anthro in the news 6/8/15

  • Porn-driven female genital esthetics

The Globe and Mail reported on growing industry in women’s genital esthetics, illustrating its point with some details about genital-area waxing and skin treatment for women available in Toronto. The article quotes Eileen Anderson-Fye, the Robson Junior associate professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University: “Because of technological advances, we have greater access to pornographic images that explicitly and implicitly convey aesthetic and erotic ideals…“These images hold women to increasingly singular standards about beauty and desirability.” [Blogger’s note: there’s an even more serious question here about what drives porn to portray sexually desirable female genitals as child-like].

  • Culture, hormones, and menopause
Logo of the Women’s Health Initiative

A Reuters article describes findings from a survey about vaginal pain during intercourse in several Western countries. The results, which reveal substantial cross-country variations, will not be surprising to anthropologists. Researchers conducted an online survey asking 8,200 older men and women in North America and Europe how menopause affects their sex lives and relationships. While similar complaints were reported across all countries, the magnitude of suffering for vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and weight gain varied. According to Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, the findings are limited because the survey recruited only women with vaginal pain and men who experienced it with their partners. Even so, she continues, the cultural differences about menopause highlighted by the survey underscore how regional differences in diet, physical activity, attitudes toward aging, and expectations about menopause influence how women experience symptoms.

  • Good news: First woman president in Mauritius

Anthropologyworks’ Sean Carey published an article in the New African on the election in Mauritius of its first woman president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, an eminent scientist specializing in ethnobotany. She will also serve her country as its ceremonial Head of State, a move that has caused some controversy but also much support. She vows to be an “apolitical president.” Well, let’s see says Carey, a longtime observer of politics in Mauritius. Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/8/15”

Anthro in the news 4/14/14

• Health equity, smart aid, and “stupid deaths”

KPBS radio (San Diego) interviewed medical anthropologist and health activist Paul Farmer about how to improve health care around the world.

Farmer talked about how to ensure equal access to health care through smart aid and the need to avoid what he calls “stupid deaths.” He comments on the “equity approach” in responding to a question about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide.

He also addresses tough questions about HIV/AIDs and how to help the poorest people.

• Jim Kim: On leadership and cholera

The Washington Post carried a brief interview (embedded below) with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a medical anthropologist and physician.

Kim discusses leadership and the need to develop a thick skin, in some areas, and openness in others.

During the April 12 meetings of the World Bank, Kim called for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/b4e9c246-c0ee-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0

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

Anthro in the news 4/7/14

• Cultural anthropologists fighting Ebola

National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on the role of cultural anthropology in efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola in Guinea.

Health specialists work in an isolation ward for patients in Guékedou, southern Guinea. Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images.
Specialists at a Guékedou, southern Guinea isolation ward. Seyllou/AFP/Getty

Doctors, nurses and epidemiologists from international organizations are flying in to help, along with cultural anthropologists. Understanding local beliefs can help get communities to trust international health care workers, says Barry Hewlett, a medical anthropologist at Washington State University. Hewlett was invited to join the Doctors Without Borders Ebola team during an outbreak in Uganda in 2000. There are anthropologists on the current team in Guinea as well.

Before the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders started bringing in anthropologists, medical staff had a difficult time convincing families to bring their sick loved ones to clinics and isolation wards. In Uganda, Hewlett remembers, people were afraid of the international health care workers: “The local people thought that the Europeans in control of the isolation units were in a body parts business … Their loved ones would go into the isolation units, and they would never see them come out.”

Health care workers did not always promptly notify relatives of a death because of the need to dispose of the body quickly, Hewlett wrote in a report on his experiences in Uganda: “The anger and bad feelings about not being informed were directed toward health care workers in the isolation unit … This fear could have been averted by allowing family members to see the body in the bag and allowing family members to escort the body to the burial ground.” In addition, Hewlett points out that the large tarps surrounding isolation units were removed so family members could see and talk with a sick relative.

Efforts to contain such outbreaks must be “culturally sensitive and appropriate,” Hewlett says. “Otherwise people are running away from actual care that is intended to help them.” Medical anthropologists can help doctors and other medical experts understand how a local population perceives disease, death, and loss.
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/7/14”

Anthro in the news 9/9/13

• Bullshit jobs a new category of employment

The Sydney Morning Herald published an article by cultural/economic anthropologist David Graeber of the London School of Economics on nonsense, or bullshit jobs, jobs that involve a lot of time devoted to activities that really do not need to be done.

The Office cast
The kinds of bullshit jobs under The Office's Michael Scott are all too real for some. Credit/Wikipedia

Graeber argues that by eliminating the bullshit work, people could be freed to “pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas.”

The last century in the U.S. has seen the decline of productive jobs in industry and farming along with “the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations.”

The Guardian picked up on bullshit jobs and published an article with tips about how to tell if you have a bullshit job as well as help assessing the amount of bullshit that may be involved in your not-totally-bullshit job.

