anthro in the news 9/7/15



Chagos update

The Financial Times reported on continuing efforts in the U.K. and elsewhere by displaced Chagos Islanders to return home and receive compensation for their forced removal fifty years ago. The article provides comments from two cultural anthropologists: David Vine of American University and Sean Carey of Manchester University. “When you tell people about the history, they think it must be something out of the 19th century. They are shocked to hear it happened so relatively recently,” says Vine, author of the book, Island of Shame about Diego Garcia. Carey is quoted as saying: “A lot of the islanders [living in Mauritius] remain at the bottom of the heap…Mauritius is dominated by Indian politicians for whom the issue does not have the same emotional resonance. Even among the local Creole population [Mauritians of African origin], many Chagossians talk about discrimination.”


Fracture Zones in the Eurozone

The Eurasia Review carried an article about the current European refugee crisis. It refers to the refugees in the park in Belgrade as “part of a fracture zone” that is easy to trace; across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and on through Europe. The article acknowledges cultural anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom of Notre Dame University as the source of the term fracture zone, in her chapter in the edited book, An Anthropology of War. She wrote that “fracture lines run internationally and follow power abuses, pathological profiteering, institutionalized inequalities, and human rights violations – actions that fill the pockets and secure the dominance of some while damaging the lives of others.” Nordstrom sees the danger of fracture zones in how they institutionalize crisis and make it enduring. Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/7/15”

Anthro in the news 5/4/15

  • Getting help to Nepal’s rural poor

Cultural anthropologists Sara Shneiderman and Mark Turin published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail (Canada) urging that mechanisms be put in place in Nepal “to ensure that the relief reaches far beyond the capital of Kathmandu to remote, rural areas, where the devastation is least reported but most widespread. The loss of world heritage sites in Kathmandu’s urban center is visually striking, but it is now time to look elsewhere.” Shneiderman is assistant professor in the anthropology department at the University of British Columbia, and Mark Turin is chair of the First Nations Languages Program and associate professor of anthropology at UBC.

  • Helping earthquake victims vs. protecting material heritage

Newsweek described the situation in Kathmandu, where temples collapsed and stone sculptures and other valuable material heritage items lie in heaps. The article quotes cultural anthropologist and Nepal expert, Sara Shneiderman of the University of British Columbia, about the possibility of theft, in spite of many official and volunteer guards: “I wouldn’t be surprised if people were taking advantage of the current situation…There is a long history of stolen temple art, much of which turns up in auctions and so forth. And in a situation where people are desperate to secure their own resources, you can understand why people might do this.” In terms of the trade-off between helping people and protecting material heritage: “I think it is right that police should be focused on relief efforts and not necessarily on protecting statues,” says Shneiderman. “Though it would be sad if there were some loss in that regard.”

  • Nepal’s challenge in managing aid influx

The Hays Daily News (Kansas) carried an article about the possibly insurmountable administrative challenge to the country of Nepal after the earthquake.  Sara Shneiderman, anthropology professor at the University of British Columbia, said possible corruption and weak links between Kathmandu and rural areas, where approximately 90 percent of Nepal’s 28 million people live, could make it difficult for officials to set priorities: “Most people’s first impulse is to do the best they can, but with large funds there is always that risk (of misallocation).” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/4/15”

Anthro in the news 2/16/15

  • Cultural anthropology expertise essential

An article in The Guardian on global mental health aid following disasters and crises noted that: “The best experts to bridge the gap between international and local experience are those who might not have a health or psychology background, but have deep knowledge about cultural differences: anthropologists.”

And more: “Since the Ebola outbreak there is a growing recognition of this discipline’s role in emergencies. The American Anthropological Association has asked its members to become more involved in the West African countries hit by the disease. It argues that if anthropologists had been more involved from the start of the outbreak more people wouldn’t have caught the disease due to misunderstandings over traditional burials and conspiracy theories about westerners spreading the illness.”

