by Colin Davis
Download the report here!
by Leshia Hansen
Download the report here!
by Colin Davis
Download the report here!
by Leshia Hansen
Download the report here!
The Business Spectator (Australia) published a piece by Bryan Tilt, associate professor of anthropology at Oregon State University and author of Dams and Development in China: The Moral Economy of Water and Power. He asks: “China’s steep escalation in hydropower development is unlikely to slow anytime soon. So, how can China develop hydropower in a way that best protects ecosystems and people?” He then proposes three basic principles for moving forward. Tilt also reminds us that:
“This is not just China’s problem. The repercussions of the current hydropower boom are being felt far beyond the country’s borders. Armed with the best hydropower engineering capacity in the world, and the backing of government financial institutions like China Exim Bank, Chinese firms are involved in the planning and construction of more than 300 dam projects in 70 countries, from Southeast Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. As hydropower development continues to build momentum as an important source of renewable energy, more public scrutiny is needed.”
Reviews of David Graeber’s latest book, The Utopia of Rules, continue to appear, one published by National Public Radio and another in The Boston Globe. NPR comments: “Full credit to Graeber…When he eventually gets to a point, it’s almost always insightful, thought-provoking and, as befits the roundabout way he got there, unexpected.” The Boston Globe says: “David Graeber’s critique of bureaucracy, is meant to stop the reader short. It does.”
The Nepali Times published a piece by David N. Gellner, professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, in which he compares Nepal and Laos. He suggests that despite differences, the two countries have much in common and academics should meet and compare notes. Nepal has been likened to a yam between two boulders: “Laos is a yam between five boulders – and perhaps, given the legacy of US bombing, that should be six boulders.”
Counterpunch carried an interview with Claudio Lomnitz, Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, about his new book, The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. It examines the life of renowned Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón (1874-1922) within the context of those closest to him—principally, his elder brother Jesús, younger brothers Enrique, Librado Rivera, and Práxedis G. Guerrero, all of whom were associates of the Junta Organizadora of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM). As a result of his lifelong commitment to social revolution, Ricardo was a political prisoner for much of his life. In this interview, Lomnitz discusses the book’ title, the PLM, and more. (more…)
As in previous years, I did a key word search in Dissertation Abstracts International to find dissertations defended in 2014 that address topics related to the anthropologyworks mission. I continue to regret that this source provides information almost exclusively on U.S. dissertations, in other words, it is not “international.”
“Best” means my “best” picks: dissertations that connect to major global issues. My search terms were human rights, justice, migration, gender/women, health, violence, conflict, environment, food, and energy.
As you may imagine, I do not read the entire dissertations, only the abstracts. My selection is based on the abstracts – and the topics as described therein. So maybe I should retitle this post as the 50 Most Important Cultural Anthropology Dissertations.
The dissertations are ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name. Dissertations are not generally available through open access. Here are my 50 picks for 2014. I was excited to read about them, and I hope you will be, too.
This study compares households with children at different levels of food security and insecurity using the USDA Core Food Security Module (CFSM) and an ethnographically informed analysis of coping. I seek to understand the differences between at-risk households in order to determine why some fall into more severe food insecurity while other manage to avoid it. Data on food security, demographics, use of food assistance programs, shared cultural models for food, food shopping behavior, food consumption, and measures of depression and anxiety were collected from 207 households. Future studies should explore how food insecurity and stress affect household relationships.
This dissertation examines the ethics of human-animal interaction at work in the continued conflict over Makah indigenous whaling in the state of Washington. I argue that contemporary Makah whaling is driven as much by tribal members’ refusal to back down in the face of outside resistance as it is an affirmation of tribal identity and sovereignty. In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Native American tribal identities were formed in the course of legal battles for fishing rights throughout the twentieth century. The dissertation takes anti-whaling activists seriously in their suggestion that Makah whaling is an environmental issue and an animal issue as much as it is a Native American sovereignty issue. (more…)
Gillian Tett, cultural anthropologist and writer for The Financial Times, reviewed David Graeber’s latest book, The Utopia of Rules: “His new book…asks why so much of modern life is dominated by endless bureaucracy and frustrating administrative tasks, whether in relation to finance, healthcare or almost everything else.”
