anthro in the news 2/8/16

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On eliminating Valentine’s Day in U.S. public schools

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, many schools in the Minneapolis area will not be marking Valentine’s Day or many other so-called “dominant holidays” in the interest of promoting diversity. An ongoing debate concerns what, if any, celebrations should take place in classrooms. The article quotes cultural anthropologist William Beeman, chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, a “holiday supporter:”  “It’s very difficult to eliminate all celebrations from human society, and finding a reason for celebration is a terribly important human function because it creates social solidarity…And we don’t want our schools to be a grim place, where there’s never any fun, never any community building.”


In Argentina: Culture of police violence vs. human rights

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Complicated Connection: President Macri and his family meeting the Pope. The declaration of a national security emergency does not fit with a Francisan approach to social justice. Source: Wikimedia.

An article in the Argentina Independent discusses the “tough on crime” approach of President Mauricio Macri who assumed office in December and has already decreed a national public security emergency. The article expresses concern about the culture of police violence that continues to plague Argentina. It quotes Maria Victoria Pita, anthropology professor at the University of Buenos Aires:  “There is a historical tradition of confrontation and violence between civil society and the police…It is a very complicated issue because it has to deal with the basis of cultural development and political conditions.”


American football mirrors corporatism

In an op-ed in the Alaska Dispatch News, Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, argues that American football mirrors corporatism rather than war: “Sport, like mythology, subconsciously structures our mind to interpret the world in certain ways. Sunday is the de facto national holiday of Super Bowl Sunday, and football, more than any other sport, organizes social reality. Football philosophers would have us to believe that football mirrors war. Not really. Football mirrors corporatism…” The head coach, he says, is the CEO.


Male-biased refugee flows: A social danger?

The Huffington Post (Greece) published a piece asking whether male-biased refugee flows, as currently experienced in Europe, pose a danger to society and especially to women in the host countries. The article quoted from email commentary by Barbara Miller, professor of anthropology and international affairs at the George Washington University, about the complex relationships between male-biased demographics and women’s security especially in public spaces.  [Blogger’s note: the article is in Greek].


Learning life skills early on

The Seattle Times reported on research led by anthropologist Barry Hewlett of Washington State University-Vancouver which, according to a new study, shows how Aka foragers of the Central African Republic teach children as young as 12 months old to use knives, machetes, and digging sticks. The children also learn through observation and imitation: “Children in such groups, whose way of life accounts for 99 percent of human history, aren’t ‘taught’ about their culture, according to the conventional wisdom. They initiate their own learning by imitating others and helping with the daily work as soon as they are able  — a view recently described by David Lancy, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Utah State University.


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The Daily Maverick (South Africa) published a review of Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa by South African anthropologist, Steven Robins. After stumbling on connections to his family while visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., Robins began to trace the history of his family who perished in the Holocaust in Europe. The reviewer says: “Far from focussing narrowly on this cataclysmic 20th Century event, this extraordinary account of trauma, history and silence is a layered excavation, tracing the roots of the racial science that informed it; all the way back to South Africa and indeed Stellenbosch University where Robins is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.

Robins is a lecturer in the department of sociology and anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch and has published on a wide range of topics including the politics of land, development and identity in Zimbabwe and South Africa; the Truth & Reconciliation Commission; social aspects of HIV/AIDS; and citizenship and governance.


Refugee research project fundraiser

The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Arizona) reported on a fundraising event to help raise the $20,000 needed for a four-week trip to Austria this summer by Northern Arizona University faculty and students. The goal is study what is happening with various refugee groups as they learn to integrate into Austrian society. The Austrian Refugee Integration Project will include four members: Miguel Vasquez, professor of anthropology; Maria Marina Castillo de Vasquez, B.A., Traditional Knowledge Scholar, Applied Indigenous Studies Program; Kiril Kirkov, Socio-cultural Anthropology undergraduate student and filmmaker; and Amy Foust, graduate student in Applied Socio-cultural Anthropology.


Take that anthro degree and…

…become head of a major retail company. Robert Hayne is CEO of Urban Outfitters. One of the 40 richest people in Pennsylvania, he has a B.A. in anthropology from Lehigh University.
…become a global market researcher. Nadima Kadir is head of the unit on “insights” at the London-based company, Human Innovations. She applies anthropological methods to design projects that reveal what people want for commercial and social purposes. She has led research that uses ethnographic methods to generate insights for innovation for two global hotel brands with nearly 4,000 properties worldwide. She has lived and worked in the U.S, Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East, and in Northern/Western Europe. Her book will be published in early 2016. She has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University.


Roasted turtles added to culinary depth in Paleolithic Israel

Discoveries made by an international team in an Israeli cave dating back 200,000 years show that early humans ate turtles alongside plants and large game animals. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University, one of the authors of the study, said that: “Until now, it was believed that Paleolithic humans hunted and ate mostly large game and vegetal material…Our discovery adds a really rich human dimension — a culinary and therefore cultural depth to what we already know about these people.” According to Avi Gopher, another author of the study, it was likely that large game animals such as horses, cattle and deer were hunted by adults, while children and the elderly caught the slow-moving turtles. Barkai said that judging by marks on the shells, most of the turtles were roasted in them, while in some cases the shells were broken and then the reptiles were killed using flint tools. Findings were published in the Quaternary Science Reviews. Lead author is Ruth Blasco of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) in  Burgos, Spain.


In memoriam

Robert Jack Smith, professor emeritus and former chair of anthropology at Western Michigan University, died at the age 85 of 85 years. Smith, a specialist in medical anthropology, joined the WMU faculty in 1963 and retired in 1988 after 25 years. He chaired the Department of Anthropology from 1978 until his retirement. Smith focused on cultural diversity and health care delivery systems, and cross-cultural studies on aging. He was active in the Kalamazoo community and served as chairman of the Kalamazoo County Board of Health and on the board of directors of the American Cancer Society.

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