anthro in the news 9/14/15


Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe [source: Al Jazeera]
Refugees from Syria arrive in Europe (Photo from Al Jazeera)

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.”

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DC event: Building Inclusive Climate-Smart Resilience from the Ground Up

Myanmar Advanced Leadership Institute on Climate Change for
Government Officials and Civil Society Leaders

Building Inclusive Climate-Smart Resilience from the Ground Up
featuring Mr. Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience, Wilson Center

A bustling market in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo credit: Sandi Moynihan

When: Thursday, November 13, 2014, 5:30pm- 7:30pm

Where: The Elliott School of International Affairs, Lindner Family Commons Room 602
1957 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052

Light refreshments will be provided.

Seating is limited! RSVP now at:

This event is part of the Myanmar Advanced Leadership Institute on Climate Change (MALICC), which brings a delegation of 14 government officials and civil society leaders to Washington. MALICC builds on a two-year partnership between PISA and ALARM, Myanmar’s leading environmental organization, in order to help mainstream climate change into the nation’s policy-making.

Anthro in the news 2/3/14

  • World Bank’s development plan for Myanmar

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and trained medical anthropologist and medical doctor, published an article in The Huffington Post describing the World Bank’s three pillars of its new $2 billion multi-year public and private sector investment program in Myanmar. Noting that 70 percent of Myanmar’s people lack access to electricity, especially in rural areas, he asserts that: “We share the Government’s commitment to expanding reliable, affordable access to electricity, especially to rural areas. That’s why, over the next five years, we’re seeking to invest $1 billion dollars in Myanmar’s power sector…” [Blogger’s notes: So electricity development gets half of the total. Further, the article doesn’t specify how the electricity will be generated, but likely through constructing large hydroelectric dams.]

He then discusses the importance of investing in health, endorsing the government’s goal of “universal health coverage by 2030.” He then turns briefly to agriculture.

[Blogger’s note: Kim was in Myanmar for two days, and I have never been there. But anyone who knows anything about large-scale hydroelectric development has to know that it inevitably displaces thousands of people in rural areas, ruining their small-scale farming opportunities, reducing their food access, damaging their health in many ways, and damaging the ecology.

The World Bank has “accountability” mechanisms in place that supposedly involve close consultation with local communities. So, let’s see how it goes in Myanmar as the Bank and other external players push for economic growth through investing in the energy sector. It goes without saying that the Bank and businesses are profit-seekers: they are not charities. Let’s see if there will be sufficient attention to social justice, including truly informed consent among those displaced and fair compensation for loss of land, water/fishing rights, and other livelihood factors. No matter what, they will never see a proportional return to them from future profits that the energy sector will undoubtedly reap in the future.]

  • Hospitals defining the time to die

Cultural anthropologist Sharon Kaufman published an article in The Huffington Post on, “Defining Death: Four Decades of Ambivalence”. She discusses several cases in the U.S. in which a person was near death, hospitalized and whether they were allowed to die.

She asks what can we learn from these stories and how can we develop a clearer understanding and acceptance of death? Some first steps: “…Families need to comprehend both what the medical ventilator can do and what its limitations are. Doctors need to talk with families, to continue to provide them with compassionate care during and, perhaps most importantly, following the death of such a patient. And because a ventilator-tethered patient looks so alive, a simple declaration of death is no longer enough. Finally, medical schools need to give higher priority to teaching the communication skills that doctors will increasingly need as they confront the vortex created by unexpected death, complex technology, and the threat of litigation.”

Kaufman is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She has conducted research for 25 years on medicine, the end of life, and the social impacts of advanced medical technologies in an aging society. She is the author of the book, …And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life.

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From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern

Guest post by Julia Collins

The pounding rain muffles the sounds coming from the neighboring construction site. It is the rainy season in Southeast Asia and development season in Myanmar. With Myanmar’s recent debut on the global scene, it is the place to be for members of the development community.

World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013
Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar, 6/7/13. Photo: Sikarin Thanachaiary
In a recent edition of the Bangkok Post, Myanmar was mentioned more than three times in the business section alone. The articles reported on Japanese investment, Thai cement factories, and Norwegian sustainable tourism in Myanmar. Aid workers, foreign investors, economists, human rights activists, education specialists, you name it, everyone has caught Myanmar-fever.

The international spotlight is firmly fixed on this resource-rich, relatively untouched Southeast Asian country.

I intern at an independent policy research organization dedicated to the economic and social transformation of Myanmar. Led by Burmese economists, the think-tank recommends policies related to economic reform, poverty-reduction, and good governance. Professor Christina Fink, was instrumental in helping me find my internship. Her assistance along with the generosity of the Freeman Foundation Fellowship, enabled interning to become a reality, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I arrived in early June and am one of seven interns — four are also master’s candidates studying at Columbia’s SIPA, one is a law student from Yale and one a Burmese-American from Michigan State. We are fortunate to work alongside incredibly hardworking and intelligent Burmese research assistants, former political exiles, professors as well as a few foreign economists and lawyers. We often have internal trainings ranging from tax reform in Myanmar to media laws and hate speech to Myanmar’s role in the WTO to inform our research and endow us with a more comprehensive understanding of Myanmar’s reform process.
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