in Madagascar, caring is a community affair

Professor Douglas Hume with his research assistants in Mahatsara, Madagascar, in summer 2012; they were conducting an ethnographic interview with an informant (not pictured). Provided by Douglas Hume

The act of caring for yourself, or self-care, varies from culture to culture. People all across the world demonstrate care for themselves based on their needs or the needs of their larger community.

According to Dr. Douglas Hume, department chair of sociology, anthropology and philosophy, the Malagasy— or people native to Madagascar—care for others in the community and, in turn, find that they are able to care for themselves.

Initially, Hume conducted research for his dissertation at the University of Connecticut, and then visited Madagascar three times after; his trips spanned between seven weeks all the way to six months.

While there, Hume conducted research for an alternative approach to farming: terrace farming.

“They’ve hit a point where the arable land–they’re having to go back to it too fast and it’s not fertile anymore; they can’t grow enough food…,” Hume said. “They’re trying to do it on their own, trying to get some money. It’s really difficult and slow.”

Provided by Douglas Hume
Dr. Douglas Hume with seminary students in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in the summer of 2012 after he spoke with the students about religion in the United States.

Elements of self care are completely different in Madagascar than in the United States, he said.

“(In America) if you need money, you whip out a credit-card. If you lose your job, you go get unemployment insurance,” Hume said. “In these communities, none of that exists.”

In Madagascar, if you need money or food, natives seek out a friend or family member, according to Hume.

“We have welfare, insurance, banks and all these other kinds of stuff that handle that. We don’t rely on family as much,” Hume said. “Maybe some of our close family—moms, dads, brothers, sisters—but going to your uncle to ask for money, that’s really awkward and weird. We wouldn’t do that, but there it’s normal,” said Hume.

While studying French in Paris, Hume recalled a time where the Malagasy manager of the dorm he was living in visited a family member and was turned away.

“He went over to visit him, unannounced. He knocked on the door and the family said ‘Oh, we’re having dinner and we didn’t know you were coming, so you’ll have to come back later.’ And he was pissed. He’s like ‘Oh my god. They’ve totally become French—or European.”

In Madagascar, Hume noted that if you were to show up at someone’s house hungry, they would give you food and let you in.

“I think, the self-care thing there is conceptualized differently because they have a different sense of connection with the rest of the community that it’s not all on you,” Hume said.

The culture is more socio-centric than ego-centric, he explained.

Emerson Swoger
Hume in his office, which is decorated with several tapestries from the places of his research.

“It’s more about the group than the individual,” Hume said. “They don’t necessarily think of them caring for themselves, but care from the community that results in care for themselves.”

The culture is based on friendships and relationships, and mostly everyone knows each other, Hume added.

“The community that I work in, the main village, has 70 adults in it. Everybody knows each other. A lot of them are related to each other, so you know people,” Hume said.

When walking around on NKU’s campus, Hume said you might not see anyone you know. But in Madagascar, it’s more community-oriented; with that comes a different  mentality.

“I think, part of that idea of self-care is different there, that it’s more community-based,” Hume said.

Written by: Natalie Hamren, Assistant News Editor of The Northerner

Note: This post is republished from The Northerner, with permission


anthro in the news 2/19/18

Acceptable N-words: This was in the kindergarten room today. They’re learning N. Credit: Kevin Fillips/Flickr

teaching about hate language

Several media reported on conflict at Princeton University about a course taught by Lawrence Rosen, professor emeritus of anthropology, on cultural freedoms and hate speech. His use of a racial slur during a class discussion prompted some students to walk out in protest. Rosen subsequently cancelled the course. According to The Guardian, colleagues say Rosen has often used the slur during lectures on free speech, and that this is the first time he has received such a negative response from students. The university issued a statement defending Rosen. Carolyn Rouse, chairwoman of Princeton’s anthropology department, who is black, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian defending Rosen’s use of the slur. By the end of the semester, she wrote, Rosen hoped his students would be able to argue why hate speech should or should not be protected using an argument other than “because it made me feel bad.”

