Current Anthropology Special Issue: Human Biology and the Origins of Homo

Picture credit: Charmet, París

We are pleased to announce the publication of Human Biology and the Origins of Homo. This is the sixth in the open access Current Anthropology Supplementary Series on big questions in the field of anthropology – and the origin of Homo is currently one of the biggest questions in hominin paleontology.

This CA supplementary issue resulted from a Wenner-Gren Symposium organized by Susan C. Antón (New York University) and Leslie C. Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation) held March 4–11, 2011, at the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal.

Although Homo erectus has been known since the 1890s and Homo habilis was announced almost 50 years ago, new fossil discoveries in the last decade have complicated our understanding of early Homo and challenged our long-held assumptions about its similarities and differences to the australopiths as well as to later members of our genus. This necessarily influences our interpretations for the origin and evolution of Homo and also highlights the need for a new framework for interpretation of the hard evidence.


Inside Current Anthropology: Deconstructing the Redemptive Power of “Bearing Witness”

The December issue of Current Anthropology is out now. Enjoy a sampling of this issue’s offerings with this special preview of “Alterity and the Particular Limits of Universalism: Comparing Jewish-Israeli Holocaust and Canadian-Cambodian Genocide Legacies.” (Current Anthropology 53:6) by Carol A. Kidron of the University of Haifa.

The experience of genocide as transmitted trauma may not be universal, according to new ethnographic research published in Current Anthropology.

In the fields of human rights and memory studies, giving testimony about one’s personal experience of genocide is believed to be both a moral duty and a psychological imperative for the wellbeing of the individual and the persecuted group to which she belongs. Accordingly, the coping strategies proposed to victims of genocide tend to be rather uniform: tell your story and do not let the violence you suffered be forgotten.

The author of this study offers two persuasive case studies that suggest that this universalizing approach to genocide is misguided. In her interviews with Jewish-Israeli children of Holocaust survivors and Cambodian-Canadians whose parents were persecuted at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Carol Kidron found that virtually all subjects rejected the pathologizing construct of transmitted PTSD.

The author’s research reveals key differences in the genocidal legacies of Cambodian-Canadian and Jewish-Israeli trauma descendants. While the Jewish-Israeli subjects felt that they bore some emotional scars that were passed on by their parents, they opposed the idea that they have been afflicted by these inherited traces of the Holocaust. In fact, in the Jewish-Israeli cultural context, these markers of emotional difference may serve instead as an empowering way to carry on their parents’ memory. In great contrast, Cambodian-Canadians not only resist the stigma of trauma, but also insist that the genocide has not left them psycho-socially impaired in any way. Instead of remembering tragedy, the Cambodian-Canadian subjects appealed to Karma and subscribed to Buddhist forward-looking attitudes.

Despite their differences, both accounts defy the tropes of victimization and trauma that pervade scholarship on genocide and humanitarian practice. The author argues that religious worldviews and cultural values frame responses to trauma. Cultural paradigms may valorize or marginalize the importance of remembrance, and the author calls for scholars and humanitarian workers to take into account the diversity of cultural frameworks for remembrance when dealing with descendants of genocide victims.

Current Anthropology, published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, is a transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.

NYAS @ Wenner-Gren 12/10 – Audio Now Available!

Last night, we welcomed Dr. Silvia Federici, professor emerita at Hofstra University, to discuss the themes of her new volume of collected writings Revolution at Point Zero and forty-plus years of work on Marxist feminism, reproductive labor, and the nature of housework and social reproduction.

Download a recording of the talk and the following discussion featuring CUNY’s Sophie Statzel Bjork-James.

Federici’s lecture marks the final installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section Lecture Series at Wenner-Gren for the 2012 calendar year. We resume Monday evening, January 28, 2013 – details to follow!

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NYAS @ Wenner-Gren: 12/10

After a Thanksgiving Break, the New York Academy of Sciences anthropology section resumes its lecture series this coming Monday, December 10th, with a talk from Silvia Federici, professor emerita at Hofstra University. Federici, feminist scholar, activist and author of Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle, will discuss the ongoing neoliberal restructuring of the global political economy and reproductive labor, focusing on the crises that “new enclosures” are producing in our everyday lives, and the struggles that women internationally are making, in responseto it, to create new forms of social cooperation and reproductive “commons.” Sophie Statzel Bjork-James of the CUNY Graduate Center will act as a discussant following the talk.

The 7:00 PM lecture will be held at the Wenner-Gren office on Park Avenue and will be preceded by a reception at 6:00 PM. Refreshments will be provided. It is free to attend this and all other events in this series, but registration is required in advance; please visit the NYAS website or call 212-298-8600.