anthro in the news 7/17/17

Brazil Law Blog/Google Images Commons.

labor rights in Brazil under attack

An article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Brazil’s Senate approved an end to unemployment insurance, longer working hours, and reduced vacation time. The article quotes Silas Fiorotti, an anthropology researcher at the University of Sao Paulo: “…I will not support the dismantling of labor justice…The intention is to reduce the number of labor lawsuits against employers. They just want to impose criteria that make it so that workers don’t have free access to labor justice.”

liberation cricket vs. neoliberal cricket

Beausejour Cricket Stadium, St. Lucia. Credit: Timothy Barton ( Commons.

The Huffington Post published commentary by Adnan Hossain, a postdoctoral fellow in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He writes about changes in Caribbean cricket: “Once a site for anti-colonial resistance and consolidation of a West Indian identity, contemporary Caribbean cricket is devoid of such political connotations. This paradigmatic shift may account for the sad state of the West Indies cricket team this year. It seems that neoliberal cricket just can’t compete with the liberation cricket of yore.”

Roma seek new lives in Pittsburgh borough

Some 40 Roma, originating in Romania, have chosen to settle in California, Pennsylvania, a borough of Pittsburgh with a population of around 6800. Many local residents are concerned about the sudden influx of newcomers, while others have reached out to them. An article in The Pittsburgh Gazette quotes cultural anthropologist Anne Sutherland, professor at the University of California at Riverside: “They have been very disadvantaged and there is tremendous prejudice against them in Romania.” 

reducing prejudice against indigenous people

Free Malaysia Today reported on the views of anthropologist Alberto Gomes, a professor at LaTrobe University in Australia, who says Malaysian children should be exposed to the culture of the Orang Asli (indigenous peoples) in order to eradicate the stigma held against them and learn about their community values: “There are a lot of Orang Asli lawyers and doctors, but the moment they say that they are Orang Asli they are considered inferior.” He suggests that Malaysians can take inspiration from the values of the Orang Asli such as the concept of giving, the sense of community, respect, and empathy for others.

theme park anthropology

CBC News (Calgary, Canada) published an article by cultural anthropologist Scott Lukas, faculty at Lake Tahoe Community College. He discusses classic rides such as carousels, the Ferris wheel, and roller coasters historically and in terms of what they mean to people today. Lukas notes that Ferris wheels, which became popular in the late 1800s, offered a new and exciting perspective: “If you think about the time, 1893, people weren’t flying around in airplanes, so it was really quite a new thing for a person to get that high, 100 or 200 feet in the air, and see the ground below — just a marvelous experience.”

understanding pasalubong

Pili nut products sold at pasalubong center in Iriga market, the Philippines. Credit: Yawrei/Creative Commons .

BBC carried an article about the importance of a Philippine gift-giving tradition called pasalubong. It is the practice of someone who has been away giving a gift to the people he or she left behind. Such a gift conveys a sense of care and enduring ties even in separation. The article includes remarks by Nestor Castro, anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, who believes pasalubong is a pre-Hispanic practice, given that the term is indigenous to the Filipino language and that early Philippine communities engaged in long-distance trade. Another anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, Michael Tan, agrees: “…I suspect it referred to a time when travel was difficult, making the return more emotion-laden. The more distant and the more difficult the place one went to, as in the case of many of our overseas Filipinos, the more important it was to bring back something.”

fictional forensic anthropology has a new heroine

The Irish Times reported on the latest novel, Two Nights, by forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs in which she introduces a new heroine named Sunday Night. Reich says that she is “a lot less controlled than Temperance Brennan…She does [an investigation] because of something that’s personally compelling to her, because of her own childhood and the damage that she still carries from that.”

take that anthro degree and…

…work in tourism. Cindy VandenBosch is founder and president of Turnstile Tours. Turnstile offers immersive walking tours in Brooklyn covering a range of topics including social, architectural, military, and industrial history. She says: “By building a big body of knowledge, and working to bring new textures to each tour, we help the visitors really understand a sense of place.” VandenBosch has a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies and Honors Anthropology from the University of Michigan.