• Interview with Jim Kim on Syria and more

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president and medical anthropologist, was interviewed by Bloomberg News. He discusses the possible military strike against Syria in terms of its economic consequences. He also mentions the humanitarian connection, from his perspective as a medical doctor, about the use of chemical weapons. When asked about his views on who might be the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen or Larry Summers, he said that both are excellent.

http://player.ooyala.com/player.js?embedCode=ZqOTM5ZToi3Z2TNYgx5WY8X7U7Zrzonw&playerBrandingId=8a7a9c84ac2f4e8398ebe50c07eb2f9d&width=525&deepLinkEmbedCode=ZqOTM5ZToi3Z2TNYgx5WY8X7U7Zrzonw&height=360&thruParam_bloomberg-ui%5BpopOutButtonVisible%5D=FALSE

[Blogger’s note: it seems that Dr. Kim may have an advanced degree in diplomacy, along with his anthropology and medical degrees].

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/9/13”

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 8/12/13

• How long must we dream?

Bloomberg news reported on World Bank president Jim Young Kim’s dream: ending poverty. Or, ending extreme poverty. And by a certain date. A wonderful dream.

Carabayllo Peru
Carabayllo Peru. Flickr/Gaia Saviotti

The article zooms in on Kim, who:

once slept in his office and drove dusty roads to help his patients in a slum near Lima. When he returned to Carabayllo in Peru two decades later as World Bank president, a motorcade whisked him from a luxury hotel past welcome signs on banners and brick walls. The reunion in June, a year after the Harvard-trained physician took over the bank, was as much about the future for Kim as it was the past. In the 1990s, his Partners in Health organization helped Carabayllo patients suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project, relying on community health workers for the treatment, got a better cure rate than U.S. hospitals, was expanded in Peru and influenced other countries.

According to the article, there has been progress in the hills of Carabayllo; Kim can use 4G Internet and his mobile phone in areas where he once waited in line to make calls. But what motivated him in 1993 has not changed: “If we can show that even in these poor communities we can deliver, we could have a much, much broader impact … There’s no question that’s still what I am here to do.”

• Big mining and indigenous people in Australia

Marcia Langton
Marcia Langton/University of Melbourne

According to an article in The Guardian, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of the mining giant Fortescue Metals Group, says that he has delivered more $1 billion in contracts to indigenous companies and so now the government must provide training for Aboriginal workers to thrive in the newly created jobs.

At a company event with guests including the MP Ken Wyatt, indigenous academic and anthropologist Marcia Langton, and indigenous leader Noel Pearson, Forrest announced that the program had “smashed” its target six months ahead of schedule, and with most companies being above 50 percent Aboriginal ownership.

• Black is black, especially for adoptive dogs

In the U.S., at least, black dogs have a slimmer chance of adoption than lighter-colored dogs. And the same may be true for cats.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on color-based adoption practices in Bay Area animal shelters mentions the research of Amanda Leonard, who heads the Black Dog Research Studio in Maryland and whose anthropological study is perhaps the only — or one of the very few — scholarly works on the subject.

“Black dogs are usually portrayed as mean, threatening dogs,” says Leonard who earned a master’s in anthropology from George Washington University, with a thesis about the “black dog syndrome” in the U.S. based on her work in an animal shelter. She is attempting through her research to legitimize what shelter workers have long said is true and plans to earn a doctorate on the subject. “It’s a totally ingrained and significant part of our culture that we associate black with negative,” Leonard said in a phone interview.

[Blogger’s note: I am very pleased to see Amanda Leonard’s M.A. work get deserved recognition. She published a summary of her M.A. thesis findings in the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers].

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/12/13”

Anthro in the news 5/20/13

• Too soon to celebrate in Guatemala

Victoria Sanford, professor of cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, published an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that it is too soon to declare victory in Guatemala given the evidence that the current president, the former military commander Otto Pérez Molina, may have been involved in the same mass killings for which General Ríos Montt has now been convicted.

Otto Perez Molina
Otto Pérez Molina. Flickr/World Economic Forum

Nonetheless, she states that the conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity is of monumental significance:

 

“It was the first time in history that a former head of state was indicted by a national tribunal on charges of genocide. It offers hopes to those similarly seeking justice in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.”

• Culture and technology

CBS published a video interview with Intel’s cultural anthropologist, Genevieve Bell. Bell discusses the role of cultural anthropology in understanding people’s needs and preferences related to technology, people’s time patterns, social relationships, and more.

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf

• World Bank to focus on delivery

The Washington Post carried an article describing the influence of Sir Michael Barber‘s philosophy of public management on Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank (as well as medical doctor, medical anthropologist, and former university president). Apparently Kim keeps a copy of Barber’s book, Deliverology 101, close at hand, calls him for advice, and has asked Barber to meet with senior World Bank staff.  Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/20/13”

Anthro in the news 5/13/13

• Go directly to jail: Prison sentence for Guatemalan dictator

Fundacion Myrna Mack
Official site.

