anthro in the news 7/31/17

Anthony Thomas, the two millionth Eagle Scout, addresses a crowd of over 45,000 at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. Credit: Cherie Cullen, U.S. Department of Defense/Wikimedia

a letter to the Boy Scouts, a letter to everyone

Mica Pollock, an anthropologist, education professor, and director of the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence at the University of California San Diego, wrote an open letter to the Boy Scouts following Donald Trump’s speech at the 2017 Jamboree: “Dear Boy Scouts, I write to you as a mom and as an educator who thinks about how we talk, I ask a basic question about everything people say. Does this talk support each and all of us, or not?” She offers four critical thinking questions to apply to the speech and to any speaker. She then asks, “How do we respond when we hear words that violate key values?”

who owns Tibetan medicine?

Tibet Autonomous Region within China. Credit: TUBS/Wikipedia.

A New York Times article quotes two anthropologists in its coverage of conflicting claims between China and India to commercial rights in Tibetan medicine. Stephan Kloos, a medical anthropologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, said his preliminary calculations suggest that the industry’s value could be approaching $1 billion. Sienna Radha Craig, associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, said that Unesco recognition could stimulate the industry’s growth without the proper environmental safeguards. In India, China, and Nepal, the effort to expand the industry far outstrips “serious cultivation and conservation…At a certain point that becomes completely untenable.”

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anthro in the news 7/24/17

University of Wisconsin students protesting Trump’s presidency and proposed policies. Credit: The Badger Herald/Google Images Commons.

run for it: anthropologists in politics

The Huffington Post published an article by Tori Jennings, adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, about the need for anthropologists to seek political roles in the U.S. After watching with dismay the effects of a conservative takeover in Wisconsin including the state university system, she decided to get involved in local politics the night Trump was elected. Now a member of the Stevens Point City Council, she writes: “An anthropologist running for city council should hardly be that surprising. Our discipline after all, is highly applied. Not only is anthropology interesting we tell our students, it’s useful for tackling real-world problems. Two decades before Laura Nader challenged anthropology to ‘study up’ in her provocative 1972 essay Up Anthropology, the idea of ‘action anthropology’ had already taken root in the renowned work of American anthropologist Sol Tax.”

no jobs, no babies

An article in The Atlantic proposes that a key neglected factor in explaining Japan’s low and declining birth rate is the lack of well paid jobs for men in a context in which men are still largely understood to be the family income-earner. The article quotes Anne Allison, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of Precarious Japan: “The gender stuff is pretty consistent with trends around the world—men are having a harder time…The birth rate is down, even the coupling rate is down. And people will say the number-one reason is economic insecurity.” 

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anthro in the news 7/17/17

Credit: 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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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