anthro in the news 10/10/16

Land rights are key in Colombia

Indigenous people want land rights. Source:
Indigenous people want land rights. Source:

The Washington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Omaira Bolaños, Latin America program director for the Rights and Resources Initiative. She argues for property rights reform: “One of the most devastating aspects of the war for me was to see indigenous, peasant, and Afro-Colombian communities who spent their entire lives investing in and caring for their territories suddenly left with nothing. Displacement has a particularly destructive impact, leading to the loss of livelihoods, languages and cultures, and to the tearing apart of social fabrics — in addition to the lives lost to violence. For a lasting peace to take root, the legal recognition of collective property rights for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would be an important step in addressing the war’s damages and in continuing a process of comprehensive land reform.”

Disney-ification of Tibetan culture

Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer
Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

An article in The Washington Post described the effects of the ever-growing number of Chinese tourists in Tibet. It quotes P. Christiaan Klieger, a San-Francisco-based cultural anthropologist, historian, and writer:  “It is very similar to how the United States treated its developing West 100 years ago…They are commodifying the native people and bringing them out as an ethnic display for the consumption of people back east.” Other critics point out that such domestic tourism is part of a plan to bind Tibet ever more tightly into China. Tourism development trivializes Tibet’s culture, marginalizes its people, and pollutes the environment. Tibetans are neither consulted nor empowered in this process. The top jobs and most of the profits go to companies and people from elsewhere in China.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/10/16”

anthro in the news 1/18/16


Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

Autism that can kill

Kim Shively, professor of cultural anthropology at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, published an article in the Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) about how autism can be fatal to children. Her article notes a recent death by drowning of a five-year old autistic boy in Allentown. She focuses on the variety of autism that involves a tendency to wander away from home, arguing that it is the most dangerous, especially for non-verbal children. She notes that “public safety and health service providers in our area…have poor understanding of what autism is or how it is manifested.” She offers three recommendations.


Sons of a paramount chief, seated, with an African slave, 1904. The Guardian/Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies, Tehran, Iran

African slavery in Iran

Anthropologist Pedram Khosronejad is Farzaneh Family Scholar and Associate Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the School of International Studies of Oklahoma State University. He has embarked on a new and controversial topic in Iranian studies, developing a narrative on African slavery in Persia through archival photography, interviews, and texts. The African slave trade in the Persian Gulf began well before the Islamic period. Mediaeval accounts refer to slaves working as household servants, bodyguards, militiamen and sailors in the Persian Gulf including what is today southern Iran. In Iran’s modern history, Africans were integral to elite households.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 1/18/16”

Anthro in the news 2/2/15

  • Applying anthropology: How to find a date for Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day approaches, GMA News (The Philippines) offered a heads up about a Sunday, February 1, TV variety show, Ang Pinaka, with a panel on how to find your dream date. The segment entitled, “The Top Ten Ang Pinaka Smart Ways to Find a Date”, includes Nestor Castro, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of the Philippines. [Blogger’s note: if anyone watched the show, please send in comments!]

  • Adios, comadre
Ruth Behar, Esperanze, and their book. Source: Chronical for Higher Education.

Ruth Behar, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan, says farewell in an essay in The Chronicle for Higher Education, to her longtime friend and comadre, Esperanze. Esperanze died late in 2014.

Behar and Esperanze first met in 1983: “An unusual friendship was born, and over time we became ‘co-mothers’ of a book, Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story (1993). It wasn’t your typical life history. The story of her life was entangled with the story of how we came to know each other and why I was the one who wrote her story down.”

  • On Iran’s letter to Western youth

Tiziana Ciavardinia. Source: Tasnim News.

Tasnim News (Iran) carried an interview with Italian anthropologist Tiziana Ciavardini about the significance of the letter sent by Iran’s Supreme Leader to Western youth. On January 21, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei wrote a letter asking European and North American youths not to judge Islam based on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. He urged Western youths to try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of the religion in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns.