Two media sources, KCCI Detroit and Front Page Magazine, mentioned Organs Watch and the activist work of cultural anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California at Berkeley. [Blogger’s note: The Organs Watch website makes no direct link between organ trafficking and ISIS. But in an email today to me, Scheper-Hughes says, “it is plausible.”]
The Globe and Mail carried an article about the trend among middle and upper class families in China to go to the beach for the Chinese New Year. In this reshaping of tradition, the key element is keeping the family together. The article quotes Myron Cohen, a professor of anthropology at Columbia University who says that going to the beach for New Year’s is nothing surprising since Chinese New Year “is not a place-oriented, but rather a family-oriented event…so if the whole family goes to Hainan, that’s fine and dandy.”
CCTV America published a piece on the Chinese New Year and whether this year is the Year of the Sheep or Year of the Goat. This confusion has business implications—does a shop stock sheep toys or goat toys? Either way, being born in the Year of the Sheep or the Goat is not preferred, since those born are thought to be mild-mannered and sympathetic but not leaders. The article quotes anthropologist Zhao Xudong, director of the Institute of Anthropology at Renmin University, who said sheep are often considered unlucky in China, particularly for women.
“Some parents delay birth to avoid Sheep years, because it’s considered to be burdened by bad luck. This is partly because Empress Dowager Cixi in the Qing dynasty was born in the Year of the Sheep and brought about policies that stagnated China’s development. All too often, when people confront failures, they attribute it to animal years. Of course there is no scientific evidence to prove this.”
The Toronto Star reported on a visit to Haiti by Paul Farmer, medical anthropology professor at Harvard, doctor, and health activist. Farmer saved hundreds of thousands of Haitian lives, both personally and through the “social medicine” organization Partners In Health, which he co-founded. He was in Toronto to accept a $1-million cheque from the Slaight Family Foundation to launch Haiti’s first emergency medicine training program.
Al Jazeera America carried an article asking if Ashraf Ghani, president of Afghanistan and former cultural anthropology professor at Johns Hopkins University, can bridge the rift of his contended and contentious election and make progress in the country.
The Atlantic magazine carried an article on the research of Clark Larsen, professor of biological anthropology at Ohio State University, on the third cholera pandemic in recorded history—and the deadliest. It began in India and spread across Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas throughout the 1850s. By the time it subsided in 1860, the pandemic had killed more than a million people around the world. Larsen and his team are studying the remains of victims buried in the mass grave at Badia Pozzeveri, an ancient church in the small town of Altopascio, Italy. They are searching for clues about the evolution of the disease.
For six weeks each summer, the Field School at Badia Pozzeveri, a collaboration between Ohio State and the University of Pisa, gives students a chance to excavate the site’s human remains, which stretch back as far as the bubonic-plague outbreak that devastated Europe in the 14th century. The discovery of the grave—which Larsen estimates contains “a couple hundred” bodies—was a happy accident during a dig in the summer of 2012, as Science magazine reported the following year; old records confirmed that the victims had died of cholera when the epidemic swept through Tuscany in 1855.
Anthropologist Philippe Descola has won the 2014 International Cosmos Prize, a Japanese award, for his study of the Jivaroan Achuar people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Their lives had previously been unknown to the wider world. Descola, who studied under Claude Levi-Strauss, lived in Achuar communities from 1976 to 1979 as he conducted ethnographic fieldwork on their coexistence with nature. “Through slash-and-burn horticulture and hunting, they collected and buried droppings of animals and created a forest with much more varieties of plants than those found in surrounding areas,” Descola said. He explained that the Achuar people communicate with animals in dreams and have a unique relationship with nonhumans. The Cosmos Prize is awarded by the Osaka-based Commemorative Foundation for the International Garden and Greenery Exposition, also known as the Expo ’90 Foundation.
An article in The Guardian on global mental health aid following disasters and crises noted that: “The best experts to bridge the gap between international and local experience are those who might not have a health or psychology background, but have deep knowledge about cultural differences: anthropologists.”
