anthro in the news 8/15/16

Anthropologist walks into the World Bank…

World Bank headquarters in DC. It is a bank, after all. Source: Creative Commons
World Bank headquarters in DC. It is a bank, after all. Source: Creative Commons

What happens when an anthropologist/physician becomes president of the World Bank and tries to move funding into projects that are more about “humane development” than infrastructure? The Guardian’s article on the presidency of Jim Yong Kim leads with this line: “After years of working with the poor, Jim Yong Kim thought he could lead the World Bank to fight global suffering. Then the organisation turned against him.” The article describes Kim’s early work, with Paul Farmer, both co-founders of Partners in Health. [Blogger’s note: In addition to a commitment to “humane development,” Kim has strongly supported mega-projects in the energy sector including hydropower. Nonetheless, it’s likely that during his presidency, he has done less harm to communities in low-income countries than a non-anthropologist would have. Reforming the mission of an institution as large and cumbersome as the World Bank, as someone wrote many years ago, is like trying to alter the course of an ocean liner with a feather].


Brazilian sports fans are boisterous

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

Cheering and booing during an Olympics fencing match? It happens in Rio. The Globe and Mail (Canada) reported on fan behavior at the Olympics where the stands are mostly populated by Brazilians who are active commentators through cheers, boos, and improvised songs.  Martin Curi, a social anthropologist at the Federal University of Fluminense in Rio and editor of Soccer in Brazil is quoted as saying:  “…well, if you’re in Brazil, you get Brazilians…They’re used to the logic of soccer and the behaviour of soccer…So of course they defend their own athletes and their own teams and of course they make a lot of noise, sing and disagree with the referee.” He adds that when they don’t have a Brazilian team to support, they cheer for Cuba, any small African country, or any underdog.


U.S. war dead are sacred

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Sarah Wagner, associate professor of cultural anthropology at George Washington University, in which she comments:  “In an era of heightened reverence for military sacrifice and sacred obligations, attacking the dead’s most visible proxies, the families of those killed in battle, is more than just impolitic. It could well catalyze the unmaking of a candidacy… But what risks being lost amid the reality-show atmosphere of this presidential campaign is a more fundamental polarization: the “widening gap” in military-civilian relations in the United States.”


The Wild West goes to college

Pauline Strong posting a sign prohibiting guns in her campus office. Source: The Statesman, Jay Janner
Pauline Strong posting a sign prohibiting guns in her campus office. Source: The Statesman, Jay Janner

The Statesman (Austin, Texas) reported on the new, as of August 1, Texas policy that anyone holding a state-issued concealed handgun license can carry a loaded weapon into most buildings, including classrooms, at public universities. The article includes a photo of Pauline Strong, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas Austin, posting a sign prohibiting guns in her office. Professors may refuse to allow guns in their offices.


Tango’s gay origin

Quartz reported on the history of tango as informed by research of cultural anthropologist Julie Taylor, professor emerita at Rice University. She is quoted as saying: “The dance represents a culture that is not dominant. It’s not the mainstream culture…For a long time, this was an art not of entertainment but resistance.”


Intersection challenge

According to Yahoo!, Nissan hired Melissa Cefkin as principal scientist and design anthropologist at its research center in Silicon Valley, California. An expert on how humans interact with cars, she will help self-driving cars act more like conscientious human drivers including teaching them what to do at intersections. “We’re trying to distill out of our work some key lessons for what an autonomous vehicle will need to know — what it perceives in the world and then how it can make sense, make judgments, and behave itself to be able to interact effectively in those different systems,” Cefkin said in a Nissan press release. Intersections are particularly challenging since they often involve eye contact between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.


Take that anthro degree and…

…become an environmental consultant, dance choreographer, and dance studio director. Diana Movius has pursued a two-track career, working as an environmental consultant for organizations including the United Nations and the World Bank, and maintaining her involvement in ballet and choreography. She recently opened a dance studio in Washington, DC. Movius has a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University and an M.A. in anthropology from Stanford University.

…become a researcher and teacher in traditional arts. Christoph Eberhard of the Bordeaux area in France, is an independent researcher and teacher focusing on traditional arts such as yoga, taiji quan, qi gong, and wudang, and in social sciences, especially in interculturality. He offers workshops on learning to listen to ourselves, others, and our environment which are based on the teachings of the traditional arts and are focused on breathing, relaxation, realignment, and recentering.  He has a several law degrees, a Ph.D. in the anthropology of law from the University of Sorbonne I Panthéon-Sorbonne, and diplomas and certificates in yoga and other traditional arts.


They ate horses

CNN reported on research by a team from Canada’s University of Victoria and several American universities that used modern forensic techniques to analyze stone tools made in Jordan 250,000 years ago. What they discovered on the tools may be the oldest animal protein residue found so far which indicates that Stone Age ancestors were able to adapt to life in a challenging environment by hunting and eating horses. “When we think generally about the story of human evolution, we see that we eat anything and everything to help us survive,” said April Nowell, lead author of the study and a professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria. Findings appear in the Journal of Archaeological Science.


Let’s play evolution cards

Kristina Killgrove, a bioarchaeologist at the University of West Florida, is a regular contributor to Forbes. Her latest piece is about a card game called Origins, created by biological anthropologists Mindy Pitre of St. Lawrence University and Nicole Burt  of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and Holly Hunold, a medical illustrator trained in anthropology. Pitre and Burt explain that the impetus for the game was that “…we have seen students struggle to understand core concepts of evolution and, as a result, have poor learning outcomes.”

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