anthro in the news 12/14/2015

On refugee-phobia

Pilapa Esara Carroll, associate professor of anthropology at the College at Brockport of the State University of New York, co-authored an op-ed in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY) about the need to end refugee-phobia:  “We urge our political leaders to refrain from viewing potential U.S. citizens as threats to our nation. Legislation to halt refugee resettlement and to add more bureaucracy to the refugee vetting process are band-aid responses to complex international problems. Neither legislative acts address the root causes of the Syrian war or the mass displacement of Syrians.”


The human nature of peace

An article in the Huffington Post draws on cultural anthropologist Douglas Fry of the University of Alabama, with a focus on his new edited book War, Peace and Human Nature. According to the article, Fry summarizes the findings of decades of research on peaceful societies around the world and argues that assumptions about the war-like nature of humans and the inevitability of war are both erroneous and yet deeply ingrained in American culture. A clear alternative vision of a peaceful society is therefore needed. Research has found that when societies define themselves as peaceful, they are much more likely to behave and organize themselves in a consistent manner. Iceland, Denmark, Canada, and Norway provide good examples.


The fall of the Japanese in Manchuria

The Japan Times carried a review of the new novel, Little Aunt Crane by Geling Yan, set in Manchuria in the 1940s. It is about a 16-year-old girl who escapes a mass suicide that Japanese elders in a Manchurian village order to preserve their honor. The young girl’s problems, however, have only just begun at the time of the collapse of Japan’s occupation of Manchuria. The review mentions related anthropological research:  “According to a 2006 Asia-Pacific Journal article by Mariko Asano Tamanoi, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Los Angeles, some 1.5 million Japanese settlers lived in Manchuria during the early 1940s. Later, the men were drafted into battle, leaving women and children behind. When the Soviets invaded Manchuria in late 1945, these left-behind civilians became easy targets. Many died from hunger, disease or compulsory group suicide.”


Shake it up: Creativity on the margins

Cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller of West Chester University in Pennsylvania published an article in the Huffington Post, reflecting on the November meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), specifically the proposed AAA resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions and an exhibit outside the meetings in Denver which he found inspiring:

“And if, by chance, you ventured beyond the disciplinary edge in Denver, you might have wandered into the wind machine at the Ethnographic Terminalia (ET), a collective of anthropological artists and artistic anthropologists who for the last seven years have constructed installations that bring a sense of tactility to bloodless academic practices. Last year ET curated a set of installations that engulfed visitors in the tactile dimensions of memory. The timely subject of climate change inspired this year’s installation…For me this kind of multi-media installation points to a powerful future of public anthropological engagement and influence. In these constructed spaces, visitors–men, women, older adults and children–are able to feel the reach of memory or sense the raw power of climate change both of which can create the wonder of being ‘moved.’ In such an environment people can learn how to sensuously dwell within things like memory or climate change. Such experience can shake up established modes of thinking and provoke grassroots social, cultural and political change.”


Cultural anthropology’s public engagement on the rise

Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, published an article in the Huffington Post discussing the rise of publicly engaged cultural anthropology. She notes that this fact was clearly evidenced at the recent meetings of the American Anthropological Association, especially by the first Anthropology of Media Award which was given to Paul Stoller of West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Ulysse interviewed Stoller about his public engagement.

He was inspired to enter the public sphere out of a sense of duty instilled by his mentors: “Adamu Jenitongo–a renowned healer among the Songhay people of the Republic of Niger (where Stoller conducted fieldwork) taught me that the greatest obligation of a practitioner is to pass her or his knowledge on to the next generation. Jean Rouch— the great French anthropologist and filmmaker stressed the importance of crafting narratives–stories–that would clearly and respectfully convey the wisdom of anthropology to future generations.”