And more: “Since the Ebola outbreak there is a growing recognition of this discipline’s role in emergencies. The American Anthropological Association has asked its members to become more involved in the West African countries hit by the disease. It argues that if anthropologists had been more involved from the start of the outbreak more people wouldn’t have caught the disease due to misunderstandings over traditional burials and conspiracy theories about westerners spreading the illness.”
[Blogger’s note: I am happy to report that my Institute, at the George Washington University, co-hosted the meeting in November in Washington, D.C., that was supported by the American Anthropological Association, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and other organizations. See the You Tube videos, Part 1 - Panel 1 and Part 2 - Panel 2 of the event and the recommendations].
The New African magazine published an article by Sean Carey, of the University of Roehampton, summarizing the current status of the Chagossians’ claims for the right of return to their homeland. Carey discusses the legal shenanigans at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and other parts of the Empire. Leaders of the return movement are cautiously optimistic.
An article in The New York Times reviews the issue of formal exceptions in New York state, allowing parents to not have their children vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. Recent outbreaks of measles and mumps in ultra-Orthodox communities in the Brooklyn area have prompted discussion among rabbis about possible underpinnings for anti-vaccine attitudes in interpretations of Jewish law. At one school the proportion of students receiving vaccine exemptions more than doubled to 12 percent during the 2013-14 school year. The article quotes Don Seeman, a rabbi and professor of Jewish studies and medical anthropology at Emory University: “I don’t think there’s much rabbinical support for not vaccinating…What does exist in certain communities is a lot of anxiety about science and the risks we are exposed to through technology.” The texts of most major religious were created before vaccinations were invented, so interpretations have to rely more on teachings about health and well-being in general. (more…)
The National (Abu Dhabi) and The Hindu (India) carried articles about findings from a recent study of workers from India in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The headline in The Hindu reads: “UAE great destination for Indians to get richer”
The study, conducted by the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., involved interviews with 1,500 Indian workers to measure the effects their working here has had on their families at home. One finding is that the laborers earn salaries two and a half times more than what they would earn in India. And remittances they send home improve their families’ situation.
A more critical perspective comes from Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University. She has studied migration in the UAE since 2001 and has written a book about it that will be available this year. Bristol-Rhys says the study was limited in its scope:
“The study seems to have focused narrowly on financial gains, but what about the emotional impact? In India many children are seeing their fathers only once in two years. The study has not taken this into account…The study also seems to have ignored work done by anthropologists in India as well as the UAE for the past 20 years. These have not been referenced. We know that the individual families are benefiting but is the community benefiting? The local villages do not benefit. Instead, the government takes a large chunk of the remittances that are sent. The people working in the Gulf are also under pressure to bring back gifts with them. In many cases, they take loans to go work and then have to stay for two-three contracts to earn the money back.”
[Blogger’s note: studies also exist documenting the harsh living and working conditions for immigrant labor in the UAE, indicating that it’s not clearly a “great destination” – it’s a very tough destination].
The Dallas Morning News reported on a panel presentation at Southern Methodist University by three medical anthropologists: Adia Benton, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University, Doug Henry, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Texas, and Carolyn Smith-Morris, associate professor and director of SMU’s health and society program.
While Dallas’ Ebola “outbreak” may have ended last fall, scientific exploration of what happened in the city has only begun, especially among medical anthropologists. In a two-hour discussion, the three experts sorted through how the crisis evolved, how people responded, and the language they used to describe what happened. They agreed that what took place was an “an epidemic of misunderstanding.” (more…)
As Valentine’s Day approaches, GMA News (The Philippines) offered a heads up about a Sunday, February 1, TV variety show, Ang Pinaka, with a panel on how to find your dream date. The segment entitled, “The Top Ten Ang Pinaka Smart Ways to Find a Date”, includes Nestor Castro, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of the Philippines. [Blogger’s note: if anyone watched the show, please send in comments!]
Ruth Behar, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan, says farewell in an essay in The Chronicle for Higher Education, to her longtime friend and comadre, Esperanze. Esperanze died late in 2014.
