Anthro in the news 11/11/13

Nourimanba
Containers of Nourimanba organized for storage at newly opened Nourimanba Production Facility in Haiti. Photo: Jon Lascher/Partners In Health

• Peanuts! For health and prosperity

ABC News reported on the opening in Haiti of a new plant in Haiti’s Central Plateau that is making Nourimanba, a peanut-based food used to treat children for severe malnutrition. The peanuts are grown by Haitian farmers, and the project was launched by Paul Farmer’s non-profit, Partners In Health. The first shipments produced at the facility have been distributed to clinics run by Partners In Health. A pilot program will provide support for about 300 farmers to improve the quality and quantity of the peanut supply. The project will improve child health and increase farmers’ incomes.

• On Obamacare

Cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller writes in The Huffington Post about his experience with being diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and the risks of living in the U.S. without Obamacare (the Affordable Health Care Act):

“If I hadn’t had superior health insurance, I would have died many years ago — a life cut short by a lack of access to health care. It makes me angry that millions of Americans cannot not share my good fortune. For any number of reasons — a work-related accident, a sudden debilitating illness, an unexpected job loss — a hardworking person can be rapidly thrown into poverty, which usually means living without health insurance.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 11/11/13”

Anthro in the news 9/2/13

Iquitos, Loreto region. Peru. The Amazons. 2012.
Iquitos, Loreto region. Peru.2012. From The Liquid Serpent by Nicolas Janowski

• A photo is worth a thousand words

The New York Times highlighted the work of Nicolas Janowski, a freelance photographer who was trained as an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. In recent years, he has traveled around the western part of the Amazon in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. One result of his ongoing project is a photographic essay called The Liquid Serpent, referring to an indigenous term for the river that flows through the heart of the Amazon. The title offers a glimpse into Janowski’s conception of the region as having magical and mystical qualities. He says in his introduction: “The Amazon is neither man nor animal; she is nature’s hybrid.”

• The shifting odds of life and death in the Alto

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, published an article in Natural History magazine describing changes in a shantytown in northeastern Brazil. She first lived in the Alto as a Peace Corps worker in 1954 and later returned to do fieldwork on poverty, hunger, and child death. Those experiences led to her book, Death Without Weeping and many other publications.

Death Without Weeping
Book cover

The undercurrent driving the book is the very high rate of infant and child mortality at the time. Parents responded through delayed bonding until a child made it through the early years.

Fifty years later, fertility rates are down in Alto as are infant and child mortality rates. Scheper-Hughes writes: “…the bottom line is that women on the Alto today do not lose their infants. Children go to school rather than to the cane fields, and social cooperatives have taken the place of shadow economies. When mothers are sick or pregnant or a child is ill, they can go to the well-appointed health clinic supported by both state and national funds. There is a safety net, and it is wide, deep, and strong.”

Yet, now “The people of the Alto do Cruzeiro still face many problems. Drugs, gangs, and death squads have left their ugly mark. Homicides have returned with a vengeance, but they are diffuse and chaotic … One sees adolescents and young men of the shantytowns, who survived that dangerous first year of life, cut down by bullets and knives at the age of fifteen or seventeen by local gangs, strongmen, bandidos, and local police in almost equal measure.”

As Scheper-Hughes has written so compellingly for many decades, the “modernization” of life and death churns on, taking different shapes in different contexts. One wonders what the next fifty years will bring to the people of the Alto.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/2/13”

Anthro in the news 8/12/13

• How long must we dream?

Bloomberg news reported on World Bank president Jim Young Kim’s dream: ending poverty. Or, ending extreme poverty. And by a certain date. A wonderful dream.

Carabayllo Peru
Carabayllo Peru. Flickr/Gaia Saviotti

The article zooms in on Kim, who:

once slept in his office and drove dusty roads to help his patients in a slum near Lima. When he returned to Carabayllo in Peru two decades later as World Bank president, a motorcade whisked him from a luxury hotel past welcome signs on banners and brick walls. The reunion in June, a year after the Harvard-trained physician took over the bank, was as much about the future for Kim as it was the past. In the 1990s, his Partners in Health organization helped Carabayllo patients suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis. The project, relying on community health workers for the treatment, got a better cure rate than U.S. hospitals, was expanded in Peru and influenced other countries.

According to the article, there has been progress in the hills of Carabayllo; Kim can use 4G Internet and his mobile phone in areas where he once waited in line to make calls. But what motivated him in 1993 has not changed: “If we can show that even in these poor communities we can deliver, we could have a much, much broader impact … There’s no question that’s still what I am here to do.”

• Big mining and indigenous people in Australia

Marcia Langton
Marcia Langton/University of Melbourne

According to an article in The Guardian, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of the mining giant Fortescue Metals Group, says that he has delivered more $1 billion in contracts to indigenous companies and so now the government must provide training for Aboriginal workers to thrive in the newly created jobs.

