anthro in the news 7/13/15

  • Mexico is not just a U.S. add-on
The U.S. needs to move beyond this

US-Mexico relations could improve with U.S. recognition of positive aspects of Mexican culture and legalizing marijuana in order to break the cartels. An article in the Guardian quotes Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso:

“We need to change the discourse about Mexico. Americans need to get beyond saying they like Mexican food and accept that these countries are joined at the hip…Mexico is a permanent part of American culture. Let’s embrace it as part of the country, not some kind of add-on.”

  • Ben Affleck: Please meet Boas

An article in the Washington Post has this lead: “To fully appreciate how dumb Ben Affleck was to pressure PBS into censoring any mention of a slave-owning ancestor, you have to know something about Franz Boas. He was the father of American anthropology, a Columbia University professor who repudiated the doctrine of scientific racism — the idea that you are pretty much what your grandfather was.”

Affleck prevailed on the producers of Finding Your Roots, and its host, Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr., to erase mention of Benjamin Cole, a slave-owning ancestor of Affleck’s. The article concludes that Affleck should not worry about his ancestry: “If your grandfather was a louse that has no more bearing on you than if your neighbor is one as well. We may be our brother’s keeper, but we are not carbon copies of our ancestors.”

The series has been suspended on the grounds of Affleck’s  “undue influence.”

  • Do you believe in magic?

An article in Tulsa World discusses the bad luck of the Tulsa’s women’s basketball team, Shock, and quotes Phil Stevens, associate professor of anthropology at the State University of New York in Buffalo. Shock moved to Tulsa six years ago and has experienced a run of bad luck since then. Is Shock cursed, the article asks Stevens? He responds:

“People believe that there are mystical forces in the world, in nature, which can act on each other and that can be manipulated by people to act either on nature or on other people…There’s powerful evidence for the effects of human psychology, human belief…And that’s the way magic actually works, and that’s the way magic can be shown to work. If you believe it, boy, it can be devastating.”

Stevens explained that a curse is spoken evil magic, and there’s no evidence the Shock made anybody mad enough to actively curse the team, but maybe the franchise is jinxed: “It is universally believed that these interconnections in nature can themselves somehow get out of whack, without human manipulation…And if it has an adverse affect on people, then that’s called a jinx.”

  • Taking a step back to think about transgender identity

The Huffington Post published an article by Eric Plemons, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and a medical anthropologist, who focuses on trans-medicine and surgery in the U.S. He writes:

“If the sensationalism that followed Caitlyn Jenner‘s revelation of herself as a transgender woman has something to teach us, it is not about the particulars of what it means to be transgender. Jenner, like each of us, has a gender identity that is too complex and individual to generalize about, and neither she nor anyone can be made to stand for the entirety of a diverse social category. More important than a lesson in identities, Jenner’s announcement and the media frenzy that followed has provided an important diagnostic tool, a moment to pause and do what we anthropologists love to do: pull back from the tight focus on Jenner’s smiling face and corseted waist, and locate her story and its massive media response within a broader context.”

  • Uncertainty in Greece takes its toll

The Belfast Telegraph interviewed two Greek people living and working in Northern Ireland. One of the interviewees is Ioannis Tsioulakis, a lecturer in anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast. Originally from Athens, he has lived in Northern Ireland for eight years. His mother and father still live in the Greek capital. He says:

“I think it’s very positive that there’s a referendum, so I’m very happy with that development. I suppose everybody is very uncertain about the result and what a potential ‘No’ would mean, because a ‘Yes’ would just mean a perpetuation of the same policies. I don’t personally believe there’s any chance that Greece is going to leave the euro, but if there was a chance that it was going to exit I think this could potentially be a very good development. I’m one of the people who has been following the economists who are saying that Greece might be better outside the eurozone where there could be better development opportunities. My personal opinion is that Greece has been living in increasing financial, social, and political devastation since 2010. Salaries and pensions are disgraceful for a European country, unemployment is rising (and has reached a stunning 60% among the under-25s), and even those who have jobs feel extremely precarious.”

