anthro in the news 10/10/16

Land rights are key in Colombia

Indigenous people want land rights. Source: Bluedotpost.com
Indigenous people want land rights. Source: Bluedotpost.com

The Washington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Omaira Bolaños, Latin America program director for the Rights and Resources Initiative. She argues for property rights reform: “One of the most devastating aspects of the war for me was to see indigenous, peasant, and Afro-Colombian communities who spent their entire lives investing in and caring for their territories suddenly left with nothing. Displacement has a particularly destructive impact, leading to the loss of livelihoods, languages and cultures, and to the tearing apart of social fabrics — in addition to the lives lost to violence. For a lasting peace to take root, the legal recognition of collective property rights for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would be an important step in addressing the war’s damages and in continuing a process of comprehensive land reform.”


Disney-ification of Tibetan culture

Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer
Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

An article in The Washington Post described the effects of the ever-growing number of Chinese tourists in Tibet. It quotes P. Christiaan Klieger, a San-Francisco-based cultural anthropologist, historian, and writer:  “It is very similar to how the United States treated its developing West 100 years ago…They are commodifying the native people and bringing them out as an ethnic display for the consumption of people back east.” Other critics point out that such domestic tourism is part of a plan to bind Tibet ever more tightly into China. Tourism development trivializes Tibet’s culture, marginalizes its people, and pollutes the environment. Tibetans are neither consulted nor empowered in this process. The top jobs and most of the profits go to companies and people from elsewhere in China.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/10/16”

anthro in the news 10/3/16

UN ineffectiveness in Middle East peace

picture1-10416
Source: Google Images

The Tehran Times carried an interview with cultural and linguistic anthropologist, William Beeman, head of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota. He says that the rivalries between the United States and Russia have made the United Nations unable to be an influential player in building peace in the Middle East: “For example, Russia and the United States both have different interests in Syria, and so a UN Peacekeeping force would have to have the agreement of both Russia and the United States, since both have veto power in the Security Council.” Further, he notes that “There are no new active peace missions in the Middle East, and have not been since 2012.”


Cargo shorts: You don’t care or you are cool?

Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy
Source: Creative Commons/Nick Warzy

An article in New York Magazine about the cargo-short boom quotes Brent Luvaas, associate professor of anthropology at Drexel University, who says that the shorts’ “thoughtless” convenience appeals to American males with a particular set of priorities: “What’s offensive about cargo shorts…is that it’s the kind of thing you wear if you want to be comfortable and truly do not care what people think of how you look — which itself is a kind of privilege. It does not signal striving. Maybe this is why people wear it on weekends or days off; it’s not associated with work, even though it’s supposedly utilitarian.” On the other hand, Kim Jenkins, a visiting assistant professor of fashion design at the Pratt Institute who studied anthropology, points to the coolness factor. Cargo shorts are evolved from cargo pants which were worn by servicemen during World War II. American fighter planes had narrow cockpits, so your pants needed front-facing pockets to get at your cigarettes, pens, and whatever. Like bomber jackets, peacoats, and desert boots, cargo pants and cargo shorts have ended up on the street.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/3/16”

anthro in the news 9/21/15

 

North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons
North American totem pole; source: Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons

Indigenous tourism offers hope

CBA Canada reported on a gathering of iIndigenous groups from around the world in Vancouver, British Columbia, to discuss and promote the burgeoning field of “indigenous tourism” or “indigenous cultural tourism” with attention to the value of the unique relationship between First Nations and the environment. Delivering the conference’s keynote address was Wade Davis, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of British Columbia and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. He said that indigenous tourism could potentially revolutionize the industry by encouraging a better appreciation of cultural diversity:

“I think there’s a moral and huge opportunity to become ambassadors for an entire new way of being, a new geography of hope,” said Davis. But it needs to go beyond leveraging quotas of First nations into the field. “Real tourism is when aboriginal societies on their own terms can share their visions of life in a profound way that gives the visitor a true sense of authenticity, such that a visitor goes away as an avatar of the wonder of culture.”

 


Protests for peace in Japan

Symbol for peace in Japanese

 

USA Today reported on a surge of youth protests in Japan opposing legislation that would weaken Japan’s post-World War II commitment to pacifism. Weekly gatherings have grown into the largest protest movement Japan has seen in half a century. A crowd estimated by organizers at more than 100,000 turned out on a recent weekend, and nightly demonstrations have taken place outside the parliament building and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence nearby. Young people provided the spark for mass protests this summer, said David Slater, a professor of cultural anthropology and director of Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture, in Tokyo:  “Young people have not been apathetic; they have just been disgusted with politics, as have most of the Japanese adult population… This last set of bills just pushed the whole citizenry too far…”

 

Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/21/15”

Anthro in the news 2/9/15

  • Financial benefits of migrant work in the UAE, yes but…

Laborers from South Asia form the majority of construction workers in the UAE. Source: The National.