Take that anthro degree and…

…become a peace activist. Laura Hassler, the founder and director of Musicians Without Borders, about her work combining music and peaceful activism, and the role the organization plays in dealing with both historical and contemporary global struggles. During the 1970s, she worked for the Friends (Quaker) Peace Committee and the Committee of Responsibility on Vietnam in Philadelphia; for Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation in Paris; and the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation in New York. She moved to the Netherlands in 1977, where she developed a career as a musician, linking music to social causes. She founded a World Music School and worked as a diversity consultant to arts institutions while teaching singing and leading vocal groups. Part of a network of socially conscious musicians, Laura mobilized this network to collectively launch Musicians without Borders in 1999. A global network organization, it is one of the pioneers in the use of music to help heal the wounds of war. She studied cultural anthropology and music at Swarthmore College, combining academics with activism and music.

…become a professor of communication and women’s studies. Robyn Goodman is professor of communication studies and women’s studies at Alfred University in New York State. She is a founding officer of the World Journalism Education Congress, an organization bringing together journalism professors and practitioners from around the world to improve journalism education. Her research focuses on U.S. and global journalism education, U.S.-China news coverage, and the social construction of knowledge. She also advocates for improved media coverage of women, minorities, and the LGBTQIA community. Goodman earned a B.A. in international relations/anthropology from California State University-Chico, an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Ph.D. in mass media/journalism from Michigan State University-East Lansing.

…become a health administrator. Nikole Zogg recently joined Southwest District Health in Idaho as the district director. She has 18 years of public health experience, including time spent in the U.S. Air Force, Central District Health in Boise, and in private health care. She has a B.A. degree in anthropology, a master’s degree in public health, and a doctorate in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology. [Blogger’s note: I cannot access information on where she earned her degrees].


Good news, bad news: Treasure-laden sunken ship found, controversy arises

The explosion of the San Jose. Source: Wikipedia

The Washington Post and other media reported on the discovery of the “holy grail of shipwrecks” off the coast of Colombia. The ship is the Spanish treasure ship San Jose, sunk by the British in 1708. The discovery of the most valuable sunken trove in history has provoked a three-cornered fight over ownership of the gold, emeralds, and other treasures. Colombia, Spain, and a U.S. salvage company have lodged competing claims to the hoard which is estimated to be worth up to US$17 billion. An international research team led by Colombia’s Institute of Anthropology and History and the Colombian navy made the find on November 27, nearly 1,000 feet below the surface of the ocean about 16 miles from Cartagena.


Using Koko for a film stunt

Regular contributor to U.S. National Public Radio, Barbara J. King of the College of William and Mary, declared the filming of Koko’s “climate speech” a “stunt” and excessive anthropomorphism: “A video made available online last week shows the famous gorilla Koko communicating through the use of American Sign Language in what is billed as an address to world leaders attending the Paris climate change conference…You can read about the filming process as the Gorilla Foundation chooses to describe it, and watch the 70-second film here:

…”Anthropomorphism — the projection of so-called human qualities onto other animals — is not inevitably wrong. Other animals may share with us many ways of thinking and feeling, and recognizing that fact is often appropriate. But the anthropomorphism in this video is not appropriate. Not even linguistically inclined apes comprehend anything close to the dynamic interplay between humans and nature that underlies anthropogenic climate change.”


In memoriam

Social anthropologist Moni Nag died at the age of 90 years. After receiving a Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University, he a senior associate at The Population Council in New York and an adjunct professor at Columbia University .Nag authored several books human sexuality and family planning including Factors Affecting Human Fertility in Nonindustrial Societies, Population and Social Organization, Sexual Behavior and AIDS in India, and Sex Workers of India. A pioneer in demographic anthropology and in connecting anthropology to population policy, Nag also dedicated himself to the uplift of the sex workers of Sonagachi, Kolkata. [Blogger’s note: Moni Nag served on my dissertation committee as an “outside” member, and he traveled from New York City to attend my defense. He was, to use an old-fashioned expression, a “gentleman and a scholar”].



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