This past Monday marked the second-to-last Spring 2012 meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences’ Anthropology section. Medical anthropologist Dr. Merrill Singer of the University of Connecticut was on hand (with Brooklyn College’s Patricia Antoniello acting as discussant) to discuss “Syndemics and the Contemporary Global Health Transition”.
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This upcoming Monday, March 26th at 7:00 PM, the anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences will be holding the penultimate meeting of the spring lecture series at the Wenner-Gren Foundation. This time we welcome medical anthropologist Merrill Singer of the University of Connecticut who will speak on “Syndemics and the Contemporary Global Health Transition” with Brooklyn College’s Patricia Antoniello attending as a discussant.
Epidemiologists and medical anthropologists alike have participated in the construction of historic frameworks designed to characterize broad eras of human disease transition. While the dominance of infectious and chronic diseases, respectively, have been said to characterize the first and second epidemiological transitions, a rapidly changing world has made it difficult to agree upon the prevailing features of the contemporary era of human disease. It is the argument of this presentation that one of the foremost threats to 21st century health is an ever more complex array of adversely interacting diseases, infectious and chronic (including chronic infectious diseases) the spread of which is being driven by the dual (and often interacting) forces of globalism and global warming. To that degree that identifying distinct eras of epidemiological transition remains useful approach to conceiving the history of global health, syndemics—as deleterious disease interactions have been labeled—promise to be a critical component of another alteration in the global health profile of humanity. In this process, human inequality will continue to be a determinant of how this transition is differential experienced and differential produced through human action.
A reception will precede the meeting at 6:00 pm. The meeting is free, but registration is required. Please contact the New York Academy of Sciences to register; the Wenner-Gren Foundation is not responsible for registration.
Monday night marked the second packed house in a row for the monthly meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences’ Anthropology section, hosted as always at the Wenner-Gren offices. This time, the hot topic (no pun intended) was Burning Man, the infamous counter-cultural event which metastasizes for months in the Nevadan desert before evaporating without a trace in the early autumn after a week of come-as-you-are celebrations of free expression.
Burning Man devotees make much of the gathering’s commitment to zero impact on their natural surroundings – the grounds, known as “Black Rock City” after the desert they are situated in, are meant to be absolutely scrubbed clean of any evidence of human habitation after Burning Man comes to a close each year, chording with the event’s larger themes of self-reliance and harmony with the environment. Cultural anthropologists have been fascinated by the social structure and practices of “burners” for years. But what can archaeologists, who study traces, add to the story of a phenomenon which is expressly committed to never leaving a trace?
To help answer that question, we welcomed Dr. Carolyn White, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada – Reno, and Dr. Brian Boyd of Columbia University’s Center for Archaeology. The talk was very well-attended – particularly by Burning Man alumni.
The Anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences will be holding more meetings at our offices through May. Stay tuned to this blog and our twitter feed to get the heads-up for the next session, coming late March.
Our president, Dr. Leslie C. Aiello, remarks on the successful Monday evening talk by NYU’s Terry Harrison.
Terry Harrison’s Monday night talk on “The Earliest Human Ancestors” was one of the most successful Wenner-Gren/New York Academy of Sciences (Anthropology section) talks in recent years. We had a record number of attendees and if the questions at the end are any guide, the talk captivated even the social anthropologists in the crowd. The spirit of academic enthusiasm and camaraderie was helped along by a Thai buffet and wine reception preceding the 7pm talk, but the questions about (and interest in) seemingly esoteric fossils such as Ardipithecus ramidus, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, and Orrorin tugenensis coming from our general anthropological audience were a pleasant surprise to the palaeoanthropology specialists among us.
Harrison emphasized the difficultly in recognizing human ancestors the further back in time that we go, and these African fossils, which date between about 4.5 million and 6 million years ago (the oldest currently known) present a big problem. How do you recognize an ape ancestor versus a human answer so close to the divergence date between these two lineages? It is not easy, particularly when you view the evolutionary tree from the bottom up (worm’s-eye view in Harrison’s terms) and realize the great variety of fossil apes that were alive just prior to the divergence of these two lineages. The big question is whether these old fossils, currently recognized is the first members of our lineage, are really on early branches of the human tree, or if they are fossil apes with nothing to do with the human lineage. Harrison tends to believe that at least the most complete of these early fossils, Ardipithecus, was one of these dead-end apes, but he realizes that this is not the current consensus view.
We can look forward to continued, lively debate on these and related issues and to future stimulating NYAS/Wenner-Gren evening meetings that are held monthly at the Wenner-Gren New York offices. Topics of the seminars range across the broad field of Anthropology and are open to all. Click here for upcoming events and we hope to see you soon at Wenner-Gren.
As always, the Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of the Sciences will be holding its monthly meeting at the Wenner-Gren Foundation offices, this coming Monday, January 30 at 7:00 PM. For this session, NYAS and the Foundation welcome Dr. Terry Harrison, Chair of the Department of Anthropology at New York University and Director of NYU’s Center for the Study of Human Origins, as he discusses the problems and caveats involved with identifying the earliest specimens of Homo sapiens‘ evolutionary lineage and making inferences about their relationships.
“The Earliest Human Ancestors: Sorting the Contenders From the Pretenders” will be preceded by a reception at 6:00 PM. The meeting is free to attend, but please register prior to the meeting.
The Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences began its 2011 season on September 26, 2011 with a special forum in honor of the work and intellectual contribution of Anthropologist Fernando Coronil. Further talks are scheduled throughout the year and will be posted as information becomes available. Look below the cut for information on individual talks. » Read more..