anthro in the news 9/26/16

Mother, mother: On police violence and race in the U.S.

At the 50th Anniversary JFK March in 2014. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons
At the 50th Anniversary JFK March in 2014. Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

The Huffington Post carried an article discussing recent writings about the problem of policing and race in the U.S. It mentions the work of Christen Smith, professor of anthropology and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas Austin. She argues that addressing the problem of anti-black police violence also requires taking into account the traumatic and long-term deadly effects on the living, who are often women: “We know from the stories of black mothers who have lost their children to state violence that the lingering anguish of living in the aftermath of police violence kills black women gradually. Depression, suicide, PTSD, heart attacks, strokes and other debilitating mental and physical illnesses are just some of the diseases black women develop as they try to put their lives back together after they lose a child.”


Can cultural “appropriation” ever be called theft?

Screenshot of the costume for the character Maui from the film "Moana" on the Disney online store. It was pulled on September 21. Source: Hawaii Public Radio/AP
Screenshot of the costume for the character Maui from the film “Moana” on the Disney online store. It was pulled on September 21.
Source: Hawaii Public Radio/AP

Hawaii Public Radio reported on Disney’s pulling of its Moana costume for children because of the negative reaction to it as racist and derogatory. The piece quotes Tevita Kā‘ili, associate professor of  cultural anthropology and department chair at Brigham Young University Hawai‘i: “This costume should have never been made in the first place…It’s difficult for me to see how Disney can benefit and make a lot of money off of someone else’s culture…Especially someone as significant as Maui.”


One son of an anthropologist writes about another

Simon Kuper, son of British social anthropologist Adam Kuper, published an essay in The Financial Times commenting on “Barack Obama, anthropologist-in-chief.” He says that Obama’s formative experience as a cultural outsider makes him almost unique among U.S. presidents, and that a key to understanding his presidency is to see him above all as his mother’s son: “When he was six, his mother took him to Indonesia, where she had married a local man. There she began what became her magnum opus: a study of peasant blacksmiths on Java. It was a typical anthropological project, an attempt to understand how another tribe sees the world.” In contrast, Donald Trump sees “…Obama’s instinct to understand the other is a soft-headed weakness that foreign tribes are bound to exploit.”


Anthropology of online communities

U.S. National Public Radio carried an interview with cultural anthropologist Christine Moellenberndt who is community manager at Reddit. She discussed online communities and how she studies their intricacies. Topics include what makes online communities “real” and what distinguishes an online community from a social network. [With audio interview].


Dreamtime confirmed by genomic data

Indigenous Australians state that the recently reported genomic data about their 50,000 year-old story only confirms what they have long known as revealed to them through the Dreamtime. An article in The Guardian refers to scholarship by social linguists, associate professor Nick Reid and professor Patrick D. Nunn, who have analysed stories from Indigenous coastal communities and find a continuing theme about the rise of tidal waters that occurred between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago. And, they say, these are the newer stories.


Something missing in the survey

In an op-ed in The International Business Times (U.K.), cultural anthropologist Tomomi Yamaguchi, associate professor at Montana State University, points out a glaring problem with the Japan sex survey: It erases the existence of LGBT people, single parents, widows, and divorcees.


It’s in the water

The South China Morning Post highlighted the work of cultural anthropologist Michael Mascha, a former assistant professor of visual anthropology at the University of Southern California. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology and communication science from the University of Vienna and is the author of Fine Waters:  A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Most Distinctive Bottled Waters. Mascha is currently working with Chinese water bottlers to explore new premium water sources in China which he says is challenging given Chinese citizens’ distrust of domestic brands. He is pioneering the training of water sommeliers and maintains a website called Fine Waters.


BRAC: Benign, or “poverty enterprise”?

picture3-092616The Daily Star (Bangladesh) published a book review by social anthropologist Imtiaz A. Hussain, professor and head of Global Studies & Governance at the Independent University of Bangladesh of BRAC, Global Policy Language, and Women in Bangladesh by Manzurul Mannan, a social anthropologist in the department of social science and humanities at Independent University of Bangladesh. Hussain writes that “Mannan’s incisive and enriching book posits a critical picture,” inquiring if the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee’s purpose as the largest transnational NGO in the world is “benign”–to empower poor women in social transformation, or manipulative–to create a “poverty enterprise.”


