Tattersall and DeSalle

Anthropology – A plea for engagement

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Did a selective sweep through the anthropology blog feeds, and here is a sample of current anthropological contributions. The latest issue of anthropologies, Occupy & Open Access is an obvious and important starting point, but a lot of things have popped up over the last week. Please let me know if you’ve read or written something that should be added.

A special plea: some of the anthropologists featured here have written about controversial topics and are getting challenged in the comment streams. Others put forward positions that would enhance the communication of anthropology. If you have references or can make a contribution to the discussion, please consider participating. Or please use the share buttons to spread the word.

Occupy & Open Access
At heart, this whole Open Access issue is about how we communicate anthropology, and who we want to let in on the conversation. Are we only interested in talking to ourselves? Then, rest assured, nothing needs to change. But if we are truly vested in making our ideas accessible to wider audiences–including our anthropological colleagues who happen to find themselves outside of the system–it might indeed be time to rethink a few things.

A rant on race and genetics, Jonathan Marks
I have really had it with anti-intellectualism masquerading as biological science. . . . Anthropologists have been studying the nature of that difference for around a century and a half, but Coyne isn’t interested in what they’ve learned.

Anthropomics, 2 March 2012

Reconciliation & the Second Indochina War, II, Patrick F. Clarkin
I wrote this post about a year ago and I consider it one of the more meaningful things on this site. It addresses:
(1) Examples of profound case studies in reconciliation and making peace with the past (Kim Phuc and John Plummer; the My Lai massacre, Pham Thanh Cong, and William Calley; various national-level apologies for past injustices).
(2) The significance, evolution, and neurobiology of guilt and forgiveness.
(3) Lingering injustices and problems caused by the war, as well as a few reasons for optimism.

A Solutrean publicity blitz
About all the “Solutrean Paleoindian” news this week. There is no new evidence, no revelation, no reason why other archaeologists should revisit this issue at this time. The news is free publicity for the release of a book. . . . At this point, somebody reputable needs to review this and give a serious account of the book’s claims, because there’s too much hype going around.

John Hawks Weblog, 3 March 2012

Money, Money, Money–In a Cave Man’s Life?, Rosemary Joyce
Money, it turns out, occupies a very important place in our cultural life. Money is part of what makes us human. As other proposed hallmarks of human-ness have fallen by the wayside, I have yet to see a proposal that any non-human animal uses money.

What Makes Us Human, 3 March 2012

Name and Mission Statement – Open Thread, Matt Thompson
In this post I’d like to invite readers to contribute to a statement of purpose for our proposed “Digital Anthropology” group. The statement should be simple and concise, broad enough to allow some wiggle room but sufficiently narrow that it is clear how we are different.

Savage Minds, 2 March 2012

Hacia una academia de revistas libres?, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Las revistas académicas, ¿deben estar a la disposición del público en forma gratuita, o deben de estar disponibles a través de las universidades que pagan por el acceso?

1+1=3 or why holism should be rejected, Johan Normark
Why cannot we talk about a holistic view of the archaeological record? It is because all these artifacts, ruins, bones, etc. were and still are part of greater objects and these objects are in their turn part of even greater objects. There is no upper end and there is none at the bottom either. There are objects all the way, objects within objects, and so on.

The ‘MSA’ and Modern Humans: It’s Only a Matter of Time, Rob Gargett
What if we weren’t human until recently? In a way I think it lets us off the hook. After all, the first stone artifacts are 2.5 MILLION years old. If we’ve been thinking like we do now for 2.5 million years, I’d say we probably don’t deserve to survive as a species, given the mess we seem to have made of things in just a few tens of thousands of years. BUT, if we only became human give or take 40,000 years ago, and if the first 30 of those were spent coping with an ice age, that means we’ve only had about 10,000 years to figure things out. I like that better. Because I think we’re better than the long chronology paints us.

