anthro in the news 11/30/2015

ISIS recruits through friends and social media

An article in the New York Times on ISIS recruitment provides extensive commentary from cultural anthropologist Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict and senior research fellow at Oxford University. He noted that research has found that radicalization rarely occurs in mosques and rarely through anonymous recruiters and strangers. At a meeting held on Foreign Terrorist Fighters organized by the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee. Atran said: “it is the call to glory and adventure that moves these young people to join the Islamic State…jihad offers them a way to become heroes.” Atran, who has interviewed captured fighters from the Islamic State and the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front, added that Islamic State leaders “understand youth much better than the governments that are fighting against them.” They know how to speak to the rebelliousness and idealism of youth, and they are adept at using social media to target youth.


Weapon of mass destruction

Nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands. 1946. source: Creative Commons

The Washington Post reported on the enduring effects of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific where, from 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests. If their combined explosive power was divided over that 12-year period, it would equal 1.6 Hiroshima-size explosions per day. The article quoted cultural anthropologist Glenn Alcalay who teaches at Montclair State University in New Jersey. “We have basically destroyed a culture…We’ve stolen their future. When you take the future from a people, you’ve destroyed them.”


Continue reading “anthro in the news 11/30/2015”

anthro in the news 11/2/2015

Arizona desert. source: Creative Commons

The killing field of Arizona

Pacifica Public Radio [U.S.] aired a piece on the implications of the election of Republican Paul Ryan to speaker of the House of Representatives for U.S. immigration policy. It included commentary by Jason de León, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological study of clandestine border crossings between Mexico and the United States. León is author of The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. He uses a combination of ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and forensic science to critique “Prevention through Deterrence,” describing the U.S. border enforcement policy as one that steers migrants to cross in extremely harsh environmental conditions with a high risk of death.  According to de Léon, this policy has failed to deter border crossers for two decades while turning the rugged terrain of southern Arizona into a killing field.


Do you believe in magic? Surveys not the right tool to find out

Christian cemetery. source: Creative Commons
An article in the Irish Times about “spooky” phenomena and supernatural beliefs in general quoted Lawrence Taylor, a professor of anthropology at Maynooth University and the author of Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics. He comments that while findings from surveys on supernatural belief are regularly reported, they have little scientific value. The article also mentions the work of archaeologists R. C. Turner and R. G. Scaife who note in the preface to their edited book, Bog Bodies: New Discoveries and New Perspectives, that the discovery of human remains in bogs and marshes has long formed a part of oral history throughout Europe.




Continue reading “anthro in the news 11/2/2015”