anthro in the news 12/21/2015

 

Source: Google Images/Creative Commons

Syrian refugees in poverty

Marketplace (American Public Media) published a piece on the dire economic situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. According to a new report from UNHCR, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have limited opportunities to work since only a small group of refugees has work permits. It quotes Dawn Chatty, professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford: “While refugee camps can provide a haven for the displaced population, the reality is that many Syrians in Jordan don’t have access to them…In Lebanon, refugee camps don’t exist…Many are surviving with irregular part-time jobs…and bad pay.”

 


No lip kissing, please, we’re Indian

James Bond gets only a half kiss in Spectre. Source: News Nation

The Times of India carried an article about a talk at the Godrej Culture Lab in Mumbai by William Mazzarella, professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago and author of Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity. He noted how the censorship story has been unfolding in Indian film:  “Censorship itself is a kind of publicity that thrives on visibility…Censorship seems to be flourishing despite the fact that it hasn’t been able to silence or control a great deal of our public conscience space. So maybe we need to think differently about what the censors are up to.”  He speculated on James Bond’s half kiss in the version of Spectre that made it to Indian movie halls.

 


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anthro in the news 12/7/2015

 

A view of Mauna Loa taken from a Pu'u near The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at Mauna Kea. source: Wikipedia

Saying no to big telescope in Hawaii

Indigenous peoples everywhere seek the right to say no to various outside interventions. The National Post (Canada) reported on the controversial plan to build a giant telescope in Hawaii on top of Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain. A proposal to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) makes claims that it will benefit the whole world, and that Mauna Kea is the best and most rational place to build it. The article quoted, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology and American Studies at Wesleyan University: “…telescopes on Mauna Kea are “supplant(ing) our indigenous temple of worship” and the TMT would constitute a “desecration” of the cynosure of Hawaiian existence. The Post article goes on to comment: “Canadians know well what this sort of fight looks like at home. It turns out other places have aboriginal peoples who want the right to say no, too.”

 


U.S. military is working on a bomber that later could be nuclear-certified. Source: PressTV

U.S. as major threat to world peace and security

PressTV (Iran) carried an article about the possibility of a new nuclear arms race involving Russia and China and untold financial costs. It drew on comments from Dennis Etler, professor of anthropology at Cabrillo College in California. Etler noted that the United States has “a military budget which exceeds that of all other countries combined, ” adding that the U.S. “has hundreds of military bases spread across the length and breadth of the globe, it has invaded sovereign nations throughout the world to protect what it claims is its national security, it has imposed economic sanctions on countries it deems adversaries, and supports subversion and separatism in order to dismember nations it wishes to control…This has all happened time and again. The U.S. as a result of its unilateral actions has become the major threat to world peace and security.”

 


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anthro in the news 10/26/2015

source: NPR

Happy slaves?

A piece on National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on how the coconut industry in Thailand thrives on the use of the labor of trained monkeys. Some observers claim that this work constitutes animal abuse. Skeptics of allegations of abuse include Leslie Sponsel, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Hawaii:  “…the monkeys are very similar to family pets, and for some households, even like family members to some degree. Young ones are trained, and they are kept on a chain tethered to the handler or to a shelter when not working. They are fed, watered, bathed, groomed and otherwise cared for. They often ride to the coconut palm plantation on the back of a motor bike or in a cart driven by the handler…That is not to say that there is never any cruelty or mistreatment.” Sponsel added that overall he respects “the poor farmers and others who are just trying to survive and prosper in support of their families.” A trained monkey can pick an average 1,000 coconuts a day while a human can manage to pick 80.

 


Domino effect of violence in northern Afghanistan

Al Jazeera published an op-ed by Morwari Zafar, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the University of Oxford and visiting scholar in the Institute of Global and International Studies at the George Washington University. She argues that violence in northern Afghanistan threatens the country’s vulnerable populations and jeopardizes stability in the country as a whole. Faryab province used to be a stable, economically self-sufficient home to nearly one million multiethnic inhabitants: “But today, Faryab simmers dangerously. Against the backdrop of the US government’s latest extension of its military commitment to Afghanistan, it is worth noting that the province is precariously situated along the same political fault lines that recently rattled Kunduz province.”

 

 


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anthro in the news 10/12/2015

 

Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug [source: Wikipedia].
Caption: Artemisia annua which yields an anti-malarial drug, source: Wikipedia
Nobel Prize catalyzes controversy in China

 

The New York Times reported on reactions in China about its first Nobel prize in science which was awarded to Tu Youyou, a retired researcher who worked at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences) in Beijing. The award recognizes her role in extracting the malaria-fighting compound Artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua. It is the first time China has won a Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline. Bu the award has refueled a longstanding debate in China between Western science approaches to medicine and Chinese traditional medicine. Critics of the award say that it valorizes Western science while seeming to recognize traditional Chinese medicine. The article quotes Volker Scheid, an anthropologist at the University of Westminster in London who refers to Chinese traditional medicine:  “It’s part of the nation, but the nation of China defines itself as a modern nation, which is tied very much to science…So this causes a conflict.”

