DC event: Revolution and art in the Kyrgyz Republic

Sally Cummings, St. Andrews University
When: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Voesar Conference Room, Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street NW, Suite 412

Professor Sally Nikoline Cummings teaches in the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews. Her more recent publications include Understanding Central Asia (2012), Sovereignty after Empire: Comparing the Middle East and Central Asia (co-ed, 2012) and Symbolism and Power in Central Asia: Politics of the Spectacular (ed. 2010). In late 2009 she commissioned two prominent Kyrgyz artists to develop over a three-year period twelve visual art exhibits that captured the emotions surrounding the 2005 transfer of power. The resulting exhibition, “(…) Ketsin!,” premiered in London in May 2013. Professor Cummings narrates here the story of this exhibition and what it tells us about political intention and art, the nature of the 2005 events and the artist in times of political upheaval.

To RSVP, click here.

Anthro in the news 4/21/14

• In Boston, after the bombs

An article in The Boston Globe explored the experiences of Muslims in Boston following the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Fortunately, an anti-Muslim backlash did not occur.

Islamic Society of Boston headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Islamic Society of Boston/Wikipedia

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.

Rick Warren speaks at the 2006 TED conference
Rick Warren at TED, 2006/Wikipedia

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.]

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/21/14”

Anthro in the news 3/31/14

• Conversation with Paul Farmer on World TB Day

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.

Paul Farmer (right) in Haiti with Alcante. Credit: Moupali Das, 9/11/03
Paul Farmer in Haiti with Alcante/Moupali Das

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”

Anthro in the news 12/16/13

• Understanding the fragility of African states

The recent French interventions in Libya and Mali, and the most recent one in the Central African Republic, raise the question of the very existence of the state on the continent according to Jean-Loup Amselle, an anthropologist and director of Studies at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris.

Marcel Mauss. Flickr: Les bibliothèques de l'UPEC.

In an article in Worldcrunch, Anselle refers to classic studies by anthropologists that identified the existence in precolonial times of two types of societies: state societies represented by kingdoms and empires, and segmentary lineage societies, organized in tribes.

He states that the former’s characteristics are very different from those of the rational bureaucratic state, which one can observe nowadays in most developed countries.

For example, the Malian state machinery, like that of many other African countries, is “riddled by networks that feed on the range of resources available on the continent: mining and oil as well as international aid and drug trafficking.” The functioning of such networks is based on Marcel Mauss‘ theories of reciprocity and gift exchange, set out in his 1924 essay The Gift.

• G8 aid pledge for nutrition in developing countries

In June, the G8 Nutrition for Growth Summit pledged a landmark $4.15 billion to combat malnutrition in the developing world, the largest sum ever pledged to support nutrition. Nevertheless, a pledge is just a pledge, and a key step is to ensure the committed funds are realized. Then comes the implementation.

An article from Think Africa quotes Elizabeth Hull, a nutrition specialist and anthropology lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, as noting that the funding compact contains “a strong emphasis on private-sector principles such as value for money and so on … The approach promoted seems to be very ‘outcomes’ focused.”

[Blogger’s note: six months after the pledge of $4.15 billion, it appears that only a fraction of that amount is actually a secure commitment; and experts say that even the full pledge level is far short of what is needed to solve malnutrition in low income countries].

• “The thieving craft” redeemed

From left: Mowarra Ganambarr Ḏätiwuy Thunderman and shark site, Arnhem Bay; Nänyin’ Maymuru Djarrakpi; Mundukul Marawili Fish trap, Baraltja. Berndt Museum of Anthropology, Perth

A review in the Australian of a new exhibit, “Yirrkala Drawings,” in Sydney praises the richness and beauty of art works displayed and provides some context of how they were collected.

Cultural anthropologist Ron Berndt conducted fieldwork in Arnhem Land, one of the five regions of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the early-mid twentieth century. His goal was the creation of a record of clan beliefs and the links between place and story-cycle. At the same time, he collected many drawings and marked down the drawings with numerals referring to expositions about them in his notebooks.

