Four Stone Hearth #107


So here we are: another addition of Four Stone Hearth. The Four Stone Hearth is a blog carnival that specializes in anthropology in the widest (American) sense of that word. Here, anthropology is the study of humankind, throughout all times and places, focusing primarily on four lines of research: archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology, linguistic anthropology. Each one of these subfields is a stone in our hearth.

My format for this edition will not follow any formal headings or sub-specialties if only because I like to dream of an anthropological project sufficiently complex and united that it truly embodies the mixed-methodological and theoretically rich discipline we (sometimes) aspire to make it. People have to have dreams. But let’s get to it shall we?

First up, the buzz of the North American anthropology scene these past few weeks is without a doubt the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) decision to make significant changes to its official statement of purpose. The AAA big whigs decided to change the statement from “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects…”, to “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects. AAA’s decision to drop “science” in its statement in favor of “to advance public understanding” is a controversial move that seems to be dividing professionals from all subfields.

Daniel Lende’s post titled ‘Anthropology, Science, and Public Understanding’ over at Neuroanthropology (one of my all time favorite blogs) breaks the situation down quite nicely while providing several links to important sites discussing the still heated controversy.

Are there no alternatives to the dominant consumer-capitalist-finance economic systems? Well over the past few years numerous anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers, economists and activists from 15 countries got together to ask the ‘tough questions’ and come up a collection of ideas and suggestions for moving us all towards a more sane and humane world economy. The result was the recently published book, The Human Economy (2010). Anthropologist Keith Hart launched the book Friday last week in Oslo together with two contributors: anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Desmond McNeill. Lorenz at antropologi.info reports on this important event here.

Meanwhile, at CulturePotion Franco has a post up titled, ‘Indigenous People of the Americas: Racism and Struggle discussing poverty among indigenous peoples of the Americas, and the persistence of racism and discrimination leveled at them. Franco surveys several countries and provides interesting stats along with a couple of compelling videos that bring home his main points.

Kambiz at Anthropology.net weighs in on the Dikika research group’s claim to have found bones with hominid cut marks that date to 3 million years ago. In a follow-up post Kambiz admits he had made some mistakes in his previous commentary, but maintains the initial research on the bones is deeply flawed.

Afarensis considers questions surrounding the relationship between lungfish, trout and humans with a post titled, ‘The Return of Darwinius masillae’. Afarensis also recently announced the upcoming Monkey Day version of Four Stone Hearth on December 14, 2010, hosted by This is Serious Monkey Business. Who doesn’t like monkeys? I mean really.

Ethnography.com has a stimulating post (essay) on ‘the continuing confrontation between subsistence farmers and development bureaucrats’ up that points out the clash of priorities between cultures, institutions and social practice. The author makes a solid point that policy-makers need do more to understand the local life-conditions of different peoples, as subsistence farmers have little incentive to allow themselves to be captured by the global machinations of techno-capitalism.

And the latest issue of Anthropology Matters can be found here. This special issue in devoted to asking how anthropological theory might be better put into practice in the context of community development, while raising the issue of how development policy and practice in turn transforms anthropology.

Krystal from Anthropology in Practice put forth a fantastic post discussing ‘the evolutionary roots of talking with our hands’ (watch for a guest appearance by Kanzi, the most famous non-human primate on the ‘party’ circuit) and mentions recent literature on the topic of evolved animal communication. Here is Krystal riffing on proto-speech and gestural communication:
Gestures are an integral part of language. Arbib, Liebal, and Pika (2008) believe that gestures, via pantomime and protosigns, may have played a large role in the emergence of vocalization (protospeech) leading to the development of protolanguage (1054). Their hypothesis is based on the structure of the brain, specifically a mirroring of structures in the brain: near Broca's area, a region of the brain said to be involved in language production, is a region "activated for both grasping and observation of grasping" (1053). The proximity of a grasping region to a language region is intriguing. Individuals who have suffered damage to Broca's area have difficulties with language production. They can often understand others perfectly, but they have difficulty responding in all but the simplest of ways. Arbib and colleagues suggest that because damage to Broca's area also impedes the emergence of signed languages as well, the region should be understood in relation to multimodal language processes and not just vocalization. They believe this creates a strong case for understanding the place of gestures in the evolution of language.
Material World has a post up covering Larissa Hjorth’s research on gendered customizing of mobile communication, gaming and virtual communities in the Asia-Pacific.

