Anthro in the news 11/26/12

Dr. Jim Yong Kim

• Beware of the 4°: Climate change is real and dangerous

Several media sources, including U.S. News and World Report,  mentioned Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a physician and cultural anthropologist, in discussing a new report from the World Bank pointing to the need to take climate change/global warming seriously.

• Stop wildlife trafficking

“There is a movement afoot to humanize environmental issues, to address them from an anthropological, or human, perspective.” writes Tara Waters Lumpkin, an environmental and medical anthropologist. Her article is published in The Huffington Post and argues for the need address wildlife trafficking. As one example of increasing attention to wildlife protection, Lumpkin notes that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke out against wildlife trafficking at the U.S. Department of State in early November. Secretary Clinton stated that wildlife trafficking is a global security issue, emphasizing the need to enlist the support of the public to stem wildlife trafficking. She also declared the launch on Dec. 4 of Wildlife Conservation Day. Lumpkin has been employed in international aid work and as an environmental anthropologist in both the U.S. and overseas and is President of the non-profit Perception International, which promotes perceptual, cultural and biological diversity through its global projects. She is the founder and executive director of Izilwane, which means “animals” in Zulu. Izilwane explores a new ecological paradigm based on enhancing the relationship of human beings with other species and the natural world.

• Missing women primatologists at conferences

A study by researchers at UC Davis has marked gender inequality in who is chosen to speak at primatology conferences. The study was published in the open access journal PLOS ONE. Lead author Lynne Isbell, a professor of anthropology at UCD, initiated the study after being struck by the scarcity of female speakers at the annual meeting in April of the American Association of Physical Anthropology. “I started wondering if this was a fluke, or something we hadn’t noticed before,” Isbell said. She and two UCD colleagues, fellow anthropology professor Alexander Harcourt and Truman Young, a professor of plant sciences, went through programs from 21 annual meetings of the association, focusing on primatology sessions. They tallied the genders of speakers at symposia; those giving shorter oral presentations; and those presenting posters. (Symposium talks are generally seen as being more prestigious than short oral presentations, with posters — often given by junior researchers and graduate students — being seen as the least prestigious.) They found that symposia organized by men had half the number of female speakers, 29 percent, as those organized by women, 64 percent, or by men and women, 58 percent. Women were far more likely to make poster presentations than give talks, while men presented more talks than posters.

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Walking the cockney walk

by Sean Carey

Until I found a copy online, it had been some years since I had read Marcel Mauss’s seminal 1934 essay, Les Techniques du Corps. He focused on how membership of a particular society obliges people to use their bodies appropriately in activities like walking, running, sitting, eating, climbing, jumping, swimming, and marching.

Marcel Mauss

I had forgotten a lot of the basic argument. But I did remember a few things. Firstly, Mauss’s observations and analysis of the body – “man’s first and most natural instrument” – reinforced something that I had already learned from cultural anthropology:  what is deemed as acceptable and unacceptable customary behavior often varies according to differences in gender, social class, geographical area, and social occasion.

Secondly, I could recall that Mauss’s powerful concept of “prestigious imitation” was literally an eye-opener for a field worker in terms of observing customary use of the body and how it can change. It highlights, for example, the way in which people of a lower status (belonging to subordinate social groups) l tend to imitate the body techniques of those of higher status (belonging to dominant social groups) in order to acquire  improve their relative position in the social order.

In the mid-1980s,  I was carrying out fieldwork  in London’s East End, an area of the U.K. which has served as a reception area for many migrant groups fleeing persecution or famine including Huguenots, Irish, Ashkenazi Jews, and Somalis, as well as those seeking economic betterment. I became aware of the difference between first generation, 1.5 generation, and second and third-generation male Bangladeshis, in terms of how they moved, especially how they walked. (Young Bangladeshi females took a different trajectory in terms of the control and use of their bodies, but I will not that address that topic here.) Continue reading “Walking the cockney walk”

Anthro in the news 11/19/12

Anthropologist’s dark past revealed

A 1957 photo shows Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff (center) with his wife, Alicia, and Clifford Evans of the Smithsonian Institution. Credit: Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo.

