anthro in the news 12/28/2015

Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

To address ISIS, social science essential

Two social scientists at the University of Oxford,, one a social anthropologist and the other an economist, co-authored an article in the Huffington Post about how “…European states need to go beyond the obvious target, ISIS and its twisted interpretation of Islam, and delve deeper into the complex genesis of violence. Violence is located not just in extremist ideology but also in struggles over the distribution of power within and across nations.” And later on, they write about “…the need to problematize the state and its policies alongside their targets of attack. We need to unpack the common sense view of the state as a benevolent agent operating under explicit policy directions.” Mohammad Talib is Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz fellow in the Anthropology of Muslim Societies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic studies, and Adeel Malik is Globe Fellow in the Economies of Muslim Societies.


Miss Honduras at the 2015 Miss Universe contest. Source: Richard D. Salyer/Courtesy of Miss Universe Organization

Stop the killing: A message from Miss Honduras

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried an article about the national costume worn by Miss Honduras, Iroshka Lindaly Elvir, in the Miss Universe contest. It included many decorative skulls. According to archaeologist Rosemary A. Joyce, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Elvir’s costume drew on Maya culture to bring world attention to violence in Honduras.  The U.N. has ranked Honduras as having the highest murder rate in the world. Joyce noted that: “[Elvir] uploaded pictures to her Facebook page in which she is wearing that outfit holding a sign [that reads] ‘CICIH YA’ which is a call for an independent, U.N.-appointed anti-corruption task force to be appointed for Honduras.”



Continue reading “anthro in the news 12/28/2015”

anthro in the news 9/14/15


Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe [source: Al Jazeera]
Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe (Photo from Al Jazeera)

Refugees in Europe: Care is reasonable and possible

Bloomberg News carried an article on the European refugee crisis, noting that Europe appears to be swinging between two responses:  xenophobia and a compassionate pragmatism. Most migration experts agree that a longer-term solution will require the participation of Canada and the U.S. It draws on commentary from Dawn Chatty, a professor of anthropology and former director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She reminds us that, to deal with the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the 1980s, “the biggest countries got together, and between them they divvied up a million boat people and resettled them. It’s reasonable and possible.”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/14/15”

Anthro in the news 12/22/14

  • On U.S.-Cuba relations

An article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the possible opening up of U.S.-Cuba relations quoted cultural anthropologist Kathleen Musante of the University of Pittsburgh who travels to Cuba frequently with students: “I think we all miscalculated the pressures on Raul Castro…The economy in the last three or four years has appeared as desperate as it was after the Soviet Union’s collapse. I think there is no going back now.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/22/14”

Anthro in the news 5/5/14

  • President Obama in Indonesia: The son of an anthropologist
Stanley Ann Dunham (left) with her two children, Barack (middle), and Maya (right). Source: stanleyanndunhamfund

That’s meant to be a compliment! The Washington Post and other media covering the President’s trip to Asia noted that President Obama appeared to be especially comfortable during his visit to Indonesia:

“While Obama often utters a few halting words in the language of the countries he visits, he tossed off Malaysian phrases with ease during a state dinner in Kuala Lumpur. He also broke into a spontaneous exchange in Indonesian during a town hall meeting the next day. His personal connection to the region showed up in more subtle ways as well, as when he slowed his pace to keep in step with Malaysia’s king — a move many Malaysians saw as a cultural gesture of respect for an elder.”

Obama lived in Indonesia between the ages of 6 and 10. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a cultural anthropologist whose second husband was Indonesian. Their daughter, Maya Soetero, is President Obama’s his only sibling. Dunham spent two decades living in the region doing anthropological research on local artisans. She died at the age of 52 in Honolulu.

  • Vetiver: Wealth from Haiti’s land whisked away

According to an article in Reuters, the vetiver plant, a tropical grass, is a little-known Haitian agricultural treasure, producing one of the most prized essential oils for high-end perfumes. The crop is a major employer in southwest Haiti, where farmers have harvested vetiver for decades but earn little from it. Production of the plant in Haiti collapsed in the late 1960s during the three-decade-long dictatorships of Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) and Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc). Pierre Léger, a Haitian agronomist, revived vetiver farming in the 1980s. Léger took samples to the top French and Swiss perfumers. “The quality was so good, they couldn’t believe it was from Haiti.”

The question now is: given the global value of Haitian vetiver, how can Haitian farmers benefit from it? Critics say the fair-trade system may not help the farmers enough given the precarious situation of vetiver famers. Cultural anthropologist Scott Freeman, a visiting scholar at George Washington University and author of a 2011 paper on Haitian vetiver, said events often force farmers to dig up immature roots to cover medical care, school fees or a funeral: “When they find themselves in a tight squeeze, they dig up the vetiver.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/5/14”

Anthro in the news 3/10/14

Zein Al-Rifia/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images.
  • The past is also a victim in Syria

An article in The New York Times highlighted the loss of prehistoric and historic artifacts in Syria due to the ongoing conflict there. It mentioned the French archaeologists Pierre Leriche and Jean-Claude Margueron who both spent decades uncovering Syria’s rich past and how they find it too painful now to look at the present. Leriche and Margueron are just two of many archaeologists from Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and elsewhere who spent years uncovering Syria’s past. UNESCO experts and scholars in Syria describe it as a country in the process of obliterating its cultural history. The article quotes Pierre Leriche: “The situation now is absolutely terrible there.” He is a professor of archaeology at the École Normale Supérieure, one of France’s most prestigious universities, who worked for more than 25 years at a site on the Euphrates River. Noting reports of illegal excavation at about 350 places in that one site where he worked, he said: “They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/10/14”

Anthro in the news 12/9/13

Marlene McKay
Marlene McKay. Credit: Liam Richards/Canadian Press

• Violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada: stop it

Canada paused on Friday to remember the 14 young Montreal women who were murdered by a misogynistic madman. As part of the tribute, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition unveiled a public art display of shoes in the square at City Hall to illustrate the lifetime loss of girls and women who are fatal victims of violence, often domestic abuse that forces them out onto the streets.

An article in The Toronto Star quoted Marlene McKay, a Métis anthropologist who has studied marginalized aboriginal women as well as the “broken women from Saskatoon’s 20th Street.” She said that history has inflicted so much pain and lowered the self-worth of Canada’s aboriginal women that the fact hundreds are missing has become little more than a sociological footnote. Feminism, she says, is still pretty much an F-word in indigenous culture: “We are just entering that conversation.”

• Belize in the news

The Huffington Post carried an interview with Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, Mayanist, tourism lecturer at a junior college, and one of Belize’s top tour guides. Awe shares facts and ideas about Belize’s history, culture, ecotourism, economy and sustainable development.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/9/13”