Save the date: Public Anthropology Conference (PAC 2015) 12th Annual Conference

Dialogues of the Urgent and Emergent

Call For Participation

When: October 3-4, 2015
Where: American University, Washington, DC

The rapidly transforming world in which we live requires an immediate response to the global discussions of climate change, economic development, armed conflict, international human rights abuses, racial injustice, medical emergencies, and sexual and gender inequalities. A dialogue concerning these and other pressing public issues will allow us the opportunity to discuss ideas of the “urgent” and the “emergent.”

“Urgent” draws our focus toward social justice issues that require a time-sensitive response while maintaining deliberate and careful attention to holistic human well-being. Likewise, the “Emergent” presents to us new challenges that arise, causing us to pause and reevaluate the framework in which we approach our everyday work. We will explore our roles as practitioners, teachers, students, and interested members of the public within these shifting climates and discover how we can produce and support positive social, environmental, economic, and political change.

All are welcome to apply.

Submit proposals to
Deadline: August 31st

For more info contact conference organizers:

Davis Shoulders

John Villecco

Anthro in the news 6/29/15

  • A matter of Pride: There is no neutral

An article in the Guardian reports on conflicts related to how a group of queer activists mobilized in solidarity with miners in the U.K are being treated in this year’s London Pride Parade line-up. The group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), was scheduled to lead this year’s parade, but the parade’s organizers won’t let trade union members march with them at the front of the parade because they are not political and not neutral. The article points out that LGSM is not the only political group at this year’s Pride and will be joined in the procession with Ukip, a political party whose leader recently declared that HIV-positive immigrants should be barred from the U.K. The article turns to insights from the “politically committed, morally engaged” anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes who points out that “neutrality” in the face of structural violence is not neutrality at all: it’s complicity.

  • Microfinance works, but for whom?

Cultural anthropologist Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics published an article in the Guardian in which he zings microfinance as “…the neoliberal development strategy par excellence. Forget about colonialism, structural adjustment, austerity, financial crises, land grabs, tax evasion, and climate change. Forget about challenging the concentration of power and wealth. And, above all, forget about collective mobilisation. Bankers shall be our new heroes and debt our salvation. Debt, incidentally, is a great way to keep people docile.” Hickel proposes alternatives that will address the structural causes of poverty.

  • Banned in Morocco

As reported in the New York Times, a film about prostitution in Morocco that had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May has set off a furor. After six minutes of excerpts appeared online, the Moroccan government banned the movie from theaters, the female stars received death threats, and a male actor was attacked with a knife. The film, Much Loved, by the Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, includes scenes of prostitutes in Marrakesh partying, speaking raunchy Arabic, and servicing wealthy Saudi clients. (more…)

Machik Weekend: A global forum for civic engagement and Tibet

Machik Weekend a global forum for civic engagement and Tibet November 20-22, 2015

Machik Weekend a global forum for civic engagement and Tibet November 20-22, 2015

Pepper water and protests in Haiti

By Scott Freeman

Tear gas is not uncommon in Port au Prince. Over the past decade, whether it has been protests over food shortages, controlling political demonstrations, or ‘peacekeeping’ actions by the infamous MINUSTAH UN forces, tear gas and other methods of crowd control have been a reality of the political and social landscape in downtown Port-au-Prince. A veteran reporter in Haiti told me that he had developed all sorts of strategies to deal with tear gas, ranging use of lime under his nose to more preventative measures like always having a paint masks handy.
But as of late, a new method of mass crowd control has been quite literally ‘sweeping the streets’ in the capital of Haiti. A type of pepper spray spiked water is being shot out of water cannons and into crowds of protesters. Dlo grate, or itching water, as it is referred to in Haitian Creole, is a now common term in Port au Prince. While not all have felt its devastatingly powerful effects, knowledge of the new tactic is widespread throughout the city.

The visit of French President François Hollande was the backdrop for the most recent student protest and excessive police response. Student protests are not uncommon in Port-au-Prince, and for the past years these demonstrations have often targeted the government in power. On May 12th, outside of the Faculté d’Ethnologie, the storied home of Haitian anthropology and site of many student demonstrations, 50 or so university students protested the arrival the French President– the first official state visit of any French President to Haiti. Given that Hollande had just rescinded an offer of reparations to Haiti for the damages of slavery and exploitation (officials insisting he was talking about a ‘moral debt’ and not a financial one), such a protest was largely predictable. Other protests in the plaza of Champ de Mars supposedly numbered around 200. During the day of his visit, students and protesters chanted ‘Nou pa esklav anko!’ (We won’t be slaves again), invoking France’s historical role as a slave owning colonial power, and hinting at the continual neocolonial tactics used by France and the broader international community. Some students provocatively dressed as slaves outside the university campus.

