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Anthropology Update 13 June 2012

Anthropology update. There seems to be a loose theme around issues of medical anthropology, illness, and health. For the last three links, I’ve made additional notes toward an opportunity for anthropological perspective or critique.

Philip Tobias: 1925-2012, Adam Van Arsdale
The most important part of Tobias’ career is almost certainly not his fossil work, but rather his strong stands against apartheid made from within the South African academic system. . . . Tobias, by all accounts, was a highly respected anatomist who made important contributions to our understanding of human evolutionary history through his research. But he also offers an example of how, as academics, our research is not the only product we produce, we also provide an example of practice. Tobias put into practice his research by actively recruiting and hiring black South Africans at the Univ. of Witswatersrand at a time when such choices put him in direct conflict with prevailing political and legal doctrine.

The Pleistocene Scene, 12 June 2012

Purity is not a genetic reality, Adam Van Arsdale
Cultural categories form the basis of our identified genetic categories, not the other way around. . . . There is no such thing as genetic purity. It could not possibly be identified if it did exist, but biology does not create purity, it creates a constantly changing array of variation.

The Pleistocene Scene, 12 June 2012

Medical Anthropology and Its View of the Patient (Society for Medical Anthropology), SfAA 2012 conference podcasts
SINGER, Merrill (UConn) What Is a Patient?
CASTRO, Arachu, HEYMANN, Marilyn, and BETTINI, Anna (Harvard Med Sch) Life and Death Trajectories of Pregnant Women with Obstetric Complications in the Dominican Republic
PAGE, J. Bryan (U Miami), SALAZAR FRAILE, José (Generalitat Valenciana), BROWN, David (Florida Int’l U), and SEMPERE VERDU, Ermengol (Generalitat Valenciana) Depression and Primary Care in Miami and Valencia: A Tale of Two Systems
LUBORSKY, Mark and LICHTENBERG, Peter (Wayne State U) Patients, Persons, and Sovereignty: Adjudicating Moral, Legal and Clinical Authority in Delegitimizing Decisional Competence
SOLIMEO, Samantha (US Dept of Veterans Affairs) The Patient Centered Medical Home and the Nature of the Clinical Gaze: How Patient-Centered Care Changes Professional Identity

In Memoriam, Robert T. O’Brien, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina Christopher Carrico, Staci Bustle, David M. Hughes and Anna Melton
Robert Thomas O’Brien, 44 (born October 2, 1967) was PhD Candidate at the Anthropology Department of Temple University. He was Assistant Instructor of Anthropology at Rutgers University (Jan 2007-Sept 2011), Adjunct Professor at the Department of Culture and Communications of Drexel University (Jan 2003-June 2009) and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Anthropology of Temple University (Sept. 1999-Dec 2006). He was the author of “Unemployment and Disposable Workers in Philadelphia: Just How Far Have the Bastards Gone?” published in 2006 in the journal Ethnos, 71:2, and was the co-author, with Judith Goode, of “Whose Social Capital? How Economic Development Projects Disrupt Social Relations,” a chapter in Social Capital in the City (Richardson Dilworth, ed., 2006).

Health in the Andes, Joslyn O.
Edited by Joseph W. Bastien and John M. Donahue, Health in the Andes was first published by the American Anthropological Association in 1981. The book includes chapters on Andean ethnomedicine and the metaphorical relations between sickness societies and land. This printed book is available in the AAA online store at a special member price of $12.00

Announcements: June 12, 2012, Morgan Philbin
Conferences, Call for Papers, Call for Abstracts, and other Announcements from a collaborative website covering the intersections of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, cultural psychiatry, psychology and bioethics.

Somatosphere, 12 June 2012

Delayed paternal age of reproduction in humans is associated with longer telomeres across two generations of descendants, M. Geoffrey Hayesa Dan T. A. Eisenberg, and Christopher W. Kuzawaa
The lengthening of telomeres predicted by each year that the father’s or grandfather’s reproduction are delayed is equal to the yearly shortening of TL seen in middle-age to elderly women in this sample, pointing to potentially important impacts on health and the pace of senescent decline in tissues and systems that are cell-replication dependent. This finding suggests a mechanism by which humans could extend late-life function as average age at reproduction is delayed within a lineage.
Note: This study seems related to the big release on Testosterone Anthropology in 2011. Press coverage has been even stranger for this one, in some cases highlighting a “genetic programming” for longevity and the idea that this evolutionarily promotes older men to seek younger women.

How geography shapes cultural diversity, Zoe Corbyn
One reason that Eurasian civilizations dominated the globe is because they came from a continent that was broader in an east–west direction than north–south, claimed geographer Jared Diamond in his famous 1997 book Guns, Germs and Steel. Now, a modelling study has found evidence to support this ‘continental axis theory’. . . . But others who are sceptical of the continental axis theory say that the study does little or nothing to strengthen its case. Language is a poor proxy for something as all-encompassing as culture, says John McNeill, a historian at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Many countries are either so small that the axis-length component of cultural diversity is negligible, or they are so close to square or round that it is hard to imagine a little extra length in one direction or another making much difference.
Note: I find myself supporting the skeptics at the end of the article. Something about the categories of country and language diversity just don’t seem to make this a “test of hypothesis.”

Nature, 11 June 2012

Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere, Anthony D. Barnosky et al.
Anthropology Update 13 June 2012Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.
Note: This seems ripe for anthropological analysis, both in terms of understanding the specifics of particular “tipping points” and industrialized or globalized landscapes, but also potentially qualifying the idea that it is only human activity which transforms the earth.

Nature, 7 June 2012


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