Behar and Esperanze first met in 1983: “An unusual friendship was born, and over time we became ‘co-mothers’ of a book, Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story (1993). It wasn’t your typical life history. The story of her life was entangled with the story of how we came to know each other and why I was the one who wrote her story down.”
Tasnim News (Iran) carried an interview with Italian anthropologist Tiziana Ciavardini about the significance of the letter sent by Iran’s Supreme Leader to Western youth. On January 21, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei wrote a letter asking European and North American youths not to judge Islam based on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. He urged Western youths to try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of the religion in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns.
The interview with Ciavardini covers a range of topics including whether the letter can be effective in attracting Western youth to study Islam, prevent Islamophobia in the West, whether the Western media will print the letter, and comments on the letter’s contents in general.
An article in Urban Milwaukee describes the recently launched public awareness campaign sponsored by the United Way seeking to reduce teen pregnancy. Ads show teen parents as a hand puppet, a jack-in-the-box, and a pull toy. The intended message is: wait and settle down before having a baby.
But the campaign sends a different message to two university professors who head a project called Hear Our Stories, which works to change and reshape what people think about teen parenting. Aline Gubrium, a medical anthropologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and her colleague Elizabeth Krause, associate professor of anthropology, take exception to the ad campaign.
Gubrum is quoted as saying: “We see calling out teen parents as bad examples to other teens, as [is done] in this campaign, as harmful and cruel…Teen parents have important stories to share and rather than stigmatizing and silencing the voices of young parents, our project gives young mothers the opportunities to share their stories.”
Krause said she realizes the campaign is not intentionally cruel, but said its visuals bully teen parents: “It’s not a campaign that has dignity.”
The Alaska Dispatch carried a review of a book by Canadian cultural anthropologist and geographer Ludger Müller-Wille, The Franz Boas Enigma. The book asks how Boas became a leading figure in American anthropology, shaping the discipline and mentoring many prominent anthropologists.
The reviewer offers this context: “Boas did his first fieldwork during a year spent in the Canadian Arctic living with the Inuit of Baffin Island. He arrived in the fall of 1883 and to the best of his ability lived as the Inuit did, learning their language, their lifestyle and their cosmology.” Then he zings the book with this comment: “In the end, very little is gained from this book.” His concern is that, while the author credits much of Boas’ views and contributions to his initial time with the Inuit, he “…dashes right past this very experience and never delivers the story he promises.”
The Financial Times magazine profiled the work of forensic anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson:
“Professor Caroline Wilkinson is one of the first people alive to have looked into the faces of a Bronze Age warrior, a Neolithic child — and Father Christmas. She uses a combination of the latest medical and digital-imaging techniques to recreate faces from the past; some from centuries or even thousands of years ago, some more recent. Her highest-profile projects have included King Richard III, who died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and whose remains were eventually identified in 2012, Mary Queen of Scots, J.S. Bach and Saint Nicholas (Santa, it turns out, had a broken nose and olive skin).” She has worked with remains from around the world as well as forensic cases.
Wilkinson is director of the Liverpool School of Art & Design at Liverpool John Moores University; previously she was head of human identification in the Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification at the University of Dundee.
…become a conservationist working to preserve great apes. Robert Ford has a master’s degree in public health and anthropology and a doctorate in earth science/physical geography. He has over 35 years’ experience as a professor, administrator, field researcher, development consultant and conservation scientist. Ford has carried out conservation science and park management consulting and planning in many countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, Eritrea, Gabon, the Marshall Islands, Mali, Pakistan, Senegal, Belize, Peru, Bolivia, and China.
…become a psychiatrist, specifically a social psychiatrist with a critical perspective on biopsychiatry. Jeremy Wallace, MD, did a M.Sc. degree in anthropology focusing on culture and mental health run by Professor Roland Littlewood at University College London. It provided him with his first critical look at psychiatry. A practicing psychiatrist working in the public sector in Finland primarily in a psychosis rehabilitation clinic. He is also the author of a book, The Recovering Psychiatrist.
