Friday, December 17, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 20

The #AAAfail continues. It has achieved cartoon status:
Note: I took this cartoon from Neuroanthropology. It was originally posted by antradio.

Dan Lende continues to lead the discussion at Neuroanthropology. (Seriously, it's as though he's been working overtime to provide coverage. I actually plan to spend some time over there this morning catching up.) His latest post takes NY Times writer Nicholas Wade to task for stirring the controversy needlessly by citing Frank Marlow of the Evolutionary Anthropology Society:
“I really don’t see how or why anthropology should entail humanities,” said Frank Marlowe, president-elect of the Evolutionary Anthropology Society, another association affiliate, given that the social sciences are empirical, while the humanities are analytic, critical or speculative.
Dan responds:
Do you bring a knife to a gun fight? No. Do you bring a science reporter to cover a complicated and heated debate over science? In this case, no. The knife of precision did not cut through all the smoke from the gun battles, some internal, many external, that surrounded the controversy.
He then shares responses from the AAA and the Section Assembly. Dan also takes a moment to inject a bit of humor into the situation by poking some fun at some of the colorful responses to this whole mess on the web.

If you haven't already, you should read the AAA response, as well as "What is Anthropology?," which they appear to float as a means of reinforcing anthropology as a holistic discipline. Still, I agree that it is a move in the right direction, and perhaps time for the anthropological community to help drive the discussion. I really liked Rex's idea over at Savage Minds about creating creeds for evaluation. (Incidentally, Rex has a recent post up where he discusses the PR failings of the AAA.)

Elsewhere on the web, Martin Rundvkist shares his thoughts on hope for the humanities:
The humanities won't mend a leaky roof. They won't put food on the table. They won't cure polio. They won't create peace or prosperity. And taxpayers know this perfectly well. For these reasons, I believe that we absolutely cannot market ourselves in terms of any indispensable societally structure-supporting utility. We will only makes fools of ourselves. Because the raison d'ĂȘtre of the historical humanities doesn't lie in any practical utility, but in their enjoyment potential. In the joy of learning something interesting about the past that is true. In the joy of seeing something for real that has survived since antiquity.
While you're over there, wish Martin a happy blogiversary—he's been doing this for five years now!

There's a fantastic post up at Not Exactly Rocket Science on what we can learn about language from Google Books:
It’s a record of human culture, spanning six centuries and seven languages. It shows vocabularies expanding and grammar evolving. It contains stories about our adoption of technology, our quest for fame, and our battle for equality. And it hides the traces of tragedy, including traces of political suppression, records of past plagues, and a fading connection with our own history.
The patterns that are suggested are really provoking—so much of who we are is defined by what we say (and what we don't say). We've generated a history of sorts with our words that may be deeply revealing.

hawkinsw shared a story with me about an oral history project available to the public via the British Library. I had a chance to take a look, and it's really neat. The collection is essentially people telling you about their lives in the late-19th and 20th centuries. For me, the rate of change is really astounding. I plan to delve deeper when I have some time.

And finally, ever wonder what happened to Amelia Earhart? She may have been eaten by crabs.
Researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) found what appears to be a phalanx from a finger and two other bones, one of them from the neck, alongside a host of other clues after two decades and 10 expeditions attempting to solve the mystery.

The suspected finger is being tested for human DNA. It may turn out to be from a turtle – which have similar bones in their flippers.

But the other discoveries lend credence to the theory that Earhart died on the atoll after going missing en route to Howland Island in July 1937 at the age of 41 – she was declared legally dead 18 months later.
Sadly, her Castaway story did not seem to end well.

Until next time.

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