Anthro in the news 1/28/13

• “Invisible cultural anthropologist” Jim Kim in the news

Anthro in the news picked up on two mentions of Jim Kim, medical anthropologist, physician, humanitarian development expert, and current president of the World Bank.

Jim Yong Kim, president of The World Bank

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim/Moritz Hager, Wikipedia

First, his op-ed, “Make Climate Change a Priority,” appeared in the Washington Post opinion section in which he wrote: “As economic leaders gathered in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, much of the conversation was about finances. But climate change should also be at the top of our agendas, because global warming imperils all of the development gains we have made. If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a report in November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.”

Second, an article in an economic/trade-focused forum discussed Kim’s visit to Tunisia to promote private sector development: “World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today concluded a two-day visit to Tunisia during which the Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, announced a $48 million investment to support the growth of private entrepreneurs. Kim met the country’s leadership and civil society to discuss the reform agenda and Tunisia’s progress two years after its popular uprising. ‘We are here as strong supporters of the Tunisian revolution,’ said Kim. ‘[The people of Tunisia] went through some very difficult times, but in doing what you’ve done, you’ve inspired the entire world. [Now] we’ve got to make sure that Tunisia is successful in showing that Islam and democracy go together, that you can have economic development that includes everyone.’”

Kim emphasized ongoing World Bank Group support for Tunisia’s aspirations through programs that address improved governance and accountability, opportunities for women and youth, private sector job-creation and investments in interior regions.

• Paul Farmer and Haiti: It’s complicated

CounterPunch carried an article about Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti by a journalist who poses several questions about Farmer’s role in post-earthquake Haiti, beyond his positive contributions to Haiti’s health and development through Partners in Health.

• Genocide of indigenous people in Argentina, and anthropologists “dancing around the disappearance”

Niños Selknam

Archival photo of Selknam people, 1898/Wikipedia

An article in The Times (U.K) argues that the wiping out of Argentina’s native peoples was genocide: “Where have all the South American Indians gone? The question should haunt any traveller to Argentina, the second largest (and third most populous) country on the South American continent. You could enter from next-door Paraguay, for instance, where Spanish settlers intermarried with the native Guarani inhabitants to produce a thoroughly mixed-race nation whose second language is Guarani. Or you could arrive from Bolivia, where some 60 per cent of the population are indigenous, millions of them pretty much full-blooded, and whose president is himself of Aymara Indian stock. In Peru, too, a huge indigenous population plays a central part in the country’s rural and urban economy, and cultural life. But there’s something ghostly about Argentina. The overwhelming majority of the population are white, or almost white…”

Further: “In no way is Argentina solely responsible for this genocide. The Spanish Empire made a pretty vigorous start. And in no way is the former Spanish Empire the only imperial power to have stolen land, nor its modern successors the only former colonials to have persecuted those they stole it from. Britain, France, the Netherlands and Portugal must feature, too, on that list. But Argentina, especially because the new country actually intensified the genocide after the expulsion of the imperial power, has been among the most cruelly clinical ‘cleansers’ of its original inhabitants in all of Latin America.”

And last: “But Argentina has a long, long way to go in the public questioning of its colonial legacy. Much Argentine anthropology, describing the original peoples of the region, dances around the disappearance of its subject. The last to go were the Selk’nam people of Tierra del Fuego. Late 19th-century gold and ranching prospectors launched a campaign to eliminate them completely. By 1896 some 3,000 Selk’nams remained, but by 1945 there were only 25 alive. The last full-blooded Selk’nam died in 1974. Today, only 1.6 per cent of Argentina’s 40 million inhabitants are directly descended from or call themselves indigenous.”

• Yes to women in U.S. military ground combat

Women serving in the U.S. Army and the Marines will be assigned for the first time to combat roles in infantry, armor and field artillery battalions, companies, platoons, and squads. Tampa Bay area women who served in the military applauded the plan, including Kiersten Downs, an Air Force veteran working on her doctorate in applied anthropology at the University of South Florida: “It’s monumental for an institution whose structure has been built on a foundation of androcentric (male-centered) principles. Women have been serving next to men in combat positions for quite a while now. It just hasn’t been acknowledged… That it’s taken us this long to acknowledge, I don’t understand. But I’m glad it’s happened.”

Downs, who served in Iraq in 2006-07, said she asked her male colleagues whether they found valid the complaints by some that women in combat will affect morale among men. “They said no,” according to Downs, “If they can perform the job, then they need to be given the chance to perform that job.”

• On the fading power of the past

Cultural/biological anthropologist Monique Borgerhoff Mulder writes in Nature magazine about how modern industrial and traditional societies differ, chiming in on Jared Diamond‘s popular book, The World until Yesterday.

• DNA links prehistoric China to prehistoric New World

Tianyuan Cave

Researchers at Tianyuan Cave. Source: Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Beijing/Max Planck Institute website

According to an article in Science Daily, ancient DNA has revealed that humans living 40,000 years ago near Beijing were likely related to Native Americans. An international team of researchers including Qiaomei Fu and Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced nuclear and mitochondrial DNA that was extracted from the leg of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, China. Findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• Oxytocin, social grooming, and cooperation

Science Daily reports on a study showing that animals which maintain cooperative relationships gain in longevity and offspring survival.

Researchers of the Max Planck Institute have now found that cooperative relationships are facilitated by an endocrinological mechanism involving the hormone oxytocin, even when these are between non-kin. They collected urine samples of 33 chimpanzees from Budongo Forest, Uganda, and measured their urinary oxytocin levels after single episodes of a specific cooperative behavior, mutual grooming. The result: Oxytocin levels were higher after grooming with cooperation partners compared with non-cooperation partners or after no grooming, regardless of genetic relatedness or sexual interest. Catherine Crockford, Roman Wittig, and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute analyzed the role of this hormone in the social relationships between wild chimpanzees.

“Our results demonstrate that a rise in oxytocin was dependent upon the combined effects of social grooming with a bond partner,” says Catherine Crockford, “Crucially, oxytocin levels were similarly high after grooming with non-kin and kin bond partners. This suggests that, in chimpanzees, oxytocin plays a key role in maintaining social relations beyond immediate genetic ties.”

• Barefoot running: contradictory findings and more studies no doubt needed

Masai Barefoot Technology

Running sandal designed on the basis of research carried out in Africa on running pattern/Wikipedia

The New York Times blog Phys Ed carried a piece on new findings by researchers at George Washington University showing that a study of barefoot runners in northern Kenya strike the ground with their heels.

But, according to the book Born to Run and a landmark 2010 study of Kenya’s famous Kalenjin distance runners, most runners strike on their forefeet, which nature designed to absorb the considerable impact that running places on feet and lower legs.

The study is published in online journal PLOS One. Doctoral student in GW’s hominid paleoanthropology Ph.D. program, Kevin Hatala asked 19 men and 19 women to run at a variety of speeds over pressure plates that measured the impact forces they generated. At higher speeds, some people switched from a heel strike to a forefoot strike, but heel-striking was more typical. Hatala was reluctant to speculate why his findings differed from the prevailing wisdom including that of an earlier study by Dan Lieberman of Harvard University. Hatala and Lieberman are now comparing their data.

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