anthro in the news 11/30/2015

ISIS recruits through friends and social media

An article in the New York Times on ISIS recruitment provides extensive commentary from cultural anthropologist Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict and senior research fellow at Oxford University. He noted that research has found that radicalization rarely occurs in mosques and rarely through anonymous recruiters and strangers. At a meeting held on Foreign Terrorist Fighters organized by the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee. Atran said: “it is the call to glory and adventure that moves these young people to join the Islamic State…jihad offers them a way to become heroes.” Atran, who has interviewed captured fighters from the Islamic State and the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front, added that Islamic State leaders “understand youth much better than the governments that are fighting against them.” They know how to speak to the rebelliousness and idealism of youth, and they are adept at using social media to target youth.


Weapon of mass destruction

Nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands. 1946. source: Creative Commons

The Washington Post reported on the enduring effects of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific where, from 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests. If their combined explosive power was divided over that 12-year period, it would equal 1.6 Hiroshima-size explosions per day. The article quoted cultural anthropologist Glenn Alcalay who teaches at Montclair State University in New Jersey. “We have basically destroyed a culture…We’ve stolen their future. When you take the future from a people, you’ve destroyed them.”


Continue reading “anthro in the news 11/30/2015”

anthro in the news 7/27/15

  • The past as present in the Greek referendum

Cultural anthropologist Daniel M. Knight published an article in the Huffington Post describing how people in Greece at the time of the referendum vote discussed “discussed their fears and aspirations for the future through extensive reference to poignant pasts.” Knight, an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University and Visiting Fellow at the Hellenic Observatory, London School of Economics and Political Science, stated:

“I have written at length about the significance of the past in the way Greeks experience the current economic turmoil. As I argue in my recent book, History, Time, and Economic Crisis in Central Greece, the cultural and temporal ‘proximity’ of selective moments of the past help people understand dramatic social change. By embodying moments of the past, locals discuss their fears of returning to previous epochs of hardship while drawing courage that even the worst crises can be overcome.”

  • Rihanna and David Graeber: Connect the dots

An article in the Financial Times reviews Rihanna’s latest video, Bitch Better Have My Money, noting that the video’s fictional events are thought to be connected to Rihanna’s personal fury at a former accountant: “In the song’s seven-minute video, the Barbadian singer is depicted kidnapping the beautiful wife of a character called The Accountant. Torture and unpleasantness ensue. On failing to secure a ransom for the bound and gagged blonde, Rihanna kills (spoiler): him.”

The article points out that accountants, like lawyers, “are adepts of a system of codes and regulations that the rest of us are bound by but do not understand. In his book, Debt, anthropologist David Graeber traces the history of accountancy to Sumerian temple administrators in 3500BC. From its inception the practice of weighing up people’s debts and credits was infused with religion. The financialisation of morality, Graeber argues, is the root meaning of money.” Continue reading “anthro in the news 7/27/15”

anthro in the news 7/20/15

  • Trending: #BoycottGermany

BBC News carried an article about the social media buzz on boycotting German products in protest of its position on Greece. #BoycottGermany was first mentioned on Twitter in connection with the Greek crisis last weekend, but started picking up on Monday. At the time of the article’s publication, the hashtag had been used more than 30,000 times. One of the most retweeted messages came from David Graeber, American anarchist activist and anthropology professor at the London School of Economics. He references the post-World War II cancellation of debts accrued by the Nazi regime:

“My proposal: Germany now morally obliged to repay Nazi debt canceled in 1953. With interest. We must #BoycottGermany until they do.” David Graeber (@davidgraeber) July 13, 2015

  • Overkill on the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal

Cultural anthropologist William Beeman, professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, critiqued the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal in the Huffington Post: “The deal is, in fact, overkill. There is no evidence anywhere that Iran had, has or will have a nuclear weapons program and that mere enrichment of uranium–something 19 other non-nuclear weapons countries do without any complaints from the US–is not tantamount to weapons manufacture, the inspections regime negotiated in the Vienna accords are quite incredible–the most serious ever enacted anywhere.” Continue reading “anthro in the news 7/20/15”

anthro in the news 7/13/15

  • Mexico is not just a U.S. add-on
The U.S. needs to move beyond this

US-Mexico relations could improve with U.S. recognition of positive aspects of Mexican culture and legalizing marijuana in order to break the cartels. An article in the Guardian quotes Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso:

“We need to change the discourse about Mexico. Americans need to get beyond saying they like Mexican food and accept that these countries are joined at the hip…Mexico is a permanent part of American culture. Let’s embrace it as part of the country, not some kind of add-on.”