Many major news media covered the sentencing of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt to a landmark 80 years in prison for genocide and crime against humanity. ABC News quoted Victoria Sanford, a cultural anthropologist at Lehman College, City University of New York, who noted that genocidal massacres occurred before and after Rios Montt, “but the bulk of the killing took place under Rios Montt.”

Sanford has spent about 50 months in Guatemala and participated in excavations in at least eight massacre sites. Several of the articles quote Helen Mack, a noted human rights activist, and sister of Myrna Mack, who was murdered in Guatemala in 1990 for her work on behalf of indigenous human rights .

• What would Paul Farmer say?

To Repair the World by Paul Farmer
U. of California Press

Time magazine carried an interview with medical anthropologist, medical doctor, professor, and health activist Paul Farmer, prompted by his new book, To Repair the World, a collection of his speeches including some of his commencement speeches.

The lead question is: “Are you ever tempted to tell graduates, ‘I could have saved thousands of lives with the money you spent on your degree?'”

Paul Farmer responds: “I don’t think of it that way. I think, Here’s a chance to reach out to people who probably are unaware — as I was at their age — of their privilege and to engage them in the work.” He was also interviewed on the Diane Rehm show.

• Presidential note of gratification

Leith Mullings, president of the American Anthropological Association, published an article in The Huffington Post, expressing her appreciation of President Obama’s acknowledgment of the importance of anthropology in a recent speech:

Leith Mullings
Leith Mullings

“As an anthropologist and president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I was especially gratified to hear President Barack Obama acknowledge the discipline of anthropology and support its scientific integrity. In a speech at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama said:

‘And it’s not just resources. I mean, one of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; that not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science — all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review — but in all the sciences, we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they’re not subject to politics, that they’re not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us. And that’s why we’ve got to keep investing in these sciences.'”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/13/13”

Anthro in the news 3/11/13

• On gender equality in Cuba

A report on the status of women in Cuba, “Women’s Work: Gender Equality in Cuba and the Role of Women Building Cuba’s Future,” credits the leaders of the revolution with mandating and enforcing rules and laws guaranteeing gender equality and women’s rights, which have made Cuba among the highest-ranking nations in the advancement of women.

Women's Work
Report cover

An article in The New York Times discussing the report quotes María Ileana Faguaga Iglesias, a Cuban cultural anthropologist and historian who argues that the story of Cuba’s progress toward gender equality is overstated. She expressed the frustration of highly educated women: ”We have to distinguish that access to university studies does not necessarily give us power … What’s more, to be in positions that are supposedly positions of power does not necessarily permit the exercise of power.”

Still, Cuba ranks high in international surveys on women. The World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Cuba 19th among 135 countries, up one notch from 2011, one of only two Latin American nations in the top 20 (Nicaragua ranked ninth). By comparison, the United States fell to 22 from 17 in the survey, which measured the health, literacy, economic status and political participation of women.

• Women on Wall Street

In an interview on the Bill Moyers report, cultural anthropologist Melissa Fisher comments that women could not have entered the U.S. professional workforce in significant numbers without the liberal feminist movement’s insistence on the opening up of formerly male bastions, such as finance. In her book Wall Street Women, Fisher charts the evolution of the first generation of career women on Wall Street. She is a cultural anthropologist and visiting scholar in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/11/13”

Anthro in the news 1/28/13

• “Invisible cultural anthropologist” Jim Kim in the news

Anthro in the news picked up on two mentions of Jim Kim, medical anthropologist, physician, humanitarian development expert, and current president of the World Bank.

Jim Yong Kim, president of The World Bank
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim/Moritz Hager, Wikipedia

First, his op-ed, “Make Climate Change a Priority,” appeared in the Washington Post opinion section in which he wrote: “As economic leaders gathered in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, much of the conversation was about finances. But climate change should also be at the top of our agendas, because global warming imperils all of the development gains we have made. If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a report in November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.”

Second, an article in an economic/trade-focused forum discussed Kim’s visit to Tunisia to promote private sector development: “World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today concluded a two-day visit to Tunisia during which the Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, announced a $48 million investment to support the growth of private entrepreneurs. Kim met the country’s leadership and civil society to discuss the reform agenda and Tunisia’s progress two years after its popular uprising. ‘We are here as strong supporters of the Tunisian revolution,’ said Kim. ‘[The people of Tunisia] went through some very difficult times, but in doing what you’ve done, you’ve inspired the entire world. [Now] we’ve got to make sure that Tunisia is successful in showing that Islam and democracy go together, that you can have economic development that includes everyone.'”

Kim emphasized ongoing World Bank Group support for Tunisia’s aspirations through programs that address improved governance and accountability, opportunities for women and youth, private sector job-creation and investments in interior regions.
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 1/28/13”