anthro in the news 10/12/2015

 

Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug [source: Wikipedia].
Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug, source: Wikipedia
Nobel Prize catalyzes controversy in China

 

The New York Times reported on reactions in China about its first Nobel prize in science which was awarded to Tu Youyou, a retired researcher who worked at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences) in Beijing. The award recognizes her role in extracting the malaria-fighting compound Artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua. It is the first time China has won a Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline. Bu the award has refueled a longstanding debate in China between Western science approaches to medicine and Chinese traditional medicine. Critics of the award say that it valorizes Western science while seeming to recognize traditional Chinese medicine. The article quotes Volker Scheid, an anthropologist at the University of Westminster in London who refers to Chinese traditional medicine:  “It’s part of the nation, but the nation of China defines itself as a modern nation, which is tied very much to science…So this causes a conflict.”

 


source: Wikipedia

Guinea elections

The New York Times carried an article about the presidential election in Guinea, noting that ethnic clashes marked the last presidential election threaten to resurface. President Alpha Conde is running against seven candidates in the West African nation that has been hard hit by the Ebola crisis. The main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, is the same man he ultimately defeated in a 2010 election marked by clashes between their supporters along ethnic lines. The article quotes Mike McGovern, a West Africa expert and associate professor of anthropology at University of Michigan: “What Ebola has made clear is many ordinary Guineans’ deep mistrust of government.”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/12/2015”

anthro in the news 9/21/15

 

North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons
North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons

Indigenous tourism offers hope

CBA Canada reported on a gathering of iIndigenous groups from around the world in Vancouver, British Columbia, to discuss and promote the burgeoning field of “indigenous tourism” or “indigenous cultural tourism” with attention to the value of the unique relationship between First Nations and the environment. Delivering the conference’s keynote address was Wade Davis, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of British Columbia and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. He said that indigenous tourism could potentially revolutionize the industry by encouraging a better appreciation of cultural diversity:

“I think there’s a moral and huge opportunity to become ambassadors for an entire new way of being, a new geography of hope,” said Davis. But it needs to go beyond leveraging quotas of First nations into the field. “Real tourism is when aboriginal societies on their own terms can share their visions of life in a profound way that gives the visitor a true sense of authenticity, such that a visitor goes away as an avatar of the wonder of culture.”

 


Protests for peace in Japan

Symbol for peace in Japanese

 

USA Today reported on a surge of youth protests in Japan opposing legislation that would weaken Japan’s post-World War II commitment to pacifism. Weekly gatherings have grown into the largest protest movement Japan has seen in half a century. A crowd estimated by organizers at more than 100,000 turned out on a recent weekend, and nightly demonstrations have taken place outside the parliament building and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence nearby. Young people provided the spark for mass protests this summer, said David Slater, a professor of cultural anthropology and director of Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture, in Tokyo:  “Young people have not been apathetic; they have just been disgusted with politics, as have most of the Japanese adult population… This last set of bills just pushed the whole citizenry too far…”

 

Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/21/15”

Anthro in the news 4/27/15

  • Prisoners who paint murals

The Huffington Post republished an article originally in French on HuffPo France about a project of artist David Mesguich in which he is working with prisoners to paint large murals in Marseilles’ Baumettes prison, one of the most notorious prisons in France. His goal was, “to show the prisoners…that beautiful and positive things can still come from inside them.” The article quotes Didier Fassin, cultural anthropologist and physician, and author of The Shadow of the World: An Anthropology of the Penal Condition, who says that the initiative is compelling but difficult to assess without commentary from the inmates: “It transforms the prison space, and brightens it, while emphasizing by contrast the ugly and oppressive character of the metal gates, the barbed wire, and the walls…This being the case, the question is more general, as is the case with cities. Making murals in a city does not change its reality.”

  • Muslim integration working in Brazil
The Islamic Centre Mosque, Brasilia.

According to an article in WorldCrunch, Brazil, which is the world’s largest Catholic country, has a growing Muslim population and, with some rare exceptions, is a model for integration of Islam into a mixed population. The article presents commentary by Francirosy Ferreira, an anthropology professor at Sao Paulo University. He notes that it is impossible to know the exact number of Muslims in Brazil because they are registered under the “other” category in the census: “But their estimated number is now about a million, of whom 30% to 50% are converts, depending on the region.” He attributes the renewed interest in Islam in Brazil to the airing of a soap opera that took place in Morocco. The series, called The Clone, created before the 9/11 terror attacks, included an admirable Muslim protagonist.

