AAA was one of 23 academic organizations that released a joint statement of response to the recent attacks on Professor Frances Fox Piven, renown professor of the University of New York Graduate Center. The statement condemns Glenn Beck, radio and television personality, for his attacks on Piven and calls for public officials and political commentators to help in discouraging the rhetoric of hate and violence.
Archaeology always looks so exciting in the movies: with only a brush and a map, intrepid scientists are just a step away from discovering dinosaur blood or the Ark of the Covenant. For the most part, though, real-life archaeology gets its kicks from finding old bones, teeth, and other remnants of lost civilizations. Interesting and worthwhile stuff, to be sure, but hardly the headline-grabbing finds we’d like to see. Yet every now and then, archaeologists find something so mysterious, bizarre, or just plain cool that we all get to live out our fantasies of finding lost treasures that change the way we look at the world. Granted, a lot of the purported “amazing discoveries” are hoaxes, tricks, or Photoshop disasters that are more about people trying deceive others than any real X-Files-type stuff going down. But sometimes, we find something really weird. Those days make it all worth it.
Ok, I’ll go ahead and admit it: anthropologists aren’t all that well known these days. Whenever I tell people that I am in grad school studying anthropology, I am often met by somewhat bewildered looks. Not all the time–sometimes people seem pretty interested and answer “cool,” or something like that. But more people seem to be a little perplexed, and tend to respond with something like, “Anthropology? Is that the study of dinosaurs?” Or my favorite: “How are you going to make any money doing that?” And while those answers can be a bit disconcerting (to say the least), they are actually pretty telling. Anthropology, when it comes to larger public discussions and debates, tends lead a fairly invisible existence. Is this because the general public is simply too disinterested in what anthropologists do? Not really. Is it because the general public is just a lazy, uneducated bunch? No, I don’t think that’s it either. It’s because anthropologists don’t publish much of their work in accessible formats. Most of the really good contemporary anthropology–from cultural to physical–is bound up in academic journals that are by no means geared toward non-academic audiences. If you read this types of publications, you know what I mean.
I have a collaborative project that I would like to float out to the anthropology blogosphere on this Valentine’s Day: a love letter to our discipline
Congressionally Mandated Report of the U.S. Army Human Terrain System: Center for Naval Analyses Investigation is Online
The Center for Naval Analyses report (CNAR) on the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) is available on our site (31 Mb, PDF). The report acknowledges that there were a number of success stories within HTS but that institutional and management woes crippled the program. The authors of the CNAR did a bang up job rarely mincing words. Moreover, they offer many solutions which is one of the stellar points of the CNAR.
At the beginning of the film clip, Bajau fisherman Sulbin sits on the side of a boat on the coast of Borneo, gulping air, handling his speargun. And then, he drops into the water. The footage suddenly changes and becomes arresting: silent, dreamy, slow, and so blue. Sulbin strokes deliberately and descends until he strides along the bottom of the ocean, holding his breath, and hunts for fish through handmade goggles.
In small pockets around the world live isolated indigenous communities, groups that, even though they have had run-ins with their neighbours or Westerners, prefer to avoid or resist any further contact. Although we sometime call them ‘uncontacted,’ a more accurate description is probably ‘voluntarily isolated’ or ‘withdrawn’ or ‘evasive.’ Many of these groups have tragic histories of encounters with outsiders — too much ‘contact’ — where they fought to preserve their isolation and, usually, came up much worse off than their more numerous intruders.
This comes from Kira Johnson, Outreach Coordinator at Izilwane.
Izilwane promotes biodiversity conservation through shared knowledge and experience. The non-profit online magazine takes an anthropological approach to biodiversity loss, exploring the place of humans in the global ecosystem. The goal of the writers and editors of Izilwane is to educate the public about the need to slow the global rate of biodiversity loss by enhancing public awareness of and connection to the natural environment through articles, interviews, photo galleries, video galleries and other multimedia.
from American Anthropological Association by Joslyn O.
A flurry of interesting videos have made their way across the AAA desks this week. Embracing people and race, here are our favorites:
“I recognize that this two year project, which overtly maps rural communities, trade connections and key local stakeholders with pastoralists around Hargesisa and Berbera, could be used as a resource for building Human Terrain Maps of this critical region of the Horn of Africa. We would be happy to do this in partnerships with [you]… As such there can be overt collection of Human Terrain data which opens the door to sensitively tailoring more in depth data collection. The project and Sazani Associates have a high level of buy in from the indigenous NGOs and will deliver tangible local benefits.”
“Anthropology isn’t in the crisis that parts of the media would have you believe, but it must do better, argue Adam Kuper and Jonathan Marks.”
So goes the tagline in the commentary Anthropologists Unite! by Kuper and Marks published in Nature yesterday. And quite a tag-team they make. Adam Kuper is a prominent social anthropologist in the United Kingdom, Jonathan Marks a prominent biological anthropologist in the United States.
Together they tackle the recent controversy over the American Anthropological Association dropping the word “science” from its long-range plan, and use the controversy as a platform to reflect on the past and the future of anthropology.
Daniel Lende over at Neuroanthropology has a new post about some of the possibilities for anthropology. He talks about some of the recent PR controversies that took place within the field, and how this is illustrative of some of the primary issues and challenges that anthropologists face these days. We are, it seems, at a bit of a crossroads. And it’s probably about time to move away from some of the old models and explore new ways of not only doing anthropology, but also publishing and disseminating anthropology. My favorite part of the post is when Lende talks about the contrast between old school publishing models (which lock up information behind expensive subscriptions) and some of the new possibilities:
Another thesis version has been submitted and this project is finally coming to a long drawn out close. In the end I’ve created a rather ugly beast. It’s too long to read quickly, and it takes too long to get its points across. It feels more like a proof of work then anything else unfortunately, but that is hopefully close to what a thesis is meant to be.
Ideas abound. I am completely fascinated with the possibilities of communicating and publishing anthropology in some different ways. In fact, that’s pretty much all I have been thinking about for the last few days. What else can we do with anthropology? How can we find new, collaborative ways of not only making connections between anthropologists, but also encouraging debate and dialog with wider audiences (the “general” public, journalists, pundits, and maybe even macroeconomists).
[First, many thanks to John Stanton for notifying us of the release of the report discussed below, available here, and for his article. Here I take a somewhat different approach in describing and interpreting the contents of the report, and the conclusions it draws. In addition, or as an aside, readers may be interested in reading my article, “Review Essay: The Human Terrain System and Anthropology: A Review of Ongoing Public Debates,” American Anthropologist, 113 (1) March 2011: 149-153.]
from Material World by Haidy L Geismar
Medical Anthropologist Gives an Opinion on Asthma
Van Sickle, who joined an AAAS panel discussing the role of anthropology in medicine, researched asthma diagnosis and treatment in India for several years. In one project, he had doctors watch videos showing classic asthma symptoms — wheezing,