  • Music star’s death, media, and a cultural chasm in Brazil

As reported in the Guardian, while millions in Brazil mourned the death of sertanejo singer Cristiano Araújo on social media, some media expressed a mixture of bewilderment and disdain at the outpouring of grief, revealing a cultural chasm within Brazilian society. Allan Oliveira, professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, believes the São Paulo and Rio-based media’s reaction to the death of Araújo is driven by ignorance of what is happening in large parts of the country: “There’s a prejudice against sertanejoSome of the elite in this country turn their noses up at what the people like.” Araújo and his 19-year old girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the early hours of June 24 as they returned from a concert in the state of Goiás.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a landscape oil painter. Magi Leland exhibits her work in New England and on Martha’s Vineyard. She has sung soprano for 14 years with Voices from the Heart, practices Reiki Healing privately and writes poetry with other New England poets. She has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Maine at Orono and a Certificate in Metals; Worcester Craft Center. She comments: “I have merged my love of natural places with my background in design and anthropology to form my artistic perspective.”

…pursue a graduate degree in public health in order to work in disability health care. Diana Padilla of Nogales, California, has a B.A. degree in anthropology with a minor in disability studies, from the University of California at Los Angeles where she was a Gates Scholar. She was awarded the Jessie Alpaugh Senior Prize in Disability Studies for her research project, “Latino Border Town Communities and Autism: An Analysis on Access to Resources for Children with Autism in Nogales, Arizona.” Padilla’s desire to help others was sparked by the challenges her family had to overcome in regard to her younger sister’s autism. Since there weren’t many services offered in Nogales, Padilla’s mother usually had to drive an hour north to find help. “Coming from Nogales and seeing the lack of help for my sister made me realize how important it is for everyone to have easy access to different resources no matter where they live,” she said.

  • A sacred fire: Remembering what they once had

The Anniston Star (Alabama) reported on a stomp dance held in Oklahoma by descendants of the Muscogee Creeks who whites forced out of Alabama in the 1830. The tribe members keep alive a sacred flame 200 years later. At the event they sing songs that are a tribute to that mother fire, carried from the original Arbeka town in the Choccolocco valley.

The article includes commentary from Harry Holstein, a professor of anthropology in Jacksonville State University’s department of physical and earth sciences. Standing in an archeological site off Choccolocco Road in Oxford, Alabama, several days before that stomp dance in Oklahoma, Holstein said life for the Muscogee Creeks and their ancestors was good until white men brought disease and drove them from the land: “They had plazas and ceremonial grounds. Very elaborate.”

According to the article, another form of violent cultural displacement is occurring now because of construction of a sports complex in Oxford. Holstein noted several places as likely containing Native American artifacts and human remains. The city dug in those areas regardless, and unearthed ancient human remains. Construction halted while the city officials worked with officials with the Muscogee Creek Nation and with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which held a permit over the wetland construction site.

  • Exploding the myth of Kennewick Man’s identity as a “settler”

The Seattle Weekly published an article describing the impact of recent DNA-based findings, published in the journal Nature, debunking the “myth” that Kennewick Man was a settler from the Old World.  The reporter comments on the tenacity of the myth of Kennewick Man as a settler: “…I spent the better part of four years reporting the Kennewick Man case, talking to dozens of solid citizen scientists while doing so. But no matter how flimsy and misleading the K-Man myth, how total its lack of hard evidence, the archeological profession kept its collective mouth shut while a few outliers gave the press what it wanted: scientific ratification of the tale of a Caucasian loner representing a lost white tribe, obscured until now by redskins claiming they’d lived on the premises forever.”

  • In memoriam

Archaeologist John Clegg died at the age of 80 years. Clegg was an Australian archaeologist who specialized in the study of rock art and was one of the pioneers in the field. He undertook excavations with Eric Higgs and Charles McBurney, both of whom were influential on his studies. He was awarded an M.A. Honours at the University of Cambridge where he initially read geography, but after two years changed to archaeology. In the 1980s he took up a teaching position in the Archaeology Department of the University of Sydney. He wrote the popular Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings in Sydney.

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