architectural nostalgia in Tokyo

The Japan Times carried an article about nagaya, rowhouses, that have been disappearing from downtown Tokyo for many decades, torn down to make way for office blocks and more comfortable and profitable housing complexes. Nagaya first appeared in Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868) as living quarters for the “common” class. Residents lived side by side in the long wooden buildings and shared a communal well, toilet, and waste disposal area. The article includes insight from Hidenobu Jinnai, anthropologist and architectural scholar, who has noted that an Inari shrine housed a protective deity providing “a spiritual bond for the denizens of the alleyway.”

book review

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried a book review by Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary. She says: “I love what Engelke does in this book [How to Think Like an Anthropologist]. He takes a common word and unpacks it through anthropology, introducing readers to major thinkers and texts in the field along the way. Each chapter is centered around one such word: In addition to civilization, there’s culture, values, value, blood, identity, authority, reason and nature. The idea is that, as readers learn about these nine words, we learn to think critically about our own assumptions regarding people across the globe who may seem exotic to us. The trick, Engelke explains, is to avoid exoticizing these “others” and, at the same time, also to avoid “reducing cultural differences to the point of inconsequence.” That balance sits at the heart of good anthropology. How to Think Like an Anthropologist is intended for a “a wider audience, a wider public” to anthropology, to quote Engelke in his acknowledgments section. Doing this — informing and perhaps occasionally startling readers who aren’t themselves anthropologists — is a profoundly important goal.”

stone camels in the desert

The New York Times reported on the discovery by archaeologists of the creations by artists who, some 2,000 years ago, carved life-size camels into stone in the Saudi Arabian desert. Although camel art has been found elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, these are stylistically unique. “This is a major new discovery and in some ways a completely new type of rock art in Saudi Arabia,” said archaeologist Maria Guagnin, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who was not involved in the study. “The naturalistic, almost three-dimensional depictions are unlike anything else I’ve seen before and highlight the skills of their prehistoric engravers.” In one rock panel there is a camel lying on the ground with its head tilted toward a donkey that is on its feet. The two are nearly touching. “It raises its head to the head of the donkey, like Michelangelo in the Vatican — it’s the connection of two species,” said Guillaume Charloux, an archaeologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research and lead author on the paper, which appeared in the journal Antiquity. “To me, it’s a real piece of art.”

contested American Indian remains

An article in The Japan Times described ongoing negotiations among three Native American tribes claiming the remains of two 500-year-old skeletons discovered in Idaho and anthropologists who are concerned about a lost research opportunity. Authorities said the remains are either from a double homicide that happened in recent decades or the remains of Native Americans from the 19th century or earlier. Carbon dating tests, however, reveal that the young adult and the child or teen lived sometime during the 1400s to 1600s. Anthropologists say evidence of how the two had lived might have been found by trained experts if the area had also been treated from the onset as a possible anthropological site: “If there had been any indication at the outset that this was a prehistoric internment, a much more systematic process would have been conducted,” said Mark Plew, professor of anthropology at Boise State University. Plew said a more thorough examination of the bones with isotope analysis and by anthropologists could reveal the gender of the two, what they ate, whether they had survived periods of famine, and possibly their cause or causes of death. For the tribes, trying to recover the remains “is a very emotional process,” said Pei-Lin Yu, associate professor of anthropology at Boise State, who previously worked as a federal government official on projects to return Native American bones to tribes. The age of the bones doesn’t matter to them, she said: “Time doesn’t actually figure into their feelings of association and responsibility as stewards of their ancestors.”

