A Montreal newspaper story has rapidly sent Filipino tempers rising around the world. Luc Cagadoc, a 7-year-old pupil, was punished by a lunchtime day-care monitor: “You are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat,” the Quebecois educator allegedly said, and went on to observe that Luc “ate like a pig.” The reason: Luc insisted on eating with a spoon and fork as most Filipinos do.
"Educators and parents alike should find ways to work together to avoid traumatizing children who deserve more than to be made to feel inferior because of their parent’s culture", the editor (I suppose) of the Philippine Daily Inquirer comments.
In a follow-up article called Spoon Wars, anthropologist Michael L. Tan gives us more information about food, eating habits and cultural history (that's the role anthropologists should play, isn't it?):
For Filipinos, and most Asians, spoons were the greatest invention ever. Throw away the knife and the fork but never the spoon, which we use for soups, desserts, vegetables, even to cut meat.
Anyone with knowledge of culinary history can tell you the spoon was the first eating utensil to have been invented. Knives, well, they were originally invented as weapons, and then got reduced for the dining table. And the fork, the infamous fork that westerners insist is the main eating utensil? They come much later, introduced from the Middle East into southern Europe, but treated with disdain by the northern Europeans.
Etiquette changes all the time because they’re based on meanings we give to people, events, places. In earlier less civil times, meals could become quite violent so the last thing you needed were utensils brandished like weapons, which is why the Chinese resisted knives and forks and stuck to chopsticks.
But don’t worry, with 8 million Filipinos living and working in Canada and all kinds of other remote, savage lands, many infiltrating homes as nannies and cooks and housekeepers, we’ll teach the world that the proper way of eating is with a spoon and a fork.
Three interviews that I've conducted earlier this year have been translated from Norwegian to English:
Take on the multiculturalism debate - Interview with Alexa Døving
Does culture exist? What is integration? What defines Norwegianness? Is nationalism excluding? How useful are cultural explanations? Should special rights be awarded on cultural and religious grounds? What groups make up a society? Alexa Døving has chosen to write about the big issues. >> read the interview
Unni Wikan with plans for a new book about immigrant men, honour and dignity
Previously Unni Wikan has been interested in immigrant women and children. She now wants us to be more concerned with the men. Better insights into the mens’ situations could prevent conflicts, says the anthropologist, who is working on the analysis of two court cases to do with honour killing and forced marriage. >> read the interview
To engage the reader with a complex message - Interview with Anja Bredal
Do not underestimate free will and do not trivialize coercion! This is the conclusion in Anja Bredal’s doctoral thesis on arranged marriage. After ten years of research, one doctorate and several journal and newspaper articles this sociologist is still interested in the topic. She wonders about one thing in particular: How is it possible to maintain a nuanced moderate position and yet still be interesting? >> read the interview
At the Society for Applied Anthropology Meetings this year Hugh Gusterson had a startling experience: A “practicing anthropologist” refused to tell me him who or what, she studies. That has never happened before. In the article Where Are We Going? Engaging Dilemmas In Practicing Anthropology in Anthropology News May 2006, Guterson poses fundamental quiestions. The number of anthropologists working for industry and government agencies grows. So:
Who owns applied anthropological research—the researcher or the sponsor? If applied research is confidential, and thus exempt from peer review, how do we assure its quality and integrity? What recourse is there for an anthropologist under contract of confidentiality who decides they have an obligation to make public what their sponsor wants to keep quiet (say, information about indigenous opposition to a dam, or native Americans’ experience of abuse at the hands of the Department of the Interior, or corruption in the Pentagon or the World Bank)?
Is it acceptable to study people not in order to advocate for them or to interpret them in the open literature, but for the purpose of providing privileged information to sponsors who want to control them? What will happen to our professional meetings, to their warm conviviality, if more people come to them refusing to discuss their research? And how is our discipline even to keep track of possible conflicts of interest if anthropologists are refusing to identify their research in public?
He continues and concludes:
One colleague suggested that we acknowledge two separate communities: those doing academic anthropology and those doing what he called “dirty anthropology” (as, I think, in “quick and…”). He suggested each have its own ethical guidelines. But do we really want to say that anthropologists are no longer a single community guided by a common code of conduct?
The rise of neoliberal applied anthropology is a scandal waiting to happen. We ignore it at our professional peril. It is time to lay out some clear rules of the road to give guidance to applied anthropology colleagues working on this new frontier, and to enhance their bargaining power with powerful contractors.
