anthro in the news 1/4/16

Sidney Mintz: Founder of the anthropology of food

Cultural anthropologist Sarah Hill, associate professor at Western Michigan University, published an article in the Boston Review detailing the work of cultural anthropologist Sidney Mintz of the Johns Hopkins University. [See also:  In memoriam, below]. Mintz is lauded as the founder of “food anthropology” with the publications of his landmark book in 1985, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Hill writes: “…at the heart of Sweetness and Power lies an understanding of the history of capitalism in the Atlantic world that goes far to explain slavery’s enduring legacy.”


Can planet Earth be saved?

In an article in The Atlantic, several U.S. experts, including cultural anthropologist Elizabeth Moreno, assistant professor at Oregon State University, offer reasons for despair and hope about the future of our planet. Her reason for despair: “As an anthropologist working alongside indigenous communities in the United States, it’s hard not to see climate change as another wave of violence inherent in the colonial ideal. Colonized geographies like communities in Alaska, small nation states in the Pacific, and large nations in sub-Saharan Africa all share the heaviest burdens of a rapidly changing climate…These burdens are all part of climate injustice…I [also] despair because…climate change needs alternative cultural models for framing problems and non-Western solutions.”  On the side of hope: “The rest of the world is talking back…. It’s going to be an interesting century.”


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Anthro in the news 3/30/15

  • Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried an article about the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology which was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, marking the 75th meeting of the SfAA. Over five days, 1,800 members of the Society convened to hear academic presentations at over 300 sessions as well as spending one day focusing on social challenges and real-life application of theory in Pittsburgh. Ten field trips included visits to museums and industrial sites including a coal-mining site in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The article quotes Kathleen Musante, anthropology professor at the University of Pittsburgh and president-elect of the Society. She said that the board members who chose the site of the conference “perceive Pittsburgh as being a symbol of the kind of community that has been able to not only adapt to changing circumstance but to flourish because of an enduring will to be a great place…Pittsburgh is also continuing to have the same issues that are true for other parts of the country. There is still inequality here, there are still adjusting economic circumstances. The board saw Pittsburgh as a place that really tries to address those issues.”

  • Anthropology should be taught from kindergarten on
AQA office in Guildford, England, one of several AQA offices throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Ed Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, published an article in The Huffington Post arguing in support of the teaching of anthropology in primary and secondary schools around the world. Given the importance of understanding human behavior and values to prevent and solve global and local challenges from racial bias to climate change, he points to the exemplary model developed by the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2010, after several years of careful curriculum design, the RAI succeeded in establishing an anthropology A-level course (roughly equivalent to high school Advanced Placement courses in the U.S.). Liebow bemoans the recent decision by the British Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) to discontinue the course and steering students to sociology or history courses. AQA said that it could not continue to offer the anthropology course because demand has been disappointing and the difficulty of finding graders. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/30/15”

Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!

It’s fascinating to see how certain holidays spread around the world, and how they are marked, celebrated, and “localized” in different countries and regions and among different groups. Valentine’s Day is clearly going global, but with many regional and local permutations. Some of those variations have to do with the very fact that Valentine’s Day is associated with love and romance and, let’s face it, sex. Here are some news bits about Valentine’s Day 2014 around the world.

Cupid. Flickr/Arwen Willemsen

Just wanting somebody to love:

In France, Internet dating rises before Valentine’s Day. According to an article in The Global Times, “The Internet is powering Cupid’s wings in France, with use of online dating sites soaring, according to matchmakers preparing to help singletons maximize their seduction opportunities this Valentine’s Day. Of the 18 million single people in France “one in two uses Internet dating,” said Jessica Delpirou, director in France of the Meetic dating website, which was launched in 2001 and recently taken over by the US website The run-up to St Valentine’s Day — before New Year resolutions are forgotten — is a particularly busy time. “

What’s Valentine’s Day all about?

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!”

Anthro in the news 2/10/14

  • Half an enchilada

In an article about U.S. immigration reform, The Arizona Republic discussed several views and then quoted Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, an anthropology professor and director of Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies. He said that most undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. for a better life for themselves, but especially for their children: “It’s all about sacrifice…They will swallow the poison in order for their children to have a milkshake.”

