in Madagascar, caring is a community affair

Professor Douglas Hume with his research assistants in Mahatsara, Madagascar, in summer 2012; they were conducting an ethnographic interview with an informant (not pictured). Provided by Douglas Hume

The act of caring for yourself, or self-care, varies from culture to culture. People all across the world demonstrate care for themselves based on their needs or the needs of their larger community.

According to Dr. Douglas Hume, department chair of sociology, anthropology and philosophy, the Malagasy— or people native to Madagascar—care for others in the community and, in turn, find that they are able to care for themselves.

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anthro in the news 2/19/18

Acceptable N-words: This was in the kindergarten room today. They’re learning N. Credit: Kevin Fillips/Flickr

teaching about hate language

Several media reported on conflict at Princeton University about a course taught by Lawrence Rosen, professor emeritus of anthropology, on cultural freedoms and hate speech. His use of a racial slur during a class discussion prompted some students to walk out in protest. Rosen subsequently cancelled the course. According to The Guardian, colleagues say Rosen has often used the slur during lectures on free speech, and that this is the first time he has received such a negative response from students. The university issued a statement defending Rosen. Carolyn Rouse, chairwoman of Princeton’s anthropology department, who is black, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian defending Rosen’s use of the slur. By the end of the semester, she wrote, Rosen hoped his students would be able to argue why hate speech should or should not be protected using an argument other than “because it made me feel bad.”

architectural nostalgia in Tokyo

The Japan Times carried an article about nagaya, rowhouses, that have been disappearing from downtown Tokyo for many decades, torn down to make way for office blocks and more comfortable and profitable housing complexes. Nagaya first appeared in Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868) as living quarters for the “common” class. Residents lived side by side in the long wooden buildings and shared a communal well, toilet, and waste disposal area. The article includes insight from Hidenobu Jinnai, anthropologist and architectural scholar, who has noted that an Inari shrine housed a protective deity providing “a spiritual bond for the denizens of the alleyway.”

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ask an expert: anthropologist Susan Brownell watches world come together at olympic games

UMSL Anthropology Professor Susan Brownell is an expert on the Olympic Games, having studied their history and attended five Games – the first in Los Angeles in 1984. Later this week, she will travel to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for her first Winter Games. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Susan Brownell has spent considerable time researching Olympic Games, both their history and their standing in our modern world, during her career.

The professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis served as editor of “The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games: Race, Sport and American Imperialism” and authored “Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics Mean to China.” She has also attended five Games, the first in Los Angeles in 1984.

She will add to that tally later this week as she attends the Winter Games for the first time when they get underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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anthro in the news 2/12/18

Le razza bovines. Credit: Alex Caputi/Wikimedia Commons

veganism and food taboos

The Guardian carried an article on how veganism may be shifting the categories of food in Western cultures. It refers to the thinking of British anthropologist Edmund Leach who: “…described how humans make categories of things in order to create social logic. Although the animal species around us form a continuum (of which we, Homo sapiens, are a part), we name, categorise, and then treat those animals differently according to separate logic that applies to each category. Where the distinctions are unclear, or transgressed, they’re troubling and become taboo. English people (Leach’s example from his 1964 paper) have a binary of edible-inedible. But also a tripartite categorisation: beyond SELF comes PET – LIVESTOCK – WILD ANIMAL. Pets get names, they share emotional moments with us and we definitely don’t eat them – they become a sacred category.” Food taboos are a longstanding and fertile area of research and thinking in sociocultural anthropology, and the analysis of possible changes in food taboos promises to keep anthropologists busy into the future.

a whole lot of networking going on

St Louis Public Radio reported on the Winter Olympic Games and how such games, as festivals that showcase athletic talent and provide sports entertainment, are more than just that. In a live radio program, a reporter talked to Susan Brownell, professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri at Saint Louis, who is attending the Olympics in South Korea and studying them.  She says: “…it’s a really interesting moment in Olympic history and maybe world history when this big mega-event has left the conventional western powers for the first time in its over 100-year-history for three Olympic Games.”  The 2018 Winter Olympics is the sixth Olympics Brownell will attend. She said that there are commonalities in the games over time, such as the street festivals and hospitality houses, which are buildings open to the public hosted by different nations. Commenting that the Olympics are a “global ritual” for celebrating humanity, she noted that tremendous amounts of global and internet coverage of the Olympics helps build shared experiences: “I’ve been interested in the ritual aspect of the Olympic Games ever since I was an undergraduate, just because there is this theory in anthropology that rituals build a sense of humanity and solidarity.” She will studying the hospitality houses in South Korea to see what goes on in the houses, where corporate sponsors and national Olympic committees have rooms to host VIPs and arrange meetings. She will also look at how host countries promote their own businesses during the games: “There’s actually a lot of very serious networking,” she said, particularly in the corporate world. “I feel that this is just a part of the growing integration of the global economy and the increasingly multinational nature of so many of the corporations in the world today.”

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what i’m working on: financial divisions in South Africa

Anne-Maria Makhulu explores systematic economic inequity in post-Apartheid South Africa

Anne-Maria Makhulu

Anne-Maria Makhulu is an associate professor of cultural anthropology and African and African-American studies at Duke. Much of her work, including her current research, focuses on globalization and issues of political economy in South Africa.

Makhulu is examining what she deems a broken promise made to a majority black population of South Africa 23 years ago when democracy took hold there following the end of apartheid.

She spoke with Duke Today recently about her current work. Here are excerpts:

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anthro in the news 2/5/18

A couscous dish. Credit: Creative Commons

the cultural politics of couscous

Quartz carried an article on the disputed history of couscous and rising interest in North Africa of gaining UNESCO recognition of it as part of the region’s intangible cultural heritage. Many believe it was first made by the Berber or Amazigh communities as early as the seventh century; they lived and moved across North Africa before Arab migration into the region. Records of couscous prepared and sold have also been found in West Africa, and it was also eaten by the Moors in Spain. Recognition from UNESCO would be “a way to strengthen the strong links between peoples [in the Maghreb], in a way that enables them to respond to the same traditions with the same culinary expressions,” said Ouiza Gallèze, a researcher with Algerian National Centre of Research in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

coffee life in Japan

An article in The National Post (Canada) that describes coffee culture in Japan includes commentary from Merry White, professor of anthropology at Boston University. She says that although Japan’s taste for coffee is more recent than Europe’s, cafés were important spaces in Japanese society well before the “Seattle-driven coffee boom.” In Japan, coffee shops have been flourishing since the late nineteenth century. Although she does not remember how the brew tasted, one of White’s earliest Tokyo café experiences during her first trip in the 1960s set the tone for her career in Japanese coffee studies: “We were asked to take off all our clothes and were painted with blue paint. And I remember thinking at the time, ‘Oh wow! This is the most avant-garde place in the world.’”

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pre-brexit: there is such a thing as a free lunch

Credit: Sean Carey

By Sean Carey

I have just been to my local bank in St Albans, a commuter town not far from the suburbs of north London, and am walking down the hill to return to my car. The sun is shining but it’s a chilly day. It’s still winter, after all.

I become aware of a slim woman, with a very smart bob hairstyle, dressed in black trousers and black top walking slowly in front of me. She’s not wearing a coat, which is puzzling. I think that she must work in one of the banks or estate agents in this part of town and may have popped out for some fresh air, a cigarette, or something else before she returns to sit in front of a computer.

Bill’s restaurant, part of an 80+ chain part-owned by billionaire serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Caring, is located at the crossroads in the center of town. It’s a prime site. A few days ago, I noticed Bill’s was being refurbished. Now it appears to be open. 

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