Anthro in the news 6/2/14

  • Los Angeles rediscovers Carlos Castaneda
Castaneda made it to the cover of Time Magazine.

Cultural anthropology icon of the 1970s, and subsequently discredited, Carlos Castaneda rises again. The Los Angeles Times reviewed an exhibit at the Fowler Museum at UCLA displaying a collection of twelve masks from the Yaqui people of Sonora, Mexico that Castaneda put together as a graduate student at the university. They are on view in The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda along with five others and accompanying accessories used in Yaqui ceremonies for celebration and commemoration. These pahko’ola masks are made of carved wood, mostly painted in vivid red, white and black, with goat hair added for bushy eyebrows and beards. Sometimes they resemble goats, most important of Yaqui domesticated animals, or monkeys, which were seen as tricksters in the wilderness.

David Delgado Shorter, associate professor and vice chair of the World Arts and Cultures/Dance department at UCLA, who has done extensive field work with the Yaquis of Sonora, Mexico, acknowledged the problems in Castaneda’s books: “Much of it seems completely fabricated and not based at all in Yaqui traditions…There are also ways of talking about speech and mannerism that are undeniably Yaqui.” For him, the masks themselves, which would have been very difficult to obtain outside of Mexico in the 1960s, are the clincher. “It attests he was right there,” Shorter said, “in that specific area where he said he was doing field work.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/2/14”

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, 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, 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”