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Cancer Mythologies: The Problem with Making Things Up is Getting Worse

|| April 29: 2018: UCL News ||ά. Mistaken belief in mythical causes of cancer is rife, according to new research from UCL and the University of Leeds. The findings, published in the European Journal of Cancer, show that out of 1,330 people in England more than 40% wrongly thought that stress, 43% and food additives, 42%, caused cancer. A third incorrectly believed that electromagnetic frequencies, 35% and eating GM food, 34%, were risk factors, while 19% thought microwave ovens and 15% said drinking from plastic bottles caused cancer despite a lack of good scientific evidence.

Among the proven causes of cancer, 88% of people correctly selected smoking, 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn. Belief in mythical causes of cancer did not mean a person was more likely to have risky lifestyle habits. But those, who had better knowledge of proven causes were more likely not to smoke. Dr Lion Shahab, UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said, “People’s beliefs are so important because they have an impact on the lifestyle choices they make. Those with better awareness of proven causes of cancer were more likely not to smoke and to eat more fruit and vegetables.”

Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds, said, “It’s worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media.

It’s vital to improve public education about the causes of cancer, if, we want to help people make informed decisions about their lives and ensure they aren’t worrying unnecessarily.”

Ms Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK, said, “Around four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes so it’s crucial we have the right information to help us separate the wheat from the chaff.

Smoking, being overweight and overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. There is no guarantee against getting cancer but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news.”

This work was supported by a Cancer Research UK and Bupa Foundation Innovation Award. ::: ω.

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Narratives are Created: One for the Purpose of Understanding the Meaning of Human Existence and One for the Purposes of Directing Manipulating and Herding the Mass: That is Why There is Ethics Involved in It: That is Why Professor Hanna Meretoja's Book The Ethics of Story Telling is Timely: Her Book is Discussed at a Symposium at the University of East London Stratford: May 11



|| March 26: 2018: University of Turku News: Maria Vasenkari Writing || ά. Cultural models of sense-making shape our views about who we are and who we could be, what is possible for us as individuals and as communities. Professor Hanna Meretoja’s new book, The Ethics of Storytelling, provides us with tools for analysing cultural narrative models and understanding the power of literary narratives to expand our sense of the possible. The Ethics of Storytelling was published in the book launch organised by the Literature Departments of the University of Turku on March 14. Professor Meretoja’s book will be discussed at the Centre for Narrative Research at the University of East London, University Square, Stratford Campus, London. The Centre organises a symposium around The Ethics of Storytelling on  May 11.

The event involves a roundtable in which the book is to be discussed by Professor Matti Hyvärinen, Dr Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Professor Jakob Lothe, Professor Ann Phoenix and Professor Brian Schiff. ​The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History and the Possible, a new research monograph by Professor Hanna Meretoja, of Comparative Literature at the University of Turku, Finland, brings into dialogue narrative ethics, literary narrative studies, narrative psychology, narrative philosophy and cultural memory studies. The book was published by Oxford University Press. The discussion on the ethical significance of storytelling has been dominated by polarised views on the benefits and dangers of narrative.

Against the backdrop of this debate, Professor Meretoja develops narrative hermeneutics as a nuanced theoretical-analytical framework for engaging with the ethical complexity of the roles narratives play in our lives. ''The ethical potential of literature is crucially linked to the ways in which literary narratives open up new possibilities of thought, experience, action and imagination and cultivate our awareness of and sensitivity to different perspectives.'' Professor Meretoja argues.

The key question in the book is how literary and historical narratives shape our sense of the possible. ''The sense of the possible refers to our sense of what was or is possible to experience, think, feel and do in a certain historical and cultural world. Our sense of the possible, also, concerns our ability to imagine how things could be otherwise.'' Professor Meretoja explains. She argues that our sense of the possible is shaped by the relationship between our narrative unconscious and narrative imagination.

''Cultural narrative models shape how we perceive, for example, good life, gender and success and they condition our actions and attitudes without our awareness. Literary narratives, that make such narrative models visible can enrich our narrative imagination and help us gain critical distance from culturally available narrative identities.

Professor Meretoja analyses literary and autobiographical narratives, that deal with 20th century historical traumas. Most important of these narratives are Julia Franck’s The Blind Side of the Heart 2007, Günter Grass’s Peeling the Onion 2006, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones 2007 and David Grossman’s To the End of the Land 2008 and Falling Out of Time 2011.

''In dialogue with these narratives, I address our implication in violent histories and argue that it is as dialogic storytellers, fundamentally, vulnerable and dependent on one another, where we become who we are, both as individuals and communities.''' Professpr Meretoja summarises.

The legacy of the Holocaust and the Second World War shows the dangerous power of storytelling. ''The Nazis built a mythology, that provided the Germans with a strong narrative identity as 'Aryans' but, at the same time, it, drastically, diminished the possibilities of the Jews and several other minorities to the point of denying them the right to live. In the book, the European legacy of fascism is discussed in relation to more recent political turmoil, such as, the Israel-Palestine conflict and the rise of right-wing populist narratives.

''In order to understand the atrocities of the past, such as, the Holocaust, and contemporary terrorism, we should, instead of demonising the evil-doers, try to imagine not only the perspectives and experiential world of the victims but, also, that of the perpetrators and various implicated subjects. Only then can we properly engage with the conditions, that made the atrocities possible.

The book develops a heuristic model for evaluating the ethical potential and dangers of different kinds of narratives. It provides six evaluative continuums on which narratives can be placed. These continuums explore whether narratives i: expand or diminish our sense of the possible; ii: develop or distort our self-understanding; iii: promote or impair our ability to understand the experiences of others in their singularity; iv: participate in building inclusive or exclusive narrative in-betweens; v: cultivate or impede our perspective-awareness and vi: function as a form of ethical inquiry or dogmatism. Instead of binaries, these are differentiating continuums on which different narrative practices can be placed. They provide us with analytic tools to engage with the narrative dimension of human existence in all its complexity.

On February 06, the Narrative Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association:AERA awarded Professor Hanna Meretoja the Early Career Award for her 'substantive contributions and commitment to narrative research' and for 'her work with a large cohort of graduate students'. The award is designed to 'recognize a researcher’s outstanding accomplishment in the area of narrative research'.

Caption: Centre image of Professor Hanna Meretoja by Maria Vasenkari

Further information on the book

:: The text is Creative Commons licensed and it is free to use. Please attribute the work to the University of Turku:: ω.

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Trafficking and Migration Continue From St Patrick's Time: Actually Migration Began When Adam and Eve Were Thrown Out of Eden Onto the Earth: What was Jesus Christ Himself If Not a Refugee and Most Importantly Unless Humanity and Compassion Were Shown to Mary and Joseph What Would Have Happened to Jesus: We Want to Make Things Sound Modern and Post Modern and Ultra Modern So We Invent Things Such as Migration This and Trafficking That: How Did Slavery Get Started and Spread Unless It was Originated From Trafficking



|| March 16: 2018: University College Cork News || ά. People trafficking, war, famine and displacement of people are not unique to the 21st century as in the fifth century, when St Patrick was trafficked to Ireland, where his life was one of hardship and migration according to Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí, migration expert at University College Cork. St Patrick’s life story is known through his own extraordinary autobiographical account, The Confessio. ''My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there and that is where I was taken prisoner.

I was about sixteen at the time.…I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. …The Lord brought his strong anger upon us and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth.'' ''The 21st century is seeing new waves of people displaced by war, famine and climate change. “Indeed, it would be fair to describe migration as one of the existential challenges of the age.” says Dr Mac Éinrí, Department of Geography and Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century at UCC. So far, we are not handling it with great success in Ireland or the EU Dr Mac Éinrí rightly points out. “Barriers are going up everywhere and people are, even, being denied their legal right to seek refuge.

Racism and xenophobia are stronger now than at any time since the 1930s.” he says. “The Irish record in the diaspora is not always the best either. Imagine, if, we were at the receiving end?” poses Dr Mac Éinrí. “We were, once, as on June 20, 1631, a pirate raiding party kidnapped over 100 English and Irish people from the village of Baltimore in West Cork and took them to a life of slavery in North Africa. Some spent their days as galley slaves, others became prisoners of the Sultan. At most, three of them saw Ireland again.

The Pope’s comments on trafficking in February this year are worthy of note.” Dr Mac Éinrí says. The Pope told his weekly general audience, ''Having few possible legal channels, many migrants decide to risk other avenues, where often there awaits abuse of every kind, exploitation and slavery.”

Criminal organisations specialised in trafficking people take advantage of migratory flows 'to hide their victims among migrants and refugees' he added. In an appeal, the Pope invited everyone to 'join forces to prevent trafficking and guarantee protection and assistance to victims'. He prayed to give 'those suffering because of this shameful scourge the hope to regain freedom'.

