Anthropology, the environment and development

Today’s environment is constantly changing due to climate change and developing more buildings on local land.

From the anthropological perspective according to authors, Elizabeth Croll and David Parkin, who wrote Bush Base, Forest Farm: Culture, Environment, and Development, local people’s knowledge and use of the surrounding environment through language is broken by change of the cultural and physical environment. Therefore, the traditional skills of these people living locally and depending on the survival of the environment are practically gone. For example, for the native tribes living in the Amazon, they depend on the medicinal qualities of the plants to help heal any illnesses/diseases. So, if the Amazon trees are getting cut, then these plants are being destroyed, causing culture loss and diversity for the people living there. To prevent this, organizations are allowing local populations to fully share in the available power and be permitted uncontrolled access to their own natural resources while living within their own cultural and social contexts.

From an ecological standpoint, the authors believe in sustainable development for every country because it allows countries to grow and develop but at the same time remaining firmly attached to the ecological roots. Currently, developing countries are most at risk because they continue to over-exploit their soils, over-graze fragile grasslands, and cut dwindling forest stocks, causing depletion of the environment. Again, to prevent this, international, national, and local communities have been increasing recognized achievement of sustainable development to save the environment.

In conclusion, the environment is very important to who we are as human beings since it is a part of our national identity. Destroying it lets us also destroy the ecological perspectives and roots that we have gained from protecting it from harm. And for the people who depend on the environment for everyday usage need to thrive as well in order to preserve the culture they come from.

Reference: Croll, Elizabeth and David Parkin. Bush Base, Forest Farm: Culture, Environment, and Development. Reutledge, London; 1992.

Masculinity-An Advantage or Disadvantage?

By now everyone has heard something about the “hot felon” that has been offered contracts for modeling and been given more news press than most prisoners. In the article “Buff and Busted: Criminalizing Men” by Lindsey Feldman, talks about how men can use their masculinity as a way to help get themselves out of poor situations, yet there is a side to “bad boy” masculinity that can be harmful and permanently categorize men so they cannot escape the social brand.

The article touches on a lot of different parts of masculinity that were talked about in class and other works, but the part that stood out best to me was this quote “For male inmates, the potential for escape can potentially come in the form of blue eyes and bone structure, in the power of masculinist ideals.” This quote brings up many of the ideas from Byron Hurt Beyond Beats and Rymes. In the movie it was said that the American mindset that a violent man with a gun is exactly what a man should be. It was also mentioned that there are two sides to a man, the “you” and the “thug,” each of which can be a prison of sorts. Masculinity is both empowering and damaging to men and this article shows both sides.

Unless social stigmas about men and masculinity change, there will always be categorizing of males into certain groups. The individual in a masculine standpoint is not as valued as the idea of what a real man is envisioned as. This is a huge anthropological problem because to change the mindset of society, it will take a great deal of effort-much of which no one wants to bother with. Hot felon or not, men will only be able to rely on their masculine features so much before they become more of a curse than a blessing.


Me, Myself, and my Ego

Me, Myself, and my Ego

The article “Dealing with Inflated Egos” by Ty Matejowsky and Beatriz Reyes-Foster, discusses the problems that can arise when people think too much of themselves and get into trouble with others. While I thought this article would focus more on the ego, it took it one step further to what I can interpret as everyday and structural violence within the power relations of students and professors.

The article talks about how field schools can become places of bad memories because teachers take their power and use it badly. Their inflated egos allow them to believe they have a right to do things like “demanding lead authorship on original work you have done without actually having written anything.” This reminds me of structural violence that we have discussed many times in class. It is a chronic problem that can arise when people of higher power misuse and abuse their influence on others. This is most prevalent in the Democratic Insecurities book where the government and men force women to do their bidding and be subservient to them. I can also see some of the instances in the article to be everyday violence because many people ignore it and allow the mistreatment to go unchecked as it is something that happens too often to really care about.

In the future these egotistical people will be responsible for their actions, but this article brings up an interesting anthropological view. People misuse power and get too carried away when they think themselves above others. While it will be nearly impossible to control these issues fully, having more democratic schools where all people have stronger voices could help to start combating the great and mighty ego we all encounter at some point in our lives.