orangutans are critically endangered

The Japan Times reported on what is said to be the most comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans which estimates that their numbers have dropped by more than 100,000 since 1999. The palm oil and paper industries have shrunk their habitat, and fatal conflicts with people are increasing. The finding, published in the journal Current Biology, accords with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2016 designation of Borneo’s orangutans as critically endangered. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and other institutions said the original population of the orangutans is larger than previously estimated but so is the rate of decline. The most dramatic declines were found in areas where tropical forests were cut down and converted to plantations for palm oil, which is used in many consumer products and for timber. Significant population declines also occurred in selectively logged forests. “In these forest areas human pressures, such as conflict killing, poaching, and the collection of baby orangutans for the pet trade have probably been the major drivers of decline,” the authors of the study said.

in memoriam

Andrei Simic, professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California has died at the age of 87 years. Simic’s primary area of specialization was the Balkans and Eastern Europe, but he had several secondary areas of interest, including Latin American studies, ethnicity and nationalism, post-communist society, Euro-American ethnic groups, popular culture, social gerontology, and visual anthropology with a focus on film production and film analysis. Simic was the author of several books, including The Peasant Urbanites: A Study of Rural-Urban Mobility in Serbia, considered by many in the field to be a seminal work on post-World War II migration patterns in former Yugoslavia. He was a prolific researcher and writer who published numerous articles in academic journals as well as in a wide variety of other publications. He presented research papers at various academic meetings and as an invited lecturer, and conducted ongoing research projects on various aspects of Balkan culture. In addition to his written work, Simic was credited and involved in the production of 27 ethnographic films, including his two major film projects, Ziveli: Medicine for the Heart and The Children of Lazo’s Grove. He also presented several major photo exhibits focusing on Yugoslav ethnographic issues.

ask an expert: anthropologist Susan Brownell watches world come together at olympic games

UMSL Anthropology Professor Susan Brownell is an expert on the Olympic Games, having studied their history and attended five Games – the first in Los Angeles in 1984. Later this week, she will travel to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for her first Winter Games. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Susan Brownell has spent considerable time researching Olympic Games, both their history and their standing in our modern world, during her career.

The professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis served as editor of “The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games: Race, Sport and American Imperialism” and authored “Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics Mean to China.” She has also attended five Games, the first in Los Angeles in 1984.

She will add to that tally later this week as she attends the Winter Games for the first time when they get underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In the latest edition of the “Ask an Expert” series, UMSL Daily spoke to Brownell about the importance of the Games as it relates to anthropology, how they have evolved and an issue that has to be dealt with to secure their future.

As you prepare to head to Korea, what differences do you expect to find at your first Winter Games?

I don’t know. I’m a little worried. I hope it’s not really, really cold. It’s a much smaller scale, and it’s up in small mountain villages as opposed to a huge mega-city. I don’t know what it’s going to be like in terms of getting from one place to another and not freezing to death. I hope we figure it out pretty fast.

Why are the Olympics of such interest from an anthropology perspective?

My main interest in them comes from my interest in ritual and festival. I like to look at them as a global ritual or festival of global humanity, so for me, the interesting kind of empirical question is can we see that the Olympic Games have the effect on a global level that we typically attribute to rituals and festivals at a local level. In other words, does everything scale up?

Does it, in your experience?

I think so. We know that festivals and rituals typically function to create a sense of social solidarity. So are the Olympic Games helping to create a sense of global community and the oneness of humanity? The critics would say, “Well, yeah, but look at all the people who are inconvenienced and not happy about the Games and likely get evicted for the construction …” They’ll point out the dissidents and the people who are alienated by the process. I guess I’ve come to realize we probably need to rethink our understanding of ritual and festival at the local level as well. Because there are always going to be a few malcontents who just don’t buy into the process. The thing is, when you scale everything up, that goes from one or two people to hundreds if not thousands of people. But that doesn’t mean that the overall argument is false.

How have you seen the Games evolve since your first one?

Overall, as a social and economic phenomenon, I think they’ve been pretty much on an upward swing since 1984, so they’re just getting bigger and bigger. The financial measures such as the broadcast rights revenues and corporate sponsorships, the size of the television audience, have been pretty much constantly charting upward.