Student Protestors at Faculté d’Ethnologie on May 12, 2015.

During the late morning that Tuesday, I was in the second floor computer of the Faculté d’Ethnologie preparing a seminar that would be cancelled 45 minutes later. I could hear student chants that had been building for an hour or so. But new noises soon entered the air-conditioned room, and students sitting around me got up from their computers to see what caused the loud commotion.

From the second floor balcony, we could see that a black armored national police truck had parked itself outside of the walls of the school. On the top of this tank, visible over the wall, was a large turret fixed with a water cannon. The noise we could hear was the water that was being shot at students, occasionally hitting the metal door of the courtyard. The demonstration was non-violent (a Professor later remarked that he saw one student throw a stone, only to be quickly reprimanded by other demonstrators), yet the tank was parked right outside the courtyard, knocking students to the ground with a surge of water even when they were inside the gates of the university. From its position higher than the university walls, the water cannon was policing actions of even the students inside the gate. (more…)

Anthro in the news 6/22/15

  • Hate in America

In the wake of the shooting in Charleston, many wonder what drives a person to commit a hate crime and whether hate groups have influence.  WROC Rochester carried an article about hate crimes and its study in the U.S. It notes the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which researches hate groups in the U.S. According to the SPLC, there are 784 active and organized hate groups across the country. The article quotes anthropology professor Thomas Gibson of the University of Rochester who studies hate crimes in the U.S. and abroad:

“People who have grown up in a condition of privilege and feel that slipping away, they’re the most likely recruits for hate groups…In a way the rise of social media and the way people’s extreme views can get reinforced by someone just sitting alone in a basement, I think is a cause for more concern perhaps than the organized groups.” Gibson says the patches seen in a photo of the Charleston shooting suspect, represent the past racial apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and a connection to supremacist ideologies that could easily be bolstered online. “People who might for whatever personal reasons nurture certain grudges can now find like-minded individuals all over the country or even all over the world.”

  • Beyond black and white: Transracial identity

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald addressed the question of racial identity as brought to popular attention in the case of Rachel Dolezal, who has chosen to live as a black woman. It quotes Farida Fozdar, associate professor of anthropology and sociology at the University of Western Australia. The Dolezal case, she says, is complex:  “It reminds us of the US’s one-drop rule, which for so long meant that anyone with one drop of African-American blood was classified as African American…Since then, we’ve become much more constructivist about it, to the point that ethnic identity is seen as being about self-identification. But no one ever thought that meant that a white person with no black heritage, but black friends and family, can claim to be black. We’ve had the idea of ‘passing’ for a long time, but it has always meant people of black heritage ‘passing’ as white, in order to improve their life chances. So this is an interesting counterpoint.”

  • When in Rome…Travel is a privilege, not a right

Climbing Mount Kinabalu. Credit: LotteMae.

Professor of anthropology Wade Davis of the University of British Columbia published an op ed in the Global and Mail, inspired by recent arrests of several Western tourists in Malaysia: “On May 30, two young Canadians, Danielle and Lindsey Petersen, 22 and 23, respectively, reached the summit of Malaysia’s highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu. In their exuberance they, and eight other trekkers, stripped off their clothes and frolicked in the sun. Many were shocked to learn that this juvenile gesture of joy resulted in the arrest and detention of the brother and sister in Borneo, along with three of their companions (a police hunt is under way for the five others). But upon their return, I would offer some advice: Travel is a privilege, not a right. And the purpose of travel is to be open to the wonder of the other, to be sensitive and respectful of the differences that lend meaning to a journey.”

“The peak where the Petersens and their friends shed their clothing is considered by the people of Sabah to be the sacred embodiment of a woman’s virtue. As for causing the earthquake, let me note that in Borneo, even the flight of a hornbill has meaning, as if it were a cursive script of nature, written on the wind.

As an anthropologist, I am often asked how one breaks down the barriers between people and an outsider living as their guest. Not bravado, I always reply, but rather the same qualities that would make a visitor welcome in your own home: Respect, good manners, self-deprecating humour, a willingness to eat what’s put before you.”

