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Prominent Anthropologist Welcomes Football Team Name Trademark Cancellation

In a move that was hailed by the anthropological community, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced on Wednesday morning that it had canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name “Washington Redskins” citing testimony and evidence that the Washington, DC- based football team’s name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus in violation of federal trademark laws banning offensive terms and language.

While the decision today means that the team can continue to use the term, the phrase is no longer owned by the organization, meaning it will be difficult to stop others from using the term, and thus limiting its financial benefit to the club.

Dr. Bernard C. Perley, a Native American and anthropologist, released the following statement in the wake of the government’s decision:

Today, I am celebrating the US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the six trademark registrations of the NFL Washington professional football team. The Patent and Trademark Office made their decision based on evidence and concluded that the trademark (the “r word”) is “disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered”.

This decision represents the best values of the American people as established in the founding documents of the United States. It also echoes the work of generations of anthropologists who have worked and continue to work with Native American communities to promote social justice for the first peoples of the Americas.

Unfortunately, there are many Americans who will make any excuse to support the NFL and the Washington team in their defense of the disrespectful name. The ruling does not prevent the team from continuing to use the derogatory term and it is likely the team will appeal the decision.

The US Patent and Trademark decision is good news but there is still much work to be done. The public debate over the “r word” has contributed to the growing awareness of the American public regarding the derogatory aspect of the term to many Native Americans. Anthropology can support and enhance that awareness by making public the ongoing work of anthropologists and Native American community leaders in promoting respect and understanding. We can accomplish this by disseminating the inspiring stories of Native American resilience and their contributions to the American experience.”

Dr. Perley is also a member of the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association

 

New Podcast Features Barbara Clark

B.ClarkListen to Barbara Clark in our newest podcast speak about her research in aviation discourse and safety. Dr. Clark is a visiting research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary, University of London. During a career in aviation as a flight attendant, Dr. Clark was inspired to join her passions for the aviation community and that of language and linguistics. She return to graduate school to earn a Masters and PhD in Linguistics from Queen Mary, University of London.

Learn about Dr. Clark’s research as she explores the communications of the aviation community and its impact on operations and safety as well as creation of sociocultural sub-communities.

 

 

Important Update on FIRST Act – Your Action Needed

Today’s guest blog post is by COSSA Executive Director, Wendy A. Naus.

On Wednesday, May 21, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will mark up the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act, or FIRST Act. As previously reported, this legislation proposes massive cuts to NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate, among other problematic provisions impacting the scientific community. COSSA has issued an Action Alert encouraging members to write to their House Representative urging them to vote “NO” on the bill.

Please take a moment to weigh in with your Member of Congress. Thank you!

Is Cultural Anthropology Really Disembodied?

Today’s guest blog post is by the President of the American Anthropological Association, Monica Heller.

Nicholas Wade’s recent book, A Troublesome Inheritance, is not one I would typically spend my weekends reading, as I don’t have much interest examining theories of everything in this world and little patience for theories as misguided as those examined in his book. But as science editor at The New York Times Wade wields influence, and his book reserves a special role for the American Anthropological Association (AAA), an organization of which I happen to be the current President. Unfortunately, that role is of the bad guy in a narrative opposing two figures: benighted cultural anthropology and « politically incorrect » but scientifically accurate theories of cultural evolution.

Those scientific theories, he says, show that race is a central feature of human biology, and that it has a genetic basis, which then influences social behaviour, some of which is more « successful » than others – not surprisingly, the behaviour he characterizes as « well adapted » is characteristic of Caucasians, and especially of Western Europeans. But it’s okay, he reassures us, the rest of us (well, you – I’m Jewish, and according to Wade astonishingly well-adapted, though the Sephardic bits might slow me down) can learn, and our genes can look Caucasian too! There are many problems with this argument, of course, notably the frequent confusion of correlation and causation, and the frequent omission of consideration of alternative hypotheses (for example, the equating of IQ measurements with an individual intelligence trait, as opposed to, say, the ability to write standardized tests). I will let my colleagues in biological anthropology address those that they are best-placed to discuss.

My own major surprise showed up on page 3. Using a single study of age of first reproduction on Isle-aux-Coudres (Quebec) between 1799-1940, Wade argues that a drop of four years over that time period is evidence of genetic adaptation with permanent consequences, and hence of contemporary evolution. Wade also uses such examples to argue that genetics are the basis of such social behaviours, while simultaneously arguing that genetic changes result from social conditions. I am from Quebec, as it happens, and have devoted years of study to francophone Canada. I’ve driven by Isle-aux-Coudres on many occasions (it is very pretty, you should go). I know a little about the political economy of reproduction in francophone Canada, enough anyway to know that (and why) it went from having one of the highest birth rates in the First World (and relatively low age of first reproduction) through to about 1960, to having one of the lowest in one generation – a rate which has subsequently persisted, with concomitant relatively high age of first reproduction. (And I know enough about l’Isle-aux-Coudres to know there is no reason to believe things would be different there.) And I’m not even a biological anthropologist.