I think the Olympics began as an opportunity for the world to come together every four years. The fact that we lived in a more connected world now – certainly compared to, say, St. Louis in 1904 – and in many ways are constantly together, has that shifted the relevance of the Games?

I feel it’s the increasing integration of the global economy in particular that actually is the main driving force for the economic growth of the Games that I just mentioned. Because what’s increasingly happening is that the leaders of our global economy – CEOs of major multinational corporations and heads of state and celebrities and billionaires – feel like they have to see and be seen at Olympic Games. It’s been estimated that actually more CEOs attend Summer Olympic Games than attend the Davos World Economic Forum, so I think Olympic Games are both a product of and a contributor to the integration of the global economy because this is where the actual human beings who constitute the decision-makers are getting to know each other and sharing information and building relationships and partnerships.

Why has it become that draw? Why has the idea of coming together to watch athletes been something that has attracted that sort of thing around it?

I think, on the one hand, there’s the theory that this is what it means to be human. This is the way humans operate, and they have for millennia, if not millions of years. Ritual is fundamentally hard-wired into our brains and into the way we form social groups. That’s the broad assumption, my broad assumption. But the specific thing is why sports? I think that just evolved over the years away from World’s Fairs, for example, because it proved to be a more culturally neutral meeting ground than other options might have been, like the arts. The arts – whether music, dance or visual arts – are just a little more culturally bound, so it’s just a little harder to get everybody on board behind them. The other thing is the very effective way in which sports connect up with nationalism. It was definitely helpful, the way in which athletes represent nations in a way that people interpret to represent their nation on the world stage.

Political leaders have over the years certainly used that to their benefit, haven’t they?

That happened right away in the early history of the Olympic Games. Not in the very beginning, because St. Louis in 1904 was arguably the last Games before national ideology started really being consolidated in the Olympic Games. By the next Games in 1908 we had, for example, the parade of athletes. We had award ceremonies. And by 1912 and leading up to World War I, that horse was out of the gate, and it’s been constant ever since. The Cold War, of course, gave it a new valence.

This Games is one of three in a row in Asia. Is there significance to that? Does it signal anything?

Clearly, it’s important. It’s the first time in Olympic history that we’ve had three consecutive Games outside the conventional western powers. Does it really represent a shift of power away from the west? Is the west in decline and East Asia on the rise? I don’t think the answer to that is quite as clear just because, as I mentioned, to me the bigger thing that’s going on is at a global or transnational level.

With the cost of hosting the Games getting as high as it has in recent years, is that a problem?

It appears to be because of the issue with fewer cities bidding to host Games and, perhaps even worse, a lot of cities trying to mount bids that then got scuttled by public opinion. So it is something that the International Olympic Committee is going to have to work out over the coming years. There’s just this conflict of interest built in because of the way the Games are currently financially structured. On the one hand, you’ve got this transnational world that needs the Games. But all that money up there with the CEOs of multinational corporations is not directed into the building of the infrastructure of the Games. It does go into television rights, broadcasting fees and sponsorships and also on-the-ground entertaining that they do, and that’s an influx of revenue into the local economy. But the building of the infrastructure tends to be borne by the taxpayers. That’s the problem.

You’ve got these international sport federations that want bigger and bigger venues so they can sell more and more tickets. But the bigger the venues, the more expensive they are to build and the less useful they are to the local people afterward. So just dealing with this tension is something they have to think through.

Is that really something that poses a long-term threat if it’s not dealt with?

I guess my bigger perspective is these are powerful people that need and want the Games. They’ll work it out, and they’ll make it happen. But in the short run, it is perceived as a threat to the Games, and I think the International Olympic Committee definitely considers it a threat to the Games, and they feel like they need to work this out.

You started out talking about how your interest in the Olympics is related to your interest in studying festival and ritual. Describe the festival aspect of the Games. What’s it like outside of the competitions that we see televised?

