Zika spurs abortion rights debate in Latin America
The Washington Post carried an article about how the surge in microcephaly cases in Brazil has reignited a debate on abortion and the reproductive rights of women in Latin America. The article quotes Debora Diniz, professor of anthropology at the University of Brasilia who is spearheading the right-to-terminate campaign: “Women should not be forced to go through with a pregnancy where serious birth defects are still not fully known…They should not be penalized for a government’s failing policies because it has been negligent in the handling of an epidemic.” She said the campaign’s argument rests with women having the right to choose whether to have the child and the right to specialized prenatal care and social assistance if they choose to have the child.
Medical students without borders
National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on the widespread health care roles of medical students from the U.S. who spend time in low-income countries as part of their training and who, while there, may carry out procedures for which they are not fully trained. Commentary from Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, commented in the piece, noting that at first she was pleased to hear a pre-med undergraduate excitedly describe participating in a brief medical outreach program in an impoverished Central American community — until the student proudly recounted how she had performed a pelvic exam on patients. Melby says: “No one here [in the United States] would allow you to perform medical procedures for which you’re not licensed…And that should not change when you cross international boundaries to developing countries.”
Reframing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day
The Plattsburgh Press (New York State) reported on a grade school project to engage students in thinking about the merits of changing the name of the federal holiday, Columbus Day, to Indigenous People’s Day on Plattsburgh City School District calendars. In addition to seeking input about this possibility from the St. Regis Mohawks, the sixth-graders have asked other Native Americans to weigh in on the idea of Indigenous People’s Day. Chris Wolff, an assistant anthropology professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, assisted the class in creating a survey which was sent to native communities across the U.S. and Canada. The students shared their findings with the School Board at its meeting on February 11. The board may choose to vote on the name change during that session or at a later meeting. The students, and the tribes, support the change.
Take that anthro degree and…
…become an artist. Zoe Bray is a portrait painter who is a visiting scholar at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From 2011-2015, she was a professor of Basque studies in the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Bray earned an M.A. in social anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. in social and political science from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She trained as a painter at the Charles Cecil Studio and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. An artist in the realist tradition, she paints people and places with the theme of identity being central to her work. Bray’s art is included in public and private collections in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States.
…become a medical epidemiologist. Michael Bruce is a medical doctor and medical epidemiologist who works for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He is stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, where he works to improve the health of Arctic peoples. But when the Ebola epidemic broke out, he went to West Africa to help contain the virus, given his undergraduate fieldwork there and his fluency in French. Bruce has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and M.D./M.P.H degrees from the Tufts University School of Medicine. He notes that, as an undergraduate, “I ended up realizing that I was most interested in…health and medical issues, and people on the ground and issues in discrepancies in care, and there were a lot of illnesses out there in West Africa when I was doing my field work.” During his residency, Bruce learned more about the CDC and a training program called the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), which was designed for those in the medical field who are interested in applied public health. His background in anthropology and applied public health were factors behind his selection by CDC to go to Guinea for six weeks. There he worked on tracking anyone who had come into contact with an Ebola patient to ensure they did not come down with the sickness as well. “They needed an epidemiologist who had worked internationally and had been to West Africa before, had spent time in West Africa, and sort of understood West Africa, and then someone who was also fluent in the language who could speak to people, and be versatile.”
…become a photographer. Mary Zheng is a photographer whose work was first exhibited at Relish, a local foods restaurant in Grinnell, Iowa. She hopes that proceeds from the exhibit will fund her planned trip during which she will spend up to a year visiting more than eight countries and taking photos of one of the most disregarded rooms in the house: the bathroom. “A bathroom is such an overlooked place that is really intimate,” Zheng said. “I feel like because it’s so intimate, it’s linked really closely to people’s core and who they are…I like to photograph normal things that are given a new spin through my lens,” Zheng said. Her new project will look at both the personal and public, as she plans to mostly stay in people’s houses while traveling, but expects to spend some time in hostels as well. She will start in Morocco and then go to Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. Zheng lives in Grinnell, where she works at Relish and with AmeriCorps as the afterschool enrichment coordinator. She has a B.A. with a double major in anthropology and Chinese from Grinnell College.
…become a pastor. Gary Kinkel is the newly appointed pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Shakopee, Minnesota. Kinkel attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he received a B.A. degree in anthropology. He also has an M.A. in divinity from the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a master’s of theology from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and a doctorate from the University of Iowa.
…become a curator, author, artist, and educator. Gerald McMaster has been named Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture & Curatorial Practice at OCAD University. OCAD University is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research, and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. McMaster teaches undergraduate courses in the Indigenous Visual Culture program and leads a graduate seminar in exhibition in the Criticism & Curatorial Practice program. “My position will enable me to be part of a uniquely vibrant community of students, researchers and creators,” said McMaster. “I am looking forward to learning from and working with them as I seek to expand knowledge of the ways transnational contact has affected artistic expression among Indigenous people, as well as the influence of those expressions on non-Indigenous societies.” He has held curatorial positions at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. In 2006 he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada. McMaster studied at the Institute of American Indian Art and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, receiving an M.A. in anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa. He completed a doctorate at the University of Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis.
The bioanthropology book of love
MyCentralJersey (New Jersey, U.S.) reported on the research of biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a research associate with the Center for Evolutionary Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Her classic book, Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, has been updated since the original 1992 publication. She traces the evolution, neuroscience, anthropology and psychology of human romantic passion, attachment, and pair-bonding.
In the spotlight: Sexual misconduct in anthropology
Sexual misconduct of male professors and mentors in anthropology is under investigation with a focus on Brian Richmond, biological anthropologist and curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Inside Higher Education reported on this case, drawing on an article in Science magazine which describes the current allegations. A follow-up short piece in Science called for signatures to an online statement against sexual misconduct in academia, written and circulated by three human evolution experts at Arizona State University. It has garnered more than 600 signatures since it was launched on February 9. The petition calls on those who sign it to make an “individual commitment” to “zero tolerance of sexual misconduct” and to publicly support “the victims who come forward to report” such incidences.