The Montreal Gazette carried an op-ed by Roger Lancaster, professor of anthropology and cultural studies at George Mason University, and author of Sex Panic and the Punitive State. He comments on the rise of “fake news” and its circulation, especially as related to imputed sex-related crimes: “We have good reason to think that the role of fakery is expanding in the public sphere. Part of this expansion has to do with the speeding-up of communication, its dissemination through networks that lack protocols or fact-checking. This is part of the long story of modernity. Fear and confusion propagate faster through radio and television than by way of mass-produced broadsides or fliers; the Internet is a more efficient means of converting anecdote into evidence and rumour into “fact” than was the Hearst newspaper chain of yesteryear.”
big deal phone call
In a guest column in The Orlando Sentinel, Robert Moore, professor emeritus of anthropology at Rollins College in Florida, comments on the recent phone call that president-elect Trump had with the president of Taiwan:“The relationship between China and the U.S. is likely to be the world’s most significant vortex of diplomacy for at least the next few decades…Thanks to that phone call, we might do well to take a good look at Taiwan, one area in which America’s and Beijing’s interests do not perfectly coincide. Whether we view Taiwan as a province of China (which is what our One-China policy requires) or as an independent, self-governing entity (which, in reality, it is), we have to admire it for its robust, democratic institutions.”
Quartz published an article about the changing use and meaning of the term tongzhi, “comrade,” in China. Originating in the early Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.E), the word tongzhi was a common form of address during China’s Communist Revolution of 1921-1949. The article quotes linguistic anthropologist Andrew Wong, associate professor at the University of California East Bay, who says that the term “signalled solidarity, equality, respect, and intimacy among the revolutionaries.” With the emergence of a market economy starting in 1978, the term’s popularity waned. In the late 1990s, Chinese gay people began to use tongzhi as a term of address, it is still in use today. Party rules published earlier in November outline stricter party governance, including the revival of the use of tongzhi to promote an atmosphere of social equality. In the meantime, complications will arise given the ongoing and widespread use of the term among gay people. [Blogger’s note: for related reading, see Tiantian Zheng’s ethnography, Tongzhi Living: Men Attracted to Men in Postsocialist China].
well worth revisiting
The Philadelphia Inquirer carried a review of a two-volume, edited set of works by Loren Eiseley. Eiseley, who died in 1977, was the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The Library of America and editor William Cronon have presented his work in Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos that “serves as a treasure trove of 20th-century science writing.” The review goes on to say that Eiseley had “a singular voice in American letters, one well worth revisiting.”
The article quotes Nancy Khalil, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at Harvard: Years ago, she remembered “trying to explain who we really are, in these really anxious, tense meetings” with Jewish leaders, who were then trying to reconcile their desire for better interfaith relations with their communities’ concerns about a mosque founder’s anti-Semitic statements and alleged extremist ties.
“It was an unbelievable moment for me, and it was really indicative of the type of relationships that we now have across institutions and across communities,” Khalil said. “Because it wasn’t just the leaders being welcoming … It was everybody in that temple being welcoming. And that Muslims were comfortable staying there and mingling afterwards, that was telling.”
• U.S. evangelical churches reach out to save minds as well as souls
In an op-ed in The New Times, Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University professor of cultural anthropology at Stanford University, writes about some movement in U.S. evangelical churches moving into the area of mental illness.
She notes the pastor Rick Warren, whose son committed suicide one year ago after struggling with depression. Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of the nation’s largest evangelical churches, teamed up with his local Roman Catholic Diocese and the National Alliance on Mental Illness for an event that announced a new initiative to involve the church in the care of serious mental illness.
According to Luhrmann, the churches are not trying to supplant traditional mental health care but instead complement it: “When someone asks, Should I take medication or pray?” one speaker remarked, “I say, ‘yes.’”
Members of the churches think there are not enough services available. Further, many people do not turn to the services that exist because of the social stigma. [Blogger’s note: In other words: all hands on deck to help fight mental health problems. And heads up to the health care system to do more and do better work and try to address the stigma problem.]
National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on the role of cultural anthropology in efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola in Guinea.
