anthro in the news 3/19/18

Genevieve Nnaji is a top Nigerian actor. Credit: FEVA TV.

Nollywood-Bollywood relations

An article in The Telegraph (India) offers insights about the relations between Mumbai’s Bollywood film industry and its sister industry in Nigeria, Nollywood. Nollywood is the world’s second largest film producer after Bollywood. The article includes commentary from Brian Larkin, professor of anthropology at Columbia University and author of the book, Bollywood Comes to Nigeria:  “After Maine Pyar Kiya was released, one friend told me it was his favourite movie: ‘I liked the film…’ because it taught me about the world’… The style of the movies and plots deal with the problem of how to modernise while preserving traditional values – not usually a narrative theme in a Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Spielberg movie.” However, Larkin also points out that the Nigerian audience is not happy with the contemporary “westernised content” of Hindi films. 

global and local politics vs. cultural heritage

The shrine of Mauj Darya in Lahore, one of the threatened sites. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on a China-financed city rail system in historic Lahore, Pakistan. Activists objecting to the construction say that the method used to dig the train route is tearing through Lahore’s dense urban fabric rather than spending more time and money to build the system underground. “It has become an election stunt,” said Nadeem Omar Tarar, an anthropologist and director of the National College of Arts in Lahore who has written against the new rail line. The project is being executed in a short time and with immediate positive visibility, he said, in order to complete it before national elections, expected this summer. Mega transport projects are a signature of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the conservative party that rules both the federal government and Punjab state, whose capital is Lahore.

Emma Gonzalez and youth politics

The Washington Post carried an article about Florida high school student leader, Emma Gonzalez, and how she represents youth, women, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community. The article quotes Jorge Duany, a professor of anthropology and head of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University: “It’s interesting that she chose to say she belongs to multiple communities…It was a recognition of shared interests between communities.”

take that anthro degree and…

…become an editor and researcher. Joshua Smith is associate editor with the Franz Boas Papers and a postdoctoral fellow of American Studies at the University of North Carolina. Smith has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Victoria and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Western Ontario.

…work as a community organizer. Jessica Thornton is the Upper Inlet Community Organizer for Cook Inletkeeper. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, she works to build power in the Upper Cook Inlet region of the watershed to support clean water, healthy salmon, clean energy, and democracy. Thonrton has an I.B. from the International School Hilversum and an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Aberdeen.

…work in cultural resource management. Chris Loendorf is senior project manager at the Gila River Indian Community Cultural Resource Management Program in Arizona where he has worked since 1999. He is also a visiting researcher at Arizona State University. His specialties are lithic analysis, mortuary analysis, rock art studies, and EDXRF analysis. Loendorf has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Arizona State University.

date push-back for Middle Stone Age in East Africa

Several media reported on findings by archaeologists from research in Olorgesailie, Kenya, that has revealed the development of smaller, more finely crafted stone tools around 320,000 years ago. National Public Radio (U.S.) quotes Rick Potts, one of the co-authors and director of the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History’s Human Origins Program since 1985: “These tools were designed for specific purposes — some were used as blades, some as scrapers or spear heads.” The diversity of stone tools from the Middle Stone Age suggests advanced thinking and planning. “The flakes are being much more carefully prepared for a particular purpose,” says Alison Brooks, professor of anthropology at George Washington University and a co-author. BBC’s coverage quoted Marta Mirazon Lahr, director of the Duckworth Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, who said that being able to “securely date” the continuous occupation of the site using argon techniques on volcanic deposits” makes Olorgesailie a key reference site for understanding human evolution in Africa…They are fairly small in size, compared to the technology of earlier people. And in addition, they are made with much finer grained material,” which allowed them to allowed them to better control shapes and sizes of the stone tools.” Elearnor Scerri, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the studies, emphasized that they are valuable in implying that “Middle Stone Age technology emerged at the same time in both eastern and northwestern Africa.” Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London agrees: “This makes me think that the Middle Stone Age probably already existed in various parts of Africa by 315,000 years ago, rather than originating in one place at that time and then spreading.” Findings are reported in three articles in the journal Science.

phone addiction is hard-wired

The Independent (U.K.) reported on research lead by Samuel Veissière, assistant professor in McGill University’s department of psychiatry and anthropology, arguing that the excessive amount of time people spend on phones is not due to an addiction to notifications, but because of an evolutionary need for sociality. In other words, the social expectations and rewards related to phone use drives seemingly obsessive behavior. Further, people use phones to connect with others because they are hardwired to find the easiest way to do things: “We crave simplicity and minimal effort, using the least amount of cognitive energy possible. It requires less energy to text than to speak.” Findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

in memoriam

Saba Mahmood, professor of anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, has died at the age of 56 years. A sociocultural anthropologist and scholar of modern Egypt, Mahmood joined the Berkeley faculty in 2004. She was affiliated with the university’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Critical Theory, and the Institute for South Asia Studies where she was instrumental in creating the Berkeley Pakistan Studies Initiative, the first of its kind in the United States. Amid increasingly shrill scholarship denouncing Muslim societies, Mahmood, a native of Pakistan, brought an informed and nuanced understanding of Islam into discussions of feminist theory, ethics, and politics. Her publications and presentations are credited with profoundly shaping the scholarship of a new generation of scholars who are bringing a critical approach to understanding religion in modernity.

Shalardchai Ramitanondh one of Thailand’s most respected anthropologists and a prominent advocate of women’s rights for half a century, has died at the age of 75 years. After receiving an M.A. in cultural anthropology from Cornell University in 1973, he began teaching at Chiang Mai University in its department of sociology and anthropology. In addition to his teaching, he played a vital role in promoting community forest programs that enabled ethnic-minority villagers to live in and protect forests. He supported the work of his partner Virada Somswasdi, who he met at Cornell, in founding the first Women’s Study Centre in Thailand at Chiang Mai University in 1986. He tirelessly contributed his time to the center until his last days.

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