understanding conflict in Central African Republic: q&a with anthropologist louisa lombard

Source: stock.adobe.com

Beginning in 2012, fighting between various factions in the Central African Republic (CAR) caused widespread bloodshed and displaced hundreds of thousands in the Texas-sized nation of 4.7 million people.

Scholars, journalists, and politicians have struggled to make sense of the conflict in the rural, landlocked country — a former French colony.

Louisa Lombard, assistant professor of anthropology at Yale, has spent 13 years conducting ethnographic research in CAR. Her latest book, “State of Rebellion,” puts the recent uprising in social, cultural, and historical context. She examines the role that international organizations and nongovernmental organizations have played in sustaining conflict in the little-known country.

Lombard recently spoke with YaleNews about her book. An edited transcript follows.

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anthro in the news 3/27/17

Source: Heatlhextent.com

TB is winning

In a piece in The New York Times, medical anthropologist and professor at Harvard University, doctor, and health care advocate Paul Farmer writes: “One of TB’s lamentable champions is a common strain of public-health expertise, which has long lowballed what it takes to cure tuberculosis and halt transmission of increasingly resistant strains of it. A host of ill-conceived and unambitious policies have all but ignored TB’s innovations. That’s why humans aren’t winning the war against TB, which last year killed 1.8 million people, regaining its old title as the world’s leading infectious killer of adults. Happy World TB Day.”

World TB Day was March 24.

Society for Applied Anthropology meetings

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, being held in Santa Fe from March 28 through April 1. The article spotlighted the work of Nancy Owen Lewis including her comments from an interview. Lewis is a School for Advanced Research (SAR) scholar-in-residence and chairwoman of the SfAA conference. The conference has the theme of Trails, Traditions, and New Directions. Its 280 page-long program lists scores of presentations by experts on topics in physical anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology. Lewis’ most recent book, Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health, was published last year by the Museum of New Mexico Press.  In the interview, she said discussions related to Trump administration policies “will thread through the conference,” noting that one presentation confronts a White House initiative head-on: the Crucial Conversations roundtable on Sanctuary vs. Sanctions looks at Trump’s xenophobic stance on sanctuary cities like Santa Fe.

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anthro in the news 3/20/16

celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2013 Source: thepipe26, Wikimedia

holidays and sociality

The Daily Item (Sunbury, PA) carried an article about local celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, noting that  restaurant and pub owners don’t need much Irish luck when it comes to bringing the crowds out on St. Patrick’s Day, especially when it falls on a Friday. The article quotes Clare Sammells, associate professor of anthropology at Bucknell University, who said holidays are designed to bring people together: “Consuming something with someone re-enforces kinship.” Sammells explained St. Patrick’s Day started out as a more somber holiday in Ireland, but it became more lively and communal in the United States as more Irish immigrants arrived: “St. Patrick’s Day became a way to celebrate their Irish- American heritage and their recent immigration to the United States.” But it was also an opportunity to show their fidelity to their new country and improve their public image. [Blogger’s note: I have a hunch that, at least in the DC area, people who have no genetic or cultural connection to Ireland nevertheless find St. Patrick’s day a good reason to party – a kind of social solidarity with fuzzy social boundaries, and often the fuzziness is created by Guinness perhaps].

salad cake

Caption: Mitsuki Moriyasu, a cafe owner and food stylist, invented the Vegedeco Salad as a guilt-free alternative to traditional baked goods.

CNN reported on a food innovation from Japan: salad cake. It is made to look like a sugary dessert cake but the ingredients are vegetables including tofu. Salad cakes, which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, are said to have a unique taste.  The article includes comments by cultural anthropologist Merry White of Boston University: “The salad cakes represent attention to detail … and perfectionism…Food is, and has always been, a place for creativity and innovation in Japan. Salad cakes are just one manifestation of food play in that nation.”

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anthro in the news 3/13/17

Source: Google Images Commons

not all lives are equal 

Al Jazeera published an op-ed by Alex Shams, anthropology doctoral student at the University of Chicago:  “Earlier this week, Donald Trump announced a new executive order to ban refugees and immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. Hidden in the new order is a clause that says the United States government will begin tracking and publicizing, “honour killings” committed by foreign nationals in the US. The idea draws upon a programme Trump unveiled last week that will track crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, part of an effort to show the unique threat they pose to American lives. These laws are not intended to protect these lives. They rest on the idea that human life has a different value based on nationality, and that the life of an American killed by a foreigner has greater worth than a foreigner killed by an American. There is no other way to justify a law that intends only to highlight victims based on the national origin.”

standing up, speaking up

Source: Rony Michaud, Google Images Commons

CBC News (British Columbia) reported on the contribution of John Wagner, professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, in detailing problems with the new water city plan in Kelowna, Canada. Wagner argues that areas like the South East Kelowna Irrigation District where he lives will be left underfunded and unable to accomplish upgrades needed to improve water quality: “I feel like I’m being discriminated against because my water utility, unlike the City of Kelowna or regional district water utilities, cannot get the infrastructure support we need to upgrade our service.”

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presentation explores dangers of crossing the border

A young Mexican national climbs on a section of old pedestrian barrier fencing on the U.S. and Mexico border near Rancho Anapra, Chihuahua Mexico Tuesday, May 6, 2008. The young woman was climbing the fence to get a better look at US Porder Patrol agents working the other side. (Tom Pennington/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Jason De Leon, an anthropology professor at the University of Michigan, journeyed to San Diego State to host the 23rd annual Adams Lecture in the Humanities, held by the SDSU Department of Classics and Humanities on Feb. 7.

De Leon is the director of the Undocumented Migration Project, which is an anthropological study of border crossings into the United States from Latin America, according to the University of Michigan website.

The study uses ethnographic, archaeological and forensic approaches to scrutinize these movements along both the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, and the southern border of Mexico with Guatemala.

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anthro in the news 3/6/17

Source: Google Images Commons
Source: Google Images Commons

science education K-12 must include humans

The Idaho Statesman published an op-ed by John Ziker, chair of the anthropology department at Boise State University in Idaho, with contributing writers Katherine Reedy, anthropology chair at Idaho State University, and archaeologist Mark Warner of the University of Idaho Moscow. They write: “We urge the Idaho Legislature to adopt the standards for Idaho’s K-12 science students that include the science of human activities on the global environment. Preparation of the next generation to tackle this great challenge of the 21st century is at stake.”

Trump deters international scholars

As reported in The Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico), Trump’s immigration policies and statements are having a negative effect on international scholars. [Blogger’s note: I realize that Trump would not be at all concerned about this situation because he is anti-scholarship, but “we” are]. Nancy Owen Lewis, research associate at Santa Fe’s School for Advanced Research and program chair for the annual Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) conference, said a frequent conference attendee who is Muslim, Mexican scholar Salomon Nahmad, will not come this year. She is quoted as saying that Nahmad “was so distressed with Trump’s policies and attitudes towards immigrants,” he didn’t want to risk it.

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anthropology professors to teach trump 101 class this spring quarter


Two anthropology professors will lead a “Trump 101” class this spring quarter. Kaushik Sunder Rajan and William Mazzarella will use the 100-person lecture course to examine President Trump’s rise, using media, race, and gender as a lens for looking at the future of democracies.

Mazzarella sent e-mails to students in December to gauge interest in the class and later joined Rajan to create a curriculum as part of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT), which allows fellows to sponsor lectures, teach classes, and sponsor workshops. The class will be composed of discussions led by graduate students and classes taught by guest lecturers providing perspectives from the fields of anthropology, history, political science, linguistics, English, and philosophy.

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