“These words should resonate in the Irish context.” Dr Mac Éinrí says. “The more than one million Irish, who fled famine and disease in the mid-19th century, at least, had places to go. Even, if, they were sometimes received grudgingly, calls to ‘build that wall!’, if, there were any, went unheeded. Their circumstances were miserable but they were not denounced as murderers, thieves and rapists by the highest politicians of the day.'' Dr
Mac Éinrí says.

“Ultimately, they were seen as downtrodden people, who hauled themselves out of hardship and made something out of themselves wherever they went, without losing a sense of their own culture, history and identity. That is something we can celebrate.” says Dr Mac Éinrí. “But we should, also, recognise our present-day responsibilities in a wider world, where we are no longer at the bottom of the ladder. Even, in Ireland itself, people are still being trafficked, whether into the sex industry or into forms of labour undertaken in appalling and oppressive conditions. In all cases, someone, somewhere knows of these abuses and does not act.

Perhaps, as well as, stressing the centrality of migration as a ‘constant feature of the Irish experience’ we should, also, attend, rather more seriously, to the ongoing and brutal reality of human trafficking and forced migration as a constant feature of human experience. In so doing, we could more fully embrace Patrick’s legacy and our own place and responsibilities in today’s world.”

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Earliest Cave Paintings Were Made by Neanderthals: New Reseach



|| February 26: 2018: University of Southampton News || ά. Scientists have found the first major evidence, that Neanderthals made cave paintings, indicating, they, may, have had an artistic sense similar to our own. A new study, led by the University of Southampton and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shows that paintings in three caves in Spain were created more than 64,000 years ago, 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe. This means that the Palaeolithic, Ice Age, cave art, including, pictures of animals, dots and geometric signs, must, have been made by Neanderthals, a ‘parallel’ species to Homo sapiens and Europe’s sole human inhabitants at the time.

The research, also, indicates that the Neanderthals, may, have had a similar artistic sense, in terms of thinking symbolically, to modern humans. Published in the journal Science, the study shows how an international team of scientists used an advanced technique, called, uranium-thorium dating to fix the age of the paintings as more than 64,000 years. Until now, cave art has been attributed entirely to modern humans, as claims to a possible Neanderthal origin have been hampered by imprecise dating techniques. However, uranium-thorium dating provides much more reliable results than methods, such as, radiocarbon dating, which can give false age estimates.

The uranium-thorium method involves dating tiny carbonate deposits, that have built up on top of the cave paintings. These contain traces of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium, which indicate when the deposits formed and, therefore, give a minimum age for whatever lies beneath.

Joint Lead Author Dr Chris Standish, an Archaeologist at the University of Southampton, said, “This is an incredibly exciting discovery, which suggests Neanderthals were much more sophisticated than is popularly believed. Our results show that the paintings we dated are, by far, the oldest known cave art in the world and were created at least 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa, therefore, they, must, have been painted by Neanderthals.”

A team of researchers from the UK, Germany, Spain and France analysed more than 60 carbonate samples from three cave sites in Spain, La Pasiega, north-eastern Spain, Maltravieso, western Spain and Ardales, south-western Spain. All three caves contain red, ochre or black paintings of groups of animals, dots and geometric signs, as well as, hand stencils, hand prints and engravings.

According to the researchers, creating the art, must, have involved such sophisticated behaviour as the choosing of a location, planning of light source and mixing of pigments. Professor Alistair Pike, of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Southampton and Co-director of the study, said, “Soon after the discovery of the first of their fossils in the 19th century, Neanderthals were portrayed as brutish and uncultured, incapable of art and symbolic behaviour and some of these views persist today.

The issue of just how human-like Neanderthals behaved is a hotly debated issue. Our findings will make a significant contribution to that debate.” Joint Lead Author Dirk Hoffmann, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said that symbolic material culture, a collection of cultural and intellectual achievements handed down from generation to generation, has, until now, only been attributed to our species.

The emergence of symbolic material culture represents a fundamental threshold in the evolution of humankind. It is one of the main pillars of what makes us human. Artefacts whose functional value lies not so much in their practical but rather in their symbolic use are proxies for fundamental aspects of human cognition as we know it.”

Early symbolic artefacts, dating back 70,000 years, have been found in Africa but are associated with modern humans. Other artefacts, including, cave art, sculpted figures, decorated bone tools and jewellery have been found in Europe, dating back 40,000 years ago. But researchers have concluded that these artefacts, must, have been created by modern humans, who were spreading across Europe after their arrival from Africa.

There is evidence that Neanderthals in Europe used body ornamentation around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago but many researchers have suggested this was inspired by modern humans, who, at the time, had just arrived in Europe.

Study Co-author Mr Paul Pettitt, of Durham University, said, “Neanderthals created meaningful symbols in meaningful places. The art is not a one-off accident. We have examples in three caves 700km apart and evidence that it was a long-lived tradition. It is quite possible that similar cave art in other caves in Western Europe is of Neanderthal origin, as well.”

The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the National Geographic Society, the Max Planck Society and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. 

Caption: Colour enhanced image of three Neanderthal hand stencils, centre right, centre top and top left: Image: H.Collado: ω.

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Witches Witches Bewitching All: Kill 'Em One and Kill 'Em All: But Why Sir May I Venture to Ask: For They Practise Dark Arts: But Sir Beg I for You to Show Me What Dark Arts Are: Need I Not Bother for I Say So

|| November 04: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. The fear of witchcraft was rife in Exeter in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, according to new research from the University of Southampton, which has showed the extent of court cases and executions in the Devon city over a 100-year period. Historian Professor Mark Stoyle has discovered that Exeter was not only the last place in England, where people were hanged for practising ‘dark arts’, but that these were just the last in a series of executions, which, may have, begun as early as 1566. In fact, Exeter, may have, been one of the first places in the kingdom to sentence a witch to death. New evidence shows that, between the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 and the accession of King Charles II in 1660, more than 20 local women and men were accused of being ‘witches’ or ‘sorcerers’ and denounced to the local magistrates. Many of these individuals were believed to possess ‘familiar spirits’: demons in the shape of small animals, like rats and toads, which unleashed their evil powers to ‘waste’ both livestock and humans on the witches’ behalf.

“It’s long been known that Exeter witnessed the last English witch-executions.” says Professor Stoyle. “In 1683, three elderly women from North Devon, Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles, were hanged at Heavitree Gallows, while in 1685, another Devon woman, Alice Molland, was sentenced to death at the Exeter Assizes. What we didn’t realise before was that further alleged witches were, also, executed in Exeter over the preceding 100 years.” And here is the most fundamental point, it is time, that these historical terrible injustices are acknowledged as such and these very souls, that have been 'murdered' are declared innocent. Why is it necessary, because as a civic society, it is necessary, not to eradicate the past, which can not and must not be done, but accept and show that, even, when current society can not rectify the injustices but it can acknowledge and declare the innocent slaughtered to be innocent so that their names exist in posterity as innocent human beings, who were terribly and utterly violated by a society, that did the highest harm to them by killing them.

Professor Stoyle said, “The world-famous witch trials at Salem, in colonial America, have been the subject of many books and films, as has the mass witch-hunt led by Matthew Hopkins, the so-called Witch-finder General, in East Anglia in the UK between 1645 and 1647. Yet, it’s too rarely appreciated that there were other centres of witch-prosecution in Tudor and Stuart England as well. In Exeter, there was a long succession of indictments and prosecutions during the 16th and 17th centuries, which resulted in many unlucky women and men being banished, imprisoned or sent to the gallows.''

Witchcraft in Exeter: 1558-1660. Sourced from centuries-old court records, manuscript chronicles and registers of births, marriages and deaths, it charts the progress of each case of alleged ‘witchcraft’ from accusation to ultimate sentence.

Among the cases highlighted is one, which occurred soon after a Parliamentary statute of 1563 first decreed that those convicted of using ‘conjurations, enchantments and witchcrafts’ should suffer the death penalty. Two local women, Maud Park and Alice Mead, appeared before the city court in 1566 and were charged with causing death and physical injury through the exercise of ‘magic art’. Park and Mead were both found guilty, and although, no record of their execution survives, if they did, indeed, fall victim to the noose, as seems all too likely, than they were among the first people in England to be executed for witchcraft following the passage of the statute.

Further hangings of witches certainly took place in the city soon after this case. In 1585, for example, an Exeter woman named, Thomasine Shorte was convicted of killing the entire family of an unfortunate local weaver through the exercise of the ‘black arts’ and was executed at the city gallows. Then, in 1609, an Exeter labourer named Richard Wilkyns was, likewise, hanged, after having been convicted of killing and hurting both people and livestock through witchcraft.