The biggest festival is really the torch relay, which never really gets much television coverage in the U.S. In other countries, they’re a bit more excited about it, but for whatever reason, U.S. TV doesn’t give it much coverage. It’s been going around the country every day, and it’ll be winding its way toward Pyeongchang, toward the Olympic stadium, for the day of the Opening Ceremonies. That’s just a party.

When you’re at an Olympics, what sorts of things are there for people to do beyond the competitions?

Most people actually are not doing tourism. Local tourism industries are always hoping people will come and see their sites. But, no, they’re there for the sports. I think people are mostly going from one event to the next, and they’re maybe hanging out in restaurants and bars in the meantime.

But the phenomenon I’m going to be researching in Pyeongchang that I also researched in Rio is a relatively new phenomenon that’s been increasing rapidly. It’s called hospitality houses. National Olympic committees and corporate sponsors and even, increasingly, different kinds of organizations will rent a space near the Olympic sites, and they’ll use it to entertain. Some of them are open to the public, some aren’t. They provide meeting spaces for largely corporate types. Hanging out in the national houses or the other hospitality houses – it’s proven to be quite popular with the populace as well because many of them are free or at least much cheaper than the sports events. Some people really get into the displays of national culture that are going on there.

It is really funny because it’s quite similar to World’s Fairs. At World’s Fairs, nations erect pavilions, and they display what they want to promote about their national image and also products and technology. That’s proven actually to be quite popular in Olympic cities at the same time that the World’s Fair has been in decline.

There’s a history of Olympic Games as geopolitical events. Having a Games on the Korean peninsula amid the current flare up in tensions sort of fits in that tradition, doesn’t it?

The convergence between the Trump-Kim Jung Un war of words and the Olympic Games is kind of interesting. I guess we’ll figure out whether the negotiations between North and South Korea – successful negotiations to bring them together and mount some joint teams – whether that is anything other than superficial symbolism. It is an encouraging development. They had actually mounted many combined teams in the past. They often marched together into the Opening Ceremonies together. But I think it was 2008 when that fell apart and didn’t happen. So it’s kind of interesting that they’ve managed to resurrect it. I think it had been defunct until now.

Brownell, who joined the faculty in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at UMSL in 1994, is the rare anthropologist who has made sport a central focus of her study throughout her career. That started with her dissertation on the “The Olympic movement on its way into Chinese culture” in 1990 at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

She recently co-authored a book titled “The Anthropology of Sport: Bodies, Borders, Biopolitics ” with University of Amsterdam Professor Niko Besnier and Thomas F. Carter, director of the Centre of Sport, Tourism, and Leisure Studies at the University of Brighton.

It explores all the ways athletic competition brings together physicality, emotions, politics, money, and morality and touches on themes such as the body, modernity, nationalism, the state, citizenship, transnationalism, globalization and gender and sexuality. Find more about the book here.

Written by: Steve Walentik

Note: This post is republished from UMSL Daily, with permission

anthro in the news 2/12/18

Le razza bovines. Credit: Alex Caputi/Wikimedia Commons

veganism and food taboos

The Guardian carried an article on how veganism may be shifting the categories of food in Western cultures. It refers to the thinking of British anthropologist Edmund Leach who: “…described how humans make categories of things in order to create social logic. Although the animal species around us form a continuum (of which we, Homo sapiens, are a part), we name, categorise, and then treat those animals differently according to separate logic that applies to each category. Where the distinctions are unclear, or transgressed, they’re troubling and become taboo. English people (Leach’s example from his 1964 paper) have a binary of edible-inedible. But also a tripartite categorisation: beyond SELF comes PET – LIVESTOCK – WILD ANIMAL. Pets get names, they share emotional moments with us and we definitely don’t eat them – they become a sacred category.” Food taboos are a longstanding and fertile area of research and thinking in sociocultural anthropology, and the analysis of possible changes in food taboos promises to keep anthropologists busy into the future.