Canadian anthropologist still detained

The Toronto Star reported on a rally in Montreal in support of the release of Canadian-Iranian cultural anthropologist, Homa Hoodfar, who has been detained without charges in Iran since June 2016. Many at those at the event outside Concordia University wore light blue T-shirts bearing Hoodfar’s image and the hashtag #freeHoma.


To make the world safe for people

The North Shore News (Canada) carried an article about a recent lecture in Vancouver by cultural anthropologist, author, and explorer, Wade Davis who is a professor at the University of British Columbia: “The thrust of my work as an anthropologist is really trying to make the world safe for human differences and for diversity. My mission at the (National) Geographic for 15 years was to really kind of change the way the world views and values culture…We have a strong conviction storytellers can change the world.”


Take that anthro degree and…

…become a documentary photographer. Tasneem Alsultan is a documentary photographer who focuses on gender and social issues. She is one of five members of Rawiya, an all-female collective in the Middle East. Born in Arizona, she moved to Saudi Arabia when she was 16 and attended university there as she started a family. She returned to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies, writing an M.A. thesis on Saudi women studying abroad and their identity challenges. Later, after returning to Saudi Arabia to teach English, she discovered photography. Alsultan has an M.A. in anthropology from Portland State University.

…become a higher education administrator. Danielle Wozniak is the Dorothy and David Schachne Dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in New York. Previously she was dean of arts and sciences at the College of New Rochelle and director of the school of social work at the University of New England in Maine. She was director of the bachelor of social work program and co-director of the sexual assault prevention program at the University of Montana. Wozniak has extensive teaching experience, having held positions at the University of Montana, Western Michigan University, Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Connecticut, and Connecticut College. Her courses have covered domestic violence, Native American issues, gender and sexuality, kinship relations, foster parenting and STEM programming. She co-founded an online company, Powerful Me!, which combines mental health interventions and techniques with cutting-edge game technology to assist women in making difficult life changes or heal from painful life experiences including recovery from domestic violence. She has authored two books (They’re All My Children: Foster Mothering in America and Good-Bye Baby Venus) and co-authored three others (Back From the Brink: Women Leaders in Times of Academic Crisis, Surviving Domestic Violence: A guide to Healing Your Soul and Building Your Future and Consuming Motherhood) and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications, including the Journal of Progressive Human Services; Journal of Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry; Current Anthropology, and the Women’s History Review. Wozniak has a B.S. in science from Miami University, a Sixth-year Certificate in education administration from the University of Hartford, a Master of Social Work from Fordham University, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Connecticut.

…work in business operations. Pooja Agarwal works for Birchbox, a women’s beauty product company, where she manages the warehouse, transportation, procurement, supply chain, subscription operation, and web production functions. She comments: “A key component to operations is relationship management and in particular working with many different types of people in many different roles. Anthropology…focuses on learning about different cultures from an unbiased position. I think bringing this same perspective to my career has helped me build relationships that are most beneficial for all partners.” She has a double B.A. in economics and anthropology from the University of Michigan.

…own a restaurant and winery. Katy Groves-Mussat is co-owner, with her husband, of Farmer and Frenchman Winery & Restaurant near Henderson, Kentucky. She has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the University of Alabama.  “I have always liked farming and gardening,” she says. “For an anthropologist, food is a very important part of the foundations of society. The advent of agriculture shaped human activity all over the globe.”


Archaeologists against the pipeline

An article in The Guardian reports that a coalition of 1,200 archeologists, museum directors, and historians from institutions including the Smithsonian and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries has written to the Obama administration to criticize the bulldozing, which Energy Transfer claims did not disturb any artifacts. The letter states that the construction work destroyed “ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people”.


Charting the prehistory of Australia through genomic analysis

BBC News summarized findings from four articles in the journal Nature, reporting findings from analysis of genomic information from several individuals from Papua New Guinea and Australia reveal ancestry going back 50,000 years. One of the articles traces the likely migration path out of Africa.


Menstrual synchrony may be a social construction

BBC News offered an update on the debate about whether or not menstrual synchrony is a biologically driven phenomenon or a matter of chance. “It’s a popular belief,” says Alexandra Alvergne, associate professor of biocultural anthropology at the University of Oxford. Having reviewed the evidence, she finds that the concept of menstrual synchrony may be merely a human attempt at explanation of what is really a chance happening.

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