Anthro in the news 7/21/14

Kate Clancy
  • The perils of fieldwork

The Washington Post and other mainstream media reported on a survey about sexual harassment and assault by colleagues during fieldwork. The study includes 142 men and 516 women in anthropology (including archaeology), geology, and other scientific disciplines. Results show that younger women are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault during fieldwork.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, claims to be the first to investigate experiences of scientists at field sites. Researchers conducted an online survey with respondents recruited through social media, e-mail and links on Web sites of major anthropological organizations as well as other scientific disciplines that require fieldwork. The study’s lead author is Kate Clancy, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

The Washington Post quotes Clancy: “Our main findings – that women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse and felt they had few avenues to report or resolve these problems – suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive…We worry that this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”

[Blogger’s note: Nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1990, Nancy Howell published a landmark study, “Surviving Fieldwork: A Report of the Advisory Panel on Health and Safety in Fieldwork“, supported by the American Anthropological Association. I don’t have my copy at hand — it’s at my university office, so I cannot check the accuracy of the following statement, but I think I am right in saying that her study did not include sexual harassment and assault by colleagues. Perhaps it is time to reassess the wider range of dangers in the field and how to prevent them.]

  • Scheper-Hughes talks back

The Pacific Standard Magazine carried a response by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, to an article about her work exposing human organ trafficking. An excerpt:

“In his profile of me (“The Organ Detective,” July/August), Ethan Watters quotes sources indicating that I have a deep animus toward the medical establishment. I have always worked closely with surgeons, pathologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and transplant professionals. I have co-authored numerous articles with physicians and transplant surgeons. In 2007, I was offered a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair and Professorship at the University of Minnesota, with a primary appointment in the Department of Surgery. I declined, regretfully, but I believe the offer reflected that school’s faith in my ability to play a positive role in the training of medical students (including surgeons) in medical anthropological concepts and methods bearing on ethical clinical practice.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

work with a genealogy company. Michelle Fiedler is a customer support manager for Family Tree DNA. She has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Washington State University.  Fiedler manages a department of about 12 people in order to provide customer education regarding genetics, anthropology, and genealogy.

teach English and aspire to a career in politics in Thailand. Phiev Tong Him is a state school teacher of English and an English academic manager of a Phnom Penh leading private school. He also aspires to enter Khmer politics. He has an M.A. in sociology and anthropology from the Royal University of Phnom Penh,

…work in finance for six years, realize there must be something more to life, and become an independent researcher. Nandita Bhavnani is a chartered accountant with degrees in commerce and law as well as an M.A. degree in anthropology. She became inspired to explore the post-partition experience of the Sindhi people and her research has resulted in a book, The Making of Exile, about the Sindhi community’s struggles after leaving their homeland in Sindh, a region that crosses what is now part of southern Pakistan and northwestern India.

Alfdaniels Mabingo. Source: LinkedIn.

become a dance choreographer and performer and a Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant in New York University’s Steinhardt’s Dance Education program. Alfdaniels Mivule Basibye Mabingo took his love for Ugandan culture and brought it to the U.S. The dance pieces he has choreographed and staged include The Journey, (2005), The Smile of the Oppressed (2006), Ndi mu Firika (I am an African) (2007), The Meeting Point (2008), Irresistible and Between Four Eyes (2009). He has an M.A. degree in performing arts, specializing in dance anthropology, from Makerere University.

  • A weed a day might keep the dentist away

CBS News and several other mainstream media covered the discovery that prehistoric peoples living in what is now Sudan ate purple nutsedge, one of the most invasive weeds known. Its consumption may be related to dental health. In high concentrations, purple nutsedge inhibits a type of bacteria that leads to tooth decay. This fact may explain why researchers have found fewer cavities in the Al Khiday individuals at the turn of the first millennium B.C.E., compared to their counterparts at Gabati, an archeological site to the north. The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers examined the dental buildup of 14 people buried at Al Khiday, an archeological site near the Nile River in central Sudan. The skeletons date back to between about 6,700 B.C.E, when prehistoric people relied on hunting and gathering, to agricultural times, at about the beginning of the first millennium B.C.E. “The oral hygiene activities were not as good as they are today,” said lead researcher Karen Hardy, a professor of prehistoric archeology at the Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.

  • Neanderthal ear pops up in China

The Christian Science Monitor reported on findings that a distinct inner ear bone formation thought to be unique to Neanderthals has turned up in a different sort of ancient human found in China. Anthropologists took a second look at a partial skull of a 100,000-year-old human unearthed in Northern China, they found something that complicates the understanding of modern human evolution. Anthropologists say the presence of this distinct ear in another early human suggests a more dynamic, interactive exchange between early human populations than commonly thought.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers posit that the Chinese inner ear is a result of breeding among different communities of early humans. The remains belonged to a member of the genus Homo – a group that includes both Neanderthals and modern humans – but the study’s authors have not specified the species, except to say that it could not have been a Neanderthal that had wandered into China.

Study coauthor Erik Trinkaus, an anthropology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is quoted as saying: “Evolution was very much mosaic. To the extent that this might indicate population contact, it emphasizes that human populations were very dynamic on this landscape.”

  • In memoriam

George Spindler, Stanford professor emeritus of education and anthropology, died at the age of 94. Widely accepted as one of the founding fathers of the anthropology of education, Spindler focused his research on how school systems facilitate cultural transmission and aimed to help improve the quality of education through his work. For over 50 years, Spindler and his wife Louise, who passed away in 1997, taught a Stanford introductory anthropology course together and collaborated on research publications. Spindler also taught classes in education and sociology. He instructed an estimated 40,000 students as a professor and reached many more through his introductory texts in anthropology.

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