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.”
“An Ebola diagnosis need not be a death sentence. Here’s my assertion as an infectious disease specialist: If patients are promptly diagnosed and receive aggressive supportive care—including fluid resuscitation, electrolyte replacement and blood products—the great majority, as many as 90 percent, should survive.” In other words, the survival rate for the disease in the U.S. and other high income countries with good health systems should be close to that. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/27/14”→
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island) reported on a teach-in on Ebola at Brown University. Speakers included an anthropologist, an epidemiologist, a biostatistician, a community organizer and a representative from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Adia Benton, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown who specializes in the medical anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa, said the crisis is worse than statistics indicate. According to Benton, health institutions in West Africa have been gutted by war and corruption. Medical services, where they exist, are devoted to diseases such as HIV-AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, and basic supplies are lacking. The solution is to build a health system in those countries, and that takes time. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 10/13/14”→
All Africa carried an article about the arrival of Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and Partners in Health (PIH) co-founder, in Liberia, as part of a high level delegation from PIH. They are in Liberia to hold discussions with relevant partners on the outbreak and spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease. The PIH delegation, led by Farmer, is jointly in Liberia with a partner institution, Last Mile Health (LMH). The objective of the team’s visit includes seeking the guidance of the Government on the proposed set of immediate response programs to be implemented by the coalition in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the County Health Teams, including managing an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in southeastern Liberia as well as scaling up community-based interventions. The delegation will also discuss strategies for ensuring that the global response works to strengthen national and country-level institutions by building local capacity (public and private, including for community-based care for Ebola and other diseases). Continue reading “Anthro in the news 9/22/14”→
An article in The New York Times highlighted the loss of prehistoric and historic artifacts in Syria due to the ongoing conflict there. It mentioned the French archaeologists Pierre Leriche and Jean-Claude Margueron who both spent decades uncovering Syria’s rich past and how they find it too painful now to look at the present. Leriche and Margueron are just two of many archaeologists from Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and elsewhere who spent years uncovering Syria’s past. UNESCO experts and scholars in Syria describe it as a country in the process of obliterating its cultural history. The article quotes Pierre Leriche: “The situation now is absolutely terrible there.” He is a professor of archaeology at the École Normale Supérieure, one of France’s most prestigious universities, who worked for more than 25 years at a site on the Euphrates River. Noting reports of illegal excavation at about 350 places in that one site where he worked, he said: “They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/10/14”→
Several media sources connected with Jim Yong Kim during this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. According to coverage from CNN in Davos, World Bank president and medical anthropologist Jim Yong Kim has called for a concerted global effort to help Syria’s refugees, saying the international community has failed to formulate an adequate response to a “humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions…”
CNBC also reports on Kim and his view that that Southern Europe is facing the risk of losing a whole generation to chronic unemployment: “Among the things that we’re especially concerned about are the extremely high rates of youth unemployment because that has implications not just for the short term, but especially in the medium to long term.”
The Huffington Postpresents Kim’s views on pollution, noting that he has called on global leaders to address climate change: “This is the year to take action. There are no excuses.” His clarion call comes shortly after a WEF report revealed that failure to arrest, and adapt to global warming is one the greatest threats facing our planet.
More about Jim Kim: The World Bank and big dam problems
The Washington Post, in its business section, published an article about the U.S. pushing for greater oversight of the World Bank as it pushes ahead with its new plan to solve extreme poverty through major hydro-elective projects: “In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies throughout the bank’s history including the ongoing case of the displacements and human rights abuses related to the Chixoy dam in Guatemala. The measure also demands that the organization undertake ‘independent outside evaluations’ of all of its lending.” [Blogger’s note: In October, CIGA hosted a talk at the Elliott School by Barbara Rose Johnston who is a leading advocate and expert on the Chixoy dam project and the human rights abuses it involved].
Forcing women into marriage
An article in Al Jazeera on forced marriage among Hindus, Muslims, and Jews around the world, mentions the work of cultural anthropologist Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Curtis, along with some of his students, interviewed 100 students at several City University of New York campuses, focusing on students from Middle Eastern, North African and Southeast Asian (MENASA) countries to try to determine the extent of forced marriage, an issue he suspects is more widespread than what the research shows: “All that we are seeing is the ugly tip of the iceberg, but how much more is there?”
Graeber argues that by eliminating the bullshit work, people could be freed to “pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas.”
The last century in the U.S. has seen the decline of productive jobs in industry and farming along with “the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations.”
The Guardian picked up on bullshit jobs and published an article with tips about how to tell if you have a bullshit job as well as help assessing the amount of bullshit that may be involved in your not-totally-bullshit job.
• Interview with Jim Kim on Syria and more
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president and medical anthropologist, was interviewed by Bloomberg News. He discusses the possible military strike against Syria in terms of its economic consequences. He also mentions the humanitarian connection, from his perspective as a medical doctor, about the use of chemical weapons. When asked about his views on who might be the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen or Larry Summers, he said that both are excellent.