Anthro in the news 6/6/11

• Haiti earthquake and the politics of numbers
A new report containing revised statistics about deaths and displacement following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti created a media buzz this past week. The report was written by Timothy Schwartz, a cultural anthropologist, and commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development. Aid providers are concerned that the smaller numbers will provide an excuse for further delays in moving money committed in 2010 by major donor countries. Blogger’s note: even when the numbers were big, the big money didn’t move.

• Anthropology of perps
According to an article in Newsweek, one of the two lead detectives in the Special Victims Division of the New York Police Department working on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case is Alan Sandomir. Sandomir, whose undergraduate major was anthropology, says: “Doing this job is truly fighting the good fight.”

• Calling on volunteers for clean-up in Japan
An article in the Japan Times discusses the work of David Slater, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Sophia University, in promoting volunteer clean-up efforts in the Tohoku region. Slater is working with the American Chamber of Commerce and Peace Boat, a non-governmental organization. Slater emphasizes the importance of involving business people both as individuals and as part of corporate social responsibility.

• On the move: dealing with rural poverty in India
The Times of India quoted Govinda Reddy, professor of anthropology at Madras University, in an article about how men farmers increasingly commute to Chennai to work as drivers in order to compensate for declining incomes from farming. Reddy says: “The auto drivers earn according to city standards but spend only in a village economy.”

• Intel anthropology
BBC News interviewed cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell about what it’s like to be a corporate anthropologist.

• Dunbar’s number again
Robin Dunbar, professor of biological anthropology at Oxford University, continues to attract media attention with his theory that a person cannot truly have more than 150 friends or, more generally, that human group solidarity maxes out over 150 people. In an interview with National Public Radio, he comments on Facebook overload and military organization, among other topics.

• Before match.com
A big media hit of the past week was a finding that among early human ancestors in Africa, around two million years ago, males stayed in place while females left their home areas to seek out a mate. The interpretation is that this pattern is advantageous to males as a way of defending their territory and maintaining access to known food sources. Blogger’s queries: Doesn’t it seem that when males are on the move, the story is that they are spatially smart and creative? But, when females are on the move, aren’t they more likely to be depicted as cast-out from their home territory and socially needy? Similarly, explaining stay-at-home males seems to generate a story of powerful holders of knowledge about food sources and protectors of territory. When females are the stay-at-home group, they are more likely to be depicted as dependent and lacking spatial skills. Hm.

• Tunnel of death
A newly-discovered 1,800 year-old tunnel below the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Mexico, likely leads to chambers containing the remains of rulers of one of the most influential cities of pre-Hispanic America, according to Sergio Gomez Chavez, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

• Kudos
Cultural anthropologist Ann Kingsolver has been named director of the University of Kentucky’s Appalachian Studies Program. Kingsolver will leave her post as chairwoman of the University of South Carolina’s Department of Anthropology. She grew up in Nicholas County, Kentucky, and is the author of a recent book on the region, Tobacco Town Futures: Encounters in Rural Kentucky. In it, she argues that residents of Appalachia have ideas about alternative ways to organize economies in the context of the current global economic crisis.

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