At a company event with guests including the MP Ken Wyatt, indigenous academic and anthropologist Marcia Langton, and indigenous leader Noel Pearson, Forrest announced that the program had “smashed” its target six months ahead of schedule, and with most companies being above 50 percent Aboriginal ownership.

• Black is black, especially for adoptive dogs

In the U.S., at least, black dogs have a slimmer chance of adoption than lighter-colored dogs. And the same may be true for cats.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on color-based adoption practices in Bay Area animal shelters mentions the research of Amanda Leonard, who heads the Black Dog Research Studio in Maryland and whose anthropological study is perhaps the only — or one of the very few — scholarly works on the subject.

“Black dogs are usually portrayed as mean, threatening dogs,” says Leonard who earned a master’s in anthropology from George Washington University, with a thesis about the “black dog syndrome” in the U.S. based on her work in an animal shelter. She is attempting through her research to legitimize what shelter workers have long said is true and plans to earn a doctorate on the subject. “It’s a totally ingrained and significant part of our culture that we associate black with negative,” Leonard said in a phone interview.

[Blogger’s note: I am very pleased to see Amanda Leonard’s M.A. work get deserved recognition. She published a summary of her M.A. thesis findings in the Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers].

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 8/12/13”

Anthro in the news 7/15/13

• A bold target for the World Bank

The Globe and Mail (Canada) carried an article based on a lunch conversation with Jim Yong Kim, medical doctor, medical anthropologist, and former university president, marking the end of his first year as president of the World Bank. The article discusses the pros and cons of targets. Targets, even wildly improbable ones, can inspire action and achieve change, even if the target is not achieved. Or they can create embarrassment when failure is seen as the outcome.

World Bank Washington DC
The World Bank in Washington, D.C. on April 16, 2013. Flickr: Simone D. McCourte/World Bank

Kim explains his dedication to a new World Bank target of eliminating extreme poverty worldwide by 2030. He is quoted as saying, “What would be really frightening to me is if people like me, people like the World Bank staff, were so concerned about their own lives that they would not grab the opportunity to set a bold target … It took a very long time to convince people that we should have this target, but now that we do, I just see it as a huge gift…”

[Blogger’s note: no one would argue that eliminating poverty, especially extreme poverty, is not a laudable goal. The question arises, though, of the chosen policy pathways toward the goal. Unfortunately for many small scale communities in developing countries, Kim plans to promote large dam construction and hydroelectric development which will destroy such people’s livelihoods].

• World Bank in Africa on the decline?

The New York Times published an op-ed on the declining importance of World Bank loans to Africa in spite of new World Bank efforts, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The authors argue that: “The World Bank has done important work in promoting good governance and evaluating reform efforts. But its latest pledge of aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo sends a very mixed message, coming at a time when the International Monetary Fund has been cutting its loan programs to the country because of concerns about poor governance.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon share stories while waiting for the state dinner in Kinshasa
World Bank Pres. Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laugh in Kinshasa. But the Bank's loan programs in Africa are declining. Flickr/World Bank Photo Collection

World Bank Director Jim Yong Kim is quoted as saying: “There are always going to be problems and downsides with the governance of places that are fragile [but he adds that through investment and aid]…we can both reduce the conflict and improve governance.” The authors point out that Kim’s argument assumes that more World Bank spending means better government. Despite the billions in aid the D.R.C. has already received, however, “Kinshasa has not felt compelled to improve. It’s not clear why the bank’s new effort will be different.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/15/13”

From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern

Guest post by Julia Collins

The pounding rain muffles the sounds coming from the neighboring construction site. It is the rainy season in Southeast Asia and development season in Myanmar. With Myanmar’s recent debut on the global scene, it is the place to be for members of the development community.

World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013
Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar, 6/7/13. Photo: Sikarin Thanachaiary
In a recent edition of the Bangkok Post, Myanmar was mentioned more than three times in the business section alone. The articles reported on Japanese investment, Thai cement factories, and Norwegian sustainable tourism in Myanmar. Aid workers, foreign investors, economists, human rights activists, education specialists, you name it, everyone has caught Myanmar-fever.

The international spotlight is firmly fixed on this resource-rich, relatively untouched Southeast Asian country.

I intern at an independent policy research organization dedicated to the economic and social transformation of Myanmar. Led by Burmese economists, the think-tank recommends policies related to economic reform, poverty-reduction, and good governance. Professor Christina Fink, was instrumental in helping me find my internship. Her assistance along with the generosity of the Freeman Foundation Fellowship, enabled interning to become a reality, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I arrived in early June and am one of seven interns — four are also master’s candidates studying at Columbia’s SIPA, one is a law student from Yale and one a Burmese-American from Michigan State. We are fortunate to work alongside incredibly hardworking and intelligent Burmese research assistants, former political exiles, professors as well as a few foreign economists and lawyers. We often have internal trainings ranging from tax reform in Myanmar to media laws and hate speech to Myanmar’s role in the WTO to inform our research and endow us with a more comprehensive understanding of Myanmar’s reform process.
Continue reading “From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern”

3 statements and an article for International Widows' Day 2013

On June 23, the world is supposed to pause and think about widows for at least one day. International Widows’ Day was first recognized by the United Nations in 2010 to highlight poverty and injustice faced by widows and their children in many countries.