…become a researcher. Margrit Kaufmann is a senior researcher focusing on diversity at the University of Bremen. She has a Lic. Phil. in ethnology from the University of Zurich and a Ph.D. in ethnology from the University of Bremen.

…become a doctor. Laura Glenn is a general family practitioner at Rejuvena Health and Aesthetics in Scottsdale, Arizona. She specializes in women’s health, hormonal imbalances, fertility, fatigue, gastrointestinal conditions, and autoimmune and chronic diseases. Glenn has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California Los Angeles and a doctorate of naturopathic medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe.

so much for Trump’s kick-ass theory of evolution

The Washington Post published commentary by Holly Dunsworth, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. She addresses Trump’s view of gender relations in human evolution, expressed in his 2007 book, Think Big and Kick Ass, that “kick-ass” men are always — past, present, and future — winners who attract the most desirable women. Himself, for example: “The women I have dated over the years could have any man they want; they are the top models and the most beautiful women in the world. I have been able to date (screw) them all because I have something that many men do not have. I don’t know what it is but women have always liked it. So guys, be cocky, confident, smart, and humorous and you will be able to get all the women you want…” Dunsworth refers to this view as a just-so story that may fit with many people’s impression of human evolution but contradicts the actual science: “First, simple genetic explanations don’t exist for most complex behaviors. There are no known genes for kick-ass attitudes or wanting to have sex with someone who exhibits them. Further, it’s unlikely that Trump would exist had his ancestors not given ‘a crap about what other people in the tribe thought.’ Prosociality — cooperating with others, maintaining rich and mutually trustworthy relationships — is humanity’s bread and butter. Finally, although it’s true that we are primates descended from a long line of jungle-dwelling ancestors before they expanded into all kinds of habitats, it’s also true that evolution never stopped. Very little about us ‘always will be.’”

nature, culture, and sleep

CBS News reported on findings by biological anthropologists from research among the Hadza, contemporary hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania. Sleep patterns ensure that at least one adult is awake throughout the night, and usually more than a third of the group is alert or dozing lightly at any given time. “The idea that there’s a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during nighttime sleep,” said study co-author David Samson, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto in Mississauga. Another co-author, Alyssa Crittenden, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, commented: “They sleep on the ground, and have no synthetic lighting or controlled climate — traits that characterized the ancestral sleeping environment for early humans.” Another co-author. Charles Nunn, professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, comments: “If you’re in a lighter stage of sleep you’d be more attuned to any kind of threat in the environment.” Previous studies have made similar findings in birds, mice and other animals, but this is the first time it has been documented in people, according to Samson. Findings were published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. [Blogger’s note: night-time wakefulness has been documented among the Piraha, Amazonian foragers, by Daniel Everett in his book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes.]

making veterinary medicine more humane

Boise State Public Radio (Idaho) carried the latest commentary from Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary. She writes about a trend among some veterinarians in the U.S. to provide Fear Free settings and techniques to reduce anxiety of the animals they care for. King writes: “From my perspective as someone who works on animal cognition and emotion from within anthropology, I see a meaningful link between Fear Free techniques and recent animal-behavior science. Our pets may have profound emotional responses — both positive and negative — to the events in their lives. We can help our cats and dogs a great deal by recognizing this fact and joining with veterinary professionals to act on it.”

in memoriam

Russell L. Langworthy, professor of anthropology at Carleton College in Minnesota, died at the age of 92 years. He conducted most of his research in rural Italy on farming practices. His scholarly publications explored how technological advances in farming threaten traditional agricultural societies.

anthro in the news 7/10/17

Maori flag. Credit: Wikipedia

“thuggish, stupid youth” stereotype banished

TheFIX (Australia) reported that Maori Television in New Zealand has pulled an Australian mini-series, Jonah from Tonga, from the air. The article includes commentary from social anthropologist Helen Lee, professor and head of La Trobe University’s sociology and anthropology department: “I just think it’s dreadful. It’s just awful. It’s creating a terrible stereotype that’s just deeply offensive to Tongans…It’s just a stereotype of this kind of thuggish, stupid youth which does not in any way represent what Tongan youth are like.”