Other cases discussed in the book include those of Mary Stone, an Exeter widow, who in 1620 was accused of killing chickens, infesting a household with lice and killing a man by bewitching him, causing him to fall from a field stile. She was, also, alleged to have commanded a familiar, in the shape of a rat, to spy on a woman and ‘do her harm’. Similarly, accused of conspiring with familiars was Joan Baker, whom witnesses claimed kept toads in a pot and who was, even, seen with a toad sitting in her lap. It’s believed Stone somehow escaped a death sentence and continued to live among her suspicious neighbours. The fate of Baker, who appeared in court in 1653, is unknown.

Professor Stoyle’s research provides numerous other individual stories of black magic, sorcery, curses and alleged murder, which combine to tell an intriguing tale, shedding powerful new light on occult belief in Tudor and Stuart Exeter and on the dark, uneasy world of the urban ‘witch’.

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Researchers Look Into the Meaning of Ancient Geometric Earth-Works in South Western Amazonia


Jacó Sá and Seu Chiquinho sites featuring circular, square and U-shaped earthworks. Geometric patterns provided people with qualities, such as, knowledge and power. Image: Sanna Saunaluoma


|| August 30: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen Suvi Uotinen and Karin Hannukainen Writing || ά. 

Researchers examinepre-colonial geometric earthworks in the south-western Amazonia from the point of view of indigenous peoples and archaeology. The study shows that the earthworks were once important ritual communication spaces. The geometric earthworks, found in this region of Amazonia have raised the interest within the scientific community, as well as, the media and the general public and they have been explored recently by several international research teams. These unique archaeological sites have been labelled as, the Geoglyphs of Acre, as most of them are located in the Brazilian State of Acre.

Nearly 500 sites have already been registered and have been included on the Brazilian State Party's Tentative List for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The construction period and use, span the time period of approximately 3000-1000 BP. The earthwork ditches form geometric patterns, such as, squares, circles, U-forms, ellipses and octagons. They can be several meters deep and enclose areas of hundreds of square meters. Dr Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, has conducted research with indigenous peoples in the study area for a long time.

Dr Sanna Saunaluoma, Post Doctoral researcher at the São Paulo University, Brazil, is specialised in Amazonian archaeology and made her doctoral dissertation on Acre's earthwork sites. Their article published in the American Anthropologist, 2017, already in early view, examines pre-colonial geometric earthworks from the point of view of indigenous peoples and archaeology.

The study shows that the sites were once important ritual spaces where, through the geometric designs, certain members of the community communicated with various beings of the environment, such as, ancestor spirits, animals and celestial bodies. Thus, people were constantly reminded that human life was intertwined with the environment and previous generations. People did not distinguish themselves from nature, but non-humans enabled and produced life.

The geometric earthwork sites were, especially, used by the experts of that era, who specialised in the interaction with the non-human beings. The sites were important for members of the community at certain stages of life and the various geometric patterns acted as 'doors' and 'paths' to gain the knowledge and strength of the different beings of the environment. Visualisation and active interactions with non-human beings were constructive for these communities.

The geometric patterns inspired by characteristics and skin patterns of animals still materialise the thinking of indigenous people of Amazonia, and are, also, present in their modern pottery, fabrics, jewelry and arts. As the theories of Amerindian visual art, also, show, geometric patterns can provide people with desired qualities and abilities, such as, fertility, resistance, knowledge and power.

Contemporary indigenous peoples of Acre still protect earthwork sites as sacred places and, unlike other Brazilian residents in the area, avoid using the sites for mundane activities, such as, housing or agriculture, and therefore, protect these peculiar ancient remains in their own way.

Contact: Dr. Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor: Indigenous Studies: University of Helsinki, Finland: Tel. +358 50 318 2400, pirjo.virtanen at ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Oh How the Same Death Connected Us Together as Life Except We Do Not Accept the Connection in Life So That We Fall Victims to Famines: Famine in Ireland and Finland and the Search for Famine Monuments

The memorial in Iisalmi and Ronan Newby. Kuva: Andrew Newby


|| July 09: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Pia Purra Writing || ά.  Famine killed nearly one-tenth of the Finnish population 150 years ago. Academy Research Fellow Andrew Newby has toured the country, mapping monuments erected to memorialise the famine. So far he has found 78. On the winter solstice in December 2016, the Espoo-dwelling Irish native Mr Andrew Newby found himself in Sonkajärvi cemetery in Eastern Finland with a shovel and a flashlight. It was only two thirty in the afternoon, but it was already pitch black. The historian was digging in the snow to find a monument for the famine years. He did realise he was quite the sight for any passers-by.

However, Mr Newby was not indulging in a macabre hobby, but surveying monuments for his research project 'Famine in Ireland and Finland'. As part of the project, Newby travels around Finland, looking for monuments of the famine. “I originally became interested in the monuments because I noticed there were none. In Ireland there are so many monuments to the Great Famine, that you can’t miss them. There are, also, monuments to the Great Famine everywhere in the world, as it is linked closely to Irish emigration.” Mr Andrew Newby explains. The famine years of the 1860s caused a major population disaster in Finland, just like the Irish famine did in Ireland. While the Irish famine stemmed from potato blight, Finland’s was the result of several consecutive years of failed crops. The worst years were 1867 and 68, i.e, 150 years ago.

“The famine is not a part of Finland’s national narrative in the same way as it is in Ireland. The anniversary years of the famine are, also, inevitably overshadowed by bigger events, such as, Finland’s centenary this year. My son’s trackand-field hobby has required trips to different parts of Finland, to areas I would probably never have otherwise visited. To pass the time, I went to the cemeteries of villages in Ostrobothnia and found monuments of the famine there. I realised that even though they, may be, no national monument, there are many local ones.” Mr Newby explains.

He began systematically surveying the monuments two years ago. Andrew Newby has gone through archives, poured over old newspapers and talked to people. He has found the Suomen muistomerkit book and the archives of the Finnish National Board of Antiquities, particularly, helpful, as they led him to approximately 30 monuments. Geo-caching has, also, proved to be useful for the researcher, as caches are often hidden near monuments.

“So far I’ve found 78 monuments to the famine around Finland. I haven’t had the chance to visit all of them yet, but the plan is to photograph every one. Sometimes it’s not easy to find the monuments. For example, I was at a cemetery in Ristiina and I knew there was a monument there, I even had a photo of it. But during the wintry day I spent looking, I couldn’t find it. I’ll have to go back to Ristiina.”

The monuments are most common in the areas where mortality was the highest: Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, Northern Karelia and along the railway connection between Riihimäki and St Petersburg. The tracks were constructed as a form of emergency aid. The oldest monuments are in Varkaus and Iisalmi, and the biggest one is in Lahti. Several monuments were erected in 1967, the centenary of the famine.

Monument research is not without its dangers. Driving on a partially frozen road in spring around southern Ostrobothnia or Satakunta, Mr Newby’s car hit a soft shoulder, flipped and landed in a ditch. A passer by stopped and alerted a local farmer, who arrived with his tractor to pull the car back onto the road.

“I tried to tell them that I was from abroad and unused to gravel roads and that we don’t have ditches like that in Ireland. But the locals didn’t seem to care that I was Irish, they found it hilarious that a man from Espoo had wound up in a ditch.” ω.

Further reading

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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So Tell Us About Sami


|| June 25: 2017: University of Helsinki News: Reetta Toivanen Writing || ά. International negotiations on human rights gives the Sami people the opportunity to make their voices heard outside Finland. But how can international agreements be amended to suit their specific, local situation? The attempts of Finnish Sami to protect their traditional livelihoods have led to appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Council. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was among the representatives expressing their grave concerns on the draft natural resources management legislation and its negative impact on people with traditional livelihoods. However, the Finnish Parliament approved the law as such, with no heed to national or international criticism.

The problem with the International Labour Organisation’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention and the Nordic Saami Convention, which is currently under negotiation, lie in the land-use rights of the Finnish government. The government wants to own the lands in Lapland and exploit its riches. Consequently, politicians give lip service to the Sami: while they are encouraged to get involved, they are given no opportunity to make a real difference in political decision-making. Finland wants to be considered a forerunner in minority rights. Therefore the Sami have been recognised as an indigenous people, they have been granted cultural autonomy, and the Parliament of Finland must hear the Sami. Finland is committed to arranging the Sami issue according to international human rights norms and to clearing away the factors that have prevented the ratification of ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention.

