Why Cellphones Are More Common Than Toilets

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In many urban countries, sanitation and waste disposal are extremely widespread issues. Improper handling of this waste can cause a litany of diseases for the people living in these countries. Considering the risk, one would assume that managing sanitization would be a top priority for the governments and people of these countries. However, it has been found that they are more concerned with gaining the use of mobile phones than to toilets; as a result, creating the situation in which there are more mobile phones on earth than toilets. In her article, “Oh, shit! Mobile phones are more common than toilets”, Jen Barr discusses the 5 top anthropological reasons why this phenomenon exists. 

Her first reason is that people’s priorities make mobile phones more useful than toilets. Mobile phones can be used to do business, quickly obtain facts, and can even be used in transferring funds. Toilets have a more “indirect” benefit, in that every person in the community would need to have a toilet in order to see the general health improvements. Her second reason is that while toilets have to be maintained by the owner (cleaning the toilet and in some situations getting your tank pumped), cell phones are maintained mostly by whatever service provider a person has. Her third reason has to do with gender. Since in most of these underdeveloped countries woman’s place is in the home, toilets would be more important to woman. Since men handle most business affairs, a cell phone would be more important to them. Also considering the fact that men tend to be the monetary providers for these countries, it is no wonder that families choose to spend money on phones and not toilets. The fourth reason that she presents is that people tend to be more excited about cell phones than toilets, as you can do more with them and use them in public. Using toilets is generally a private thing and not something people generally get excited about. Her final reason is the obvious, that we do not need as many toilets as we need cell phones because toilets are shared and phones generally are not.

In general, mobile phones provide a more immediate benefit in the cultures of these people and help with a number of problems (financial, contacting family, etc.) that we do not face in our culture, so it is not that surprising that they would find mobile phones to be a more pertinent investment.


Vampires Through the Ages

Vampire-grave         twilight-bella-edward

In my previous blog, I discussed the fascination of humans with otherworldly creatures in the present (specifically, aliens). This time I will be talking about an older human fear and fascinate that still continues to present day. This is the belief in vampires. In her article, “Vampirisim”, Katy Meyers Emery evaluates vampire culture and the real problem that it posed for people in the past.

Evidence of vampirism can be found all throughout the archeology of ancient Europe. This evidence is most often found in grave sites dating around the 15th century (this was also the century in which Vlad the Impaler, a famous “vampire” lived and committed his acts of torture). Countless bodies have been found with wooden stakes driven through their hearts as well as multiple stab wounds to the heart, these were commonly used practices to keep the vampires from rising from the grave. The most recent archeological discovery of vampires was found in Poland, where 17 bodies were found decapitated with no grave markings whatsoever. The heads of the bodies were placed in their hands or between their knees. It has been speculated that the decapitation of these bodies was used as a means to keep them from rising as vampires, although it has not yet been determined whether this was the cause of death or a post-mortem alteration to the body.

Over the centuries, human’s views of vampires have changed drastically as a result of cultural change. During earlier periods, vampires and many other mystical creatures were viewed as very real and something worth taking precautionary measures against. Now, as depicted through popular movies and tv shows, vampires are viewed as sexy and desirable because we know they are not something that we really need to worry about.


Alien Culture

alien skull

Humans have been fascinated with the idea of aliens ever since the suggestion of otherworldly creatures came about. People are constantly looking for evidence to support their beliefs and prove that these aliens have, in fact, landed on Earth. A surprising amount of this “evidence” is found through archaeology, but the validity of these finds is often questionable. In her article, “Aliens and Archeology”, Katy Meyers Emery discusses some examples of fake alien proof and why people so badly want to believe that they are real.

Researchers and archeologists alike have found many different artifacts supporting the theory of extraterrestrial life. However, most of these phenomena are easily explained through anthropology, science, or a mixture of the two (like the examples mentioned above). The article focussed on two specific examples; the Paracas skulls and the Starchild. The Paracas skulls actually refer to the 429 mummies found in a necropolis in Peru by Julio Tello in the year 1927. The mummies were all male and found in a sitting position, facing north, dating from 800 to 100 BC. The distinctive feature of these mummies was that most of them had deformed or elongated skulls. These bodies were mistaken as aliens until research showed that the elongation of the skull was a cultural practice of the time, as a representation of status. The Starchild refers to the enlarged skull of a child found in El Paso, Texas, claimed to be the result of a human-alien crossbreeding. Upon further research and DNA testing, the skull was found to be completely human and the enlargement due to congenital hydrocephalous.

