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”

Award recognizes impact of anthropologist’s work on human organs trade

*This post was originally published on UC Berkeley’s News Center and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.

Guest post by Kathleen Maclay

UC Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes is shown here talking with Alberty Alfonso da Silva in the Recife, Brazil, slum he called home before and after being transported to South Africa to sell his kidney to a recipient flown there from New York City. Photo by John Maier.

UC Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes has been honored by the American Anthropological Association with its first ever Anthropology in Public Policy Award for her trailblazing work shedding light on the dark practice of human organ trafficking.

The award, recognizing anthropologists whose work has had a significant and positive influence on government decision-making, was announced at a recent American Anthropological Association conference in Chicago.
In 1999, Scheper-Hughes, director of UC Berkeley’s medical anthropology program, helped found the Berkeley Organs Watch project. It monitors the organ-transplant trade for abuses among the transnational networks that connect patients, transplant surgeons, brokers, medical facilities and live donors, who often live in the poorest parts of the world.

“When I began the Organs Watch project, it was heretical to suggest that human trafficking for organs was not just a hyperbolic metaphor of human exploitation, but was actually happening in many parts of the world,” Scheper-Hughes said in her acceptance remarks.

But the project generated international headlines, particularly as Scheper-Hughes has called for more accountability from the medical profession in the field of medical anthropology. She also has been asked to testify before national and international governmental and medical panels, and has helped law enforcement agencies uncover illicit organs trafficking around the globe.

In recent years, Scheper-Hughes has advised the European Union, the United Nations and the Human Trafficking Office of the World Health Organization. She has also testified before Congress, the Council of Europe and the British House of Lords. In addition, she has consulted on several documentary as well as commercial films exploring organ trafficking.

In accepting the award, the self-proclaimed “agent provocateur” acknowledged that the complex social issues that anthropologists explore often have no single, simple solution, and one answer can prompt a new problem.

“So, yes,” Scheper-Hughes said in her speech, “I did help interrupt kidney trafficking in Moldova, only to have the international brokers use my Organs Watch web site … to set up a robust scheme in illicit transplants using Afro-Brazilian men from the slums of Recife to service Israeli and European transplant tourists to South African hospitals … And, yes, I contributed to the ban on the use of executed prisoners in China as organ suppliers, only to learn that new organ suppliers could be found in China among rural village girls and Vietnamese immigrants.”

Scheper-Hughes said agent provocateurs must continue “to put their bodies, as well as their words, on the line, and work on behalf of communities and populations under siege…”

For more information:

A 2004 story on the UC Berkeley NewsCenter reported on Scheper-Hughes’ transplant investigations in South America and Africa.

A 2007 story posted by UC Berkeley’s Center for Latin America recounted a presentation by Scheper-Hughes on the “medically disappeared” of Argentina during that country’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s and ‘80s.

Article of note: Women’s education levels and sexual satisfaction in Iran

An open-access article in The International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, reports on findings from a study conducted in two cities of Iran with 270 married women aged 18-45 years.

International Journal of Women's Health and Reproduction Sciences
Journal cover

Responses were evaluated according to some established scales such as the Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women. The authors frame their study within the assumption that women’s sexual well-being is related to marital and family well-being and quality of life in general.

The authors point out that many studies in developed countries show a positive association between education and women’s well-being. In contrast, some studies in Iran have suggested that higher education is not clearly a positive factor in women’s psychological and sexual well-being. Findings from the study indicate that more education for women is not associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction and well-being.

Not to be too flippant, but as many studies have shown around the world, it’s difficult for women to “have it all.” Perhaps the studies from Iran indicate a complex ongoing transition in which women and men are juggling new roles and aspirations.

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event: go.gwu.edu/LCWU

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.

Call for papers: Conference on Transforming Development

The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity and the Center for Social Concerns at the University Notre Dame in collaboration with SIT Study Abroad announce the 6th annual student conference on human development.

Offering participants the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary and sustainable research to improve livelihoods while advancing human dignity, this year’s theme is inspired by the idea that development is an evolving process. A widening set of stakeholders and rapidly advancing technologies raise new possibilities for the field. The conference will be a chance to reflect on both successes and failures in development, while analyzing opportunities created by these new trends.

With the goal of showcasing student research that investigates collaborative and innovative solutions to address human development’s most challenging issues, we welcome proposals from undergraduate and graduate students to share their research, particularly those based on experiences in the field, in a broad spectrum of topics:

  • Agriculture
  • Aid
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Environment
  • Gender
  • Governance
  • Health
  • Human Rights
  • Infrastructure
  • Migration
  • Peace and Conflict
  • Public Policy
  • Religion
  • Technology

Students interested in presenting a paper should submit their abstract (no more than 500 words) no later than Thursday, November 14.

