Anthro in the news 10/20/14

  • Anthro advice: Don’t panic over Ebola

An article in the Springfield News/Sun (Ohio) on the Ebola epidemic advised against panic in the U.S.  It quoted Simanti Dasgupta, an anthropology professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio. According to Dasgupta, this disease can further the “othering” of Africa as a “wholly dark” place rather than a continent that encompasses deserts, jungles as well as ports and big cities.

  • Anthro advice: Don’t blame Ebola on eating bushmeat

As reported by the BBC, media coverage attributing the Ebola in Africa to eating bushmeat, inclulding bats, is not only unhelpful but dangerous, warns Melissa Leach, an anthropologist at the Institute of Development at the University of Sussex: “It’s not a disease spread by eating bushmeat. As far as we know it originated in one spillover event from one bat to a child in Guinea…Subsequent to that it’s been a human-to-human disease. People are more vulnerable to Ebola by interacting with people than by eating bats.” She says negative coverage of bushmeat “has deterred people from understanding the real risk of infection.”

  • Fear of dying as a cause of death

Pacific Standard magazine carried an article about how an intense belief that you are about to die can actually kill you. Researchers are learning more about so-called voodoo death, or psychosomatic death, and how it is not found only in “superstitious, foreign cultures.”

“In 1977, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started receiving reports that otherwise healthy Southeast Asian men were dying mysteriously in their sleep, some with terrified expressions on their faces. Researchers, at a loss, called it SUNDS—Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome. In particular, SUNDS disproportionately affected Hmong refugees from Laos.”

“People didn’t know at all what was going on,” says University of California-San Francisco professor Shelley Adler, who was a graduate student studying medical anthropology at the time. But after interviewing 118 Hmong men and women about their experiences, her suspicions were confirmed. Many attributed the deaths to fatal attacks from dab tsog, an evil nighttime spirit in the traditional Hmong religion that crushes men at night. Their descriptions of dab tsog were similar to sleep paralysis, a disorder in which a person’s mind awakens while their body is still asleep or paralyzed; they often feel like they are being crushed and experience hallucinations.

But there were still unanswered questions. Adler says. “Sleep paralysis alone does not kill anyone. Why was it fatal for the Hmong?”

  • Researching Muslim charities in India

The Times of India (Lucknow) reported on the research of Ph.D. student in social anthropology at McGill Uniiversity, Catherine Larouche.  She is researching about 40 organizations in India working on community upliftment for her project on “’Muslim Charity and Community Development”. She has been working as a volunteer and teacher in a madrassa, meeting various organizations functioning for community development:  “For 11 months I have been working as a volunteer in a madrassa owned by Shahnaz Sidrat in the Old City. I am teaching English to the madrassa girls and toiling to learn Urdu there,” says Larouche. “I chose Lucknow for my research work as it has a dense Muslim population and a rich history.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a journalist. William McDonald is a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for Talk Radio News Service. He covers the Pentagon and other political events happening in the nation’s capital. Prior to joining TRNS, William published several stories on housing and HIV/AIDS rights and awareness. He has studied journalism and anthropology, receiving an M.A. in Medical Anthropology from Brandeis University.

…become a U.S. senator representing Hawaii. Incumbent Josh Green, a Democrat, is hoping to return for a third term as state senator for District 3, which represents constituents in Kona and Ka‘u. He has held this seat since 2008. Previously, he served two terms in the state House of Representatives. Green has a medical degree and an undergraduate degree in anthropology and biology. Upon completing his residency training in family medicine, Green was in the National Health Corps, practicing medicine in Ka‘u. He is still an emergency doctor on the Big Island.

…run for mayor of Winnipeg, Canada. Cree candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette has a B.A. in music from the University of Calgary, an M.A. in in music and Master’s in education from Université Laval, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Laval. He served in the military, he taught elementary school for two years in Quebec City’s English system. He is currently a director of the University of Manitoba’s access and aboriginal focus programs, which help new students transition into university and also administers aboriginal wellness and counselling courses for social workers. He is also running for mayor of Winnipeg.

…run for City Council and get involved in local politics. Candidate for Palo Alto City Council, Mercedes Salem is a a family law attorney. She aims to represent middle-class families and immigrants as the only foreign-born candidate in a city with over 8,000 foreign-born registered voters. She is Iranian and speaks fluent Farsi.  She holds an anthropology degree and a law degree from Santa Clara University.

  • The messages in the birch bark

An article in The New Times described findings from a collection of more than 1,000 birch-bark documents uncovered in Veliky Novgorod, Russia, after being preserved for hundreds of years in mud that makes this city one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites on earth. “Novgorod for Russia is like Pompeii for Italy,” said Pyotr G. Gaidukov, the deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology. “Only Novgorod is still alive.”

The birch-bark documents, written in ordinary language about everyday topics, provide insights that supplement a vast trove of artifacts including coins, official seals, kitchenware, jewelry and clothing. Each year, thousands of items are found amid buildings and streets, once paved with wooden logs, buried in the soil. According to legend, by Rurik, a Varangian chieftain, in 859 CE. It is a place where democracy once flourished, where benevolent princes ruled with the consent of a parliament of local elites called the Veche, where markets hummed and international trade thrived, where women were empowered to participate in business and other aspects of public life.

  • He wrote the book

The Laramie Boomerang (Wyoming) carried an article about a memoir by George Frison, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming. Rancher Archaeologist, published by University of Utah Press earlier this year, recounts a mid-life transition from rancher to university student to professor of anthropology. Drawing on experience working with and hunting large animals, Frison focused his research on hunting practices of Paleoindians who occupied the northern plains. During his decades at UW, Frison researched almost a dozen bison bone beds, became the first Wyoming state archaeologist, authored dozens of articles and books, and garnered international recognition for his work. According to Todd Surovell, director of the George C. Frison Institute at UW, Frison “wrote the book on Wyoming archaeology.”

  • Did they or didn’t they: Neanderthal the spear-thrower?

The Daily Mail and other media reported on evidence that Neanderthals used sophisticated spears Ancient human remains of what has been dubbed the “oldest Parisian” have been uncovered in silts close to the River Seine in France. Archaeologists unearthed 200,000-year-old left arm bones at Tourville-la-Rivière which are believed to belong to a young Neanderthal. An unusual raised ridge on the upper-arm bone suggests that the Neanderthal suffered should muscle damage from repeatedly throwing a spear.

According to Bruno Maureille a palaeontologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, “We have a particular morphology on the humerus where we have this very important crest that is related probably to a specific movement – a specific movement that has been repeated by this individual.”

The interpretation that thrown spears were used 200,000 years ago in Europe is “controversial” according to Brian Richmond, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

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