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National Geographic Channel International Cancels “Nazi War Diggers”

To AAA members:
This letter was sent on March 31st, 2014, to the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channels and National Geographic Channel International to protest a program aired in Europe (with a trailer briefly available on YouTube), by the presidents of six anthropological and archeological associations based in the United States and Europe, including the AAA. The effort was spearheaded by Jeff Altschul, President of the Society for American Archeology. The content of the letter provides, I think, sufficient information for you to understand why this program is of concern to all anthropologists. Shortly before the letter was sent, Dr. Altschul received the following statement from John Francis, Vice-President of National Geographic:

“National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days about allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked. National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.”

We look forward to their response to our letter, and will indicate to them our willingness to work with them to ensure their programming meets the highest professional standards.

Best,

Monica Heller
President, American Anthropological Association

 

AAA President-elect Distinguishably Honored By Students

AWaterstonPhoto02.2014Named the 2014 Distinguished Faculty by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Alumni Association, Dr. Alisse Waterston will be honored during the annual Alumni Reunion in April. Dr. Waterston, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice since 2003, is a cultural anthropologist who studies the human consequences of structural and systematic violence and inequality. She is the American Anthropological Association’s President-elect and Editor of the Association’s newest digital publication, Open Anthropology. Dr. Waterston is a Soros International Scholar affiliated with the Gender Studies Department, Tbilisi State University, Republic of Georgia. And she is the author of My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century, an intimate ethnography in the Routledge Series of Innovative Ethnographies.

Take a #StandForScience

The FIRST Act, introduced on Monday by Representative Larry Buschon (R-IN), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research of the larger House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, fails to properly fund social science work at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and widens the nation’s innovation deficit. The FIRST Act would impede the mission of NSF and the nation’s research portfolio. Among other items, the bill:

1. Completely fails to meet the standards for science research and innovation that were set in the former version of the authorizing legislation, commonly referred to as the COMPETES Act;

2. Sets funding targets for for NSF and NIST that are not adequate to fund basic research; and

3. Includes a funding cut for the the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE), the division of the NSF that is primarily responsible for funding anthropological research.

Help AAA #StandForScience by contacting your congressional representative to request full restoration of NSF’s authorized levels or vote NO to the FIRST Act (#VoteNoHR4186). Please use the Twitter hastags to voice your opinion as well.

To read a press release issued by the American Association Universities, click here. For a copy of the FIRST Act, click here.

If you would like more information about contacting your Member of Congress, or about the FIRST Act, please contact Damon Dozier, AAA Director of Public Affairs at ddozier@aaanet.org.

Open Anthropology – The Social Life of Health, Illness, Medicine and Health Care: Anthropological Views

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Open Anthropology, a digital-only, public publication of the American Anthropological Association, is proud to announce the release of its third issue. In this edition, The Social Life of Health, Illness, Medicine and Health Care: Anthropological Views, editor Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, CUNY) curates eleven articles and three book reviews of anthropological works that encompass today’s health care debate, access to insurance and quality health care, social inequity, and historical perspectives on medicinal practices and well-being across cultures.

In her prefatory remarks, Waterston reflects on the national health care conversation, noting that “(t)he whole mess – the fights, the threats, the web crashes – was successful in capturing the public’s attention,” and is left to wonder if the cacophony served to distract the public from the key issues around access to health care. Editor Waterston offers a selection of anthropology articles that “help defamiliarize the ‘normal,’ that make strange the familiar, a process that can lead to new insights, understandings, and positions.”

At a time when the issues of health care and insurance are on the national agenda, Open Anthropology provides cross-cultural information and historical perspective to inform national and global health care policy and practice. Anthropologists recognize that when it comes to health care, “We are all in the same frail boat,” as Gerald D. Berreman notes in his article featured here. Others document obstacles to health and well-being as well as success stories in the effort to provide quality health care to all.

Content in Open Anthropology is culled from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and will be freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue is dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications.

Open Anthropology is available at http://www.aaaopenanthro.org

Inside Anti-Crisis

Anti-Crisis-BigMichael Schapira, Interview Editor at Full Stop sits down with Janet Roitman to get an insider perspective on her new book Anti-Crisis. Dr. Roitman, Chair, Department of Anthropology at the New School, examines the cycle of crisis production and thinks critically about the Global Financial Crisis. Below is an excerpt of the interview. Read the entire interview at Full Stop.

