The Foraging Spectrum – and a spectrum of anthropology
In the last few anthropology report updates, have been featuring some anthropology books along with anthropology blogs, especially the books the bloggers are writing about and reviewing. I hope to keep that as a tradition. This time the featured book is The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways by Robert L. Kelly, featured in Megan McCullen’s post below, and complementing the news headline of Jared Diamond in row over claim tribal peoples live in ‘state of constant war’. Also featured are The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal by Orin Starn and Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine by Sienna R. Craig.
And please scroll down for much more from anthropology blogs, announcements, calls-for-papers, field schools.
Explorer Moment of the Week: Agustin Fuentes, National Geographic
What initially sparked your interest in anthropology?
I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick … in why we do what we do and where it all comes from. Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered there is actually a name for that: anthropology. It was an undergraduate course by my eventual graduate mentor, Phyllis Dolhinow (one of the pioneers of primatology), that introduced me to the possibilities of an integrated anthropology. From the first class I took with her I was on the path that shifted a drama and zoology major into an anthropology diehard. The very fact that I could have a career trying to figure out what it means to become, and to be, human pretty much sealed the deal.
Plans and Profiles: Shelby Anderson Researching Northern Ceramic Technology, Tim Rast
Shelby Anderson is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University, whose research into hunter-gatherer groups and northern ceramic technology has taken her from Northern Alaska to the Pacific Northwest. She earned her doctorate from the University of Washington in 2011 with her dissertation: From Tundra to Forest: Ceramic Distribution and Social Interaction in Northwest Alaska. I asked her a few questions about her current research, and this is what she had to say…
NYAS @ Wenner-Gren 1/28 – Audio Now Available!
The first NYAS Anthropology Section lecture of 2013 took place Monday evening with Syracuse University Professor of Anthropology Douglas V. Armstrong, who was on hand to discuss his archaeological work in the early modern English Caribbean. Download an MP3 of Archaeology of an Emerging Landscape of Power and Enslavement in Early 17th-century Barbados now, followed by a Questions & Answers session.
Money and Mortality: Shifts in Commemoration due to Economic Change, Katy Meyers
Money not only shapes the way that you live, it also can determine the manner of your death. From cemeteries we can infer social status and wealth based on the presence of exotic artifacts and more grave goods than other individuals. For example, the Viking boat burials that consist of entire ships being buried in the ground with bronze weaponry is attributed to a chieftains, whereas the primary form of burial was a more simple inhumation or cremation with a collection of one’s belongings. In Roman Imperial necropoli, the wealthy built large crypts or columbarium for the remains of their family and household, and poorer individuals were buried in urns in the ground or simple single individual tombs. Often these practices vary over time as well, becoming more opulent in periods of wealth and restrained in periods of decline.
Forced to Work: U.S. Prisons and the New Forced-Labor Camps, Douglas Reeser
Sometimes it takes just a slight shift of perspective to reveal the insidiousness of certain practices of the capitalist regime. Over the last 30 years or so, outsourcing of all types of jobs, from service to production, has enabled increased profits at the cost of worker exploitation in places outside of the major regions of consumption. As the continued globalization of the corporate production machine has taken root, so too have fair trade and other worker’s-rights movements, that have aimed to fight the exploitation of workers around the globe. These actions are beginning to force corporations to seek new outlets of cheap labor, which has led to a turn back to the center: the ever-growing U.S. prison population.
The “human” genome?, Zachary Cofran
Finally, and I think perhaps most intriguingly, there is evidence that our own genes may be commandeered by the the RNA produced by the things we eat. . . . One of the most exciting areas of modern biology is the discovery of the various genetic and developmental mechanisms and processes that literally make us human. Of course the genetics of human uniqueness and variation are, to use a phrase I hate, ‘much more complex than previously thought’ (such a pervasive mantra in any field of research…). Not only that, but being human, arguably the most successful complex organism in recent history, is something we cannot even do on our own.
Is Poverty in Our Genes? A Critique of Ashraf and Galor, “The ‘Out of Africa’ Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development,” American Economic Review (Forthcoming), Jade d’Alpoim Guedes, et al.
We present a critique of a paper written by two economists, Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor, which is forthcoming in the American Economic Review and which was uncritically highlighted in Science magazine. Their paper claims there is a causal effect of genetic diversity on economic success, positing that too much or too little genetic diversity constrains development. In particular, they argue that “the high degree of diversity among African populations and the low degree of diversity among Native American populations have been a detrimental force in the development of these regions.” We demonstrate that their argument is seriously flawed on both factual and methodological grounds. As economists and other social scientists begin exploring newly available genetic data, it is crucial to remember that nonexperts broadcasting bold claims on the basis of weak data and methods can have profoundly detrimental social and political effects.