  • A good thing: Digital sharing of ethnographic images

A woman from Mongolia has seen what her father looked like for the first time, as part of a digital sharing project launched by Cambridge University. The image of Anta Bu’s father was taken by Ethel Lindgren between 1929 and 1932, when she photographed Evenki and Orochen people in Mongolia and Siberia. Researchers from the U.K. and Russia reunited the images with some of the descendants of those photographed. An exhibition of the “previously unseen images” opens in Cambridge on 23 June. The project is a joint one between researchers from Cambridge, Aberdeen, Hohhot in Mongolia and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) in St. Petersburg in Russia. The academics sifted through 26,000 photographs as a digital sharing project “to reunite Evenki and Orochen communities with their photographs and thereby their histories and cultural heritage,” said Jocelyne Dudding, one of the exhibition’s curators.

  • Sacred relics: Authenticity is in the eyes of the believer

The Daily Camera (Boulder, Colorado) reported on an exhibition of Buddhist relics that has toured the world, going on display in Boulder. The exhibition, presented by the London-based Maitreya Loving Kindness Tour, is at the Boulder Shambhala Center. On display are “ancient and sacred relics from the historical Buddha Shakyamuni” and other Buddhist masters, and some are said to be up to 2,600 years old. “The relics were found from among the cremation ashes of Buddhist masters,” according to the tour website.

Payson Sheets, an anthropology professor at the University of Colorado, said scientists determine the authenticity of ancient artifacts through the context of an item’s discovery, modern dating techniques such as radiocarbon dating, and other methods. But members of religious communities throughout the world look to relics for inspiration regardless of their scientific legitimacy. “There’s a cultural factor here that one’s got to be sensitive to,” Sheets said, referring to the exhibit of Buddhist relics.

  • Fact checking: 5,000 years of humanity?

In a commentary for National Public Radio, Barbara J. King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the University of William and Mary, points out a major error in a graduation speech the U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia gave at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, an all-Catholic girls’ school. His granddaughter was among the graduates. He urged graduates to take a long view as they move through life’s challenges:

“Class of 2015, you should not leave Stone Ridge High School thinking that you face challenges that are at all, in any important sense, unprecedented…Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so, and I doubt that the basic challenges as confronted are any worse now, or alas even much different, from what they ever were.”

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become CEO of a company that produces edible medicinal marijuana. David Posner is the founder and CEO of Nutritional High International Inc. He is a graduate of York University and the University of Tel Aviv, where he studied sociology and anthropology. “I always knew I was going to go into business, I just wanted to understand the cultural aspects of dealing with people,” he says. “I find it important. I grew up where business, especially real estate, was a part of my family and life, and I saw that.” Nutritional High’s edibles are not yet for sale but should be in Colorado dispensaries by the end of 2015. Posner and his small team signed a deal to use the Jimi Hendrix name in marijuana-infused candies and drinks, which the CEO believes will help them gain recognition in new markets as states pass legalization laws, and among marijuana tourists until then.

…become a journalist. Tony Abraham began as a contributor at Philadelphia in 2014 before becoming lead reporter for in Delaware in 2015. He is interested in local startups, civic tech, and social entrepreneurship. He graduated from Temple University, where he studied English and anthropology.

…become a barista and designer doughnut baker. Georgia Potts, along with her partner, David Bignell, are baristas turned doughnut barons in Perth, Australia. Their designer doughnuts, “served oozing with brown sugar custard, topped with rose petals, or pumped with butterscotch goo and brittle sprinkles, reinterpret the classic cinnamon-sugar pastry.” Potts is a sociology and anthropology graduate.

…become a singer and pianist and anti-hate music activist. Doing doctoral research in a ninth grade music classroom in Hamburg, Germany, set Emily Joy Rothchild on a path to work with students on a recently released CD and music video that addresses terrorism, Islamophobia and hate. Rothchild, a singer and pianist, earned her Ph.D. in the anthropology of music from the University of Pennsylvania this spring after conducting research in Hamburg, Germany, for three years. Her dissertation examines a government funded school in Hamburg that was established to integrate the children and grandchildren of migrants into German society. Students are taught German norms of discipline, punctuality and professionalism. They also take classes in rap, dance, “beat-box” and graffiti art. Top students are selected to become part of an elite group of Hip Hop Academy students who travel to other countries as cultural diplomats. Most of the students are Muslims of Turkish, West African or Middle Eastern descent. Let Me Speak, an album against ISIS, sprang from the students’ commitment to stand up to terrorism, ISIS, and daily discrimination based on religion or ethnicity.

