A piece on National Public Radio (U.S.) reported on how the coconut industry in Thailand thrives on the use of the labor of trained monkeys. Some observers claim that this work constitutes animal abuse. Skeptics of allegations of abuse include Leslie Sponsel, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Hawaii: “…the monkeys are very similar to family pets, and for some households, even like family members to some degree. Young ones are trained, and they are kept on a chain tethered to the handler or to a shelter when not working. They are fed, watered, bathed, groomed and otherwise cared for. They often ride to the coconut palm plantation on the back of a motor bike or in a cart driven by the handler…That is not to say that there is never any cruelty or mistreatment.” Sponsel added that overall he respects “the poor farmers and others who are just trying to survive and prosper in support of their families.” A trained monkey can pick an average 1,000 coconuts a day while a human can manage to pick 80.
Domino effect of violence in northern Afghanistan
Al Jazeera published an op-ed by Morwari Zafar, a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the University of Oxford and visiting scholar in the Institute of Global and International Studies at the George Washington University. She argues that violence in northern Afghanistan threatens the country’s vulnerable populations and jeopardizes stability in the country as a whole. Faryab province used to be a stable, economically self-sufficient home to nearly one million multiethnic inhabitants: “But today, Faryab simmers dangerously. Against the backdrop of the US government’s latest extension of its military commitment to Afghanistan, it is worth noting that the province is precariously situated along the same political fault lines that recently rattled Kunduz province.”
Refugees in Europe: Care is reasonable and possible
Bloomberg News carried an article on the European refugee crisis, noting that Europe appears to be swinging between two responses: xenophobia and a compassionate pragmatism. Most migration experts agree that a longer-term solution will require the participation of Canada and the U.S. It draws on commentary from Dawn Chatty, a professor of anthropology and former director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She reminds us that, to deal with the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the 1980s, “the biggest countries got together, and between them they divvied up a million boat people and resettled them. It’s reasonable and possible.”
In an article in the Huffington Post, Christa Craven, assistant professor of anthropology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and chair of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the College of Wooster, takes on campus jokes about sexual violence. Pointing out what should be unnecessary – that such jokes are not funny — she offers steps to address this widespread and enduring problem.
Craven, who has been threatened as a professor, writes: “What bothers me the most about my experiences…is that over the past 20 years, I see little difference in how we — as a society and in many campus communities — are responding to sexual violence and threats of violence. Many continue to see violence as an essential part of masculinity and adopt the naïve (and often dangerous) stance that ‘boys will be boys.’”
WBUR (Boston NPR) highlighted the research of Shalini Shankar, sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist at Northwestern University, in an article on the May 28 results of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her current research examines the growth and proliferation of spelling competitions, specifically how they have become a mass-mediated, sport-like spectacle, why South Asian American children dominate them, and how spelling bee franchises are being exported to other countries leading to further commodification of the English language. Shankar is conducting fieldwork in the New York City area on spelling bees, spellers and their families, broadcasters such as ESPN and SONY TV, spelling bee production companies, and the Scripps Foundation. Continue reading “anthro in the news 6/1/15”→