Crisis is not a small word. It is meant to raise the stakes of the present moment. We may no longer speak with the grandeur of the Continental philosopher (Rahm Emanuel parroting Winston Churchill —  “never let a good crisis go to waste” — is probably the best known use of the term today), but that doesn’t take any of the immediacy out of the crisis claim. However, what are the grounds of crisis? What allows us to call the 2007-9 economic collapse the “Global Financial Crisis,” and how do we tell ourselves the story of how we got there and where we need to go? As the anthropologist Janet Roitman notes in her excellent new book Anti-Crisis, our telling of events like the Global Financial Crisis has the effect of “permitting and enabling certain narrations and giving rise to certain questions, but not others.” The questions we tend to ask are along the lines of “what went wrong?” (e.g. in our pricing of derivatives or other complex financial instruments), but not “how can one know crisis in history? And how can one know crisis itself?” It is a stretch to say that the Global Financial Crisis has reached any neat resolution, which makes Roitman’s call to think outside of the politics of crisis such an important task for understanding our present moment — in both its limitations and possibilities.

I sat down with Janet on a chilly morning near Lincoln Center to discuss why we need to think crisis differently, why the concept has eluded the critical attention that we give to other terms, and why anthropologists may have something significant to contribute to philosophy and political theory.

Michael Schapira: How did you arrive at the concept of “crisis?”

Janet Roitman: It’s actually a very simple story. I’d published my first book, which was on Central Africa and related to economic anthropology. One of the things that was important to me in that book was to not write about Africa and its pathology. I was very careful not to take the Weberian model of the rational-legal state and then recount the ways that Africa diverges from and doesn’t achieve that model — which is basically what most political science on Africa does. I was teaching in France at the time and got an email from Beth Povinelli at Columbia inviting me to give the Franz Boas lecture. Of course, I was very flattered. So we had this email exchange. Fiscal Disobedience had been out for a couple of years and I didn’t want to just present the book, so I wondered what exactly they wanted me to do. She wrote back saying that the book had been really helpful for thinking about crisis in anthropology. I didn’t know if she meant crisis in the discipline of anthropology or how anthropologists deal with the concept of crisis, but what I did know is that I felt I had failed miserably. In the introduction to my first book, I say why I am not using the terms crisis or failed states, so I thought, “Oh no, I went to all these pains to avoid these terms and here they are asking me to come talk about them.” I was really flummoxed, but I thought about it and realized that Achille Mbembe and I had written this text almost a decade prior in Public Culture called “Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis.” So I went back and reread that text and realized that I was happy when we wrote it, but now totally disagreed with it a decade later. So I wrote the presentation for the Franz Boas lecture that explained why I was in disagreement with it and why my book was supposed to have marked a different direction.

To jump over a lot of stuff, I ended this experience of having given the lecture with the question of how to think Africa otherwise than under the sign of crisis, which was a quandary. As an anthropologist, or at least someone associated with the discipline of anthropology, I had to devise an ethnographic project to investigate this question; but first I really needed to think more about the concept. So I started this work of inquiring into the concept. When I arrived at The New School in 2007, I taught two graduate seminars where we really traced the emergence of the concept in the social sciences and its displacements through various disciplines — from Marxist historiography to economic anthropology to post-structuralism, etc.

Read the entire interview at Full Stop.

New Podcast Features Dr. Julienne Rutherford

Listen to the latest podcast, featuring biological anthropologists, Dr. Julienne Rutherford.

Dr. Rutherford in front of portrait entitled Psychedelic Placenta, by Mark Mershon, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing

Dr. Rutherford in front of portrait entitled Psychedelic Placenta, by Mark Mershon, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing

Julienne Rutherford earned her PhD in Biological Anthropology from Indiana University in 2007. She is an assistant professor of Women, Children, and Family Health Sciences and adjunct assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is currently the President of the Midwest Primate Interest Group. She is also the Biological Anthropology Section editor for Anthropology News. She was named a Leadership Fellow by the AAA in 2011, and was the 2013 recipient of the American Society of Primatologists Legacy Award. She was recently named the UIC Researcher of the Year “Rising Star” in the Clinical Sciences.