What is the Place of Emotion in Humanistic Empiricism?
As Behar’s Aunt Rebeca reminds us, anthropology is “the study of people” (Behar 1996: 4). If that is true, then how do we tell the story of people devoid of a basic component of what it means to be human? If the anthropologist is the instrument through which human realities are observed and cultural data is collected, then emotional responses which they shape the anthropologist cannot be ignored.

SydneyYeager, 2 March 2012

Vaginal pH Redux: Primate Vaginal Microbial Communities and Your Health, Kate Clancy
The interplay between the composition of the vaginal microbial community and vaginal pH is a pretty interesting one – which state drives the other? How much variation do you find among healthy women? What are the conditions under which these communities evolved or asserted themselves? (An interview with microbiologist Dr. Angel Rivera)

Context and Variation, 2 March 2012

What’s the News in News about Roles of Maya Women?, Rosemary Joyce
Shankari Patel’s dissertation, which builds on her earlier published studies, is a fully realized product of a generation of work rooted in feminist and gender studies. She explores how participation in religious practices offered the potential for women to shape a degree of autonomy, status, and authority in late prehispanic Mexico. She argues that evidence for the lives of the women she is studying was “archaeologically ignored” previously.

Race redux: What are people “tilting against”?, Jason Antrosio
Tattersall and DeSalleIf Haidt is correct about the scope and intensity of the coming battles, then my prediction is that 2012-2017 will either be when anthropology re-discovers its four-field holism and purpose–in the tradition of Franz Boas and Eric Wolf’s injunction to be Humanistic science and scientific humanism–or it will be when anthropology ceases to be a coherent discipline, eviscerated into camps that are unable to agree on a meaningful message or are simply peripheral to these debates.

The Construction of Truth, Jeremy Trombley
What I’m arguing in my paper – what I’ve argued elsewhere – is that cultural resources do not simply exist; that they must be constructed, and that it is through CRM that this is done. . . . By changing our conception of cultural resources, we can begin to see different roles for communities – they actually practice CRM themselves, not just by trying to get sites on the National Register, but by engaging in lawsuits, by protesting, through direct action, through alliance building, etc.

Mortuary Practices and Gender Ideology at Cherokee Site, Katy Meyers
Rodning’s study is interesting because it constructs gender ideology and discerns divisions by looking at changes in both mortuary patterns and domestic structures. Mortuary patterns are important in that they can reveal large amounts of political, economic and social information, but this is only valid within the larger cultural context. Death is part of the culture as a whole and must be considered from this perspective. Studies of gender especially require multiple lines of evidence to show how the ideology that structure burial patterns was pervasive throughout the society. One of the problems with doing gender based studies on burials is that sex is conflated with gender.

Bones Don’t Lie, 1 March 2012

Television shows celebrate looting , Michael E. Smith
Late last week the SAA Board was informed that there are two TV series planned that promote and glorify the looting and destruction of archaeological sites.

Publishing Archaeology, 29 February 2012

Health Insurance Reform – Society for Medical Anthropology “Takes a Stand”, Daniel Lende
The Reform document highlights important questions to consider about reform, from how health insurance is part (or not) of a social contract to the role of health policy in failed states. The draft position then examines core ways that anthropologists can contribute to the debate, from analyzing the impact of reform on the ground to studying those in power who are setting policy.

Neuroanthropology, 28 February 2012

Gaelic-medium education outcomes in Scotland, Stuart Dunmore
As has been widely documented in the sociolinguistic and anthropological literatures, minority language cultures cross the world are struggling in the early-21st century to maintain and revitalise their traditional modes of communication and culture in the face of language shift to more ‘powerful’, majority language varieties.

Cultivating leaps of faith
Nothing is settled; everything can still be altered. What was done but turned out wrong, can be done again.

parenthropology, 28 February 2012

Trying to Go Against the Grain: Teaching about the Neolithic and Civilization
While a society like the Halafian was ultimately absorbed by expanding civilizations, it’s important to note that many generations of ancient Southwest Asian folks lived farming lives in the absolute absence of the hierarchical political systems that words like “civilization” and complex society describe. Several millennia-ful of human life is nothing to gloss over.

Torso and Oblong, 27 February 2012
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