Anthro in the news 5/19/14


Street scene in Philadelphia. Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Philadelphia: A city in ruins

The Philadelphia Inquirer carried an article about how Philadelphia became the poorest big city in America and various social science perspectives on how that happened. Judith Goode, professor of urban anthropology at Temple University, is quoted as saying that although a new generation of leaders – including Philadelphia’s Ed Rendell – has brought a stronger focus to urban renewal since the 1990s, most of the programs have been aimed at tax breaks for developers and businesses luring upscale suburbanites to the central core. Efforts that would help poverty-stricken neighborhoods – luring back blue-collar employers coupled with job training, or improving public schools – got much less priority.

“Urban renewal hasn’t worked in ways to help poor people,” said Goode.

  • To sleep, perchance to dream

Tanya Luhrmann wrote an op-ed for The New York Times connecting Western/modern sleep patterns with those of non-electrified societies. She suggests that the norm of a disciplined, eight-hour sleep means that such sleepers do not experience rich dreams might occur in sleep cultures that allow for waking up in the night….She writes:

“the intriguing question is whether different sleep cultures encourage different patterns of spiritual and supernatural experience. That half-aware, drowsy state is a time when dreams commingle with awareness. People are more likely to have experiences of the impossible then. They hear their mother, many miles distant, speaking their name, or they see angels standing by the window, and then they look again and they are gone.”

[Blogger’s note: in addition to the research by Holland that Luhrman notes, a book by Dan Everett called, Don’t Sleep: There Are Snakes is worth reading in terms of how an Amazon group breaks up night-time sleep with playing tag and being noisy to scare away snakes].

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times. Gillian Tett is the Financial Times’ new U.S. managing editor. A cultural anthropologist by training with in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge, she sounded an early (and mostly ignored) warning about the financial crisis as recounted in the Guardian:

“I happen to think anthropology is a brilliant background for looking at finance,” she reasons. “Firstly, you’re trained to look at how societies or cultures operate holistically, so you look at how all the bits move together. And most people in the City don’t do that. They are so specialised, so busy, that they just look at their own little silos. And one of the reasons we got into the mess we are in is because they were all so busy looking at their own little bit that they totally failed to understand how it interacted with the rest of society.

… become a publisher, philanthropist, and social anthrologist. Sigrid Rausing is the owner of Granta magazine and Granta Books and founder of the Sigrid Rausing Trust, one of the U.K.’s largest philanthropic foundations. She earned an MSc and a PhD in social anthropology from University College Londonwarded a PhD in Social Anthropology from the Department of Social Anthropology at University College London followed by an honorary post-doctorate in the same department. She has published many articles as well as a monograph based on her PhD, History, Memory, and Identity in Post-Soviet Estonia: The End of a Collective Farm and, most recently, the book Everything Is Wonderful: Memories of a Collective Farm in Estonia, a memoir, also drawing on her fieldwork experience.

…become a real estate broker. Wood Brothers Realty, a St. Louis based independent real estate brokerage, announced its recent hire of Kasia Migdalska. A native of Gryfino, Poland, she moved to the U.S. in 2005 and graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in anthropology and a minor in political science.

…become Playboy Playmate of 2014. Playboy Magazine presented the 2014 Playmate of the Year and unveiled her photo on the cover of the magazine’s June issue at a luncheon on the grounds of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles on Thursday. This year’s Playmate of the Year is Kennedy Summers. She is a Berlin-born, Virginia-raised model with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, a master’s in health administration and is presently working toward a M.D. with plans to become a plastic surgeon.

  • Kudos

Patricia Wright with lemur friends (Photo courtesy Stony Brook University)

According to USA TodayPatricia Wright, professor of biological anthropology at Stony Brook University and expert on lemur behavior and their conservation, was awarded the Indianapolis Prize, an award the Indianapolis Zoo gives every two years to a conservation scientist for contributions to saving animal species. Wright will receive a $250,000 purse to spend as she wishes.

She has spent her research career learning about and protecting lemurs on the island of Madagascar. In 1991, her efforts lead to the creation of Ranomafana National Park, which was recently featured in the IMAX movie, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. Wright’s colleagues and friends says that her impact on the island is everywhere. The national park has spawned an eco-tourism industry that has led to hotels and restaurants, which in turn have led to jobs and improved the standard of living. It is also a state-of-the-art research facility, which includes bio-safety labs to study infectious disease. Wright said she will allocate much of her winnings back into the island.

  • In memoriam

Clyde Snow, forensic anthropologist, died at the age of 86 years. He was a founding figure in connecting forensic anthropology with genocide and human rights abuses. According to his obituary in The New York Times:

“He was a legendary detective of forensic anthropology, the esoteric science of extracting the secrets of the dead from skeletal remains. His subjects included President John F. Kennedy, the Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, the “disappeared ones” exhumed from mass graves in Argentina, the victims of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and even King Tutankhamen, the Egyptian pharaoh who lived 3,000 years ago. More, Dr. Snow, who testified against Saddam Hussein and other tyrants, was the father of a modern movement that has used forensic anthropology in human rights drives against genocide, war crimes and massacres in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chile and elsewhere.”

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