Anthropology Weekend Update 28 July 2012
I’ve been away from the anthropology blogs for a few days, so while this is not quite as big as the biggest anthropology update ever, it is still pretty sprawling, with lots of links to archaeology, biology, culture, language. I’ve inserted some notes and tried to juxtapose connections. I begin with the “Fists of Freedom” story because we are in the Olympics and because it tells the kind of overlooked and edited-out history in the spirit of Michel-Rolph Trouillot.
Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in Schools, Dave Zirin
The story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics deserves more than a visual sound bite in a quickie textbook section on “Black Power.” As the Zinn Education Project points out in its “If We Knew Our History” series, this is one of many examples of the missing and distorted history in school, which turns the curriculum into a checklist of famous names and dates. When we introduce students to the story of Smith and Carlos’ defiant gesture, we can offer a rich context of activism, courage, and solidarity that breathes life into the study of history—and the long struggle for racial equality.
Finds Them and Kills Them: Mirrors of Masculinity and Violence, Dalton Luther
This time, I added a new individual to the discussion, Osh Tisch, a member of the Crow nation who lived in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Osh Tisch fits the general concept of Two Spirit, but my students were much more taken with her than the other peoples profiled. Osh Tisch acted like an exotic prism–talking about this very different cultural institutions broke down the students’ own views on gender making them much clearer.
Genomic scientists wanted: Healthy skepticism required, Anne Buchanan
Everyone makes mistakes
…but geneticists make them more often. A Comment in this week’s Nature, “Methods: Face up to false positives” by Daniel MacArthur and accompanying editorial are getting a lot of notice around the web. MacArthur’s point is that biologists are too often too quick to submit surprising results for publication, and scientific journals too eager to get them into print. Much more eager than studies that report results that everyone expected.
Note: It’s not just geneticists–see below for a headline-grabbing study which should have never been published.
Controversial Gay-Parenting Study Is Severely Flawed, Journal’s Audit Finds, Tom Bartlett
Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale . . . was given access to all the reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. According to Sherkat, Regnerus’s paper should never have been published. His assessment of it, in an interview, was concise: “It’s bullshit,” he said.
Note: Ryan Anderson opened a discussion of this paper on Savage Minds, The Mark Regnerus Controversy & Social Science, and this kind of get-the-headline publishing is related to the genetics post above.
Changes at Ethnography.com, and an Invitation to Blog, Tony Waters
We invite you, dear reader, to submit blogs of anywhere from 200-1000 words (or so) which might be appropriate. They should have something to do with ethnography, academia, social science, or the like. . . . In other words, your ethnographic imagination is the limit—blog away.
Mom, I am now a big league blogger on Ethnography.com, James Mullooly
Take note that I am blogging on the wildly popular blog Ethnography.com. I was recently deeply honored to have been invited to blog on Ethnography.com, considered by most to be one of the top anthropology blogs in the universe. Here is a link to my inaugural post:
THIS WEEK IN ETHNOGRAPHY: SECOND DIGITAL ETHNOGRAPHY WEEK _ TRENTO 17-21 SEPT. 2012
My hope is to report on notable references to ethnography on a weekly basis.
Caster Semenya and athletic excellence: a critique of Olympic sex-testing, Silvia Camporesi
As I argue in Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes, (co-authored with Katrina Karkazis, Rebecca Jordan-Young, and Georgiann Davis), published in the July 2012 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics, these regulations are flawed for at least two reasons. First, there is not enough biomedical data to demonstrate that increased androgen levels provide women with an advantage over their fellow athletes. As “Out of Bounds?” argues, “testosterone is just one element in a complex neuroendocrine feedback system,” and levels of endogenous testosterone in women vary depending on age, time of day, and where they are in their menstrual cycle, among other complex environmental factors (8). Studies have even shown that winning or losing a competition can stimulate an increase or decrease in testosterone levels. In short, we lack definitive data to demonstrate that successful female athletes have higher testosterone levels than less successful female athletes.
Vending Distorted Afghanistan Through Patriotic ‘Anthropology’, M. Jamil Hanifi
The invasion and destruction of Afghanistan by the United States boosted Thomas Barfield’s institutional academic fortunes at Boston University from a ‘useless faculty who purveyed esoteric and irrelevant knowledge to the young without fear of termination’ (p. x) to ‘one of America’s foremost authorities on Afghanistan’ and adviser to its war machine. If this book is a glimpse into the kind of advice Thomas Barfield has shared with the American imperial enterprise in Afghanistan we can be sure that this destructive business is fundamentally a scam in which ‘the blind lead the blind’, with Barfield and others like him in the lead. The young students who were on the receiving end of Barfield’s expatiations not only received ‘irrelevant knowledge’ but were exposed to distorted and inaccurate representations of the country which Barfield has vended as his specialty and with which he has accumulated substantial academic, economic, and political capital.
Gut Check: Should You Embrace Our (Mostly) Vegetarian Past?, Barbara J. King
So what’s the take-home message here? It’s not, I think, that we’re meant to be vegetarian. Rather, it’s that ancestral diets don’t aid us in making food choices today, any more than our ancestors’ mating patterns help us in establishing healthy partnerships and families.
