Anthro in the News 10/17/16

Cholera threat in Haiti

Haitians displaced by Hurricane Matthew Source: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters
Haitians displaced by Hurricane Matthew,  Source: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

ABC News says relief efforts in Haiti are “ramping up” one week after Hurricane Mathew but Harvard University medical anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer is quoted as expressing concern that cholera may outstrip food needs: “I am pretty pessimistic about avoiding a major hunger problem in the coming months, and I am an optimist,” adding that a shortage of food coupled with a contaminated water supply, and a cholera outbreak could create a major humanitarian disaster…I saw a senior official in the health ministry and I’ve known him for 25 years…he said if you add all this up it could be worse than the earthquake.” Farmer, who is co-founder of Partners in Health, has been providing health care in Haiti since the hurricane struck.

Media are neglectful media as Haiti suffers

Source: The New York Times
Hurricane Matthew hits southwest Haiti, Source: New York Times

Mark Schuller, associate professor of cultural anthropology and NGO studies at Northern Illinois University, published an article in The Huffington Post pointing to the unimpressive media coverage of Hurricane Matthew’s impact in Haiti and noting the importance of media attention in securing much-needed aid. WORT radio (Madison, Wisconsin) provided a note about the UN extending its mandate in Haiti for an additional six months, including brief commentary from Schuller: “This hurricane shows for once and for all the dire importance of protecting the environmental resources and to be taking a look at climate change not just as climate change but as climate justice…The U.S., the World Bank and the United Nations do need to do better in terms of how we impose our will on places like Haiti.” Continue reading “Anthro in the News 10/17/16”

Anthro in the news 10/10/16

Land rights are key in Colombia

Indigenous people want land rights. Source:
Indigenous people want land rights. Source:

The Washington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Omaira Bolaños, Latin America program director for the Rights and Resources Initiative. She argues for property rights reform: “One of the most devastating aspects of the war for me was to see indigenous, peasant, and Afro-Colombian communities who spent their entire lives investing in and caring for their territories suddenly left with nothing. Displacement has a particularly destructive impact, leading to the loss of livelihoods, languages and cultures, and to the tearing apart of social fabrics — in addition to the lives lost to violence. For a lasting peace to take root, the legal recognition of collective property rights for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would be an important step in addressing the war’s damages and in continuing a process of comprehensive land reform.”

Disney-ification of Tibetan culture

Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer
Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

An article in The Washington Post described the effects of the ever-growing number of Chinese tourists in Tibet. It quotes P. Christiaan Klieger, a San-Francisco-based cultural anthropologist, historian, and writer:  “It is very similar to how the United States treated its developing West 100 years ago…They are commodifying the native people and bringing them out as an ethnic display for the consumption of people back east.” Other critics point out that such domestic tourism is part of a plan to bind Tibet ever more tightly into China. Tourism development trivializes Tibet’s culture, marginalizes its people, and pollutes the environment. Tibetans are neither consulted nor empowered in this process. The top jobs and most of the profits go to companies and people from elsewhere in China.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/10/16”

Anthro in the news 10/3/16

UN ineffectiveness in Middle East peace

Source: Google Images

The Tehran Times carried an interview with cultural and linguistic anthropologist, William Beeman, head of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota. He says that the rivalries between the United States and Russia have made the United Nations unable to be an influential player in building peace in the Middle East: “For example, Russia and the United States both have different interests in Syria, and so a UN Peacekeeping force would have to have the agreement of both Russia and the United States, since both have veto power in the Security Council.” Further, he notes that “There are no new active peace missions in the Middle East, and have not been since 2012.”

Cargo shorts: You don’t care or you are cool?

Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy
Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy

An article in New York Magazine about the cargo-short boom quotes Brent Luvaas, associate professor of anthropology at Drexel University, who says that the shorts’ “thoughtless” convenience appeals to American males with a particular set of priorities: “What’s offensive about cargo shorts…is that it’s the kind of thing you wear if you want to be comfortable and truly do not care what people think of how you look — which itself is a kind of privilege. It does not signal striving. Maybe this is why people wear it on weekends or days off; it’s not associated with work, even though it’s supposedly utilitarian.” On the other hand, Kim Jenkins, a visiting assistant professor of fashion design at the Pratt Institute who studied anthropology, points to the coolness factor. Cargo shorts are evolved from cargo pants which were worn by servicemen during World War II. American fighter planes had narrow cockpits, so your pants needed front-facing pockets to get at your cigarettes, pens, and whatever. Like bomber jackets, peacoats, and desert boots, cargo pants and cargo shorts have ended up on the street.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/3/16”

Anthro in the news 9/26/16

Mother, mother: On police violence and race in the U.S.

