anthro in the news 6/4/18

Bikini Bottom. Credit: Encyclopedia Spongebobia

Bikini Bottom matters: More than SpongeBob

The Conversation (U.S.) published commentary by Holly M. Barker, senior lecturer in anthropology at the University of Washington, republished in The Hour (Norwalk, Connecticut). Barker draws a connection between the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants and his home, Bikini Bottom: “’Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?’ My anthropology class replied, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’ Their thunderous response filled the auditorium. Nearly 20 years ago, the underwater world of SpongeBob and his quirky, colorful friends debuted as a cartoon. The cultural icon is now a Broadway musical, up for 12 Tony awards. My follow-up question, however, was met with silence: I asked students what they could tell me about the real Bikini Bottom. Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob’s fictional home, is based on an actual place in the Pacific Ocean. But how much do most Americans know of the real-life Bikini Atoll, the location of 23 U.S. nuclear weapons tests during the Cold War era?”

Indian-Americans are top spellers

Cousin Reginald Spells Peloponnesus. Credit: Norman Rockwell, 1918. Credit: Public domain, Google Art Project

Big Think (New York) reported that Karthik Nammani is the 14th-consecutive Indian-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship, noting a pattern that may be explained in part by a cultural emphasis on education, and the existence of a spelling bee circuit exclusively for spellers of South-Asian descent. The article quotes Shalini Shankar, associate professor of anthropology and Asian-American studies at Northwestern University: “Among the elite classes in India, both economically and socially elite, there’s a real emphasis on education and the use of education for social mobility. It’s not so different from other places in the world, but it’s certainly quite prevalent there. So I think that value is one that gets very magnified when you look at what Indian-American populations actually emigrated.”

what works: lessons from Japan about elder care

The Conversation (U.K.) published commentary by Iza Kavedžija, lecturer in anthropology at the University of Exeter, republished by Metro News (U.K.): “In anticipation of a UK green paper on social care for older people, the Nuffield Trust published a report claiming that ‘England could learn lessons from Japan to address social care crisis’, with a range of recommendations for the provision of care to the elderly.”

family tomb excavated near Rome

The New York Times reported on the archaeological excavation of a tomb near Rome, Italy, dated between 335 and 312 B.C.E. The family tomb is distinctive “because it remained intact, and was never violated,” said the archaeologist Stefano Musco, scientific director of the project. The quality of the black-glazed pottery found next to the skeletons — a variety of bowls and plates, some bearing mini-skeletons of animals suggest that the owners of the tomb were of a privileged social class. Archaeologists have begun removing the remains of the occupants and the artifacts which will be sent to a laboratory for research, including DNA testing on the skeletons to determine the familial connection.

family tomb excavated near Rome

The New York Times reported on the archaeological excavation of a tomb near Rome, Italy, dated between 335 and 312 B.C.E. The family tomb is distinctive “because it remained intact, and was never violated,” said the archaeologist Stefano Musco, scientific director of the project. The quality of the black-glazed pottery found next to the skeletons — a variety of bowls and plates, some bearing mini-skeletons of animals suggest that the owners of the tomb were of a privileged social class. Archaeologists have begun removing the remains of the occupants and the artifacts which will be sent to a laboratory for research, including DNA testing on the skeletons to determine the familial connection.

marriage as a “capstone” project 

Rings. Credit: emmagrau/Pixabay/Creative Commons

An article in The New York Times covered relationship trends among young adults in the U.S. It quoted Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who is a consultant to the dating site Match.com. She coined the phrase “fast sex, slow love” to describe the juxtaposition of casual sexual liaisons and long-simmering committed relationships. Young adults are not only marrying and having children later in life than previous generations, but taking more time to get to know each other before they marry. Some spend the up to a decade as friends or romantic partners before marrying, according to new research by eHarmony, another online dating site. Just as childhood and adolescence are becoming more protracted in the modern era, so is courtship and the path to commitment. Fisher is quoted as saying: “With this long pre-commitment stage, you have time to learn a lot about yourself and how you deal with other partners. So that by the time you walk down the aisle, you know what you’ve got, and you think you can keep what you’ve got.”

in memoriam

Social anthropologist Michael Banton has died at the age of 92 years. Banton taught social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh from 1954 to 1965. political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1962 to 1963. and sociology at the University of Bristol from 1965 to 1992. He was President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland from 1987 to 1989. While Banton was concerned with the improvement of concepts and theories in social anthropology, he also wrote about measures for the reduction of racial discrimination. He served as an elected member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from 1986 to 2001 and as its chairman from 1996 to 1998. He was honored by a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the British Sociological Association. One of his several books, What We Now Know about Race and Ethnicity, recently became available as open access.

Social anthropologist Peter Morton-Williams has died at the age of 95 years. A former pro-vice chancellor of Ulster University, he worked for many years in Nigeria and Ghana and was a leading authority on the history and culture of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. His many academic publications about West African society, include An Outline of the Cosmology and Cult Organization of the Oyo Yoruba. Long into his retirement he was frequently consulted by students, academics, and others, including museums and auction houses who sought his advice on West African artefacts.

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