  • Ben Affleck: Please meet Boas

An article in the Washington Post has this lead: “To fully appreciate how dumb Ben Affleck was to pressure PBS into censoring any mention of a slave-owning ancestor, you have to know something about Franz Boas. He was the father of American anthropology, a Columbia University professor who repudiated the doctrine of scientific racism — the idea that you are pretty much what your grandfather was.”

Affleck prevailed on the producers of Finding Your Roots, and its host, Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr., to erase mention of Benjamin Cole, a slave-owning ancestor of Affleck’s. The article concludes that Affleck should not worry about his ancestry: “If your grandfather was a louse that has no more bearing on you than if your neighbor is one as well. We may be our brother’s keeper, but we are not carbon copies of our ancestors.”

The series has been suspended on the grounds of Affleck’s  “undue influence.” Continue reading “anthro in the news 7/13/15”

anthro in the news 7/6/15

  • Blaming the victim

An article in the Guardian on Greece’s financial situation mentions the anthropologist of debt, professor David Graeber of the London School of Economics. While the head of the IMF has admitted to error in applying austerity policy to Greece, Graeber’s perspective, in his history of debt and debt forgiveness Debt: The First 5,000 Years, is that debt inevitably gives the lender the power of rightful coercion with blame inevitably attaching to the borrower. [Blogger’s note: Graeber is so right. In spite of some media coverage of LaGarde’s admission of the IMF’s underestimation of the effects of its austerity policies on Greece, the prevailing message is that Greece must change its economy, rather than the IMF changing its thinking. In other words, when things go wrong, as they will do, the borrower is always to blame].

  • The Pope, climate change, and Catholic perspectives

Moyers & Company carried an article about Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and what it means for the U.S., specifically the effects of pollution on the poor and disadvantaged minorities. It quotes Patricia Juarez, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso where she teaches a course on environmental justice in minority communities: “I hope and pray that Catholics will take a look at the encyclical…The development issues that result from pollutants often keep people in a cycle of poverty, keep them out of school or keep them isolated.” Juarez is optimistic that the Pope’s encyclical will encourage climate change doubters to look for more information, and she applauds the Vatican for leading the effort. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 71 percent of U.S. Catholics believe the Earth is warming, but only 47 percent believe it is a result of human activity. Continue reading “anthro in the news 7/6/15”

Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!

It’s fascinating to see how certain holidays spread around the world, and how they are marked, celebrated, and “localized” in different countries and regions and among different groups. Valentine’s Day is clearly going global, but with many regional and local permutations. Some of those variations have to do with the very fact that Valentine’s Day is associated with love and romance and, let’s face it, sex. Here are some news bits about Valentine’s Day 2014 around the world.

Cupid. Flickr/Arwen Willemsen

Just wanting somebody to love:

In France, Internet dating rises before Valentine’s Day. According to an article in The Global Times, “The Internet is powering Cupid’s wings in France, with use of online dating sites soaring, according to matchmakers preparing to help singletons maximize their seduction opportunities this Valentine’s Day. Of the 18 million single people in France “one in two uses Internet dating,” said Jessica Delpirou, director in France of the Meetic dating website, which was launched in 2001 and recently taken over by the US website The run-up to St Valentine’s Day — before New Year resolutions are forgotten — is a particularly busy time. “

What’s Valentine’s Day all about?

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day goes global and so much news about it!”

Anthro in the news 10/14/13

Gregale cliffs lampedusa
North-Eastern cliffs of Lampedusa, photo by Arnold Sciberras/Wikipedia

• We need a bigger boat

The Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media reported on the second incident of a capsized boat near Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean.

The article quotes Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who says that the sinking on October 3 hasn’t deterred smugglers from bringing refugees into Europe from the Libyan coast:

“And it cannot possibly deter migrants who have gone through countless stages of peril and exploitation in their own country, especially in Syria and the Horn of Africa.”

• On U.S.-Afghan relations

In an article analyzing current U.S.-Afghan relations and the troop draw-down, Global Post referred to the work of cultural anthropologist Thomas Barfield of Boston University.

Barfield notes that Karzai faces a political conundrum, that: an Afghan ruler, “to be successful … will need to convince Afghans that he will not be beholden to foreigners even as he convinces these same foreigners to fund his state and its military.”

And, pondering the future stability of the country, Barfield is quoted as saying: “In the absence of [a strong leader] and the departure of foreign forces, Afghanistan will not survive as a unitary state. The most likely event in that case would be a sundering of the country along regional lines.”
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/14/13”