>> read the whole article in Anthropology News (link updated)
Not so easy to be researcher in the USA: There's more and more censorship. Not long ago I wrote about Iranians not allowed to publish papers. Another form of censorship are the Internal Review Boards (IRB ). In Anthropology News May, James Boster calls for a three graded stages of response: Reform, Resolve and Resist:
The faculty head of the University of Connecticut IRB recently told me that the IRB would not now permit me to do the field work I have recently completed with the Waorani, because she considered Waorani as far too belligerent for me to have risked my own safety in doing research with them. It was a shock to learn that I could be regarded a human subject of my own research.
Many human scientists, anthropologists included, have experienced ever-increasing burdens of regulation and oversight by IRBs in their research with human subjects. Most of what is onerous about the regulation has nothing to do with providing protection to human subjects and has everything to do with requiring human scientists to submit to the arbitrary exercise of power and authority.
IRBs at a number of universities have instituted policies that have no foundation in ethics or law, ones that violate our most sacred academic freedoms and civil rights. The first amendment to the constitution states: “Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet what is regulated here is speech—the freedom of investigators to speak with other members of the society. The freedom to find things out is a basic human right, not a privilege to be licensed, especially when the obstacles to inquiry have never been demonstrated to prevent any actual harm to human subjects. The unconstitutionality of these restraints on free speech are clearly and comprehensively laid out by Philip Hamburger in a 2005 article for the Supreme Court Review, “The New Censorship: Institutional Review Boards.”
>> read the whole text in Anthropology News May 2006 (link updated)
Another anthropology-specific problem is mentioned in an article by As Rena Lederman: IRBs are comprised mostly of researchers from non-ethnographic disciplines "folks whose picture of “real research” looks nothing like ethnographic fieldwork." Therefor this advice (!):
So it is crucial that your board view participant observation as a sound, productive research method. This cannot be taken for granted. If IRB members are mystified or horrified by participant observation—if they imagine that it is useless or even itself unethical—then your proposal may be denied even if your project’s topic is completely innocuous!
"There is ample need for anthropologists and other social scientists to contribute to the immigration debate by providing greater context to the discussion and by describing the effects that immigration policies would have", JC Salyer argues in Anthropology News May 2006. Anthropologists and the AAA (American Anthropological Association) should counter the many false claims which depict immigrants as national security threats or as hoards depleting the nation’s economic, health care and educational resources, he writes:
While it is always difficult to translate anthropological work into publicly accessible statements, AAA members should support AAA taking immediate steps to assure that the knowledge gained from the valuable body of research conducted by anthropologists on the subject of immigration is not ignored during this crucial period. Whether AAA’s action should take the form of a statement, the creation of an annotated bibliography, or some more creative proposal is for AAA’s leadership to decide, but it would be a true shame if AAA chooses not to join this important public discussion at all.
Rose Wishall Ediger has attended two rallies in Washington DC — the seventh largest immigrant gateway in the US and home to immigrants from over 30 countries, she writes in another Anthropology News article:
I was struck by the religious and patriotic overtones of the rallies. Both drew on prayer and included regional religious leaders of diverse faiths. In fact, churches have been important to the movement’s organization, helping to kick it off when Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles stated that HR 4437 countered the Church’s teachings to “feed the poor and welcome the stranger.” But also there was a display of US patriotism at the second rally: a great many demonstrators wore red, white and blue—especially white, which organizers advocated as a symbol of peace. And instead of the homemade signs of the first rally, attendees at the second event overwhelmingly waved US flags.
These rallies call in , Rose Wishall Ediger's view, anthropologists to address issues of “race,” “human rights” and “engaged anthropology.”:
While rally participants and the media compare the movement to the 1960s civil rights movement, the relationship between ideas of race, racism, and immigration are still surrounded by open questions. For instance, while there is widespread agreement that those falling into the diverse category of US immigrant—legal or not—face discrimination—there are also claims that immigrants fill occupations and class positions that natives do not. And, how does the competition for resources among and within various minority groups complicate civil and human rights issues?
An even broader question about immigration that we should consider is what does it say about global inequalities and how human rights are practiced and demanded of different governments, and how do global, transnational, and national public and private policies differentially affect the movement and well-being of people, and what might that mean in terms of social justice. And, finally, on a more personal note, how do our own consumer practices play into it?