This is the first formal display of the large body of the drawings in an exhibition context, allowing for their full originality to be explored, and taken in. The principal scholar of Yolngu art history, Howard Morphy, professor of anthropology and director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University, offers an account of the works and their visual grammar in a catalog essay. Thus anthropology, that “thieving craft,” in this case, in some way, redeems itself by preserving and documenting art once taken away. Yirrkala Drawings is at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney until February 23, 2013.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/16/13”

Anthro in the news 10/14/13

Gregale cliffs lampedusa
North-Eastern cliffs of Lampedusa, photo by Arnold Sciberras/Wikipedia

• We need a bigger boat

The Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media reported on the second incident of a capsized boat near Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean.

The article quotes Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who says that the sinking on October 3 hasn’t deterred smugglers from bringing refugees into Europe from the Libyan coast:

“And it cannot possibly deter migrants who have gone through countless stages of peril and exploitation in their own country, especially in Syria and the Horn of Africa.”

• On U.S.-Afghan relations

In an article analyzing current U.S.-Afghan relations and the troop draw-down, Global Post referred to the work of cultural anthropologist Thomas Barfield of Boston University.

Barfield notes that Karzai faces a political conundrum, that: an Afghan ruler, “to be successful … will need to convince Afghans that he will not be beholden to foreigners even as he convinces these same foreigners to fund his state and its military.”

And, pondering the future stability of the country, Barfield is quoted as saying: “In the absence of [a strong leader] and the departure of foreign forces, Afghanistan will not survive as a unitary state. The most likely event in that case would be a sundering of the country along regional lines.”
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/14/13”

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 4/29/13

• On Russian distrust of U.S. missile plan

Press TV interviewed William Beeman, a professor of cultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Minnesota, about U.S.-Russia relations especially in terms of Washington and NATO’s new plans to build an anti-missile system around Western Europe.

NATO missiles
U.S. and NATO Patriot missile deployment to Turkey. Flickr/Staff Sgt. Daniel Owen

In response to a question about American plans to strengthen military bases in Alaska, Beeman replied, “This is an old, old story. The United States tried to establish missiles in Eastern Europe, supposedly in the Czech Republic, I believe, in order to defend against the attacks, as they said, from Iran. Now we are talking about North Korea.

“So the difficulty of course for Russia is that Russia wants to make sure that these missiles would not ever be deployed against Russia, and I can tell you that Russia borders both on Iran and on North Korea. So it is very hard for the United States to guarantee the Russians in any satisfactory way that these missiles would never be used against Russian territories, and I can really understand the Russians’ trepidation about this.”

• Christian belief, practice, and mental health

When God Talks Back by T.M. Luhrmann
Credit: Random House

The Deseret News of Salt Lake City carried an opinion piece in response to a recent New York Times column by Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann, where she says that the reason is not entirely clear why church attendance “boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.”

She speculates that it is the social support of a congregation and the healthy habits of churchgoers. In clinical terms, she explains how someone can experience a God they can’t see and she observes, “those who were able to experience a loving God vividly were healthier — at least, as judged by a standardized psychiatric scale.”

Luhrmann is a professor of cultural anthropology at Stanford University and the author of When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/29/13”

Anthro in the news 12/24/2012

• Hopes dashed for Chagossians

Aw’s Sean Carey published two articles in The Independent about the recent consideration of the Chagossians‘ claim for a right to return to their homeland.

Chagos
Chagos. Source: refusingtokill.net
In his first piece, he reviews the marathon battle that began in 1998 in the British courts, led by electrician Olivier Bancoult, the newly appointed leader of the Chagos Refugees Group. Although all of the judges in the lower courts unanimously found in favor, in 2008 the Law Lords decided against the Chagosssians’ right of return by a narrow 3-2 majority. The islanders are supported by the former British High Commissioner to Mauritius, David Snoxell, novelist Philippa Gregory and conservationist Ben Fogle.

In his second article, Carey reports on the decision: “Yesterday, there was huge disappointment amongst Chagossian communities in Port Louis, Mahe, Crawley, Manchester, Geneva and Montréal. A seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights decided by majority that the case regarding the right of return of the exiled islanders was inadmissible. Geographically and legally, it has been a long journey with many twists and turns for the islanders, the descendants of African slaves and Indian indentured labourers. The decision by the Strasbourg court means that they continue to be barred from returning to their homeland in the Chagos Archipelago, after their forced removal by the British authorities between 1968 and 1973, so that the US could acquire Diego Garcia, the largest and southernmost island, for its strategically important military base.” After eight years, a decision of inadmissable.

