Anthro in the news 6/24/14

  • Sunni-Shi’a war not likely

Cultural anthropologist William Beeman of the University of Minnesota wrote an article in Highbrow Magazine stating that the many factions among Sunnis and Shi’as in the Middle East will act to limit the possibility of an all-out war:

“The success of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capturing large territories in Syria and Northern Iraq, and now threatening Baghdad, has raised once again the specter of a Sunni-Shi’a war in the Middle East. Such a scenario is possible, but unlikely. That’s because Sunni and Shi’a believers throughout the world are divided into many factions living under different social conditions and with different religious, social and political agendas. These differences greatly reduce the possibility of the emergence of a coalition of either group into a single bloc opposing the other.”

  • Beware the weed

In an op-ed in The New York Times, cultural anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann of Stanford University warns of the dangers of marijuana:  “Marijuana is more dangerous than many of us once thought. For one thing, cannabis use is associated with schizophrenia, an often devastating disorder in which people can hear disembodied voices that sneer, hiss and command.”

  • To co-sleep or not to co-sleep

The National Post (Canada) carried an article on views of parent-child co-sleeping. While doctors warn against co-sleeping, a growing number of parents are willing to take risk to feel close to their child. New Brunswick’s minister of social development recently required social workers to review safe sleeping practices with their clients in light of two infant deaths this April linked to co-sleeping. At the same time, co-sleeping advocates condemn governments for demonizing their choice and refusing to provide information on how to co-sleep safely. The article quotes anthropologist James McKenna, an authority on co-sleeping who heads the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame:

“I’m afraid parents are going around whispering, feeling they have to whisper — they can’t tell the truth about where their baby sleeps at night…They feel… that these institutions, by way of their expertise and their authority, their rights supersede what is really an inherent civil right of the parents to make decisions about the way they want to nurture and communicate their love and care for their child.”

Further, in scores of cultures around the world, people co-sleep with their children.

  • The World Cup in Brazil: What you see and what you don’t

Joshua Rubin, visiting lecturer in the department of anthropology of Bates College, published an article in The Huffington Post on the,struggle over resources and representations” in Brazil:

“This struggle has unfolded between a government that has sought to construct a censored vision of the country, and has spent large sums to enforce that vision, and the Brazilian people and communities that have rejected this appropriation of public funds and refused to be erased. It is the traces of this conflict, and its incalculable repercussions, that the lights of the World Cup might conceal.”

  • More aid needed for refugees in Italy

Adam Thomas Kersch, an M.A. candidate in anthropology at the University of Central Florida, contributed an article to The Orlando Sentinel describing the needs of refugees in Italy. Refugees in Italy primarily come from Somalia, Eritrea and Syria. With conflict escalating in Iraq, it is likely another mass exodus is around the corner. Every day around 1,000 refugees land in Italy. In 2012 alone, 52,000 refugees arrived in Italy, according to Amnesty International. Most of them request asylum. Kersch’s article is based on fieldwork in Sicily for his master’s thesis.

  • New Human Rights Institute at University of Alabama hires cultural anthropologist

The Birmingham News reported on the University of Alabama’s plan to establish a new Institute for Human Rights, one that school officials say can build on the Magic City’s increasing reputation as a center for the study of civil rights and social justice. This initiative has attracted new faculty to UAB including Douglas Fry, the new chair of the Department of Anthropology, who joined UAB in March from Finland.

  • Exhibit on voodoo

The High Desert Daily (California) announced the opening of a new exhibit at California State University Bernardo’s Anthropology Museum on Voodoo: Ritual and Healing. The exhibit focuses on the divinities of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian religions such as Vodou, Santería, Palo Monte, Candomblé, and other Creole faiths of the African Diaspora.

  • Take that anthro degree and….

…be the director of development and communications for the Nairobi-based organization WISER, Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research, which Elizabeth Moran refers to as her “dream job.” Between July 2013 and May 2014, Moran served as the director of the WISERBridge program, which works with teachers and eighth-grade boys and girls from 16 different primary schools and enables more students to pass the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam, which is required to complete primary school, and continue on to secondary education. Moran first experienced life in Africa before she started her sophomore year in high school when she went on a community service trip to Tanzania. After high school, she spent five months teaching in Ethiopia and then moved to South Africa, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology and gender studies from the University of Cape Town.

…become a personal fitness trainer. Chris Tarnowski is a certified personal trainer at Vision Sports Club in Pearl River, New Jersey. Tarnowski has been a competitive cyclist for more than 25 years, and loves endurance races. At Vision Sports Club, he’s a spinning instructor and Level 3 USA cycling coach. He holds a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology and spent several years as an adjunct professor as well as a business consultant.

  • Who created Iraq?

An article in The Daily Beast described the important role that British archaeologist Gertrude Bell played in defining the boundaries of present-day Iraq. Bell’s knowledge of the language and people of Arabia put her in an influential position after World War I ended and the European powers were deciding how to carve up the region.

“As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.

  • Neanderthals, sort of

The Guardian, along with several other mainstream media sources, reported on a publication in Science describing 17 skulls found in Spain that resemble Neanderthals. The skulls show some Neanderthal facial features, appearing for the first time 430,000 years ago. Recovered several years ago from Sima de los Huesos, or the Pit of Bones, a deep cave in northern Spain, the skulls are the oldest known remains to show clear signs of Neanderthal facial features. While the skulls have some Neanderthal features, their appearance is otherwise far more primitive. Juan Luis Arsuaga, professor of palaeontology at the Complutense University of Madrid, said the remains belonged to a population that fell somewhere between the Neanderthals and a more archaic group of human forerunners. [Note: The Guardian article has a link to a video for more information.]

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