Anthro in the news 09/06/10

Peanuts for poverty and to heck with patents
The New York Times magazine featured an article on the rise of Plumpy’nut, a foil-wrapped peanut paste produced as a nutrition booster for starving people. A French company first started manufacturing and selling it. Now other manufacturers are making a similar product including Partners in Health in Haiti, founded by medical anthropologist/doctor/activist Paul Farmer. PIH, which calls its paste Nourmanba, is planning to expand its operations. Discussions are ongoing about whether the usual patent protections should apply to such life-saving products.

On the bus
The state of Florida has the third most illegal immigrants in the US and is considering Arizona-style policies. Many recent immigrants are departing. The St. Petersburg Times quoted Ella Schmidt, cultural anthropology professor at the University of South Florida and an expert on US migration issues: “Every day people are leaving and going back home … especially those who came in the last five or six years.”

The Hispanic paradox explained
Drug Week noted an ethnographic study of the Hispanic paradox. Hispanics in the United States are economically disadvantaged but their health profiles are equal to or better than Euro-Americans. Medical anthropologist Anna Waldstein and colleagues at the University of Kent did research on women’s popular medicine in a Mexican immigrant population in Athens, Georgia. Women’s home care and medical knowledge explain much of the so-called paradox. Findings are published in Medical Anthropology.

Breaking up is hard to do
The Ottawa Citizen carried an article about cultural anthropologist Ilana Gershon‘s new book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Gershon, who teaches at Indiana University, interviewed undergraduates about what is a bad break-up and discovered a variety of perspectives about how the message should be delivered (in person, texted, or telephone) and who should post the official news on Facebook (the dumper, the dumpee, or whoever gets there first), among other factors.

Community immunity against PTSD
Drug Week picked up on an ethnographic study of a new therapeutic program in Israel that seeks to prevent PTSD through building community resilience. The authors discuss the relevance of their results for other contexts such as Bali, Haiti, and Ethiopia. Findings are published in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.

Boys being boys
Hemant Apte, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Pune, presented findings at the 26th Annual Conference of Sexology in Chennai, India, that women sex workers in their 50s are favored by younger men perhaps because they “pamper their young clients.”

Anthro cover guy
Okay, so we missed it, but better late than never: the August cover of National Geographic featured University of Miami anthropologist Kenny Broad. The associated article describes his three- year expedition with a team of 15 scientists into underwater caves, or “blue holes,” off several islands in the Bahamas. He studies the effects of humans on the environment in marine contexts.

A feast of ancient souls
The earliest archaeological evidence of feasting now comes from the Natufians of Israel in pre-Neolithic times, pushing back the date for this activity to 12,000 years ago. Natufians represent a transitional culture from mobile foragers to settled farmers. Natalie Munro, an anthropologist with the University of Connecticut and lead author, conjectures that funerals and feasts may have provided a sense of community during this transitional period. Findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Beer that was good for you
Between CE (current era) 350 and 550, ancient Nubians appear to have intentionally brewed beer that contained the antibiotic tetracycline. It shows up in their bones, according to researchers, including archaeologist George Armelagos of Emory University. Findings are published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Mild dietary stress is good for you
Investigators in the Department of Public Health at Kinki University, Japan, have used animal studies to show that dietary restriction helps prevent obesity, obesity-related diseases, and extends lifespan. Findings are published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology.

In Shakespeare’s face
A new British TV documentary called Death Masks will reveal the results of 3-D computer technology to create a “true likeness” of William Shakespeare. Forensic anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson noted several consistencies between the 3-D image and portraits. Others are less accepting.

Yo mama
Anybody who knows anything about bonobos knows that sex plays a major part in their lives, especially in terms of conflict prevention. A new study suggests that frequency of sexual activity of males with estrus females, however, is tipped in favor of males with supportive mothers. The findings, based on study of nine males in the wild, is reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.

It’s a trap!
Some chimpanzees in the rainforests of Guinea can recognize snare traps laid by human hunters. And they seek them out and intentionally deactivate the traps, setting them off without being harmed.

Kudos: Cultural anthropologist Peter Sutton honored
Peter Sutton is the winner of the John Button Prize, and $20,000, for the best writing on politics and public policy for his book, The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus.

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