Luis Plascencia, an anthropology professor at ASU who focuses on migration policy, agreed, saying that if legal status short of citizenship is “…all you are going to get, then you’ll take it…Half an enchilada is better than no enchilada.”

  • In London: Threat to curry restaurants and late night curry tradition

Cultural anthropologist Sean Carey published an article in The Guardian about a major threat to London’s Brick Lane curry restaurants from a new ruling seeking to ban post-midnight curry meals.  The rationale is that the late curry culture is associated with excessive rowdiness. For those who are not aware of this tradition in the UK: after the pubs close, many people move on to have a curry meal between midnight and 2am. [Blogger’s note: curry is the most popular dish in England; you can see more of Sean Carey’s writings here on anthropologyworks].

  • Alzheimer’s disease and awareness about it

An article in The National (Abu Dhabi) discussed the need to raise awareness about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the Middle East. The article noted that while much statistical evidence exists to show that Alzheimer’s is a growing problem worldwide (see the 2013 World Alzheimer Report), the figures do not tell the whole story. It then quotes extensively from medical anthropologist Margaret Lock’s writings in her new book The Alzheimer Conundrum, Entanglements of Dementia and Aging:

“Over the past decade, professional and media publications about Alzheimer’s have increased exponentially, and some highlight an entrenched problem not evident in simple tallies about the burgeoning numbers of elderly…If the burden that increasing numbers of demented elderly place on society, families and individual caregivers is to be engaged with constructively, then the ignorance, fear, stigma, shame, discrimination, denial and indifference commonly associated with dementia must first be exposed and overcome.”

Lock argues for a different approach to Alzheimer’s, one that focuses more on those who do not develop the disease.

  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day: A chat with Helen Fisher

USA Today provided an interview with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, professor at Rutgers University and chief scientific advisor of The conversation covers the state of relationships as revealed by the second annual Singles in America study, beginning with the question: What was one of the most surprising findings that you came across while doing this study? Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/10/14”

Anthro in the news 2/3/14

  • World Bank’s development plan for Myanmar

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and trained medical anthropologist and medical doctor, published an article in The Huffington Post describing the World Bank’s three pillars of its new $2 billion multi-year public and private sector investment program in Myanmar. Noting that 70 percent of Myanmar’s people lack access to electricity, especially in rural areas, he asserts that: “We share the Government’s commitment to expanding reliable, affordable access to electricity, especially to rural areas. That’s why, over the next five years, we’re seeking to invest $1 billion dollars in Myanmar’s power sector…” [Blogger’s notes: So electricity development gets half of the total. Further, the article doesn’t specify how the electricity will be generated, but likely through constructing large hydroelectric dams.]

He then discusses the importance of investing in health, endorsing the government’s goal of “universal health coverage by 2030.” He then turns briefly to agriculture.

[Blogger’s note: Kim was in Myanmar for two days, and I have never been there. But anyone who knows anything about large-scale hydroelectric development has to know that it inevitably displaces thousands of people in rural areas, ruining their small-scale farming opportunities, reducing their food access, damaging their health in many ways, and damaging the ecology.

The World Bank has “accountability” mechanisms in place that supposedly involve close consultation with local communities. So, let’s see how it goes in Myanmar as the Bank and other external players push for economic growth through investing in the energy sector. It goes without saying that the Bank and businesses are profit-seekers: they are not charities. Let’s see if there will be sufficient attention to social justice, including truly informed consent among those displaced and fair compensation for loss of land, water/fishing rights, and other livelihood factors. No matter what, they will never see a proportional return to them from future profits that the energy sector will undoubtedly reap in the future.]

  • Hospitals defining the time to die

Cultural anthropologist Sharon Kaufman published an article in The Huffington Post on, “Defining Death: Four Decades of Ambivalence”. She discusses several cases in the U.S. in which a person was near death, hospitalized and whether they were allowed to die.

She asks what can we learn from these stories and how can we develop a clearer understanding and acceptance of death? Some first steps: “…Families need to comprehend both what the medical ventilator can do and what its limitations are. Doctors need to talk with families, to continue to provide them with compassionate care during and, perhaps most importantly, following the death of such a patient. And because a ventilator-tethered patient looks so alive, a simple declaration of death is no longer enough. Finally, medical schools need to give higher priority to teaching the communication skills that doctors will increasingly need as they confront the vortex created by unexpected death, complex technology, and the threat of litigation.”

