anthro in the news 5/15/17

credit: GaryckArntzen/Google Images Commons

French election and refugees 

An article in The Huffington Post by two anthropologists says that the French election is good news for refugees: “Macron’s win marks a small victory for the left and anti-populist movements, especially for the millions of forced migrants seeking refuge in Europe. Macron ran on an immigration platform that commended German chancellor Angela Merkel’s generous refugee policy and promised to prioritize asylum issues in his first six months in office.” The authors are Elizabeth Wirtz, doctoral candidate in anthropology at Purdue University, Mark Schuller, associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the State University of Haiti.

anumerism as a way of life

The Conversation published an article by linguistic anthropologist Caleb Everett, Andrew Carnegie Fellow and professor of anthropology at Miami University, on anumerism, or the practice of not using many words for numbers:  “Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world’s largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these people rely exclusively on terms analogous to ‘a few’ or ‘some…’” In a new book, I explore the ways in which humans invented numbers, and how numbers subsequently played a critical role in other milestones, from the advent of agriculture to the genesis of writing.”

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social conditions play major role in migrant health

Health is about more than just individual behavior and clinical care, it’s about politics and power, say UConn medical anthropologists. In fall 2016, these migrants were forced to leave the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, France, when authorities decided to demolish the site. Some 7,000 people had been estimated to be living in the camp in squalid conditions. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The most powerful influences on human health are not the foods we eat or whether we have access to medical care, but how societies are organized, how power is distributed, and how some people are better positioned to make healthy choices than others, decades of public health research have shown.

These “upstream” factors are at the heart of Syndemics, a field of applied health research with roots in medical anthropology. UConn professor of anthropology Merrill Singer coined the term – a combination of “synergy” and “epidemic” – in the 1990s, and authored a 2009 textbook on the concept. Last month, the leading British medical journal, The Lancet, published a special series on the topic, featuring papers by Singer and UConn assistant professor of anthropology Sarah Willen, among others. The series grew out of a 2015 workshop co-sponsored by the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights, of which Willen is director, at UConn’s Human Rights Institute.

She and an interdisciplinary team of researchers with an interest in migration co-authored the third of three papers in the series. Drawing on a variety of case studies, they consider how an approach that combines insights from syndemics and human rights can advance research, public health, and clinical care for migrant populations – all growing concerns in the face of rising anti-immigrant politics and policies in the United States and abroad.

In a recent interview with UConn Today, Willen discusses the significance of the series, her paper, and this innovative way of studying and confronting health inequities.

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anthro in the news 5/8/17

[Left] Jane Goodall, pioneering primatologist. [Right] Ivanka Trump quotes wisdom from Jane Goodall in her new book.
Credits: Google Images Commons,

speaking truth to power

The Washington Post reported on the reaction of primatologist and activist Jane Goodall to being quoted in Ivanka Trump’s book, Women Who Work: “I understand that Ms. Trump has used one of my quotes in her forthcoming book,” Goodall said…“I was not aware of this, and have not spoken with her, but I sincerely hope she will take the full import of my words to heart.”  Goodall said legislation passed by previous governments to protect wildlife — such as the Endangered Species Act, efforts to create national monuments and other clean air and water legislation — “have all been jeopardized by this administration.”  Further: “She is in a position to do much good or terrible harm…I hope that Ms. Trump will stand with us to value and cherish our natural world and protect this planet for future generations.”

helping heroin-addicted children

Caption: Students at Prop Roots Education Center.

The South China Mail carried an article about the widespread heroin-addiction among children in China living along the Myanmar border.  Drugs have become ubiquitous, according to Fu Guosheng, a former graduate student of anthropology at Minzu University of China in Beijing. Fu, originally from a village in the area and now an artist and aid worker, noted in her master’s thesis that opium was routinely used in her home town as a gift to greet guests. And it was not rare to see villagers taking heroin on the streets. Zhang Wenyi, who teaches anthropology at Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, explained in a recent article how a widening income gap between ethnic groups and modern China had knocked the local Jingpo people off balance, making some turn to drugs. Fu cited family problems and school drop-out rates as other driving forces.

