Public Release: 

The 96th Annual Meeting Of The American Anthropological Association

American Anthropological Association

Body parts on the world market, race, affirmative action, and primate and human sexuality, are just a few of the topics that will be discussed in the 2700 papers to be presented at the 96th Annual Meeting of the AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, November 19-23 at the Washington DC Hilton & Towers. Following are highlights from the scientific program. The complete 1997 Annual Meeting Preliminary Program is available on the AAA Web Page

The press room, located in the Washington DC Hilton and towers Adams Room will be open Wednesday, November 19, 11:30 am - 6:00 pm: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday - Saturday November 21 - November 23. Please be prepared to show your press credentials to receive a press pass, Program, and complete volume of presentation Abstracts.

The AAA Press Office can also help you with story ideas and put you in touch with the experts. We have an on-line database of specialists and the latest topics in cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological-physical anthropology, linguistics and applied anthropology in government and corporate settings.



Although kelp doesn't sound like an appetizing dinner to most Americans it was relished by Koreans until very recently. Now Terry Stocker (Chonnam National University/ South Korea) has found that middle school students refuse to eat kelp, preferring pizza instead. As recently as 1994 none of the middle school students interviewed had tasted pizza. The influx of Western foods--a result of the Republic of Korea's policy of globalization, saegaehwa, adopted in 1994-- is discussed in Stocker's paper, DRAMATIC DIETARY CHANGE IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA, to be presented in the session HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS scheduled for Saturday, November 22, 1997 from 10:15 to 12:00.

Also on the scientific menu:

Barrett P. Brenton (St. John's University) finds that gaming has had conflicting effects on the diet of Native Americans. Since World War II, the Native American diet has given up such traditional foods as corn and beans in favor of higher fat, more processed and canned foods. This trend has lead to such important health problems as diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension. Now, gaming revenue enables people to frequent 'all you can eat' buffets and fast food chains. On the upside, revenues also permit communities to implement educational health programs on more healthful eating habits. Brenton's paper HIGH STEAKS, LEAN TIMES: NATIVE AMERICAN DIETARY CHANGE IN AN AGE OF WELFARE REFORM AND INDIAN CASINOS, is part of the session INTEGRATING NUTRITION AND ANTHROPOLOGY: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE scheduled for Saturday, November 22, 1997 from 8:00 to 11:45 AM.

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  • Have we achieved equal opportunity in the US?
  • Does Affirmative Action help or hinder equality?
  • Does Affirmative Action pit ethnic groups against one another?
  • What will be the results of the recent repeal of Affirmative Action in schools in California and Texas?

These issues will be debated by two anthropologists, whose views fall on either side of the Affirmative Action controversy. One of the participants, Glynn Custred (California State University), is the co-author of the California Civil Rights Initiative, an anti-Affirmative Action measure. The AAA PUBLIC POLICY FORUM: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: ANTHROPOLOGISTS' CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEBATE scheduled for Friday, November 21, 1997 from 10:15 AM to 12:00 PM.

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It seems like you can't open a newspaper or watch TV without being bombarded by images of any number of violent conflicts in Africa. What are the roots of these conflicts and what can be done to promote peace? Anthropologists are skilled at understanding the perspective of the non-elites, in contrast to political scientists who focus on leaders. Anthropological contributions to conflict resolution in Africa will be presented in the session IMAGINING WAR AND IMAGINING PEACE IN AFRICA: ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES scheduled for Friday, November 21, 1997 from 8:00 to 11:45 AM.

Papers include Francesca Declich's (Insituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli) presentation of the ways in which refugees from the war in Somalia manage to survive in the paper COPING WITH VIOLENCE FROM THE WAR IN SOMALIA: MARGINAL GROUPS IN EXILE


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The man on the street with his palm outstretched claims to have run for mayor of Los Angeles. Other homeless men and women on America's city streets offer 'fabulous stories' about meeting Mother Theresa and John F. Kennedy. Alex Cohen (Harvard Medical School) finds, in his paper THE ROLE OF EVENTFULNESS IN THE LIVES OF HOMELESS MENTALLY ILL PERSONS IN THE SKID ROW AREA OF LOS ANGELES, that the stories told by the homeless mentally ill on Skid Row serve an adaptive purpose. They create meaning for people whose environment, due to violence and lack of access to social services, does not offer opportunities to achieve meaning in life. Cohen suggests that rehabilitation programs need to create opportunities for the mentally ill, such that they are 'cared for' and not just 'treated' with medicine.