For more than 28 years, one Finnish government after another has strived towards this goal without coming any closer to actually reaching it. International human rights agreements are drafted and approved far removed from our daily lives. They are based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948, which is founded on equality and freedom from discrimination. In our modern world, no place, time or situation exists in isolation. Consequently, the Sami find themselves amidst a complex web of issues where global markets intertwine with political discourse. Local interpretations of human rights are based on personal experiences, local histories and expressions of power between groups of people.

The interests of the Sami have not been presented on public forums on their own terms. The political identity of the Sami began to take hold when the Sami began to work together with the world's other indigenous peoples. This co-operation emphasised awareness of long-term oppression caused by governmental assimilation efforts, which sought to absorb the indigenous culture into majority society.

In his 1974 work Power: A Radical View, Steven Lukes describes the strongest form of power as one that is nearly impossible to identify as such. It’s important to try to understand the context, in which, the language of international law is used. That way it becomes possible to recognise the motivations for singling out individual sections from international agreements for rhetorical use.

The Finnish Sami have developed their own strategies to function in Finnish society. The interests of the Sami have not been presented on public forums on their own terms. For example, Sami fishermen have been all but ignored, as the dominant stereotype of the Sami involves reindeer husbandry. Forty years ago, Erik Allardt wrote his observations on the Finnish myth of unity in his book Att ha, att älska, att vara. Finns cling to this myth as they believe it will help achieve a conflict-free society.

Thus, it is unsurprising that in an opinion poll from 2007, Finns identified 'equality' as the word, that best describes Finland. The myth of the equal distribution of power is strong. To protect their livelihood, many people involved in reindeer husbandry learned to invoke international human rights clauses. If the Sami were included in this principle of equality, they would have to be heard in matters where their involvement would erode the myth of unity.

This could solve the lawless situation of the Sami, who lack full indigenous status. The Sami Parliament might make their policies more open to the people most damaged by the government's intense assimilationist policies. Two parties are typically blamed for the failure of Finland’s Sami politics: the Sami themselves, who do not promote their own rights with sufficient vigour and the municipalities in the Sami regions, who refuse to allocate funding to the Sami. However, the real culprit, the Finnish government, who is officially responsible for Sami rights, claims to have no say in the matter.

In such a case, the language of international human rights, may, provide crucial tools to change the situation. This happened in the Nellim forest conflict, where Metsähallitus was about to destroy an area in northern Lapland, which was a vitally important winter grazing ground for reindeer, with no respect for international agreements. To protect their livelihood, the people involved in reindeer husbandry learned to invoke international human rights clauses. Thanks to this, the deforestation project was recognised as a human rights problem and, thus, an issue to be handled by the international community.

Human rights rhetoric has tremendous potential for making voices heard. At the same time, it carries a significant risk, as legal language carries the expectations of people as representatives of specific cultures. In these cases, it is important, which definitions are restrictive and which are liberating.  ω.

: Reetta Toivanen: Reetta Toivanen, docent, university lecturer in social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki:

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Look Not for the Bones: Seek for the DNA: To Know That We Were There: The Neanderthals

Image: Bournemouth Universtiy


|| April 29: 2017: Bournemouth University News || ά. DNA from sediment at known archaeological sites has confirmed the presence of Neanderthal remains, even when no bones are present, for the first time. Researchers from Bournemouth University were part of a multinational team, which collected and analysed 85 sedimentary samples from nine established archaeological sites with known hominin occupation.
The research, led by Viviane Slon, Matthias Meyer and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, investigated whether hominin DNA, may, survive in sediments at archaeological sites, known to have been occupied by ancient hominins. The Bournemouth Associate Professor John Stewart and PhD student Monika Knul, alongside site Director Dr Rebecca Miller from the University of Liège, took samples from the Trou Al’Wesse cave site in Belgium, the only site in the study with no Neanderthal remains.

DNA recovered from the sediment there now provides direct evidence for the past occupation of the site by Neanderthals. Dr Stewart said, “This is exciting because we have actually managed to find evidence of humans without the actual bones themselves. We have found, what are effectively, Neanderthal remains, but biochemical rather than physical remains.” “This highlights the fact that we can still get human genetic information out of sedimentary evidence, if you don’t have the Neanderthal bones themselves.

“It can, also, help confirm theories around items like the stone tools that had been found at the site, as there was still some ambiguity around who lived there.

DNA is often better than bones and findings like this are important in trying to understand how and when Neanderthals became extinct and when modern humans arrived.”

The study detected sedimentary Neanderthal remains at three other sites in Spain and Russia. Skeletal remains of ancient hominins are rare and so evidence of Neanderthal occupation is often restricted to artefacts and other traces of human activity, such as bones with cut marks.

The research, published in Science today, demonstrates the feasibility of extracting DNA from sedimentary samples to confirm the presence of ancient hominins, even when no bones or other physical remains are found.

“By retrieving hominin DNA from sediments, we can detect the presence of hominin groups at sites and in areas, where this cannot be achieved with other methods.”, said Svante Pääbo, Director of the Evolutionary Genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and co-author of the study.

“This shows that DNA analyses of sediments are a very useful archaeological procedure, which, may, become routine in the future.” ω.

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Discover and Decipher: The Lost Writing of the Inkas: What Did They Write About

Collata coloured khipu cords. Image: University of St Andrews


|| April 21: 2017: University of St Andrews News || ά. The lost 'written' language of the Inkas, which used twists of coloured animal hair rather than ink and paper, has been partially deciphered by an anthropologist at the University of St Andrews, potentially shedding light on the mysterious South American civilisation. Dr Sabine Hyland, of the School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Film Studies at the University, has managed to translate the meaning of some names recorded on these twisted cords, which are known as 'khipus'.

This discovery opens up the possibility of deciphering the mysterious Inka string writing, which would dramatically increase the current understanding of Inka civilization, the largest indigenous empire of the Americas. It had already been established that the khipus, which are made using cotton or different coloured fibre from animals, such as alpacas, llamas and deer, were used by the Inkas to record numerical accounts but until recently, there was no evidence that they had been used to record narratives.

However, Dr Hyland has now discovered that the khipus were used in a logosyllabic system like Classic Mayan, where each logo, in this case a, khipu pendant cord, represents a phonetic syllable, the first evidence that the Inkas possessed phonetic writing.

She has managed to phonetically decipher two lineage names on the khipus so far and is continuing field and archival research to decipher the rest. Dr Hyland was able to make her discovery after being granted the rare opportunity to examine two logosyllabic khipus, guarded by residents of the remote village of San Juan de Collata in the Peruvian Andes, in research funded by the National Geographic Society.

Village authorities invited Hyland to examine their khipus, which were created in the 18th century as letters exchanged by local leaders in a revolt against Spanish authority and are the only Andean phonetic khipus ever identified.

The Collata khipus, as they are known, contrast sharply with the regional accounting, khipus. They are the first ever reliably identified as narrative epistles by the descendants of their creators and indicate a widespread, shared writing system, used in the Huarochiri province in the 18th century.

Analysis of the khipus showed that they contained 95 different symbols, a quantity within the range of logosyllabic writing systems and notably, more symbols than in regional accounting khipus. At the end of each khipu, three-cord sequences of distinct colours, fibres and ply direction appear to represent lineage, 'ayllu' names.

The Collata khipus express syllables in a profoundly Andean fashion, using differences among the fibres of various animals, such as vicuña, alpaca and deer to indicate meaning. The reader must often feel the cords by hand to distinguish the fibre sources of these three-dimensional texts.

Collata khipus share unique structural features with Inka animal fibre khipus, underscoring the continuity between Inka woollen khipus and the Collata ones. The epistolary khipus of Collata indicate that Andean khipus could constitute an intelligible writing system. ω.

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And the Bones were Raised and Despite the Fact That They Turned Earthen They Still Spoke the Truth: That Education is the Only Enlightenment That Will Light up Human Souls and Regardless of What Age We Live Without It We Will Still Seek to Send People to the Stake

Image: University of Southampton


|| April 04: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. A new scientific study of medieval human bones, excavated from a deserted English village, suggests that the corpses they comes from were burnt and mutilated. Researchers from the University of Southampton and Historic England believe that this was carried out by villagers, who believed that it would stop the corpses rising from their graves and menacing the living. The team found that many of the bones from Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire showed knife-marks, suggesting the bodies had been decapitated and dismembered. Additionally, there was evidence of the burning of body parts and deliberate breaking of some bones after death.

The findings are published in an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. The research was led by Simon Mays, Human Skeletal Biologist at Historic England, working in collaboration with Professor Alistair Pike, Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Southampton. In medieval times, there was a folk-belief that corpses could rise from their graves and roam the local area, spreading disease and violently assaulting those unlucky enough to encounter them. Restless corpses were usually thought to be caused by a lingering malevolent life-force in individuals, who had committed evil deeds or created animosity when living.

