Anthro in the news 11/11/13

Nourimanba
Containers of Nourimanba organized for storage at newly opened Nourimanba Production Facility in Haiti. Photo: Jon Lascher/Partners In Health

• Peanuts! For health and prosperity

ABC News reported on the opening in Haiti of a new plant in Haiti’s Central Plateau that is making Nourimanba, a peanut-based food used to treat children for severe malnutrition. The peanuts are grown by Haitian farmers, and the project was launched by Paul Farmer’s non-profit, Partners In Health. The first shipments produced at the facility have been distributed to clinics run by Partners In Health. A pilot program will provide support for about 300 farmers to improve the quality and quantity of the peanut supply. The project will improve child health and increase farmers’ incomes.

• On Obamacare

Cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller writes in The Huffington Post about his experience with being diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and the risks of living in the U.S. without Obamacare (the Affordable Health Care Act):

“If I hadn’t had superior health insurance, I would have died many years ago — a life cut short by a lack of access to health care. It makes me angry that millions of Americans cannot not share my good fortune. For any number of reasons — a work-related accident, a sudden debilitating illness, an unexpected job loss — a hardworking person can be rapidly thrown into poverty, which usually means living without health insurance.”

• Review of In the Company of the Poor

In the Company of the Poor
Book cover

Huffington Post carried a review of In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, edited by Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block. The book offers a collection of essays and conversations by, as the reviewer says, “perhaps the world’s two greatest Christian lifelong advocates for the poor and marginalized — Gustavo Gutierrez and Paul Farmer.”

• Women’s breasts in Venezuela: getting bigger all the time

In Venezuela, according to an article in The New York Times, the ideal body shape for women includes massive breasts and curvaceous hips, mediated by a tiny waist. Both plastic surgeons and manufacturers of mannequins are responding to, and at the same time, shaping this ideal.

Cultural anthropologist and feminist scholar Lauren Gulbas of Dartmouth College comments: “Venezuela is known for its oil, and it’s known for its beauty…”

• The joy of socks

The New York Times Sunday travel section carried an article on behavior on airplanes with a focus on bad manners such as people taking off their socks. The article quotes cultural anthropologist Setha Low: “People are trying to come up with strategies to make themselves feel comfortable in a world of tremendous mobility.”

Bare feet
Although beach appropriate, bare feet don't belong on planes, some say. Flickr/Arne Hjorth Johansen

Low is a professor of anthropology and environmental psychology as well director of the Public Space Research Group at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

[Blogger’s note: I am puzzled as to why having socks on or off is a major factor in an airplane traveler’s attempt to be comfortable … shoes, yes].

• Skin color racism in Thailand

In Thailand, recent images and ads about skin color — pitching light skin — have prompted some rapid responses indicating that perhaps Thai attitudes about skin color may change as they are influenced by international perspectives and as Thailand becomes more diverse. Yukti Mukdawijitra, an anthropology professor at Thammasat University, however, believes such positive change may be unlikely in the near future. The notion that white skin is good and black skin is bad is “embedded in Thai culture,” he said.

• The message in the tea towel

Drying to Know, a new exhibition at Bath Spa University in Bath, England, focuses on informative and instructional tea towels to highlight how the kitchen staple is a communication tool. Art fans will be encouraged to view the humble tea towel as a work of art, form of advertising, instructional guide and a “celebration of all things British.”

The two-week exhibition will be held at Bath Spa University’s 160-year-old Bath School of Art and Design campus and features tea towels listing wedding anniversary designations, Scottish clans and food advice. Exhibition creator and leader of the textile design for fashion and interiors course at the university, Amanda Goode, said:

“The tea towel collection is not only an anthropological exploration of British life and culture, it also strongly reflects the technological changes in textile printing methods in the UK. The changes in design from the 50s through to the 80s as well as the development of digital technologies has meant this everyday object can be more than just a tea towel, it can effectively reflect class and cultural aspirations.”

• Clay tablets back to Iraq

Ancient tablet
One of the 10,000 ancient tablets Cornell University has agreed to return to Iraq. They were donated by the family of antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen. (Elizabeth Stone / February 1, 2011)

The Los Angeles Times reported on the return by Cornell University of 10,000 inscribed clay tablets to Iraq. The tablets, dating from the 4th millennium BCE, include rare information on a woman ruler in the kingdom of Ur.

David Owen, Cornell researcher, is quoted as saying: “It’s our first real archival discovery of an institution run by a woman.” Some scholars have expressed concern that the tablets were looted following the 1991 Gulf War.

• Culture shapes crawling

Maybe you do not have to crawl before you walk. Crawling, considered a major developmental milestone in most western countries, is not a universal practice according to research by David Tracer, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado.

Tracer, whose original intention did not include the study of crawling, started working with the Au people in Papua New Guinea in 1988, doing surveys of child and maternal health and nutrition.

One of Tracer’s graduate students, a former physical therapist, noted that he had never seen any of the Au babies crawling. “That’s when the lightbulbs went off,” says Tracer. Au babies are carried by their mothers or siblings 86 percent of the time during the infants’ first 12 months.

Tracer offers some ideas about why crawling is not found in many cultures: to keep parasites out of babies’ mouths and to protect them from predators.

• In memoriam

Helen Safa, pioneering anthropologist of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America, died at the age of 82 years.

The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico
Book cover

Her work on women, families, gender politics and ideologies combined scholarship with a commitment to social equality and social change.

After earning her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, she taught anthropology and urban planning at Rutgers University.

She then moved to the University of Florida as director of its Center for Latin American Studies and was professor of anthropology and Latin American Studies there until her retirement in 1997.

She was the president of the Latin American Studies Association from 1983-1985. Her many significant publications include The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico and The Myth of the Male Breadwinner.

In 2007, she received LASA’s highest honor, the Kalman Silvert Award for distinguished lifetime contributions to the study of Latin America and the Caribbean. For a reflection on her work, see Kelvin Yelvington’s 2010 article in Caribbean Studies.

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