anthro in the news 1/2/17

Source: Google Images
Source: Google Images

too much complexity

The Guardian carried an op-ed arguing that greatly increased social complexity and global connections are recipes for disaster: “…the endless marketisation and contracting-out that now define policies across the planet have only made things worse.” The author includes a quotation from social anthropologist David Graeber, professor at the London School of Economics, defining his “iron law of liberalism”: “Any market reform, any government initiative intended to reduce red tape and promote market forces will have the ultimate effect of increasing the total number of … regulations, the total amount of paperwork, and the total number of bureaucrats the government employs.” 

politics and policies in Nepal

Earthquake destruction in a village. Source: Practical Action
Earthquake destruction in a village. Source: Practical Action

Catch News (India) published a piece describing the political and policy failures of Nepal following the 2015 earthquake. It points to the focus on getting a constitution approved instead of placing a priority on disaster relief and reconstruction. The related growth in state power did little to help improve people’s lives. The article includes insights from cultural anthropologist Sara Shneiderman of the University of British Columbia which she offered at the second annual conference of the Central Department of Anthropology of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. In the Dolakha region, where she has done research for several years, in order to receive paltry grants or soft loans from commercial banks, a survivor has to strictly adhere to guidelines set by government agencies. Compliance with the conditions of assistance is checked before releasing every tranche of the loan.


for Trump’s reading list (if he has one)

Minnesota Public Radio News published a guest piece by Vincent Ialenti, doctoral candidate in anthropology, and Annie Tomlinson, doctoral candidate in history, both at Cornell University. They provided a brief list of suggested books for Donald Trump to read before he gains access to the nuclear codes. One of the books is Hugh Gusterson’s People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex: “Gusterson’s book is a useful primer on how American military ideology has changed since the end of the Cold War. His analysis of the enormous power U.S. politicians and media have garnered since WWII in rapidly reshaping Americans’ perceptions of foreign threats is also educational. People of the Bomb informs on how rhetoric is received and adopted as a worldview.” Gusterson is professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a documentary filmmaker, school football coach, and social activist. Braxton Winston works as a grade school football coach. He also spends time filming and live streaming events in Charlotte, North Carolina. Starting with the September 2016 fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, an African American man, by a Charlotte police officer, Winston joined protests in the city about the shooting and filming and livestreaming them. Over time, he entered into a dialogue with the police about their behavior during the protests, and this spring he will take part in a police-civilian transparency training session at the invitation of the Charlotte Metropolitan Police Department. He is working to produce a documentary using more than 20 hours of footage he shot from the Charlotte demonstrations and is seeking support for the project via GoFundMe. He plans to attend Trump’s inauguration in January and livestream the event. He hopes to start a nonprofit organization to address institutional racism in Charlotte. Winston has a B.A. in anthropology from Davidson College.

…become a development consultant. Valentina Peveri has worked as a consultant for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the African Studies Center. She has done long-term field research on gender practices and agricultural knowledge in rural Ethiopia. Peveri has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in from the University of Bologna.

hope in a desolate place

6018WCQS public radio (North Carolina) interviewed archaeologist Daniel Sayers about his research on the history of the Great Dismal Swamp, a refuge for escaped slaves. It covers thousands of acres in northeastern North Carolina and part of Virginia. For more than a century before the Civil War, escaped slaves used the Great Dismal Swamp as a hideout. Sayers comments on the importance of the site, drawing on his book, A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaves Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp. Sayers is associate professor of anthropology and department chair at American University.

very old potatoes

Evidence of the earliest gardening in North America was reported in The Japan Times. Remains of wapatos, a wetland potato, excavated on Canada’s Pacific coast, show that North American natives tended gardens at least 3,800 years ago. A team of archaeologists led by Tanja Hoffmann, a consultant affiliated with Simon Fraser University, concludes that the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest had engineered the wetland to amplify production of the wild food plant. The garden had a rock boundary, and remains of likely digging sticks have been found nearby. The research is reported in the journal Science Advances.

seafaring Neanderthals

Spearheads from Naxos  Source: Stelida Naxos Archaeological Project
Spearheads from Naxos
Source: Stelida Naxos Archaeological Project

One more dent in the stereotype of Neanderthals as lacking capabilities associated with modern humans comes from a site on Naxos, one of the Cycladic Islands off Greece. As reported in The Toronto Star, archaeologists have found Mousterian-style artefacts that are typically associated with Neanderthals. “The stone tools they were finding on the site looked nothing like the stone tools that had ever been found before on prehistoric sites in the Cycladic Islands,” said Tristan Carter, an archeologist at McMaster University in Hamilton. Since 2013, Carter has co-directed investigations on Naxos. While dates have yet to be confirmed, it is possible that the first settlers arrived 250,000 years ago or maybe earlier, indicating that they were Neanderthals or even their ancestors. The only way to get from the mainland to Naxos would have been by boat. [Blogger’s note: Some experts think that Home erectus must have used a form of boat/raft to reach islands of Southeast Asia.]

engineers aid underwater archaeology


As reported in The Guardian, several engineers are adapting technology developed originally for natural resource exploration underwater for use by archaeologists. In January, work will start on a project to transform the search for sunken cities, ancient shipwrecks, and other underwater remains in the Mediterranean using robotic submarines, or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

archaeology highlights 2016

Louise Iles, archaeologist and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Sheffield, compiled highlights of archaeological discoveries in 2016. Her list includes the British “Pompeii” being excavated in Peterborough, England; tools founds by underwater archaeologists in Florida dating to 14,500 years ago; insights into early cat domestication in Egypt; climate effects of ancient farming; and more.

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