• Declining monkhood in Thailand

In Thailand, Buddhist temples grow lonely in villages as consumer culture rises and there is a shortage of monks. According to an article in The New York Times, monks in northern Thailand no longer perform one of the defining rituals of Buddhism, the early morning walk through the community to collect food. The meditative lifestyle of the monkhood offers little allure to the distracted iPhone generation. Although it is still relatively rare for temples to close down, many districts are so short on monks that abbots here in northern Thailand recruit across the border from impoverished Myanmar, where monasteries are overflowing with novices.

”Consumerism is now the Thai religion,” said Phra Paisan Visalo, one of the country’s most respected monks. He continues, ”In the past people went to temple on every holy day,” Mr. Paisan said. ”Now they go to shopping malls.” William Klausner, a law and anthropology professor who spent a year living in a village in northeastern Thailand in the 1950s, describes the declining influence of Buddhist monks as a ”dramatic transformation.” Monks once played a crucial role in the community where he lived, helping settle disputes between neighbors and counseling troubled children, he wrote in his book, Thai Culture in Transition. Klausner says that today most villages in northern Thailand ”have only two or three full-time monks in residence, and they are elderly and often sick.”
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/24/2012”

Upcoming conference on art and aesthetics

Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

When: April 3-6, 2012
Where: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

This conference will investigate art and aesthetics in their widest senses and experiences, from a variety of perspectives and in numerous contexts: the material arts, crafts, performance, bodies, digital and new media, metaphysics, and other related themes. Moving beyond art as expressions of the inner mind and inventions of the individual self, the conference will bridge the gap between changing perceptions of contemporary art and aesthetics, and map the impact of globalisation on the creation and movement of artworks, people’s changing perceptions of the medium, the shifting skills of artists, the relationship between the arts and declining ecological factors, art and new religions, and so forth. For more information, click here.

If you are interested in submitting a panel proposal for the conference, please click here.

Anthro in the news 6/27/2011

• The trauma of war and rape
In the first of a two-part story, CNN highlights the work of cultural anthropologist Victoria Sanford, whose research has involved listening to victim narratives of Maya women in Guatemala since her doctoral studies at Stanford University in the early 1990s. A Spanish speaker who had worked with Central American refugees, she befriended the few Maya in the area. “I was moved by their stories, but even more so because they were intent on someone hearing them,” she said, “And no one was listening.” She joined the nonprofit Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology investigative team and went to Guatemala. Sanford talked to the women, who told other women about her, and soon she was recording their stories. Over time, and after hearing many stories, Sanford suffered from a kind of “secondary trauma” including paralysis.

• Conflict in Uganda and a possible love complication
The New York Times quoted Mahmood Mamdani, professor anthropology and government at Columbia university, in an article about an ongoing bitter personal rivalry in Uganda that involves President Musaveni and his rival and former friend, Kizza Besigye. Things may be complicated, the article suggests, by a woman, Winnie Byanyima, who is married to the president’s rival but who may have had a romantic involvement earlier with the president. Other matters are likely part of the story as well. Mamdani comments that the government is “clueless” about how to deal with Besigye’s opposition movement. He didn’t comment on the love factor.

• Culture and asthma
Cultural context and behavior shape the diagnosis and treatment of asthma according to David Van Sickle, medical anthropologist and asthma epidemiologist of Reciprocal Labs in Madison, Wisc. Van Sickle’s fieldwork in India revealed that physicians were hesitant to diagnose patients with asthma because of social stigma.

• Treating autism: two cases in Croatia
Drug Week covered findings from a study conducted in Osijek, Croatia, which discusses the treatment of autism in a boy and a girl with risperidone. K. Dodigcurkovic and colleagues published their study in Collegium Antropologicum.

• Profile of a forensic anthropologist
The Gainesville Sun carried a profile of Michael Warren, an associate professor of anthropology and director of the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. He has conducted hundreds of forensic skeletal examinations for the state’s medical examiners and has participated in the identification of victims of mass disasters and ethnic cleansing, including the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina and the recovery and identification of the victims found within the mass graves of the Balkans. He recently testified in the Casey Anthony murder trial.

• Medieval persecution
The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence suggests. DNA analysis indicates that the victims were Jewish. They were likely murdered or forced to commit suicide. The skeletons date to the 12th-13th centuries, a time of persecution of Jewish people in Europe. Professor Sue Black leads the research team. She is a forensic anthropologist in the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification.
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/27/2011”