Anthro in the news 11/7/11

• David Graeber is “something of a star”
The Toronto Star describes David Graeber, an anarchist and cultural anthropologist who teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, as being “something of a star.” An article in the Sunday New York Times mentions his role in promoting a “horizontal” rather than a top-down “vertical” leadership structure in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Graeber is credited with coining the phrase “the 99 percent.”

• Anthro tribe will descend on Montreal next week
Gillian Tett, cultural anthropologist and writer for the Financial Times points to a hot topic of discussion at the upcoming annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Montreal: links of cultural anthropology and the U.S. military. She writes, “Last month, the AAA posted an article from Nature on its website that claimed that the US military has been employing the services of anthropologists in Afghanistan to improve its data-gathering techniques. In particular, during the past five years, it has apparently run so-called “human terrain analysis” programmes, to make its Afghan operations more culturally sensitive.” Leading spokespersons with critical views of such involvement who are likely to be on hand are David Price and Hugh Gusterson.

• Dumpster anthropology

The Seattle Times carried an article about the research project of cultural anthropology doctoral student, David Giles. For his dissertation at the University of Washington, he is practicing dumpster diving and getting to know regular dumpster divers in Seattle. His questions concern how cultural assumptions of what is appetizing lead to the disposal of edible food and how people make a meal of other people’s leftovers. He hopes his work will raise awareness of the volume of edible food that gets thrown out and will prompt people to think about how they might get more food into the hands of the hungry. “The first thing that hits you in the face is how good the stuff in the Dumpster is,” Giles said.”

• Social class and trans fats in the U.K.
AW’s contributing writer, Sean Carey of the University of Roehampton, published an article in the Guardian on culture, class and trans fats. He notes that fried chicken and chips are an age-set marker for low-income British young people including those of immigrant groups. Carey quotes a 17-year-old Bangladeshi boy, who lives with his parents and four siblings in a council house in London’s Tower Hamlets, the second most deprived borough in the capital and the third nationally: “I only eat what my mother cooks for me at home – and fried chicken and chips that I buy at the local takeaway.” In Bangladesh, the traditional diet is based on fish and rice and is low in trans fats. Fried chicken and chips and other fast foods are very high in trans fats and are clearly associated with health problems later in life. Welcome to European civilization.

• Still dreaming of a visit from the mother’s son
The mother would be Stanley Ann Dunham and the son, President Obama. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted the Sydney connection of Dunham as recalled by a woman who took a weaving class with her in the 1960s at the University of Hawai’i and Dunham’s stated wish, at the time, of getting a job in Australia someday. That wish never materialized, and President Obama’s jettisoned trip to Australia last year has yet to be scheduled. Still dreaming.

• From major anthropology to major actor
Canadian actor John Ralston (Derek’s dad, Ming the Merciless, or the guy living in his car on HBO Canada) was a double major in English and cultural anthropology from the University of New Brunswick. He grew up steeped in anthropology due to his parents’ interest in the subject. Ralston is quoted in Canada’s Daily Gleaner as saying, “My whole family has taken anthropology. There would always be anthropology books around my house…”

• Hold my hand…for 1,500 years
Archaeologists have uncovered a 1,500 year-old tomb containing a man and a woman, facing each other and holding hands. Archaeologist, the excavation director, Donato Labate said, “I have been involved in many digs but I have never felt so moved.”

• Welcome to Europe: earlier than expected human occupation
Re-examination with improved techniques of two fossils, one from England and the other from southern Italy, provides an older date for the former and a reinterpretation of the identity of the latter. Early modern humans, it now appears, had spread throughout Europe earlier than previously thought.

• In memoriam
David Riches died at the age of 64 years in Scotland. Riches was one of the founders of the Department of Social Anthropology at St Andrews University and was an honorary senior lecturer there. Riches trained in social anthropology at the Universities of Cambridge and then London, from where he took a doctorate in 1975. He moved to a lectureship at St Andrews University in 1979, having previously taught at Queen’s University, Belfast, for six years. He was one of the founding fathers of social anthropology at Scotland’s oldest university, which he helped to build in size, reputation and international standing. He was promoted to senior lecturer in 1992 and took early retirement in 2005 due to ill health, after a distinguished career of over 25 years’ service at St Andrews.

Katherine Siva Saubel, aged 91 years, died at her home on the Morongo Reservation in California. Saubel was a Cahuilla tribal elder and expert on Indian cultures of California. One of the leading American Indian figures of her time, she received local, national and international recognition for her work in anthropology and linguistics. “She was very serious about people understanding her culture well, and it was an important goal in her life that she record as much in her life as she could about it,” said retired anthropologist Lowell Bean, who co-wrote with Saubel the landmark book, Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. “Until the day before she died, she was teaching young Cahuilla people about the traditional values, the traditional culture,” said Bean, who knew Saubel for more than 50 years. In 1965, Saubel helped found the nonprofit Malki Museum on the Morongo Reservation, said to be the oldest museum in California to be founded by American Indians.

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