anthro in the news 12/18/17

Hashtag #MeToo, December 2017. Credit: Wolfmann/Creative Commons

sexual harassment survey

U.S. News and World carried an article about the results of a recent survey of thousands of women in the U.S. about sexual harassment. A much higher percentage of younger and college educated women reported personal experience of sexual harassment or by a female family member. The article includes commentary from Hillary Haldane, associate professor of anthropology at Quinnipiac University, who thinks that two federal policies have shaped awareness of gender-based violence and harassment: “Young women in college now were all born near or after the signing of the Violence Against Women Act, and they’ve always had Title IX, which more recently has been used as a bulwark against gender violence on college campuses…During their formative years, they’ve heard public service announcements, and services have always been provided to them. Plus, there are documentaries and social media…They’re not necessarily experiencing more sexual harassment — they’re just far more aware of how they can come forward.”

the meanings in a gift

Untitled. Credit: Pixabay

An article in The Detroit News addresses the author’s quandary of holiday gift-giving, especially the choice between fun gifts and practical gifts. The discussion draws on the work of the pre-eminent scholar of “the gift,” Marcel Mauss, and concludes with the thought that a person’s gift-giving choice conveys their personal/social identity: “Marcel Mauss was a French anthropologist and sociologist who in the mid-1920s published his book, ‘The Gift,’ which made the argument that gifts are never free. His work was based on studying several cultures and he identified several obligations: giving, which is the first step in forging and maintaining a social bond; receiving, which means refusing a gift would be to reject that social bond; and reciprocating. According to Mauss, giving gifts requires reciprocation. And without that reciprocation, relationships can be threatened.” Therefore, a holiday gift-giver’s choices reveal his or her identity and is a way of saying, “this is who I am, and do we still have a relationship?” Whether the gift is a fun gift or a practical gift.

audience studies enhance effectiveness

The Huffington Post published a piece by anthropologist Beth Hallowell, communications research director at American Friends Service Committee, on how to increase the impact of a message by studying the various audiences you seek to reach: “The process starts with figuring out who you need to reach and what that group needs to hear to feel inspired. For example, at the American Friends Service Committee, we’ve been developing an anti-Islamophobia campaign to build public support to end the profiling and surveillance of Muslims…Through our research, led by two anthropologists, we found that progressive audiences shared human rights as a value and felt inspired to protect human rights when they saw that this value was under threat. Our research also showed that political moderates shared community safety and peace as a value. Moderates felt motivated to promote safety and peace in their own backyards when they felt that this value was under threat. Why does it matter that these audiences shared these values? Because if you can frame the problems that matter to you in terms of the values that your audiences share, then you are more likely to move them toward an action you want them to take.”

raising public awareness about U.S. border deaths

AZ Central (Arizona) reported on the work of two activist anthropologists who are bringing public attention to the serious problem of border-crosser deaths in the U.S. southwest.
Robin Reineke, co-founder and executive director of the Tucson-based Colibri Center for Human Rights, said “vigorous ignorance” of the deaths lets public officials avoid addressing the issue: “I’m disturbed by the fact that this massive loss of life on the border has been going on for nearly 20 years…and we still don’t have a conclusive count, and we haven’t really invested the resources in getting anywhere.” Her non-profit helps identify the remains of migrants who die while illegally crossing the southwestern border. Kate Spradley, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, is also founder of Operation Identification. This Texas non-profit locates and identifies migrant remains so they can be returned to their families. Concerning the many bodies that are not recovered and identified, she said: “Politics aside, these (people) are somebody’s family. … That family will never know what happened to their loved one.” 

limits to LGBQT rights in Paraguay

The New Jersey Herald reported on how attitudes about LGBQT rights in Paraguay stand in sharp contrast to other countries in the region. In neighboring Argentina, people can change their legal and physical gender identity without having to undergo judicial, psychiatric, and medical procedures, and it has appointed its first transgender police chief. Uruguay’s first transgender senator assumed her seat in October. In Chile, the government has been pushing measures giving greater acceptance for transgender people in general and children in particular. But in Paraguay, conservative institutions such as the Catholic Church retain a strong influence: “There’s the indifference of the state toward sexual minorities to avoid confronting the church…The church is still strong here,” said Ramon Corvalan, a Paraguayan anthropologist.

class status of U.S. chefs in dispute

The apparent scarcity of chefs in Philadelphia may have prompted an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about whether the job of chef in the U.S. is blue collar (working class) or white collar (professional). It quotes a chef who says his job is hard-core physical labor and definitely working class. In contrast, Willa Zhen, food anthropologist and professor at the Culinary Institute of America, says that chefs “possess artistry, financial acumen, and the white-collar polish for clinking glasses with money-dropping regulars.” Plus, they have spent many years of arduous study in a cooking school. [Blogger’s note: the category of “chef,” of course, has many internal divisions and variations and is therefore too complicated to fit into either a blue collar or white collar label, but it’s a “good to think” term].

the trade in stolen cultural artifacts

An audio piece from KBIA public radio (Missouri) presents a panel discussion of how conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere has fueled a booming trade in looted antiquities from archaeological sites and museums. Millions of dollars’ worth of artifacts have disappeared, sometime resurfacing for sale in wealthy countries. Participants are: Mark Altaweel, archaeologist and professor at University College London; archaeologist Michael Danti, assistant professor in the classics department at Colgate University;  Amr al-Azm, associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University; and Sam Hardy, a specialist in antiquities trafficking and adjunct professor at the American University in Rome.

underwater archaeology in Corinth

As reported in The Guardian, underwater excavations at Lechaion, the ancient harbor of Corinth, Greece, are providing insight into large-scale engineering by the Roman Empire. Named Lechaion, the port connected the city of ancient Corinth to Mediterranean trade networks. The Romans destroyed the city in 146 B.C.E. when conquering Greece, but Julius Caesar rebuilt the city and its harbors in 44 B.C.E, launching several centuries of prosperity. Archaeologists are also finding evidence of everyday life in ancient Corinth through ceramics that transported trade goods from Italy, Tunisia, and Turkey. Maritime items like anchors and fish hooks tell of life along the seaside. The project is a cooperative effort between the Danish Institute at Athens, University of Copenhagen, and the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. It is directed by Bjørn Lovén, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen’s SAXO Institute, and Dimitris Kourkoumelis, of the Greek Ministry of Culture. The excavation will continue next year, and it is expected to reveal more information about ancient engineering. “The potential for more unique discoveries is mind blowing,” says Lovén.

earliest funeral feast featured tortoises

The Conversation published an article by Natali Munro, professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut, about archaeological findings of the earliest known ritual feast held around 12,000 years ago. The butchered remnants of more than 90 tortoises have been found in a grave at a site in Israel along with the leftovers of at least three wild cattle in a nearby depression. The evidence indicates what must have been a funeral feast. Munro writes: “This holiday season millions of families will come together to celebrate their respective festivals and engage in myriad rituals. These may include exchanging gifts, singing songs, giving thanks, and most importantly, preparing and consuming the holiday feast. Archaeological evidence shows that such communally shared meals have long been vital components of human rituals. My colleague Leore Grosman and I discovered the earliest evidence of a ritual feast at a 12,000-year-old archaeological site in northern Israel and learned how feasts came to be integral components of modern-day ritual practice.”

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