anthro in the news 6/8/15

  • Porn-driven female genital esthetics

The Globe and Mail reported on growing industry in women’s genital esthetics, illustrating its point with some details about genital-area waxing and skin treatment for women available in Toronto. The article quotes Eileen Anderson-Fye, the Robson Junior associate professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University: “Because of technological advances, we have greater access to pornographic images that explicitly and implicitly convey aesthetic and erotic ideals…“These images hold women to increasingly singular standards about beauty and desirability.” [Blogger’s note: there’s an even more serious question here about what drives porn to portray sexually desirable female genitals as child-like].

  • Culture, hormones, and menopause
Logo of the Women’s Health Initiative

A Reuters article describes findings from a survey about vaginal pain during intercourse in several Western countries. The results, which reveal substantial cross-country variations, will not be surprising to anthropologists. Researchers conducted an online survey asking 8,200 older men and women in North America and Europe how menopause affects their sex lives and relationships. While similar complaints were reported across all countries, the magnitude of suffering for vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and weight gain varied. According to Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, the findings are limited because the survey recruited only women with vaginal pain and men who experienced it with their partners. Even so, she continues, the cultural differences about menopause highlighted by the survey underscore how regional differences in diet, physical activity, attitudes toward aging, and expectations about menopause influence how women experience symptoms.

  • Good news: First woman president in Mauritius

Anthropologyworks’ Sean Carey published an article in the New African on the election in Mauritius of its first woman president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, an eminent scientist specializing in ethnobotany. She will also serve her country as its ceremonial Head of State, a move that has caused some controversy but also much support. She vows to be an “apolitical president.” Well, let’s see says Carey, a longtime observer of politics in Mauritius. Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/8/15”

Anthro in the news 4/14/14

• Health equity, smart aid, and “stupid deaths”

KPBS radio (San Diego) interviewed medical anthropologist and health activist Paul Farmer about how to improve health care around the world.

Farmer talked about how to ensure equal access to health care through smart aid and the need to avoid what he calls “stupid deaths.” He comments on the “equity approach” in responding to a question about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide.

He also addresses tough questions about HIV/AIDs and how to help the poorest people.

• Jim Kim: On leadership and cholera

The Washington Post carried a brief interview (embedded below) with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a medical anthropologist and physician.

Kim discusses leadership and the need to develop a thick skin, in some areas, and openness in others.

During the April 12 meetings of the World Bank, Kim called for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/b4e9c246-c0ee-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/14/14”

Anthro in the news 4/7/14

• Cultural anthropologists fighting Ebola

National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on the role of cultural anthropology in efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola in Guinea.

Health specialists work in an isolation ward for patients in Guékedou, southern Guinea. Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images.
Specialists at a Guékedou, southern Guinea isolation ward. Seyllou/AFP/Getty

Doctors, nurses and epidemiologists from international organizations are flying in to help, along with cultural anthropologists. Understanding local beliefs can help get communities to trust international health care workers, says Barry Hewlett, a medical anthropologist at Washington State University. Hewlett was invited to join the Doctors Without Borders Ebola team during an outbreak in Uganda in 2000. There are anthropologists on the current team in Guinea as well.

Before the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders started bringing in anthropologists, medical staff had a difficult time convincing families to bring their sick loved ones to clinics and isolation wards. In Uganda, Hewlett remembers, people were afraid of the international health care workers: “The local people thought that the Europeans in control of the isolation units were in a body parts business … Their loved ones would go into the isolation units, and they would never see them come out.”

Health care workers did not always promptly notify relatives of a death because of the need to dispose of the body quickly, Hewlett wrote in a report on his experiences in Uganda: “The anger and bad feelings about not being informed were directed toward health care workers in the isolation unit … This fear could have been averted by allowing family members to see the body in the bag and allowing family members to escort the body to the burial ground.” In addition, Hewlett points out that the large tarps surrounding isolation units were removed so family members could see and talk with a sick relative.

