Anthro in the news 5/11/15

  • Disasters never really end

An article in The Indian Express about India’s efforts to help Nepal recover from the April 25 earthquake quotes Edward Simpson, professor of social anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London: “An earthquake does not conclude. It lives in metaphor and history, passing in and out of popular consciousness.” In addition to dealing with loss as survivors try to put their lives back together, they know that future earthquakes are inevitable.

  • Buggy debate: Amish cultural rights vs. road safety

National Public Radio (WRVO) reported on a recent vote by the St. Lawrence County Legislature to table a resolution that would ask the state of New York to require Amish buggies to display orange, reflective triangles. People on both sides of the buggy debate spoke at the meeting. The group supporting the resolution is focused on road safety. Karen Johnson-Weiner, professor of anthropology at SUNY Potsdam and studies the Amish, said the Amish will not use the orange reflectors:

“It’s bright. I’ve heard some say the three-sided reflects the trinity…I’ve heard some say it’s putting belief in a man-made symbol that’s too gaudy for them, they don’t use those bright colors, and at the base those things that are against the Ordnung — the rules each Amish church group sets for themselves — are against their understanding of how they should be as Christians in the world.” [Blogger’s note: some Amish groups have accepted the placement of the orange triangle on their buggies while others do not. Non-Amish drivers should perhaps be asked to bear a symbol of their high speed and assertiveness…not sure what it would be].

  • Bugs for dinner tonight?

The Huffington Post carried an article on how eating bugs has not spread in Western cultures in spite of attempts to promote them as an edgy new food source in high end restaurants. It points out that, while millions of people around the world rely on insects as part of their diet, people in Western cultures typically don’t seek out insects to eat. The article draws on commentary from Julie Lesnik, an associate professor of anthropology at Wayne State University who specializes in entomophagy.  She points out the cost factor which makes a steak dinner more expensive than a specialty insect dish at a restaurant. In addition is what she calls the ick factor: many Westerners have been taught from a young age to associate insects with the spread of disease or to think of them as agricultural pests, “a stigma translated into disgust and then we don’t eat them.” From an evolutionary perspective, Lesnik notes that when humans first arrived in Europe and North America, it would have been covered in ice and so insects were not available as an edible resource. She feels that the chances of major growth in insect consumption in the United States is not likely to happen since she knows of no example of a group who stopped or drastically reduced eating an affordable, readily available protein (such as beef) in favor of a more expensive, less available one (such as crickets).

  • In review: Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules

A review in The Guardian of David Graeber’s book, The Utopia of Rules, says that it “…is packed with provocative observations and left-field scholarship. Ranging from witty analysis of comic-book narratives to penetrating discussion of world-changing technologies that haven’t actually appeared, it demystifies some of the ruling shibboleths of our time.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a percussionist. Kaylee Preston plays in Chicago-based bands Rabble Rabble and Bleach Party and is one of 23 finalists in the international Hit Like a Girl drumming contest. She also has other jobs, including working at a Whole Foods cheese counter. But Preston considers herself a musician first and the other jobs just a means to support her music. She earned a degree in anthropology from Northeastern Illinois University.

…and become the head of a nonprofit foundation. Matthew Groll is executive director of the Allegheny Foundation which is part of the larger Scaife Foundation.  He majored in political science and cultural anthropology at the University of New Mexico. After graduating, hHe worked with a government security contractor and then joined Scaife in a personal security role until receiving the offer to lead the Allegheny Foundation.

  • Shroud of Turin in the forensic spotlight

The Huffington Post carried an article discussing a recent rendition of the face of Jesus as a youth, based on the image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin, using forensic aging technology but in reverse. The article goes on to mentions research by Matteo Borrini, a professor of forensic anthropology at John Moores University in England and Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia in Italy, presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, which they argue disproves the authenticity of the shroud. Borrini and Garlaschelli used Bloodstain Pattern Analysis on dummies to simulate the way blood would seep from crucifixion wounds, and say that the results showed patterns very different from those on the shroud.

  • In memoriam

Theresa Howard Carter, archaeologist of the ancient Near East, died at the age of 85 years. She worked during a time of discovery at some of the great archaeological sites of the 20th century. Her field experience was wide-ranging, including Sybaris in Calabria, Italy; Lepcis Magna in Libya; Elmali in Turkey; the Euphrates Valley in Syria; Tell al-Rimah in Iraq; and Failaka in Kuwait. She was associated with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, first joining the staff in 1950 and later serving as an excavation team member on projects initiated by director Froelich Rainey. She joined the Johns Hopkins University Department of Near Eastern Studies in 1970. From 1980 to 1987, she served as chief adviser to the Kuwait National Museum and was director of the Kuwait Archaeological Survey. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in Near Eastern archaeology, classical archaeology, and ancient history at Bryn Mawr College. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from Kuwait University in 1974 and in 1990 the George Arents Pioneer Medal, the highest alumni award granted by Syracuse University for professional achievement.

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