a whole lot of networking going on

St Louis Public Radio reported on the Winter Olympic Games and how such games, as festivals that showcase athletic talent and provide sports entertainment, are more than just that. In a live radio program, a reporter talked to Susan Brownell, professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri at Saint Louis, who is attending the Olympics in South Korea and studying them.  She says: “…it’s a really interesting moment in Olympic history and maybe world history when this big mega-event has left the conventional western powers for the first time in its over 100-year-history for three Olympic Games.”  The 2018 Winter Olympics is the sixth Olympics Brownell will attend. She said that there are commonalities in the games over time, such as the street festivals and hospitality houses, which are buildings open to the public hosted by different nations. Commenting that the Olympics are a “global ritual” for celebrating humanity, she noted that tremendous amounts of global and internet coverage of the Olympics helps build shared experiences: “I’ve been interested in the ritual aspect of the Olympic Games ever since I was an undergraduate, just because there is this theory in anthropology that rituals build a sense of humanity and solidarity.” She will studying the hospitality houses in South Korea to see what goes on in the houses, where corporate sponsors and national Olympic committees have rooms to host VIPs and arrange meetings. She will also look at how host countries promote their own businesses during the games: “There’s actually a lot of very serious networking,” she said, particularly in the corporate world. “I feel that this is just a part of the growing integration of the global economy and the increasingly multinational nature of so many of the corporations in the world today.”

local grocery stores doing well 

The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania) reported on how small, independent grocery stores are succeeding in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania. The article includes comments from Clare Sammells, associate professor of anthropology at Bucknell University. A specialist in the anthropology of food, she says that the demand for all-natural, unprocessed foods comes from  increased anxiety. While Americans love food, they also fear that eating it could lead to health problems like obesity and cancer. She added that Americans are increasingly disconnected to their food: “The food industry has become increasingly industrialized…As we move away from food production, we grow nostalgic for it.” Sammells adds that local independent grocery stores, markets, and health food stores have done well in the Greater Susquehanna Valley:  “There are a lot of options in this area for people to form direct relationships with farmers.” 

London chef learns from food anthropologist

The Independent carried an interview with Michelin-starred London chef Andrew Wong. One question posed to him was about the key to the success of his first restaurant. Wong says:  I think a continual desire to learn and evolve has been key. I never stop exploring what’s new with Chinese cuisine, but also spend a lot of time exploring ancient Chinese history – which is what I’m working on at the moment with food anthropologist Mukta Das, to help develop some new dishes. I’m always reading and researching the country’s food scene, looking for ingredients I haven’t used before.”

law enforcement and human trafficking

The Idaho Statesman reported on how, in the U.S., victims of human trafficking do not seek help from law enforcement, and that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has added to the problem. The article quotes Denise Brennan, professor of anthropology at Georgetown University: “Before Trump, if a migrant was caught for speeding they might just get a ticket, now they’re calling in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)…That’s been carefully noted in these communities, and 3victims of exploitation are not going to go to those same law enforcement officers for help.”

shark anthropology magazine (India) carried an article about an anthropologist whose research brings him into direct contact with sharks: Raj Sekhar Aich says: “I am India’s only shark anthropologist, and possibly one of two or three in the world. For my fieldwork I had been based in 2016 for months in Bluff, the southernmost point of mainland New Zealand…As a shark anthropologist, I explore the life created in the intersection of humans and sharks, and challenge human exceptionalism in classical ethnographic investigation. Humans and sharks share a complex relationship, defined by cohabitation and, of late, conflict.” 

take that anthro degree and…

…work in health care. Tripp Craven became an emergency medical technician in 2001, and he has been working in medical clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices in North Carolina since then.  Now, he is gaining additional training in nursing. When Craven becomes a nurse in 2019, he says that he will be able to help more people in more ways. Craven has always been drawn to anatomy and biological anthropology but has also become interested in how people live with chronic illnesses. Craven has a B.A. in anthropology. 

