Anthro in the news 8/22/16

African slave heritage underwater

Slave Wrecks Project team members with Thiaw, center. Source: The Washington Post/Jane Hahn
Slave Wrecks Project team members with Thiaw, center. Source: The Washington Post/Jane Hahn

An article in The Washington Post describes efforts of the Slave Wrecks Project, funded by the Smithsonian Institution, to discover, excavate as appropriate, and preserve ships that sank while carrying African slaves to the New World. It highlights the work of Ibrahima Thiaw, an underwater archaeologist from Senegal. So far, there has been only one excavation of a wrecked slave ship, the São José, found thousands of miles from South Africa. Artifacts from the vessel will be displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening in September. [Blogger’s note: My colleague at GW, Steve Lubkemann, an underwater archaeologist and cultural anthropologist, is the founding co-director of the Slave Wrecks Project. He is also working to develop some slave wreck sites as underwater tourism destinations].


Zambia presidential election fraught

Location of Zambia in Africa. Source: Wikipedia
Location of Zambia in Africa. Source: Wikipedia

AllAfrica published an op-ed by social anthropologist Vito Laterza in which he examines the recent presidential election in Zambia including claims of rigging: “The campaign was marred by unprecedented levels of political violence, leading to several people being killed and many injured.” Moreover, he argues that such problems are “only likely to increase…as Zambia goes through the worst economic crisis in more than 10 years.” Laterza is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, focusing on politics, economy, and society in sub-Saharan Africa.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/22/16”

Anthro in the news 8/15/16

Anthropologist walks into the World Bank…

World Bank headquarters in DC. It is a bank, after all. Source: Creative Commons
World Bank headquarters in DC. It is a bank, after all. Source: Creative Commons

What happens when an anthropologist/physician becomes president of the World Bank and tries to move funding into projects that are more about “humane development” than infrastructure? The Guardian’s article on the presidency of Jim Yong Kim leads with this line: “After years of working with the poor, Jim Yong Kim thought he could lead the World Bank to fight global suffering. Then the organisation turned against him.” The article describes Kim’s early work, with Paul Farmer, both co-founders of Partners in Health. [Blogger’s note: In addition to a commitment to “humane development,” Kim has strongly supported mega-projects in the energy sector including hydropower. Nonetheless, it’s likely that during his presidency, he has done less harm to communities in low-income countries than a non-anthropologist would have. Reforming the mission of an institution as large and cumbersome as the World Bank, as someone wrote many years ago, is like trying to alter the course of an ocean liner with a feather].


Brazilian sports fans are boisterous

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Cheering and booing during an Olympics fencing match? It happens in Rio. The Globe and Mail (Canada) reported on fan behavior at the Olympics where the stands are mostly populated by Brazilians who are active commentators through cheers, boos, and improvised songs.  Martin Curi, a social anthropologist at the Federal University of Fluminense in Rio and editor of Soccer in Brazil is quoted as saying:  “…well, if you’re in Brazil, you get Brazilians…They’re used to the logic of soccer and the behaviour of soccer…So of course they defend their own athletes and their own teams and of course they make a lot of noise, sing and disagree with the referee.” He adds that when they don’t have a Brazilian team to support, they cheer for Cuba, any small African country, or any underdog.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/15/16”

Anthro in the news 8/8/16

Olympic sports vs. favela life

Rio’s Rocinha favela in the foreground. Source: Wikipedia
Rio’s Rocinha favela in the foreground. Source: Wikipedia

An article in The Chicago Tribune juxtaposed the lavish display of competitive sports at the Olympics with the lack of options for recreation, especially for children and youth, in Rio’s favelas. It quotes Benjamin Penglase, a cultural anthropology professor at Loyola University in Chicago who has studied the city’s favelas for nearly 25 years: “A lot of parents see the lack of recreational opportunities as a major threat to the safety of their children.”


WikiLeaks and “anti-Americanism”

WikiLeaks logo. Source: Creative Commons
WikiLeaks logo. Source: Creative Commons

The Huffington Post published an article looking at the anti-U.S. slant in WikiLeaks’ published material and how it can be partially attributed to the fact that WikiLeaks is an English-language platform. The organization cannot control who is leaking to it, and its lack of transparency means it is impossible to determine what proportion of the material it receives is published. The article quotes Maximilian Forte, a professor of anthropology and sociology at Concordia University who has written about WikiLeaks: “Non-English releases have generally been met with silence or near silence, which is not good for an organization that needs to be in the limelight of transparency causes on a fairly regular basis.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/8/16”

Anthro in the news 8/1/16

Listen to the data: Police in the U.S. fatally shoot more blacks than whites

Source: Creative Commons, Lorie Shaull
Source: Creative Commons, Lorie Shaull

The Chronicle of Higher Education carried an article describing findings from a county-level quantitative analysis by Cody Ross, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of California Davis. His research confirms that blacks, unarmed or armed, are more likely to be shot and killed by police than whites. In his paper, he examines the independent effect of a range of county-level indicators and finds several clear associations including between the higher the level of inequality within a county and more killings, and greater racial segregation and more killings. These findings contradict those of Harvard economist, Ronald Fryer, who used a different data set based on police reports and found that police officers are less likely to fire their weapons at blacks than at whites.