  • China seeks to ban strippers performing at funerals

The Washington Post carried an article on a new ban against strippers performing at funerals issued by China’s Ministry of Culture. The trend to hire strippers for funerals in China has been growing, and is apparently an import from Taiwan where, as National Geographic documented three years ago, inviting funeral strippers is decades-old. The article includes commentary on why people want strippers at a funeral from Marc L. Moskowitz, a cultural anthropology professor at the University of South Carolina and producer of a documentary on Taiwan’s funeral strippers: “In Taiwan, all public events need to be ‘hot and noisy’ to be considered to be a success.” Moskowitz explained that “Usually the people involved are working-class folks, both in Taiwan as well as in China. In urban areas, there is a greater push to be part of a global culture.” Thus, he speculates, that the ban may be related to the Chinese government positioning itself in terms of global culture through “an awareness that people outside of Taiwan or China might find the practice strange or laughable.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/27/15”

Anthro in the news 3/2/15

  • Big dam problems in China and beyond

The Business Spectator (Australia) published a piece by Bryan Tilt, associate professor of anthropology at Oregon State University and author of Dams and Development in China: The Moral Economy of Water and Power. He asks: “China’s steep escalation in hydropower development is unlikely to slow anytime soon. So, how can China develop hydropower in a way that best protects ecosystems and people?” He then proposes three basic principles for moving forward.  Tilt also reminds us that:

“This is not just China’s problem. The repercussions of the current hydropower boom are being felt far beyond the country’s borders. Armed with the best hydropower engineering capacity in the world, and the backing of government financial institutions like China Exim Bank, Chinese firms are involved in the planning and construction of more than 300 dam projects in 70 countries, from Southeast Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. As hydropower development continues to build momentum as an important source of renewable energy, more public scrutiny is needed.”

  • Before reading further, fill out this form in triplicate

Reviews of David Graeber’s latest book, The Utopia of Rules, continue to appear, one published by National Public Radio and another in The Boston Globe. NPR comments: “Full credit to Graeber…When he eventually gets to a point, it’s almost always insightful, thought-provoking and, as befits the roundabout way he got there, unexpected.” The Boston Globe says: “David Graeber’s critique of bureaucracy, is meant to stop the reader short. It does.”

  • Nepal and Laos: Anthropologists, please compare notes

The Nepali Times published a piece by David N. Gellner, professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, in which he compares Nepal and Laos. He suggests that despite differences, the two countries have much in common and academics should meet and compare notes. Nepal has been likened to a yam between two boulders: “Laos is a yam between five boulders – and perhaps, given the legacy of US bombing, that should be six boulders.”

  • Interview with Claudio Lomnitz

Counterpunch carried an interview with Claudio Lomnitz, Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, about his new book, The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. It examines the life of renowned Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón (1874-1922) within the context of those closest to him—principally, his elder brother Jesús, younger brothers Enrique, Librado Rivera, and Práxedis G. Guerrero, all of whom were associates of the Junta Organizadora of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM). As a result of his lifelong commitment to social revolution, Ricardo was a political prisoner for much of his life. In this interview, Lomnitz discusses the book’ title, the PLM, and more. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/2/15”

Anthro in the news 01/19/15

  • Afghan-American youth who turn to extremism

Morwari Zafar writes in Time magazine about why some Afghan-American youth may turn to radicalism. Zafar is conducting fieldwork among Afghan-Americans for her dissertation in social anthropology at the University of Oxford. She writes: “The current policy climate risks insularity by focusing on external motivators — such as unemployment, disenfranchisement and susceptibility to recruitment via social media. Such an approach raises valid points, but it is conducive only to identifying a limited range of resolutions.” [Blogger’s note:  Morwari Zafar is a visiting scholar with the Culture in Global Affairs Program, within the Elliott School’s Institute for Global and International Studies, at GW].

  • Korean adoptees seeking Korean roots

The New York Times Magazine carried an article describing how many Korean adoptees, from locations around the world, are returning to the Republic of Korea. The article mentions the work of Eleana Kim, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging. Kim notes that many adoptees fear that searching for their Korean roots is seen as a betrayal of their  adoptive parents and they dread “coming out” to their adoptive parents, whether in the form of birth-family searches, returning to birth countries, or criticizing the adoption system.

  • Spotlight on Breastfeeding

On NPR, biological anthropologist and blogger, Barbara King of William and Mary, interviews cultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler of the University of Delaware on cross-cultural breastfeeding practices. Dettwyler discusses cross-cultural patterns of which mothers decide to breast feed and for how long as well as social stigma toward women who may breast feed for “too long” in some people’s opinion.

