Anthro in the news 11/4/13

An anti-terrorism force holds exercises in Hami, in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July
An anti-terrorism force holds exercises in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July/CNN

• Just blame it on Uyghur terrorism

CNN invited cultural anthropologist Sean R. Roberts to write an article on the accusation by the Chinese government that the October 28 car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that resulted in the death of five people and the injury of dozens was a terrorist attack by Uyghurs.

Roberts notes that while the deaths are a tragedy, it is not clear that they are a representative of a serious terrorist threat to the Chinese state as is now being suggested by official sources. According to Chinese security organs, this act of driving a jeep into a crowd of people and setting it on fire was a “carefully planned, organized, and premeditated” terrorist attack carried out by a group of Uyghur Islamic extremists from Xinjiang Province.

Roberts continues to say that given the lack of transparency historically in the Chinese state’s conviction of Uyghurs on charges of political violence, “we may never know whether this characterization of Monday’s events is accurate.” Roberts is an associate professor and director of international development studies in the Elliott School of the George Washington University. He has done substantial fieldwork in China’s Xinjiang region and is presently writing a book on the Uyghurs of Kazakhstan.

• Interview with medical anthropologist Seth Holmes

Mother Jones carried an interview with medical anthropologist Seth Holmes of the University of California at Berkeley. Holmes recounts his year and a half among the people who harvest food for consumers in the U.S. in his book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. Questions address how he became interested in anthropology, in U.S. farm workers, as well as what it’s like to illegally cross the Mexico-U.S. border.

[Blogger’s note: I assigned Seth’s book in my fall seminar on Culture, Risk and Disaster. It got a thumbs up from all the students, and I will assign it again next year.]

• They’ll be watching us — Ethics of big data mining

Weaponizing Anthropology
Book cover

An article in Toward Freedom about how the U.S. government is developing a program to mine online big data to predict global political unrest included commentary from two cultural anthropologists, Robert Albro of American University and David Price of St. Martin’s University. Albro was dubious of the program’s revelations on the Brazil protests, calling it a “drinking the kool-aid moment,” where the project’s supporters will use this alleged success to reinforce their beliefs about the project’s viability.

Price shares a that sentiment: “I am extremely skeptical that these sort of planes of prediction will work out the way they want them to … However, I understand why those in power who want to know what’s going on in the world, and want to manipulate it, are so interested in this.”

Albro said that a “viable, ethical framework on how to collect data from social media” and protect privacy still needs to be developed and articulated for research purposes in general. “We should all be worried,” said Price, who is author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State. “It’s going to be used domestically, I imagine, as much as it is going to be used internationally.”

• Working moms are exhausted

An article in the Los Angeles Times reports on findings from a new analysis from the Pew Research Center showing that , despite strides toward gender equality, women in the U.S. still shoulder more work at home and feel more fatigued by their daily grind.

Sophie and Mom
'Sophie and Mom.' Flickr/Brad Greenlee

The study is based on data from the American Time Use Survey, sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2010 survey was the first to ask whether people felt tired, happy or stressed during different activities.

For instance, mothers logged much more time doing “physical care,” such as changing diapers or tending to sick kids.

That could be why dads find child care less tiring than moms do: Mothers are more than twice as likely as fathers to feel “very tired” during childcare.

Dads devote much more time to caring for children and keeping up the house than they used to, but they still lag far behind moms, who spend almost twice as many hours on those tasks weekly, Pew found. Fathers still spend more time working for pay, on average, than mothers do.

The article quotes Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, an adjunct professor of anthropology at UCLA: “We are socialized as women to take care of the home … We are still supposed to be the perfect mom and have a beautiful house.”

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become a librarian and launch a program to English to new immigrants. Ashley Molzen is a librarian in Des Moines, Iowa, where she is the head of adult collections. But she also works with refugee and English-learning populations through a program she launched called Conversations and Coffee, a weekly opportunity for language learners to gather and practice conversational English. She has a B.A. from the University of Iowa where she focused on anthropology and international studies.

Latte artist
'Latte artist.' Flickr/Morten Rand-Hendriksen

…become a coffee specialist and open a cafe. Jon Ferguson has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He served in the Peace Corps in Honduras in 1999 and has worked as a barrista in Seattle. He is now back in Lincoln where he has Cultiva Coffee Roasting Company, a cafe and roastery.

• It’s hard to be a warriors princess

According to several mainstream media including NBC, the recent determination last month that a body found in an Etruscan tomb was a warrior prince holding a spear is wrong in terms of gender of the remains.

A subsequent bone analysis of the 2,600 warrior prince revealed that the remains are of a 35-40 year-old woman. Archaeologist Judith Weingarten supports the gender reassignment; others are still not convinced. WPXI (Pittsburgh) offers a video report rounding up several perspectives.

• Bio anthropologist looks at hazing

Science Daily picked up on a recent publication by Aldo Cimino, a lecturer in the department of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, about why hazing is found in so many cultures.

Hazing of French military pilot at 1,000 hours flight time
Hazing of French military pilot at 1,000 hours flight time/Wikipedia

Cimino has been doing research to learn why so many cultures have initiation rites that include hazing. One hypothesis Cimino is exploring involves evolved psychology:

“The human mind may be designed to respond to new group members in a variety of ways, and one of those ways may be something other than a hug … I’m not claiming that hazing is inevitable in human life, that everyone will haze, or that nothing will reduce hazing. But I am suggesting that the persistence of hazing across different social, demographic and ecological environments suggests that our shared, evolved psychology may be playing a role.”

He published an article on his work in the online edition of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

• In memoriam

F. Landa Jocano, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of the Philippines, died at the age of 83 years. He was best known for his documentation and translation of the Central Visayan epic, the Hinilawod, among other contributions to anthropology and Philippine folk literature.

He earned his B.A. in 1958 from the Central University of the Philippines and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. At a teaching stint at the University of Chicago, he returned to the Philippines. Jocano’s other groundbreaking works include Philippine Pre-History, Slum as a Way of Life, Filipino Social Structure and Value Orientation, Filipino Cultural Heritage, Myths and Legends of Early Filipinos, Philippines-USSR Relations, and Filipino Indigenous Ethnic Communities.

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