CNN and several other mainstream media covered newly reporting findings about a prehistoric human partial skull found in Manot Cave in western Galilee, detailed in a study published in Nature. Co-author Israel Hershkovitz told the Guardian, “This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe.” The skull dates back about 55 millennia. This discovery provides the best possibility so far for interbreeding of modern humans with Neanderthals since Neanderthals were established in the region during this time period.
When: Thursday, February 10, 2015, 8:30 – 10:30 AM
Where: Society for International Development Washington, 1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC
Join us on Tuesday, February 10th for a lively discussion of how approaches to aid are changing and will continue to change in the future. Increasingly, the sources of donor-funded aid are diversifying. While funding once came from a few distinct sources, it is now coming from all over and often outside of the ‘official’ development sphere. This phenomenon requires a hard look at how we approach donor-funded aid now and in the future. Representatives from USAID, the private sector, an NGO and two foundations will discuss how donors’ priorities and strategies are shifting and how NGOs and private sector firms relying on aid are evolving as a result.
Moderator: Sheila Herrling, Senior Vice President, Social Innovation, The Case Foundation | @herrling
The Business Standard (India) carried a review of a new book on political cartooning in India by cultural anthropologist Ritu Khanduri, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington, College of Liberal Arts. Understanding what makes political caricature funny to some but not to others is critical today, says the author in an interview. Her book, Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World, traces India’s political history through political caricatures.
Khanduri comments: “As a visual reaction to events, cartoons have the ability to reflect as well as shape public opinion. “They’re complex images with layers of sub-textual meaning. Understanding what makes them funny to some but not to others is what we need to understand, especially in our present times.”
Newsweek reported on changing patterns of finding a spouse in Oman where mixing between genders is limited. Marrying for love was rare just 20 years ago in Oman, and arranged matches were the norm, with minimal contact between a couple before their wedding. Oil wealth, globalization, and higher education have transformed the country since Sultan Qaboos bin Said seized power from his father in 1970. A survey of 921 Omanis aged 18 to 60, found that 83% were against arranged marriage. More than a love marriage, young Omanis want a “compatible marriage.” Many young people are looking for partners at university, at work or on social media. Social media offers a discreet ways for young men and women to connect.
Similar changes are happening in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, says Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. Exposure to other cultures – whether through television, the Internet, or direct contact with foreigners – has influenced ideas about what a good marriage should look like. “They’re not living in a vacuum here, and they know there are other choices,” Bristol-Rhys says.
Cultural anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which she comments in depth on a “remarkable document” from the British Psychological Society, “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia”. Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.” (more…)
Morwari Zafar writes in Time magazine about why some Afghan-American youth may turn to radicalism. Zafar is conducting fieldwork among Afghan-Americans for her dissertation in social anthropology at the University of Oxford. She writes: “The current policy climate risks insularity by focusing on external motivators — such as unemployment, disenfranchisement and susceptibility to recruitment via social media. Such an approach raises valid points, but it is conducive only to identifying a limited range of resolutions.” [Blogger’s note: Morwari Zafar is a visiting scholar with the Culture in Global Affairs Program, within the Elliott School's Institute for Global and International Studies, at GW].
The New York Times Magazine carried an article describing how many Korean adoptees, from locations around the world, are returning to the Republic of Korea. The article mentions the work of Eleana Kim, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging. Kim notes that many adoptees fear that searching for their Korean roots is seen as a betrayal of their adoptive parents and they dread “coming out” to their adoptive parents, whether in the form of birth-family searches, returning to birth countries, or criticizing the adoption system.
On NPR, biological anthropologist and blogger, Barbara King of William and Mary, interviews cultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler of the University of Delaware on cross-cultural breastfeeding practices. Dettwyler discusses cross-cultural patterns of which mothers decide to breast feed and for how long as well as social stigma toward women who may breast feed for “too long” in some people’s opinion.
Seattle radio KUOW interviewed a co-author of a new book on South Africa showing that the country is less equal today than during apartheid. After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa is an ethnographic account of seven young South Africans whose lives illustrate the realities of South Africa today. It is written by cultural anthropologist Katherine S Newman, provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Ariane De Lannoy, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Capetown. The radio interview ranges from the research methods, some of the people in the book, and parallels between poverty in South Africa and in the United States. (more…)