Medieval writers describe a number of ways of dealing with revenants, one of which was to dig up the offending corpse, decapitate and dismember it and burn the pieces in a fire. Perhaps the bones from Wharram Percy were parts of bodies, that were mutilated and burnt because of medieval fears of corpses rising from their graves. The researchers considered other theories but this explanation appears to be the most consistent with the alterations observed on the bones.

In some societies, people may be treated in unusual ways after death because they are viewed as outsiders. However, analysis of strontium isotopes in the teeth showed this was not the reason in this case. Professor Alistair Pike, who directed the isotopic analysis, explains, “Strontium isotopes in teeth reflect the geology on which an individual was living as their teeth formed in childhood.

A match between the isotopes in the teeth and the geology around Wharram Percy suggests they grew up in an area close to where they were buried, possibly in the village. This was surprising to us, as we first wondered if the unusual treatment of the bodies might relate to their being from further afield, rather than local.”

Famines were quite common in medieval times, so another possibility might be that the remains were of corpses, that had been cannibalised by starving villagers. However, the evidence did not seem to fit. For example, in cannibalism, knife marks on bone tend to cluster around major muscle attachments or large joints but at Wharram Percy the knife marks were not at these locations but mainly in the head and neck area.

Simon Mays concludes, “The idea that the Wharram Percy bones are the remains of corpses burnt and dismembered to stop them walking from their graves seems to fit the evidence best. If we are right, then this is the first good archaeological evidence we have for this practice. It shows us a dark side of medieval beliefs and provides a graphic reminder of how different the medieval view of the world was from our own.”

The bones come from the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire, a site managed by English Heritage. There was a total of 137 bones representing the mixed remains of at least ten individuals. They were buried in a pit in the settlement part of the site. They date from the 11th-14th centuries AD.

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Digging Into Archaeology Into Palaentology to Arise at Anthropology to Find It Still is Humanity: New DNA Research Shows the True Migration Route of Early Farming in Europe 8,000 Years Ago: That Challenges Previous Theories

|| March 31: 2017: University of Huddersfield News || ά. University of Huddersfield researchers confirm that the spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East, thousands of years earlier than widely believed. A New article co-authored by experts at the University of Huddersfield bolsters a theory that the spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East more than 13,000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than widely believed.

This was during the Late Glacial period and initially the migrants were hunter-gatherers. But they later developed a knowledge of agriculture from further newly-arrived populations from the Near East, where farming began and during the Neolithic, approximately 8,000 years ago, they began to colonise other parts of Europe, taking their farming practices with them. The University of Huddersfield is home to the Archaeogenetics Research Group, which uses DNA analysis to solve questions from archaeology, anthropology and history. It is headed by Professor Martin Richards  and the issue of the genetic ancestry of Europeans has been one of his major research areas for many years.

Now he is a principal contributor to the article that appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It describes how the researchers used almost 1,500 mitochondrial genome lineages to date the arrival of people in different regions of Europe. It was found that in central Europe and Iberia, these could mainly be traced to the Neolithic. However, in the central and eastern Mediterranean, they predominantly dated to the much earlier Late Glacial period.

The authors write, “This supports a scenario, in which the genetic pool of Mediterranean Europe was partly a result of Late Glacial expansions from a Near Eastern refuge and that this formed an important source pool for subsequent Neolithic expansions into the rest of Europe”.

Professor Richards explained that he and his co-researchers had carried out their latest investigations using modern DNA samples because in Italy and Greece there was an acute shortage of pre-Neolithic skeletal remains, from which ancient samples can be taken. The warmth of the climate has resulted in low levels of preservation.

“We haven’t been able to fill the gap with ancient DNA, so we found a way to get round that by looking at modern samples. Instead of dating the lineages across Europe as a whole, we have dated them firstly in the Mediterranean area and then we have looked at what happens if you assume that they have arrived in that area and then moved on.” said Professor Richards.

Now he hopes that new sources of ancient DNA in Italy and Greece will be discovered, so that his migration scenario can be tested more directly. “In the past, it’s been difficult to recover DNA from these kinds of environments but there have been so many technical developments in the recovery of ancient DNA in the last few years that I think it will happen soon.”

In fact, another team of researchers has already confirmed one of the paper’s main predictions, by looking at pre-Neolithic DNA from Sardinia, just one week ago. The research was carried out primarily by Dr Joana Pereira as part of her PhD project, supervised jointly by Professor Richards and Dr Luisa Pereira of the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology at the University of Porto, alongside Dr Pedro Soares of the University of Minho, in Portugal.

The authors of the new article, titled, 'Reconciling evidence from ancient and contemporary genomes: a major source for the European Neolithic within Mediterranean Europe', also, include Dr Maria Pala, who is Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a key member of the archaeogenetics group.

Professor Martin Richards studied genetics at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, moving to Oxford University and into archaeogenetic research in 1990. From there, he developed collaborative links with a small group of like-minded colleagues who spearheaded the use of network diagrams in the phylogenetic and phylogeographic analysis of human mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA. This enjoyable collaboration was to yield influential models for the settlement of both Europe and the Pacific and for prehistoric dispersals in Africa.

He subsequently moved to UCL, Huddersfield and then Leeds University, where he taught, amongst other topics, human evolution, molecular evolution and bioinformatics. He finally moved back to Huddersfield to take up a Research Chair in January 2012. His research in the last decade has particularly sought to apply complete mtDNA genome variation to archaeogenetic questions, such as the route taken by modern humans dispersing out of Africa and the settlement of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, most recently returning his focus to the continuing controversy over the settlement of Europe. He co-edited Mitochondrial DNA and the Evolution of Homo Sapiens, Springer-Verlag, 2006, with Hans-Jürgen Bandelt and Vincent Macaulay.

The University of Huddersfield: The University of Huddersfield is an inspiring, innovative provider of higher education of international renown. It has a national reputation in enterprise and innovation and has been the recipient of the Times Higher Education’s University of the Year Award and Entrepreneurial University of the Year as well as a Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. In the 2015, the University was recognised with 5 star status by international ratings organisation QS Stars for teaching, internationalisation, employability and for facilities and access. The University of Huddersfield’s researchers are dedicated to solving the problems and answering the questions posed by industry, science and society as a whole. Our pioneering research is showcased by internationally-recognised centres of excellence, strategic industry relationships and a commitment to providing advanced facilities and equipment. The Chancellor of the University is His Royal Highness The Duke of York, KG, and the Vice-Chancellor is Professor Bob Cryan CBE. ω.

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Approach to Childhood Mental Health Based on Victorian Values


|| March 23: 2017: University of Portsmouth News || ά.  The approaches to protecting children with mental health issues are much the same today as in Victorian and Edwardian times, new research shows. The case files of children from the 1800s reveal that the approach taken by those responsible for their welfare has changed remarkably little in over 100 years. The research shows that Victorian and Edwardian authorities faced similar issues to the agencies involved in children’s well-being today and that different organisations struggled with a joined up approach then, just as they do now.

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, an expert in childhood studies, has been examining case files from the Children’s Society of children with mental health issues in the period 1880-1910. The records contain information around the children’s family background, their health, education and parenting and highlight the perception of custodians, doctors and professionals who judged their subjects, and who played an active role in decisions regarding each child. Dr Sims-Schouten found that some of today’s problems associated with troubled childhoods were the same as those in the late 1800s, such as family problems, poverty, deprivation and parental absence or alcoholism.

She says that even the language used by the Victorian and Edwardian authorities to describe and explain their approach to childhood mental health is very similar to that used by today’s agencies and reveals a caring side to the Victorians/Edwardians that she did not anticipate. “The records demonstrate that the Victorian authorities were very concerned about the children in their care. They talk about ‘putting the child first’ and ‘examining what can be done for this child.’ An extract from a children’s case file in 1897 highlights that ‘his mental condition gave rise to great anxiety, whilst a case file from 1901 shows concern about the child’s home situation: ‘I fear that the girls home is very undesirable’

“These children were often in homes, and their welfare was the concern of doctors, schools the church whose case files highlight the perception of these custodians who judged their subjects and played an active role in what happened to them. What is also clear is that back then children didn’t have a voice and this is still the case.”

Dr Sims-Schouten, who specialises in childhood research, says that today’s approach to children’s mental health is grounded in strategies developed over a hundred years ago. My initial search of the Children’s Society’s online catalogue shows 76 results for ‘mental health’ and 46 for ‘mind’. My own interviews with young care-leavers between 2014-2016 contain extracts such as ‘my mental health is extremely complicated’ and from a careworker: ‘mental health is tricky, because there are so many different agencies involved.’ These are issues today that are no different to those faced by the Victorians and Edwardians.”