Doctors, nurses and epidemiologists from international organizations are flying in to help, along with cultural anthropologists. Understanding local beliefs can help get communities to trust international health care workers, says Barry Hewlett, a medical anthropologist at Washington State University. Hewlett was invited to join the Doctors Without Borders Ebola team during an outbreak in Uganda in 2000. There are anthropologists on the current team in Guinea as well.
Before the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders started bringing in anthropologists, medical staff had a difficult time convincing families to bring their sick loved ones to clinics and isolation wards. In Uganda, Hewlett remembers, people were afraid of the international health care workers: “The local people thought that the Europeans in control of the isolation units were in a body parts business … Their loved ones would go into the isolation units, and they would never see them come out.”
Health care workers did not always promptly notify relatives of a death because of the need to dispose of the body quickly, Hewlett wrote in a report on his experiences in Uganda: “The anger and bad feelings about not being informed were directed toward health care workers in the isolation unit … This fear could have been averted by allowing family members to see the body in the bag and allowing family members to escort the body to the burial ground.” In addition, Hewlett points out that the large tarps surrounding isolation units were removed so family members could see and talk with a sick relative.
Efforts to contain such outbreaks must be “culturally sensitive and appropriate,” Hewlett says. “Otherwise people are running away from actual care that is intended to help them.” Medical anthropologists can help doctors and other medical experts understand how a local population perceives disease, death, and loss. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/7/14”→
This new Equality Now report analyzes the legal position of child marriage, both the existing laws and the degree to which they are enforced, in 18 countries. As analysis shows that child marriage traps many girls in a system of violence and discrimination, the report calls on all governments to support a comprehensive response to end child marriage and ensure a girl is healthy, safe, educated and empowered.
“What if instead of being treated as someone’s property to be betrothed, raped, abused, sold, with no power over her destiny, a girl is healthy, safe, educated, and empowered? What if instead she has the ability to freely make informed decisions regarding whom, when and if she marries, and when and if she wants to have children? What if instead she is respected and valued by her community and is educated, able to pursue a non-exploitative career, able to invest in the economy and participate politically in a non-discriminatory atmosphere, able to live her life to the fullest based on her own choices and abilities?
Equality Now’s report illustrates the impact of child marriage on a girl’s young life through case studies of Jamila married at age 10 and Sahar married at age 12 in Afghanistan; Perpetua married off at birth in Cameroon; Leila and Adriana both married at 14 in Guatemala; Asma in India married at 15; Rawan married at 16 in Jordan, Evelyn in Kenya who escaped marriage at 14 years old; Beatrice married at 14 in Malawi, Mariam married at 14 in Mali; Khadijetou married at 8 and Minetou married at 12 in Mauritania; Dewan in Papua New Guinea who barely escaped marriage, Hind from Syria married at 14; and Lulu married at 14 in Tanzania. These were provided by our local partners who also made recommendations to their governments on critical steps needed to tackle the issue. The report calls on all governments to support a comprehensive response to end child marriage and ensure a girl is healthy, safe, educated and empoweredand her rights are protected.
This report was written in conjunction with research carried out by law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, in many cases with the assistance of local counsel, looking into the legal position of child marriage and surrounding issues in 18 countries. The country reports look at not only the pure legal provisions relating to age of marriage, but also the extent to which they have been enforced, if at all, and the law and practice of some related issues including laws relating to bride price/dowry; statutory rape laws that are circumvented through marriage; availability of child protection services when escaping child marriage; legal requirements for registration of birth and/or marriage; and, schooling for girls. They also identify the intersection between child marriage and other social and legal issues, such as gender-based violence, human trafficking, exploitation, nationality, FGM, force feeding, etc.
The picture presented by this legal research is not encouraging. It indicates that, once married, a girl is often trapped in a system where she is at risk of further violence and discrimination. What is critical are concerted efforts by governments to prevent child marriage and stop the suffering and lost potential of millions of girls around the world.”