blue-eyed, dark-skinned Briton ancestor

The Guardian and several other media reported on results from DNA analysis of the remains of so-called Cheddar Man, fossil remains from a site in England. Cheddar Man was a member of a population of nomadic hunters who thrived during the middle stone age, or Mesolithic age, about 10,000 years ago. Geneticists have published findings based on DNA analysis that the young man would have had black hair, blue eyes, and dark skin. Richard Bates of St. Andrews University is quoted:  “When we do more of this kind of deep genetics, on other ancient remains, we are going to find an incredible diversity among the people of this time.”

in memoriam

Robert McCormick Adams has died at the age of 92 years. Adams was a U.S. archaeologist and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1984 to 1994. He worked in both the Middle East and Mesoamerica. In scholarly circles, he is best known for his research in Iraq. His numerous books include The Evolution of Urban Society, Paths of Fire, Heartland of Cities and The Land behind Baghdad. In an American Antiquity article reviewing Adams’ work, Norman Yoffee wrote, “Few archaeologists have had the power to influence the course of their times as has Adams, nor to have done it so well.”


what i’m working on: financial divisions in South Africa

Anne-Maria Makhulu explores systematic economic inequity in post-Apartheid South Africa

Anne-Maria Makhulu

Anne-Maria Makhulu is an associate professor of cultural anthropology and African and African-American studies at Duke. Much of her work, including her current research, focuses on globalization and issues of political economy in South Africa.

Makhulu is examining what she deems a broken promise made to a majority black population of South Africa 23 years ago when democracy took hold there following the end of apartheid.

She spoke with Duke Today recently about her current work. Here are excerpts:

Continue reading “what i’m working on: financial divisions in South Africa”

anthro in the news 2/5/18

A couscous dish. Credit: Creative Commons

the cultural politics of couscous

Quartz carried an article on the disputed history of couscous and rising interest in North Africa of gaining UNESCO recognition of it as part of the region’s intangible cultural heritage. Many believe it was first made by the Berber or Amazigh communities as early as the seventh century; they lived and moved across North Africa before Arab migration into the region. Records of couscous prepared and sold have also been found in West Africa, and it was also eaten by the Moors in Spain. Recognition from UNESCO would be “a way to strengthen the strong links between peoples [in the Maghreb], in a way that enables them to respond to the same traditions with the same culinary expressions,” said Ouiza Gallèze, a researcher with Algerian National Centre of Research in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

coffee life in Japan

An article in The National Post (Canada) that describes coffee culture in Japan includes commentary from Merry White, professor of anthropology at Boston University. She says that although Japan’s taste for coffee is more recent than Europe’s, cafés were important spaces in Japanese society well before the “Seattle-driven coffee boom.” In Japan, coffee shops have been flourishing since the late nineteenth century. Although she does not remember how the brew tasted, one of White’s earliest Tokyo café experiences during her first trip in the 1960s set the tone for her career in Japanese coffee studies: “We were asked to take off all our clothes and were painted with blue paint. And I remember thinking at the time, ‘Oh wow! This is the most avant-garde place in the world.’”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 2/5/18”

pre-brexit: there is such a thing as a free lunch

Credit: Sean Carey

By Sean Carey

I have just been to my local bank in St Albans, a commuter town not far from the suburbs of north London, and am walking down the hill to return to my car. The sun is shining but it’s a chilly day. It’s still winter, after all.

I become aware of a slim woman, with a very smart bob hairstyle, dressed in black trousers and black top walking slowly in front of me. She’s not wearing a coat, which is puzzling. I think that she must work in one of the banks or estate agents in this part of town and may have popped out for some fresh air, a cigarette, or something else before she returns to sit in front of a computer.

Bill’s restaurant, part of an 80+ chain part-owned by billionaire serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Caring, is located at the crossroads in the center of town. It’s a prime site. A few days ago, I noticed Bill’s was being refurbished. Now it appears to be open. 

Continue reading “pre-brexit: there is such a thing as a free lunch”