anthro in the news 3/20/16

celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2013 Source: thepipe26, Wikimedia

holidays and sociality

The Daily Item (Sunbury, PA) carried an article about local celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, noting that  restaurant and pub owners don’t need much Irish luck when it comes to bringing the crowds out on St. Patrick’s Day, especially when it falls on a Friday. The article quotes Clare Sammells, associate professor of anthropology at Bucknell University, who said holidays are designed to bring people together: “Consuming something with someone re-enforces kinship.” Sammells explained St. Patrick’s Day started out as a more somber holiday in Ireland, but it became more lively and communal in the United States as more Irish immigrants arrived: “St. Patrick’s Day became a way to celebrate their Irish- American heritage and their recent immigration to the United States.” But it was also an opportunity to show their fidelity to their new country and improve their public image. [Blogger’s note: I have a hunch that, at least in the DC area, people who have no genetic or cultural connection to Ireland nevertheless find St. Patrick’s day a good reason to party – a kind of social solidarity with fuzzy social boundaries, and often the fuzziness is created by Guinness perhaps].

salad cake

Caption: Mitsuki Moriyasu, a cafe owner and food stylist, invented the Vegedeco Salad as a guilt-free alternative to traditional baked goods.

CNN reported on a food innovation from Japan: salad cake. It is made to look like a sugary dessert cake but the ingredients are vegetables including tofu. Salad cakes, which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, are said to have a unique taste.  The article includes comments by cultural anthropologist Merry White of Boston University: “The salad cakes represent attention to detail … and perfectionism…Food is, and has always been, a place for creativity and innovation in Japan. Salad cakes are just one manifestation of food play in that nation.”


take that anthro degree and…

…work in program assessment and documentation. Sohrab Hussein is a manager with Program Learning Documentation, Saving Newborn Lives, which is part of Save the Children in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hussein has a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka and an M.A. from Goldsmiths, University of London.

…become a doctor and child health advocate. Wendy Davis has worked as a practicing pediatrician, medical school faculty member, and director of the Vermont Department of Public Health. She now oversees state and national pediatric quality improvement initiatives in her position with the University of Vermont’s Vermont Child Health Improvement Program, and she has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Vermont. Davis has a B.A. in anthropology from Brown University and a medical degree from the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. She completed her residency at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. During her senior year at Brown University she   decided to go into medicine, a somewhat surprising choice because she had not taken many of the science classes needed for medical school. She said: “Some would think anthropology was as far away as you could get from medicine…When you think of pediatricians, you need to think of families and culture. Anthropology was a great background for me to have.” An understanding of communities and culture has served Davis well during her three decades in pediatric medicine and as an advocate for children and families. 

…work in primate conservation. Joeleen Beyers works at Monkey Matters, a halfway house for infant monkeys and baboons, in the Port Elizabeth area of South Africa. Beyers founded of Monkey Matters in 2011. She said although looking after the furry little creatures is a full-time job, she would not have it any other way: “I saw there was a need for something to be put in place to help these primates. They are being persecuted all the time, all over the country.” Beyers has a B.Sc. degree in biological anthropology from the University of Illinois in Chicago.

human rights and human skeletons research

Kristina Killgrove, a regular contributing to Forbes, on anthropology topics, published an interview with Chip Colwell, senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. His latest book is Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Regain Native America’s culture. The conversation focused on tensions between indigenous people’s rights over ancestral bones versus the interests of science including his take on the recent repatriation of Kennewick Man and his thoughts on the importance of public outreach in anthropology.

what lurks beneath

Several media sources, including CNN, reported on the discovery of a massive statue that likely depicts the ancient Egyptian ruler Ramses II, submerged in the groundwater of a Cairo slum. The sculpture, which may stand at between 26-30 feet tall, is believed to be around 3,000 years old. The discovery caps an archeological study of the area that began in 2012 and was wrapping up. The statue “was in an area that was almost completely investigated,” commented Dietrich Raue from the University of Leipzig, one of the partners in the excavation. “We thought [the pit] would be empty without any features … so that was a great surprise.” Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, ruled from 1279 to 1213 BCE. In that time, he greatly expanded the reach of the Egyptian empire, to as far east as modern-day Syria and as far south as current-day Sudan.   This latest find ranks among the most important ever in Egypt, according to the Egyptian minister of antiquities, Khaled al-Anani. National Geographic’s page includes images of the excavation.

good heart health in the (relatively undisturbed) Amazon: not OMG

A widely covered paper in The Lancet by several authors says that the Tsimane of the Bolivian Amazon have excellent heart health and in fact the healthiest hearts of any population studied so far. Depending on the source — I looked at the Washington Post, CBC, BBC, and The Telegraph — a more or less hyperbolic report makes it sound like the Tsimane’s good health is almost unique. The Washington Post stands out for including reference to other healthy non-industrial societies: kudos to them for good research. The Washington Post quotes Benjamin C. Trumble, a biological anthropologist on the research  team who lived among the Tsimane on-and-off for about two years: “People often think that life in these places nasty, brutish and short…But that just isn’t the case.”  {Blogger’s note: Well said…If Tsimane came to Washington, DC, for example, to observe our lives, they might well say that our lives, while long, are actually quite nasty and brutish. We don’t have fresh monkey meat or piranhas to eat, our water is contaminated, and we never have enough of that very precious commodity called time].

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