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Being Human

Being Human

By Public Anthropologists
This podcast brings together anthropologists from different areas of the discipline in conversation about issues of public interest. In each episode we host a panel of anthropology experts to speak about one central topic from different angles. This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and is supported by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
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Are the robots going to kill us?

Being Human

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Ageing 'Well'
In this week’s episode, host Laura Haapio-Kirk is joined by  Dr Matthew Lariviere (University of Sheffield), Dr Jason Danely (Oxford Brookes University), and Dr Iza Kavedžija (University of Exeter) to discuss ageing - from the opportunities that come with later life, to the often negative imagination of ageing in popular discourse. What does it mean to age well, and how is this culturally constructed in different parts of the world? Matthew Lariviere is a UKRI Innovation Fellow at the Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities at The University of Sheffield where he explores challenges and opportunities for technologies to support older adults, families, communities and the care workforce. He is the Chair and representative for the European Union in the European Commission-funded IDIH Global Expert Group on Inclusive Living. Matthew is also a convenor of the Age and Generations Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists and a member of the Executive Committee of the British Society of Gerontology. Jason Danely is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University who has been conducting research on aging and care in Japan for about 15 years. He is past-president of the Association for Anthropology, Gerontology and the Life Course and co-founder and convenor of the Age and Generations Network of the European Association for Social Anthropology. He currently chairs the Commission on Aging and Life Course for the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Iza Kavedžija is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Exeter. Her research interests include meaning in life, motivation, life choices, wellbeing, ageing and the life course. She specializes in the anthropology of Japan, and her doctoral research, at the University of Oxford, examined the construction of meaning in life and the experience of aging among older people in Osaka. A book based on this work, entitled 'Making Meaningful Lives: Tales from an Aging Japan', has been published recently by the University of Pennsylvania Press. To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed. This podcast is produced by Dr Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Dr Antónia Gama and Deanna Mitchell, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
48:35
April 28, 2021
Uncertainty & Luck
In this week’s episode, host Jennifer Cearns is joined by  Professor David Zeitlyn (University of Oxford), Dr William Matthews (London School of Economics), Wesam Hassan (University of Oxford) and Dr Anthony Pickles (University of East Anglia) to discuss their research looking at the strategies people employ to deal with and understand uncertainty and luck in various contexts around the world. What does it mean to 'be lucky', and what can we do to influence the luck (or misfortune) of those around us? Is uncertainty actually a good, or even a productive thing? David Zeitlyn is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. He has been conducting ethnographic research on divination (and other topics) with Mambila people in Cameroon for the past 35 years and has no plans to stop. His new book - Mambila Divination: Framing Questions, Constructing Answers - was published in 2020 by Routledge, and his online teaching materials on divination can be viewed at http://era.anthropology.ac.uk/Divination. William Matthews is Fellow in the Anthropology of China at the LSE. He has conducted ethnographic research on divination in contemporary China, and is interested in how people’s understanding of the cosmos relates to reasoning and the politics of knowledge.  Wesam Hassan is a physician who turned to the study of anthropology. She is currently pursuing her DPhil research degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Her research is focused on games of chance in Istanbul. Previously, she has researched online gambling in London. Anthony Pickles is Lecturer in Social Anthropology and International Development at the University of East Anglia. Anthony has studied gambling in parts of Papua New Guinea which adopted the practice as recently as the 1960s. His 2019 book - Money Games: Gambling in a Papua New Guinea Town - is available from Berghahn Books, and he wrote the entry on 'Gambling' in the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Anthropology.  To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed . This podcast is produced by Dr Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Dr Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
40:22
December 5, 2020
Illustrating Anthropology
In today’s episode of Being Human we discuss how anthropologists are turning to illustration to tell the stories from their research. We will be talking about how drawings and comics can help to reveal the human lives at the centre of anthropology. Joining Laura Haapio-Kirk on today’s episode are: Dr Charlie Rumsby, who is a research fellow at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations and a Visiting Fellow at the LSE anthropology department. Her ethnographic research explores modes of identity and belonging amongst stateless ethnic Vietnamese children living on the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers in Cambodia. In collaboration with illustrator Ben Thomas she experiments with ‘comic’ descriptions of the life stories of the children she worked with. You can learn more about her research on her website. You can follow Charlie @CharlieRumsby on Twitter. Dr Benjamin Dix, who is a senior fellow at SOAS and a research fellow at the University of Sussex. He is also founding director of PositiveNegatives, a not-for-profit organisation which produces comics that explore complex subjects including conflict, migration and asylum. Previously Ben worked as a Communications Manager for the United Nations and various international NGOs across Asia and Africa for over 12 years. Ben is the author of  ‘Vanni: A Family’s Struggle through the Sri Lankan Conflict’, illustrated by Lindsay Pollock. Vanni presents the story of a family still reeling from the devastating tsunami of 2004, who find their lives in turmoil when they are trapped in the crossfire between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers during the country’s merciless civil war. He has written about the productive truth-fiction spectrum that comics play within the journal Visual Anthropology Review here. You can follow @PositiveNegatives on Twitter. Dr Letizia Bonanno, who is a medical anthropologist working on issues of care and pharmaceuticals. In March 2019 she earned her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester and, since April 2020, has been appointed to the position of University Teacher in Sociology of Health at Loughborough University.  She has written about her use of drawing as a fieldwork method in the journal Entanglements: ‘I swear I hated it, and therefore drew it’. You can follow Letizia @letha_laetitia on Twitter. You can also check out our online exhibition of illustrated anthropology, which features work by our guests today, at https://illustratinganthropology.com/ or over on Instagram at @IllustratingAnthropology.
