Some Lessons on War and Forced Displacement

Lessons from our SSHB conference on The Human Biology of Poverty, held in Lisbon earlier this month. Thanks to Ines Varela Silva for putting together a great conference in a beautiful country.

This is not a complete list, but a copy and paste of some of the highlights from our session: 

Presentations

  • War and forced displacement: Embodiment of conflict-related experiences (Patrick Clarkin)
  • Female minor refugees: Are they underprivileged by forensic age estimation? (Bianca Gelbrich)
  • War and its effect on the changes in lifestyles: a case of Croatia (Sasa Missoni)
  • Secular trends of somatic development in Abkhazian children and adolescents for the last decades (Elena Godina)
  • Do stress biomarkers track poverty, stress, and trauma? Evaluating war-affected youth (Amelia Sancilio)
  • Refugees in Portugal: What do we know? (Cristina Santinho and Ines Varela-Silva)
  • Poster: Maya Guatemalan children in refugee camps in Mexico. How bad is their growth status? (Aya Ueno, Barry Bogin, Faith Warner and Ines Varela-Silva)

Summary of the session

Below are some reasons why our research is important and how it is relevant  for the public in general.

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New Class on Human Mating

This semester, I started teaching a ‘special topics’ class in biological anthropology related to human mating. Special topics classes can shift subject matter from semester to semester, depending on the instructor, but I decided to try to put together some of what I learned from the “Humans Are Blank-ogamous” series into a classroom setting.

The two books I decided to use are  “Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior by Peter Gray and Justin Garcia and William Jankowiak’s edited book “Intimacies: Love and Sex Across Cultures”.  We’ll also read a number of articles by authors from a range of perspectives and disciplines. The thinking is that different authors each have a piece of the puzzle, akin to the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Our goal is to try to describe the elephant.

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Children Aren’t Poison

 “I once heard this lady say, “I love kids.” That’s nice. It’s a little weird though. It’s like saying “I like people… for a little while.”   — Demetri Martin

 

A story is circulating about Professor Sydney Engelberg of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When an infant started crying in class, the professor simply picked him up (with the mother’s permission, I assume) and continued to lecture. The fact that the story has generated so much attention is a bit puzzling to me. Perhaps it’s because we’ve artificially separated our worlds into adult and child compartments, and we think that kids aren’t supposed to be in certain places. Of course, the move could backfire, and the baby could react even worse once he was in the arms of someone he didn’t know.

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A New Semester

These are the class rules and motivations I gave my students this semester, borrowed from the good people at KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I thought it would be better to keep things simple and positive, and these sounded a lot better than a list of “don’ts.”  Continue reading

Why Academia Should Be More Social

A friend asked me to write something about the benefits of social media like blogging, Twitter, etc. among academics. A few days ago, she posted it on her website, Impassion Media. My approach was that there are many ways to use social media, some of which can be a waste of time, but it can also be productive. I included a few anecdotes in there too.

I’m an academic and an anthropologist, so I’ve tailored my social media use for those fields. Others may have different experiences. Certainly, I may use it for connecting with friends or family, sharing music or humor, or just venting. This isn’t to dismiss the personal – academics are people too! (so I’ve heard) – but there are more substantive benefits… A partial list includes: sharing news on research, professional networking, and engaging with a wider audience through blogging.”

The rest of the post can be found here.

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The Evolution of the Audacity of Hope

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and an unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. – Bertrand Russell

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched… And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle. – Ian MacLaren

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This is the 100th post for this blog, which is hard to believe. I began this site for personal reasons and to share biological anthropology with a wider audience, and didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to watch it grow slowly in readership. I’m grateful for those of you who’ve visited, found some of the things written here worth sharing, and who have made me think with your comments. Thank you.

I’ve not posted here in a while for a couple of reasons: (1) I am on sabbatical and have been focused on other things; (2) I have been thinking for a while that the 100th post should be meaningful and have been waiting for some burst of wisdom to fall from the sky. Wisdom seems to be rather elusive these days, but I’d like to reflect on a few things, including the sabbatical and crossing the tenured threshold, why I’m still in love with anthropology, and why I’m still hopeful about humanity despite all of its faults, and all of the pain out there (in the world in general and among people I know). I’ll try to avoid excessive navel gazing.

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Committee Work and Student Lives

Though many people may not realize it, faculty are usually required by their university to do more than teach. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, which to me is essentially taking ideas that excite me and sharing them with students. In addition to this, faculty usually must also conduct academic research and writing. This is often the activity most valued by the university, though to many people outside of academia this may seem like superfluous activity. The third arena is service, which is usually the least acknowledged of the three primary duties. Service activities can be directed toward one’s department, university, profession, the community, or some other larger population or organization. My university has written into its Mission and Values a commitment to the local urban community and the greater public good.

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