Who: Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists
Where: Charles Sumner School, corner of 17th St and M St NW, Washington, DC
When: February 4 | 7:00pm
News articles in the post-9/11 moment have referenced the fact that Muslim populations are growing outside of the Middle East and North Africa. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the Muslim population in the United States is expected to double by 2030. After the tragic events of September 11th, the migration and reproduction of Muslims raises concern about the potential for terrorist acts by fundamentalist groups who have settled in places like the United States, Canada, or Europe. It is reasonable to suggest that Muslim fertility has become a political matter in the United States and a topic of popular and scholarly importance. Islamic doctrine has frequently been interpreted (or seen as being interpreted) as prohibiting family planning, but there is no set interpretation of the Qur’an and sacred texts. The interpretation is open depending upon the person (or group) reading or teaching the doctrine and where this is taking place. Muslims’ reproduction and more importantly their bodies have become the subjects of political and popular scrutiny in part to prevent the international threat of violence by future generations.
In this presentation will explore the ways in which Islam has been interpreted as encouraging the use of family planning and reproductive health care, and along the way, it will complicate our understandings of neoliberalism. In it, I will present data that I collected through extended ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco in order to analyze the relationship between reproductive health, development policy, and popular Islamic beliefs. Responsibility and self-governance are two traits often associated with neoliberal citizenship in scholarly and popular discourses and are clearly the goals of the National Initiative for Human Developmentundefineda program launched in Morocco in 2005 that makes social development and improving citizens’ lives top political priorities. The program is based upon the premise that if the government provides the proper tools and knowledge, it is the citizens’ responsibility to use them to reach their full potentials. Through an analysis of childbearing and childrearing practices of urban Moroccan women living in and near the capital of Rabat, I demonstrate that these women are active in their own governance and accountable for their reproductive behaviors, and in addition, they take advantage of the reproductive health services offered in Morocco, but they did not do this at the behest of the government’s policy, they did so because of their understandings of what Islam says about fertility and motherhood. I suggest that their engagement with religious discourses and teachings illustrates that modern contraception and reproductive health care are pious in nature because they allow women to put their Islamic beliefs of proper womanhood and motherhood into practices, especially being able to provide a quality life for themselves and their children.
Cortney Hughes Rinker earned her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at George Mason University and is the director of graduate studies in Anthropology. She conducted long-term research (2005-2009) on reproductive health care among working-class women in Rabat, Morocco. She focused on the ways the country’s new development policies impact how childbearing and childrearing practices are promoted to women and how women incorporate these practices into their ideas of citizenship. Before joining George Mason, Cortney was a postdoctoral fellow at the Arlington Innovation Center for Health Research at Virginia Tech where she worked in conjunction with a healthcare organization in southwest Virginia developing projects to improve the quality of end-of-life care and psychiatric services in rural Appalachia. She is currently engaged in a new study on the role of Islam in end-of-life care within the context of the US health care system and is looking at the ways that Islamic medical ethics and popular Islamic beliefs intersect with health policy and discourses in the United States and recommendations for care at the end-of-life. Ethnographic research for her new project has led her to develop a second smaller study on the use of religious apps for the iPhone and other devices to help people develop and/or live out their faith. She is the author of Islam, Development, and Urban Women’s Reproductive Practices (Routledge, 2013) and has published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, the Arab Studies Journal, Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health, and Military Medicine. A chapter of hers appears in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium (Indiana University Press, 2013) and she has been a guest on WVTF Roanoke to discuss end-of-life care.
This new UN Women Report, produced by the organization’s Country Office in Afghanistan, records women’s experiences with violence over three decades of conflict.
“The untold stories of Afghan women who have suffered great violence in the past three decades of the country’s turbulent history have been documented by UN Women in a report produced by its Country office in Afghanistan. The report provides a ‘voice to those denied a place in official history’ and chronicles the personal memories and recollections of women who have either experienced sexual and physical violence, witnessed that of a close family member, or indirectly suffered as a consequence of it, during the years of conflict.
Harrowing tales of sexual violence during the years of conflict are a grim reminder of the suffering that Afghan women have experienced. As one woman puts it: ‘We have all suffered.’
The testimonies contained in the report cover the timespan between 1978, when Soviet Union tanks rolled into Afghanistan, up until 2008. The reporting itself took place between December 2007 and June 2008 in seven provinces: Kabul, Kandahar, Jowzjan, Balkh, Bamyan, Daikundi and Herat.”
