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Picking Up – Anthropology Beyond the Blogs

Robin Nagle - Picking UpUpdates here usually come from the selection of Anthropology Blogs 2013, leaving the anthropology-in-the-news material to the reliable Monday feature from anthropologyworks. However, this time going beyond the usual blog update to track some places anthropologists have been spotted. Book feature is the new Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City by Robin Nagle.

Pistorius and South Africa’s culture of fear, Matthew Durington
On Friday, Mr. Pistorius was granted bail to live “free” within South Africa until his trial–except he will be metaphorically held prisoner in a gated community. The impending deliberations will not affect the ordinary citizens of South Africa struggling with unemployment and a variety of socioeconomic ills as the country continues to emerge as a prominent player on the world stage. But it may lead some to question the cultural confines that gated communities can create for a segment of the population within the new South Africa.
Matthew Durington, a cultural anthropologist and director of international studies at Towson University, has conducted ethnographic research in gated communities in South Africa.
The Baltimore Sun: Commentary, 22 February 2013

A mile in their shoes: Anthropology students gain different perspectives from shadowing campus union workers, Annie Palmer
“There is a certain misconception among students that the work that Food Services employees do is unskilled,” Terry said. “In actuality, as I’ve seen first-hand, these jobs are very demanding. I’m embarrassed that such a lack of respect exists on campus.” Seeing service workers as real individuals was the goal envisioned by the creators of the project: John Burdick, professor and chair of the anthropology department, and Doug McClure, chief bargaining officer for the Service Employees International Union.
The Daily Orange, 7 March 2013

How the World Gets Under Our Skin, Patrick F. Clarkin
Early in life, our bodies are like unmolded clay, ready to be shaped by our experiences. For some of us, that matching process can create problems. If circumstances change, we could end up poorly adapted to our adult environment. A child born into harsh conditions, though, may have to take that risk in order to make it to adulthood at all. The Hmong in French Guiana may be an example of this process. They are a fascinating population for many reasons, the most obvious being that they are there at all. A few dozen refugees from Laos first resettled in French Guiana in 1977, a few years after the Vietnam War, after they and the French government agreed that life in small, ethnically homogenous villages in a tropical environment was a better option than acculturating to the cities of Métropole France. The experiment paid off. Today, more than two thousand Hmong are farmers in the Amazonian jungle, producing most of the fruits and vegetables in the country. The result is a level of economic autonomy and cultural retention that is likely unique in the Southeast Asian refugee diaspora.
Being Human, 18 February 2013

Who has the power? – Trinidad, power, sport, inequality, Dylan Kerrigan
This is the negative side of the multicultural island. The “playing field of life” is not level for every group, and in particular, every class. This is not to ignore the racial realities of the society, but rather to acknowledge, as CLR James once did, the importance of both race and class in understanding local reality with a slight emphasis on class politics over racial ones. There is an hidden social structure to this 50-year-old Republic. It plays out every day in multiple ways. Everyone knows it when they interact with it. In this story of dispute over a sports field in Westmoorings the social structure becomes flexible for a small class-group of privileged residents who choose to ignore the law but becomes more rigid and enforcing on a cross-class group of multi-hued footballers. Who has the power? The former do not want to act within the law or play fair. The latter are playing within the law but have already lost the use of their football field. I’m not sure which one has the right to use the land–that is still to be decided–but 50 years after Independence local historian Jeff Henry’s words fit well here and remind us where the nation has arrived: “The colour of the rulers might darken; the ethnicities might change, blur or merge, but the culture of the power structure remains.”
PopAnth, 8 March 2013

My Love Affair with Anthropology, Sunny Peng
I always wonder why exactly I fell in love with anthropology, almost at first sight, instead of following the paths of the students and alumni I met at the send-off party in 2011. I still have not figured it out, and I guess I don’t really need to. I just know that I enjoy spending time with anthropology and anthropologists. I like being analyzed and analyzing in return, I like working on my research on romance and gender, and I’m excited about preparing for an upcoming conference presentation on Asian pop music. And if I ever find myself at another send-off party, I’ll be sure to tell the incoming students that there are so many options that they can study, and that I hope they find a subject they can fall in love with.
The Student Union, Voice of America, 5 March 2013

‘Dr. Garbage’ Studies Unsung Local Tribe, Lawrence Biemiller
Unlike police officers and firefighters endlessly celebrated as “first responders,” sanitation workers are looked down upon. And that’s when they are noticed at all, which they often are not—they work the avenues and streets as visible as ghosts and as honored as pickpockets. That is true, Ms. Nagle notes, even though sanitation workers are many times more likely to be killed while on the job than cops or firemen are. Working in traffic is dangerous, as are the collection trucks with their powerful compacting blades. Collecting refuse is, by one estimate, the fourth-riskiest career a person could pick (after fishing, logging, and piloting planes).
Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, 4 March 2013

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