…become an artist and cookbook writer. Using her travels as inspiration, artist and anthropologist Marcella Kriebel has written a hand-illustrated cookbook, Mi Comida Latina. Her trips started during her studies of Latin culture while she also was working on her watercolors. She has a dual degree in studio art and cultural anthropology from Willamette University in Oregon. Traveling throughout Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and farther south, Kriebel cooked with other women in their own kitchens, learning to make their favorite meals. Then she painted the results.

…work in a museum as a curriculum facilitator. Anne Tiballi is curricular facilitator in the Penn Museum’s Academic Engagement Department. Her job is to create interaction between the Museum and the rest of campus. She has a doctorate in anthropology from Binghamton University in New York State. Her dissertation was based on South American artifacts at the Penn Museum.

…become a film and stage producer and philanthropist. Gigi Pritzker is a film and stage producer and CEO of the film production and financing company OddLot Entertainment. She produced Academy Award-nominated Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman, as well as The Way, Way Back and Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater. Pritzker has a B.A. in anthropology from Stanford University. Living in Nepal as an undergraduate student led her to produce her first documentary feature in Bhutan, when the BBC kick-started her career in film.

  • In danger: Syrian cultural heritage sites, not to mention Syrian people

News of the bombing of the Ma’arra Mosaic Museum came to Amr Al-Azm just as he appeared on WNPR’s Where We Live. Al-Azm is associate professor of anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio and chair of the Syrian Heritage Task Force.

“The city of Ma’arra has a small museum, but the museum contains an exceedingly important collection of mosaics that come from the nearby sites of the Dead Cities. These sites date back from the 3rd to the 5th century A.D.,” Al-Azm said. A barrel bomb, a crude explosive device often filled with scrap metal, or possibly a naval mine landed in the museum courtyard.  The rotunda of the museum, containing an important library, was almost completely destroyed. The museum’s display halls were badly damaged.

  • Who is Kennewick Man?

The Independent and several other media reported on DNA analysis indicating that the 8,500 year-old skeleton found in Washington State in 1996 indicates that it is of American Indian origin and not white/European. The skeleton became one of the most controversial figures in American anthropology when tribes living in the region claimed that he was an ancestor. The so-called Kennewick Man, has been the focus of a legal dispute between American Indians and the U.S. Government. Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, who led the study published in the journal Nature, said that an analysis of the skeleton’s full genome shows a clear connection with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, one of the five tribal groups that had tried to claim the skeleton as ancestral property from the U.S. Government.

  • Tickled to death: The suffering of slow lorises as pets

The Huffington Post reported on the dire situation of slow lorises who are captured in the wild and sold around the world as pets. A new short film explores the disturbing reality behind the “cute” slow loris videos that have proliferated online over the past few years. The film, which was posted online last week by U.K.-based International Animal Rescue, is part of the animal welfare nonprofit’s Tickling is Torture campaign, which seeks to end the illegal trade in slow lorises as pets. The group launched the project in response to a video of a “pole-dancing” slow loris that appeared online in March,

The article quotes Anna Nekaris, professor in anthropology and primate conservation at the U.K.’s Oxford Brookes University and lead author of a paper called Tickled to Death: Analysing Public Perceptions of ‘Cute’ Videos of Threatened Species, available through the Public Library of Science. Nekaris says that what a loris experiences after capture “is so horrific it cannot be imagined.” She explains on her website that the suffering of slow lorises in the pet trade begins long before they reach a person’s home, however. Slow lorises sold as pets have typically been taken illegally from the wild in Southeast Asia. The illegal pet trade is one of the major threats to the wild population, which is also at risk due to habitat loss and poaching for traditional medicines. All eight species of slow lorises are considered threatened, and the Javan slow loris is one of the 25 most endangered primates worldwide.


