• Honor killing or femicide: the label is important
The term “honor killing” creates false distancing of a crime that is in fact murder of females according to Homa Hoodfar, professor of anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. She co-authored an article in the Montreal Gazette examining the media coverage of the Shafia trial in which Mohammad Shafia, his son Hamed Shafia and his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, were found guilty of participating in what the judge called “cold-blooded, shameful murders” of their three daughters and Shafia’s first wife. The three accused were sentenced to life in prison. The article critiques the media’s labeling of the murders as honor killings and the association of honor killings with particular cultures. It also raises the question of how so-called honor killings are different from other murders of family members/intimate partners. If the label is changed and honor killings are combined with other cases of gender-based murder, then so-called “honor killings” do not stand out as highly unusual: “It does not take a genius to see that comparing 12 or 13 [honor killings] against the hundreds of women and children who were victims of familial violence serves only to frame ‘honour killing’ as peculiar, when in reality it is part of a larger pattern of violence against women.”
• Let’s get down to bases
David Vine, assistant professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C., co-authored an article in Defense News describing the intriguing example of cross-party consensus in the U.S. on the issue of closing overseas military bases. The unusual coalition includes Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democratic Senator Jon Tester, Republican presidential candidate Representative Ron Paul and outgoing House Democrat Barney Frank.
• Breaking up and social media
A radio interview with cultural anthropologist Illana Gershon describes her research on how U.S. college students handle romantic relationships, especially break-ups, via social media. She talked with many Indiana University students as part of her research on social media and relationships. For example, she posed this question to one of her classes: “If you and your sweetie are “Facebook official,” what happens when the relationship ends? Whose job is it to change the relationship status: the person who got dumped or the person who did the dumping?” She found student habits and values to be unpredictable on this and other questions: “In every interview I’d have a moment where I’d want to say, you do what?!” she says. The results of her research are presented in her book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media .Comments on the radio interview are invited.
• Messing around back then
New genetic analyses indicate that modern humans had reproductive relationships [Blogger’s note: that’s my euphemism of choice versus “they mated”…] with at least two groups of ancient humans in relatively recent times: the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia, dying out roughly 30,000 years ago, and a less-known group called the Denisovans, who lived in Asia and most likely vanished around the same time. The New York Times quotes Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist and research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London: “In a sense, we are a hybrid species.”
• Altai homeland
More findings from DNA studies about human origins were highlighted in the media this past week. Archaeologists have long thought that American Indians came from Asia, migrating to Alaska during a time of lower sea levels, making it possible to walk over the Bering Strait. New findings based on genetic profiling tie American Indians to a group of people living in a small region of Russia called the Altai, near the borders of Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan. The results are published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.