Anthropology Update 18 June 2012
An anthropology update, with several blog-posts analyzing disjunctures between media reporting and anthropology, and a selection ranging from political economy to Pinterest.
Education, Genetic Ancestry, and Blood Pressure in African Americans and Whites, Amy L. Non, Clarence C. Gravlee and Connie J. Mulligan
Racial disparities in blood pressure may be better explained by differences in education than by genetic ancestry. Future studies of ancestry and disease should include measures of the social environment.
Summer Reading Series: Tricia Wang’s List
I’ve chosen several ethnographic monographs about how people learn capitalism. I am quite obsessed with this topic because what I see happening in China is people learning capitalism – like learning how to be a consumer, investor, borrower, and credit card users. Insurance ads are plastered to billboards, malls are open til midnight, and teenagers are learning how to shape their identity through products. Though I’ve always felt helpless when I am observing “capitalism.” Coming from a sociology department, I’ve been heavily trained in Marxist theory. Marxism helps me understand how labor is a commodity and how people become alienated from their own work. But Marxism doesn’t help me understand why consumers want commodities, how financial markets work, and why capitalism continuously mutates. I’ve found three monographs that addresses the questions that Marxist theory doesn’t address and that will hopefully help me better understand my field site.
Idle gossip?, Anne Buchanan
It’s interesting that this paper is getting so much notice since anyone who has taken an anthropology class in the last 50 or 100 years will know that cultural anthropologists have long recognized gossip’s function in a group. The study of gossip is the study of how people behave and this has been true at least since anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski lived and worked among the Trobriand Islanders in the early 1900s, but gossip probably came into its own as a subject of significant import in the field in the 1960s.
Ancient Urban Sustainability, Michael E. Smith
While this description is too provisional and subjective to produce definitive results, a few implications can be drawn. First, a range of factors must be considered in explaining the longevity or success of ancient cities. These include soil quality, rainfall, imperial conquests, and local demographic processes. Second, different causal factors came into play at different periods. Classic period urbanization was part of imperialism, whereas earlier cities were formed and flourished for largely environmental reasons. Third, these results suggest that if archaeologists were to assemble parallel data form other survey projects, we would learn quite a bit about why some cities flourished for many centuries while others did not.
The cradle of fly-in/fly-out reindeer herding in Europe: greetings from Khongurei, Stephan Dudeck
Knowledge does not get transmitted to the young generation anymore. Anthropologists talking with elders about that memory may become an incentive for younger people to listen–but it will never replace the practice of living as a family in the tundra.
A few questions for the anthropology grad students in the audience, Ryan Anderson
Anthropology is what we make of it. And I happen to be curious, despite some of the grim predictions about our field (and academia in general) that happen to be lurking out there, what we’re all going to do with this thing we call anthropology. So let’s hear it.
Identity Making with Pinterest, Angela K VandenBroek
The anthropologist in me finds it more interesting that, when all “real life” limits are removed from the context, our self knowledge is still shaped by them and our “in real life” selves.
Expropriate Goldman-Sachs: Jumpstart jobs for a green economy, Jason Antrosio
We need public borrowing to jumpstart job creation for a green economy. Expropriation and public ownership solves the political impasse.
Giving Marx some credit, Ryan Anderson
The NPR Planet Money blog has a new piece about the latest version of the Mastercard in Germany: The Karl Marx MasterCard.
Digging into the reportage: Archaeology and the media, John R. Roby
Two examples of recent stories on archaeological topics: the possibility that Neandertals made at least some cave paintings in prehistoric Europe; and a claim that bones from the biblical John the Baptist have been found in Bulgaria. I’ll go through the reported evidence for the claim, and talk a bit about what I mean by looking critically at the evidence and conclusions, and the space between them.
What Did the Amazon Look Like Before European Contact?, Heather Pringle
Michael Heckenberger, an archaeologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, adds that the study serves as a badly needed reality check to much of the blue-skying of the past, when researchers developed sweeping models for the entire Amazon region, an area roughly the size of the continental United States. “We’ve really just scratched the surface in this region [archaeologically]”, Heckenberger concludes, “and I think we need to be very cautious in creating highly generalized models of what such a vast areas would have been like.”
Call for Papers: Child raising across cultures, Special Issue Editor Jock Wong
Anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists have written a large volume of books and journal articles about parenting in a diverse range of cultures. These studies have contributed immensely to our understanding of the cultural beliefs and values in a variety of cultures. However, most of these studies unintentionally describe these beliefs and values in ethnocentric terms. This is because language and culture are inextricably linked, and when we use a language to describe another language or culture, we run the risk of imposing the categories and values of the metalanguage onto the object of study. . . . A forum to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Intercultural Communication Research in 2013 will be organized to discuss child raising practices in various cultures. We invite contributions that focus on linguistic aspects of child raising practices.