Anthro in the news 4/12/10

• Flexians make it to Huffington Post Book Club selection
The HuffPost pick is cultural anthropologist Janine Wedel’s Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market: “It’s a gripping, disquieting book that exposes and explains why it’s so hard to bring about any real change in our country.” Wedel dubs the shadow elite “flexians” for their ability to survive and have influence no matter who is in the White House.

• Pulling a Tocqueville: review of The Cracked Bell
A reviewer for the HuntingtonNews gives two thumbs-up to Tristram Riley-Smith’s new book about America, The Cracked Bell: America and the Afflictions of Liberty: “With lively, insightful commentary, careful research, and illuminating personal anecdotes, Riley-Smith uses images like the cracked liberty bell…to explain where things went wrong, and how we can make them right.” Riley-Smith, who has a doctorate in anthropology, spent three years at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, and is now working in Whitehall.

• Possible 9/11 victims in landfill
Anthropologists and other experts are studying what may be human remains from the 9/11 attack in Manhattan found in the massive Fresh Kills landfill located on Staten Island. About 30 anthropologists and archaeologists are sifting through sections of the landfill to search for remains of the more than 1,000 victims who have not been identified.

• The embrace of Sufism
Pnina Werbner, professor of social anthropology at the Keele University, UK, delivered the keynote address at the 5th Annual Humanities and Social Sciences Conference 2010 at Lahore University, Pakistan. The topic of the conference was “Cultural Practices and Religion.” Werbner noted that Sufi pilgrimages and festivals are distinct for their openness to people of different social classes and to women as well as men.

• Rethinking Patagonia
A new study of the indigenous peoples of Patagonia combines data from archaeology, cultural anthropology, and ethno-history to document the complexity of pre-contact society and the 100 years of resistance to outsiders. Juan A. Barceló, archaeologist and lead researcher, is with the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Findings are reported in Arctic Anthropology.

• Paleo wow leads to paleo war
When the discovery of 1.9 million year-old pre-human fossils in a cave in Malapa, South Africa, were announced, a media frenzy (on an anthropological scale) ensued. The remains are the partial skeletons of a boy aged 11-12 years and a woman. They were discovered by the son of Lee Berger, a palaeontologist at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. The skeletons reveal a mosaic of traits that do not allow it to be placed neatly within the Australopithecines or Homo. Berger claims it is a new species; others disagree. While the jury is still out, many media sources have jumped on the “new species” bandwagon, including the Economist. Don’t they know how serious it is to declare a new species? Many paleontologists/paleoanthropologists have been mentioned or quoted in the media: Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, Rick Potts of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Don Johanson of Arizona State University, William Kimbel of Arizona State University, Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley, Bernard Wood of the George Washington University, Bill Jungers of Stony Brook University, and Peter Brown of the University of New England in Australia, and no doubt several others I have missed. To get up-close and personal, go to the BBC news site for a brief video showing interviews with Berger and his son, on location.

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