Cohen's paper will appear in the session, THE EDGE OF EXPERIENCE: CULTURE, SCHIZOPHRENIA AND SUBJECTIVITY, scheduled for Thursday, November 11, 1997 at 8:00 to 9:45 AM.

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The answer is love, religion and politics. The question is, why are college students celibate? Research indicates that students may choose celibacy before marriage for religious reasons or because they don't believe in sex without love; they may even eschew sex in favor of a 'higher' calling in the form of political activism. Victor De Munck (SUNY New Paltz) discusses these varied reasons for celibacy among today's college students in his paper, 'WHAT MAKES MARK, GWEN, RACHELLE, AND JEREMY CELIBATE?' in the session CELIBACY: SEXUAL ABSTINENCE EXAMINED, scheduled for Sunday, November 23, 1997 from 10:15 AM to 12:00 PM.

In a related paper:

Imagine abstaining from sex for 4 to 6 years after the birth of a baby! Karl G. Heider (University of South Carolina) discusses 'THE LONG POSTPARTUM SEXUAL ABSTINENCE OF THE NEW GUINEA DANI: NOT BAD FOR MEN, GOOD FOR WOMEN.'

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The lack of a positive notion of cultural diversity among South Koreans could lead to problems if reunification occurs between South and North. South Koreans are unsure whether North Korean defectors share their cultural values, and unsure how to relate to them if they don't. Richard Grinker (George Washington University) will discuss these issues in his paper, UNIFICATION, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND CITIZENSHIP: NORTH KOREAN DEFECTORS IN SOUTH KOREA, part of the session, THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE COLD WAR IN KOREA AND CHINA scheduled for Wednesday, November 19, 1997 from 2:15 to 4:00 PM.

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  • What will the US health profile look like in the new millennium?
  • Will cancer and cardiovascular disease still lead in health research efforts?
  • Will violence become the new 'cancer' in health research?
  • What about the future of AIDS/HIV research?

Panelists from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control will present their prognosis for the future of health research in the AAA PUBLIC POLICY FORUM: HEALTH RESEARCH IN THE NEXT CENTURY: WHAT ANTHROPOLOGY HAS TO CONTRIBUTE scheduled for Thursday, November 19, 1997 from 1:45 to 3:30 PM.

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Are American blacks prone to anemia? Like sickle cell anemia, we tend to associate some health disorders with certain ethnic groups more than others. The medical community also assumes standard biological measures for different populations. For example, because studies show that North American blacks have a lower hemoglobin mean than do North American whites, the medical community recommends that norms for blacks be lower.

Susan Kent (Old Dominion University) suggests, in her paper, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION: RACE AND HEMOGLOBIN MEANS AMONG NORTH AMERICAN BLACKS, that lower hemoglobin levels may, however, be the result of chronic disease. Many diseases--from neoplasia to bacterial diseases--could cause this anemia. Rather than being a 'natural' characteristic, lower hemoglobin levels in the black population may reflect social position, lack of access to quality medical care, and general social stress. By recommending lower hemoglobin norms for blacks the medical community is in fact 'normalizing' a state of disease which will only perpetuate the many difficulties blacks already confront as a minority group.

Dr. Kent's paper will be featured as part of the CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF HEALTH IN NORTH AMERICA session, scheduled for 1:45 to 3:30 PM on Friday, November 21, 1997.

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  • Do people own their own DNA?
  • Are cells grown in a lab 'alive'?
  • 'Is a cloned sheep part of it's 'mother's' breed line?
  • Are we beginning to see the human body as disposable?