Anthro in the news 6/15/15

  • Obama’s Trans-Pacific trade agreement may be tanking

KFOXTV (El Paso, Texas) commented on the defeat in the U.S. House of Representatives of President Barack Obama’s global trade agenda. Republican leaders, who generally support Obama’s trade objectives, signaled they might try to revive the package. Lack of support from Democrats in the House was pivotal in the defeat. Aurolyn Luykx, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, agrees with those opposing the trade agreement, saying that it helps corporations at the expense of workers:

“Again and again we see that these trade deals are good for the richest people in all of the countries that are being affected but bad for everybody else in the country they are affecting…I think the consequences could be very dire. We already saw under NAFTA how so many jobs left the U.S. and also went from Mexico. Then, we saw as well tens of thousands of low income Mexican families being put out of work and losing their land and we saw how that drove migration to the U.S..”

  • Shame on us: Remembering Rwanda

Matthew Emery, Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at McMaster University, published an op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), reflecting on 21 years since the violence in Rwanda:

“As people were being slaughtered the governments of the West remained silent, preferring instead to debate the definition of genocide and whether it was actually taking place in Rwanda at the time. It was not until post-July 1994 that the world finally paid tribute to those in peril. It was too late, however. It has been 21 years since the atrocities in Rwanda ended. This is a token in memorandum to those who lost so many family members in such a short amount of time between April and June, 1994. “

  • We were warned

Vox carried an article how infectious diseases have re-emerged as a major threat, reminding that we were warned about this threat 15 years ago by two medical anthropologists: “In a 1990 paper on ‘The Anthropology of Infectious Disease,’ Marcia Inhorn and Peter Brown estimated that infectious diseases ‘have likely claimed more lives than all wars, noninfectious diseases, and natural disasters put together.’ Infectious diseases are our oldest, deadliest foe.”

  • Gestational surrogacy on the rise

The Minnesota Star Tribune reported on the growing practice of gestational surrogacy for aspiring parents, thanks to advances in reproductive technology. It differs from traditional surrogacy, which uses an egg from the carrier, making her the baby’s biological mother. In gestational surrogacy, there is no biological link (in terms of the ovum) between the woman carrying the baby and the baby. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 1,939 babies were born to gestational carriers in 2013, up from 738 in 2004, the first year records were kept. Some parents seek a gestational carrier due to infertility, many are same-sex couples. The article quotes Ellen Lewin, an anthropology professor at the University of Iowa who researches gay family life:  “This is a big cultural transition…DNA is a big deal in our culture. People have ideas about how it forms kinship.” (more…)

anthro in the news 6/8/15

  • Porn-driven female genital esthetics

The Globe and Mail reported on growing industry in women’s genital esthetics, illustrating its point with some details about genital-area waxing and skin treatment for women available in Toronto. The article quotes Eileen Anderson-Fye, the Robson Junior associate professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University: “Because of technological advances, we have greater access to pornographic images that explicitly and implicitly convey aesthetic and erotic ideals…“These images hold women to increasingly singular standards about beauty and desirability.” [Blogger’s note: there’s an even more serious question here about what drives porn to portray sexually desirable female genitals as child-like].

  • Culture, hormones, and menopause

Logo of the Women’s Health Initiative

A Reuters article describes findings from a survey about vaginal pain during intercourse in several Western countries. The results, which reveal substantial cross-country variations, will not be surprising to anthropologists. Researchers conducted an online survey asking 8,200 older men and women in North America and Europe how menopause affects their sex lives and relationships. While similar complaints were reported across all countries, the magnitude of suffering for vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and weight gain varied. According to Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware, the findings are limited because the survey recruited only women with vaginal pain and men who experienced it with their partners. Even so, she continues, the cultural differences about menopause highlighted by the survey underscore how regional differences in diet, physical activity, attitudes toward aging, and expectations about menopause influence how women experience symptoms.

  • Good news: First woman president in Mauritius

Anthropologyworks’ Sean Carey published an article in the New African on the election in Mauritius of its first woman president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, an eminent scientist specializing in ethnobotany. She will also serve her country as its ceremonial Head of State, a move that has caused some controversy but also much support. She vows to be an “apolitical president.” Well, let’s see says Carey, a longtime observer of politics in Mauritius. (more…)

Anthro in the news 6/1/15

  • Not funny

In an article in the Huffington Post, Christa Craven, assistant professor of anthropology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and chair of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the College of Wooster, takes on campus jokes about sexual violence. Pointing out what should be unnecessary – that such jokes are not funny — she offers steps to address this widespread and enduring problem.

