Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Four Stone Hearth No. 82

I'm so excited to host this edition of the Anthropology Blog Carnival. Here's a look at what's been happening around the web:

Over at The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson revisited the Kula in his post, Reciprocity and the Anthropology of Organ Transplants. Comparing contemporary work from Margaret Lock with Malinowski's exploration of reciprocity, Johnson discusses the ways obligations to reciprocate can create cultural perspectives on gift giving—particularly when the gift is not a material item, but the "gift of life." Johnson states:
Just as Malinowski's groundbreaking work on the Kula demonstrated how important gift exchanges were in the construction of meaning, Marcel Mauss has more recently argued that gifts are intrinsically viewed as part of a social exchange and receivers of gifts feel obligated to reciprocate. Lock's work highlights how this obligation becomes a problem with the unique human invention of organ transplants and is one that has generated conflicting attitudes about the exchange between societies.
It's a great read that reminds us of the ways we can build on the knowledge base created by those who come before us. (FYI, the comments tied to this post are also interesting.)

Martin Rundkvist has an interesting post up on the information that dendrochronology can provide. In New Dendro Dates and Provenances for Norwegian Ship Burials, Rundkvist discusses an article where two less-well-known ship burials are dated. Dendro-dating seems to have a great deal of potential for providing additional insights about wooden artifacts—it will be interesting to see how this dating technique can be applied. I also want to direct your attention to another post on Aardvarchaeology: In Mulled Wine and Waning Family Ties, Rundkvist blogs about the evolution of a family tradition that has faded as the parties involved have aged. His thoughts lead him to consider the ways in which the notion of "family" is constructed. This past year, my family has seen a number of changes with weddings and new babies. Roles have changed as parents have become in-laws, siblings appointed as aunts and uncles, and naming godparents has proved to be a political act. I have watched as these events have changed the relationships between a very close group of first cousins, and this post made me think about the future of this particular family—new alliances will undoubtedly be forged and new groups with their own traditions formed. As the holidays approach and we are inundated with "family" obligations and rituals and traditions, it's an interesting way to think about how these activities will change and what that will mean for our individual families.

At Archosaur Musings, David Hone poses the question: Do We Over Specialise? Hone questions the ways specialisation limits knowledge even while increasing our ability to do "better and more detailed" science. He reminds us that while specialisation can greatly contribute to knowledge stores, scientists also need a sense of the bigger picture. The comments that have resulted have been interesting to follow—check it out and chime in.

Technology has infiltrated many aspects of our lives. As a reminder that anthropology is moving into new fields, at An Anthropologist Goes Techno, there's a great post about the six tribes of Homo Digitalis. In the first digital anthropology report, tech users are divided into six groups. Where would you fit?

And on this blog, I've had a few things on my mind. In Music and the Counterpoint of Humanity, I talk about the ways music can connect us to a heritage, a history, and each other. In Sleepers, Squeezers, Lurkers and More, I explore interactions on mass transit. And finally, in the latest installment in the Culture in Action series, I take my readers to a Bengali Gaye Holud—a purification/beautification ceremony traditionally held for to-be wedded couples. In this instance, the tradition was adapted for a vow renewal ceremony.

On a side note, if you're interested in revisiting your days as a graduate student approaching post-doc status, Jen Shaffer's Green Chicken Diaries has presented a fantastic opportunity to walk down memory lane—just in case you had forgotten what grad school was like :)

Well, that's it for now. There weren't too many submissions, so don't be shy about recommending posts that make you think about our relationship to our world and our histories. The next edition of Four Stone Hearth is scheduled for Dec. 30, and the hosting spot is still available so send Martin Rundkvist a note and keep the carnival going.

In case you missed it, the last edition was hosted by Spider Monkey Tales. Be sure to check it out.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.


  1. nice. how do can we join the four stone hearth?

  2. Bonvito, visit You can volunteer to host the next carnival (Jan. 13) on your site by clicking Martin's contact information on the left side of the page. Cheers, K