anthro in the news 7/25/16

Mass killings are local and global

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of medical anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, published an article in Counterpunch (U.S.) on how recent mass attacks in Dhaka and Nice take Americans into a “gray zone” of terrorism, showing “…how totally vulnerable we all are and how deficient are our national and international security systems.” Her essay begins by stating that one Berkeley student was killed and three wounded in the Nice attack, and one Berkeley student was killed in the Dhaka attack.


Gender, power, agency, and blame in transactional sex

978-0-8223-3864-2_prSABC News (South Africa) reported on the trending terms for transactional sex participants: blesser and blessee. The article include an interview with one blesser, the person who provides money and gifts to the blesse who normally is expected to return the favors with sex. In discussing how blessees in South Africa often have a negative public reputation as vixens or evil, the article mentions cultural anthropologist Sherry Ortner‘s book, Anthropology and Social Theory:  Culture, Power and the Acting Subject, in which she looks at why women who use their agency are often depicted as evil.


Bending gender roles in Japanese theater

Jennifer Robertson8058.110, professor of cultural anthropology and the history of art at the University of Michigan, published a piece in Playbill (U.S.) about the history of Japan’s all-female Takarazuka Revue, which is currently performing the hit play Chicago in New York City. Kobayashi Ichizō, an innovative industrialist, founded the Revue over a century ago as an alternative to the 400 year-old tradition of all-male Kabuki theater. Robertson is author of Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan.


Take that anthro degree and…

…launch a toy company to empower girls. Abigail Edgecliffe-Johnson’s career path includes being a medical secretary, an HIV researcher, a criminal policy and drug addiction researcher, a trainer for people working in international affairs messaging and media, and a global securities researcher for a major bank. Today, she is founder of the STEM toy company RaceYa, which, as she says, “unites my passion for empowering girls with my penchant for building cool stuff….I want to fix problems and move on to new problems.” She has a B.A. in medical anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University.


“Dirty data” on prehistory of disease

Personal hygiene sticks excavated from a 2,000-year-old latrine pit along the Silk Road offer evidence of the transmission route for infectious diseases. The Guardian picked up on research findings, published in The Journal of Archaeological Science, based on bamboo sticks with wrapped in cloth used as bottom-wipers. The remains provide evidence of disease spread from east to west by travelers. Samples of ancient feces scraped off the fabric and brought back to a laboratory in Cambridge, England, reveal eggs from four species of parasites, including Chinese liver fluke. Lead researchers are Hui-Yuan Yeh and Piers Mitchell of the University of Cambridge. Hui-Yuan is quoted as saying:  “When I first saw the Chinese liver fluke egg down the microscope, I knew that we had made a momentous discovery…Our study is the first to use archaeological evidence from a site on the Silk Road to demonstrate that travellers were taking infectious diseases with them over these huge distances.”


Early New World religious dialogue

The Guardian reported on findings by an Anglo-Puerto Rican team of archaeologists of Latin inscriptions and Christograms next to spiritual iconography by indigenous peoples in a remote cave on the Caribbean island of Mona. The team, led by the British Museum and the University of Leicester, suggests that this is evidence of a religious dialogue between Europeans and Native Americans:  “It is truly extraordinary,” said Jago Cooper, the British Museum curator who, with the University of Leicester’s Alice Samson, heads the team. “It is proof that the first generation of Europeans were going into caves and being exposed to an indigenous world view. I can’t think of another site like this in the Americas.”


Why didn’t past droughts in Ghana spell famine?

Minnesota Public Radio reported on the research of Northwestern University archaeologist Amanda Logan who has found that food insecurity in Banda, a 10-hour drive from Ghana’s capital of Accra, has not always been the case. She says the current hungry-season gap in July did not exist before the mid-19th century. Her findings, which span a 1,000 year timeline, are published in an article in the American Anthropologist.


Rickets in England, Canada, France

The New York Times reported on findings published in a paper in The Journal of Archaeological Science about how teeth from the past provide a permanent record of vitamin D deficiency in their microscopic structure. The researchers, led by Megan Brickley, an anthropologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, examined the skeletal remains of six individuals who had been buried in the 18th and 19th centuries in cemeteries known to contain cases of rickets and individuals who had survived childhood vitamin D deficiencies. The article quotes Brickley: “We were able to see inside that tooth, what was housed in there, years ago” and Lori D’Ortenzio, a paleopathologist who worked on the study: “You can’t get that info from a skeleton.”


Forensic anthropology on the Texas border

In its Difference Makers feature, the Monitor profiled a human rights worker, Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Canales, who tries to prevent the deaths of migrants passing through the harsh terrain of South Texas. He also helps families abroad who are searching for their loved ones. The article mentions Ryan Strand, a missing persons investigator at Texas State University and forensic anthropology fellow assisting Canales at the South Texas Human Rights Center.


Gaming out and about: Pokémon Go and Ingress

National Public Radio (U.S.) posted a piece by Barbara J. King, emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary in which she discusses overlaps between Pokémon Go and Ingress and the benefits of both in getting people out to explore the world. She mentions the hope that archaeoegaming will benefit public science and history as more families discover cool sites around them. Her advice: “Just don’t succumb to the lure of the small screen so much that you miss the real world on its own terms.”

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