Note: Also see the announcement on the Wenner-Gren blog. This J-Stor article is currently free.
IS the purpose of Anthropology to make the world safe for difference?, Rebecca Dean
The more I thought about the question, the more I realized that issues of multiculturalism and social justice are at the heart of teaching in anthropology. And you know what, they’re at the heart of our country, too. Need proof? Read some of the angst-ridden articles about demographic trends written by Republican party operatives. So embrace it, fellow anthropologists! Our business is creating paladins for diversity. Let’s teach our students to go out and make that multicultural world safe for human difference!
Anthropologists Shouldn’t Hate Gov. Rick Scott, We Should Quit Being Lame and Prove Him Wrong, A. Ashkuff
Anthropology schools really do need to step up their career resources. Although I learned a great deal from my anthropology school, professionally speaking, I felt a tad forgotten upon graduation–and my career resource center has won awards. Hopefully, if Gov. Scott’s proposal somehow passes, I hope anthropology schools everywhere invest their energy, not in complaining, but in proving him wrong.
Flipping Anthropology, Anne Brackenbury
As far as I can tell, flipping the classroom is just one form of a much less sexy concept: effective course design. Just as the hype around hybrid and online learning has started to fade with the realization that technology on its own will not produce good education, so too will the hype around flipped classrooms. But that leaves us back at trying to determine what effective course design means. While I know that there are as many good course designs as there are good instructors (and there are many, many of those), I imagine that one of the rules of thumb may be to use all elements of the educational experience (classroom time, readings, videos, assignments, activities, etc.) to mutually reinforce one another.
Mental Health Care during Conflict: The Case of Colombia, Daniel Lende
Vaughan Bell, a clinical psychologist and the main force behind Mind Hacks, spent several years working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Colombia. The MSF (Doctors without Borders) program focused on health in rural areas, particularly those affected by civil combat, and Dr. Bell played a major role in helping to address mental health in those regions. Now Bell and co-authors Fernanda Méndez, Carmen Martínez, Pedro Pablo Palma and Marc Bosch have published a new open-access paper Characteristics of the Colombian armed conflict and the mental health of civilians living in active conflict zones in the journal Conflict and Health. As he writes at Mind Hacks, “while there is lots of research on people who have experienced armed conflict in the past, there was very little information on the mental health of people living in active conflict zones.” This paper addresses that major gap in the literature.
Jared Diamond in row over claim tribal peoples live in ‘state of constant war’, Edward Helmore
A fierce dispute has erupted between Pulitzer prize-winning author Jared Diamond and campaign group Survival International over Diamond’s recently published and highly acclaimed comparison of western and tribal societies, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? . . . On a book tour of the UK last week, Diamond, 75, was drawn into a dispute with the campaign group after its director, Stephen Corry, condemned Diamond’s book as “completely wrong – both factually and morally – and extremely dangerous” for portraying tribal societies as more violent than western ones.
Stephen Corry on Diamond, Al West
Corry did make a good argument against Diamond’s book – that his category of ‘traditional’ societies isn’t really valid, and that no living human society is a true throw-back to the past. But it was smothered by the incorrect claim that life in a tribal society is about as peaceful as life in a state. That is simply wrong and not borne out by any of the evidence.
The World until Yesterday vs The Foraging Spectrum, Megan M. McCullen
Last night I pulled out my copy of The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways (1995), by Robert Kelly, and started re-reading it. I’m still in the first chapter, but as always, the book engages me. I’m wondering if others have read it, and what they think of it? What I love about this book is that it takes all of the assumptions you’ve heard about forager homogeneity and tests them, rather than accept them. By showing the variety of lifeways of hunter-gatherers around the world in the past 100 years, Kelly shows how extremely DIFFERENT they are from one another, leading the reader to recognize the problems with using modern hunter-gatherers as cultural correlates for the vast cultures of our human past. If we can have so many diverse lifeways today, think of all the potential variability in social organization, religion, economic systems, and family structure we may have had over the course of the history of our species.
Book review: Sienna Craig’s Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine, Stephan Kloos
Even though Healing Elements, Sienna R. Craig
s most explicitly addresses undergraduate and graduate students in medical anthropology, international health and development studies, this is an ambitious book that also aims to contribute to cutting edge scholarship on Tibetan medicine. It is no small achievement that Craig succeeds in both endeavors: her many, well-chosen ethnographic encounters, dialogues, observations and theoretical reflections not only serve as an engaging introduction to newcomers to the field, but also form, like pieces of a mosaic, a bigger picture that reveals, better than any single article or monograph on the topic so far, the complex interconnections that shape Tibetan medicine today. In short, this is an outstanding and long-overdue book that will doubtlessly serve as the standard monograph on Tibetan medicine for years to come.