Craven, who has been threatened as a professor, writes: “What bothers me the most about my experiences…is that over the past 20 years, I see little difference in how we — as a society and in many campus communities — are responding to sexual violence and threats of violence. Many continue to see violence as an essential part of masculinity and adopt the naïve (and often dangerous) stance that ‘boys will be boys.’”

  • The ills of humanitarian health aid

Medical anthropologist Paul Farmer of Harvard University writes about “the caregivers’ disease” in the London Review of Books. He ponders recent health humanitarianism in West Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak, providing a wide historic sweep from Graham Greene’s writings to medical anthropologist Adia Benton‘s book, AIDS Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone. He praises her book as a “withering critique” of the workings of public health funding.

  • Spelling bee culture

Co-winners of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee

WBUR (Boston NPR) highlighted the research of Shalini Shankar, sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist at Northwestern University, in an article on the May 28 results of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her current research examines the growth and proliferation of spelling competitions, specifically how they have become a mass-mediated, sport-like spectacle, why South Asian American children dominate them, and how spelling bee franchises are being exported to other countries leading to further commodification of the English language. Shankar is conducting fieldwork in the New York City area on spelling bees, spellers and their families, broadcasters such as ESPN and SONY TV, spelling bee production companies, and the Scripps Foundation. (more…)

GW event: Promoting Arctic Urban Sustainability

When: Thursday and Friday, June 4-5, 2015, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Where: Alumni House (1918 F Street NW), Washington, DC 20052

The unprecedented rate of climate change in the Arctic observed in recent decades creates greater opportunities to exploit oil, natural gas, and mineral resources. Extracting these resources will require labor migration into the Arctic. The effect of climate change is amplified in urban centers, where the presence of population, natural resource development, and other human activities exert additional pressure on Arctic ecosystems. Promoting urban sustainability in the Arctic is critical because the fragility of the environment, economy, and population makes mistakes more costly and likely to have a lasting impact than they would in more resilient environments. Policy makers and corporations focused on maximizing profit margins are not paying sufficient attention to such sustainability concerns meaning that the continuation of current practices could do irreparable damage to the Arctic environment.

On June 4 and 5 IERES will host a conference addressing a variety of topics central to promoting Arctic urban sustainability. The panels will address such issues as the role of cities in Russia, sustainability in various Arctic urban centers, energy resource development in the Arctic, and the future of Arctic cities in comparative perspective.

Please find the full agenda for the event and short summaries of the presentations here:

Please RSVP at

This event is on the record

Anthro in the news 5/25/15

  • The non-science (and more) of virginity testing of women

Sherria Ayuandini, a doctoral candidate in medical anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, published an op-ed in The Independent (U.K.) in which she argues against testing women’s virginity on scientific grounds:  “Any type of virginity test that relies on the observation of the hymen or of the tightness of the vagina is inconclusive, at best, or completely invalid.”  Beyond the science, she states: “No-one, neither a woman nor a man, should ever be compelled to endure such questioning, regardless of the reliability of the exam.” She concludes with this question:  “…it is worth pondering that as the testing tool at hand is highly unreliable, why would anyone even dare to entertain the imposition of such fallibility?” [Blogger’s note: Answer to the question – because they are patriarchists].

  • Farmers protesting in Burma

U Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Burma/Myanmar

Elliott Prasse-Freeman, doctoral candidate in anthropology at Yale University, published an article in Foreign Policy on how grassroots farmers are protesting elite control of “development” and land takeovers. Farmers have gone to court to protect their homes and land are increasingly taking to the streets to protest the new “development” policies and the draft land acquisition policy. According to Prasse-Freeman, a combination of protests and individual actions has, in some cases, succeeded in winning farmers meaningful concessions.

He cautions however that, “The successes of these movements and village-based politics should not be overstated. In Burma’s central Magwe region, most people still live under the thumb of the state. In outlying regions, ethnic minorities struggle for the freedom to govern themselves and for equal representation in national affairs. Plow protesters often end up in jail, the money they spent plowing their fields squandered. (Ko Taw estimates that only 5 percent of plow protests succeed in getting land returned.)”

  • Try this: NATO should first “assess”

Morwari Zafar published an article in Foreign Affairs in which she addresses plans for strengthening NATO’s new non-combat “train, advise, assist” mission in Afghanistan. She emphasizes the need for a first, key step: “assess.” Zafar is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Oxford and a visiting scholar in the Institute for Global and International Affairs in the Elliott School at the George Washington University. (more…)