anthro in the news 9/12/16

Having no remains of loved ones adds to the loss

Memory site. Source: Creative Commons/Pixabay.
Memory site. Source: Creative Commons/Pixabay

NBC News reported about the ongoing grief of 9/11 families whose relatives were killed in the World Trade Center attack and whose remains were never recovered. The article quotes Chip Colwell, senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science:  [The void is] “…intangible, lingering, the opposite of something that is concrete and tangible…That leads to ongoing pain and suffering for many of these families.” Remains are a key part of the grieving process, giving mourners something specific to remember the person they have lost, Colwell said. They are symbols, something to visit and make part of a routine, providing a sense of connection and closure.


Walk it to change it

Violence against women is not just a “women’s issue.” Source: Google Images/Creative Commons
Violence against women is not just a “women’s issue.” Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

The Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts) published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Susan Birns, chair of the department of anthropology, sociology, and social work at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She asks, Why Walk in Her Shoes? In response, she outlines the scope of violence against women in the U.S. and says: “We walk because we insist that these facts become completely unacceptable in our community. We walk to promote social change. We walk to build community. We walk to raise money to provide services for survivors. We walk because it’s a fun way to tackle an extremely serious social problem.” In conclusion, she reminds us that gender-based violence is not just a “women’s issue.”


U.S. position on refugees woeful

Salon published a piece about the inadequacy of U.S. refugee admissions in meeting the scale of human suffering. It quotes David Haines, professor emeritus of anthropology at George Mason University: “What’s generally happened is that the government, for reasons of domestic policy and foreign policy, has usually carved out this area of refugees as something the United States should do something about…The Republicans are really bailing out of what has been a bipartisan support of refugee programs in some form.”


Camps for kids with cancer work

An article in The Philadelphia Daily News described the work of the Children’s Oncological Camping Association International which sponsors more than 90 member camps around the world, including Camp Can Do in Pennsylvania. It mentions a study of Camp Can Do co-authored by Myra Bluebond-Langner, a former Rutgers anthropology professor and now head of pediatric palliative care in the Institute of Child Health of University College London. Attending the camp improved the children’s knowledge of their disease and its treatment, even though cancer was not formally discussed. Rather, learning happened naturally among the campers. “I think this approach was brilliant,” said Bluebond-Langner in a telephone interview from London, “because it allowed the young person to engage as much or as little as that child wanted. Further, the “normal camp experience” gave the children something to share with friends back home.


Hiring a former jihadist

WANE TV (Indiana) reported on comments by Lawrence Kuznar, professor of cultural anthropology at Indiana University Purdue Fort Wayne, on the hiring by George Washington University (GW) of Jesse Norton, a former jihadist, as a researcher in its cyber and homeland security center. GW has been criticized for the hire but believes it will provide insight into terrorist organizations. Kuznar agrees.


Duke University’s split personality

Duke University is putting big money into big sports, as reported in the NewsObserver (North Carolina). Orin Starn, cultural anthropology professor at Duke, comments: “Keep in mind all this is happening at a university where a faculty group presented a spurned report in 1969 recommending the de-emphasis of athletics and possible withdrawal from the ACC.” Years later, he still sees a university with a split personality: “Sports Duke” and “Academic Duke.” As liberal arts programs endure budget reductions while funding for athletics flourishes, he observes, “…if there’s been a struggle for Duke’s soul between sports and academics, sports has won.”


The Paul Farmer effect

The New York Times reported on the work of Indian medical doctor Zarir Udwadia who is fighting drug-resistant TB in India as well as the inertia of the government. Udwadia says that he has been inspired by medical anthropologist, doctor, and health activist Paul Farmer.


Majoring in anthropology a path to medical school

The Daily Pennsylvanian carried an article on the growing diversity of backgrounds among students attending medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.  While biology and other science majors still predominate, a trend toward majors in the social sciences and humanities is marked. The article includes commentary from Cass Dinh, a pre-med sophomore who is majoring in anthropology and hopes to do humanitarian work, perhaps for Doctors Without Borders, after completing her medical training. She says, “It’s not like we all love dissecting cadavers…We all have different interests and different reasons for pursuing the things that we do…I was looking at the list of majors on the website and crossing off the ones I vehemently didn’t want to do…I decided to go with ‘anthro’ because it encompasses a lot of things I really like, like sociology, psychology, some components of biology and a bit of chemistry.” She thought that pursuing a strictly science-based major would be restrictive, and she is enjoying the flexibility of an anthropology major. “When it comes to being pre-med, so much of your curriculum is supposed to be centered on the sciences,” Dinh said, “but when you go to college you’re supposed to open your mind.”


