anthro in the news 6/26/17

Parliamentary election exit poll results 2017. Source: News.com.au

electability over vision

The New Statesman published commentary by David Graeber, professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics, in response to the recent U.K. parliamentary election. He writes: “…How did we get to the point where the candidate of a major party was judged not by his political vision, programme or sensibilities, but by an estimation of how different classes of imagined voters were likely to respond to him? How is it that this has become our basic standard for judging politicians? And by “we” I am referring not just to political junkies, professional or otherwise, but to the electorate as a whole.”

honeymoon in France

Credit: re-inventingfabulous.com

The New York Times carried an article about the political success of France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, as well as the challenges he faces. The article quotes Marc Abélès, professor of political anthropology at the École Des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He is optimistic: “There is a sort of change in the culture…There was an atmosphere that was a bit deadening, the impression that one couldn’t get out, that one was cornered…And I think against that backdrop something was pushed. We were completely looking at things negatively, and now people have a tendency to see things more positively.”

Tsukiji’s future

The Japan Times reported on continued concerns about the long-proposed relocation of Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market, from central Tokyo to a new site. The delay is related to the fact that the new site is the location of a former gas plant and the possibility of environmental problems. According to Ted Bestor, professor of social anthropology at Harvard University and author of Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World, the move would greatly impact not only the market as a place to visit but also as a world-class hub for fish sales: “You can’t duplicate something of that magnitude…The Tokyo government may have destroyed a brand name of enormous value.”

culture and electricity

The Gazette (Iowa) reported that cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke will keynote the Iowa Ideas Energy & Environment track on September 22. Her research examines the chaos and creativity that emerge during social, cultural and technological transitions with a focus on the culture of electricity in the United States. Bakke has a particular interest in learning what people do when systems they depend on aren’t working. In her book, The Grid, she shows how the electrical grid is now a poor fit for current needs and emerging energy sources. Microsoft founder Bill Gates named The Grid one of his five favorite books of 2016.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a nonprofit administrator. Rachel Miller is executive director of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. She wants to strengthen the ASC’s theater program, improve ties with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, offer more field trip opportunities to the museum for southeast Arkansas schools, and improve the visiting experience for people with special needs. She has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

…become a development project manager. Abdullah Durrani is a program manager for a UNWFP-funded effort to prevent acute malnutrition, and he is executive council member of Scaling up Nutrition-Civil society alliance (SUN-CSA) Pakistan. Durrani has an M.A. in anthropology from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

…become a skills trainer. Diego Arevalo Labra is a skills trainer with The Genius Workshop in Shanghai, a science, technology and math (STEM) education center that develops concepts through LEGO pieces for children from 3 to 14 years old. Labra has an M.A. in social and cultural anthropology from Panteion Panepestimion Ikonomikon kai Politicon Epistimon.

prehistoric pollutants


The Los Angeles Times reported on experimental archaeology research on bitumen use in California’s Channel Islands to assess its possible negative effects on human health. Sabrina Sholts, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, and her colleagues used historical records to determine how prehistoric peoples where made water bottles. The researchers replicated the methods, weaving rush plants into bottles and coating them with bitumen that was melted down with hot pebbles inside an abalone shell.
The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health, demonstrate that human exposure to harmful chemicals is not new, and, at the time under consideration, human health effects of bitumen use were likely not significant. The article includes a comment from Patricia Lambert, a biological anthropologist at Utah State University who was not involved in the work: “Exposure to toxic levels of PAHs may well have occurred long before the age of automobiles.” Eric Bartelink, a bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist at Chico State University who studies prehistoric Californians, agrees with the study authors that bitumen probably did not play a role in the demise of the islanders.

in memoriam

Cultural anthropologist Ben Finney died at the age of 83 years. A professor at the University of Hawaii for 30 years before retiring, Finney published many books on Pacific culture and history including Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging. Over several decades, he pursued his idea that prehistoric people migrated to the Pacific islands via canoes, purposefully and not accidentally. In 1974, he and several colleagues recreated a facsimile of the double-hulled canoes used in ancient Polynesia and took it on test runs around Hawaii. But it was not until 1980 that the Hokulea successfully completed its maiden voyage. In 1985, a more ambitious voyage to New Zealand, by way of Tahiti and the Cook Islands, returned via Tonga and Samoa. The Hokulea accomplished many more voyages over the years, with the crowning achievement being a three-year tour of 85 ports in 26 countries.

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