Science Daily reports that researchers have uncovered an early Greek settlement in the Egyptian Nile Delta region believed to be one of the sites where Greek trade into Africa actually began. The settlement dates to the 7th and 6th century B.C.E.

Stephen Chrisomalis reviews Guy Deutscher’s new book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages over at his blog Glossographia – where he concludes the book has “some serious flaws” but that it is a fairly decent presentation on the relevant literature.

And Johan Normark of the wonderfully named Archaeological Haecceities blog has a post titled, 'Creativity in Anthropology', where he talks about a recent workshop on the future of gender studies in archaeology at Stockholm University, and the notion of creativity as it applies to human imagination and anthropological research.

Rachel Chaikof reviews Tom Boellstorff’s cyber-ethnography The Coming of Age in Second Life, and concludes, along with Boellstorff, that virtual worlds open new possibilities and social interactions for people at the margins and those seeking alternative relationships and new forms of expression.

Finally, Jeremy at Eidetic Illuminations brings up some fascinating questions about methodology after reading John Law's book After Method. Jeremy asks, “what would happen if we reconceptualized methods not simply as techniques for collecting data, but as tools for constructing realities?” A poignant question considering AAA’s revisioning of American anthropology as a post-scientific endeavor (see above).

Submissions were sparse this time around, and I was hoping to dig up a few more posts for this edition, but  was unable to expand the scope muchg iven some unexpected time constraints. However I really appreciate those who did take the time to contribute. I think anthro-blogging could be done on a much more extensive basis and events like these are important. I also want to thank Afarensis for the invite to host this carnival, and would willing do it again for under a dollar.

Four Stone Hearth will be back on December 14, 2010 with the special Monkey Day version of the carnival, hosted by This is Serious Monkey Business - so please post, submit and continue to spread the word. Thanks.


~Red Tin Heart~ said...

Thanks for the visit to my site. I appreciate your words. Your site is very interesting. My mom is half American Indian.
I read a few of your posts...I liked them.

Sincerely, Nita

~Red Tin Heart~ said...

That quote, "Judge a man by his question, not his answers." That touched me..I really feel that.

Jeremy Trombley said...

Great job, Michael! This is an excellent Four Stone Hearth, and thanks for including me!

I just put up another post that other anthros might be interested in - a few quick thoughts on agency and consumer capitalism. I really should be working on other things, but this idea came to me and I had to get it down before it got away.

michael- said...

Hey Nita, thanks for your kind words, and for dropping by. Please visist again so we can strike up a discussion or twelve...

michael- said...


Thanks man. I updated the post during the day to include a lot more posts/links. I hope to do it again sometime soon.

As for your post on agency... What can I say? You nailed it. I agree wholeheartedly with you re: hyper-individualism as the ethos of advanced capitalism. The question then becomes, 'what kinds of heterogeneous agencies ought we be interested in cultivating then?' And ‘what are the possibilities open to us’? I think there is a vast spectrum of possible mentalities that would better serve us and the planet.

As you know, Marx wrote a bit about how capitalism alienates us from our deeper natures. He linked economic production to human self-production (doing = being) in a way that makes us look at how we chose to spend our energy. I think this was his best insight!


Dylan said...

thanks for the info.

On a personal note the black background makes it hard for me to see the links. Not sure if anyone else had this problem.

michael- said...


Thanks for your comments. I'm sure some people had a hard time with the links. It is a problem with the black background (which I know most people don't dig). I find it is especially the case with macs. But i find the darker aesthetic fits my personality the best.

The only suggestion to give you is that you can read all my posts in a 'reader' with a black on white background if you subscribe.


michael- said...

Dylan got me thinking... so changed the link color in the post! I hope that helps.

glossographia said...

Thanks for the link and for the great FSH!

- Steve Chrisomalis

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