• Consider trying this at home
In the Huffington Post, medical anthropologist and licensed midwife, Melissa Cheyney of Oregon State University, takes on a recently published article by Dr. Joseph Wax et al. in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The article argues strongly that hospital-based births offer the best way to ensure a safe delivery and avoid neonatal death. Cheyney zaps the article for flawed methods and for sending a message that is harmful to women. Along the way she critiques the American health care system and its failure to address the highest infant mortality rate among rich countries.
• Stop blaming the victim
Drug Week highlighted an article in Anthropology & Medicine by medical anthropologist Carolyn Rouse of Princeton University and colleagues on patient and practitioner noncompliance in the United States. The article argues that behavioral explanations for health disparities shift attention from structural issues such as health care rationing and the limits of therapeutic medicine.
• Anthro in the city
Cultural anthropology, via the work of Chicago sociologist Robert Parks, got a loud shout out in the first line of an essay in the New York Review of Books about the TV series, Treme, situated in New Orleans. As in The Wire, writer David Simon displays a strong ethnographic touch in depicting complexity, detail, and systemic relationships.
• Aboriginal contact art
Art in a rock shelter at Djulirri, in Australia’s Arnhem Land, is the oldest and largest collection of “first contact” art in Australia. It includes depictions of Southeast Asian sailing ships from the 1600s.
• Off road in Egypt leads to oasis city
Desert-road archaeology as practiced by John Coleman Darnell and Deborah Darnell of Yale University has produced a detailed survey of caravan routes and oasis settlements in Egyptian antiquity including the discovery of a major administrative settlement in the desert 300 miles south of Cairo that is more than 3,500 years old.
• The way you dance
An article in Science discusses findings from an experimental study by evolutionary psychologist Nick Neave of Northumbria University on male dancing and what females think of it. The study used male avatar figures dancing in videos watched and rated by a panel of heterosexual women. Key findings are that males wanting to be attractive to females while dancing should not flail arms and legs about. Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, comments that it makes evolutionary sense for a woman to care about how a man dances since dance moves show creativity which is associated with energy, optimism, and daring. Judith Hanna, cultural anthropologist at the University of Maryland at College Park, said the idea of using avatars is brilliant and has great potential for replication in other cultural contexts.
• Our pets, our selves
Pat Shipman’s article in Current Anthropology on the role of domesticated animals in human evolution continues to attract attention, this week in the Boston Globe. She is writing a book on the subject due to be out next year. Shipman is a biological anthropologist at Penn State University.
Shaw University has named Irma McClaurin as its 15th president, making her the first woman to lead the oldest historically Black college in the U.S. south. McClaurin has an MA and a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and was a tenured professor at the University of Florida. An activist anthropologist, her research focus has been on the African diaspora especially in Belize, Suriname, and the United States, and gender issues. She has also published several books of poetry.
• In memoriam
Walter Goldschmidt passed away on September 1 at the age of 97 years. Goldschmidt joined the anthropology faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles in 1947 and was named an emeritus professor in the 1980s. He served as president of the American Anthropological Association and editor of its journal, the American Anthropologist. His research focused on comparative farming systems, including those in California, and East African pastoralism.
George Rich, professor of cultural anthropology at California State University at Sacramento passed away on September 4 at the age of 65 years. He conducted research in the United States, Iceland, and Pakistan on folklore and ritual. He taught from 1970 to 2007 and served nine years as the department chair at CSUS.