Thankfully some of the terminology has changed and today’s records are unlikely to feature words such as ‘lunatic’ and ‘insane,’ stigmas, which were often used to describe a child’s sanity and intellect, alongside ‘mental capacity’, ‘mental deficiency’ and mental derangement.’ However, Dr Sims-Schouten says that despite some progress, many of the stigmas around mental health still exist today.

“There are still so many unresolved issues and stigma plays a significant role in successful approaches to the welfare of children with mental health issues. What does having a mental health issue even mean? Childhood research has been my focus for many years and mental health is a recurrent theme. Yet there are huge variations in approaches by different parties involved.

More needs to be done to improve mental health care and reduce stigma and I hope some of this research can be used to challenge today’s interpretation and treatment and get the best for our children.” Dr Sims-Schouten’s research is funded by the Wellcome Trust. ω.

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Will You Rather Celebrate St Sheelah's Day Today Emerald Isle

UCC folklorist Shane Lehane observes that antiquarian journals and newspaper accounts of the 18th and 19th
centuries in Ireland indicate the wide-spread belief that St Patrick had a wife.
Images: University College Cork

|| March 10: 2017: University College Cork Ireland News || ά. Since he was a man, who became a Saint and known and celebrated as St Patrick, it is not unreasonable for anyone to assume that he might as well have been married and had had a wife. And in this case, there would have been a Mrs Patrick, the other half. Now, as people celebrate St Patricks Day across Ireland and the World, from the very Emerald Isle, here is the news, about a Mrs Patrick in the vague and in concrete, a Mrs Sheelah St Patrick and why not you all make this year a dual celebrations of the St Patrick-Soul, half and half, making one. St Patrick has long been associated with snakes and shamrocks but the fact that he had a wife has largely been confined to the annals of history, according to a folklorist from University College Cork, Ireland.

In the old Irish calendar the day after St Patrick's Day is Sheelah's Day but what is less known is that Sheelah was Patrick’s wife. Shane Lehane, Department of Folklore at University College Cork, says Sheelah was Patrick's 'other half' and that the March 17th celebrations were extended for an additional 24 hours to commemorate her life. Lehane observes that antiquarian journals and newspaper accounts of the 18th and 19th centuries in Ireland indicate the wide-spread belief that St Patrick had a wife. "Pre Famine, pre 1845, if you go back to the newspapers in Ireland they talk not just about Patrick's Day but also Sheelah's Day. So I wondered where this came from? You have Paddy's day on the 17th and it continues on to Sheelah's day.

I came across numerous references that Sheelah was thought to be Patrick's wife. She was his other half. The folk tradition has no problem with such detail. The fact that we have Patrick and Sheelah together should be no surprise. Because that duality, that union of the male and female together, is one of the strongest images that we have in our mythology."

An early reference to the continued celebrations on March 18th, which was St Sheelah's day, is found in John Carr's 1806 The Stranger in Ireland. Carr said that on the anniversary of St Patrick, the country people assembled in their nearest towns and villages and got very tipsy. "From a spirit of gallantry, these merry devotees continue drunk the greater part of the next day, viz., the 18th of March, all in honour of Sheelagh, St. Patrick’s wife."

Lehane claims the fact that Patrick had a wife is a really fascinating angle from a feminist point of view. "What I think is very interesting is that people in Ireland in the past had no problem whatsoever accepting that Patrick had a wife. The church was very strong and during the period of Lent from Ash Wednesday right through to Easter Sunday you had major prohibitions.

However, folk tradition was such that Patrick afforded a special dispensation and Irish people were allowed to celebrate Patrick's day which always fell in the middle of Lent. It seems to have been extended to the 18th of March and was a continuation of celebrations. They continued to drink on Sheelah's day and there is a sense that the women were more involved in the celebrations on the 18th. So there is a feminist angle in there."

Lehane has unearthed references to Sheelah's day in the Freeman's Journal of 1785, 1811 and 1841. There are also many accounts in the 19th century Australian Press evidencing the observance of Sheelah's day, usually in the context of the consumption of too much alcohol.

He says whilst the feast day is largely forgotten about in Ireland, Sheelah still has a keen presence in the history of Newfoundland, Canada. "St Sheelah's Day was news to me. I thought it was amazing, as all memory of her seems to have died out here. Sheelah and Patrick, at one time, came to represent the ubiquitous Irish couple. Paddy and Sheelah became a byword for all Irish people.

Sheelah has been forgotten altogether except in Newfoundland, Canada and in Australia. Irish people headed over to Newfoundland from the late 1600's. And they brought over with them this tradition of Sheelah and Sheelah's Day. Tim Pat Coogan once remarked that Newfoundland is the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland."

Lehane says that perhaps the most enduring legacy of Sheelah is the so-called 'Sheelah's Brush' as the name given by Newfoundlanders and Atlantic Canadians to a winter snowstorm that falls after St Patrick's Day.

Sometimes referred to as 'Sheelah's Broom' or if the snowstorm is mild with only a bare covering of snow, 'Sheila's Blush', it is still referred to respectfully by meteorologists and fisherman in that part of the world.

Lehane suggests that perhaps the key to understanding the inherited notion that St Patrick had a wife, Sheelah, is to explore the hugely interesting archaeological manifestation that, also, bears her name: the Sheelah-na-Gig.

"Sheela-na-Gig is a basic medieval carving of a woman exposing her genitalia. These images are often considered to be quite grotesque. They are quite shocking when you see them first. Now we look at them very much as examples of old women showing young women how to give birth. They are vernacular folk deities associated with pregnancy and birth."

Lehane proposes that it is time to revisit and embrace the story of Sheelah. "Sheelah represented, for women in particular, a go-to person because she represented the female. The Sheela-na-Gig is a really important part of medieval folk tradition. She is an important folk deity. The figure of Sheelah was perhaps much bigger than suggested by the scant mentions we find in the old newspaper accounts.

She would have been massively important. She represents a folk personification, allied to, what can be termed, the female cosmic agency and being such, would have played a major role in people’s everyday lives. It is a pity that the day has died out. But maybe we will revive it. I am sure Fáilte Ireland would be delighted with it. I think it would be a great idea!" ω.

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We are the Aboriginal: Read the Hair and Learn the Story of 50,000 Years of Us Being Part of This Land Now Called Australia: We Have Known It All Along: Now the World Has the Science for It

Image: University of Adelaide



|| March 10: 2017: University of Adelaide, Australia News || ά.  DNA in hair samples collected from Aboriginal people across Australia in the early to mid-1900s has revealed, that populations have been continuously present in the same regions for up to 50,000 years, soon after the peopling of Australia. Published in the journal Nature, the findings reinforce Aboriginal communities’ strong connection to the country and represent the first detailed genetic map of Aboriginal Australia prior to the arrival of Europeans. These are the first results from the Aboriginal Heritage Project, led by the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA:ACAD in partnership with the South Australian Museum.

Researchers analysed mitochondrial DNA from 111 hair samples, that were collected during a series of remarkable anthropological expeditions across Australia from 1928 to the 1970s and are part of the South Australian Museum’s unparalleled collection of hair samples. Mitochondrial DNA allows tracing of maternal ancestry and the results show that modern Aboriginal Australians are the descendants of a single founding population, that arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago, while Australia was still connected to New Guinea. Populations then spread rapidly, within 1500-2000 years, around the east and west coasts of Australia, meeting somewhere in South Australia.

“Amazingly, it seems that from around this time the basic population patterns have persisted for the next 50,000 years, showing that communities have remained in discrete geographical regions.” says project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD, University of Adelaide. This is unlike people anywhere else in the world and provides compelling support for the remarkable Aboriginal cultural connection to country.

We’re hoping this project leads to a rewriting of Australia’s history texts to include detailed Aboriginal history and what it means to have been on their land for 50,000 years, that’s around 10 times as long as all of the European history we’re commonly taught.”

A central pillar of the Aboriginal Heritage Project is that Aboriginal families and communities have been closely involved with the project from its inception and that analyses are only conducted with their consent. Importantly, results are first discussed with the families to get Aboriginal perspectives before scientific publication. The research model was developed under the guidance of Aboriginal elders, the Genographic Project and professional ethicists.

This is the first phase of a decade-long project, that will allow people with Aboriginal heritage to trace their regional ancestry and reconstruct family genealogical history and will also, assist with the repatriation of Aboriginal artefacts.

“Aboriginal people have always known that we have been on our land since the start of our time.” says Kaurna Elder Mr Lewis O’Brien, who is one of the original hair donors and has been on the advisory group for the study. “But it is important to have science show that to the rest of the world. This is an exciting project and we hope it will help assist those of our people from the Stolen Generation and others to reunite with their families.”

