anthro in the news 8/10/15

  • Politics and dirty water: A recipe for poor health

An article in the Mail and Guardian (South Africa) describes the role of politics in the mishandling of water treatment in South Africa  It is includes comments from Mary Galvin, associate professor in the department of anthropology and development studies at the University of Johannesburg. She says municipalities ignore both directives and incentives to improve their treatment works.

  • The life of flags
House in Memphis, Tennessee. Credit: Thomas R. Machnitzki.

Robin Conley, assistant professor of anthropology at Marshall University in West Virginia, is lead author of an article in the Huffington Post about the Confederate flag controversy in the U.S.: “Recent challenges to displays of the Confederate flag have created an ironic outcome; its presence is in fact more ubiquitous than before the challenges began. This resurgence is not just found among those championing the Confederate flag as a symbol of state’s rights, or a symbol of a southern identity (that may or may not include an overtly racist agenda). Every time the use of the flag is questioned or criticized, for example when a picture of two white men waving the flag proudly is recirculated as a reminder of the hatred that potentially drives their actions, it appears again. Thus, in efforts to assure its invisibility, it has in fact become even more visible.” Continue reading “anthro in the news 8/10/15”

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 news 01/19/15

  • Afghan-American youth who turn to extremism

Morwari Zafar writes in Time magazine about why some Afghan-American youth may turn to radicalism. Zafar is conducting fieldwork among Afghan-Americans for her dissertation in social anthropology at the University of Oxford. She writes: “The current policy climate risks insularity by focusing on external motivators — such as unemployment, disenfranchisement and susceptibility to recruitment via social media. Such an approach raises valid points, but it is conducive only to identifying a limited range of resolutions.” [Blogger’s note:  Morwari Zafar is a visiting scholar with the Culture in Global Affairs Program, within the Elliott School’s Institute for Global and International Studies, at GW].

  • Korean adoptees seeking Korean roots

The New York Times Magazine carried an article describing how many Korean adoptees, from locations around the world, are returning to the Republic of Korea. The article mentions the work of Eleana Kim, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging. Kim notes that many adoptees fear that searching for their Korean roots is seen as a betrayal of their  adoptive parents and they dread “coming out” to their adoptive parents, whether in the form of birth-family searches, returning to birth countries, or criticizing the adoption system.

  • Spotlight on Breastfeeding

On NPR, biological anthropologist and blogger, Barbara King of William and Mary, interviews cultural anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler of the University of Delaware on cross-cultural breastfeeding practices. Dettwyler discusses cross-cultural patterns of which mothers decide to breast feed and for how long as well as social stigma toward women who may breast feed for “too long” in some people’s opinion.

  • Book in the news: Social inequality in South Africa

Seattle radio KUOW interviewed a co-author of a new book on South Africa showing that the country is less equal today than during apartheid. After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa is an ethnographic account of seven young South Africans whose lives illustrate the realities of South Africa today. It is written by cultural anthropologist Katherine S Newman, provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Ariane De Lannoy, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Capetown. The radio interview ranges from the research methods, some of the people in the book, and parallels between poverty in South Africa and in the United States. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 01/19/15”

Anthro in the news 12/9/13

Marlene McKay
Marlene McKay. Credit: Liam Richards/Canadian Press

• Violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada: stop it

Canada paused on Friday to remember the 14 young Montreal women who were murdered by a misogynistic madman. As part of the tribute, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition unveiled a public art display of shoes in the square at City Hall to illustrate the lifetime loss of girls and women who are fatal victims of violence, often domestic abuse that forces them out onto the streets.

An article in The Toronto Star quoted Marlene McKay, a Métis anthropologist who has studied marginalized aboriginal women as well as the “broken women from Saskatoon’s 20th Street.” She said that history has inflicted so much pain and lowered the self-worth of Canada’s aboriginal women that the fact hundreds are missing has become little more than a sociological footnote. Feminism, she says, is still pretty much an F-word in indigenous culture: “We are just entering that conversation.”

• Belize in the news

The Huffington Post carried an interview with Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, Mayanist, tourism lecturer at a junior college, and one of Belize’s top tour guides. Awe shares facts and ideas about Belize’s history, culture, ecotourism, economy and sustainable development.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/9/13”

Anthro in the news 9/30/13

El Paso, Texas by Robin Kanouse
El Paso, Texas. Flickr/Robin Kanouse

• Heavy toll at the U.S.-Mexico border

The Washington Post reported in the rising number of deaths of people attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. It mentioned the work of cultural anthropologist Lori Baker, a professor at Baylor University, who has lead a team to excavate unidentified immigrants’ graves.