In the field: Preventing and dealing with danger

41Ftg6Ts0KL._SX269_BO1,204,203,200_Two social anthropology doctoral students at the University of Cambridge, Corinna Howland and Christina Woolner, published an op-ed in The Guardian about how universities must do more to prepare students to prevent and cope with danger during fieldwork. They write: “No risk assessment or training course can ever address all fieldwork complications. But increased attention to student preparedness and support, and a willingness to engage in difficult conversations, will promote safer, and ultimately better, research.” Their suggestions: talk openly about difficulties, encourage early visits, provide alternative mentoring support, develop contingency plans, and cultivate local networks. [Blogger’s note: Nancy Howell’s ground-breaking report, Surviving Fieldwork, published in 1990, would benefit from a re-study including  attention to recently discussed problems such as sexual harassment by supervisors and options, such as those mentioned in this op-ed, for prevention and coping].

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/1/16”

Anthro in the news 7/25/16

Mass killings are local and global

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of medical anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, published an article in Counterpunch (U.S.) on how recent mass attacks in Dhaka and Nice take Americans into a “gray zone” of terrorism, showing “…how totally vulnerable we all are and how deficient are our national and international security systems.” Her essay begins by stating that one Berkeley student was killed and three wounded in the Nice attack, and one Berkeley student was killed in the Dhaka attack.


Gender, power, agency, and blame in transactional sex

978-0-8223-3864-2_prSABC News (South Africa) reported on the trending terms for transactional sex participants: blesser and blessee. The article include an interview with one blesser, the person who provides money and gifts to the blesse who normally is expected to return the favors with sex. In discussing how blessees in South Africa often have a negative public reputation as vixens or evil, the article mentions cultural anthropologist Sherry Ortner‘s book, Anthropology and Social Theory:  Culture, Power and the Acting Subject, in which she looks at why women who use their agency are often depicted as evil.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/25/16”

Anthro in the news 7/18/16

Colonial legacy and racism feed resentment in France

Following the attack in Nice, France. Source: Creative Commons
Following the attack in Nice, France. Source: Creative Commons

The Sun (U.K.) carried an article on factors behind the attack in Nice, France, quoting cultural anthropologist John Bowen, professor at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S.: “Unlike other European colonial powers, the French never really left their former colonies, continuing to intervene economically and militarily to defend France’s national interests in Africa and the Near East…Now this means battling al Qaeda and ISIS in Mali, Iraq and Syria. So when disaffected young men and women tune in to jihadi websites, they find French-speaking Muslims telling them of the sins their government is committing against their ‘brothers and sisters’ in Iraq and Syria. Resentment at French racism, at the series of largely symbolic measures taken against Muslims, such as the 2010 ban on wearing face-veils in public, add to this anger, and lead some towards fighting.”


Helping refugees in Hungary

Picture2
Source: Creative Commons

The Monitor reported on the work of social activist Babak Arzani in Hungary. As a refugee from Iran in 2010, he was alone in a foreign land where he did not speak the language. His experiences fueled his passion for the work of Migszol, the Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary. Formed in 2012, it is an informal, independent group of immigrants, refugees, and Hungarians who serve as advocates for the political and social rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Hungary. The article includes insights from social anthropologist Prem Kumar Rajaram of Central European University (CEU) in Budapest where he is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology and academic director of CEU’s Roma Graduate Preparation Program.  He comments:  “Migszol has been important in thinking about new political possibilities and in questioning the government’s insistence on excluding migrants and refugees from everyday life…they have continued to struggle against the Hungarian government’s attempt to make migrants invisible in the public sphere, drawing attention to the injustice and even illegality of some of the government’s actions.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/18/16”

Anthro in the news 7/11/16

Attack in Dhaka

News coverage of the attack in the Gulshan neighborhood of Dhaka. Source: Creative Commons
News coverage of the attack in the Gulshan neighborhood of Dhaka. Source: Creative Commons

The Pioneer (Bangladesh) reported on the background of most of the Gulshan attackers of July 1-2 as upper class and thus not conforming to the stereotype of “terrorist” killers as underprivileged and marginalized. The article includes insights from Seuty Sabur, associate professor of anthropology at BRAC University:  “With the neoliberal turn in the early 1980s, we saw major shifts in the economy and lifestyle in Bangladesh. It was not only the MNCs and NGOs penetrating the economy, but the corporate education system as well…. English-medium schools mushroomed in Dhaka. Many members of the aspiring cosmopolitan middle class thought these schools would be the playground for global citizens, and a gate pass for achieving a higher status. Surely this served as entry to a lifestyle which was alien to these parents.”


Minangkabau community through photos

Minangakau longhouse. Source: Creative Commons
Minangakau longhouse. Source: Creative Commons

The Washington Post carried a photo essay documenting life in a changing Minangkabau village in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangkabau, the world’s largest matrilineal society, are facing challenges in terms of maintaining their traditional long houses as well as livelihoods and kinship system in the face of increased outmigration among other factors. The text includes a comment from cultural anthropologist Frederick Errington, emeritus professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, about how adat (custom) allows for assimilation of new elements, as long as the core remains. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/11/16”