Call for contributions from GEMS (Gender, Education, Music, Society)

GEMS is extending a call for articles and book reviews/summaries for the upcoming year – particular topics of interest include: women studies, gender studies, LGBTQ or other current topic. Topics do not have to be directed towards “music or music education” – generalization can be made. For the September issue, please consider submitting an article or a book review/summary. Please email me your word document directly to the editor, Dr. Colleen Pinar, at

Submissions are also welcome for later issues.

GEMS’ archives is located at Queens University
(Queens University may be working on the OJS system. If you are having trouble downloading a pdf- try Firefox or Chrome).

Articles (Book Reviews/Summaries are also located at the above web address). (more…)

Anthro in the news 8/18/14

Anonymous members protest corrupt governments and corporation in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

  • Anonymous group, transparency, and Ferguson, Missouri

The fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer raises deep questions about police racial bias and public transparency following the shooting. The New York Times and other media described the role of Anonymous, an international hacker group, which claimed to have the name of the police officer responsible for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. “We have the name of the shooter,” the group tweeted. “We just can’t verify. We need to either talk to witnesses or get a second leak source.” Since then, the authorities in Missouri released the name of the office involved in the shooting but the incident is still shrouded in mystery and the town of Ferguson a site of unrest.

Gabriella Coleman, a professor of anthropology at McGill University who studies Anonymous, said she was taken aback that members of Anonymous would be so quick to release unverified information, and would speak so openly about their methods in online chat channels: “My jaw was dropping…because what I was seeing was suggestive but not definitive. Anonymous tends to care about its image quite a bit, and if they were wrong, it would be really bad.” Coleman is author of the forthcoming book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: the Many Faces of Anonymous.

  • Is the world ready for Ebola?

Mike Callaghan, a doctoral student in medical anthropology at the University of Toronto, published an article in The Province (Canada) addressing key questions about the response to infectious disease in Canada. He says, “More and more Canadians are scared of Ebola, but few of them are scared for the right reasons. Ebola is definitely deadly, but catching it is actually quite difficult. The virus is transmitted only through the contaminated body fluids of people who are visibly sick. Patients usually die so quickly that outbreaks burn out quickly. Further, the virus is effectively contained by modern health systems.”

He poses these questions for Canadians and others: How do we balance safety and freedom? What is the role of science? How can ethics guide us? When should we risk rolling out untested drugs?

Callagan concludes: “Behind Ebola, a long list of contagions lie in wait. Their arrival will bring a whole set of difficult questions about governance, science and ethics that we do not currently have answers for. That is worth worrying about.”

  • Drones for cultural heritage survival

In Peru (and elsewhere), land grabs for urban development, for tourist sites, for mines, and more threaten cultural heritage site. The New York Times carried a front page article about how drones are a new tool for archaeologists, helping them to find sites and record them with hundreds of photographs. The article profiles the work of Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, Peru’s vice minister of cultural heritage, an archaeologist who is also a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. He points to a series of stone walls built more than a thousand years ago by the Moche civilization that now gives way to a grid of adobe walls put up recently by land speculators. “This site is threatened on every side,” he said. (more…)

Anthro in the news 8/11/14

  • Ebola and bio-terrorism

Ebola victim arrives at Emory University hospital. Source:

CBS News (Atlanta) quoted biological anthropologist Peter Walsh of Cambridge University who warns that terrorists could be able to build a dirty bomb containing the Ebola virus. He says that the risk should be taken seriously of terror groups getting their hands on the Ebola virus:

“A bigger and more serious risk is that a group manages to harness the virus as a powder, then explodes it in a bomb in a highly populated area…It could cause a large number of horrific deaths…Only a handful of labs worldwide have the Ebola virus and they are extremely well protected. So the risk is that a terrorist group seeks to obtain the virus out in West Africa.”

  • Hip-hop diplomacy?

The Herald described the cultural diplomacy efforts of the U.S. State Department and nonprofit groups that send musical troupes, dance groups and teachers abroad to promote American culture and generate goodwill. The approach is part of what’s known as soft diplomacy, the use of the arts and other forms of social interaction — from agricultural programs to public construction — as an instrument of foreign policy that contrasts with the hard diplomacy of the military and the economy. Current cultural diplomacy focuses on youth and includes musical genres such as American hip-hop. (more…)

Anthro in the news 8/4/14

Protective gloves and boots of medical personnel dry in the sun. Source: CNN.

  • On the move: Ebola and ebola fear

Ebola is a fast-spreading virus that liquifies internal organs and kills six in 10 victims. It is not clear if it is a new disease or has been around for a long time. Some academics have talked about it being responsible for the Black Death plague epidemics of the Middle Ages which killed millions across Europe and Asia. The current outbreak has killed hundreds, it has infected over 1,200 people of whom 670 have died. So far, cases have been reported in three countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Local, regional, and international travel could speed up the spread of the disease.

The Daily Record quoted Cambridge University’s Peter Walsh, a biological anthropologist and ebola expert: “It’s possible someone infected will fly to Heathrow having infected other people sitting next to them or by using the toilet.

