Anthro in the news 3/31/14

• Conversation with Paul Farmer on World TB Day

The Huffington Post carried an article marking World TB Day and this year’s focus on finding and treating the 3 million people with active TB who are missed by public health systems.

Paul Farmer (right) in Haiti with Alcante. Credit: Moupali Das, 9/11/03
Paul Farmer in Haiti with Alcante/Moupali Das

It presents responses from Paul Farmer — medical anthropology professor, doctor, and health policy advocate — to several questions including why he started working on TB, the specific challenges in working on TB, and more.

• Paul Farmer’s latest book

The National Catholic Reporter included a review of Farmer’s latest book, In the Company of the Poor, a collection of writings and an interview transcript with Farmer and Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Notre Dame professor who is considered to be the founder of liberation theology.

“In a particularly poignant section, Farmer recalls gathering in Peru for a conference ambitiously titled ‘The New World Order and the Health of the Poor.’ He [Farmer] and his colleagues learned directly from the experiences of the poor, a key hermeneutical approach for liberation theology, and they came up with a model of accompaniment, or pragmatic solidarity. Farmer’s works are cerebral but captivating and pay tribute to the ‘disciplined humility’ and hopeful praxis of Gutiérrez’s intellectual and pastoral accomplishments.”

• “Tender mercies” say much about a society

Sarah Wagner, cultural anthropology professor at the George Washington University, published an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about U.S. scientific practices in accounting for war dead in the past century, especially MIAs (those missing in action).

She argues that many complexities involved need to be taken into account in order to serve the relatives: “We as a public need to understand more fully the scientific work and its costs and judge for ourselves if those tender mercies reflect the values of this nation. The missing, unknown and yet unidentified deserve that much.”

• Take that anthro degree and…

…own a high-end Chinese dim sum restaurant in London. In London’s Victoria district, a reputedly fine Chinese restaurant near the train station, with the “dim sum at A. Wong is true to tradition, albeit with a style of cooking that makes for lighter food without sacrificing flavor.”

Dim sum/Wikipedia

The owner is Andrew Wong, who was born in London to a Hong Kong family. His parents owned the restaurant, which they called Kym’s, and both worked there. Wong and his sister spent much of their childhood at the Cantonese eatery. “I didn’t plan to take over,” Wong said in an interview.

“I went to Oxford to study chemistry … but I didn’t finish my degree. I moved to LSE and did social anthropology. It was only when my father passed away that I decided to help out in the kitchen. I enjoyed it so much, I enrolled at Westminster Kingsway on a whim and absolutely loved it. I spent four years there.” 

Wong went on to work in China, training in hotel kitchens in Beijing and Qingdao and studying at the Sichuan Culinary Institute in Chengdu. In 2012, he decided to take over the family restaurant.

…become a writer and professor of English. Margaret Lazarus Dean is an English professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the author of The Time It Takes to Fall and Leaving Orbit (forthcoming 2015).

Margaret Lazarus Dean/University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Margaret Lazarus Dean/U. of Tennessee, Knoxville

She didn’t begin writing until her junior year at Wellesley College where she majored in anthropology.

After a few years working at coffee shops and bookstores to “figure some stuff out and pay off some loans,” she attended graduate school at the University of Michigan for creative writing. There, she discovered an enthusiasm for teaching and enjoyed meeting and interacting with students as a teaching assistant her first year.

During her second year, she taught her own composition class and had a chance to share a passion for writing with her students. Dean’s story so far has a lot to say about overcoming the fear of writing and the fear to say “I want to be a writer.”

…become managing director of one of the largest energy companies in the U.K. and undergo investigation by Regulators from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concerning whether the top six U.K. energy suppliers are preventing effective competition in the U.K. energy market.

Ian Peters, managing director of energy with Centrica, has an M.A. in social anthropology from Cambridge and once ran a rose-growing business. Centrica employs 33,000 people in Britain.

• Clovis model on shaky ground

The New York Times carried an extensive article about ongoing archaeological research in the interior of Brazil indicating long-term human habitation there, far earlier than what the Clovis model of human occupation of the Western Hemisphere suggests.

The article quotes Niède Guidon, a Brazilian archaeologist who remembers first seeing the rock art in the 1970s. In addition to the rock paintings, researchers have unearthed stone tools proving that humans reached what is now northeast Brazil as early as 22,000 years ago.

Their discovery adds to the growing body of research upending a prevailing belief of 20th-century archaeology in the United States known as the Clovis model, which holds that people first arrived in the Americas from Asia about 13,000 years ago.

“If they’re right, and there’s a great possibility that they are, that will change everything we know about the settlement of the Americas,” said Walter Neves, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of São Paulo whose analysis of an 11,000-year-old skull in Brazil implies that some ancient Americans resembled aboriginal Australians more than they did Asians.

The article also mentions several archaeologists who support the Clovis model.

• Profile of forensic anthropologist

The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington) profiled forensic anthropologist Kathy Taylor. As a forensic anthropologist, she spends her time reading personal details imprinted on skeletal remains.

Kathy Taylor
Kathy Taylor. Credit: Gilbert W. Arias, Seattle Post Intelligencer

Taylor can tell if the victims had diseases, suffered major injuries or were the victim of abuse. She can determine gender, age, height and ancestry. She’s the go-to person when Washington State law enforcement officers want to know if recently found bones are human or animal. Taylor is employed by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office but is contracted to all 39 counties in the state and occasionally helps with investigations in Alaska.

• Getting into the guts

An article in Science described the ongoing fieldwork of U.S. biological anthropologist and microbiologist Jeff Leach.

He is collecting data to compare gut bacteria among the Hadza and other groups. The Hadza are one of few remaining African foraging communities. Leach thinks their gut microbes may hold clues to improving human health worldwide. The Hadza’s lifestyle is thought to resemble that of early humans. They have low rates of  “modern” diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems.

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