“Reconstructing the genetic history of Aboriginal Australia is very complicated due to past government policies of enforced population relocation and child removal that have erased much of the physical connection between groups and geography in Australia today.” says Dr Wolfgang Haak, formerly at ACAD and now at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

The South Australian Museum’s collection of hair samples, complete with rich cultural, linguistic, genealogical and geographical data, comes from the expeditions run by the Board of Anthropological Research from the University of Adelaide.

“This Aboriginal Heritage Project is able to exist because of the extensive records collected by Norman Tindale and Joseph Birdsell and others on those expeditions, which are held in trust for all at the South Australian Museum. They include detailed information about the birthplaces, family history and family trees, film, audio and written records, allowing a wide range of approaches to be used by this project to reconstruct history.” says Brian Oldman, Director of the South Australian Museum.

“The South Australian Museum’s Aboriginal Family History Unit has also been instrumental to the project and has worked closely with the University team to consult with Aboriginal families and communities to obtain permission for tests to be performed.” he says.

Professor Cooper says, “We are very grateful for the enthusiasm and overwhelming support for this project we have received from Aboriginal families, and the Cherbourg, Koonibba, and Point Pearce communities in particular.”

The research will be extended to investigate paternal lineages and information from the nuclear genome. Team member Dr Ray Tobler, Postdoctoral Researcher in ACAD with Aboriginal heritage on his father’s side, has an Australian Research Council:ARC Indigenous Discovery Fellowship to extend the AHP research, to examine how the longevity of Aboriginal populations in different habitats across Australia has shaped the remarkable physical diversity found across modern Aboriginal Australians.

Other research partners include La Trobe University, Deakin University and the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics. The project is funded by the ARC Linkage Projects scheme with financial or additional research support from the Australian Genome Research Facility, Bioplatforms Australia, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers, and the National Geographic Society.

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Working to Protect the Heritage of Humanity: The Past: The Present: The Future: Of Cultural Heritage

Researchers with the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project study and manage underwater cultural heritage in Italy, which gives a glimpse into maritime exchange
from the early Roman era through Late Antiquity. Image: Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project: University of Pennsylvania


|| February 26: 2017: University of Pennsylvania: USA News: Lauren Hertzler Writing || ά. Led by Anthropology Professor Richard M. Leventhal, the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre at the Penn Museum is involved with a number of projects to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world, including Mexico, Italy, California, Iraq, and Syria. During the second half of the 19th century, Tihosuco, a small town in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, was at the centre of the indigenous rebellion called, the Caste War. Overwhelmed by economic hardships, constant and increasing taxation, repression by Yucatecos, the local population of European descent, and more, the Maya revolted against Mexico, hoping to recover their territory and heritage.

The Maya people of Tihosuco still identify closely with the rebellion, which is reflected in their present-day lives. Penn Anthropology Professor Richard M. Leventhal says that their connection with their recent history is much stronger than their often-assumed connection with the ancient Maya. “They just do not want to be tied to their ancient heritage as many of us have been taught to think.” he explains. For six years, as part of the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project, Leventhal has been working alongside the community in Tihosuco to identify and preserve some of the important remaining sites, artefacts and symbols of the Caste War.

The project is a partnership of the Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Centre, which Leventhal founded in 2007 and directs and the Museo de la Guerra de Castas, the Caste War Museum created in 1993 by the government in Tihosuco. The Ejido de Tihosuco, a communal land organisation that owns and controls the land around the community and the Tihosuco Mayor’s Office are also important partners.

''Community is key when doing this type of work.'' Leventhal stresses. “Community has been and needs to be part of the framing of projects like these.” he says, while chatting over the phone from Mexico. “Too often, Archaeologists or other historians come along and believe that they, as professionals and scholars, know what is heritage and what is important to preserve. But we think about heritage in a different way when we talk to local communities. Communities need to take the lead in these partnerships, if they’re going to be successful and sustainable.”

''A long-term goal for the project, Leventhal says, is to also, identify a heritage preservation and economic plan for Tihosuco and the region, ultimately giving a boost to the Maya people, allowing them to control their own heritage and future.''

The project in Mexico is only one under the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre’s umbrella. Brian I. Daniels, the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre’s Director of Research and Programmes and a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, has spent more than a decade working on indigenous communities’ heritage rights, repatriation and recognition. Specifically, for the Weyka Heritage Project in California, Daniels’ discussions with Native Americans about their cultural heritage has evolved into an archaeological project and he is eager to uncover more knowledge of the community’s past and present. This project is leading the community toward a greater sense of identity in the present and future.

Daniels also co-directs the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project with Salam Al Kuntar, a Penn Museum postdoctoral fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Penn. Al Kuntar, a Syrian-born Archaeologist, works with civil activists and community leaders in Syria and Iraq to document and protect their cultural heritage in the midst of civil war destruction, which is happening at a tragic and unprecedented rate.

“This heritage can’t just be looked at from a historic view.” she says. “We’re losing ancient art and archaeological sites, as well as losing the culture and fabric of a place.” In 2014, the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre and the Smithsonian Institution began offering assistance for museum curators, heritage professionals and civilians working to protect cultural heritage in the war-torn areas.

Most recently, Al Kuntar has been spearheading projects that teach the local children how to appreciate and protect heritage and see it as a future asset for their country. She’s also working with women to revive traditional handcrafts in order to lighten the burden of war. Beginning this April, an exhibition at the Penn Museum will shed light on Al Kuntar’s work, as well as cultural heritage preservation work in the Middle East in general.

“For me, this work is more about giving them basically the means to survive.” Al Kuntar says. “To help them cope with the war atrocities and keep the heritage alive. To make them not fall into despair and make sure they know people around the world care about them.”

Another major project within the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre is the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, which is led by Penn Cultural Heritage Centre consulting scholars Elizabeth Greene and Justin Leidwanger, Professors at Brock University and Stanford, respectively.

In Marzamemi, Sicily, the pair are working in a variety of ways with the community to study and manage underwater cultural heritage, which, due to its location, gives a glimpse into maritime exchange from the early Roman era through Late Antiquity. The sea is what drives this small coastal town and Greene and Leidwanger are working to uphold this base, whether by promoting underwater heritage dive trails or showcasing excavated materials in a new Museum of the Sea.

“Similar to all the projects within the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre, it’s not just one research paper but it’s helping to make Marzamemi a destination for tourists, as well as offering places for the local children and others to learn about the town’s heritage.” says Greene.

''Even though the Penn Cultural Heritage Centre projects span different parts of the world, the heart of each is their bottom-up approach, starting from the community and working their way up.'' says Peter Gould, a Consulting Scholar of the Centre. “The heritage that matters is the heritage that matters to the people it belongs to.” he says.

Now, more than ever, Gould says that it is important to have conversations about cultural heritage. “We’re living in a time that, in certain respects, is centred on heritage.” he says. “If you look at the disputes around the world, the debates are over immigrants, over whether multiculturalism is a good thing. All have their roots in different perspectives of which heritage is important and whose should be given priority and who needs to accommodate to that. Having a vibrant dialogue around the issues is important because the process of how this sorts itself out is going to be consequential for the entire world.” ω.

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New Museum Museo Kordilyera Dedicated to the People, Culture, Heritage and Region of Cordillera

Images: University of the Philippines Baguio


|| February 23: 2017: University of the Philippines Baguio News || ά. University of the Philippines Baguio formally opened its three-story ethnographic museum, Museo Kordilyera, on January 31, seven months after its soft opening in 2016. Its main areas of focus are the collection, preservation and exhibition of artefacts and other objects unique to the Cordillera region, its peoples and its cultures and traditions.

Conforming to the campus terrain, only the first story of the museum is at ground level, as with the other campus buildings, while the second and third levels of the museum are underground. These lower levels have: spaces for the Museo Kordilyera’s permanent collection, curatorial space for ethnographic materials; a temporary exhibition area; a room for the orientation of visitors; an audio-visual room; a shop; and a café.

Three inaugural exhibits were mounted as part of the event: “Batok Tattoos: Body as Archive”, based on the research of Museo Kordilyera Director Analyn Salvador-Amores, a Professor at the UPB Department of Social Anthropology and Psychology; 'Jules de Raedt: Life Works, Lived Worlds', a retrospective of de Raedt’s work; and, 'The Indigenous, In Flux: Reconfiguring the Ethnographic Photograph' by Roland Rabang of the UPB Department of Language, Literature, and the Arts.

