anthro in the news 5/23/16

The kindness of Kenyans

Source: Siegfried Modola/IRIN

All Africa published an op-ed by Rahul Oka, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. He comments on reports circulating that the Kenyan government plans to shut down the Dadaab refugee camps with a population of nearly one-half million, and the Kakuma camps, as well as to disband the Department of Refugee Affairs. Oka writes: “Based on my experience in this African nation…I know this simply will not happen. Not only because that action will be contrary to international laws, but because it is contrary to the hospitality and compassion of Kenyan peoples. I have been visiting Kenya for over 15 years… And wherever I have been, in Kakuma and the rest of Kenya, I have been privileged to meet the warmest and most welcoming people I have known, exemplifying deep-seated ideas of hospitality…”

Finding lost loved ones

An article in The Houston Chronicle addressed the problem of migrant disappearances in Texas and included commentary from a public event on the subject held in Houston: “In Texas alone, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of missing migrants,” said Christine Kovic, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Houston Clear Lake “People shouldn’t be dying crossing the border. Many are trying to reach loved ones here in Houston.” During the event, people with missing family members had access to resources from the Harris County Sheriff’s office, the Texas Center for the Missing, the South Texas Human Rights Center, and more to help them to find lost relatives and loved ones.

Austerity Bites: Fiscal austerity and food practices

Pic: Austerity BitesEast London Lines reported on an exhibit in Lewisham, England, devoted to the topic of the effects of fiscal austerity on food practices there.  Anthropologists from Goldsmiths, the University of London, collaborated with local primary schools, community kitchens, and restaurants to learn about food in Lewisham and to prepare the exhibit. The exhibit, called Austerity Bites, will open May 25 and run through June 6.  Henrike Donner, senior lecturer in the anthropology department at Goldsmiths, said: “Food is materially and symbolically at the heart of the anxieties and challenges that are symptomatic of austerity.”

Ginza comes to Boston

The Boston Globe carried an article about a new store opening in Boston called Topdrawer, a boutique offshoot of its Japanese parent store, Itoya, which is located in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza shopping district. Itoya sells fine stationery and other paper products. Topdrawer’s offerings are more varied, addressing interests of professionals “on the go” – rain boots, rain coats, rucksacks, slippers, electronics, pens, and, yes, stationery. Merry White, a cultural anthropologist and Japan expert at Boston University, visits the Itoya shop whenever she is in Tokyo. She comments that Topdrawer’s intention to sell beautifully designed, high quality goods will keep it in line with its origins.

Take that anthro degree and…

…practice law. Bettina Borders is a lawyer who has served for 15 years as a Juvenile Court judge in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Borders was the court’s first female judge. Throughout her time as judge, she routinely sought more effective pathways for court-involved juveniles, such as launching a detention alternative initiative and the state’s first juvenile drug court. A friend of hers is quoted as saying: “She’s an activist…She sees a situation, she sees what’s needed, she organizes it and it happens.” Borders is the 2016 winner of SouthCoast Media Group’s Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs Leadership Award. She has a B.A. in women’s studies from Goddard College, an M.A. in anthropology from Columbia University, and a law degree from the New England School of Law.

…become a photojournalist.  Adriane Ohanesian is a freelance photographer. She recently won the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award, named for a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer who was killed on assignment in Afghanistan in 2014. The judges said in a statement that Ohanesian won for her “evocative images and tenacious dedication to documenting the effects of conflict on citizens in perilous regions.” Ohanesian, who is based in Nairobi, has been reporting primarily in Africa since 2010 and has covered the news for Reuters since 2012. She has documented the civil war in South Sudan, the border demarcation between Sudan and South Sudan, the fighting in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, and most recently the conflict in Darfur. Her work focuses on the impact that conflict has on isolated civilian populations, often exploring the desperation of people who endure the reality of life within a war zone. She has a B.A. degree in anthropology from Colorado College.

Is there or isn’t there – a hidden chamber in King Tut’s tomb?

The Guardian reported on a second scan of Tutankhamun’s tomb which shows no evidence of a hidden chamber that might contain the remains of Queen Nefertiti. This finding contradicts an earlier announcement of such a chamber. The scientists who generated the negative findings claim that the Egyptian government is suppressing its research which was organized by the U.S. National Geographical Society. The first scan was conducted by Japanese specialist, Hirokatsu Watanabe, who has refused to share his data. Lawrence Conyers, a professor of anthropology at the University of Denver, said: “National Geographic came in and collected two sets of data and they used all the newest equipment with the right antenna. They first did a scan of a wall where they knew there was a void space behind it and used that as a model, so they knew what they were looking for. They did multiple scans of every single wall, and from what I understand, there is absolutely no indication of a void space.”

Rethinking Britain’s “hillforts”

In Wales, people headed for the hills 3,000 years ago and built extensive structures that 20th century scholars dubbed “hillforts.” And they may well have been, even though scant evidence of weapons exists. BBC news carried an extensive article about ongoing research and rethinking of Britain’s hillforts, with a focus on the site of Penycloddiau is the biggest hillfort in northern Wales, built around 3,000 to 2,500 years ago. The article mentions several archaeologists including Fiona Gale, archaeologist for Denbighshire County who spearheaded the Heather and Hillforts project, the University of Liverpool’s Rachel Pope, who is leading the excavations at Penycloddiau, the University of Oxford archaeologist Gary Lock, who is leading an excavation at the nearby Moel-y-Gaer hillfort, and Ian Armit of the University of Bradford who seeks to understand how defensive the hillforts really were by looking at more recent structures in other cultures. He speculates that the structures, built at a time of climate change and transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron age, may have had more “… to do with people coming together to ensure that crops don’t fail, to ensure that animal herds survive” than with warfare.

Early human migration: Sometimes back to Africa

The Daily Mail reported on recent archaeological findings in Europe that shed light on the “out of Africa” migration model which says that population movement from Africa starting around 100,000 years ago was, literally, “out of Africa.” The out of Africa model suggests that migrants moved in a one-way direction.  A new study offers evidence of a reverse migration by Stone Age farmers from Europe to Africa which can be seen today in the genomes of people from Africa. The evidence comes from two teeth of a Romanian woman that are 35,000 years old. The teeth suggest that some humans travelled back to Africa around 3,000 years ago. The article quotes Emma Svensson, co-author of the study and post-doctoral scholar at the University of Uppsala: “This migration has previously been hypothesised based on analysis of modern mitochondrial DNA, but our study is the first where we see signals of it based on ancient DNA.”

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