  • The cultural construction of schizophrenia

An article in The Huffington Post describes a cross-cultural study of schizophrenia, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by Tanya Luhrmann. Luhrmann, professor of cultural anthropology at Stanford University, has been studying schizophrenia since the early 1990s. In her latest project, she studied how the cultural perception of the mental condition affects patient outcomes in three cities: Accra, Ghana; Chennai, India; and San Mateo, California. She interviewed 12 women and eight men in Accra, nine women and 11 men in Chennai, and 10 women and 10 men in San Mateo.

Her research in India and Ghana reveals that hallucinations and voices are not always considered a problem. More than half of her research participants in India described the voices they heard as those of family members or ancestors. The voices were perceived as guides instead of threats. One Hindu woman in Chennai claimed to hear messages from god and said she was also feeling vibrations. Had the woman been born in San Mateo, she likely would have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. (more…)

Anthro in the news 7/28/14

Flooding on the Marshall Islands. Source: Getty Images.

  • Climate change, blame, and moving on

National Public Radio provided commentary by anthropologist Barbara J. King of William and Mary on “the blame game” about climate change. After reading an article by anthropologist Peter Rudiak-Gould in the August issue of Current Anthropology, “Climate Change and Accusation: Global Warming and Local Blame in a Small Island State“, she gained an appreciation for the scale of the problem of climate change faced by people in the Marshall Islands. Rudiak-Gould seeks to understand how the Marshallese Islanders think about who is responsible for climate change: Do they engage in industrial blame, in which Western, developed and industrialized countries are held to be at fault? Or do they adopt a perspective of universal blame that puts blame on all of us collectively, even Marshall Islanders?

King and Rudiak-Gould have been communicating by email, exploring several questions related to his article. You can read about their exchanges in her piece. The upshot is: talk to the people and move on from there to considering ways to make positive change. King is inspired to talk to people in Norfolk.

  • A migrant who died on the way: Documentary film

The Independent (U.K.) covered a new film documenting illegal immigration into the United States along its southern border with Mexico.  The film, made by the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, tells the story of Dilcy Martinez, a Honduran who died 20 minutes’ drive from a new life in Tucson. It highlights the work of the Missing Migrant Project, based at the office of the Pima County medical examiner in Tucson, which identified his remains. The story of the fatal journey is the subject of Who Is Dayani Cristal?, released in the U.K. this weekend. (more…)

Gaza: What you can do

Without doubt many people are following the devastating attack on Gaza and may be wondering if there is anything they can do to help. If you are interested in donating to assist Gaza’s population, one excellent organization is ANERA ( They have been doing exemplary work in Gaza (along with the West Bank and Lebanon) for a long time and are trying very hard to keep it up even under these devastating conditions.

And if you are looking for something to do, consider supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) call that will be coming to the American Anthropological Association. It is likely that there will be a resolution at this year’s AAA meeting for the membership to vote on. Certainly, there are a number of panels and roundtables on the AAA program to allow for discussion of this issue.

Ilana Feldman
Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs
George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052

Anthro in the news 7/21/14

Kate Clancy

  • The perils of fieldwork

The Washington Post and other mainstream media reported on a survey about sexual harassment and assault by colleagues during fieldwork. The study includes 142 men and 516 women in anthropology (including archaeology), geology, and other scientific disciplines. Results show that younger women are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault during fieldwork.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, claims to be the first to investigate experiences of scientists at field sites. Researchers conducted an online survey with respondents recruited through social media, e-mail and links on Web sites of major anthropological organizations as well as other scientific disciplines that require fieldwork. The study’s lead author is Kate Clancy, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

The Washington Post quotes Clancy: “Our main findings – that women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse and felt they had few avenues to report or resolve these problems – suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive…We worry that this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”

[Blogger’s note: Nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1990, Nancy Howell published a landmark study, "Surviving Fieldwork: A Report of the Advisory Panel on Health and Safety in Fieldwork", supported by the American Anthropological Association. I don’t have my copy at hand -- it’s at my university office, so I cannot check the accuracy of the following statement, but I think I am right in saying that her study did not include sexual harassment and assault by colleagues. Perhaps it is time to reassess the wider range of dangers in the field and how to prevent them.]

  • Scheper-Hughes talks back

The Pacific Standard Magazine carried a response by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, to an article about her work exposing human organ trafficking. An excerpt:

“In his profile of me (“The Organ Detective,” July/August), Ethan Watters quotes sources indicating that I have a deep animus toward the medical establishment. I have always worked closely with surgeons, pathologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and transplant professionals. I have co-authored numerous articles with physicians and transplant surgeons. In 2007, I was offered a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair and Professorship at the University of Minnesota, with a primary appointment in the Department of Surgery. I declined, regretfully, but I believe the offer reflected that school’s faith in my ability to play a positive role in the training of medical students (including surgeons) in medical anthropological concepts and methods bearing on ethical clinical practice.” (more…)

La Réunion leads the way in tackling the chikungunya virus

By Sean Carey

After an outbreak of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus which affected 270,000 people on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion in 2005-2006, scientists at L’Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) in Marseille have been working hard to come up with a solution so that no one in France’s overseas departments (DOM), or anywhere else, has to experience high fever, headache, rash, and severe joint and muscle pain. These symptoms, although rarely fatal, can last between a few days and several months.