The recent French interventions in Libya and Mali, and the most recent one in the Central African Republic, raise the question of the very existence of the state on the continent according to Jean-Loup Amselle, an anthropologist and director of Studies at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris.
In an article in Worldcrunch, Anselle refers to classic studies by anthropologists that identified the existence in precolonial times of two types of societies: state societies represented by kingdoms and empires, and segmentary lineage societies, organized in tribes.
He states that the former’s characteristics are very different from those of the rational bureaucratic state, which one can observe nowadays in most developed countries.
For example, the Malian state machinery, like that of many other African countries, is “riddled by networks that feed on the range of resources available on the continent: mining and oil as well as international aid and drug trafficking.” The functioning of such networks is based on Marcel Mauss‘ theories of reciprocity and gift exchange, set out in his 1924 essay The Gift.
• G8 aid pledge for nutrition in developing countries
In June, the G8 Nutrition for Growth Summit pledged a landmark $4.15 billion to combat malnutrition in the developing world, the largest sum ever pledged to support nutrition. Nevertheless, a pledge is just a pledge, and a key step is to ensure the committed funds are realized. Then comes the implementation.
An article from Think Africa quotes Elizabeth Hull, a nutrition specialist and anthropology lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, as noting that the funding compact contains “a strong emphasis on private-sector principles such as value for money and so on … The approach promoted seems to be very ‘outcomes’ focused.”
[Blogger’s note: six months after the pledge of $4.15 billion, it appears that only a fraction of that amount is actually a secure commitment; and experts say that even the full pledge level is far short of what is needed to solve malnutrition in low income countries].
• “The thieving craft” redeemed
A review in the Australian of a new exhibit, “Yirrkala Drawings,” in Sydney praises the richness and beauty of art works displayed and provides some context of how they were collected.
Cultural anthropologist Ron Berndt conducted fieldwork in Arnhem Land, one of the five regions of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the early-mid twentieth century. His goal was the creation of a record of clan beliefs and the links between place and story-cycle. At the same time, he collected many drawings and marked down the drawings with numerals referring to expositions about them in his notebooks.
This is the first formal display of the large body of the drawings in an exhibition context, allowing for their full originality to be explored, and taken in. The principal scholar of Yolngu art history, Howard Morphy, professor of anthropology and director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University, offers an account of the works and their visual grammar in a catalog essay. Thus anthropology, that “thieving craft,” in this case, in some way, redeems itself by preserving and documenting art once taken away. Yirrkala Drawings is at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney until February 23, 2013.
• Violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada: stop it
Canada paused on Friday to remember the 14 young Montreal women who were murdered by a misogynistic madman. As part of the tribute, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition unveiled a public art display of shoes in the square at City Hall to illustrate the lifetime loss of girls and women who are fatal victims of violence, often domestic abuse that forces them out onto the streets.
An article in The Toronto Star quoted Marlene McKay, a Métis anthropologist who has studied marginalized aboriginal women as well as the “broken women from Saskatoon’s 20th Street.” She said that history has inflicted so much pain and lowered the self-worth of Canada’s aboriginal women that the fact hundreds are missing has become little more than a sociological footnote. Feminism, she says, is still pretty much an F-word in indigenous culture: “We are just entering that conversation.”
• Belize in the news
The Huffington Post carried an interview with Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, Mayanist, tourism lecturer at a junior college, and one of Belize’s top tour guides. Awe shares facts and ideas about Belize’s history, culture, ecotourism, economy and sustainable development.
An open-access article in The International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, reports on findings from a study conducted in two cities of Iran with 270 married women aged 18-45 years.
Responses were evaluated according to some established scales such as the Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women. The authors frame their study within the assumption that women’s sexual well-being is related to marital and family well-being and quality of life in general.
The authors point out that many studies in developed countries show a positive association between education and women’s well-being. In contrast, some studies in Iran have suggested that higher education is not clearly a positive factor in women’s psychological and sexual well-being. Findings from the study indicate that more education for women is not associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction and well-being.
Not to be too flippant, but as many studies have shown around the world, it’s difficult for women to “have it all.” Perhaps the studies from Iran indicate a complex ongoing transition in which women and men are juggling new roles and aspirations.