anthro in the news 10/24/16

It is now accepted, even by the UN, that UN Peacekeeping forces in Haiti from Nepal brought cholera with them in 2010. Before that, Haiti was cholera-free.
It is now accepted, even by the UN, that UN Peacekeeping forces in Haiti from Nepal brought cholera with them in 2010. Before that, Haiti was cholera-free.

Interview with Paul Farmer

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried an interview about the situation in Haiti with Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist, medical doctor, and co-founder of Partners In Health. The first question: Do you think cholera could spread more widely after the storm as a result of people drinking contaminated water? His answer: “I don’t want to say I’m terrified, but that’ll do. You can die in hours from cholera. It’s one of the true infectious disease emergencies.”

Anthropology needed more than ever

cvqhabdueaal85o-233x300The Huffington Post published an op-ed by anthropologist George Leader, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and adjunct professor at the College of New Jersey.  Commenting on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s negative remarks about particular groups of people, Leader writes: “It would serve Americans quite well to learn from the field of anthropology and colleges and high schools should do more to encourage students to take some courses. We must educate our next generation of business leaders, doctors, nurses, engineers and those pursuing all careers towards a worldview that is not limited but conscious. Anthropology should be an integral part of the education of policy makers and law enforcement.”


Did they or didn’t they?

Student exits Dr. McGee’s lecture hall. Source: Twitter user @amvrion.
Student exits Dr. McGee’s lecture hall.
Source: Twitter user @amvrion.

According to the Atlanta Black Star and other media, several white students at Texas State University walked out of their anthropology class during a lecture including discussion of the evidence for human origins in Africa. The professor Jon McGee, however, says in another source that he did not notice an unusual number of walk-outs in his class of 380 students. 

Harvard Museum celebrates 150 years 

The Chicago Sun Times reported on the upcoming 150th anniversary of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum and its plans to celebrate the landmark by showcasing its role in American anthropology. Opening in April, an exhibit entitled, All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology, will feature roughly 600 objects not currently on display.  Jeffrey Quilter, the Peabody’s director, said: “We’re not just an anthropology museum. We’re interacting with so many other disciplines, from literature to political science to the study of ancient DNA…These collections are never dead. They’re constantly being revitalized by people who come back with new ways to study them.”

Small acts of kindness

CNN carried a piece on how some New Jersey residents, including cultural anthropologist Kate McCaffrey of Montclair State University, are helping Syrian refugees adjust to life in the U.S.  In the case of one refugee family, they were warmly embraced on their arrival. But major challenges included their financial burden of reimbursing the cost of travel, required of all refugees, which was $7,000 for this family. McCaffrey helped launch a successful fundraising campaign to cover that amount. Housing, employment, and maintaining contact with family in Syria are other priorities. 

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a writer. Tamima Anam is the author of a trilogy, A Golden Age, The Good Muslim, and The Bones of Grace. The books, which follow the Haque family of Bangladesh over three generations, have earned Anam a reputation as one of the United Kingdom’s most talented young novelists. She has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College, a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University, and a year later, an M.A. in creative writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. As a graduate student in anthropology, she conducted an oral history of the Bangladesh war of independence based on interviews with dozens of family members, friends, and others who had aided the resistance effort in Dhaka and its surrounding villages. She came to realize, however, that she wanted to write about her home country outside of academia: “I was impatient with the need to draw conclusions…I was fascinated by people’s individual stories, and I wanted to be able to make things up.”

