at Penn State University and organized by its Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. One speaker, Linda Rabben, associate research professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland and author of Sanctuary and Asylum: A Social and Political History, said universities are often directed by their lawyers not to use the term “sanctuary.” She referenced a letter signed in December by Penn State President Eric Barron, and more than 400 other university presidents in support of DACA (the policy on deferred action for childhood arrivals), noting that nowhere in the letter was “sanctuary” mentioned. “But just because it isn’t mentioned, doesn’t mean people aren’t going to seek it,” Rabben said.

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why we throw coins in fountains: a cultural explanation

by Peter Wogan

Why do so many of us get pleasant, uncanny sensations when we throw a coin in a fountain and see it resting in the water below? What’s the cultural psychology here? What do such coins have to do, for example, with rock concerts and the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

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source: Kevin Krejci

It’s best to start by reviewing the shift in perspective that occurs when the coin moves out of our hands and into the fountain (or pond…but fountains make better pictures). When we grip that penny or other coin in our hands, we’re totally in control. The coin is literally “in the palm of our hands.” It’s also intimately connected with us through what anthropologists call “contagious magic,” the principle that physical contact creates a bond between people and objects, a principle that’s affirmed every time someone pays thousands of dollars for a piece of clothing worn by Jackie Robinson or John Lennon, or avoids the chair recently used by someone they don’t like. The same principle applies at the edge of the fountain. We’ve kept our coins close to our bodies in our pockets and purses, and now we’re holding them in our hands. Through physical contact, these coins have become an extension of ourselves—a light-hearted, personal avatar.penny-in-fingers

Then we throw the coin in the water and the whole picture changes. We lose control. We let go of our avatar, and suddenly it looks tiny in the water, much smaller than it did in our fingers a second ago. Often we can’t even be sure which coin is ours, lying there among all the others. Our individual coin is now just one of many. What do you call this reversal in perspective?

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