Advances in genetics, immunology and medicine in a world economy where everything has its price lead to heated debates on these ethical issues. These will be addressed in the session, REGIMES OF VALUE: THE COMMODIFICATION AND CIRCULATION OF BODIES AND BODY PARTS, scheduled for Friday, November 21st from 1:45 to 5:30 PM.

Papers include a discussion of 'dowry deaths' in India by Arjun Appadurai (University of Chicago) in BODY, PROPERTY AND FIRE IN URBAN INDIA


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Now that we go to female doctors, have female Representatives in Congress and a new WNBA, gender typed careers are a thing of the past, right? Wrong. Laura Montgomery (Westmont College) in her paper, 'IT'S WHAT I LIKE'; EXPLAINING PERSISTENT PATTERNS OF GENDER STRATIFICATION IN THE LIFE CHOICES OF COLLEGE STUDENTS, concludes that, despite our changing ideas about gender roles, majors chosen by college students are still traditionally male and female--women opt for elementary education while men go into business. Montgomery argues that our career choices are influenced as much through the 'hidden curriculum' of the faculty as by parents and peer culture. Although today's students--male and female--may believe that their choices in a college major are individual, they may not be as free from society's influence as they'd like to be.

Montgomery's paper will be presented as part of the session, THE ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF HIGHER EDUCATION: UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL STRATIFICATION, scheduled for Sunday, November 23, 1997 from 12:15 to 2:00 PM.

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With Legislation in California and Texas repealing affirmative action and heated debates over the rights of immigrants, clearly 'race' is still a central topic of debate and discussion in American society. Physical and cultural anthropology once joined the debate on biological 'race' and participated in the public refutation of racist science. Today they are virtually silent. AAA president Yolanda T. Moses (City College of the City University of New York) and Carol C. Mukhopadhyay (San Jose State University) reopen a dialogue on the issues surrounding 'race'. The session, IF RACE DOESN'T EXIST...A CONVERSATION AMONG THE SUBDISCIPLINES, scheduled for Thursday, November 20, 1997 from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM, offers a frank and open discussion to establish the anthropological position of 'race' and forge a unified voice.

    Issues include:
  • What is a race?
  • How can the next census be successful without racial categories?
  • How accurate are police reports without racial information?
  • Why do we have racism if there are no races?

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  • How should the government define 'indigenous'?
  • Is the local 'cultural group' today the same as the 'cultural group' 9,300 years ago?
  • Does a shared culture automatically mean a shared biology?
  • Do scientists have a right to study ancient human remains and artifacts?
  • Who has the right to film footage of Native American sacred religious ceremonies?
  • What should be the government's role in these debates?

These perplexing and hotly debated issues will be discussed in the AAA PUBLIC POLICY FORUM: NAGPRA (NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES REPATRIATION ACT) REVISITED: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? scheduled for Thursday, November 20, 1997 from 10:15 to 12:00 AM. The panelists include leading anthropologists, Native Americans, and federal agents--those directly involved in lawsuits and recent discoveries -- such as the 9400 year old so-called Caucasoid, Kennewick Man -- fueling the NAGPRA controversy.

The exciting format for this session is a 'Washington Week in Review' style of moderated question and answer discussion among panelists, followed by an open exchange between panelists and the audience.

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When your spouse goes to the store and buys the generic brands instead of brand name products are you upset? If you are, you aren't alone. Specific brands appear to be 'inherited' from your family -- ones your mother may have used. Other branded products let the consumer feel empowered -- sexier, smarter, more glamourous -- as a result of the advertising. But around age 50 women often change both brands and products to match a changing identity, according to Barbara Olsen (State University of New York/ Old Westbury) in her paper, WOMEN AND BRAND RELATIONSHIPS: CONSUMPTION DURING MID-LIFE TRANSITION, part of the session NARRATIVES, AESTHETICS, SELF AND GENDER scheduled for Sunday, November 23, 1997 from 12:15 to 2:00 PM.

