A window on the turbulence of humanity 2021

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AAmid wildfires, the U.S. Capitol storming, private space flights and more, 2021 has seen the bed of the pandemic. Every time he felt the world was taking control of the virus, things would twist again. The worldwide death toll from COVID-19 has passed 5 million, with no clear trend to predict the future.

ABy the end of the year, about half of the world, or roughly 4 billion people, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, although access to life-saving vaccines remains extremely uneven around the world. Meanwhile, in many countries where vaccines are now widely available, including the United States, reluctance to vaccinate remains a social problem, caused in part by a long history of mistrust of government authorities and from the medical community.

AAnthropologists continue to work hard to help understand and combat the pandemic, especially its uneven impacts on often marginalized groups, including blacks, Asians and Indigenous people. Humanity’s persistent habits of scapegoats, prejudice and racism remain hot topics of study. Such prejudices and inequalities can be embedded in entrenched economic and political structures like the criminal justice system or even the Olympics. This year’s Summer Games in Japan saw several explosions on gender issues. The anthropological work of celebrating the similarities and differences of humanity can hopefully promote equity, inclusion, and justice when needed most.

That may be particularly welcome for those experiencing conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis intensified in 2021, prompting declarations of solidarity with the Palestinian people from some anthropological organizations. Many other countries have seen coups or challenges to the peace, including the United States. On January 6, a crowd stormed the United States Capitol to protest the defeat of President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election; an anthropologist responded with a call for a White Supremacist Truth Commission. Notably, this happened the same year as the centenary of the horrific 1921 Tulsa race massacre in Oklahoma, an event that anthropologists still help recover bodies from.

For many anthropologists, such events have highlighted the need for their field, too, to actively dismantle the structures rooted in colonialism and anti-darkness – for example, by attacking the role of the field in development. racist taxonomies, the possession of objects in museums that should be repatriated, and the unfair supply of many teacher skeletons. In April, a reporter revealed that the remains of children killed in the 1985 police bombing of MOVE, a black revolutionary organization in Philadelphia, had been shockingly detained without the family’s consent. and used as a teaching aid in a classroom at Princeton University.

SBeginning in June, an unprecedented heat wave triggered by climate change set in, igniting numerous forest fires in Eurasia, North Africa and the west coast of North America. In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the physical science component of its sixth assessment report, concluding that the effects of man-made climate change are now “widespread, rapid and intensifying. “. Anthropologists continue to catalog the impacts of climate change on communities, such as indigenous horse herders in Siberia, who now face the loss of permafrost, while deeply digging into humanity’s place in the vast field of nature, with some researchers stressing how wildlife and forests also deserve an equal voice.

IIf problems on Earth aren’t enough, humanity’s ever-increasing reach in outer space has also sparked controversy in 2021. This year saw a drone flight to Mars, major work on the station Chinese space flight and several premieres in a private space flight. While technologically impressive, many fear that such large spending will sidetrack humanitarian work and that violent earthly stories of unequal ownership and resource extraction could reoccur elsewhere.

AAgainst this backdrop of human ups and downs, we share the top 10 stories from the SAPIENS editorial team in 2021, listed in chronological order.

Martin carver

Sutton Hoo’s story goes deeper than Excavation

TThe archaeologist in charge of the Sutton Hoo tumuli tells what has been discovered at the famous English site since the 1930s excavations depicted in the film Excavation.

Marie franklin

Preserving the Voices of the Antioch Colony

AArchaeologists work with descendants to preserve the history of a community in Texas formed by black freedoms after the Civil War.

Emily laber warren

The struggle to secure the rights of tropical forests

The Sarayaku people of Ecuador demand legal protection for Amazonian plants and animals. The work of anthropologist Eduardo Kohn on “thinking about forests” could help.

Michele Friedner

Deaf and incarcerated in the United States

AAn anthropologist studies how American prison policies systematically deny deaf incarcerated people adequate access to hearing aids, which seriously hinders their sensory engagement and quality of life.

Francine Russo

Chasing the myths of Mexico’s “superrunners”

The ancient running traditions of the Rarámuri people have captured the attention of the world. New research by a biological anthropologist and his colleagues debunks stereotypes and contextualizes famous races in the community.

Lidio Valdez and Cirilo Vivanco

Peru’s Inca rope bridges hang by a thread

A Remarkable ancient technology and the tradition of creating suspension bridges to unite Andean communities are sadly fading into history.

Carolyn Wilke

The resistance and ingenuity of the cooks who lived in slavery

AArchaeologists are studying diets and recreating meals prepared by slaves who lived in North America and the Caribbean to better understand their daily lives and fill in gaps in the historical record.

Kimberley D. McKinson

Lessons from Mars — and Jamaica — on Sovereignty

The billionaire space race feeds on romantic ideas of colonizing “the last frontier”. An anthropologist looks at the stories of Jamaican colonization to show why such tales are so dangerous, and offers an alternative view of black freedom in the sovereign state of Accompong.

Sophie chao

Combine with parasites to fight against industrial oil palm

In West Papua, industrial oil palm plantations threaten the Marind’s way of life. Some members of the community are sympathetic to the resistant parasitic species – beetles, rats, fungi and many others – that attack oil palms from indoors.

Jason vasser-elong

Window (poem)

A poet-anthropologist of the African diaspora gives voice to the power of collective memory and place. (“Window” is part of the collection Bring Me to Life: Voices from the African Diaspora.)


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