Take that anthro degree and….

…work in cultural resource management. Jennifer Ann Nagra is employed by Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., in Sheridan, Wyoming. She has a B.S. in anthropology from Montana State University.

…serve in urban politics. Valérie Plante was elected as a councillor for the Ville-Marie borough of Montreal, Canada, in 2013. Since June 2015, she has been city council vice-president at Montréal city hall, deputy mayor of the borough of Ville-Marie, and Projet Montréal’s downtown and tourism critic. She is considering running for the leadership of Montreal. Her long involvement professionally and as an activist with various community organizations includes: accompanying immigrant women victims of conjugal violence throughout the judicial process, giving self-defense classes to children and women, and setting up training programs on the impact of global economy on women. She was head of the national network of the Girls Action Foundation, was involved with the Festival international de nouvelles danses de Montréal and various Montreal museums, is a member of the Corporation de développement économique et communautaire du Centre-Sud/Plateau Mont-Royal board, and sits on the Broadbent Institute board of directors. Plante has a B.A. in anthropology, an M.A. in museology, and a certificate in multiethnic intervention, from the University of Montreal.

…direct a center on aging. Margaret (Peggy) Perkinson will be director of the University of Hawaii Manoa Center on Aging as of January 1, 2017. She is a medical anthropologist and social gerontologist, specializing in global aging, dementia care research, and cultural dimensions of aging and has more than 30 years of experience in gerontological research, teaching, and community service.  In her teaching, she emphasizes community-based collaborations and student engagement in service learning, inter-professional projects, and participatory action research. She has served on the faculty of Saint Louis University, Washington University at St. Louis, the University of Missouri and the University of Maryland, and as senior research scientist at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center.  She co-founded the NAPA (National Association for the Practice of Anthropology)-OT Field School in Antigua, Guatemala, and directed its gerontology component. She provided gerontological training to staff of a newly developed community care retirement community in Changzhou, China. Perkinson has a B.A. in humanistic studies from St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Missouri Columbia, and a Ph.D. in human development and aging and medical anthropology from the University of California San Francisco.


Possible human sacrifice at burial site in Peru

Archaeologists are excavating a cluster of tombs at Chotuna-Chornancap in northern Peru and testing for evidence of human sacrifice there. According to coverage in The Guardian, Haagen Klaus, a bioarchaeologist at George Mason University, plans to analyze the new finds to confirm whether some of the buried individuals died as a result of sacrifice. So far, more than 50 possible sacrifice victims have been identified at the site, spanning hundreds of years and at least three civilizations. “It’s not unusual that sacrifices are made to those individuals, sometimes during the funeral or even years or generations afterward…a number of the individuals that were buried were children – and that does fit into the larger pattern of ritual sacrifice.” According to the lead archaeologist working at the site, Carlos Wester: “We study sacrifice not for the gruesome details but because rituals like this tend to be reflections of culture, history, society.”


Bonobo matriarchy

Bonobo female sociality. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons/Alamy
Bonobo female sociality. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons/Alamy

The New York Times reported on findings from long-term research among bonobos of the Democratic Republic of Congo which enrich understanding of female solidarity. Female bonobos of the Wamba forest frequently bond together against intrusive males and often express a preference for sexual activity with females. Nahoko Tokuyama, of Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, comments: “Being hated by females…is a big matter for male bonobos.” Amy Parish, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, notes that among bonobos, in contract to chimpanzees, female solidarity prevails and male bonding weak: “It’s a matriarchy…Females are running the show.” Joan Silk, a primatologist at Arizona State University, is quoted as saying that bonobos, compared to chimpanzees, “[are] unusual in so many ways.” Tokuyama and her colleague Takeshi Furuichi report their findings in the journal Animal Behaviour.

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