Orin Starn Interview: An Anthropologist on Tiger Woods, Adam Fish
I had the pleasure of pitching a few questions to Orin Starn, Chair and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, about “popular anthropology,” golf, Ishi’s brain, and the right PC sports to play if you’re an anthropologist (its not golf!).
Orin Starn: I’m a little leery of the term “popular anthropology,” which has a Harlequiny ring of pulpy and lightweight. Margaret Mead, unfairly was never really taken as seriously by some in the field precisely because her work seemed too “popular,” or at least to sell too many copies. I’ve actually found it much harder to write in a more readable, trade press voice than to churn out a jargony journal article. When you’re writing for a larger audience, you still need to try to be smart, nuanced, and drawing on theory, and yet you have to do it in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. I’m not against jargon or specialized publications at all, but we’ve really failed dismally as a discipline in recent decades to produce much work that has mattered beyond the discipline. I’d love us to pay more attention the craft of writing, and how to communicate our ideas to more than the ten readers of this or that specialized journal.
Anthropology Call-for-Papers, Announcements and Related
Another Proposed AAA Panel: Human Experience in the Genomic/Post-Genomic Age
With the completion of the sequencing of the human genome and subsequent onset of the Genomic/Post-Genomic Age, genetic technology now plays a more prominent role in many aspects of modern day life. Applications of genetic technologies may be found within medicine, law enforcement, food production, and human reproduction. Given the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms, assisted reproductive technologies, genetic databases used in law enforcement, direct to consumer genetic tests and the like, it is imperative to ask how genetic technologies have affected various facets of the human experience. Have traditional boundaries regarding how people understand themselves and others changed as a result of the use of DNA technologies? How has the relationship between science and cultural aspects of identity, privacy, kinship, food, et cetera been altered as a result of an improved scientific understanding of genetics?
American Anthropological Association Meetings 2013
The SVA welcomes paper and poster session proposals for consideration at this year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago (November 20-24, 2013). The theme for the meeting is “Future Publics, Current Engagements,” which provides a rich context for exploring the innovative and exciting work conducted under the broad rubric of visual anthropology. Last year, SVA sponsored sessions explored such diverse topics as public art, visual ethics, photography of the unsettling, sensing culture, visualizing history, aesthetic production, digital storytelling and visualizing the technological disjoint in communities.
Session Title: Towards An Anthropology of “Divorce”
Organizer: Melanie Angel Medeiros, University of Arizona
Discussant: Linda-Anne Rebhun, University of California – Merced
Anthropologists are witnesses to the global transformation of marriage, the alliance-forming institution our predecessors argued is at the foundation of all societies. The study of marriage is central to anthropological studies of kinship and gender, and more recently studies of globalization, modernization and romantic love. However, divorce, a topic commonly studied by scholars in the fields of sociology, psychology, family studies and women and gender studies, has been relatively neglected by the field of anthropology. As global legal divorce rates continue to rise and anthropologists observe increases in marital dissatisfaction due to modernization, globalization and the rise of romantic love and companionate marriage, anthropological studies that analyze the factors leading to and the perceptions and experiences of the failure of marital relationships make an important contribution to anthropological theories of sociocultural and economic change, love, intimacy, marriage, and kinship. Anthropologists have demonstrated how across cultures “marriage” as a category encompasses diverse relationships. Thus, to understand the experiences and perceptions of marital failure across cultures the anthropological study of “divorce” must also include the failure or end of marital unions (including legal marriage, unions made through ritual or ceremony, hetero-normative, homosexual and transgender domestic partnerships, non-cohabitating conjugal couples, etc.). It should also include a discussion as to what constitutes marital failure, whether it be legal divorce, separation, individuals cohabitating but living separate lives, etc.
Please submit abstracts to Melanie firstname.lastname@example.org by 21 February 2013.
Anthropology in Guatemala: Field School in Highland Maya Culture
The Global Education Office and the School of World Studies are pleased to offer a unique opportunity for students to study the culture of the highland Maya. The program is based in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and will allow students to observe the cultural complexity of the Guatemalan highlands. The location provides an ideal setting in which to explore different topics such as cultural pluralism, religious conservation and change, local responses to economic globalization, and cultural revitalization movements. This program is especially well suited for students in anthropology, international studies, history, and religious studies.
Power of Suggestion, Tom Bartlett
The amazing influence of unconscious cues is among the most fascinating discoveries of our time–that is, if it’s true. Note: Although not anthropology per se, this long and interesting reflection into psychology’s priming studies and replication attempts may have interesting implications for certain kinds of anthropology.