Anthro in the news 9/29/14

  • Relevance of cultural anthropology to business

The Huffington Post carried an article describing how concepts in cultural anthropology apply to business models as presented in a new book, Handbook of Anthropology in Business, edited by Rita Denny and Patricia Sunderland. Denny and Sunderland are anthropologists who run a consumer research and strategic consultancy, Practica Group. Their clients include SC Johnson, Whirlpool, Nissan, Pernod Ricard, Target, PepsiCo, Samsung, and Darden Restaurants. This Handbook demonstrates the links between the commercial arena and ethnographic research and cultural analysis. The book presents findings from 60 international scholars. Sections include: Dynamics of Tension, Forces of Change: With “Big Data” coming into the forefront, what is the anthropologist’s role in sorting through, applying reason, making sense, and ultimately turning it to a productive business use?; Boundaries Breached and Blurred: Where does anthropology come into play when we are dealing in a global marketplace? Can interactions with other countries be enhanced with better cultural understandings?; Plying the Trade: Who are the anthropologists that have managed to successfully insert themselves into the business paradigm? How do they co-exist with the number crunchers and old-line sales mentalities?; and The Energy of Memes: How do ideas, products, or behaviors circulate through a culture? Is there a way to enhance the process? Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/29/14”

Gaza: What you can do

Without doubt many people are following the devastating attack on Gaza and may be wondering if there is anything they can do to help. If you are interested in donating to assist Gaza’s population, one excellent organization is ANERA (www.anera.org). They have been doing exemplary work in Gaza (along with the West Bank and Lebanon) for a long time and are trying very hard to keep it up even under these devastating conditions.

And if you are looking for something to do, consider supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) call that will be coming to the American Anthropological Association. It is likely that there will be a resolution at this year’s AAA meeting for the membership to vote on. Certainly, there are a number of panels and roundtables on the AAA program to allow for discussion of this issue.

Ilana Feldman
Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs
George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052

Anthro in the news 5/12/14

  • David Graeber in the news

Cecily McMillan outside court as the jury was deliberating. Credit: The Villager.

An article in The Villager described recent developments in the case of a 2012 Occupy activist in New York City who has been found guilty of assaulting a police officer. A Manhattan jury on Monday convicted Cecily McMillan, a 25-year-old New School graduate student, of felony assault of a police officer. She has been remanded to custody at Riker’s Island without bail, pending sentencing on May 19. She could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but also could get probation with a suspended sentence and no jail time.

The article mentions David Graeber, an anthropology professor at the London School of Economics, often called an Occupy Wall Street founder and credited with coining the movement’s slogan, “We are the 99%.” He disagreed with the decision, saying the McMillan case sent a chilling message: “You do not have the right to freedom of assembly. Do not show up at a protest unless you are willing to face the possibility of torture, physical injury and years in jail.”

  • David Graeber in the news again

Should your job should exist? PBS Newshour interviewed David Graeber about his category of “bullshit jobs” Americans are now working more and more hours. But what, Graeber asks, do BS workers actually do: “It’s as if…we’ve created entirely new jobs to accommodate the workaday world. Administrators (think telemarketing and financial services) and the growing number of human resources and public relations professionals can’t pick up their own pizzas or walk their dogs.” Therefore, we have all-night pizza delivery men and dog-walkers, just to keep other people working. The interview follows up on an essay Graeber wrote in 2013 in Strike Magazine. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/12/14”

Anthro in the news 4/14/14

• Health equity, smart aid, and “stupid deaths”

KPBS radio (San Diego) interviewed medical anthropologist and health activist Paul Farmer about how to improve health care around the world.

Farmer talked about how to ensure equal access to health care through smart aid and the need to avoid what he calls “stupid deaths.” He comments on the “equity approach” in responding to a question about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide.

He also addresses tough questions about HIV/AIDs and how to help the poorest people.

• Jim Kim: On leadership and cholera

The Washington Post carried a brief interview (embedded below) with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a medical anthropologist and physician.

Kim discusses leadership and the need to develop a thick skin, in some areas, and openness in others.

During the April 12 meetings of the World Bank, Kim called for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/b4e9c246-c0ee-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/14/14”

Anthro in the news 12/2/13

• Breast cancer screening in Israel: opportunity or not?

In Israel, a push to screen for a breast cancer gene leaves many women conflicted, according to an article in The New York Times. Israel has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, and many scientists are advocating what may be the first national screening campaign to test women for cancer-causing genetic mutations that are common among Jews. But the tests mean that women have to choose between what they want to know, when they want to know it, and what to do with the information.

Komen Race Jerusalem 2012
Komen Race for the Cure (for breast cancer) in Jerusalem 2012. Flickr/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Jews of Ashkenazi, or central and eastern European, backgrounds, make up about half of the Jewish population in Israel and the vast majority of those in the U.S. They are much more likely to carry mutations that pose risks for breast and ovarian cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The debate about screening is economic — will the state cover the costs of testing — and ethnic — will only Ashkenazi Jews be routinely tested? Israel is a melting pot of both Arab citizens and Jews from all over the world, and only half of the country’s six million Jews are of Ashkenazi ancestry.

Moreover, even though the testing would be voluntary, women could feel pressured to participate, said Barbara A. Koenig, a professor of medical anthropology and bioethics at the University of California, San Francisco. “When you institute mass screening, you’re making a collective decision that this is a good thing.”

• Sharing amidst poverty in the U.S.

An article in The Los Angeles times described how L.A.’s close-knit Tongan community struggles with poverty while maintaining their strong cultural tradition of sharing. Statistics show half of Tongan Angelenos live in poverty. But, they say, a culture of sharing means “no Tongan is here to get rich”—because even the smallest thing is given.