About time too some would say. Indeed, two academic commentators have accused the public health authorities as well as the media in metropolitan France of being far too slow to react to the initial crisis on an island, which lies nearly 6000 of miles south-east of Paris. In two papers on the chikungunya epidemic in La Réunion, one in 2008 and another in 2009,  University of South Australia’s  Philip Weinstein and Srilata Ravi claim that the delay in acknowledging the public health risk of the virus reflected “passive denial” by the French metropolitan government, convinced that its mainland European citizens were in no danger, a view which was mirrored in the “residual colonial thinking on the priority placed on reporting on an epidemic in the remote tropical location” by the mainstream media.

It was only towards the end of 2006, observed Weinstein and Ravi, that there was a significant shift in attitude signalled by the use of a “more inclusive language” by government and newspapers, such as Le Figaro and Le Monde, in metropolitan France. In any event, according to epidemiologists the medical costs of treating around 40 per cent of the population for chikungunya  in La Réunion (an island with the healthcare system of a developed country) was around €43.9 million (though note that this figure does not take into account self-medication using over-the-counter medicines, or alternative or complementary remedies). (more…)

Anthro in the news 7/7/14

  • Crypto-colonialism

Michael Hertzfeld. Source: Harvard University.

An article in The Himalayan Times (Nepal) described how the concept of crypto-colonialism, as introduced in 2002 by cultural anthropologist Michael Herzfeld of Harvard University, applies to Nepal as well as Greece and Thailand, where Herzfeld initially researched it. [Blogger’s note: A vimeo made in 2012 provides an update on Herzfeld’s thinking about crypto-colonialism].

  • Jewels of the desert

A girl and her Llama. Source: Thomas Quine.

Archaeologists from the University of Wroclaw have uncovered 150 graves of a little known community that inhabited the Peruvian side of the Atacama Desert prior to the 7th century C.E. According to archaeologist Jozef Szykulski of the Institute of Archaeology of Wraclow University, Poland: “These burials are of the virtually unknown people who inhabited the area before the expansion of the Tiwanaku civilization.”

He comments, further: “Items found in individual graves indicate that the people already had a clear social division…Members of the team discovered a large amount of jewellery, as well as lavishly decorated weaving tools…Inside some of the graves we found bows and quivers with arrows tipped with obsidian heads…This is a very interesting find, because bows are a rarity in Peru.” Discovery of a llama skeleton shows that llamas had been brought to the region earlier than scholars previously thought.

  • We’re getting older all the time

The Telegraph (U.K.) reported on findings by three researchers – Susan Antón of New York University, Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, and Leslie Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation — who reviewed a wide variety of studies and data and concluded that early hominids had started displaying aspects of behavior associated with the Homo genus far earlier than scholars previously thought, including making tools, evolving long limbs, and diversifying their diets to cope with climate change. Findings were published in the journal Science.

  • Modern Tibetans have Denisovan genetic heritage

Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft). Source

The Los Angeles Times and several other media reported on the findings by ancient genetics researchers that Tibetans can trace part of their ancestry to this little-known group of early human ancestors. Scientists collected blood samples from 40 Tibetans and sequenced more than 30,000 nucleotides on a segment of DNA containing EPAS1, the gene that makes Tibetans adapted for life at high altitude. The scientists compared that sequence with those of 1,000 individuals representing the 26 human populations in the Human Genome Diversity Panel. They found the high-altitude gene in only 2 of the 40 Han Chinese people in the panel and no one else.

“Natural selection by itself could not explain that pattern,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a computational biologist at UC Berkeley and an author of the study. “The DNA sequence was too different from anything else we saw in other populations.”

Abigail Bigham, a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study, is quoted as saying that the search for Denisovan DNA should extend to other groups: “When they looked in Han Chinese, they saw it in only two individuals…But other populations in Central Asia or East Asia — there are 49 other ethnic minorities in China that have different genetic backgrounds — would have been interesting to look at as well.”


Anthro in the news 6/30/14

  • She said, he said, he said: Public debt is slavery or not?

As reported in an article in The Washington Post, last fall, at a fundraiser in Iowa, Sarah Palin said:

“Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing from China. When that money comes due and, this isn’t racist, so try it, try it anyway, this isn’t racist, but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due. Right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master.”

Then: The Baffler provides a transcript of a public conversation about the financial crisis between American anthropologist David Graeber, a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and author of  Debt: The First 5000 Years, and French economist Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the 21st Century. They were in Paris talking about the financial crisis and its implications.

About half-way through the conversation, Piketty says: (more…)