anthro in the news 9/4/17

The port of Houston, 2000. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard, PA2 James Dillard/Wikimedia Commons

foregrounding climate justice

The Huffington Post published a piece, prompted by Hurricane Harvey and calling for attention to climate justice, by K. Jessica Hsu, an anthropologist and solidarity activist, and Mark Schuller, associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University. They write: “Ironically headquartered in Houston, the fossil fuel industry has been funding a half-billion-dollar, decades-long climate change denial campaign…Climate justice explicitly confronts basic inequalities: the world’s biggest polluters are not those directly affected by climate change. The big polluters are also the biggest “winners” in this economic system. It is no coincidence that higher climate vulnerability communities are largely communities of color and disenfranchised communities within the Global South.”

natural hazard vs. disaster

A tsunami warning sign in Japan. Credit: Uwe Aranas, CE Photo/Wikimedia Commons

National Public Radio (Carbondale, Illinois) carried an interview with Roberto Barrios, associate professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, who conducted field research in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He distinguishes between a natural hazard, such as a hurricane, and a disaster, which is a hazard plus human-created practices, like building on a coast or river. He notes that climate change is adding to the frequency and intensity of hazards many of which become disasters .

a perspective on Charlottesville

The Huffington Post published an interview with American anthropologist Helen Faller, a white woman and mother of an African American daughter, living in Berlin. Questions focused on her perspectives about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the growing momentum of write supremacism in the U.S.: “I am appalled, but not surprised. America is a violent country, founded on slavery and genocide, and there are a lot of white people afraid that, once they become a minority, they will be treated as badly as they have treated people of color… in my opinion all of America’s soil belongs to Native people. ​One thing that is widely acknowledged, although probably not by neo-Nazis, is that the country was mostly built by African American slave labor, including the White House. White power activists tend to be post-factual. If they think about indigenous people in America, it’s probably from the mistaken perspective that they deserved to have their land taken away because they weren’t tough enough.”

communicating emotion

An article in The South China Morning Post discussed the role of emojis, which originated in the late 1990s in Japan, in human communication. It quoted from Marcel Danesi, professor of semiotics and linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto, in his TED talk, From Cave Drawings to Emojis: “Images are the way we create sense and meaning and represent the world…A simple emoji tells us so much about who we are today.”

indigenous livelihoods in Alaska

KNBC radio (Alaska) broadcast a discussion about indigenous livelihoods in Alaska featuring two presenters: Karen Evanoff, Dena’ina Athabascan, has a degree in anthropology and works for Lake Clark National Park as the cultural anthropologist. Rachel Mason, senior cultural anthropologist for the National Park Service, Alaska Region, has worked for many years in rural and Alaska Native communities. Evanoff points out that Alaska Native people taking ownership of their ancestral knowledge strengthens the people and paves the way for future generations. It also allows for researchers, including western scientists, to learn from each other, in return providing a balanced knowledge system .

book review

Times Higher Education published a review of  LSE faculty Matthew Engelke’s book, Think Like an Anthropologist, by Simon Underdown, senior lecturer in biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University: “Ultimately, the reader is left with the lingering impression that social anthropology has an identity problem and does not really know what it wants to be: a rather detached participant observer of humanity or a practical subject that acts as a conduit between peoples, organisations and governments in an increasingly complex world? This book shows that thinking like an anthropologist is something that we should all do more often, but anthropologists should also remember the advice of George Orwell and keep it simple when they write.”

take that anthro degree and…

…be a software engineer and writer. John Metta is a senior software engineer at QStreem in Portland, Oregon. He specializes in software development and architecture, mathematical modeling including ecological and socio-economic modeling, systems, data analysis, and visualization. He believes that the nexus of software, human culture, and mathematics is upon us in the visualization, modeling, and analysis of today’s data. He writes for various venues and most recently published an article in Al Jazeera on sexism, racism, and science learning in the U.S. Metta has a dual B.A. in anthropology and geology from the College of Charleston and a dual M.A. in ecological engineering and resource geography from Oregon State University.

unearthing the Sealand kingdom

The Guardian reported on the discovery by British and Iraqi archaeologists of the first known settlement built under the Sealand kings of southern Iraq. Previously the main source of information about the kingdom was a few ancient texts, mostly written by other rulers. The Sealanders controlled the swampy land around the head of the Persian Gulf, including several of the great ancient cities of southern Babylonia. More than 150 stone tablets have been recovered from Tell Khaiber. They are being analyzed by Eleanor Robson, professor at University College London.


The Conversation published a piece on hazing, a particular form of initiation ritual that is often associated with college fraternities though it also occurs in sororities and in a wide range of other institutions such as the military and street gangs. The article, in discussing possible reasons for hazing, mentions an evolutionary theory supported by Aldo Cimino, lecturer in the department of anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara. He explains that veteran members of a group often wish to ensure that initiates don’t enter the organization with a free pass; the hazing rituals are a demonstration of worthiness through a series of challenges.

the future of food

National Public Radio (U.S.) carried a round-up and commentary about the future of food by Barbara J. King, biological anthropologist and professor emerita at the College of William and Mary. After considering various possibilities for future dietary elements such as insects, she turns to the question of access: “One thing I do hope we collectively talk more about is unequal access to the innovative food products and trends that chefs, writers, and food activists are excited about…At the Reducetarian Summit that I attended in New York City this past May, panelists did talk about issues of economic power, inequalities, and community engagement around healthy food and food preparation.”

cooler weather brings the cuffing season

The Denver Post reported on several new dating terms, including cuffing season: “…Cuffing season is the period between October and February when it’s colder out [in the northern hemisphere] and a regular Netflix and chill buddy seems more desirable than keeping your options open. As it gets darker in the winter, the body produces more melatonin, making us sleepy and groggy —  ‘more like a homebody,’ biological anthropologist Helen Fisher said. ‘The lack of light might make people want to stay in.’”

in memoriam

The prehistorian Bridget Allchin FSA, has died at the age of 90 years. She was one of the first women to establish herself as a field expert in the male-dominated discipline of South Asian archaeology. She played a leading role in launching the intensive field-walking surveys and excavations that discovered the oldest known stone artefacts in South Asia. Jointly with her husband Raymond, she undertook the synthesis of South Asia’s rich cultural sequence and made it readily accessible to other Old World archaeologists through the books, The Birth of Indian Civilization, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan, and Origins of a Civilization. An independent author and researcher in her own right, she published The Stone-Tipped Arrow: A Study of Late Stone Age Cultures of the Tropical Regions of the Old World and Living Traditions: Studies in the Ethnoarchaeology of South Asia. She held the role of founding editor of the journal South Asian Studies for over a decade and was Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. She was a founding trustee of the Ancient India and Iran Trust and was its Secretary and Chairman, as well as founding member and Secretary General of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists.

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