Voodo, Magic, and Witchcraft

In the article, “Unmaking spirits? A case of witchcraft in Cuba,” by Diana Espirito, the article discusses how witchcraft in Cuba is a large part of their culture and is prevalent in the lives of those who live there as well as visit. Diana talks about her experience with a spirit that was sent to attach itself to her and give a message of love from the sender.

This entire article reminds me of the excerpt we discussed in class called “The Secrets of Hati’s Living Dead.” We talked about how voodoo and witchcraft were a way to control people as well as uphold laws. Once one was a zombie and taken control of by witchcraft, they would have to be freed in order to escape the hold of their master. In the Unmaking Spirits article, Diana states “selves or souls (or souls as selves) are located in the recesses of bodies or minds, subject to ascension (or liberation) after death, or recovery through therapy.” This brings up the cultural idea that souls can be freed even after they are trapped with voodoo or witchcraft. This idea and kind of ritual is found in many other cultures.

The idea of witchcraft being used to contain souls and use them to do the bidding of a master is a strong part of cultural anthropology. It is important in the future to make sure these unique cultures are preserved and won’t be destroyed like many thanks to the modern world.


Social Media Activism: Effective or Ineffective?

In this article, James Jang discusses the effectiveness and ineffectiveness in activism against racism on social media. In particular, James focuses on the website Tumblr. The article tackles the idea of whether or not social media posts against racism are helpful in combating injustice or if these posts just support a theory of “inauthentic”, “poser” activists. This is a concept I myself have struggled with as well. As these forms of social media (as well as the internet as a whole) are intangible, are posts related to injustice as powerful as physical acts of protests such as going into the street and marching, holding signs, or rioting? In James’ article, he points out that “Tumblr is an interesting place to observe social justice in action. It hosts networks of anti-racist bloggers who resist the everyday racisms they experience in their “real” or “physical” lives.” As James continues, anti-racism bloggers “communicate their anti-racist thoughts and engage with ideas that challenge or inform their individual understanding and experiences of racism”.

James explains that various blog arenas can be accessed via tumblr. These blogs, have an “about me” section which allows the blogger to share their backgrounds as PoCs, allowing them to assert themselves within the community of anti-racism. These ethnic identity assertions allow for individuals to share their experiences with racism as well as communally assert their issues with US treatment of minorities within the country. James also makes the argument that internet space is a “safe space” where PoC are not withheld from saying who they truly feel about US society.

I find this conversation especially pertinent due to the recent non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed young black Ferguson resident Michael Brown. Since this grand jury decision, I have seen many social activism posts on my Facebook newsfeed. Do you all find the internet to be an effective way to promote social justice? Is the fact that the internet is a non-tangible outlet make it less effective? What does a post to social media say about you and your willingness to speak up against the injustice of this judicial response? Are you doing enough?

Mobile Phones more common than Toilets

Here is a question to think about: How many people have mobile phones in the world? How many people have access to a toilet in the world? If you do research and take a look at the numbers, they are significantly different. Why is that the case?

According to Jen Barr, the author of article, “Oh shit, mobile phones more common than toilets,” many people around the world today have access to a mobile phone of some sort, so we need to make toilets available to everyone. However, in many urban places, the infrastructure for managing human waste is either inadequate or completely absent, causing people to deal with their waste somehow.

In countries like China, Tanzania, Kenya, Bangladesh, and India, waste is handled by other humans with very limited or no protection at all. Therefore, this inequality or lack of access to better sanitation conditions leave people living in these countries at a high risk for serious diseases and conditions.

According to the article, currently 2.5 billion people lack access to safe sanitation and over 1.1 billion people defecate in the open. These numbers are unbelievable. I understand that many countries do not have a state manage system in which the state government maintains the waste system, but still.

In conclusion, many people still lack access to sanitation and toilets in developing countries. Meanwhile, living in the United States, we have access to toilets as well as mobile phones. We should consider the conditions in other parts of the world.




Forensic Science in Crime solving

On television, I like to watch shows about solving crimes with forensic science such as CSI or Bones. I personally don’t want to be in that field, dealing with blood and dead bodies, but I find it fascinating how forensic scientists use similar methods from anthropology to follow the evidence and solve the crime in the end.