[Blogger’s note: I am happy to report that my Institute, at the George Washington University, co-hosted the meeting in November in Washington, D.C., that was supported by the American Anthropological Association, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and other organizations. See the You Tube videos, Part 1 – Panel 1 and Part 2 – Panel 2 of the event and the recommendations].

  • Hope for return to Chagos
Diego Garcia

The New African magazine published an article by Sean Carey, of the University of Roehampton,  summarizing the current status of the Chagossians’ claims for the right of return to their homeland. Carey discusses the legal shenanigans at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and other parts of the Empire. Leaders of the return movement are cautiously optimistic.

  • No religious basis for anti-vaxxers

An article in The New York Times reviews the issue of formal exceptions in New York state, allowing parents to not have their children vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. Recent outbreaks of measles and mumps in ultra-Orthodox communities in the Brooklyn area have prompted discussion among rabbis about possible underpinnings for anti-vaccine attitudes in interpretations of Jewish law. At one school the proportion of students receiving vaccine exemptions more than doubled to 12 percent during the 2013-14 school year. The article quotes Don Seeman, a rabbi and professor of Jewish studies and medical anthropology at Emory University: “I don’t think there’s much rabbinical support for not vaccinating…What does exist in certain communities is a lot of anxiety about science and the risks we are exposed to through technology.” The texts of most major religious were created before vaccinations were invented, so interpretations have to rely more on teachings about health and well-being in general. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/16/15”

DC event: Society for International Development, The Changing Face of Aid

When: Thursday, February 10, 2015, 8:30 – 10:30 AM

Where: Society for International Development Washington, 1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC

Join us on Tuesday, February 10th for a lively discussion of how approaches to aid are changing and will continue to change in the future. Increasingly, the sources of donor-funded aid are diversifying. While funding once came from a few distinct sources, it is now coming from all over and often outside of the ‘official’ development sphere. This phenomenon requires a hard look at how we approach donor-funded aid now and in the future. Representatives from USAID, the private sector, an NGO and two foundations will discuss how donors’ priorities and strategies are shifting and how NGOs and private sector firms relying on aid are evolving as a result.

Moderator: Sheila Herrling, Senior Vice President, Social Innovation, The Case Foundation | @herrling


  • Catherine Godschalk, Vice President of Investments, The Calvert Foundation | @calvert_fdn
  • Jay Knott, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer, Abt Associates | @abtassociates
  • Paul O’Brien, Vice President, Policy and Advocacy, Oxfam America | @dpaulobrien
  • Eric Postel, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment and Assistant to the Administrator for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development | @EricPostel

For questions regarding this event, please contact Kara Frazier at


Anthro in the news 9/8/14

  • Ebola can be stopped according to double docs

The dynamic duo of medical anthropologist/physicians, Jim Young Kim and Paul Farmer, published an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that Ebola can be stopped if an effective response system is put in place:

“Ebola is spread by direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, making it less transmissible than an airborne disease such as tuberculosis. A functioning health system can stop Ebola transmission and, we believe, save the lives of a majority of those who are afflicted…To halt this epidemic, we need an emergency response that is equal to the challenge. We need international organizations and wealthy countries that possess the required resources and knowledge to step forward and partner with West African governments to mount a serious, coordinated response as laid out in the World Health Organization’s Ebola response roadmap.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/8/14”

GW event: Humanitarian Aid Accountability – Expectations and Realities in Haiti

Panelists will discuss the politics of humanitarian aid in the United States in the context of Haiti:

Mark Schuller, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership Development, Northern Illinois University

Michael N. Barnett, University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator, U.S. Department of State

When: Monday, September 9, 2013, 6:30-8:00 pm

Where: The Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street, NW, Lindner Commons, 6th floor


Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Institute for Global and International Studies and its Western Hemisphere Working Group and Culture in Global Affairs Program as well as the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at the George Washington University.
This event is part of the IGIS Global Policy Forum Series and the Culture in Global Affairs Seminar Series.