51:28
November 17, 2020
Conservation & Human-Animal Distancing
In this week’s episode, host Dr Jennifer Cearns is joined by Dr Megnaa Mehtta, Dr Adam Runacres, Jia Hui Lee and Nicolas Rasiulis (McGill University) to discuss their research looking at the relationships between humans and animals in various contexts around the world.  What’s the right distance to have between humans and other animal species? Who gets to decide? And how do these decisions impact those whose livelihoods depend upon proximity to animals, whether as hunter-gatherers or safari tourist guides? Finally, how can these questions inform conservation practices at a time when humans are rapidly encroaching upon the habitats of other species across the planet? Dr Megnaa Mehtta is an environmental anthropologist with an interest in the political economy of values, emotions and ideas of well-being and how they relate to debates in global conservation and political ecology. She has conducted longterm ethnographic fieldwork in the Sundarbans forests of India. Alongside her academic writing, Megnaa mediates between a wide range of environmental stakeholders, including Delhi and Kolkata-based lawyers, activists, filmmakers and conservationists with the hope to contribute to conversations and initiatives at the intersection of law, civil society and anthropology that work toward more convivial forms of conservation. She tweets @MMehtta. Dr Adam Runacres is a social anthropologist based at University College London, and is currently working as UCL AnthroSchools Programme Officer to introduce school students to anthropology as a discipline. His research explores the relationships between forest officials and local people around Panna Tiger Reserve in Central India, drawing on a range of disciplines to provide insight on issues such as forest employment, village displacement, livelihoods and conservation authority. He tweets @AdamRunacres. Jia Hui Lee is a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on how people in Morogoro, a town in the East African nation of Tanzania, navigate different types of human-rodent encounters. When we think of rats and mice, we often think of them as pest and disease carriers. Jia Hui’s research shows how --  through different social and intellectual processes --  rodents become more than just pests: they are research subjects, sensing technology, and a source of food. He tweets @zooanthrosmia. Nicolas Rasiulis is a Canadian-Lithuanian anthropologist who is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. His work attends to Mongolian Dukha hunter-gatherer reindeer pastoralists’ adjustments to nature conservation regulations within the Tengis-Shishged National Park, and vice versa, as well as to avenues toward collaborative conflict resolution. To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for 'Being Human' in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed. This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
36:54
October 12, 2020
What does it mean to care?
In this week’s episode, host Laura Haapio-Kirk is joined by Dr Annelieke Driessen (LSHM), Dr Simon Cohn (LSHM), and Dr Erica Borgstrom (Open University) to discuss their research understanding the forms of work that constitutes palliative care. Covid-19 has pushed care, death, and dying to the forefront of many people’s minds. In this episode we talk with a research team about what it means to care, and how the understanding of care differs when thinking from a range of perspectives including from biomedical to more holistic approaches. Today’s guests all work collaboratively on the ESRC-funded project ‘Forms of Care’ which focuses on an important feature of biomedicine – that of ‘not doing’ as an active and often deliberate aspect of care. Dr Annelieke Driessen is a medical anthropologist and research fellow at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine/LSHTM. Annelieke researches everyday life and care for people with dementia living in nursing homes, and palliative care provision. Dr Simon Cohn is also based at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and has spent his career exploring matters relating to health and medicine in high-income settings. He is interested in the construction of biomedical knowledge, its everyday practice, and how non-experts make sense of it. Dr Erica Borgstrom is a medical anthropologist and lecturer at the Open University. Erica has been researching issues around palliative and end of life care in England for over 10 years, often looking at the intersections between policy, professional practice, and people’s everyday experiences. You can find today's guests on Twitter at @Annelie3ssen, @ericaborgstrom & @simoncohn, and the Forms of Care project tweets @formsofcare. You can also read more about the project and their research over on their project website.  To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed . This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
36:15
September 9, 2020
Are the robots going to kill us?