In their Anthropology News May article Urban Violence and Civil Rights in Postcolonial France, Paul A Silverstein
and Chantal Tetreault analyse the riots in France in november 2005.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced a “state of emergency” across over a quarter of the nation:
Deploying this law, an instrument of colonial governance, both challenged the basic civil rights of France’s suburban citizens and revealed an enduring logic of colonial rule. Like colonial settler cities, contemporary French urban centers cast their impoverished peripheries as culturally, if not racially, distinct.
The anthropologists are not surprised over the riots:
Nearly every euro France has saved by “tightening the belt” on the public sector has been redeployed into the forces of security. Every attempt at “integrating” (or “civilizing”) underclass residents of the cités has been undermined by policing practices that continue to demarcate these populations as racially and spatially “other.”
The result is a form of postcolonial urban apartheid, in which the French state is equated with repression by many cité inhabitants. The October-November violence reflected this unity of social marginalization and anti-police sentiment. In the end, the French state’s treatment of its own citizenry as racially suspect and intrinsically violent—as potential enemies within—may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
>> read the whole article in Anthropology News (Link updated, was removed)
Read this (we've had many stories like this before, but this one here is extremly "funny" - or let's rather say ethnocentric. The people are escaping from the Colombian drugs war, but this article reads more like an explorers account 200 years ago):
SAN JOSE DEL GUAVIARE, Colombia — Since time immemorial, the Nukak-Maku have lived a Stone Age life, roaming across hundreds of miles of isolated and pristine Amazon jungle, killing monkeys with blowguns and scouring the forest floor for berries.
But recently, and rather mysteriously, a group of nearly 80 wandered out of the wilderness, half-naked, a gaggle of children and pet monkeys in tow, and declared themselves ready to join the modern world.
The Nukak have no concept of money, of property, of the role of government, or even of the existence of a country called Colombia. They ask whether the planes that fly overhead are moving on some sort of invisible road.
Perhaps as many as 250 now live in settlements around the town, about as many as anthropologists suspect are still alive in the wilderness.
The journalists start approaching them, asking "What do you like most?"
"Pots, pants, shoes, caps," said Mau-ro, a young man who went to a shelter to speak to two visitors.
Ma-be added, "Rice, sugar, oil, flour."
Others said they loved skillets. Also high on the list were eggs and onions, matches and soap and certain other of life's necessities.
"I like the women very much," Pia-pe said, to raucous laughs.
In an earlier article in The Scotsman with the headline Jungle tribesmen flee Marxist killers, we get this additional info:
The locals, embarrassed by the natives' nakedness, have given them clothes and a television set that they look at with a mixture of fear and bewilderment.
An article in Cultural Survival Quarterly (December 1988) by By Leslie Wirspa and Hector Mondragon shows that there has been contact between the Nukak and "the outer world" also before 1988.
More info on the Mukak and the Colombian drug war by
(...) their lands have been occupied by coca growers, left-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army, with the Indians caught in the middle.
On Survial International's website, there are even videoclips about the hunt, building and moving the house.
As part of its ongoing market research efforts, a Seattle-based company employs a dozen anthropologists and sociologists. Every one of them has a Ph.D. The researchers are accompanying consumers on their supermarket trips and peeking in their refrigerators and pantries during home visits, we read in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
As usual, anthropologists come up with surprising results to the marketers. Shopping is no economic but also an social activity. The most decisive factor in organic-food buying is not price.
Laurie Demeritt, the company's president, sums up some results:
"It's more about which product, what it means to the consumer and the value they attach. Here's an example: We will be shopping with a woman and she stops to put organic strawberries in her shopping cart. The strawberries cost $2 more than conventionally grown strawberries. The question is, why?"
The answer in this case was the woman was buying those strawberries for her children, and she had heard and read that strawberries have some of the greatest amounts of pesticide residues. (...) Just a minute later, the same shopper is passing on organic broccoli and putting a conventional bunch in her cart. Why, the researcher queries? The organic broccoli is only 50 cents more per pound. Because the woman said she was only buying the broccoli for her husband and 'he's toxic already. She didn't put the same value on the lack of pesticides."
Similarly, organic milk has its own buying logic. Demeritt said low-income mothers consistently buy organic milk for their kids even if the price is significantly more, nearing twice as much in some instances.
PS: Nearly at the same time two more articles on corporate anthropology appeared in the news How To Build A Better Product—Study People appeared in PCMag.com. It contains both many well known facts and some newer information, among others about INTELS research on "transnationals". And in the Toronto Star: Buyer beware: You're being watched. Anthropologists, sociologists and neurologists are feverishly studying how we shop