Anthro in the news: 6/9/14

  • Banned in the USSR

The New Zealand Herald carried an article about a recently discovered Soviet era blacklist of “ideologically harmful compositions” including Tina Turner, Madness, and The Village People. The list, which was put together by the Communist Party’s youth wing, was distributed to bureaucrats in January 1985, two months before Mikhail Gorbachev ascended to the premiership. Banning the artists only helped to make them more popular in Russia, according to Alexei Yurchak, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, who unearthed the blacklist: “The measures proposed to curb the spread of Western music helped to create the conditions that enabled its further expansion.”

  • It takes a community
Darryl Reano, honored with a ceremonial blanket at Purdue U.’s Native American Educational and Cultural Center upon his graduation, will start a Ph.D. program in geology and geoscience education this fall. Source: The Chonicle for Higher Education.

The Las Cruzes Sun News reported on college graduation rates among Native Americans at New Mexico State University. Native Americans have the highest poverty rate of any group in the U.S., according to 2013 census figures. Many Native Americans who make it to college are the first in their families to attend. It also is the first time many Native Americans, particularly those who grew up on reservations, leave home. Many come from tight-knit communities where friends are also family members. Donald Pepion, an anthropology professor at New Mexico State University and member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe of Montana, says many Native students struggle with a “cultural value conflict.” Native people come from cultures that value groups — the family, the tribe — above the individual:

“…In our roots, as a people…the self was not as important as the family…The broader cultural value of individualism can make college feel even more foreign. Many Native students often feel lonely because they can’t walk down the street to visit grandma or spend time with their aunts, uncles and cousins. Then there’s history: the centuries of war, disease, colonization, forced assimilation and discrimination that Native people carry with them today…In the face of all that, we’re still here…I think (Native Americans) are some of the most resilient people in the world.”

Cari Borja (right) with Berkeley cultural anthropology professor, Laura Nader. Source: California Magazine.

Take that anthro degree and…

become a clothes designer, chef and salon hostess. Cari Borja owns a successful women’s clothing design studio in Berkeley, C.A., and also has hosted, so far, 44 salon-style dinners in Berkeley, out of a projected series of 52 events. For the dinner events, she transforms her studio into a salon where guests discover connections. She has hosted Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and other prominent writers, chefs, and academics, but the guest list is just as likely to include her old friends and new acquaintances.  “It’s about introducing and weaving people together,” she says. Borja blogs about the project and intends at its conclusion to put together a “cultural ethnography of the Bay Area” that will document her guests’ lives and the worlds they bring with them to the table. It’s not so far from the study of humankind she pursued as a graduate student in cultural anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, where she received her doctorate. She studied film and anthropology and wrote her dissertation on art and culture in Jamaica.

become an independent radio news reporter and producer. Rachel Dornhelm is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Oakland, California. Over the last 10 years, her radio work has aired on PRI’s Marketplace as well as NPR newsmagazines and local affiliates KQED, WBUR and WNYC. She has worked in online media as well, blogging for KQED’s State of Health and News Fix sites. She has a graduate degree in anthropology from Rice University. After graduate school, she lived in Uzbekistan working with youth near the drying Aral Sea

work in community health. Danelle Ayame Bliss of Coos Bay, Oregon, attended Southwestern Oregon Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in pre-nursing and general science. She then attended Eastern Oregon University, where she received a B.A. degree with a double major in anthropology/sociology and Health and Wellness Studies. She currently works with the Coquille Indian Tribe as a community health representative.

get a job doing research and communications for an urban housing non-profit organization. Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman is passionate about people and public spaces – and bringing them together. She is at the forefront of the Placemaking movement, which positions public spaces at the center of communities and puts the key to shaping those spaces in the hands of local residents. The Arizona State University alumnus graduated with a B.A. degree in anthropology before attending Portland State University for an M.A. degree in urban studies. She has combined her interests into a career as the research and communications associate for the non-profit Project for Public Spaces in New York City. “I’m a part of a very dedicated group of people who have been propelling Placemaking into mainstream society,” Johnston-Zimmerman says. “As any anthropologist knows, it takes time to change culture, and I truly believe we are finally at the forefront of this paradigm shift in urbanism. Where once we thought nothing of the people that places were designed for, it is becoming more normalized now to focus on the users of the spaces in our urban environments.” Because of her experience with ethnographic observation and survey, Johnston-Zimmerman knows from what people have told and shown her that for public places to work, they need to fill more than just basic human needs. For many, feeling a sense of community is as important as having air to breathe, and for the vast majority, function must trump form.