educated women freezing eggs

Credit: Google Images Commons

The Independent reported on a study, led by medical anthropologist Marcia Inhorn of Yale University, of 150 women in the U.S. and Israel who had undertaken elective egg freezing. In-depth interviews reveal that the primary motivation among educated, professional women is the lack of a suitable spouse or partner. This finding contradicts previous reports, mainly in the media, that women freeze their eggs to defer pregnancy for professional reasons.

beyond pillow talk

The Huffington Post published an article by Agnès Giard, associate researcher in anthropology at Paris Nanterre University, describing findings from her study of men’s sex toys in Japan. She focuses on sex pillows and how they work: “For sex pillows to bring satisfaction, users must pretend that there is a real presence behind the artificial, balloon-like object…The attraction of these Japanese simulacra no doubt lies, in part, in the seductive game of hide-and-seek: on one side of the pillowcase hides a lady; on the other, just a pillow.”

digital divide in India

The Hindu (India) published commentary by Kathryn Zyskowski, doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Washington, based on her research about computer education in Hyderabad: “An ideology of computer education assumes that it will better the economic and social well-being of anyone who acquires such skills, but we know that job markets are intensely social and uneven — and my research shows how students’ knowledge of technology at times heighten the experiences of gender, religion or caste, rather than erase them.”

Sufi saints and the state

A review in Dawn (Pakistan) on the changing relationship between the state in Pakistan and Sufi saints draws on the work of cultural anthropologist Katherine Ewing of Columbia University. Ewing conducted research in Pakistan, starting in 1976 through the 1990s, on individual saints as well as the region’s historical Sufi culture and state-sponsored modernity. Over time, the Pakistani state has supported Sufi saints, distanced itself from them, and politically appropriated them.

international forensic collaboration

An article in The Houston Chronicle described the formation by forensic anthropologists of international ties to help locate remains on the U.S.-Mexico border through the Forensic Border Coalition. The article quotes Mercedes Doretti, director of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team: “There’s a gigantic fragmentation at every level, at the DNA level, at the justice system, in Mexico and the U.S.” In 2015, the [Texas] Legislature ordered the Texas Forensic Science Commission to develop a method for collecting forensic evidence of unidentified bodies located near the border, and Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Center in San Marcos was assigned the task of exhuming human remains for identification. “It was a mass disaster,” said Kate Spradley, the assistant professor of anthropology at Texas State University leading the effort. “It is some of the most unpleasant work you can imagine.”

like that scene in Casablanca…

Artist’s rendering of the Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C. Credit: website

NBC News (Columbus, Ohio) and other media reported on the smuggling of ancient Iraqi artifacts into the U.S. by the Christian organization, Hobby Lobby. It has paid a fine of $3 million, while claiming it was all just a mistake. Hobby Lobby’s president, Steve Green, has been collecting artifacts since 2009, and the organization is building an $800 million Bible museum in Washington. In a statement, Hobby Lobby said: “The company was new to the world of acquiring these items and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process…This resulted in some regrettable mistakes.” Bob Murowchick, assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology at Boston University, doubts the company’s claim that it did not know what it was doing: “It’s like that scene in ‘Casablanca’: ‘I am shocked, shocked, that there is gambling going on here.’”

high in the sky

CNN carried an article about so-called hanging coffins, found across central China. The oldest, said to be in the eastern province of Fujian, date back 3,000 years. Li Fei, researcher at the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Archaeology, said there were up to 100 cave coffin sites in the province and the burial practice was followed by Yao and Miao minorities in the region. Xu Jin, researcher at Chongqing Cultural Heritage Research Institute, commented that, in a karst region where caves and cliffs are plentiful, burying the dead at a height might have seemed a better option than in land that erodes easily and is prone to sinkholes. Anke Hein, Peter Moores Associate Professor of Chinese Archaeology at the University of Oxford, noted that the phenomenon straddles different time periods, geographical regions, and disciplines, creating challenges for research: “I’m sure if someone really wanted to do this they could…But you would need the cooperation of difference [sic] provinces and local governments, which is difficult, and requires a lot of energy.”