Here are some speeches and statements from the UN Women website:

Widow Santosh Komodi sweeps her house on June 17, 2013 in Vrindavan, UP, India. Flickr/UN Women Asia & the Pacific
Widow Santosh Komodi sweeps her house on June 17, 2013 in Vrindavan, UP, India. Flickr/UN Women Asia & the Pacific
UN Women Acting Head calls for robust measures to ensure rights of widows in message for International Widows’ Day
In her message for International Widows’ Day, UN Women Acting Head and Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, calls on the international community to end discrimination against widows so they can live in dignity and fully participate in society. Ms. Puri draws attention to the estimated 115 million widows currently living under the poverty line, and the 81 million who are subjected to physical abuse, often by their own family members.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS widows strive to regain their rights after husbands are gone
AIDS widows face economic and social exclusion and, for many, living with HIV adds to their vulnerability and stigmatization. UN Women is working with community groups and traditional leaders to empower widows, protect their property and inheritance rights, and provide essential services.

Socially-excluded widows mobilize for their rights
Along with partners, UN Women is working on initiatives to support widows in Guatemala, India and Malawi. To mark International Widows Day, a look at the work that is currently underway.

For my part, I browsed through Google Scholar, with the simple search term “widows” and with the time parameter of 2009 to present. As always, Google Scholar presents a rich array of things for me to read — I noticed several articles and reports on widows in Iraq and Africa.

I have chosen this article to highlight here, since it brings together widowhood, climate change, and women’s roles as agents of change as well as victims of circumstances. Here is the abstract for the article and publication information (it is not open access, I am sorry to say):

Journal of Cleaner Production
Widows: agents of change in a climate of water uncertainty
Sara Gabrielsson, Vasna Ramasar
Centre for Sustainability Studies, Lund University (LUCSUS), PO Box 170, 221 00 Lund, Sweden

The African continent has been severely affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic and as a consequence, development is being obstructed. Agriculture and food production systems are changing as a result of the burden of the pandemic. Many farming families are experiencing trauma from morbidity and mortality as well as facing labour losses and exhaustion. To further exacerbate the situation, climate variability and change reduce the available water supply for domestic and productive uses. This article describes how these multiple stressors play out in Nyanza province in Western Kenya and explores livelihood responses to water stress in Onjiko location, Nyanza. In this community, widows and divorced women affected by HIV and AIDS have become agents of positive change. Data from local surveys (2007), mapping of seasonal calendars (September 2009) and numerous focus group meetings and interviews with women in Onjiko (October 2008, January 2010, January 2011), reveal that despite a negative fall-back position, widows are improving their households’ water and food security. This adaptation and even mitigation to some of the experienced climate impacts are emerging from their new activities in a setting of changing conditions. In the capacity of main livelihood providers, widows are gaining increased decision making and bargaining power. As such they can invest in sustainable innovations like rain water harvesting systems and agroforestry. Throughout, they work together in formalized groups of collective action that capitalize on the pooling of natural and human resources as well as planned financial management during hardship periods.

Click here to view figures and tables from the article.

Street theater in Shoreditch

By Sean Carey

It’s around 8 p.m. I have just turned the corner at the top of Shoreditch’s Great Eastern Street in London. I am walking past the fashionable Bird & Ballard coffee house when I am approached by a stockily-built stranger wearing a scruffy duffle coat with the hood up. I think he wants to know the time. I am wrong.

“I’m trying to get to Homerton Hospital because I’ve just fallen off my bike,” he says in a distinctive east London accent. “Could you spare some money so I could catch a bus?” As he speaks, he rolls up the left sleeve of his jacket and reveals an open wound on his forearm. It looks nasty.

Bird and Ballard, Shoreditch
Bird and Ballard, Shoreditch. Flickr/Ewan Munro
I realize that I have met this man before. It was about six years ago at exactly the same spot. The memories come flooding back. It was exactly the same wound on the same arm. It was exactly the same form of words.

The penny drops. I realize that he is using a theatrical prop for the “I’ve-fallen-off-my-bike” wound. It’s very convincing though. I think to myself: although I fell for it then, I won’t this time. “I know you,” I say. “You pulled the same stunt on me a while ago.” The man, who I guess is in his mid or late 30s, looks taken aback but doesn’t miss a beat. “I’m not going to lie to you,” he replies, “but I’m homeless and I need some money to buy some food.”

This reply puts me in a dilemma. I have no idea whether he is homeless or not, or whether he is hungry. On the other hand, I’m impressed by his delivery.

In these sorts of urban micro-encounters a quick decision on my part is required. I decide that even if it’s a double scam, it’s a very good double scam. Looked at another way it’s high-level performance art played out on the street. He is the performer, and I am the audience.

I put my hand into my jacket pocket, and hand over a pound. “Thanks very much, guv’nor,” he says and disappears into the night.