The National (Abu Dhabi) and The Hindu (India) carried articles about findings from a recent study of workers from India in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The headline in The Hindu reads: “UAE great destination for Indians to get richer”

The study, conducted by the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., involved interviews with 1,500 Indian workers to measure the effects their working here has had on their families at home. One finding is that the laborers earn salaries two and a half times more than what they would earn in India. And remittances they send home improve their families’ situation.

A more critical perspective comes from Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University. She has studied migration in the UAE since 2001 and has written a book about it that will be available this year. Bristol-Rhys says the study was limited in its scope:

“The study seems to have focused narrowly on financial gains, but what about the emotional impact? In India many children are seeing their fathers only once in two years. The study has not taken this into account…The study also seems to have ignored work done by anthropologists in India as well as the UAE for the past 20 years. These have not been referenced. We know that the individual families are benefiting but is the community benefiting? The local villages do not benefit. Instead, the government takes a large chunk of the remittances that are sent. The people working in the Gulf are also under pressure to bring back gifts with them. In many cases, they take loans to go work and then have to stay for two-three contracts to earn the money back.”

[Blogger’s note: studies also exist documenting the harsh living and working conditions for immigrant labor in the UAE, indicating that it’s not clearly a “great destination” – it’s a very tough destination].

  • Misunderstanding: Ebola’s shadow epidemic in Dallas
From left: Carolyn Smith-Morris, Adia Benton, and Doug Henry. Source: Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas Morning News reported on a panel presentation at Southern Methodist University by three medical anthropologists: Adia Benton, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University, Doug Henry, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Texas, and Carolyn Smith-Morris, associate professor and director of SMU’s health and society program.

While Dallas’ Ebola “outbreak” may have ended last fall, scientific exploration of what happened in the city has only begun, especially among medical anthropologists. In a two-hour discussion, the three experts sorted through how the crisis evolved, how people responded, and the language they used to describe what happened. They agreed that what took place was an “an epidemic of misunderstanding.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/9/15”

Anthro in the news1/12/15

  • On France as a target for jihad

Time Magazine published an article by cultural anthropologist John Bowen of Washington University in which he describes three factors contributing to France as a target for jihad: First, France has been more closely engaged with the Muslim world longer than any other Western country. Second, the French Republic has nourished a sense of combat with the Church—which for some means with religion of any sort. Third, the attack risks to add fuel to the rise of the Far Right in France and throughout Europe. In conclusion, he states:

“France will not change its decades-old foreign policy, nor are rights and practices of satire likely to fade away. But the main impact may be to use the attacks as an excuse to blame Islam and immigration for broad anxieties about where things are going in Europe today. Such a confusion can only strengthen the far right.”

Bowen is the author of Can Islam be French, Blaming Islam, and the forthcoming Shari’a in Britain.

  • On Muslim integration and discrimination in France

The International Business Times carried an article stating that the terror attacks in Paris will likely exacerbate the challenges faced by Muslim communities in Europe, as extreme right-wing political parties politicize the tragedy.  A large proportion of France’s Muslim population of five million faces day-to-day discrimination along with broader, institutional forms of disenfranchisement, said Mayanthi L. Fernando, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, whose work focuses on Islam and secularism in France. “The problem here is not a lack of willingness among a large number of French Muslims to integrate — many would say they are already integrated — the problem is they are not accepted as legitimately French by the rest of the white, Christian majority…The problem is that on one hand they are asked to prove their integration in the French mainstream, but on the other hand they are facing discrimination day to day and institutionally.”

  • Colonialism, dispossession, desperation, and suicide

The Guarani Indians of Brazil, according to a report cited in The New York Times and other media, have the highest suicide rates in the world. Overall, indigenous peoples suffer the greatest suicide risk among cultural or ethnic groups worldwide. In Brazil, the indigenous suicide rate was six times higher than the national average in 2013. Among members of the Guaraní tribe, Brazil’s largest, the rate is estimated at more than twice as high as the indigenous rate over all, the study said. And in fact it may be even higher. Continue reading “Anthro in the news1/12/15”

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
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 match.com. 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!”

African Diaspora: open access annual publication

African Diaspora
Journal cover

This scholarly journal seeks to understand how African cultures and societies shape and are shaped by historical and current diasporic and transnational movements.

African Diaspora is a full Open Access journal, which means that all articles are freely available, ensuring maximum, worldwide dissemination of content.

The 2012 issue contains 19 articles on a wide range of topics, including

  • labor markets in Japan
  • an ethnic enclave in China
  • food practices and identity
  • Nigerian women’s experiences of deportation from Europe
  • monuments to slavery and belonging in the Netherlands

[Blogger’s note: I eagerly await the 2013 issue!]