anthro in the news 10/5/15


The Vatican, source: Creative Commons

An anthropologist meets the Pope

The Huffington Post published an article by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, medical anthropologist at the University of California Berkeley, describing her visit to the Vatican in April at the invitation of Pope Francis. The Pope convened an international meeting of experts to discuss human trafficking and modern slavery.  Scheper-Hughes writes:  “…he is an incredibly happy man, a man at peace with himself and with the world. He seems comfortable in his skin. But most of all, he is fearless. Although he still ends most encounters with the petition, “Pray for me,” he is smiling and radiant. In accepting the heavy cargo that is the papacy, with all of its entanglements, intrigues, risks and dangers, and its daily uncertainties, Pope Francis is calm and reassuring.”


A 481-foot drug tunnel in Nogales discovered in 2014. source: USA Today

Smugglers’ tunnels give U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security a bad name

Nogales International (Arizona) reported on the situation in Nogales, a city in Arizona that accounts for most of the 183 cross-border tunnels between Mexico and the U.S. that have been discovered  since the mid-1990s. The article draws on commentary from cultural anthropologist Howard Campbell of the University of Texas-El Paso who has studied drug trafficking in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. He said that tunnel trafficking is just a small part of the overall drug smuggling picture: “Although it’s very colorful and exciting, it’s not really important for the overall volume, except for short periods of time…” He added that other researchers have found that the “majority of drugs, in terms of value…actually cross through ports of entry.” Campbell suggested the Border Patrol’s interest in rooting out tunnels has less to do with how many loads pass through them than with their symbolic value. With the Department of Homeland Security spending billions of dollars annually on agents and technology, smugglers outwitting their efforts with shovels and pickaxes doesn’t look good: “The tunnels really give the Border Patrol and Homeland Security a bad name.”

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Anthro in the news 5/26/14

  • Trafficking narrative databank for empowerment, research and policy

Reuters carried an article about the work of cultural anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi, a professor at Pomona College, who is collecting narratives of trafficked persons as testimony. The project, Stories Beyond Borders, seeks to contribute to a solution to the multi-dimensional problems experienced by trafficked people. It is a global online portal wherein survivors, activists, academics, and friends and families of survivors can tell their stories online. Beyond providing a global platform for survivors that could be anonymous (if the person so chooses), the portal will also generate a treasure trove of data for academics and policy makers to analyze. Policy makers, including officers of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report and other global initiatives have often asked for a way to locate the data reflecting lived experience; this portal will allow just that. In addition to providing data, and giving survivors a voice, the portal is a place for community building for survivors who often feel isolated due to their experiences, as well as a center wherein those seeking help and outreach can locate services based on country of residence or origin. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/26/14”

(Child) sex in the city

There are people who buy and sell other people all over the world today. Among the most severe forms of human trafficking is child sex trafficking. And Washington, DC is one of the “hot spots” for this crime.

The extent, causes, approaches to prevention, and recovery of victims were among the many compelling topics addressed by four anti-sex trafficking activists who participated in a panel discussion at George Washington University on October 18. The event was  sponsored by the Global Women’s Forum, part of the Global Gender Initiative of the Elliott School of International Affairs.

anti human trafficking panel
Fighting Sex Trafficking, Four Approached by Local Organizations. Speakers (left to right) Mastrean, Neff, Mathon-Mathieu, Powell, Bertone. Photo taken by Mathilde Bras, exchange student from Sciences Po, Paris.

Panelists included Andrea Powell (co-founder and executive director, FAIR Fund), Faiza Mathon-Mathieu (counsel, Rebecca Project for Human Rights), Erin Neff (assistant project manager, Courtney’s House), and Taryn Mastrean (programs administrator, Shared Hope International). The panel was moderated by Andrea Bertone, visiting assistant professor of international affairs at GW.

Powell launched the discussion by pointing out that when she was first studying “people buying people” in Bonn, Germany, the term “human trafficking” didn’t even exist. When she returned to the US, she thought that the problem wouldn’t be serious. She learned otherwise, and that young people with difficult home situations are at high risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. With FAIR Fund, she has helped build capacity in communities to identify victims and to make sure that family services are aware of the complex needs of trafficked children. She works with young people directly and has established a preventive education campaign called “Tell Your Friends.” Powell emphasized the gap between the number of children who need help and the lack of places to shelter them.  Services in Belgrade are better than they are in Washington, DC.

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Anthro in the news 8/19