anthro in the news 6/15/15

  • Obama’s Trans-Pacific trade agreement may be tanking

KFOXTV (El Paso, Texas) commented on the defeat in the U.S. House of Representatives of President Barack Obama’s global trade agenda. Republican leaders, who generally support Obama’s trade objectives, signaled they might try to revive the package. Lack of support from Democrats in the House was pivotal in the defeat. Aurolyn Luykx, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, agrees with those opposing the trade agreement, saying that it helps corporations at the expense of workers:

“Again and again we see that these trade deals are good for the richest people in all of the countries that are being affected but bad for everybody else in the country they are affecting…I think the consequences could be very dire. We already saw under NAFTA how so many jobs left the U.S. and also went from Mexico. Then, we saw as well tens of thousands of low income Mexican families being put out of work and losing their land and we saw how that drove migration to the U.S..”

  • Shame on us: Remembering Rwanda

Matthew Emery, Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at McMaster University, published an op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), reflecting on 21 years since the violence in Rwanda:

“As people were being slaughtered the governments of the West remained silent, preferring instead to debate the definition of genocide and whether it was actually taking place in Rwanda at the time. It was not until post-July 1994 that the world finally paid tribute to those in peril. It was too late, however. It has been 21 years since the atrocities in Rwanda ended. This is a token in memorandum to those who lost so many family members in such a short amount of time between April and June, 1994. “ Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/15/15”

Anthro in the news 2/9/15

  • Financial benefits of migrant work in the UAE, yes but…

Laborers from South Asia form the majority of construction workers in the UAE. Source: The National.

The National (Abu Dhabi) and The Hindu (India) carried articles about findings from a recent study of workers from India in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The headline in The Hindu reads: “UAE great destination for Indians to get richer”

The study, conducted by the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., involved interviews with 1,500 Indian workers to measure the effects their working here has had on their families at home. One finding is that the laborers earn salaries two and a half times more than what they would earn in India. And remittances they send home improve their families’ situation.

A more critical perspective comes from Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University. She has studied migration in the UAE since 2001 and has written a book about it that will be available this year. Bristol-Rhys says the study was limited in its scope:

“The study seems to have focused narrowly on financial gains, but what about the emotional impact? In India many children are seeing their fathers only once in two years. The study has not taken this into account…The study also seems to have ignored work done by anthropologists in India as well as the UAE for the past 20 years. These have not been referenced. We know that the individual families are benefiting but is the community benefiting? The local villages do not benefit. Instead, the government takes a large chunk of the remittances that are sent. The people working in the Gulf are also under pressure to bring back gifts with them. In many cases, they take loans to go work and then have to stay for two-three contracts to earn the money back.”

[Blogger’s note: studies also exist documenting the harsh living and working conditions for immigrant labor in the UAE, indicating that it’s not clearly a “great destination” – it’s a very tough destination].

  • Misunderstanding: Ebola’s shadow epidemic in Dallas
From left: Carolyn Smith-Morris, Adia Benton, and Doug Henry. Source: Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas Morning News reported on a panel presentation at Southern Methodist University by three medical anthropologists: Adia Benton, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University, Doug Henry, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Texas, and Carolyn Smith-Morris, associate professor and director of SMU’s health and society program.

While Dallas’ Ebola “outbreak” may have ended last fall, scientific exploration of what happened in the city has only begun, especially among medical anthropologists. In a two-hour discussion, the three experts sorted through how the crisis evolved, how people responded, and the language they used to describe what happened. They agreed that what took place was an “an epidemic of misunderstanding.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/9/15”

Anthro in the news 6/24/14

  • Sunni-Shi’a war not likely

Cultural anthropologist William Beeman of the University of Minnesota wrote an article in Highbrow Magazine stating that the many factions among Sunnis and Shi’as in the Middle East will act to limit the possibility of an all-out war:

“The success of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capturing large territories in Syria and Northern Iraq, and now threatening Baghdad, has raised once again the specter of a Sunni-Shi’a war in the Middle East. Such a scenario is possible, but unlikely. That’s because Sunni and Shi’a believers throughout the world are divided into many factions living under different social conditions and with different religious, social and political agendas. These differences greatly reduce the possibility of the emergence of a coalition of either group into a single bloc opposing the other.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/24/14”

Anthro in the news 6/16/14

  • Mixed emotions in Brazil about the World Cup

Source: The Telegraph.

