Anthro in the news 10/7/13

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in May 2012. Flickr/isafmedia

• Another run for Afghanistan presidency

Al Jazeera carried an interview with Ashraf Ghani Aamadzai (known more in the U.S. as simply Ashraf Ghani) about the Afghanistan presidential race. The article introduces him by saying: “On paper Columbia-educated cultural anthropologist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is an ideal candidate to be Afghanistan’s president. Ghani has worked at the World Bank and United Nations, and has written a book on failed states. In Afghanistan, however, his 2009 bid for the highest political office was dogged by criticism that his 24 years abroad meant Ghani had become a virtual stranger to the Afghan people.”

Ghani speaks about engaging youth and fighting corruption. On the latter, he comments:

There are 100 countries that are extremely corrupt. There are 20-25 countries that came out of corruption and succeeded. The United States still has major corruption, particularly at the municipal level. England invented corruption. Dealing with corruption is a multi-pronged agenda.

Ghani also ran in the last election and garnered only 3 percent of the vote. This time around, he may be running against a brother of his.

• Freedom’s just another word…

According to an article in The Globe and Mail (Toronto), “we” are overly comfortable with debt. The article mentions LSE cultural anthropologist, David Graeber, author of the book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. According to Graeber, the English word “freedom” was originally associated with freedom from debt. It translated into “return to mother” because when debtors fell into arrears badly enough, their children were taken away from them.

Ground crew transport weapons for an Italian F-16 Fighting Falcon at the Birgi NATO Airbase in Trapani in the southern Italian island of Sicily. (Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
Ground crew transport weapons for an Italian F-16 Fighting Falcon at the Birgi NATO Airbase in Trapani in Sicily. (Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi. Source: The Nation)

• U.S. tax dollars supporting military bases in Italy

David Vine, cultural anthropology professor at American University and expert on U.S. militarism and military bases, wrote in The Nation about how the Pentagon is using U.S. tax dollars to turn Italy into a launching pad for wars present and future. Vine notes that Italy has grown increasingly important as the Pentagon works to change the make-up of its global collection of 800 or more bases abroad, generally shifting its basing focus south and east from Europe’s center. He writes:

Last month, I had a chance to visit the newest US base in Italy, a three-month-old garrison in Vicenza, near Venice. Home to a rapid reaction intervention force, the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and the Army’s component of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the base extends for a mile, north to south, dwarfing everything else in the small city. In fact, at over 145 acres, the base is almost exactly the size of Washington’s National Mall, or the equivalent of around 110 American football fields. The price tag for the base and related construction in a city that already hosted at least six installations: upwards of $600 million since fiscal year 2007.

• U.S. tax dollars and the D.C. shutdown

The Australian carried an opinion piece about how the U.S. government shutdown reveals the extent of “useless work,” or as David Graeber has recently termed it, bullshit work:

Lincoln Memorial: Closed Due to Government Shutdown
Lincoln Memorial: Closed Due to Government Shutdown. Flickr: NPCA Photos

“David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, belled the cat on the phenomenon in August, bemoaning the growing share of work that was pointless and even damaging … Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.”

[Blogger’s note: The U.S. government shutdown does raise questions about taxpayer supported work — essential work (as defined by whom), valuable work (ditto), kind of important work (ditto), and bullshit work (ditto) … and then comes the public policy question of who should pay for work in various categories. There may be other categories of work that taxpayers should not support such as war work].

• On a different note: Conference in Rwanda examines violence and music

The New Times (Kigali) carried an article about an international conference on the audio-visual reception of war that was held last week at the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace in Gisozi, Rwanda.

War drums
War drums (Civil War reenacment). Flickr/Eric Larson

The conference goal was to examine the relationship between the creation, distribution and reception of the violent use of music. It was co-organized by the Centre IRIBA pour le Patrimoine Multimédia du Rwanda, Institut Français, and Goethe-Institut, as part of the UNESCO Day of Audiovisual Inheritance.

Participants at the conference included Elizabeth Claverie, anthropologist and director of Research at CNRS. The IRIBA Centre will recollect archives from Europe and Africa covering more than a century of Rwanda’s audio-visually documented history. The archives will soon be accessible to the public.

• Take that anthro degree and…

…become a special collections archivist in a university library. For Michaela Ullman, archivist with the University of Southern California Libraries Special Collections, every day is an adventure into the lives of World War II era German exiles. Ullmann received a master’s degree in cultural anthropology in Germany.

• Mummies the word

USA Today seems to be working up Halloween excitement with its recent article about “grisly mummy mysteries from ancient Egypt.” In fact, the article comments on a recent publication by archaeologists Andrew Wade of Canada’s University of Western Ontario and his colleague, Andrew Nelson, about how new methods can reveal more than before about mummified human remains. Findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

[Blogger’s note: Perhaps it’s a bit early to start with the spooky stories since Halloween is still three weeks away; nonetheless, always happy to have anthropology in the news].

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