At the 50th Anniversary JFK March in 2014. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons
At the 50th Anniversary JFK March in 2014. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

The Huffington Post carried an article discussing recent writings about the problem of policing and race in the U.S. It mentions the work of Christen Smith, professor of anthropology and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas Austin. She argues that addressing the problem of anti-black police violence also requires taking into account the traumatic and long-term deadly effects on the living, who are often women: “We know from the stories of black mothers who have lost their children to state violence that the lingering anguish of living in the aftermath of police violence kills black women gradually. Depression, suicide, PTSD, heart attacks, strokes and other debilitating mental and physical illnesses are just some of the diseases black women develop as they try to put their lives back together after they lose a child.”

Can cultural “appropriation” ever be called theft?

Screenshot of the costume for the character Maui from the film "Moana" on the Disney online store. It was pulled on September 21. Source: Hawaii Public Radio/AP
Screenshot of the costume for the character Maui from the film “Moana” on the Disney online store. It was pulled on September 21.
Source: Hawaii Public Radio/AP

Hawaii Public Radio reported on Disney’s pulling of its Moana costume for children because of the negative reaction to it as racist and derogatory. The piece quotes Tevita Kā‘ili, associate professor of  cultural anthropology and department chair at Brigham Young University Hawai‘i: “This costume should have never been made in the first place…It’s difficult for me to see how Disney can benefit and make a lot of money off of someone else’s culture…Especially someone as significant as Maui.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/26/16”

Anthro in the news 9/19/16

Trump’s chimp-style displays

A chimpanzee at the Taronga Zoo, Sydney, as Jane Goodall gives a press conference. Source: Getty Images/Jan Waldie
A chimpanzee at the Taronga Zoo, Sydney, as Jane Goodall gives a press conference. Source: Getty Images/Jan Waldie

Several media, including The Huffington Post, reported on primatologist Jane Goodall’s statement that U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump behaves much like a male chimpanzee:  “In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals…In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks…the more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

Where have all the young men gone?

Punjabis at home. Source: Sent Away Boys press kit.
Punjabis at home. Source: Sent Away Boys press kit

The Indian Express carried an interview with cultural anthropologist Harjant Gill of Towson University in Maryland about his new documentary on the widespread out-migration of young men from Punjabi villages in India. Sent Away Boys explores the effects of their absence on the sending villages, including the development of a genre of folk songs sung for the departing male family member. Gill says: “A few years ago, during a visit to my maternal village, I decided to draw a kinship chart of my mother’s side of the family. I realised that, in the past 15 years, more than 75 per cent of my mother’s extended family had settled overseas.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/19/16”

Anthro in the news 9/12/16

Having no remains of loved ones adds to the loss

Memory site. Source: Creative Commons/Pixabay.
Memory site. Source: Creative Commons/Pixabay

NBC News reported about the ongoing grief of 9/11 families whose relatives were killed in the World Trade Center attack and whose remains were never recovered. The article quotes Chip Colwell, senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science:  [The void is] “…intangible, lingering, the opposite of something that is concrete and tangible…That leads to ongoing pain and suffering for many of these families.” Remains are a key part of the grieving process, giving mourners something specific to remember the person they have lost, Colwell said. They are symbols, something to visit and make part of a routine, providing a sense of connection and closure.

Walk it to change it

Violence against women is not just a “women’s issue.” Source: Google Images/Creative Commons
Violence against women is not just a “women’s issue.” Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

The Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts) published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Susan Birns, chair of the department of anthropology, sociology, and social work at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She asks, Why Walk in Her Shoes? In response, she outlines the scope of violence against women in the U.S. and says: “We walk because we insist that these facts become completely unacceptable in our community. We walk to promote social change. We walk to build community. We walk to raise money to provide services for survivors. We walk because it’s a fun way to tackle an extremely serious social problem.” In conclusion, she reminds us that gender-based violence is not just a “women’s issue.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/12/16”

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”