anthro in the news 7/3/17

Volunteers promote breastfeeding in Laos. Credit: UNICEF.

nature, culture, and breastfeeding


NPR (U.S.) reported on anthropological research about how mothers gain breastfeeding expertise in different cultural contexts. Brooke Scelza
, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Los Angeles, was surprised to find, when she had a baby, that breastfeeding was not automatically easy.  Given the importance of infant feeding for its survival, she wanted to learn more about the practice, so she did research among the Himba of northern Namibia where all mothers breastfeed. She learned about the importance in that context of a woman’s mother in infant care. In some cases, new mothers learn breastfeeding from other women in the group, as among the Beng of the Ivory Coast as studied by cultural anthropologist Alma Gottlieb of the University of Illinois. The article mentions that other supportive factors may be constant contact between the mother and infant following birth and lack of stigma about breastfeeding in public.

cosmetic surgery on the rise

An app available through Google Play.

The Times of India and other media reported on a study by the Nuffield Council that shows a rising number of women under 40 in the U.K. who seek cosmetic procedures including facelifts, nose reshaping, breast enlargement or reduction, tummy tucking, and more. The increased demand for appearance-enhancing procedures may be due to the influence of social media in creating “appearance anxiety.” Jeanette Edwards, professor of social anthropology at the University of Manchester and chair of the Council  inquiry, said:  “We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery `games’ that target girls as young as nine.”


U.S. refugee policy

Leila Rodriguez, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Cincinnati, co-authored an op-ed published by Cincinnati.com/USA Today on World Refugee Day: “In addition to admitting refugees, the United States must continue to provide funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which cares for millions of refugees in refugee camps around the world. Not only is this a humanitarian imperative, it is a practical one.”

U.S. health care policy

Tucson.com published a letter to the editor by Mark Nichter, professor of medical anthropology at the University of Arizona: “Our Congress members should look to AHCCCS [Arizona Medicaid] for answers, not use the Marketplace as a pretext to gut Medicaid. Other states require Medicaid insurers to offer Marketplace plans that increases choice and competition. Such solutions could fix Arizona’s Marketplace issues without devastating Medicaid or imposing a huge age tax on older adults.”

“…his mother, an anthropologist…”

An article about former president Barack Obama’s trip to Indonesia mentioned that his mother, Ann Dunham, was an anthropologist: “Obama lived in the country with his mother, an anthropologist, and his Indonesian stepfather. The couple split up after having his half-sister, and Obama moved back to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his grandparents. But he said he has never forgotten the years he spent in Indonesia. ‘My time here made me cherish respect for people’s differences,’ he said.

take that anthro degree and…

…become a museum curator, nonprofit director, and consultant. Heidi McKinnon is executive director of Curators without Borders LLC. She designs and implements exhibitions, educational programs, and public outreach in partnership with museums and other cultural institutions, and she consults on outreach and communications strategies for international development projects. McKinnon has a B.A. in anthropology and from the University of New Mexico.

…become a museum curator and indigenous rights advocate. Gloria Cranmer Webster was assistant curator at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology before helping found the U’Mista Cultural Centre where she was a longtime curator. The Centre houses her community’s share of the repatriated collection. She joined the effort started by Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Jimmy Sewid in the 1950s to bring the artifacts home. She worked with a UBC linguist to develop a written orthography of the Kwakwaka’wakw language and helped author a dozen books that are still used to teach the language. Honored with an appointment to the Order of Canada, she commented: “What I’ve done, and what other people have done, are just part of the battle…The repatriation of our treasures is a round that we won, but there is still much to do.” Webster has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of British Columbia and was its first indigenous student to be admitted.

…become an auctioneer and antiques expert. Wes Cowan is the founder of an antiques business, Cowan’s Auctions, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was formerly curator of archaeology at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science and faculty in the Department of Anthropology at Ohio State University. He has appeared regularly in the PBS series Antiques Roadshow and in History Detectives. Cowan has a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.

archaeologists halt  new football stadium

The Dumbarton Reporter (Scotland) carried an article about the delay in plans of Dumbarton’s football club to build a new stadium. Archaeologists have revealed the remains of a medieval manor house on the proposed site that may have been occupied by Robert the Bruce. Paul Robins, senior archaeologist at West of Scotland Archaeological Service, said: “The discovery of remains of the house on the site would be considered a finding of national importance and therefore it is government policy on such findings to keep remains in situ and we have the opportunity to advise the council to refuse the application.

ancient brews in the news

The publication of a new book, Ancient Brews, by archaeologist Patrick McGovern, Ancient Brews, has stirred up media interest. McGovern, the world’s leading researcher of ancient beer and scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, has developed recipes based on his findings and re-created ancient beverages. Philly.com carried an interview with McGovern as did NPR, with different questions, including: Do you have a favorite fermented beverage that you’ve re-created?

in memoriam

Isabelle Clark-Decès, professor of anthropology at Princeton University, died from an accidental fall in Mussoorie, India, while leading a the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies Global Seminar there. Clark-Decès authored many scholarly works about South Asia including Religion Against the Self: An Ethnography of Tamil Rituals (as Isabelle Nabokov), No One Cries for the Dead: Tamil Dirges, Rowdy Songs and Graveyard Petitions, and The Right Spouse. 

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