Anthro in the news 9/22/14


  • Paul Farmer in Liberia to address Ebola

All Africa carried an article about the arrival of Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and Partners in Health (PIH) co-founder, in Liberia, as part of a high level delegation from PIH. They are in Liberia to hold discussions with relevant partners on the outbreak and spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease. The PIH delegation, led by Farmer, is jointly in Liberia with a partner institution, Last Mile Health (LMH). The objective of the team’s visit includes seeking the guidance of the Government on the proposed set of immediate response programs to be implemented by the coalition in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the County Health Teams, including managing an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in southeastern Liberia as well as scaling up community-based interventions. The delegation will also discuss strategies for ensuring that the global response works to strengthen national and country-level institutions by building local capacity (public and private, including for community-based care for Ebola and other diseases).

  • Girls who become boys in Afghanistan

A book review in The Washington Post by Rachel Newcomb, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Rollins College, Virginia, discusses Jenny Nordberg’s new book, The Underground Girls of Kabul:

“Nordberg’s specific focus is on girls and women known as bacha posh, a term that literally means ‘dressed up as a boy, but bacha posh serve as an entry point into a rich exploration of women’s lives in contemporary Afghanistan. Families who have not succeeded in conceiving boys will designate young girls as honorary sons, allowing them to roam freely and masquerade as boys, with the tacit acceptance of others in their communities. At adolescence, most are switched back to young women, a transformation that can be traumatic for those accustomed to their assumed male identities. A few, such as Shahed, a woman in her late 20s who was trained by the Americans to serve as a paramilitary sharpshooter, maintain their bacha posh status, eschewing traditional expectations that they marry and bear children. ‘Some women are braver and stronger than men. I am a warrior,’ Shahed tells the author.

  • America’s National Football League under review

CBS Minnesota carried an article about the widespread concern in the United States about its widely beloved National Football League:

“In the span of five days, America’s favorite sport bombarded fans with a video of one player punching his wife, details about a former MVP hitting his son with a tree branch, reminders of two more lingering domestic violence cases — all being overseen by a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has looked ill-suited to handle any of it.” And there’s a lot more. On Friday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse for using a switch to discipline his son.

The article quotes Orin Starn, an anthropology professor at Duke University, and a specialist in sports and society: “I don’t think any of this stuff is going away…It’s part of the sports news cycle. You get the scores, the profiles of players, the latest cheating cycle. I see this as more of the same. A bad week for the NFL, rather than some new development.”

  • American football and racism

The Alaska Dispatch published an article on football and racism by Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College. He discusses the specific case of the name of the Washington, D.C., football team, the Redskins. Borass notes that “The Washington football franchise has a history of racism. The then owner, George P. Marshall refused to hire black players until 1962 when the Kennedy administration threatened civil rights actions unless the team was integrated.” Now, heated debate is ongoing about whether or not the team should drop the name. Borass supports abandoning the Redskins name and suggests a new name for the team: The Washington Embarrassment.

  • Multidisciplinary approach to health in South Africa

The Mail/Guardian (South Africa) reported on an initiative at two universities in South Africa to develop curricula in the medical humanities.  A landmark conference hosted by the University of Witswatersrand (Wits) Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser) last year introduced the so-called medical humanities as a new, vibrant field of enquiry and aimed to develop its presence in South Africa. In August, the University of Cape Town (UCT) hosted the country’s second medical humanities conference.

This multidisciplinary effort has brought together a range of academics, including Steve Reid, professor of primary health care in the faculty of health sciences at UCT; historian Catherine Burns at Wiser; anthropologist Susan Levine in UCT’s school of African and gender studies, anthropology and linguistics; and anthropologist Chris Colvin, head of the division of social and behavioral sciences in public health at UCT. Anthropologists at UCT are leading an international medical humanities research project, funded by the University and the National Research Foundation, called the Social Markers of TB.

  • Syria’s cultural heritage is casualty of war

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on findings from high-resolution satellite photos that chronicle damage to mosques, Roman buildings, and a Byzantine castle in Syria. According to a study by University of Pennsylvania experts, five of the country’s six World Heritage sites have suffered “significant damage” and some buildings have been “reduced to rubble.” The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science wrote the assessment with help from the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Syrian Heritage Task Force. The Cultural Heritage Center has a two-year grant to study how historic material is used in conflicts, said Richard Leventhal, the center’s executive director.

  • Angelina Jolie in anthro news!

According to Reuters News, actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has been hired to direct Africa, a feature film about paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey and his campaign against ivory poachers that threaten Africa’s elephants. The film, Jolie’s fourth directorial effort, is from Skydance Productions. “I’ve felt a deep connection to Africa and its culture for much of my life,” said Jolie in a statement. Leakey, she said, emerged from the violent conflict with elephant poachers, “with a deeper understanding of man’s footprint and a profound sense of responsibility for the world around him.”

  • Chimpanzees in the wild are aggressive

The Chicago Tribune carried an article about research showing that chimpanzees in the wild can be violently aggressive on their own, rather than being driven to warlike behaviors as a result of proximity to or interaction with humans. The study, published in the journal Nature, is based on fieldwork in the Republic of Congo by several scientists, including David Morgan, research fellow with the Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The article includes an interview with Morgan.

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