Anthro in the news 6/24/13

Tsetse flies in African health and development


A distribution of the Tsetse fly./ Wikimedia Commons.

The Boston Globe highlights the research of an economist/doctor on the role of the tsetse fly in African poverty and illness and mentions the influence of medical anthropologist Paul Farmer on her work. Marcella Alsan, who recently completed her Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University, may have solved a puzzle that has long challenged scholars, development specialists, and policy makers: Why is the land-abundant, resource-rich continent of Africa so poor? The answer comes out of Alsan’s graduate research on the tsetse fly’s effect on poverty in Africa. Using geospatial mapping software to mine data gathered by missionaries and anthropologists in the 1800s, Alsan found that the fly, which exists only in Africa and is lethal to livestock, drove precolonial Africans to use slaves instead of domesticated animals for farming, limiting crop yields and ability to transport goods.

Jim Kim on climate change

Jim Kim, anthropologist and president of the World Bank, wrote that global policy makers must confront climate change, in an article in The Huffington Post:

“To help our clients prepare for the risks of a warming planet, we asked the scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytic in Germany to examine the impacts of climate change on three tropical regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. Yesterday, we published the results of that study.

Modeling a scenario of 4°C warming, the study reconfirms a climate picture we know well: extreme storms, prolonged heat waves, critical food and water shortages and widespread social and economic disruption. These impacts will interact to generate powerful climatic events, such as a significant sea-level rise and intense cyclones, which will cause intense and widespread damage. This is a future of enormous suffering.”

The article includes a video. A link to the World Bank study is here.

Occupy movement update


David Graeber/ Wikimedia Commons, David Graeber.

The New Statesman carried an article on the “democracy project”/Occupy movement, noting cultural anthropologist David Graeber‘s key role. A memorable quotation in the article: “The sole piece of evidence we had at the time that the Occupy movement was important was the clear determination of various world governments and much of the mainstream press to erase it from existence. It was not enough for the camps to be torn down and the protesters evicted, not enough that thousands of people, most of whom had done nothing more egregious than dare to question austerity in public, were beaten and gassed and arrested and imprisoned.”

“New” language “discovered”

A “new” language has been discovered in a remote indigenous community in northern Australia according to Science Daily. The new language, called Light Walpiri, has developed from a combination of elements from other languages. It is documented by University of Michigan linguist Carmel O’Shannessy and reported on in the journal Language (not open access). Light Walpiri speakers are found in one community called Lajamanu where speakers readily switch between languages — from Warlpiri to English and Kriol (an English-based creole). In the 1970s and 1980s, children internalized this switching as a separate linguistic system, and began to speak it as their primary code, one with verb structure from English and Kriol, and noun structure from Warlpiri as well as new structures that can be traced to Warlpiri, English and Kriol, but are no longer the same as in those source languages. As these children grew up they taught the new language to their own children, and it is now the primary code of children and young adults in the community.

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