Rutherford’s research revolves around a central interest in the dynamic maternal environment in which a fetus develops. She is primarily interested in the primate placenta as a signaling interface between mother and fetus. She works with both humans and non-human primates to address questions regarding the effect of maternal ecology (nutrition, life history experience, behavior) on placental morphology, metabolic function, and gene expression and downstream sequelae for offspring health both postnatally and later in life. She has published her multifaceted research in American Anthropologist, Placenta, American Journal of Physical Anthropologists, American Journal of Primatology, American Journal of Human Biology, Obesity, and Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. She recently co-edited the volume Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Society of Primatologists.

Omnibus Funding Bill Is Good News For Anthropology

On Friday of last week, President Obama gave his signature to the  Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for the projects and activities of the federal government. While the bill was signed more than three months into the fiscal year, it is the first time in several years that Congress has competed work on appropriations legislation, and not resorted to keeping the government running through a series of long term “continuing resolutions.”

The agreement sets an overall discretionary spending cap over over $1.01 trillion and the measure is especially kind, given the current funding and fiscal climates, to the interests of anthropologists and others who seek research funding from the federal government. For example, overall funding for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), actually increased, respectively, by over four and three percent. These two funding agencies, according to AAA research, are actually responsible for most of the Federal funding allocated to anthropologists.

The NSF received over $7 billion in the omnibus bill,  and the so-called “policy riders” that have, in the past, restricted political science funding at the agency have been eliminated, and draft legislative language that would have threatened peer review were not included in the final legislative package. The NIH, by far the larger agency, received almost $30 billion in funding, with the expectation, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee that the monies would go to support “as many scientifically meritorious new and competing research grants as possible, at a reasonable award level.”

The protection of social and behavioral science funding and  the elimination of policy riders mark a huge legislative victory for the AAA and the coalitions that  we work with. AAA staff devoted a lot of time and resources on Capitol Hill over the past several months not only meeting with personal office staff, but with staff from the authorizing and appropriation committees as well. There was a lot of talk in Congress both last session and in the current legislative session last year and this year about potential cuts for social and behavioral science funding, and our lobbying efforts has a lot to do with changing conversations about the importance of funding this portfolio of research.

If you would like more information about either AAA lobbying efforts or the omnibus appropriations legislation, please contact Damon Dozier, Director of Public Affairs at ddozier@aaanet.org.

New Podcast Features Dr. Kristen Ghodsee

ghodsee head shotListen to the latest podcast, featuring Anthropology News contributing editor, Dr. Kristen Ghodsee (Bowdoin College).

Kristen Ghodsee earned her Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley and is the Director and John S. Osterweis Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College.  She is currently the President-elect of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.  She is the author of The Red Riviera: Gender, Tourism and Postsocialism on the Black Sea (Duke University Press, 2005), Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria (Princeton University Press, 2009), Lost In Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Socialism (Duke University Press, 2011), and numerous articles on gender, nostalgia, and Eastern Europe.  She is also the co-author of Professor Mommy: Finding Work/Family Balance in Academia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).  Her fifth book, The Left Side of History: Communism, Idealism and Remembering World War II, is forthcoming with Duke University Press in 2015.

Ghodsee is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, NCEEER, IREX and ACLS, and has been awarded internationally competitive residential research fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC; the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey; the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Study (FRIAS) in Germany.  

In 2012, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Anthropology and Cultural Studies.  

Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum

Have you read the article featuring AAA members, Chip Colwell-Chanhaphonh (Denver Museum of Nature and Science), Linda Giles (Illinois Wesleyan U), Stephen Nash (Denver Museum of Nature and Science) and Monica Udvardy (U Kentucky), regarding the return of the totems to the National Museums of Kenya?

Here’s an excerpt:

Now, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science says it has devised a way to return the 30 vigango it received as donations in 1990 from two Hollywood collectors, the actor Gene Hackman and the film producer Art Linson. The approach, museum officials say, balances the institution’s need to safeguard its collection and meet its fiduciary duties to benefactors and the public with the growing imperative to give sanctified objects back to tribal people.

“The process is often complicated, expensive and never straightforward,” said Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the museum’s curator of anthropology. “But just because a museum is not legally required to return cultural property does not mean it lacks an ethical obligation to do so.”