Together with Salvador-Amores, also involved in the curatorial work for the inaugural exhibits were: Professor Emeritus Delfin Tolentino, Jr. ot the UPB Department of Language, Literature, and the Arts; Professor Victoria Diaz of the UPB Department of Social Anthropology and Psychology and Cristina Villanueva, a UPB archivist.

Museo Kordilyera is now open to the public. ω.

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Professor Evelyn Tribble: On the Trail of Shakespearian Theatrical Cognitive Ecology and Distributive Processes

The Candle Won't Blow Out Celebration of William Shakespeare 2016

|| February 20: 2017: Otago University New Zealand News || ά. Four hundred years after the death of William Shakespeare, Professor Evelyn Tribble is proving that his work still provides us with new insights into the human condition. In this case, however, her findings are not based on textual analysis of the plays as much as the cognitive processes underlying their performance. Tribble, Department of English and Linguistics, started out investigating representations of memory in the great bard’s plays but it was when she began to explore the mnemonic demands of the actors performing those plays that she says her research really found 'traction'.

This work has provided a rich vein of insights, not just into the 17th century dramatic process but also human cognitive processes generally, insights that are relevant to modern day psychology as well as other disciplines in the Humanities. Tribble’s forays into the field of distributed cognition began with her looking at the 16th century playhouse, a recent innovation at the time, as a workplace, much as we look at learning processes within a modern organisation. This included researching the training of actors and the apprentice system used to develop what were essentially child actors. “We know that boys who were apprenticed probably around the age of 14 went on to play extraordinarily complicated roles like Lady Macbeth later in their teens. How did they develop that kind of expertise?” Tribble wondered.

Tribble determined that the non-speaking parts Shakespeare wrote for boys, such as pages and attendants, acclimatised them to being on stage. Then, 'bit' parts were written in a way that enabled older actors to manage the apprentices onstage through explicit actions or cues. The work of memorising lines would have been relatively easy for individuals accustomed to the recitative teaching methods of Elizabethan-era schools, Tribble believes, but this doesn’t account for older actors’ ability to memorise and perform a large number of parts and plays in a relatively short space of time, as many as 70 different parts in a three-year period in the case of actor Edward Alleyn.

To explain this skill set, Tribble hypothesises a kind of 'information underloading'. This means that the theatre environment or 'ecosystem' was configured to support actors’ cognitive requirements, through means such as consistency in stage design, to the way in which their parts were delivered to them in playbooks that omitted information unrelated to their role.

“Such systemic structures facilitated creativity because it meant actors didn’t need to think about routine aspects of their work.” says Tribble, “And that allowed creativity to come forward.” This sheds light on how Shakespearean actors rehearsed somewhat differently from the theatrical companies of today but more importantly, it also suggests an important relationship between place, body and mnemonic processes, what Tribble calls the 'cognitive ecology' that influenced their learning processes.

“Actors in Shakespeare’s time used different materials and social structures than actors today and therefore, I think they remembered differently.” says Tribble. A helpful example to illustrate the cognitive interrelationship between space, body and mind is the actors’ mastery of the art of gesture, both to assist recall and help them hold audience attention, in effect a developed form of kinesic intelligence.

“It’s been shown that gesture helps speakers manage what they’re going to say and also helps listeners follow what is being said.” says Tribble. “In the 17th century we start to see treatises on the art of gesture and how to train hands and body in almost the same way an athlete trains their body. Today, actors still use their body to dispose thoughts in space, almost making them visible through gesture, as well as pulling the audience in to them almost in a form of hypnotism.”

Tribble draws on research in fields such as psychology and linguistics to explore these and other 'distributed' cognitive processes in Shakespearean theatre and also collaborates with colleagues in philosophy, psychology and cognitive science, both at Otago and further afield.

“The best interdisciplinary work is a dialogue, a two-way traffic that enables you to understand the other discipline well enough to see what insights it can provide, but also what its blind spots might be. There’s a lot to be said for a discipline like English where you can ask broader questions but you can engage with material from other disciplines to ask these broader questions about what it means to be human. That’s what the humanities do for us.”

Funding for her research comes from Marsden Fund and Folger Shakespeare Library Long-Term Fellowship, supported by the Mellon Fund. ω.

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What is in the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register

Drawing by a child from Forrest River Mission, 1927-1928 held as part of anthropologist A P Elkin’s papers. Image: University of Sydney Australia

|| February 08: 2017: University of Sydney Australia News || ά. A vital resource of Australian academic work and engagement with Indigenous people, held by the University of Sydney, will be inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register. Australia’s oldest collection of academic anthropology records documenting Aboriginal communities in Australia and Indigenous communities in the South Pacific region has been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation:UNESCO Australian Memory of the World:AMW Register.

Promoting Australian documentary heritage with influence and world significance, the register contains noteworthy items such as the Australian Indigenous Languages Collection, the Endeavour journal of James Cook, convict records, World War I diaries and the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures:PARADISEC which is partly housed at the University. On Thursday, February 09, a collection held by the University Archives and the University’s Macleay Museum will be inscribed to the register and celebrated at a ceremony at Canberra Museum and Gallery, along with other new additions.

Anthropological Field Research and Teaching Records, University of Sydney, 1926-1956 presents a unique record of Indigenous life in Australia and the South Pacific region in the 20th century, Nyree Morrison, Senior Archivist, said. “The University of Sydney was the first in Australia to establish a Department of Anthropology.” she said. “Our early academics lived with Aboriginal and other Indigenous people in remote areas to record, study and understand their life and culture. Their personal archives, along with records of the Department and researchers funded by the Australian National Research Council:ANRC are contained in this collection.

“There is a wealth of material: field notes, genealogies, correspondence, photographs, audio-visual material, reports, secondary sources as well as significant objects such as bark paintings and pearl shell ornaments.

“The material reflects the slowly changing, long-held perceptions Europeans typically had of Aboriginal people and culture and shows how the work of the Department influenced government policies and lead the way for the development of public programmes for Aboriginal communities. David Ellis, Director of Museums and Cultural Engagement, thanked the Australian Memory of the World Programme for the inscription of such historically important materials.

“The collection reveals some of the ways in which anthropology was communicated and taught at a time when the University provided training of cadets for Australian colonial administration in the Department of Home and Territories.” he said.

”As such, it is a valuable resource for local communities and historians alike.” The University Archives and the Macleay Museum are already working with a number of communities directly, through Land Councils and current academics in the field in Australia and the Solomon Islands, to explore the University’s early Department of Anthropology collections for information on their language, community, connection to land and family.

Material held by the University Archives may be accessed by the public by appointment and is publicly searchable via the Online Archives Search facility. ω.

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The Roma People: Removal of Segregation and Suspicion Key to Roma Integration

Image: University of Manchester

|| February 04: 2017: University of Manchester News || ά. The results of the largest-ever research project into Europe's Roma minority have been presented at a three-day conference at Manchester Museum. The MigRom project, a unique partnership between The University of Manchester, academic partners across Europe, Manchester City Council, the European Commission and a Roma organisation at the Council of Europe, launched in 2013. The project saw researchers work together in five different countries.

The project investigated the experiences, motivations and ambitions of Roma migrants from Romania who have recently moved to Italy, France, Spain, and the UK, and the effect of migration on their own lives and on the lives of relations left behind in their home communities. It also examined popular, media and official reactions to Roma immigration. Involving assistants from the Roma communities and drawing on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of leading scholars in Romani studies, the project analysed the causes and effects of Roma migration, examples of good practice of integration of Roma migrants, capacity building in Roma migrant communities, policy recommendations and models for community engagement strategies.

The researchers found that access to housing, removal of restrictions on employment and access to school places are the foundations for successful integration. “In the UK, Roma access the free housing market and have access to services, while in some of the other research sites, most notably, France and Italy, they are forced into illegal shantytowns or camps and subject to repeated evictions.” said Professor of Linguistics Yaron Matras from The University of Manchester, who led the research.

The project came about as a result of Manchester City Council’s Roma Engagement strategy, this was borne out of the University of Manchester’s Romani Project, which was launched in 1999 and became a leading international centre for academic research and public engagement on Roma culture and identity. For more information, visit. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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The Scholar Who Says Humanity is Repeating Itself Has Not Taken Into Consideration the Fact That 98.5% of the Human Genome Does Not Even Come to Show Their Work as Yet: No, Please, Do Not Give the Junk Genome Hyperbole: Refer Back to This Headline to a Fully Grown up Humanity in 400 Million Years When 100% of Its Genome Should Come to Function: Today, Humanity is a Crawling Baby That Functions with Only 01.5% of Its Genome: Please, Don't Tell the Taughtologies: Been There, Seen and Done It: Humanity Has Not Done Very Much as Yet: No Wonder Why Outi Hakola is Not Enthused