start a music shop specializing in guitars.  In the window of the Cafeteria Coffee House on Main Street in New Paltz, N.Y., the hanging ukuleles are just a few of the stringed instruments sold by Tyler Beatrice, owner of Root Note Music Shop, which is housed in a space he rents in the coffee shop. Beatrice fell in love with New Paltz and its college-town atmosphere while he was studying anthropology, and that prompted him to stay and start a business. Fresh out of college with a passion for guitars that ran deep, Beatrice opened Root Note in 2010, starting with five guitars from a Canadian company named Sea Gull. Over the years, his business has grown. He has had some very unique and rare guitars pass through his hands and requests about guitars from as far away as Australia.

Mahout, film-maker and elephant conservationist Prajna Chowtha has devoted her life to caring for Asian elephants. Source: Indian Express, photo by A Sanesh.

become an elephant mahout, film-maker, elephant conservationist. Prajna Chowta, one of the few women mahouts in the world, has been working with elephants for almost two decades. She lives in Nagarahole, Karnataka state, India, with five elephants for friends at the Aane Mane Foundation, set up to study and conserve the Asian elephant. She earned her masters in anthropology and art history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. But she soon discovered, while working with the Jenu Kuruba tribe (predominantly mahouts) of Karnataka, that she was drawn to elephants. She currently divides her time between India and France, where with husband Philippe Gautier, she works on films and documentary projects. “I need to make a living to put money into the foundation, and to sustain!” She’s recently finished a documentary, screened on French TV, on the relationship between her and her seven-year-old daughter Ojas and elephants and questioning such a life. She is working on her next book, which will appear in a few months. It brings to the fore sketches and stories of the life of tribal people and their relationship with elephants. It will be based on the legend of Paalakaapya, one of the first “elephant doctors” and a sage from the time of the Ramayana, whose treatise on elephants and elephant care was a prominent reference point for mahouts. Her first book, Elephant Code Book, addresses captive elephant management.

  • Very old pants

According to NBC News and several other media sources, archaeologists have discovered what they think is the world’s oldest pair of pants [trousers], dating back over 3,000 years. The woolen pants were found in a grave in Yanghai, in China’s Xinjiang region. The fabric has been carbon-dated to between the 13th and the 10th century BCE, according to a research paper published in the  journal Quaternary International.

3,000 year-old pants found in Xinjiang, China. Source: NBC News.
  • Archaeology digs on campus

The Santa Cruz Sentinel carried an article about anthropology students at UC Santa Cruz who have been digging into the past to prepare for their professional futures. Eleven student interns and three volunteer teaching assistants conducted their final excavation of artifacts from an historical site at the base of campus. While most archeology students have to travel far and wide to gain field experience, UCSC students have a wealth of opportunities on campus. The campus property originally housed an industrial complex operated by Henry Cowell and his sons that manufactured building materials that played a key role in construction in the Golden State and beyond. The company provided jobs for many, especially immigrants from Italy and Portugal, said Archeological Consultant Patricia Paramoure, the project director and course instructor. Nearly two dozen buildings, structures and quarries sites can still be found on the campus, including the barn theater, at the corner of Bay and High streets, worker cabins, the former ranch house, blacksmith shop, cookhouse and granary. “It was an industrial village,” Paramoure said. “It was its own little community.”

  • Recommended summer reading: Book about Neanderthals

Forbes Magazine carried a review of Svante Pääbo’s Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes. Pääbo, who is the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute, University of Leipzig, pioneered the application of genomics to the study of ancient humans, most famously the Neanderthal genome. For several reasons, the reviewer says that “Pääbo’s book is well worth adding to your Summer reading list.”

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