…become a public health expert and academic. Paul Kadetz is chair of the Department of Public Health and director of the Master of Public Health program at Marshall University’s College of Health Professions in West Virginia. He has over 30 years of experience working in health care in addition to many years of teaching and working in academic administration. His areas of expertise include international health and development, critical medical anthropology, global policy making, and global health. He has worked as a research consultant for the Western Pacific Region Office of the World Health Organization, as the director of the undergraduate program in public health for the University of Liverpool in China, and as the global health program at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Kadetz served as a research associate for the Refugee Studies Centre and the Department of Primary Care Health Services at the University of Oxford. He has conducted research concerning HIV and post-disaster recovery in New Orleans; the causes of chronic malnutrition in indigenous Guatemala; health care integration in a decentralized health care system in the rural Philippines; the adoption of policies for “traditional medicines” in the Western Pacific region; and the impact of China’s long-term aid to Africa on health care systems in Madagascar and Morocco. Kadetz attended the Juilliard School; he has an M.S.N. as an adult nurse practitioner with a focus in forensic nursing from Vanderbilt University; a post-master’s certificate in teacher education from the University of Pennsylvania; clinical degrees as a critical care RN (B.S.N.) and as an Acupuncturist/Chinese Medicine Herbalist (M.S.O.M.);  an M.Sc. in medical anthropology from the University of Oxford; an M.P.H. in international health and development from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; and a Ph.D. in  international development from the University of Oxford.

…become an academic program administrator. Ora Marek-Martinez is executive director of Northern Arizona University’s Native American Cultural Center. She has a B.A. in anthropology and history and an M.A. in applied cultural anthropology from Northern Arizona University and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley in anthropology-archaeology. She is responsible for academic programming connecting students, faculty, staff, and local Native American and indigenous communities, fundraising to support NACC goals, strategic planning and budgeting, and maintaining of the NAU office of Native American Initiatives Newsletter.

…become an artist. Melissa Stern is an artist and journalist living in New York City. She has worked in sculpture, photography, and drawing for over twenty years, exhibiting throughout the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia. Her work is featured in several prominent corporate and museum collections including News Corporation, J.P. Morgan, The Arkansas Art Center, The American Museum of Ceramic Art, and the Kohler Corporation, where she was an artist-in-residence. Stern serves as a contributing writer for Hyperallergic, a Brooklyn-based digital arts publication, working at the intersection of the arts, culture, and politics. She has covered major exhibitions on assignment throughout the world. She served earlier as the principal art critic for The New York Press. She is a past Board Director of The Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City, Watershed Center in Maine, and curator of the Human Rights Film Festival from 2008-2015. She has a B.A. in anthropology and studio art from Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in ceramics from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Her work reflects both non-Western and outsider-art influences. “What I loved was really making things…Not studying them, not curating, just getting my hands dirty.”

…become a university president. Tom Pleger is the president of Lake Superior State University in Michigan. Before being named LSSU president in 2014, he served as the campus executive officer at the University of Wisconsin Baraboo/Sauk County. He is a member of the state’s new Building the 21st Century Economy Commission which reports to the governor. Members are charged with identifying priorities over the next 20 years along with short-term and long-term action items. Pleger has a B.A. in political science, an M.A. in anthropology and archeology and a Ph.D. in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Wisconsin.

DNA analysis in understanding of colonial history

The Washington Post reported on the use of DNA analysis of human remains from at the historical archaeological site at St. Mary’s City, once the capital of Maryland. Twenty-six years after the coffin of a child was unearthed, experts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have learned that the baby was the son of Philip Calvert, an important colonial governor of the state. Douglas Owsley, a Smithsonian physical anthropologist who has been studying the Chesapeake region’s early colonists, asked Harvard geneticist David Reich to examine the DNA of the baby and of remains of the Calverts, also from the cemetery.

