By Emily Brunson and Monica Schoch-Spana
Now is a pressing time for vaccinating the U.S. population (and the world) against COVID-19. But there are social hurdles that need to be addressed.
As of this writing, more than 380,000 people have died from SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, more than 92 million people have been infected, and while many of these individuals have recovered completely, some are experiencing long-term health problems.
In combination with this, millions in the U.S. and around the world have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, leading to economic insecurity and food and housing crises. Psychological distress and domestic violence have also become more common. …
By Robert A. Hahn
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the primary agency in the United States that monitors, predicts, and responds to chronic disease, injury, outbreaks, and pandemics, should have social science at its heart. It does not. Despite decades of trying to get the agency to take the social sciences more seriously, and some movement on its part, insights from anthropology, along with other social sciences, have yet to penetrate the soul of the CDC.
I am a medical anthropologist and epidemiologist. I first started working with the CDC back in 1986 and stayed with the agency until my retirement at the end of June 2020. In 1993, I led the founding of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Working Group (BSSWG). This group has worked with CDC leadership to strengthen the employment of social and behavioral scientists at the CDC, sponsor speaker series, and assist CDC staff in addressing social and behavioral science issues, such as ethnographic methods and questionnaire design. …
By Nicola Jones
2020 will be remembered as the year that COVID-19 swept the globe. This highly contagious virus moves from person to person, so its spread depends on human behavior. When and why we gather, and how often we wash our hands or wear masks can all make a difference. Social scientists have created virtual networks to apply their knowledge of human behavior to aid public health efforts.
The virus has clearly affected some groups more than others; tracking these outcomes has illuminated disparities in suffering. Anthropologists have helped untangle how racism — not race — is a factor in the severity of COVID-19. They have also thrown a spotlight on how the pandemic has impacted older people, Indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, undocumented essential workers, and pregnant women. Anthropologists are asking tough questions about whether the current attention given to inequality will prompt corrective action and whether this global challenge will help bind or further divide humanity. …
By Hugh Gusterson
Originally published at www.sapiens.org on December 16, 2020.
From time to time, I meet an American who likes to tell me that the United Kingdom, the country of my birth, has a weaker democracy than the United States because it has no written constitution.
A written constitution, they tell me, spells out in black and white the terms of the social contract and imposes clear limits on political leaders who would take liberties with the liberties of their citizens. They worry that a nation such as the U.K., …
By Sara Toth Stub
One morning in May 2019, a crowd of journalists gathered around the Biratenu bar in Jerusalem, snapping photos as a bartender poured golden, frothy beer into plastic cups. The story of the beer was both new and very old: The yeast that fermented it came from a 3,000-year-old jug found at a nearby archaeological site.
“It’s actually a pretty good beer,” says Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the director of excavations at the site of Tell es-Safi. …
By Max G. Levy
Each wave of Edith Howard Cook’s reddish-blonde hair tells a story. One segment may chronicle an unusually damp San Francisco summer; another may recall a dry December. But read in their entirety, the strands reveal the season in 1876 when 2-year-old Edith passed away.
Archaeologist Jelmer Eerkens helped identify Edith after a construction crew discovered her remains in a backyard in 2016. “I have kids myself,” says Eerkens, an archaeologist at the University of California, Davis. “So, I oftentimes think about living in the 1800s. And children dying was just a common thing.”
By 1900, for example, children under the age of 5 accounted for 30 percent of all deaths in the U.S. — often from tuberculosis and flu, which fluctuate with the seasons. “Your kid gets sick: Are they going to die? Are they going to live? It must have been heart-wrenching,” Eerkens notes. …
By Christopher Webb
When I arrived for my first Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony in 2016, I was greeted and warmly embraced by Marty, a person of mixed tribal ancestry. He had long black hair and wore a T-shirt that read “Veteran’s Sweat Lodge.” When, earlier, I had contacted him and asked about attending a ceremony, I worried that I might not be welcome as a White man. I also had concerns that my status as an anthropologist, with the field’s long and problematic history with Indigenous people, might make some uncomfortable. …
By Richard Meyers and Ernest Weston Jr.
A tragic event occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, where we live, a few years ago: the death of an 8-year-old girl. She was viciously attacked and killed by a pack of dogs while sledding a few steps away from her home. In response, Lakota tribal officials rounded up stray dogs from the communities and killed them.
Sadly, a similar incident took place in 2015 on the neighboring Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, where a 49-year-old woman was also attacked and killed by a pack of dogs. …
By Keridwen Cornelius
As archaeologist Bill Schindler lay on animal skins in a re-created Mesolithic campsite in Lejre, Denmark, a Viking tattoo artist poked a stone blade into his leg. Schindler had fashioned the flint blade himself, and the artist was using it to apply ink made from pulverized charcoal and Schindler’s wife’s spit.
The tattoo design was based on one found on a 9,600-year-old bone artifact inscribed with figures depicting a man, a woman, two girls, and a boy — the exact makeup of Schindler’s own family.
To make the tattoo more affordable, Schindler had traded it for deerskins that had been scraped with a stone ax and tanned with animal brains. Indeed, the entire Schindler clan was clad in brain-tanned buckskin clothing, sewed with sinew. …
By Matthew Gwynfryn Thomas and Djuke Veldhuis
What on earth are you thinking? Other people think they know, and many could make a pretty decent guess, simply from observing your behavior for a short while.
We do this almost automatically, following convoluted cognitive trails with relative ease, like understanding that Zoe is convinced Yvonne believes Xavier ate the last avocado, although he didn’t. Or how Wendy is pretending to ignore Victoria because she thinks Ursula intends to tell Terry about their affair.
Thinking about what other people are thinking — also known as “mentalizing,” “theory of mind,” or “folk psychology” — allows us to navigate complex social worlds and conceive of others’ feelings, desires, beliefs, motivations, and knowledge. …