 


source: Wikipedia

Guinea elections

The New York Times carried an article about the presidential election in Guinea, noting that ethnic clashes marked the last presidential election threaten to resurface. President Alpha Conde is running against seven candidates in the West African nation that has been hard hit by the Ebola crisis. The main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, is the same man he ultimately defeated in a 2010 election marked by clashes between their supporters along ethnic lines. The article quotes Mike McGovern, a West Africa expert and associate professor of anthropology at University of Michigan: “What Ebola has made clear is many ordinary Guineans’ deep mistrust of government.”

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/12/2015”

anthro in the news 10/5/15

 

The Vatican, source: Creative Commons

An anthropologist meets the Pope

The Huffington Post published an article by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, medical anthropologist at the University of California Berkeley, describing her visit to the Vatican in April at the invitation of Pope Francis. The Pope convened an international meeting of experts to discuss human trafficking and modern slavery.  Scheper-Hughes writes:  “…he is an incredibly happy man, a man at peace with himself and with the world. He seems comfortable in his skin. But most of all, he is fearless. Although he still ends most encounters with the petition, “Pray for me,” he is smiling and radiant. In accepting the heavy cargo that is the papacy, with all of its entanglements, intrigues, risks and dangers, and its daily uncertainties, Pope Francis is calm and reassuring.”

 


A 481-foot drug tunnel in Nogales discovered in 2014. source: USA Today

Smugglers’ tunnels give U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security a bad name

Nogales International (Arizona) reported on the situation in Nogales, a city in Arizona that accounts for most of the 183 cross-border tunnels between Mexico and the U.S. that have been discovered  since the mid-1990s. The article draws on commentary from cultural anthropologist Howard Campbell of the University of Texas-El Paso who has studied drug trafficking in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. He said that tunnel trafficking is just a small part of the overall drug smuggling picture: “Although it’s very colorful and exciting, it’s not really important for the overall volume, except for short periods of time…” He added that other researchers have found that the “majority of drugs, in terms of value…actually cross through ports of entry.” Campbell suggested the Border Patrol’s interest in rooting out tunnels has less to do with how many loads pass through them than with their symbolic value. With the Department of Homeland Security spending billions of dollars annually on agents and technology, smugglers outwitting their efforts with shovels and pickaxes doesn’t look good: “The tunnels really give the Border Patrol and Homeland Security a bad name.”

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anthro in the news 9/7/15

Wikipedia

 

Chagos update

The Financial Times reported on continuing efforts in the U.K. and elsewhere by displaced Chagos Islanders to return home and receive compensation for their forced removal fifty years ago. The article provides comments from two cultural anthropologists: David Vine of American University and Sean Carey of Manchester University. “When you tell people about the history, they think it must be something out of the 19th century. They are shocked to hear it happened so relatively recently,” says Vine, author of the book, Island of Shame about Diego Garcia. Carey is quoted as saying: “A lot of the islanders [living in Mauritius] remain at the bottom of the heap…Mauritius is dominated by Indian politicians for whom the issue does not have the same emotional resonance. Even among the local Creole population [Mauritians of African origin], many Chagossians talk about discrimination.”


 

Fracture Zones in the Eurozone

The Eurasia Review carried an article about the current European refugee crisis. It refers to the refugees in the park in Belgrade as “part of a fracture zone” that is easy to trace; across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and on through Europe. The article acknowledges cultural anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom of Notre Dame University as the source of the term fracture zone, in her chapter in the edited book, An Anthropology of War. She wrote that “fracture lines run internationally and follow power abuses, pathological profiteering, institutionalized inequalities, and human rights violations – actions that fill the pockets and secure the dominance of some while damaging the lives of others.” Nordstrom sees the danger of fracture zones in how they institutionalize crisis and make it enduring. Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/7/15”

Anthro in the news 1/26/15

  • Political cartooning

The Business Standard (India) carried a review of a new book on political cartooning in India by cultural anthropologist Ritu Khanduri, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington, College of Liberal Arts. Understanding what makes political caricature funny to some but not to others is critical today, says the author in an interview. Her book, Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World, traces India’s political history through political caricatures.

Khanduri comments:  “As a visual reaction to events, cartoons have the ability to reflect as well as shape public opinion. “They’re complex images with layers of sub-textual meaning. Understanding what makes them funny to some but not to others is what we need to understand, especially in our present times.”

  • Changing views on dating and marriage in Oman

Newsweek reported on changing patterns of finding a spouse in Oman where mixing between genders is limited. Marrying for love was rare just 20 years ago in Oman, and arranged matches were the norm, with minimal contact between a couple before their wedding. Oil wealth, globalization, and higher education have transformed the country since Sultan Qaboos bin Said seized power from his father in 1970. A survey of 921 Omanis aged 18 to 60, found that 83% were against arranged marriage. More than a love marriage, young Omanis want a “compatible marriage.” Many young people are looking for partners at university, at work or on social media. Social media offers a discreet ways for young men and women to connect.

Similar changes are happening in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, says Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. Exposure to other cultures – whether through television, the Internet, or direct contact with foreigners – has influenced ideas about what a good marriage should look like. “They’re not living in a vacuum here, and they know there are other choices,” Bristol-Rhys says.

  • Rethinking mental illness

Cultural anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which she comments in depth on a “remarkable document” from the British Psychological Society, “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia”. Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 1/26/15”