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1,400 years ago in Ceren, El Salvador ancient villagers oriented both their architecture and their crops in one direction, 30 degrees east of north. Archaeologist Payson Sheets (University of Colorado, Boulder) is 'baffled' by this organization which, along with rigidly kept zones for a diverse group of crops, presents a very tidy and sophisticated image of Ceren's former inhabitants. Sheets speculates that the orientation could be religious, in line with a celestial event or topographic feature. Previously featured in Discover Magazine (February 1997), Sheets has been slowly working his way through mountains of volcanic ash that buried a once peaceful village in the lush Zapotitan Valley of El Salvador. He will reveal his latest discoveries in ZONED BIODIVERSITY: THE AGROECOLOGIC STRATEGY AT CEREN, EL SALVADOR, scheduled as part of the session, ANCIENT MESOAMERICA, on Wednesday, November 19, 1997 at 4:15 to 6:00 PM.

Also on the program are reports about recent decipherment of Classic Maya hieroglyphs by Stephen Houston (Brigham Young University), John Robertson (Brigham Young University) and David Stuart (Harvard University), and ancient Mayan religion by Gabrielle Vail (University of Pennsylvania Museum).

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Does health decline with the development of a hierarchical society and use of intensive agriculture? Not necessarily according to recent analysis of remains from Spiro Mounds, Oklahoma (dated between AD 900 and 1350). In comparison with remains from other major mound sites, such as Cahokia and Moundville, Spiro inhabitants were remarkably healthy. In fact, their teeth were far less worn than expected. This discovery may indicate that their diet was not based on ground corn -- the usual staple -- or perhaps they deliberately cared for their teeth.

Results of the first bioarchaeological studies of Spiro Mounds will be presented in the session, RECENT SOUTHEASTERN BIOARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDIES, scheduled for Saturday, November 22, 1997 from 1:45 to 3:30 PM.

Papers include OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AND HEALTH STATUS OF SPIRO MOUNDS ELITES by Heather P. York (Kent State University)

And THE DENTAL HEALTH OF SPIRO MOUNDS ELITES by Arion T. Mayes (University of Colorado/ Boulder).

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When we think about human interaction with monkeys we usually envision the scientist in the lab doing medical research or the primatologist watching monkeys for clues to human evolution and behavior--not to mention children making faces at monkeys in the zoo. But what about a monkey as a business associate?

In their paper, MONKEY BUSINESS: CROP PICKING MACAQUES IN SOUTHERN THAILAND Poranee Natadecha Sponsel (Chaminade University/ Hawaii) and Leslie E. Sponsel (University of Hawaii) describe how macaques in Thailand pick coconuts for profits. In this unusual situation monkeys may have a better life working for humans than in their natural habitat, where deforestation has reduced coastal mangrove forests. As part of the benefit package the monkeys are treated as members of the family, rewarded for their work, retire after a certain age, and stay home when they don't feel like working.

This research will be presented as part of the session WHAT ARE WE DOING WATCHING MONKEYS? ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES AND THE ROLE OF NONHUMAN PRIMATE RESEARCH, scheduled for Thursday, November 20, 1997 from 8:00 to 11:45 AM.

In a related paper in the same session:

Can studying monkeys, um... 'intimate moments' shed light on our own? Yes, says Mary Pavelka (University of Calgary) in her paper, HUMAN SEXUALITY IN A CROSS SPECIES PERSPECTIVE. Our own human sexuality is essentially primate sexuality, with some species specific patterns. For example, although menopause is unique to humans, sex with a partner of the same gender is not, nor are human females the only primates who enjoy orgasms.

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Anthropologists propose a community based program for treatment of tuberculosis, including recent epidemics of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which have been completely ignored by international health organizations. A community based approach to the disease is (1) cheaper than admitting patients to a hospital; (2) likely to be more successful getting patients to take all their medicines because of greater convenience; and (3) safer for health care workers and other patients in the hospitals of poor countries which cannot provide adequate isolation for TB patients.

Anthropologists will discuss community and hospital programs for treating TB and multi-drug resistant TB, in addition to the relationship between TB and poverty in poor areas of the world in the session, CONSUMPTION OF THE POOR: TUBERCULOSIS AN THE CANCELLATION OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, scheduled for Saturday, November 22, 1997 from 4:00 to 5:45 PM.

