Anthro in the news 5/21/12

• Goodby Dartmouth
The Huffington Post carried an article about a speech by World Bank President-Elect Jim Yong Kim at the Chicago Dartmouth Club, on May 9, where he stated that it was “incredibly painful” for him to step down after barely three years as the Ivy League’s first Asian-American college president. He becomes World Bank Group President July first. Dr. Kim is a physician, public health activist, and cultural anthropologist.

• Hello anthropology
The Chronicle for Higher Education included an article (closed access) about Glenn Petersen, professor of anthropology at Baruch College. He is quoted as saying, “I had no idea, as my plane dodged antiaircraft fire in the skies above the Tonkin Gulf, that our aircraft carrier’s voyage home would bring me a much greater and more meaningful adventure. I have long understood that my time in Vietnam was the backdrop for my career in anthropology, and that it was the tropical islands I encountered on that trans-Pacific trip home that inspired me to choose the field.

• Family matters: parenting while single
The Huffington Post carried an article by Gia M. Hamilton, an applied and visual anthropologist on single parenthood. She says, “It is not enough that I am bold enough to bring a child into this chaotic world, but three, well now that’s just downright obscene. I will add that more than eyebrows raise when I talk about possibly having more… “Children?” I am asked. My response is always the same, “Why yes, of course, I love being a parent… it’s the hardest most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I do it for free!” Hamilton, a native of New Orleans, is the founding director of Gris Gris Lab, Inc., a holistic consulting group and creativity lab that explores issues of community building and sustainability through art and culture, education, urban agriculture, urban planning and the intersection of these industries in areas across the United States. For the past thirteen years she has applied her training by re-organizing niche community groups using Social Magic, a process developed to assess, engage and facilitate change. “Social Magic, put simply is the ability of the community to effectively utilize and leverage the resources and assets already present.” Her most recent projects as the ethnographer and curator of The Black Boy Experiment include an in depth cross cultural and multidisciplinary study and visual analysis of the childhood differences of black male youth. Hamilton studied cultural anthropology at New York University and Applied Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center. She and her Social Magicians can be reached by email at gia@grisgrislab.com or follow her on twitter @grisgrislab.

• Race matters in Cuba
Teachers and students from around the world convened in Havana to discuss the racial situation in Cuba at the International Seminar on Higher Education and Vulnerable Groups, held at the University of Havana. During a lecture given by anthropologist Antonio Martinez, attendees considered the components of the Cuban population.

• New book on reviled anthropologist
The Sydney Morning Herald carried a review of a book about a little-known anthropologist who was reviled by his peers. The book has been recognized in this year’s National Biography Award, with historian Martin Thomas receiving a $25,000 award for The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist. Mathews (1841-1918) was a surveyor with no academic qualifications who devoted his later life to gathering knowledge and promoting respect for Aboriginal cultures. Read more.

• Very old cave art as “Playboy precursor”
An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was widely discussed in the mainstream media. Radiocarbon dating of engravings in a stone ceiling in Abri Castanet, a well known archaeological site in southwestern France, place them as 37,000 years old, making them slightly older than the world’s earliest known cave art, found in nearby Chauvet Cave. According to Randall White, professor of anthropology at New York University and lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the art was likely meant to adorn the interior of a shelter for reindeer hunters. The site contains a wide variety of artifacts including TBA, but what seems to have attracted the attention of the media (because sex sells, most likely), is the “vulvar imagery” that appears to represent female sex organs, even though such imagery is the minority of depictions — there are far more horses, for example, than “vulvar” images. The title of the article in The New York Times, for example, was: “A Precursor to Playboy: Graphic Images in Rock.” For more details, CBC Canada carried a recorded interview with the lead researcher.

A close up of a carved image of a vulva from the rock art discovered at Abri Castanet (Source: Raphale Bourrillon /)

• Our dogs are us
The domestication of dogs, and the benefits from it, could have played a key role in the demise of the Neanderthals and dominance of humans. The Atlantic carried a lengthy article on this topic, presenting several perspectives. An article in the Daily Mail (U.K) notes that excavations of early human dwellings suggest the animals were revered by our ancestors, with their teeth adorning jewelry and their images occasionally painted on walls. Dogs, which at the time would have been at least the size of German Shepherds, could have helped humans by transporting food and other supplies from one place to another, which would have provided an advantage when hunting. Pat Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State university, is quoted as saying, “Animals were not incidental to our evolution into Homo sapiens – They were essential to it. They are what made us human.”

• Kudos
Kathy Reichs, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of North Carolina and renowned mystery writer and television series producer, is the winner of this year’s One Book One Community selection for her book, Flash and Bones. Reichs has published 15 novels and three young adult books and serves as producer tor Bones, the television series inspired by her fiction.

• In memoriam
Leela Dube, who passed away in New Delhi at the age of 89 years, was one of the early pioneers of feminist scholarship in India. As the obituary in The Hindu comments, “Scan through the acknowledgements and citations of any sociological or anthropological book on kinship or gender in India, from the 1960s till the present, and her name comes up with unfailing regularity.”

Alexander (Sandy) Fenton, one of the outstanding ethnologists in Europe, died at age 82 years. Fenton grew up speaking Scots at home, learning English and French at school, and graduating in English at Aberdeen University while also learning German. He studied Old Norse at Cambridge, gaining fluency in Danish, Swedish, Faroese and Icelandic. The study of onomastics (place names) led him into Gaelic, Welsh and Erse. Fenton had more than 300 publications, which provide an invaluable resource for European ethnology and the place of Scotland within it. His espousal of ethnology proved a driving force in its study in Scotland, notably Aberdeen.
Source: The Herald (Glasgow), May 16, BYLINE: GORDON CASELY

Crawford Greenewalt Jr., an emeritus professor of classical archaeology at the University of California at Berkeley, died at the age of 74 years. His work over half a century helped illuminate the lives of kings and ordinary people in Sardis, western Turkey, where he had excavated every summer from the 1950s until last year. From 1976 to 2007 he was the field director of the expedition, which began in 1958 and is a joint project of the Harvard University Art Museums and Cornell University.

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