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new book explores ‘true’ Japan on the edge of a Brazilian forest

The cover of Nobuko Adachi’s new book that explores the Japanese Brazilian commune of Kubo

The nation of Brazil is home to 1.5 million people of Japanese descent, the largest such population outside of Japan, larger even than the number of Japanese Americans. For her new book, Associate Professor of Anthropology Nobuko Adachi studied one group that considers itself a direct legacy of the “real” Japan.

“They let me know that they are real Japanese, while I myself just happen to come from Japan,” said Adachi, who was born and raised in Japan. “For them, being Japanese means staying true to nature and the purity of Japan’s farming tradition.”

Adachi’s book, Ethnic Capital in a Japanese Brazilian Commune: Children of Nature, examines the inhabitants of the Japanese commune of Kubo, which lies more than 350 miles from the metropolis of São Paulo on the border of the Mato Grosso do Sul (“thick forest of the south”). Less than 100 people live in the commune, but they share many of the same values as the Japanese descendants who arrived in Kubo in the early 1900s, noted Adachi.

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anthro in the news 5/1/17

Tehran. Credit: Wikipedia

U.S. strategic interests

The Tehran Times published a piece by William O. Beeman, professor and head of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota in which he states that the United States is mostly concerned about its “strategic interests” versus promoting human rights and democracy around the world: “The United States measures its relationships with other nations solely in terms of American strategic interests. The United States makes a show of talking about human rights and democracy, but these concerns never really govern American policy…” In terms of Turkey and the recent referendum that gave more power to president Erdogan: “Turkey is a member of NATO and that is the principal tie between the U.S. and Turkey. If Turkey fulfills its NATO responsibilities, including opposition to Russia and support of the campaign against ISIS/ISIL/IS/DAESH, that is what will govern the relations with the United States.”

free speech in Berkeley

Credit: Google Images Commons

The New York Times published a letter to the editor by Robert Launay, professor of anthropology at Northwestern University in Chicago. He writes:  “Free speech is meant to prevent censorship, to allow people to express any ideas in public, however unpopular or unsettling. It does not imply that these ideas must be expressed anywhere, anytime, under any conditions. The New York Times, for example, is under no obligation to publish an outrageous and offensive letter in the name of ‘free speech.’ Ann Coulter has had ample opportunity to express her opinions in public. It would be perverse to portray her as a victim of censorship simply because she cannot express her ideas on the Berkeley campus.”

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anthropologist by day, comic creator by night

MSU Denver Professor Dr. Jeremy Stoll sits at his comic-cad booth at the DiNK Comic and Art expo in Denver on April 9. Photo by McKenzie Lange •

As students, we sit in our classrooms listening to professors that we often know little about. They tell us their credentials the first day of class and as the semester passes they might offer tidbits about themselves, but we rarely learn much about their hobbies or passions.

Professor Jeremy Stoll is no different. He teaches Anthropology courses at MSU Denver, but he is just as passionate about creating comic books. As a cultural anthropologist specialized in folklore, telling stories through comic books doesn’t seem unfathomable. But the extent of how deep Stoll has dipped into the comic book world might surprise his students that don’t know him very well.

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anthro in the news 4/24/17

Credit: Google Images Commons/Youtube

government of deconstruct

The Huffington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller, professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He comments on Trump’s first 100 days: “It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump wants to govern in the same manner he would undertake a real estate development project. In real estate development there are two ways to move forward on a project: (1) raze the existing structure and replace it with something that is entirely new; or (2) keep the existing structure but gut it from the inside and replace it with revolutionary interiors.” Stoller compares Trump’s style to that of leaders of millenarian, or cargo cult movements.

what the world needs now

What is a business? Credit: Google Images Commons/Business Dictionary

Gillian Tett, former social anthropologist and now journalist with The Financial Times, writes in the FT about the value to business of anthropology and other social sciences:  “Companies realise that as the world becomes more globalised, there is more — not less — need to understand cultural difference…as a former anthropologist myself, I am delighted that parts of the business world are actually recognising the benefits of social science; and I am doubly excited if it means that long-neglected anthropology departments might get more funding, and that their graduates might find jobs.” [Blogger’s note: the presence of anthropologists in business might, importantly, lead to transforming business practices to be more socially responsible by including attention to….people and no just profits].

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