The museum this month will deliver its 30 vigango (pronounced vee-GON-go; the singular form is kigango) to the National Museums of Kenya. Officials there will choose whether to display the objects, hunt through the nation’s hinterlands for their true owners and original sites, or allow them to decay slowly and ceremoniously, as was intended by their consecrators. Whatever they opt to do, Kenyan officials say, sovereignty over the objects should be theirs and not in the hands of foreign museums.  (The details of the transfer are still being negotiated.)

But repatriating them takes far more than addressing a parcel. No federal or international laws prevent Americans from owning the totems, while Kenyan law does not forbid their sale. And the Kenyan government says that finding which village or family consecrated a specific kigango is arduous, given that many were taken more than 30 years ago and that agricultural smallholders in Kenya are often nomadic.

Some 20 institutions in the United States own about 400 of the totems, according to Monica L. Udvardy, a professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky and an expert on Kenyan culture who has studied and tracked vigango for 30 years. She said that Kenyans believe that vigango are invested with divine powers and should never have been removed from their sites and treated as global art commodities. Kenyan officials have made constant pleas to have the objects sent back.

Read the entire article at The New York Times.

Rare Tlingit War Helmet Discovered at Springfield Science Museum

SPRINGFIELD, MA – Stored on a shelf for over 100 hundred years, a rare anthropological treasure was recently discovered in the Springfield Science Museum’s permanent collections. Museum Director David Stier, who has worked in museums collections for almost 30 years, describes the discovery as nothing less than “the find of a lifetime.”

The mystery began to unfold when Museum staffers began to select objects from the over 200,000 items in the Museum’s collections for a new display titled “People of the Northwest Coast.” Dr. Ellen Savulis, the Science Museum’s Curator of Anthropology, was intrigued by one of the items described in collections records as simply an “Aleutian hat.”  The object was relatively large, ornately carved, and made from a single piece of dense wood. Although Dr. Savulis’ main area of expertise is Northeastern United States archaeology, she had the foresight to question whether hats made by the Unangax, the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands, were typically made from such dense wood. Upon further investigation, Dr. Savulis found that the only type of wooden hat made in the treeless Aleutians is the hunting hat or visor, made from a thin plank of driftwood bent into a lopsided cone.None of this information matched the object she had in front of her.

TlingitHelmet2Dr. Savulis suspected that she had a helmet of some kind, and enlisted the help of Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.  After hearing the description and an extensive viewing of artifact images, Mr. Henrikson responded enthusiastically, “This is a Tlingit war helmet, absolutely, no question!”  He went on to say that “it’s very rare – there are less than 100 Tlingit war helmets in existence that we know of. I’ve been studying them for over 20 years and I’m sure I’ve seen most of them.”

Museum records show that the artifact was accepted into collections sometime after 1899, the year that the Springfield Science Museum (formerly the Museum of Natural History) moved into its own building at the Quadrangle.  The source of the artifact was not known, and it carried the simple label “Aleutian hat.” Having limited experience with cultural materials, museum specialist Albertus Lovejoy Dakin accepted the accuracy of the object’s label and entered it as such in the collection records. Some 40 years later the artifact received a permanent museum collection number from museum director Leo D. Otis, who still had no reason to dispute the “Aleutian hat” claim. There the artifact remained in its spot in the permanent collections, carefully preserved and unheralded, waiting to be found.

According to Mr. Henrikson, we now know that the object is indeed a war helmet from the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska.  The style of the carving and decoration on the helmet (probably the emblem of a clan) dates it to the mid-19th century or earlier. With the mass importation of firearms to the region in the mid-1800’s, this sort of body armor became relegated to ceremonial uses. Today, a few helmets are still brought out at ceremonial gatherings, such as potlatches, to commemorate prominent events and honor past clan elders.  Because they are associated with combat, the helmets are not actually worn on the head during such peaceful gatherings, but are instead held in hand or perhaps held over the head of someone needing spiritual support.

Henrikson estimates that there are approximately 95 war helmets in existence today, mostly in large museum collections. Many of these were collected by Russian explorers on the battlefield following clashes with the Tlingit. The largest collection of Tlingit armor is at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology in St. Petersburg.

Beginning as protection for Tlingit warriors in battle, war helmets today serve the Tlingit as healing reminders of their rich and ancient history.  A glimpse of this rich history can be seen starting Thursday, December 26, when the helmet will be placed on display for the first time since arriving in Springfield over a century ago.

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