they just walked out

The New York Times reported on a study of Neanderthal DNA from a femur found in Germany indicating that human migration out of Africa occurred much earlier than thought as did interbreeding with Neanderthals. Before 270,000 years ago, modern humans from Africa arrived in what is now Europe. The research is led by Johannes Krause, archaeogeneticist, professor, and director of the Max Planck Institute for Human History. Findings are published in Nature Communications.

in memoriam

Isabelle Clark-Decès, professor of anthropology at Princeton University, died at the age of 61 years from a fall in Mussoorie, India, while teaching there.  A scholar of South Asia, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on India, ritual, kinship theory, and ethnography and advised doctoral candidates. She directed Princeton’s Program in South Asian Studies since 2007 when it was established. Her books include 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; The Encounter Never Ends: A Return to the Field of Tamil Rituals; and The ‘Right’ Spouse: Preferential Marriages in Tamil Nadu. She edited A Companion to the Anthropology of India, a volume of essays exploring the configurations of modernity and globalization in India.


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 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 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. 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. 

new tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

A researcher surveys a young Syrian girl using a new survey tool developed by researchers at Yale and partnering universities to measure resilience in Arab-speaking youth affected by war.

Researchers from Yale University, together with partners at universities in Canada, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, have developed a brief and reliable survey tool to measure resilience in children and adolescents who have been displaced by the brutal conflict in Syria.

Over 5 million people have been forced to flee the six-year-old conflict in Syria, and over 650,000 Syrians are now rebuilding their lives in neighboring Jordan. Building resilience in people affected by war is a priority for humanitarian workers, but there is no established measure that could help assess the strengths that young people in the Middle East have in adversity. This makes it difficult to assess the nature of resilience and to track changes over time.

Continue reading “new tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees”

teen pregnancy reduction campaigns in Brazil may be backfiring


Efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates in Brazil have shown mixed results, and new research from Vanderbilt University suggests that the recent growth of psychological approaches to teen pregnancy prevention may have detrimental effects.

Teen pregnancy has traditionally been seen as a problem linked to poverty, low educational opportunities and family dysfunction. In recent years, researchers have linked teen pregnancy to measures of developmental immaturity, sexual risk-taking and long-lasting depression. This new body of research has started influencing the content of teen pregnancy prevention campaigns.

Continue reading “teen pregnancy reduction campaigns in Brazil may be backfiring”

anthro in the news 6/26/17

Parliamentary election exit poll results 2017. Source:

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


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.”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/26/17”

anthro in the news 6/19/17

Credit: Next28/Wikimedia Commons

genetic modification/ genetic editing: word game?

The Washington Post reported on efforts by DuPont Pioneer, the division of DuPont that produces GMOs, to build consumer trust through focus groups, a website, and animated videos. The article includes commentary from Glenn Davis Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at Washington University in St. Louis: …the controversy over GMOs has become so fractious that even independent scientists have “let their role in educating be trampled by their interest in convincing.” Many are so frustrated by the impasse, he added, that they’ll gloss over questions such as regulation, rather than risk giving the other side anti-GMO ammunition.

call for slow anthropology

Credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr; [no changes made].

The Huffington Post published an article by cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller, professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, in which he recommends cultural anthropology during the Trump presidency: “In the Age of Trump a slow and shared approach to human social relations fosters knowledge in a time of ignorance. It creates webs of social and emotional understanding that transcend our social and cultural differences. By way of edifying conversation, a slow and shared approach to human relations goes a long way toward reclaiming a humanity that fast culture threatens to decimate.” He spotlights the work of Lisbet Holtedahl, a Norwegian anthropologist and filmmaker, who embodies a slow and shared approach to her scholarship and her films.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/19/17”