anthro in the news 6/1/15

  • Not funny

In an article in the Huffington Post, Christa Craven, assistant professor of anthropology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and chair of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the College of Wooster, takes on campus jokes about sexual violence. Pointing out what should be unnecessary – that such jokes are not funny — she offers steps to address this widespread and enduring problem.

Craven, who has been threatened as a professor, writes: “What bothers me the most about my experiences…is that over the past 20 years, I see little difference in how we — as a society and in many campus communities — are responding to sexual violence and threats of violence. Many continue to see violence as an essential part of masculinity and adopt the naïve (and often dangerous) stance that ‘boys will be boys.’”

  • The ills of humanitarian health aid

Medical anthropologist Paul Farmer of Harvard University writes about “the caregivers’ disease” in the London Review of Books. He ponders recent health humanitarianism in West Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak, providing a wide historic sweep from Graham Greene’s writings to medical anthropologist Adia Benton‘s book, AIDS Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone. He praises her book as a “withering critique” of the workings of public health funding.

  • Spelling bee culture
Co-winners of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee

WBUR (Boston NPR) highlighted the research of Shalini Shankar, sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist at Northwestern University, in an article on the May 28 results of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her current research examines the growth and proliferation of spelling competitions, specifically how they have become a mass-mediated, sport-like spectacle, why South Asian American children dominate them, and how spelling bee franchises are being exported to other countries leading to further commodification of the English language. Shankar is conducting fieldwork in the New York City area on spelling bees, spellers and their families, broadcasters such as ESPN and SONY TV, spelling bee production companies, and the Scripps Foundation.

  • Yes, Justice Scalia, same-sex marriage is nothing new

CNN carried an article by Robert Launay, professor of anthropology at Northwestern University in which he responds to a question Justice Antonin Scalia asked during the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent deliberation of the issue of same-sex marriage: whether “any society prior to the Netherlands in 2001 … permitted same-sex marriage?” Launay writes that “Clearly, none of the justices or the lawyers thought to ask an anthropologist. Any knowledgeable anthropologist would have answered ‘yes.’”

  • U.S. presence in the South China Sea

Press TV published commentary from Dennis Etler, professor of anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, stating that the United States position in the South China Sea is completely “unwarranted” as it attempts to impose its rule in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of Chinese opposition. He writes that: The US “will invade countries in all continents in order to protect what it considers its vital national interests…But when any other country attempts to do the same, particularly when they’re subject to provocations by the United States, the US objects and attempts to push back.”

  • Attacks on Yemen about Yemen or Iran?

Payvand Iran News published an article by Gabriele vom Bruck, senior lecturer in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She suggests that Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen have more to do with curtailing Iran’s influence.

  • In review: Base Nation

WPDE-TV (South Carolina) picked up on a new book by David Vine, associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, DC, commenting on what his work says about U.S. military bases around the world. Vine calls it a “super-sized collection,” with more than 800 U.S. run foreign military bases compared to 30 foreign bases run by all other countries combined:  “Many of them exist in large part because of inertia…There isn’t necessarily a good reason why they exist. People have come to believe they protect us.” His book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, Vine argues the opposite is often the case.  “These bases have enflamed the kind of anti-americanism that is extremely dangerous to our national security.”

The article also presents the opposite view of those who argue that the bases continue to be necessary since the war on terror has become a global threat, and therefore the US should fund these bases indefinitely. It quotes Rick Brennan, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation: “That is the role the United States has as a global super power.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a jazz and soul singer. Somi is an acclaimed vocalist, born in Illinois to Rwandan and Ugandan parents. She earned B.A. degrees in anthropology and African studies from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a Master’s degree from New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts in Performance Studies. She originally planned to pursue a PhD in medical anthropology but then decided to focus on music full time, spending time in Africa, and embracing her bicultural heritage.

  • Wine, wine

The Sacramento Bee reported on a March event at the University of California at Davis on the traditions, technology, rituals, poetry, and art of fermented beverages in China from the Neolithic period to the present. Patrick E. McGovern, director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, opened the daylong seminar with a talk on Understanding Jiu: The History and Culture of Alcoholic Beverages in China. The modern wine era in China started in 1892 with the founding of Changyu Wine Company which remains a major presence on the Chinese wine scene.

  • Friends of Lucy

Several media, including Time magazine, covered a claim for designation of a new species of early human ancestor.  Researchers found approximately 3.5 million-year-old jaw bones and teeth in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia.  The study, published in Nature, suggests this hominin is a new species, despite being alive around the same time as other known early human ancestors. Lead researcher Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, told BBC News, “We had to look at the detailed anatomy and morphology of the teeth and the upper and lower jaws, and we found major differences. This new species has very robust jaws. In addition, we see this new species had smaller teeth. The canine is really small—smaller than all known hominins we have documented in the past.” This new species is called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means “close relative” in the Afar language. Its discovery, like others in recent years, shows the likelihood of more diversity in human ancestry than was previously thought.

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