BBC News, among many other media, reported on the mixed reactions in Brazil to the launch of this year’s World Cup competition – from jubilation among some to resentment and protest among others. The BBC quoted cultural anthropologist Arlei Damo of the University of Rio Grande do Sul:

“There is a real conflict…The usual love affair with the Selecao has been undermined by many things – the protests, the realisation that few Brazilians can’t afford to watch them as they wanted to. The emotions aren’t flowing as they typically would.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/16/14”

Anthro in the news 3/3/14

  • Parents beware: Don’t talk to your kids online

As reported in The Globe and Mail (Canada), Danah Boyd, cultural anthropologist, Microsoft researcher, and professor at New York University, recommends that parents who worry about the countless hours their teens spend on phones, tablets and computers: stop worrying. In her new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Boyd argues that teens need screen time to grow, learn and stay socially plugged in. And unlike those who fear social media is bad for our kids, making them sedentary and incapable of face-to-face interaction, she says the Internet is an essentially good (as well as inevitable) part of their lives. And they don’t need anxious parents monitoring everything they tweet or post. The Telegraph (U.K) also carried an article about Boyd and her new book.

  • Honey, can I trust you?

Fox News reported on research at Texas A & M University shows that most honey labels do not tell the truth: at least 75 percent of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. One lead honey investigator says the mis-reporting could be as high as 90 percent. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropology professor at Texas A & M University and is also known as the “honey detective.” He says pollen is so unique in all the different plants worldwide, that it is like a fingerprint. He can discover a honey’s unique “pollen print” which reveals where it’s from. Bryant keeps a library of 20,000 different types of pollen in his lab.

  • Mapping indigenous heritage sites for human survival

Environmental authorities have conducted heritage mapping on Gunbower Island in Australia, according to an article in The Northern Times. Cultural heritage sites located on traditional Barapa Barapa land have been identified in a partnership involving The North Central Catchment Management Authority, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, 19 traditional land owners, an archaeologist, and an ecologist. The three week program funded by an Indigenous heritage grant included groups from Kerang, Deniliquin and Mildura. NCCMA project officer, Robyn McKay, said the purpose of the program was to gain information on watering priorities for the forest: “We need to have a knowledge of cultural and spiritual values…We want a holistic approach to environmental water and incorporate those values into water plans.” She said the program provides skills, training employment and a connection with the country: “It is great to have indigenous evolvement in water plans.”

Archaeologist Colin Pardoe is interested in the population distribution in the region: “We will update the survey records and research earth mound distributions, family to village size along the lagoons…People consider aboriginals and traditional owners to be nomads but in reality people are fairly stable and lived in villages for months at a time. From 1850, within five years they had all disappeared. We will document the reliance on recourses, nets, bags, string and bulrush which was a major food source.”

  • Take that anthro degree…

…and become a businesswoman and an environmental philanthropist. Wendy Schmidt is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in sociology/anthropology and went on to get a graduate degree in journalism. The Schmidt Family Foundation was founded in 2006 to focus on climate and energy issues. The Schmidt Ocean Institute, which supports oceanic research, was created in 2009. Wendy serves as vice president of the SOI and president of the Family Foundation, making the major grant decisions. To date, the Schmidt Family Foundation has given away $451 million, and the ocean institute has gifted more than $100 million. The Schmidts have given additional gifts to academic and medical institutions.

…and become director for visual trends at Getty Images and lead a new initiative, The Lean In Collection, a partnership between Getty Images and Leanin.Org, the nonprofit founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to contribute to women’s empowerment. Getty Images provides illustrations to 2.4 million clients in more than 100 countries. Its customers cover a broad spectrum from advertising and marketing to news media and from large corporations to individual bloggers. Getty is a young company, founded in 1995 to bring stock photos into the digital age. Pam Grossman was instrumental in forming the partnership with, an important step toward modernizing stock images. Grossman, a cultural-anthropology major, believes that images have an immediate emotional impact and deliver messages that affect us consciously and unconsciously on a deep level. The team she works with has been studying depictions of women for the decade she has been working with Getty. Last summer she noticed an uptick in discussions nationally about portrayals of women and girls and decided Getty should have a voice. She put together a presentation that got her an invitation to meet with, and the partnership arose from that meeting. Learn more about Pam Grossman from this article in the Seattle Times. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/3/14”