  • Book in the news: Social inequality in South Africa

Seattle radio KUOW interviewed a co-author of a new book on South Africa showing that the country is less equal today than during apartheid. After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa is an ethnographic account of seven young South Africans whose lives illustrate the realities of South Africa today. It is written by cultural anthropologist Katherine S Newman, provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Ariane De Lannoy, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Capetown. The radio interview ranges from the research methods, some of the people in the book, and parallels between poverty in South Africa and in the United States. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 01/19/15”

Anthro in the news 7/21/14

Kate Clancy
  • The perils of fieldwork

The Washington Post and other mainstream media reported on a survey about sexual harassment and assault by colleagues during fieldwork. The study includes 142 men and 516 women in anthropology (including archaeology), geology, and other scientific disciplines. Results show that younger women are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault during fieldwork.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, claims to be the first to investigate experiences of scientists at field sites. Researchers conducted an online survey with respondents recruited through social media, e-mail and links on Web sites of major anthropological organizations as well as other scientific disciplines that require fieldwork. The study’s lead author is Kate Clancy, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/21/14”

Anthro in the news 3/3/14

  • Parents beware: Don’t talk to your kids online

As reported in The Globe and Mail (Canada), Danah Boyd, cultural anthropologist, Microsoft researcher, and professor at New York University, recommends that parents who worry about the countless hours their teens spend on phones, tablets and computers: stop worrying. In her new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Boyd argues that teens need screen time to grow, learn and stay socially plugged in. And unlike those who fear social media is bad for our kids, making them sedentary and incapable of face-to-face interaction, she says the Internet is an essentially good (as well as inevitable) part of their lives. And they don’t need anxious parents monitoring everything they tweet or post. The Telegraph (U.K) also carried an article about Boyd and her new book.

  • Honey, can I trust you?

Fox News reported on research at Texas A & M University shows that most honey labels do not tell the truth: at least 75 percent of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. One lead honey investigator says the mis-reporting could be as high as 90 percent. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropology professor at Texas A & M University and is also known as the “honey detective.” He says pollen is so unique in all the different plants worldwide, that it is like a fingerprint. He can discover a honey’s unique “pollen print” which reveals where it’s from. Bryant keeps a library of 20,000 different types of pollen in his lab.

  • Mapping indigenous heritage sites for human survival

Environmental authorities have conducted heritage mapping on Gunbower Island in Australia, according to an article in The Northern Times. Cultural heritage sites located on traditional Barapa Barapa land have been identified in a partnership involving The North Central Catchment Management Authority, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, 19 traditional land owners, an archaeologist, and an ecologist. The three week program funded by an Indigenous heritage grant included groups from Kerang, Deniliquin and Mildura. NCCMA project officer, Robyn McKay, said the purpose of the program was to gain information on watering priorities for the forest: “We need to have a knowledge of cultural and spiritual values…We want a holistic approach to environmental water and incorporate those values into water plans.” She said the program provides skills, training employment and a connection with the country: “It is great to have indigenous evolvement in water plans.”

Archaeologist Colin Pardoe is interested in the population distribution in the region: “We will update the survey records and research earth mound distributions, family to village size along the lagoons…People consider aboriginals and traditional owners to be nomads but in reality people are fairly stable and lived in villages for months at a time. From 1850, within five years they had all disappeared. We will document the reliance on recourses, nets, bags, string and bulrush which was a major food source.”

  • Take that anthro degree…

…and become a businesswoman and an environmental philanthropist. Wendy Schmidt is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in sociology/anthropology and went on to get a graduate degree in journalism. The Schmidt Family Foundation was founded in 2006 to focus on climate and energy issues. The Schmidt Ocean Institute, which supports oceanic research, was created in 2009. Wendy serves as vice president of the SOI and president of the Family Foundation, making the major grant decisions. To date, the Schmidt Family Foundation has given away $451 million, and the ocean institute has gifted more than $100 million. The Schmidts have given additional gifts to academic and medical institutions.

…and become director for visual trends at Getty Images and lead a new initiative, The Lean In Collection, a partnership between Getty Images and Leanin.Org, the nonprofit founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to contribute to women’s empowerment. Getty Images provides illustrations to 2.4 million clients in more than 100 countries. Its customers cover a broad spectrum from advertising and marketing to news media and from large corporations to individual bloggers. Getty is a young company, founded in 1995 to bring stock photos into the digital age. Pam Grossman was instrumental in forming the partnership with Leanin.org, an important step toward modernizing stock images. Grossman, a cultural-anthropology major, believes that images have an immediate emotional impact and deliver messages that affect us consciously and unconsciously on a deep level. The team she works with has been studying depictions of women for the decade she has been working with Getty. Last summer she noticed an uptick in discussions nationally about portrayals of women and girls and decided Getty should have a voice. She put together a presentation that got her an invitation to meet with Leanin.org, and the partnership arose from that meeting. Learn more about Pam Grossman from this article in the Seattle Times. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/3/14”