The interview with Ciavardini covers a range of topics including whether the letter can be effective in attracting Western youth to study Islam, prevent Islamophobia in the West, whether the Western media will print the letter, and comments on the letter’s contents in general.

  • Teen pregnancy ad campaign going too far?

An article in Urban Milwaukee describes the recently launched public awareness campaign sponsored by the United Way seeking to reduce teen pregnancy. Ads show teen parents as a hand puppet, a jack-in-the-box, and a pull toy. The intended message is: wait and settle down before having a baby.

But the campaign sends a different message to two university professors who head a project called Hear Our Stories, which works to change and reshape what people think about teen parenting. Aline Gubrium, a medical anthropologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and her colleague Elizabeth Krause, associate professor of anthropology, take exception to the ad campaign.

Gubrum is quoted as saying: “We see calling out teen parents as bad examples to other teens, as [is done] in this campaign, as harmful and cruel…Teen parents have important stories to share and rather than stigmatizing and silencing the voices of young parents, our project gives young mothers the opportunities to share their stories.”

Krause said she realizes the campaign is not intentionally cruel, but said its visuals bully teen parents: “It’s not a campaign that has dignity.”

  • Book on Franz Boas: Reviewer wants more on his Inuit experience

The Alaska Dispatch carried a review of a book by Canadian cultural anthropologist and geographer Ludger Müller-Wille, The Franz Boas Enigma. The book asks how Boas became a leading figure in American anthropology, shaping the discipline and mentoring many prominent anthropologists.

The reviewer offers this context: “Boas did his first fieldwork during a year spent in the Canadian Arctic living with the Inuit of Baffin Island. He arrived in the fall of 1883 and to the best of his ability lived as the Inuit did, learning their language, their lifestyle and their cosmology.” Then he zings the book with this comment: “In the end, very little is gained from this book.” His concern is that, while the author credits much of Boas’ views and contributions to his initial time with the Inuit, he “…dashes right past this very experience and never delivers the story he promises.”

  • Forensic anthropologist pioneer in facial reconstruction

The Financial Times magazine profiled the work of forensic anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson:

“Professor Caroline Wilkinson is one of the first people alive to have looked into the faces of a Bronze Age warrior, a Neolithic child — and Father Christmas. She uses a combination of the latest medical and digital-imaging techniques to recreate faces from the past; some from centuries or even thousands of years ago, some more recent. Her highest-profile projects have included King Richard III, who died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and whose remains were eventually­ identified in 2012, Mary Queen of Scots, J.S. Bach and Saint Nicholas (Santa, it turns out, had a broken nose and olive skin).” She has worked with remains from around the world as well as forensic cases.

Wilkinson is director of the Liverpool School of Art & Design at Liverpool John Moores University; previously she was head of human identification in the Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification at the University of Dundee.

  • Take that degree and…

…become a conservationist working to preserve great apes. Robert Ford has a master’s degree in public health and anthropology and a doctorate in earth science/physical geography. He has over 35 years’ experience as a professor, administrator, field researcher, development consultant and conservation scientist. Ford has carried out conservation science and park management consulting and planning in many countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, Eritrea, Gabon, the Marshall Islands, Mali, Pakistan, Senegal, Belize, Peru, Bolivia, and China.

…become a psychiatrist, specifically a social psychiatrist with a critical perspective on biopsychiatry. Jeremy Wallace, MD, did a M.Sc. degree in anthropology focusing on culture and mental health run by Professor Roland Littlewood at University College London. It provided him with his first critical look at psychiatry. A practicing psychiatrist working in the public sector in Finland primarily in a psychosis rehabilitation clinic. He is also the author of a book, The Recovering Psychiatrist.