The recent revelation of the secret Nazi past of Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, one of Colombia’s best-known anthropologists  and a visiting professor at UCLA in the 1970s, has shaken academic circles. According to an article in The LA Times, the native Austrian immigrated to Colombia in 1939 and was famed for his influential studies of indigenous communities and for his books on the unusual stone statues of Colombia’s most important archaeological zone, San Agustin. Reichel-Dolmatoff, who died in 1994, was apparently a member of the Austrian Nazi party and, according to a diary fragment that has been identified as Reichel-Dolmatoff’s, he was also stationed at the Dachau concentration camp. “What this whole affair has shown us is that there were many things in his life we thought we knew but which now are not so clear,” said Carlos Uribe, head of the anthropology department at Bogota’s University of the Andes, a department that Reichel-Dolmatoff and his anthropologist wife, Alicia, founded in 1964. “He was an expert at covering his steps, a chameleon,” Uribe said, adding that Reichel-Dolmatoff, as an academic, was a champion of cultural diversity and indigenous philosophies.”

Entrapment of labor migrants in Hong Kong

Bloomberg Business Week news carried an article about immigrant labor in Hong Kong as “indentured servitude” that is abetted by loan firms. The article quotes  cultural anthropologist Paul O’Connor, a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and author of Islam in Hong Kong: Muslims and Everyday Life in China’s World City. He said the Indonesians he studied considered their first months or year in Hong Kong to be like a “prison sentence” that they have to get through in order to get a greater payoff.
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Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge

Location of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

The current issue of the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge contains 31 articles on food sources and livelihood. For example, Singh, Singh and Bhardwaj write about a particular plant food and its relationship to the livelihood security of Adi women in Arunachal Pradesh, in eastern India.

The Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge is open access.





Anthro in the news 11/12/12

• Healing after the storm

The seven-acre site for public art in Atlantic City. Photo: Ryan Collerd for the NYT.

In Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy spared the first phase of a five-year, $13 million public art project that organizers hope will enhance the city’s image. An article in The New York Times quotes Joseph Rubenstein, an anthropology professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey who is active in community groups and has worked to enhance Atlantic City with gardens and murals: ”I do think it has healing potential poststorm.” He added that the city’s growth has been centered on the boardwalks, or nearby, and public art “…has to be in combination with work on the rest of the city.”

• Big mining vs. local people in Alaska

Two Kenai Peninsula College anthropology professors concluded that a degradation of the water in Bristol Bay from a major mining project could have devastating nutritional, cultural and religious impacts on the villages in the region. Their study, part of a larger impact assessment carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, was in response to a request by nine Dena’ina and Yup’ik villages in the region. Bristol Bay is home to one of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries.

• AAA revised ethics code

The American Anthropological Association announced that its members approved a new ethics code after a five-year review. The revised code was favored by 93 percent of those who voted. In a news release, the association said that the new document is organized according to seven principles, including “do no harm” and “be open and honest regarding your work.” The new document says it is intended to “foster discussion, guide anthropologists in making responsible decisions, and educate.”
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How to know what works when intervention programs lack time and money for evaluations?

A report describing results from a systematic review of programs seeking to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting in several African countries offers this conclusion:

[Our] systematic review shows that there is a paucity of high quality evaluations of the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the prevalence of FGM/C. We included eight controlled studies assessing the effectiveness of five broad categories of interventions, set in seven different countries in Africa. We identified no controlled interventions that had taken place in other parts of the world. All of the evaluation studies were characterized by low methodological quality. Thus, while our calculated effect sizes for prevalence of FGM/C, knowledge, beliefs, and intentions about FGM/C suggested that there appear to be positive developments as a result of interventions, the low quality of the body of evidence affects the interpretation of results and draws the validity of the findings into doubt.

In other words, if one is seeking rigorous, control-trial tested findings about intervention effectives for FGM/C intervention programs, we don’t have it.

In spite of these dismal conclusions, the 156 page report provides a more positive overall contribution by describing several important programs. And even though they lack formal, statistically dependable evaluations, they do seem to be headed in the direction of reducing the practice of FGM/C.

"Localizing Development: Does Participation Work?"

President Jim Yong Kim and Chief Economist Kaushik Basu discuss “Localizing Development: Does Participation Work?” on Thur. Nov.15 at 9:45am in in MC13-121 Auditorium

Please use the Visitors Center to pick-up your building pass. Bring your ID.
The Visitors Center is located on the the corner of the building on 18th and H street.

RSVP to or click here.
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