Kaufman is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She has conducted research for 25 years on medicine, the end of life, and the social impacts of advanced medical technologies in an aging society. She is the author of the book, …And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/3/14”

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event:

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.

Washington DC photo exhibit on Pakistan floods

“Rebuilding Hope after Pakistan’s Floods” a United Nations Development Program exposition of photos by Satomi Kato, will be on display at The National Press Club from February 4th to 15th. A former television anchor and radio broadcaster in Japan, Satomi Kato documented UNDP’s work throughout Pakistan’s hardest hit areas by flooding in 2010-2011. These images were previously exhibited in New York, Milan, and Tokyo. Kato has also traveled to remote areas of Peshawar, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, to photograph Afghan refugee children in 2005.

Photo courtesy of Satomi Kato, Pakistan

There will be a reception on Tuesday, February 12th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m at 529 14th Street NW on the 13th Floor Lobby with remarks by:

Ajay Chhibber, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General & Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia & the Pacific

J Alexander Thier, Assistant to the Administrator for the Office of Afghanistan & Pakistan Affairs, US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Sherry Rehman, Ambassador of Pakistan in the United States (invited)

Koji Tomita, Minister Plenipotentiary & Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan in the United States

For more information, contact or RSVP here.

Dam dam dam

An article in Nature highlights the negative aspects of dam building throughout the Himalayan region. The article draws on a new report, criticizing the current rush to build dams throughout the Himalayan region, as well as commentary from other scientists. The article concludes by pointing out that:

India is not alone in its rush to build dams in the Himalayas. Other countries, especially China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, plan to add hundreds more dams along the rivers, prompting similar concerns about their EIAs. Damming rivers upstream could have significant impacts on downstream nations, but “every country behaves as if the river is 100% theirs”, says Edward Grumbine, an environment-policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Botany. “This is a recipe for disaster.”

Unfortunately, from the perspective of this blogger, the scientists’ worries are all about the negative effects on fish, forests, and other non-human categories.

Why are humans, who depend on the fish and the forest, so unworthy of mention?

The floods in Pakistan

An interview by Maggie Ronkin with Fayyaz Baqir, Director of the Akhter Hameed Khan Resource Center, Islamabad, Pakistan

MR: What regions of Pakistan and sectors of the population are affected most by the tragic flooding?

FB: Vast swathes of land in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (previously the Northwest Frontier Province), Southern Punjab (the Siraiki region of the Punjab), Sindh, and Balochistan have been devastated by the recent floods. These floods are considered to be the worst in the entire world during the past hundred years. It is not an exaggeration that fifteen million families have been rendered homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes have been wiped off the face of the earth. Hundreds of villages are no more. Standing crops over thousands of acres, cattle, infrastructure, and productive assets of millions of families have been lost due to flooding. A woman from a very well off and respected family of a rural district contacted by phone said “Everything is gone. We are beggars”. Scores of women from small farm and landless families burst into tears when asked about their plight. “There is no food, no water, no medicine, no help” most of them narrated. If they do not receive assistance soon, they may reach the point where they think that there is “no hope”. Such a situation will add another dimension to the crisis because desperate minds are fertile ground for militants. This is a great humanitarian crisis to which the world’s conscience needs to respond.  The scale of this tragedy is so enormous that the country’s entire population is reeling in shock.

MR: What does the devastation in Pakistan look like to you on the ground?

FB: Thousands of human settlements are under ten or fifteen-foot deep water. Dead cattle can be found everywhere. Innumerable people are stranded in areas surrounded by water. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, and elderly people who managed to move out of their houses leaving behind their assets accumulated over a life time have squatted along the roads. Tents are in extremely short supply, so the homeless sit under the burning sun without any shade to cover their heads. They often seem overwhelmed and unable to decide what to do. There are shortages of food, safe drinking water, and medicine. Whenever food arrives, scrambling for it leads to scuffles, and inevitably, the poor, weak, and households headed by women are hurt the most. There is no organized, visible, and dependable government assistance available.

Continue reading “The floods in Pakistan”