  • Out of Africa and hello Neanderthals

CNN and several other mainstream media covered newly reporting findings about a prehistoric human partial skull found in Manot Cave in western Galilee, detailed in a study published in Nature. Co-author Israel Hershkovitz told the Guardian, “This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe.” The skull dates back about 55 millennia. This discovery provides the best possibility so far for interbreeding of modern humans with Neanderthals since Neanderthals were established in the region during this time period.

Israel Hershkovitz with the partial skull. Source: CNN.

Article of note: Women’s education levels and sexual satisfaction in Iran

An open-access article in The International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, reports on findings from a study conducted in two cities of Iran with 270 married women aged 18-45 years.

International Journal of Women's Health and Reproduction Sciences
Journal cover

Responses were evaluated according to some established scales such as the Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women. The authors frame their study within the assumption that women’s sexual well-being is related to marital and family well-being and quality of life in general.

The authors point out that many studies in developed countries show a positive association between education and women’s well-being. In contrast, some studies in Iran have suggested that higher education is not clearly a positive factor in women’s psychological and sexual well-being. Findings from the study indicate that more education for women is not associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction and well-being.

Not to be too flippant, but as many studies have shown around the world, it’s difficult for women to “have it all.” Perhaps the studies from Iran indicate a complex ongoing transition in which women and men are juggling new roles and aspirations.

Anthro in the news 6/17/13

• Unexpected result in Iran’s presidential election

Presidential Election Map of Iran/Wikimedia Commons, Nima Farid.

For New America Media, William Beeman, professor of cultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Minnesota, commented on the recent presidential election in Iran: “Much of what transpired in Iran during the presidential election on Friday, June 14 (Flag Day in the U.S.), won by Hassan Rowhani should be familiar to American citizens: A candidate replacing a term-limited president contrasting himself with a former conservative government, campaigning on social and human rights issues along with a promise for an improved economy, combined with a split vote for his opposition that assured his victory by less than a one per-cent margin. Echoes of the American election in 2012 and many earlier elections are clearly present in Iran in 2013. Apparently Iranian and American voters are more alike than either group realizes.”

Paradoxical consequences of elections in Malaysia

In The Malaysia Chronicle, Clive Kessler analyzes the how, paradoxically, the election of a reduced Barisan Nasional presence and increased opposition numbers in parliament has amplified, not diminished, the power of the UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), specifically its power within the nation’s government and over the formation of national policy. He also examines the election campaign that yielded this paradoxical outcome. Kessler is emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of New South Wales.

• Studying abroad at home

Paula Hirschoff, two-time U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and M.A. in anthropology, published an article in The Chronicle for Higher Education on the value of student exchange programs within a country. She describes her positive experiences in a program which placed her in a traditionally black college in the U.S.

Investigation of unmarked graves in Florida delayed

DNA testing begins to further unravel the mystery of the unmarked graves at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys./ Tampa Bay News

According to several sources, including The Tampa Bay News, a request to dig up remains at the controversial Dozier School For Boys in Marianna, Florida, has been put on hold. Researchers at the University of South Florida requested an archaeological permit from the state at the end of May to excavate. Through ground penetrating radar, researchers earlier discovered the remains of close to 50 boys buried in unmarked graves there. The State Archaeologist sent a letter to USF researchers asking for more information before making a decision on granting the permit. Families of those believed to be buried there are frustrated by the delay. Despite the permit delay, forensic experts from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office proceeded with the next step for families, taking DNA samples of three relatives. Researchers are hoping to match the DNA with the remains at the reform school. USF Archaeologist Erin Kimmerle said they will  review the questions from the state archaeologist next week. Once the answers are received, it will be at least another two weeks before a decision about the permit is made. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/17/13”

Update on Iran: women's movement and civil society

Below please find links to an audio interview with Parisa Kakaee, Iranian women and children’s rights activist, about the impact of sanctions on the women’s movement and civil society in Iran.

Thanks to Sanam Naraghi Anderlini for providing this information. Anderlini is Co-Founder, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Senior Fellow, MIT Center for International Studies.