The Joker’s Wild: On the Ecology of Gun Violence in America, Eric Michael Johnson
But what about guns? Multiple studies have shown a direct correlation between the number of guns and the number of homicides. The United States is the most heavily armed country in the world with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Doesn’t this over-saturation of American firepower explain our exaggerated homicide rate? Maybe not. In a follow-up study in 2001 Kawachi looked specifically at firearm prevalence and social capital among U.S. states. The results showed that when social capital and community involvement declined, gun ownership increased. Kawachi points out that it is impossible to prove whether one factor caused the other, but the most reasonable interpretation is that people who don’t trust their neighbors are more likely to think guns will provide security.
The New York Times is ginning up fake controversy, Razib Khan
Reading this article this morning, DNA and Fossils Tell Differing Tales of Human Origins, really aggravated me. I believe that it’s totally misrepresenting the tensions in the scientific process here, and misleading the public. The standard conflict/”two views” format is used, and to disastrous effect.
Note: The comment section for this post features an extensive back-and-forth with John Hawks. Hawks is in Africa, but promises more on these papers. I also note that although the title concentrates on how “The New York Times” is ginning up the controversy, it really should be about Nicholas Wade. I can only hope this will help more people realize how truly terribly Nicholas Wade misrepresents scientific stories–as Bruce Mannheim also makes clear in the post below.
Newsflash: New York Times Reports 90-Year-Old Consensus, Bruce Mannheim
Nicholas Wade reported the Reich et al. research in the New York Times (July 11, 2012). Wade treats it as a vindication of a three-way genetic (historical linguistic) distinction among languages of the Americas proposed in Joseph Greenberg’s (1987) book of the same name, although Reich et al. do not cite it in their paper in Nature. (The only reference to Greenberg by Reich et al. is to a paper coauthored with Turner and Zegura and published in 1986 as one of the proponents of the three-way split.) The “vindication” here is entirely Wade’s. The bottom line is that this three-way distinction was known linguistically since the 1920s (for example, Sapir 1921).
Workplace Ethnography 101–Interrogating the Unpaid Internship, Laurel George
The ethical dimensions of unpaid internships could (and have) filled many pages, and a full exploration of them is well beyond the scope of this post. What seems most relevant to the discussion of ethnography in conditions of academic precarity is how unpaid internships relate to so many nodes of economic and labor precarity within academia and beyond. Over the past couple decades, internships have become not just a nice addition to a resume, but, according to many of the articles linked above, absolutely necessary to secure even an interview for an entry-level position in many industries.
An Unexpectedly Old Artifact: The Paperclip
On June 7th during an excavation in West Circle Drive we recovered a paperclip. Now, you should know that we don’t keep anything that is definitely modern. We don’t keep the crushed beer cans from tailgating or the McDonald’s straws from littering. We did keep a paperclip, although whether or not to do this was debated. Can a paperclip really tell us anything about the past? Are they even considered historic?
Meaningful Virtual Action: The Significance of a Repin, Linda Huber
The Internet can make issues and ideas engaging in a way that standing on a street corner with pamphlets cannot; it can close the space and time gap between problems a world away…..and yet just because engagement is more widespread and easier, is this actually MEANINGFUL for concrete social change? Some even worry that by lowering the bar for engagement in a cause, we are not letting more people in, but lowering the bar for ethical action, allowing people to feel accomplished when they have done nothing at all for the “real” world.
Spontaneous Mourning and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Roadside Memorials, Paul Mullins
American roadsides are home to a vast range of impromptu memorials, some anonymous and modest crosses at the scene of a tragedy and others elaborate and well-maintained commemorations. Most of the markers on the shoulders of American streets commemorate the victims of an automobile accident, but there seem to be no especially systematic surveys of the geographical distribution, styles, composition, or duration of such markers.
Two Perspectives on Dietary Change: Looking Broadly and Specifically, Katy Meyers
Two recent articles from American Journal of Physical Anthropology are using stable isotope analysis to look at variations in dietary habits. Both look at population differences, one from the perspective of change through time and one from an individual life history perspective. Understanding diet is important as it can tell us a lot about the intra-group variation as well as how cultural change affected people. Since the bones themselves are being used, we are looking at directly what they ate rather than at bones of animals or plant residues and inferring diet. There are many intricacies to a culture that can be teased apart by looking at diet, such as differences between sexes and ages, or between specific population groups, and these can vary drastically through time.
Zero Anthropology Resumes Publishing, Maximilian Forte
Today Zero Anthropology resumes publishing, with articles by Eliza Jane Darling, M. Jamil Hanifi, and Max Forte. Our plan for the week includes essays and reports on race and security; the shootings in Colorado; the foreign occupation of Afghanistan; and, the securitization of the Canadian university, via government funding for “counter-terrorism” research.
Global Mental Health and its Discontents, Doerte Bemme and Nicole D’souza
The field of Global Mental Health (GMH) is an emerging formation of knowledge and practice seeking to address mental illness on a global scale. A growing body of research has established mental illness as one of the most pressing “burdens of disease” (Lancet series, 2007). Recently, an article in Nature entitled “Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health” (2011) identified mental health priorities for research in the next 10 years, sparking controversy and debate about the appropriate methods for establishing priorities, research themes, and interventions in GMH. This year’s annual Advanced Study Institute (ASI) and Conference, hosted by McGill’s Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry (July 5-7 2012) in Montreal, Canada, sought to address these concerns and focused on ways to generate critique of the GMH movement to ensure that its goals and methods are responsive to diverse cultural contexts.
Teaching Race Anthropologically–Resources for Anthropology Courses, Jason Antrosio
Resources for teaching race anthropologically, via post-2005 sources that explain race is a social construction–while understanding racism.