• In South Africa, women burning to braai

September 24 is South Africa’s Heritage Day, a national holiday and a time when all people are supposed to come together and feel as one. A colloquial term for the day is National Braai Day, marking a connection to traditional meat grilling. Claudia Forster-Towne, lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Development Studies and Anthropology Department, published an opinion piece in Gender Links, asking for disruption of male dominance of the braai. She points to a spatial divide and the re-enactment of unequal gender roles. She demands the tongs!

Blogger’s note: here are links to two amusing videos on YouTube spoofing braai gender rules and practices:
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/30/13”

Call for: Conference presentation proposals – Global Water and Gender Conference

A Gender Conference will be hosted by the Water Research Commission together with the Department of Water Affairs, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Significant growth has occurred in the awareness of gender hierarchies in water development, management and utilisation over the past twenty years. In response, policy makers, governments and in particular the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) have translated this awareness into an unambiguous call for the intersect of class, race and gender equality within these water sectors. Nevertheless, gender gaps have widenedand the inclusion of women in decision making about water development and management at all levels is still lagging behind, while research on the different gendered uses of water remains limited and fragmented. Added to this, there has been an uninspiring pace of both policy and civil society advocacy for gender equality in the water sector; the outcome of this can be seen in the limited dialogue which still occurs between grassroots movements, civil society, policy makers, practitioners and researchers. A scarcity of funding has further exacerbated this dilemma, while an urgent need to increase the limited research skills capacity in this sector has also been identified.

To address these shortcomings to facilitate the progress of innovative solutions to the gender, class and race divides, the Water Research Commission of South Africa, in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs, AMCOW and Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) has taken the initiative to organise a global conference on gender in water, which is scheduled for 19 – 21 February 2014 in East London, South Africa.

Participants should submit Abstracts and proposals in English by 15 September 2013, directly via the conference website, by clicking on this link. The best papers, conference proceedings and key messages will be published internationally as a book.

Anthro in the news 9/2/13

Iquitos, Loreto region. Peru. The Amazons. 2012.
Iquitos, Loreto region. Peru.2012. From The Liquid Serpent by Nicolas Janowski

• A photo is worth a thousand words

The New York Times highlighted the work of Nicolas Janowski, a freelance photographer who was trained as an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. In recent years, he has traveled around the western part of the Amazon in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. One result of his ongoing project is a photographic essay called The Liquid Serpent, referring to an indigenous term for the river that flows through the heart of the Amazon. The title offers a glimpse into Janowski’s conception of the region as having magical and mystical qualities. He says in his introduction: “The Amazon is neither man nor animal; she is nature’s hybrid.”

• The shifting odds of life and death in the Alto

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, published an article in Natural History magazine describing changes in a shantytown in northeastern Brazil. She first lived in the Alto as a Peace Corps worker in 1954 and later returned to do fieldwork on poverty, hunger, and child death. Those experiences led to her book, Death Without Weeping and many other publications.

Death Without Weeping
Book cover

The undercurrent driving the book is the very high rate of infant and child mortality at the time. Parents responded through delayed bonding until a child made it through the early years.

Fifty years later, fertility rates are down in Alto as are infant and child mortality rates. Scheper-Hughes writes: “…the bottom line is that women on the Alto today do not lose their infants. Children go to school rather than to the cane fields, and social cooperatives have taken the place of shadow economies. When mothers are sick or pregnant or a child is ill, they can go to the well-appointed health clinic supported by both state and national funds. There is a safety net, and it is wide, deep, and strong.”

Yet, now “The people of the Alto do Cruzeiro still face many problems. Drugs, gangs, and death squads have left their ugly mark. Homicides have returned with a vengeance, but they are diffuse and chaotic … One sees adolescents and young men of the shantytowns, who survived that dangerous first year of life, cut down by bullets and knives at the age of fifteen or seventeen by local gangs, strongmen, bandidos, and local police in almost equal measure.”

As Scheper-Hughes has written so compellingly for many decades, the “modernization” of life and death churns on, taking different shapes in different contexts. One wonders what the next fifty years will bring to the people of the Alto.

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/2/13”