Emery explains our fascination with aliens on the expansion of our knowledge of space and the growing possibility of its colonization. There is still so much to learn and explore in space, and it is right within our grasps. This is what inspires people to start considering things like aliens and living on other planets, the fact that it is not so far ahead in our future.


Lamilly vs. Barbie

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Barbie has always been infamous for representing the unattainable physical goals placed on girls and women alike. Many dolls have come and go in hopes to combat Barbie’s success, yet none have remained as iconic as Barbie herself. The latest, however, has taken a different approach from the others. The photo in the top left is Lamilly, created by Nickolay Lamm to represent the real, average proportions of a 19-year-old girl. In the article “Why Lamilly Won’t Last”, author Elizabeth Chin expresses her prediction that, much like the others, this doll will not stand a chance against the one and only Barbie.

Her first reason for this belief is that it has already been done with 1991’s Barbie alternative, the “Happy To Be Me” doll. This doll, extremely similar to Lamilly, was a massive failure and very unpopular with the children. The whole intrigue surrounding Barbie, Chin states, is that she is NOT real. It seems the more imaginative and less life-like a toy, the more children are enamored by it (Monster High dolls were listed as an example of this).

Her second reason is that she believes Barbie is not the one to blame for low self-esteem, it is “the culture that produces Barbie”. She believes that the culture that we live in today greatly stresses the need for perfection in every aspect of our lives. Barbie cannot be blamed for all of the unrealistic standards placed on young girls today, it is our society with its heavy importance on physical beauty that should be to blame. In conclusion, Chin believes that we should not change the doll, but that we should change our values and our society if we want to see less self-esteem problems in young girls.

link: http://savageminds.org/2014/04/05/why-lamilly-wont-last/#more-10606

A Home Fit for a Cat


While some may think the idea of altering your home for a cat is silly, unique cat furnishings are becoming increasingly popular on a global scale. In his article, “Outfitting the modern cat”, Paul Mullins showcases the swanky new designs for feline furniture and discusses our true motivation for buying them.

As of recent a new range of feline furniture has appeared on the market, ranging in styles from wheels to towers to beds to most anything you can imagine (an example being the picture shown above). According to Mullins, these furnishings serve as an example of material culture for both cats and their humans. They are pieces that are representative of hardcore cat owners and the animals that they belong to. While most people would brush this off as an example of wasted money (the cats won’t appreciate these gifts anyways, right?), Mullins suggests that the real reasoning for these purchases is a selfish one. He suggests that we buy these things more so for our own enjoyment than for the enjoyment of the cats. After all, who doesn’t love watching a cat try to get out of a box or plastic bag? The reason for our enjoyment is that it “shape[s] how how humans perceive their own domestic material spaces”. By this, he means that cats, with the way they can climb walls and get into incredibly small spaces, make us look at our rooms and furniture in a way we would not have thought of without a cat.

In conclusion, these furnishings are not only markers of a specific group (cat owners), but are also tools in viewing our environments in new and different ways when looking at it from an anthropological point of view.

link: http://popanth.com/article/outfitting-the-modern-cat-the-material-culture-of-felines-and-their-humans

Fashionably Late


   In a generation where the phrase “out with the old, in the new” is overwhelmingly embraced, rapper Macklemore created a song praising the old and outdated with his hit “Thrift Shopping”. The song describes the new, “hipster” trend of wearing second-hand clothing and states that it has become more fashionable today than wearing the latest Gucci piece. Its meaning and cultural relevance are analyzed in Dawid Kolbiałka’s anthropological article,”Popping Tags”.

  For his article, Kolbiałka starts with an analysis of the music video. He describes clothing from the 80’s and 90’s, Macklemore riding around in a fur coat, and a DeLorean. All of these factors are representative, Kolbiałka states, of the hipster trend and its use of “material culture” from previous decades. Material culture is defined as “the physical evidence of a culture in the objects or architecture that they make, or have made”, and is most commonly used in archeological studies. This word was not used by accident. Kolbiałka goes on to compare Macklemore, and all hipsters for that matter, to an archeologist, “digging” and “searching” through the clothes of a thrift store (described as a cultural heritage site) as an archeologist would a dig site. This is where the use of thrift store clothes as material culture comes into play. The fact that being a hipster is currently cool and trendy proves that they have become a symbol of current culture through the use of artifacts from previous cultures.

  In conclusion, Kolbiałka’s article shows the comparison of hipsters to archeologists through their procuring of material culture from the recent past, and the representation of this through Macklemore’s song and music video.

links: http://popanth.com/article/thrift-shopping-with-macklemore