Anthro in the news 10/28/13

A sex counselor in Japan with one of her clients. Photograph: Eric Rechsteiner/Panos Picture, in the The Guardian

• No sex please, for young Japanese

An article in The Guardian describes changing patterns of sex, love, and marriage, or none of the above in urban Japan. The article quotes cultural anthropologist Tomomi Yamaguchi, a Japanese-born assistant professor of anthropology at Montana State University as saying: “Remaining single was once the ultimate personal failure…But more people are finding they prefer it.” Being single by choice is becoming, she believes, “a new reality” in urban Japan. The current flight from marriage may signal a longer term rejection of earlier Japanese norms and gender roles.

• Alan Greenspan may take Social Anthropology 101

In an interview with Alan Greenspan, Financial Times writer Gillian Tett was surprised when Greenspan expressed interest in social anthropology and asked Tett for suggested readings. In shock, Tett comments that Greenspan no longer thinks that classic orthodox economics and mathematical models can explain everything. [Blogger’s note: I am dying to know which readings Tett suggested to Greenspan! David Graeber’s book Debt would be at the top of my list for Greenspan].

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a big  job

The Boston Globe carried an article about Jim Yong Kim’s attempts to overhaul the World Bank. Kim was in Boston Thursday to accept an award from the Harvard School of Public Health. A physician by profession and cofounder of Partners in Health with Paul Farmer and others, Kim is also a medical anthropologist. Although a proponent of the World Bank’s renewed commitment to supporting large hydroelectric dam projects, Kim at the same time expresses concern for the poor:  “What we’ve seen all over the world is that if you don’t pay attention to that bottom 40 percent, you can have fundamental instability in your society…Even in countries that have made so many gains in lifting people out of poverty, the bottom 40 percent were still saying, ‘But wait a minute, we want more.’ ” [Blogger’s note: Studies of large dam construction projects consistently show that they displace thousands, even millions, of people and thus increase the number of people in the “bottom 40 percent.”]

Tanya Luhrmann dumbing down religion?

In an article in The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier its literary editor, argues that, in her recent series of op-eds in The New York Times, Tanya Luhrmann expresses positive views of evangelicism (which he says she “adores”) and is “peddling another intellectual argument for anti-intellectualism, another glorification of emotion in a culture enslaved to emotion.”

What’s in a name: Asylum seeker is preferable

Australia’s The Age published a critique of recent official Australian statements about categories of immigrants, particularly a new delineation between asylum seekers and illegal maritime arrivals: “The conjoining of ‘asylum’ and ‘seeker’ is evocative. Who seeks asylum? A human in danger, distress and despair; someone who is hoping to survive on the lee shore of kindness.”

In contrast, the phrase “illegal maritime arrivals” contains no sense of humanity. Jonathan Rosa, assistant professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, says such phrasing “is more about signalling one’s political affiliation than about trying to describe immigration.”

• Post-multicultural ethnic branding in Canada

An article in The Vancouver Sun notes that one in five Canadians are immigrants and nearly as many are second-generation citizens. So, it would seem that ethnic marketing would be on the rise. Instead, there seems to be growing emphasis on a “post-multicultural” nation.

Design anthropologist Ujwal Arkalgud says brands would do well to leverage Canadiana with high profile examples including Molson Canadian beer, Tim Hortons coffee, Hudson’s Bay department stores, and Roots apparel, all of which have effectively used national identity to sell products.

“Looking at audiences based on their ethnicity is a brutal, brutal practice,” said Arkalgud, director of strategy at Sonic Boom, a strategic marketing communications firm in Toronto. “It makes the assumption that just because somebody has immigrated, or has a certain background, they think a certain way; the reality is that our behaviours are guided by who we are and our own beliefs and values.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/28/13”

DC conference: Student proposals sought on diversity in conflict/divided societies

The Georgetown University Conflict Resolution Program is calling for student papers, art, and videography for their conference, “Managing Diversity in Divided Societies.” Submissions should address the following questions:

What tools and mechanisms best promote diversity? How is diversity best approached in conflict societies? How can the arts be used to engage diversity and enhance societal well being?

Cash prizes will be awared to the top three finalists in the categories of diversity, conflict, and peace-building. Submissions are open to third and fourth year undergraduate students and graduate students.

Abstracts will be accepted until October 15th. Submissions are due on December 1st. The conference will be held on January 30-31st.

Send questions and submissions to: diversityconference@georgetown.edu