Efforts to contain such outbreaks must be “culturally sensitive and appropriate,” Hewlett says. “Otherwise people are running away from actual care that is intended to help them.” Medical anthropologists can help doctors and other medical experts understand how a local population perceives disease, death, and loss.
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/7/14”

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”

Anthro in the news 1/27/14

  • From Davos, with anthropology
    Jim Yong Kim. Photograph: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters

Several media sources connected with Jim Yong Kim during this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. According to coverage from CNN in Davos, World Bank president and medical anthropologist Jim Yong Kim has called for a concerted global effort to help Syria’s refugees, saying the international community has failed to formulate an adequate response to a “humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions…”

CNBC also reports on Kim and his view that that Southern Europe is facing the risk of losing a whole generation to chronic unemployment: “Among the things that we’re especially concerned about are the extremely high rates of youth unemployment because that has implications not just for the short term, but especially in the medium to long term.”

The Huffington Post presents Kim’s views on pollution, noting that he has called on global leaders to address climate change: “This is the year to take action. There are no excuses.” His clarion call comes shortly after a WEF report revealed that failure to arrest, and adapt to global warming is one the greatest threats facing our planet.

  • More about Jim Kim: The World Bank and big dam problems

Chixoy Dam.

The Washington Post, in its business section, published an article about the U.S. pushing for greater oversight of the World Bank as it pushes ahead with its new plan to solve extreme poverty through major hydro-elective projects: “In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies throughout the bank’s history including the ongoing case of the displacements and human rights abuses related to the Chixoy dam in Guatemala. The measure also demands that the organization undertake ‘independent outside evaluations’ of all of its lending.” [Blogger’s note: In October, CIGA hosted a talk at the Elliott School by Barbara Rose Johnston who is a leading advocate and expert on the Chixoy dam project and the human rights abuses it involved].

  • Forcing women into marriage

An article in Al Jazeera on forced marriage among Hindus, Muslims, and Jews around the world, mentions the work of cultural anthropologist Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Curtis, along with some of his students, interviewed 100 students at several City University of New York campuses, focusing on students from Middle Eastern, North African and Southeast Asian (MENASA) countries to try to determine the extent of forced marriage, an issue he suspects is more widespread than what the research shows: “All that we are seeing is the ugly tip of the iceberg, but how much more is there?”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 1/27/14”

Anthro in the news 9/9/13

• Bullshit jobs a new category of employment

The Sydney Morning Herald published an article by cultural/economic anthropologist David Graeber of the London School of Economics on nonsense, or bullshit jobs, jobs that involve a lot of time devoted to activities that really do not need to be done.

The Office cast
The kinds of bullshit jobs under The Office's Michael Scott are all too real for some. Credit/Wikipedia

Graeber argues that by eliminating the bullshit work, people could be freed to “pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas.”

The last century in the U.S. has seen the decline of productive jobs in industry and farming along with “the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations.”

The Guardian picked up on bullshit jobs and published an article with tips about how to tell if you have a bullshit job as well as help assessing the amount of bullshit that may be involved in your not-totally-bullshit job.

• Interview with Jim Kim on Syria and more

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president and medical anthropologist, was interviewed by Bloomberg News. He discusses the possible military strike against Syria in terms of its economic consequences. He also mentions the humanitarian connection, from his perspective as a medical doctor, about the use of chemical weapons. When asked about his views on who might be the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen or Larry Summers, he said that both are excellent.

http://player.ooyala.com/player.js?embedCode=ZqOTM5ZToi3Z2TNYgx5WY8X7U7Zrzonw&playerBrandingId=8a7a9c84ac2f4e8398ebe50c07eb2f9d&width=525&deepLinkEmbedCode=ZqOTM5ZToi3Z2TNYgx5WY8X7U7Zrzonw&height=360&thruParam_bloomberg-ui%5BpopOutButtonVisible%5D=FALSE

[Blogger’s note: it seems that Dr. Kim may have an advanced degree in diplomacy, along with his anthropology and medical degrees].

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