Anthropologies of Discontinuity in Times of Turmoil
Edited by Martin Holbraad, Bruce Kapferer, and Julia F. Sauma
This article was originally published at The Conversation and has been republished under Creative Commons.
The first two pages of Claire Cameron’s novel The Last Neanderthal contain a glossary—a handful of words used by the family of Neanderthals at the center of the story. This imaginary language helps to paint a rich picture of Neanderthal life within the fictional narrative, but it makes a massive assumption about a question still much debated by researchers: Did Neanderthals speak?
Bipedality, the ability to walk upright on two legs, is a hallmark of human evolution. Many primates can stand up and walk around for short periods of time, but only humans use this posture for their primary mode of locomotion.
A 22-year-old call center agent from the Philippines, J.R.,* tells me that he takes whitening capsules and uses a soap and facial cream that both claim to have whitening effects. Being lighter, he says, will make him more “noticeable,” boosting his chances for promotion or better employment. When I point out that the US$1 a day he spends on the whitening products makes up a large chunk of the US$12 he earns daily, he replies: “It’s an investment.”
While in Accra, Ghana, in 2001, I befriended a young woman at a nightclub. I was flabbergasted that Fola (a pseudonym) was taking a keen interest in me. When we left the club and strolled along the beach, I noticed a few men were following us. I could tell she was a bit frightened, and when I asked her about it, she began to cry. When she propositioned me a few minutes later, I knew something was wrong.