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Are women looking for a job at a disadvantage even before the interview? According to anthropologists Frances Trix (Wayne State University) and Carolyn Psenka (Wayne State University) in their paper, POSITIONING WOMEN: GENRE AND GENDER IN LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION, the 'paper image' created by letters of recommendation for medical school faculty is markedly different for men and women. In this large sample of letters women are portrayed as students instead of future colleagues. Worse still, in an environment where research skills are important for attracting grant money, women's research accomplishments are not highlighted. Rather, they are characterized as the 'epitome of a lady physician,' seen as women first and doctors second in this traditionally male field.

Trix and Psenka will present their findings in the session, CURRENT ISSUES IN LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY, scheduled for Saturday November 22, 1997 from 4:00 to 5:45 pm.

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Does inbreeding necessarily produce freaks of nature? Recent research tends to refute the popular notion that incestuous relations are responsible for less healthy children. Deborah J. Walker (Armstrong Atlantic State University and Arindam Mukherjee (Armstrong Atlantic State University) refute 'cultural stereotypes'in their paper NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF VADABAJIJA CHILDREN IN ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA: DIFFERENTIAL PARENTAL INVESTMENT IN INBRED VERSUS NONINBRED CHILDREN. In this case the anthropologists found that children of kin marriages (mainly first cousins or uncles and nieces) were actually healthier than those of nonkin marriages within the same family. This can be partially explained by the fact that relatives -- whether unconsciously or consciously -- took better care of the children doubly related to them.

Walker and Mukherjee paper present their results in the session, CURRENT RESEARCH IN BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, scheduled for Sunday, November 23, 1997 from 8:00 to 9:45 AM.

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What does overhaul of the welfare system mean for:

  • single parents?
  • the homeless?
  • rural farmers?
  • Native Americans?

How can anthropologists knowledgeable about these groups and their families influence welfare policy? These issues will be addressed by both anthropologists and public policy professionals in the dynamic special session, SOCIAL POLICY AND SOCIAL SUFFERING: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL DIALOGUE ON WELFARE REFORM, scheduled for Friday, November 21, 1997 from 12:15 to 1:30 PM.

In a related session:

How will official government commitment to full participation of each adult in the work force -- in contrast to the previous commitment of providing a minimum standard of living for all legal residents -- affect refugees, immigrants, the mentally ill and impoverished? In this Breakfast Roundtable, ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON NATIONAL WELFARE REFORM, scheduled for Friday, November 21, 1997 from 8:00 to 10:00 AM, anthropologists will discuss their research in light of this philosophical shift by the government.

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Home to the Smithsonian and carefully preserved national monuments and treasures Washington DC appears to the tourist to be a city concerned with history. The history of our nation's capital is well documented-- yet communities east of the Anacostia River are totally lost in historic accounts of Washington, according to Brett Williams (American University) in her paper WASHINGTON'S PEOPLE WITHOUT HISTORY. Despite this historical omission, the area has its own rich history of cultural traditions, including community gardens for traditional Southern foods and park concerts of blues and jazz. But the heavily polluted Anacostia River affects the quality of life of people who make their homes there today, making it an environmentally dangerous place to live, particularly for those who follow the local traditions of fishing and gardening.

Also in the session, BACK TO BLACK--AND THE FUTURE: AFRICAN AMERICAN ETHNICITY ON THE EVE OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, scheduled for Thursday, November 20, 1997 from 1:45 to 3:30 PM.

From 'people without history' to people looking for history...Iris Carter Ford (St. Mary's College of Maryland) discusses the new 'heritage tourism' in her paper, THE ROUTE TO AFRICAN AMERICAN ROOTS: LANDSCAPES OF NOSTALGIA IN THE MOTHERLAND. This anthropologist finds that this era of multiculturalism requires a codified ethnicity; African Americans are creating their own ethnicity and identity by touring Africa, and recapturing their African heritage.

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