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Carrying Beribu: Three Canela women and one man carry a freshly-cooked manioc meat beribu pie. Beribu is usually made from varieties of sweet manioc.
Photograph © Theresa Miller    
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current issue

Volume 78 Issues 1 & 2, 2014

ISSN : 2046-0058  

General Editor : Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora  
Contact : SBHA_Editor@biosocsoc.org   
 
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  C o n t e n t s

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Editorial
Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora

art photo
Photograph by jmtimages - used under Creative Commons licence.

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Farming in transition: land and property inheritance in a rural Polish population
Heidi Colleran1

1Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, Toulouse School of Economics, FRANCE
heidi.colleran@iast.fr.

art photoPhotograph © Heidi Colleran

Abstract
This paper examines inheritance practices in a Polish agricultural population where fertility is rapidly declining and traditional farming is being abandoned. Specifically, I examine how flexible inheritance transfers are, and whether they can be understood as part of a parental investment strategy in which parents strategically allocate resources to their children in ways that are likely to optimise their reproductive and/or social success. Using data on almost 2,000 women, I find that inheritance patterns are sex and birth order-biased, with a clear preference for male heirs and for ultimogeniture. However there is considerable flexibility depending on the size and sex composition of the family. There is evidence to suggest that parents are diversifying their investment strategies in negotiation with their offspring and in response to their future payoffs. Thus, male heirs tend to be less-highly educated than non-heirs. There is also evidence that male heirs inherit better-quality resources than do female heirs, consistent with a Trivers-Willard effect. I argue that fertility decline itself, by reducing the chances that an heir of the preferred sex is available, directly influences inheritance practices in farming populations. As land becomes less viable as a source of income, and an increasing proportion of females inherit, the abandonment of subsistence farming as a way of life is likely to accelerate.

Key words: inheritance; sex-bias; parental investment; demographic transition; Trivers-Willard.

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Rural emptiness and its influence on subsistence farming in contemporary Gabon: A case study in Loango National Park.

Emilie Fairet1,2 Sandra Bell1, Kharl Remanda2, Joanna M Setchell
1

1Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UNITED KINGDOM
2 Current affiliation: SFM Safari Gabon, BP 1107 Libreville,
GABON

emiliefairet@gmail.com

art photoPhotograph © Emilie Fairet

Abstract
In sub-Saharan Africa, rural exodus leads to increasing unemployment in urban centres and to the disorganisation of farming practice in rural areas. This article draws on data from participant observation and interviews to analyse how rural exodus, combined with a population density that was already low, led to what we refer to as rural emptiness in Gabon, and how this affects farmers’ livelihoods. Farming in Gabon is largely slash and burn agriculture with a gender division of labour and therefore requires both men and women. Farming practices at our study site, in Loango National Park, follow a traditional pattern, but the labour force has been reshaped by demographic and social change. The exodus of young people, especially men, has left ageing farmers with increased workloads but decreased access to labour. Subsistence farming is, therefore, in a state of crisis and farmers’ livelihoods are threatened. Promoting the development of farming and rendering rural life more appealing through the development of roads and other infrastructure could reverse current trends of high unemployment, weakened agricultural production and high dependence on imported food in Gabon.

Keywords: rural exodus, labour, agriculture, Central Africa



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Valuing varietal diversity: indigenous Canela horticulture in northeast Brazil.

Theresa Miller1

1Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM theresa.miller@anthro.ox.ac.uk

art photoPhotograph © Theresa Miller

Abstract
Indigenous societies in lowland South America have an integrated view of ecology, sociology, and cosmology, as demonstrated in numerous studies. The relationship of this view to gardening practices and varietal diversity maintenance has received little analytical attention. This paper addresses the gap in the ethnobotanical and anthropological literature through an exploration of biodiversity and gardening activities in the Jê-speaking Canela indigenous society of northeast Brazil. It demonstrates how the Canela cultivate multiple varieties of many crop species for combined ecological, nutritional, socioeconomic, social-cultural, cosmological, and aesthetic reasons. A particular focus is given to Canela ethnobotanical classification of socio-culturally significant crop species and varietals, including maize, manioc, yam, squash, and beans, as well as other non-native species that have been incorporated into the modern Canela garden. An examination of indigenous horticultural techniques, ritual activities, and conceptualizations of human-plant engagements is also included. The results are based on twelve months of fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012-2013 in the Canela village of Escalvado (Maranhão). The original ethnobotanical classificatory lists are the first of their kind for Escalvado village, and constitute ‘living’ documents that will undoubtedly change over time, just as Canela gardens are dynamic and fluid spaces where a series of meaningful human-plant encounters occur. The data examined in this paper show how valuing biodiversity and varietal diversity in particular is central to the Canela worldview, in which society and ecology form a holistic whole.