New brew from Iron Age recipe

The cauldron, with paleobotanist Manfred Rösch and conservator Tanja Kreß in Tübingen. Source: Bettina Arnold
The cauldron, with paleobotanist Manfred Rösch and conservator Tanja Kreß in Tübingen. Source: Bettina Arnold

Coverage by Milwaukee Public Radio (Wisconsin) describes the teamwork of archaeologists and brewers in Milwaukee that has recreated an Iron Age German beer. While sifting through the remains of an Iron Age burial site dating from 400 to 450 B.C. E. in what is today Germany, archaeology professor Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) and co-workers uncovered a cauldron that contained remnants of an alcoholic beverage buried with the deceased. “We actually were able, ultimately, to derive at least some sense of what the contents were in a bronze cauldron,” she says. It contained about 14 liters of liquid. “Luckily for us, they didn’t just send people off to the afterlife with [swords and spears], they also sent them off with the actual beverage. It’s a BYOB afterlife…” UWM is developing a program on the culture and science of fermentation and will develop a course in which students will brew beverages based upon archaeological evidence.

Paleo paintings depict bison species

BBC News reported on how DNA findings by evolutionary geneticists at the University of Adelaide accord with depictions of two distinct forms of bison in Paleolithic cave art in France.  Julien Soubrier, of the University of Adelaide, comments: “When we asked, French cave researchers told us that there were indeed two distinct forms of bison art in Ice Age caves, and it turns out their ages match those of the different species…We’d never have guessed the cave artists had helpfully painted pictures of both species for us. Lead researcher Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, adds: “We were surprised to find that the DNA… didn’t look entirely like the modern European bison….We determined that the European bison, bizarrely enough, is a hybrid between an auroch – which is the ancestor of modern cattle – one of the most ferocious wild animals, and a steppe bison, which ranged all the way across the grasslands of Russia, into Alaska and all the way down to Mexico in the Americas.” The study is reported in the journal, Nature Communications.

Flakes look like stone tools but aren’t used as tools

The International Business Times and other media reported on the finding that wild-bearded capuchin monkeys in Brazil “unintentionally” make stone “tools.”  They have been observed creating sharp-edged stone flakes, similar to the primitive stone tools of early hominins, unintentionally while they break up stones to extract minerals and lichens from within them. Thus the flakes are a by-product and are not used as tools. A team of researchers from University of Oxford, University College London, and the University of São Paulo published a paper on the subject in the journal Nature under the title “Wild monkeys flake stone tools.” Lead author of the paper, Tomos Proffitt from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said in a statement the study does not negate the idea that the oldest stone tools found in East Africa were made by hominins. Michael Haslam, co-author, said in the statement: “While humans are not unique in making this [stone tool] technology, the manner in which they used them is still very different to what the monkeys seem capable of.” An article in the Japan Times quoted Alison Brooks, anthropology professor at George Washington University, who was not involved in the study: in order to identify simple flakes as deliberately made tools, “we need to show that this was more than just a byproduct of pounding.”

Wild chimpanzee mothers do “home schooling”

The Daily Mail and other media reported on video footage showing chimpanzee mothers teaching their young offspring how to use probes to extract termites from their mounds. Mothers sometimes brought multiple tools, or divided theirs in half, indicating that they anticipated learning needs of their young. Anthropologists from Washington University in St. Louis set up video camera to record chimpanzees’ tool-using activity. Stephanie Musgrave, the study’s first author and an anthropology graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis is quoted as saying: ‘Wild chimpanzees are exceptional tool users, but in contrast to humans, there has been little evidence to date that adult chimpanzees teach youngsters tool skills.’ According to Crickette Sanz, associate professor of biological anthropology at Washington University and co-author of the study: ‘It is easy for us to take for granted the importance of sharing information to learn complex skills, as it is ubiquitous in humans.’ 

In memoriam

Robert J. Smith, professor of sociocultural anthropology and expert on Japan at Cornell University, died at the age of 89. Smith was a distinguished authority in Japanese studies and Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology Emeritus. He was the author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books and 100 articles, chapters, and essays on Japan. His books include Ancestor Worship in Contemporary Japan and Kurusu: The Price of Progress in a Japanese Village, 1951-75. He received wide recognition and numerous tributes for his scholarly accomplishments. He was elected president of the Association for Asian Studies in 1988. In 1993, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government in recognition of his distinguished career.

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