Authors, Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, on their book Crime Science Methods of Forensic Science, write about how scientists use different strategies in order to find a killer either guilty or innocent of the crime. One way is by documentation. Documentation involves taking numerous photographs of the scene, sketching the crime scene, and jotting down important notes. This is very similar to the way ethnography works in anthropology in which an anthropologist observes by participant observation in a culture and also takes notes.

Looking at physical space, the size of the crime laboratory depends on the social nature and size of the community that it serves as well as the cases, the facilities available, and funding from the government. Every lab has certain types of facilities that pertain to the specialists in that particular area to process the evidence.

The idea behind forensic science is to use scientific disciplines to bring criminals to justice in the courtroom using personal evidence, physical evidence, other general types of evidence, and most importantly, the corpus delicti evidence. This can be seen everywhere to show how important forensic science could be in the world.

Reference: Nickell, Joe and John F. Fischer. Crime Science Methods of Forensic Science. The University Press of Kentucky, Kentucky; 1999.

Why does love hurt?

Why is it that a broken heart can leave us nearly incapable of anything? Explained by anthropologist Helen Fisher, a major factor in increasing the intensity of love is that love is present in many parts of the brain. The ventral tegmental area of the brain is responsible for making dopamine in response to a rewarding experience. This area of the brain is much more than our emotions, it’s associated with the reptilian part of the brain which is responsible for wanting, motivation, focus, and craving. This area of the brain is activated during a cocaine high, but lasts much longer when an individual is in love.

Fisher and her team conducted MRI tests to study which regions of the brain are activated with love and which are activated after an individual has been dumped. One of the regions that was activated was the same as an individual who is experiencing intense romantic love. This becomes problematic because it causes an individual to love even harder. The second area that showed activity is associated with gains and losses. After a breakup, individuals try to rationalize what went wrong and what has been lost. The third region was one associated with deep attachment and this can explain why crimes of passion occur.

Sports: not only means sports

There is an anthropological view that sports is not simply sports, it can be seen as the embodied culture of a country. As Fuji implies in his article, sports can be used by political and social leaders to instill a particular series of values in citizens. He also suggests that sports as embodied culture is especially useful in two areas: childhood education and gender.

As Fuji mentions Susan Brownell’s ethnographic study of Chinese women track and field athletes in his article that sports can be used to instill particular cultural disciplines into Chinese athletes as well as citizens in general, I think that’s right. For instance, in China, sports is related to national honor tightly. Nearly all Chinese athletes think it’s their responsibility to win competitions for the nation’s glory. Even after they win competitions and are interviewed, their first sentences are always “I pay deep sense of gratitude to my country, the Party and the People”. Sports is not merely sports in China; it is a way to present China’s power. Therefore, sports, in a way, is used to imbue particular values in citizens and actually also contributes to build up a unique national identity.

Sports also play an important role in childhood education. For instance, some Americans invest significant time and money in childhood sports they think sports, as an embodied culture, is beneficial for their children to become people who have self-esteem, perseverance and confidence.

In the gender aspect, sports stands for masculinity. Women are seen in disadvantageous position in sports merely because of their gender. Even in the U.S., which has a federal law requiring equal opportunities for boys and girls in educational institutions, including school sports, a number of girls are still judged unfairly such as they could not have great grades as same-age male athletics just because they’re female.

In conclusion, anthropology is useful to explore the multiple meanings in sports, but at the same time, it also raises problems that exist in sports. What we can do is to utilize anthropology as a way to provide solutions for those problems.

Reference: Sports as Embodied Culture Author: Fuji

Everyone’s Opinions Matter

There are millions of people worldwide living without a home. They must learn to survive on their own without daily running water, electricity, and some times without a guaranteed meal. However, despite their lack of  resources they express the capacity to conform to the norm.

The Espacio Carlos Mugica is a support group composed of of people who live in the street along with organizations that actually support those that live in the street. The main purpose of this group is to participate in the design, implementation, and assessment of public policy to protect the rights of those who live on the streets and are homeless.

The Espacio Carlos Mugica serves as an aid to those who are less fortunate for the sole purpose of caring for them, it is not an attempt for them to be seen in a brighter light or in a better perspective. They have weekly meetings at a specific point on the street to to discuss was to taking action, collectively. The actions would for the most part be aimed towards ways to obtain food, shelter, health, and public policy.

In one instance, a man from a group call Proyecto 7 managed and Integration Center and was the first organization world wide to be self managed by a homeless man.