In this week’s episode, host Jennifer Cearns is joined by Dr Beth Singler (University of Cambridge), Dr Laura Musgrave (Ronin Institute), and Dr Alexander Taylor (University of Cambridge & University of Winchester) to discuss the relationship between the human and the digital. How do we incorporate smart technologies and artificial intelligence into our lives, and what are the impacts of this upon us as individuals, and upon society at large? Are robots replacing us as human beings? And if so, should we be worried about it? In this episode we set out to unpack some of these questions, and to examine what being human might look like in a 'post-human' world.  Today’s guests have all focused their research on questions around the digital, and how we as humans interact with the digital, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and ‘smart’ technologies. Dr Beth Singler is the Junior Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. Beth’s work uses traditional and digital ethnographic methods to explore public discourse and reactions to Artificial Intelligence as well as the development of AI and future focused communities, such as Transhumanist groups. You can read more about her work over on her website: bvlsingler.com or by following her on Twitter @BVLSingler Dr Laura Musgrave is a Senior Researcher in the technology industry, and a Research Scholar in Digital Anthropology and User Experience at the Ronin Institute. Laura’s recently been looking at how people use their AI smart speakers at home in the UK, particularly the exchange of privacy and convenience. You can find out more about her work on her website at lauramusgrave.co.uk, or by following her on Twitter @lmusgrave Dr Alexander Taylor is a social anthropologist based at the University of Cambridge and the University of Winchester. His research explores the physical infrastructures that underpin our digital world and asks the question: as everything goes digital are we putting all of our eggs into one fragile basket? You can find out more about Alex’s work on his website digitalruins.net/ or on Twitter @alexretaylor To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed . This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
32:50
August 27, 2020
COVID-19, the State, & BAME Communities
In this week’s episode, host Laura Haapio-Kirk is joined by Dr Tamara Dragadze, Dr Igor Cherstich (University College London), and Dr Ashraf Hoque (University College London) to discuss the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had upon BAME communities, and the implications of this both for society at large, and for anthropology as a discipline.  Why are some BAME communities affected so much worse than mainstream society? What’s missing in the way we’re discussing these issues at the moment? And what can this tell us about the relationship between the individual and the State? In this episode we set out to unpack some of these questions. Today’s guests combine research expertise in issues surrounding ethnicity, migration and diaspora, political identity, and the role of the State: Dr Dragadze’s career has specialised in ethnic conflict, and she has done fieldwork in the Caucasus, Southern Russia and Rwanda. She has also been on the LibDem Immigration Policy making Committee as their Expert Social Anthropologist. Dr Cherstich is currently a core member of the team for the ERC project CARP - Comparative Anthropologies of Revolutionary Politics. He conducted fieldwork in Libya before and after the 2011 revolution, and is co-author of Anthropologies of Revolution (University of California Press, 2020). For Italian speakers, he also has a recent article in Gli Stati Generali on the pandemic and the fetishization of ‘freedom’. Dr Hoque’s research centre on issues of migration and diaspora, the anthropology of Islam, and political anthropology, and he has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in England (Luton and Tower Hamlets) and Bangladesh. He is the author of Being Young, Male and Muslim in Luton (UCL Press, 2019), as well as a recent article called ‘Striving to be better in Britain’. At the beginning of the episode, Dr Hoque refers to several public reports on the impact of COVID-19 upon BAME communities. The Office of National Statistics published some initial findings in May 2020; and Public Health England also published their early findings in June 2020. They subsequently published a more comprehensive report after this episode was recorded, in August 2020.  To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed . This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved. 
36:01
August 21, 2020
Socially Distanced?
In this week’s episode, host Dr Jennifer Cearns is joined by Professor Noel Salazar (University of Leuven), Dr Costanza Currò (University of Helsinki), and Dr Julius-Cezar MacQuarie (Central European University) to discuss the idea of ‘social distancing’: a term many of us have suddenly become familiar with in the light of COVID-19. What does it mean to socially distance oneself? What does that look like? And what are the ramifications of this at a societal and individual level? In this episode we set out to unpack some of these questions. Our guests come to these questions from some pretty diverse research backgrounds: Prof. Salazar’s research focuses upon ideas of mobility and immobility, which you can read more about here: https://soc.kuleuven.be/immrc/cumore Dr Currò’s research interests also look at ideas of 'being stuck'. Her current work looks at hospitality in prison, as part of the ERC-funded project “Gulag Echoes in the ‘multicultural prison”, which you can find out more about here: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/gulagechoes/ Dr MacQuarie’s work considers groups of people who are marginalised from mainstream society through their working practices. His research centres upon ‘night ethnography’, which you can find out more about here: https://nightworkshop.myportfolio.com/ To subscribe to the Being Human Show, search for ‘Being Human’ in your preferred podcast player, or find us over on our RSS feed . This podcast is produced by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk, and edited by Antónia Gama, in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. All rights reserved.
39:12
August 14, 2020