Anthro in the news 3/29/10

• RFPs and deliverables in Haiti’s reconstruction
Mark Schuller zings the “blan developman” (foreign development experts) and “blan ONG” (NGO foreigners) for being part of a “ritual of rubber stamping a rushed, foreign-led, top-down process ” for Haiti’s rebuilding. In contrast, he praises the work of a partnership of universities, called INURED, in Cité Soleil. Schuller is assistant professor of African American Studies and Anthropology in York College, CUNY, in New York City.

• Nokia calling anthropologists
Cultural anthropologists contribute expertise to the world’s largest cell phone manufacturer, Finland’s Nokia, as members of multi-disciplinary design teams. They provide data about consumer preferences and usage patterns. The teams are based in China, Europe, and the United States.

• Political anthropology offers insights into Thailand’s “red shirts”
In contrast to widespread impressions, “red-shirt protestors” are mostly middle class and are “emerging active citizens” argues Yukti Mukdawijitra, anthropology lecturer at Thammasat University, Thailand. He says that they are agitating for negotiation and peace.

• Market women’s life stories in Ghana connect to global issues
Africa News carried a review of Gracia Clark’s new book, African Market Women: Seven Life Stories from Ghana. Clark is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University. Jean Allman, of Washington University, comments in the review that the book provides insight into “globalization, gender and economic security, economic decline, structural adjustment, changes in family structure, urbanization, environmental degradation, new forms of spirituality, transnational migration, and the politics of memory.”

• Becoming an atheist in the Amazon
Radio NZ carried an interview with linguist/cultural anthropologist Daniel Everett about his recent book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes in which, among other topics, he describes how the thinking of the Pirahã Indians of the Brazilian Amazon caused him to abandon Christianity and become an atheist.

• World’s most famous finger
The media darling of the past week is an ancient little finger from a child, maybe 5-7 years old, gender unknown, who lived between 30,000-48,000 years ago. Found in a cave in Siberia, the finger’s DNA profile matches neither Neanderthals nor modern humans, indicating the possibility of a distinct stream out humans coming out of Africa sometime between Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. Biological anthropologist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and leader of the research team, says: “This absolutely amazing.” Findings are published in Nature.

• Hoping for hope in Babylon
Ground water is now pinpointed as the most immediate threat to preserving the ruins of Babylon. The international Future of Babylon project is documenting water damage and will develop a master plan for preservation of the ancient city. An initial grant of $700,000 from the United States Department of State is financing the initial two-year study and preliminary management plan. The entire effort could take 5-6 years. As noted in an earlier post on Babylon, the financial commitment from the United States appears paltry given the damage inflicted during the military occupation of the site.

• In memoriam: Robert E. Rhoades
A founder of agricultural anthropology, Robert E. Rhoades died at age 68 on March 24. Rhoades was professor of anthropology at the University of Georgia and served two terms as department chair. In addition to his academic publications, he wrote regularly for National Geographic. In 1991 he won the National Science Writers Award for a National Geographic article about the world’s food supply and biodiversity.

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