Keywords: biodiversity, gardening, aesthetics, indigenous, Canela, Northeast Brazil.

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Research report
Lys Alcayna-Stevens 1

art photo
Photograph © Lys Alcayna-Stevens

Ethnoprimatology of Human-Bonobo gestural communication and conservation practices in post-war Democratic Republic of Congo.


1Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RF, UK.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo; ethno-primatology; multispecies ethnography; political ecology; post-colonial scientific knowledge.

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Child-rearing practices among
student-mothers at University of Cape Coast, Ghana.


Kobina Esia-Donkoh
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1Department of Population and Health, University of Cape Coast, GHANA braabrother@yahoo.co.uk

art photoPhotograph © Kobina Esia-Donkoh

Abstract
It has been argued that countries can achieve most Millennium Development Goals if female education becomes a priority. Although Ghana has reduced the gender gap in education over the last two decades, less emphasis has been placed on the challenges student-mothers face on campus. The study explored such challenges and how student-mothers cope at the University of Cape Coast. The study, guided by the bio-psychosocial model, adopted a qualitative approach to reach twenty-eight respondents for in-depth interviews. It was realized that respondents usually skipped lectures and tutorials to take care of their babies. Stigma and uncooperative attitude of some lectures increased their psychological stress. These collectively affected their academic activities. Emotion-focused coping strategies such as remaining indoors and crying were mostly used. While the University must develop a policy on the subject, its Counseling Unit must intensify the education on problem-focused coping strategy..

Keywords: University, student-mothers, education, challenges, coping strategy.

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Research report
Yitka Graham1

art photo
Photograph © Yitka Graham

An exploration of patient experiences of bariatric surgery.


1Department of Pharmacy, Health and Well-being, University of Sunderland, UNITED KINGDOM. yitka.graham@sunderland.ac.uk

Keywords: adult obesity, bariatric surgery, adjustment, life changes.

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Beyond race and ethnicity: How an ethnography of diabetes can contribute to a socially complex approach to hyperglycemia, human suffering, and care.

Laura Montesi1

1School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, UNITED KINGDOM lm449@kent.ac.uk

art photoPhotograph © Laura Montesi

Abstract
Background: Diabetes mellitus has recently assumed the form of a public health epidemic and novel "epidemic of signification" (Treichler, 1987). Indigenous peoples have been the objects of biomedical discourses that emphasize ethnoracial differences and genetics as etiological factors associated to type 2 diabetes. In response to the racialization of diabetes, anthropologists have reframed "the meaning of diabetes as a socio-political pathology" (Scheper-Hughes, 2006, p.xviii) and the body as the locus where social history inscribes itself. This paper contributes to this anthropological project by putting forward critical phenomenology as a theoretical and methodological orientation. Methods: This is a theory-based paper. Core anthropological literature on diabetes from the 1960s to present was reviewed as well as phenomenological philosophy texts. Results: An ethnographic exploration of the local enactments of care and ways of managing and conceptualizing diabetes may allow us to develop culturally and socially comprehensive medical treatments. Conclusions: Although genetics do play a role in diabetes, an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon suggests the need to avoid reductionist biomedical approaches and to be aware of the risks implied by the racialization of diabetes. The integration of a phenomenology-inspired approach together with a political economy one in medical anthropology may allow us to look at the indigenous lived experiences of diabetes, while taking into consideration structural violence. Ethnographic research can contribute to a holistic model of care that does not limit itself to therapeutic encounters but incorporates everyday enactments of care and listens to people's concerns.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; indigenous peoples; racialization; social suffering; critical phenomenology; care.

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