Scholars believe the numbers of people in the Tongan diaspora is larger than the population of Tongans on the islands. The article quotes Cathy A. Small, a Northern Arizona University anthropology professor who has long studied Tongan communities. When visiting a classroom in Tonga a few years ago, children were told to write letters to their mothers in New Zealand, saying what they wanted for their birthdays. “Nobody found the assignment strange.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/2/13”

Anthro in the news 12/31/2012

From the blogger: Here is the last aitn for 2012. I had to work hard to find any mainstream media mention of cultural anthropology, whereas archaeology continues to attract substantial media attention, and we can almost always count on something about Neanderthals to attract interest. Please check out anthropologyworks’ short piece on the cultural anthropologist who was most in the news in 2012. Stay tuned for 2012 highlights from aitn and my top dissertation picks for 2012. And Happy New Year!

Debt by David Graeber
Debt by David Graeber
• Debt as a best book of 2012

The Global and Mail (Canada) asked several writers and avid readers to comment on their top book of 2012, from contemporary fiction to classic literature and nonfiction. Novelist Sheila Heti chose Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

“I can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t read David Graeber‘s paradigm-shifting book on the ethics of debt. He’s an anthropologist and one of the Occupy movement’s greatest thinkers. Here, he shows how debt has been a central economic, political, and social tool throughout human history. It’s an essential read, particularly for those who, in the wake of the financial crisis, believed we were at the beginning of “an actual public conversation about the nature of debt, of money, of the financial institutions,” and were stunned not to see that conversation happen.” Heti’s most recent book is the novel How Should a Person Be?

• Hadrian’s auditorium found under streets of Rome

Several media sources, including the BBC, covered the findings in Rome of an ancient auditorium 18 feet below one of Rome’s most-trafficked junctions. Italian archaeologists announced the discovery of a 900-seat arts center dating back to the second-century reign of Emperor Hadrian.

Marble bust of Hadrian at the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums.
Hadrian bust, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums/Wikipedia
Archaeologists believe the structure was an arts center or auditorium, built by Hadrian where, beginning in 123 C.E., Roman noblemen gathered to hear rhetoricians, lawyers, and writers recite their works. According to the archaeologists running the excavation, Hadrian’s auditorium is the biggest find in Rome since the Forum was uncovered in the 1920s.

• 800 year-old skeletons unearthed in Cholula, Mexico

Archaeologists in central Mexico uncovered the bones of 12 children and adults who may have been buried 800 years ago, according to an expert with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The skeletons were discovered as the archeologists supervised the installation of a new drain in an old neighborhood of Cholula, a city located 120 kilometers north of the Mexican capital. They were found buried just a few centimeters below a paved section of asphalt, said archeologist Ashuni Romero Butron, who added “fortunately they were not damaged by erosion before the paving.” He said most of the 12 skeletons are complete and laboratory analysis is ongoing.

Relief from the Sanctuary of Khonsu Temple at Karnak depicting Ramesses III
Ramesses
• Judean temple found

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a rare temple and religious figurines dating back to the Judaean period nearly 3,000 years ago. The discoveries were made at Tel Motza, outside Jerusalem, during archaeological work ahead of new highway construction in the area. Anna Eirikh, a director of the project, said the discoveries were rare evidence of religious practices outside Jerusalem in the Judaean period. The findings date to the 9th-10th century B.C.E.

• Death of a pharoah

Scans of the mummy of Ramses III reveal that his throat was slit. The pharaoh Ramses III ruled Egypt in the 12th century B.C.E. A plot by his wife to kill him in order to place her son on the throne is documented in an ancient papyrus, but the exact circumstances of Ramses’ death have been unclear. ”The big cut is in his throat, and it was very deep and large,” said Albert Zink, an anthropologist at the European Academy, who was involved in the research. ”It would have killed him immediately.” Zink and colleagues from Egypt, Italy and Germany, published their findings in the British Medical Journal. [Blogger’s note: so now we know the immediate cause of death, but we still don’t know who did the deed].

• 4,000 year-old spear heads found in Sinaloa, Mexico

Spearhead
Credit: INAH
Researchers have discovered 4,000-year-old spearheads and other artifacts at a site in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Archaeologist Joel Santos Ramirez said that the find “will change the chronologies of the antiquity of human settlement in the northwest of the country.”

• Neanderthal genome mapping update

According to a piece in CBC news, renowned archaeological geneticist Svante Paabo is almost finished with the mapping the DNA of Neanderthals, a distant cousin of modern humans.

Paabo has found that many people today carry within their DNA about 3 to 5 percent in common with Neanderthals. Paabo says it is important to learn more about Neanderthal DNA to reveal the differences between us and them, differences that have seen modern humans survive and thrive over the millennia while Neanderthals have become extinct.

Svante Paabo with reconstructed Neanderthal skull. Frank Vinken/Max Planck Gesellschaft
Svante Paabo with reconstructed Neanderthal skull. Frank Vinken/Max Planck Gesellschaft
He is quoted as saying: “I really hope that over the next 10 years we will understand much more of those things that set us apart. Which changes in our genome made human culture and technology possible? And allowed us to expand and become 7, 8, 9 billion people and spread all over the world?”

• In memoriam

Glenys Lloyd-Morgan died at the age of 67 years after a career devoted to the understanding of Roman archaeology. She graduated from the archaeology department at Birmingham University in 1970 with a dissertation on Roman mirrors. In 1975, she joined the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, where she catalogued collections and did re-enactments as a Roman lady. Later, she became a finds consultant specializing in Roman artifacts. She was made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1979.