Indeed, as President of the AAA, I could not help but notice that Wade portrays contemporary cultural anthropology as entirely represented by the American Anthropological Association (though admittedly, Wade doesn’t always get the association’s name right; let’s hope his copy editors catch those errors). Next, he portrays it as entirely founded on the work of Franz Boas, as though no one has had an original thought or a critique of Boas in the last 100 years or so. Third, he portrays the association as entirely devoted to a particular form of cultural anthropology which Wade decries as refusing to acknowledge biology altogether because it is a victim of its ideology; this will likely surprise both cultural anthropologists and AAA sections like the Evolutionary Anthropology Society as much as it surprised me. I am sure such oversimplification and reduction is useful for a book hoping to make a single point to a general public, but it concerns me that it should come from the person responsible for the science section of the New York Times. The cultural anthropology character in Wade’s book (that would be the one wearing a blindfold and erring in mists of its own creation) is not one I remember ever having encountered.

But what really concerns me, in the end, is the force of theories of race and cultural evolution. The fictive naturalization of what are fundamentally relations of power is, actually, terrifying. It would be lovely to think that they are too silly to waste our time on, but Wade’s book shows that they are not going away any time soon, and that we need to redouble our efforts to show them up for what they are: attempts to justify inequality. It would be nice to have The New York Times on our side. We have a few black hats to share.

 

The 2014 AAA Photo Contest

Announcing the 2014 AAA Photo Contest

Submit Your Photos through July 6th*

 

If you could define your work in a single picture, what would it look like?

 

AAA members work all around the world, in the most diverse cultures imaginable, and we want to showcase them.  If you attended the annual meeting last year in Chicago, you may have noticed a calendar waiting in your complimentary bag with some truly gorgeous pictures—drawing not just from cultural anthropology, but also archaeology, linguistic, biological and political fields.

 

We’d like to do it again this year, drawing from a new batch of photographs provided by you, our membership.  Photographs can be anything you believe relates to your work; the photographs may not portray any nudity or illicit activity.

 

Contestants may submit their work in one of three categories: people, places, practice.  Along with your photograph, include a caption for your work, and a brief autobiographical statement of no more than 150 words.  Your biography will not affect your likelihood of being featured in the calendar—we just like to learn a little bit more about our active members. Photographs must be your own, and you must be a current member of the AAA.  Winning photos in the calendar will be printed at 11×8, so be sure the resolution is good enough to print at those dimensions.  Submit your photos to http://projects.aaanet.org/photo_contest/

 

You may begin submitting your photographs today. You are more than welcome to submit up to 3 photographs, but only one will potentially be featured in the calendar. The deadline for entries will be June 30.  After we’ve processed the photos, we’ll put all qualified entries to the membership for a vote in the late summer. The votes will be tallied, and the top 12 photos, from 12 different members, will be featured in the 2015 AAA calendar, which will be distributed at this year’s annual meeting in Washington DC.  Of course, all winners will also be showcased on our website.

 

Questions? Contact Andrew Russell at photos@aaanet.org .*

*Information updated from the AN article: June 30th became July 6th to account for a longer submission phase, and photos@aaanet.org which will now field all questions, while http://projects.aaanet.org/photo_contest/ will field submissions.

Today! A Discussion On Genes, Race and Human History

Join us on Monday, May 5 at 1pm EST for a lively webinar, A Troublesome Inheritance – A discussion on genes, race and human history with author Nicholas Wade and Agustín Fuentes. This discussion will be moderated by AAA Executive Director, Dr. Edward Liebow.

Photo by The New York Times

Photo by The New York Times

Nicholas Wade received a B.A. in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating his writing on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor. Wades latest book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History (Penguin Press) will be available on May 6.

2012 Explorer PortraitAgustín Fuentes, trained in zoology and anthropology, is a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Fuentes completed a B.A. in Zoology and Anthropology, and an M.A.& Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research delves into the how and why of being human. From chasing monkeys in the jungles and cities of Asia, to exploring the lives of our evolutionary ancestors, to examining what people actually do across the globe, Professor Fuentes is interested in both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our closest relatives tick. Fuentes is author of Race, Monogamy and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature (University of California Press).

The webinar is free; however, registration is required.

If you missed today’s webinar, stream it now: http://bit.ly/1jvlnDK

New Webinar! A Discussion On Genes, Race and Human History

Join us on Monday, May 5 at 1pm EST for a lively webinar, A Troublesome Inheritance – A discussion on genes, race and human history with author Nicholas Wade and Agustín Fuentes. This discussion will be moderated by AAA Executive Director, Dr. Edward Liebow.

Photo by The New York Times

Photo by The New York Times

Nicholas Wade received a B.A. in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating his writing on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor. Wades latest book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History (Penguin Press) will be available on May 6.

2012 Explorer PortraitAgustín Fuentes, trained in zoology and anthropology, is a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Fuentes completed a B.A. in Zoology and Anthropology, and an M.A.& Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research delves into the how and why of being human. From chasing monkeys in the jungles and cities of Asia, to exploring the lives of our evolutionary ancestors, to examining what people actually do across the globe, Professor Fuentes is interested in both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our closest relatives tick. Fuentes is author of Race, Monogamy and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature (University of California Press).

The webinar is free; however, registration is required.

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