Anthro in the news 8/22/11

• Cultural critique of sex offender treatment in the U.S.
Cultural anthropologist Roger Lancaster published an opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times that draws from his book, Sex Panic and the Punitive State. Lancaster is a professor of anthropology at George Mason University and director of cultural studies. In his essay he indicates how sex offenses in America are over-exaggerated in the public imagination in relation to their statistical frequency. He looks at existing laws about registration and notification and argues that they are not effective in protecting children from sex abuse.

• U.K. rioting not random
Anthroworks’ Sean Carey, cultural anthropologist at Roehampton University, published an article in the Guardian in which he argues against statements that the recent riots in several English cities were random. He acknowledges that the disorders do not fit the conventional sense of a race riot with people from different ethnic groups pitted against each other or an ethnic group in conflict with the police. Yet, he sees “a racial component” — specifically, the death of a 29-year-old black man, Mark Duggan, who was shot by police in Tottenham — which set off the disorders.

• Two new books on Australian Aboriginal affairs
The Australian carried a positive review of two new books about Aboriginal affairs: “In The Protectors: A Journey Through Whitefella Past, Stephen Gray takes as his subject, and as the mirror for his self-scrutiny, the record of the past century of Aboriginal affairs management in the Northern Territory. How did we get where we are? What are the hidden wellsprings of our conduct?” In her book, A Different Inequality: The Politics of Debate about Remote Aboriginal Australia, “Diane Austin-Broos gazes back in equally unflinching fashion on the role of her own profession across the same stretch of time. How did anthropologists observe and respond to the conditions of remote area Aboriginal life?” In sum: “Both books are clear and even-handed, and their open perspective is achieved in great part through urgent self-examination. They are models of the public intellectual’s craft.”

• Career tip: “search anthropology”
The Atlantic interviewed Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google. He studies how people do searches and has found that 90 percent of people do not know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page. [Blogger’s note: I am in that group of dummies and can’t wait to try out this search command! Furthermore, I have been living so far without knowing what “search anthropology” is!]

• Rise of the Planet of the Apes tie-in #1
John Mitani, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Michigan, published an opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times entitled, “Fearing a Planet without Apes.” Mitani argues for reauthorizing of the U.S. Great Ape Conservation Fund which seems to be stuck in Congress, like many other important issues. He describes the extent of habitat loss for the great apes, such as orangutans, and the positive impact that the Great Ape Conservation Fund has had, in spite of its relatively modest budget. [Blogger’s query: One can only imagine where the radical Republican right stands on primate conservation versus habitat destruction in the name of resource extraction, “modernity” and consumption. We know where they stand on the scientific story of human evolution and, therefore, the need to protect our closest relatives. Among humans, the word genocide would apply to the kind of treatment generally given to non-human primates today].

• Rise of the Planet of the Apes tie-in #2
According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Chet Sherwood, professor of biological anthropology at George Washington University, was inspired by the movie and its sequels to become an anthropologist and learn “how evolution has operated to make humans so different from apes.” In his view, the most striking difference is brain size and a challenge is how to explain that difference and its implications. The article also mentions archaeologist Ian Tattersall, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City who points to the major cultural change that occurred around 100,000 years ago in Africa when human ancestors started using ochre paints and fashioning shell beads. Tattersall implies that more than sheer brain size was involved. A third voice comes from biological anthropologist Philip Reno, professor at Penn State University. He is described as saying that the long period of dependence of human infants, and the greater paternal involvement in offspring care may have allowed brain expansion to happen in the human line and other other ape lines.

• In memoriam
Marek Zvelebil, long-time professor of archaeology at the University of Sheffield, died in July at the age of 59 years. He specialized in Europe’s Mesolithic period and the transition from foraging to farming. Among his courses was one on diet and culture, launched before the topic became popular and “inspired…by his love of good food and wine.” The article about him in the Times (London) also notes: “He was a larger-than-life character, whose deep voice, even deeper laugh and heavy-handed thumping of his keyboard reverberated in neighbouring offices around the building in Sheffield.”

One thought on “Anthro in the news 8/22/11

  1. Pingback: Google Anthropology and more anthro news

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