Pilapa Esara Carroll, associate professor of anthropology at the College at Brockport of the State University of New York, co-authored an op-ed in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY) about the need to end refugee-phobia: “We urge our political leaders to refrain from viewing potential U.S. citizens as threats to our nation. Legislation to halt refugee resettlement and to add more bureaucracy to the refugee vetting process are band-aid responses to complex international problems. Neither legislative acts address the root causes of the Syrian war or the mass displacement of Syrians.”
The human nature of peace
An article in the Huffington Post draws on cultural anthropologist Douglas Fry of the University of Alabama, with a focus on his new edited book War, Peace and Human Nature. According to the article, Fry summarizes the findings of decades of research on peaceful societies around the world and argues that assumptions about the war-like nature of humans and the inevitability of war are both erroneous and yet deeply ingrained in American culture. A clear alternative vision of a peaceful society is therefore needed. Research has found that when societies define themselves as peaceful, they are much more likely to behave and organize themselves in a consistent manner. Iceland, Denmark, Canada, and Norway provide good examples.
A traditional African food crop is money in the bank
An article in Deutsche Welle described the importance of enset, a staple crop in parts of Ethiopia, in the past and future, given the effects of climate change in the region. Endemic to Ethiopia, the plant has been cultivated there for more than 7,000 years. Often called the “false banana” because of its similarity to the banana tree, it can withstand droughts as well as heavy rains. The article quotes Gebre Ynitso, associate professor in the department of social anthropology at Addis Ababa University: “[As a child] I would play hide-and-go seek in the dense enset plantation.” He helped his parents transplant the enset and made toys out of its roots. He and his fellow villagers tended the towering plant and harvested its roots and leaves for food and collected its fibers to weave into hats, sacks, and mattresses. “No part of the plant went to waste…One of the unique qualities of the enset is that it will always be around as a backup plan,” he said. “It’s like money in the bank.”
Cultural context of mental illness
The New York Times published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University Professor at Stanford University. She writes about how cultural context affects definitions of mental illness in Chicago, the U.S., and Chennai, India. From her perspective as an American, she notes: “If psychotic homelessness were an easy problem to solve, we would have already done so. But we aren’t going to do so until we recognize that the streets in different places have their own cultures. To reach the people who need our help we need to understand what it means to be crazy in their world.” Luhrmann highlights the work of a local NGO in Chennai, called The Banyan, which is help homeless women and their families.
“Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing from China. When that money comes due and, this isn’t racist, so try it, try it anyway, this isn’t racist, but it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due. Right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master.”