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Newsletter 63

February 2004

  1. First announcement IUAES Inter-Congress on Mega-Urbanization, Multi-Ethnic Society, Human Rights and Development, Calcutta, 12-15 December 2004
    by Buddhadeb Chaudhuri
  2. The 15th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, at Florence, 5-12 July, 2003
    by Alexander Lopasic
  3. IUAES Membership

1. First announcement IUAES Inter-Congress on Mega-Urbanization, Multi-Ethnic Society, Human Rights and Development, Calcutta, 12-15 December 2004

by Buddhadeb Chaudhuri

It was long back in 1978, when the tenth ICAES was held in New Delhi. This was also the first time such a Congress was held in any developing country. Since then no major IUAES event took place in India. So it is a pleasure to inform you that the next Inter-Congress will be held in India in December 2004 with the theme ‘Mega-urbanization, multi-ethnic societies, human rights and development’. It will be organised by Calcutta University, and a number of other universities, institutes and organisations in India and abroad will collaborate and cooperate.

The Department of Anthropology, University of Calcutta is one of the oldest anthropology departments in the world. In the recent past it has also been recognised as one of the outstanding universities in India securing the highest grade in the assessment of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). There is a long tradition of anthropological study and research in the region. We have a large number of anthropological organisations in our country and the head office of the Anthropological Survey of India, one of the largest anthropological organisations, is located in the city of Calcutta.

The proposed Inter-Congress will be held in the city of Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), the cultural city of India and one of the mega-cities in the region. It is also expected that a few sessions will be organised in other places in India. Apart from academic sessions, a few field visits will be organised to understand the colourful cultural tradition of the region.

It is obvious that in an Inter-Congress all the sub-disciplines cannot be covered. But to make the theme more relevant in the context of developing countries, and also considering present socio-political development in the region, it is proposed that the theme of the Inter-Congress will be ‘Mega-Urbanization, Multi-Ethnic Society, Human Rights and Development’.

The pace of urbanization is quite fast in most of the developing countries including India. This has obvious social, economic, political and environmental implications. There is an urgent need to examine it, if possible within the cross-cultural situation. There is a growing importance of mega-cities and a decreasing importance of small towns. What are the socio-economic and political implications of this trend? Again, is it possible to conceive urban development in isolation? Is it possible to achieve success in urban development without considering the regional context? Migration is the major factor responsible for rapid urbanization. What happens when people of different cultures migrate to the cities? Do they still maintain their distinct identities? Many of the Asian countries are pluralistic in nature and have their own characteristics based on ethnicity. This has created tension and conflict in different parts of the world when the expectations and aspirations of the people are not fulfilled. These are important issues that need urgent attention. Again, ethnicity is often related to communalism, which is responsible for human rights violation. This is quite conspicuous and relevant in the context of pluralistic multi-ethnic societies. The western concept of Human Rights needs critical assessment, as there is a growing concern that one should not limit it only to individual rights or political rights. There is also a suggestion that Human Rights should be considered in a much broader context and there is a need to consider the socio-cultural tradition of the different societies particularly considering the pluralistic character. Lastly is the question of development, development in the context of the globalisation process, the relation of development with the environment, the question of growth, growth with justice and equality. Particularly in the context of disadvantaged people, the ‘development’ programmes are often responsible for displacement. This has happened in different parts of Asia and other developing countries and also resulted in conflict, tension, movement and unrest. Any cross-cultural discussion on these issues will be very helpful and rewarding in order to formulate the proper development strategy and thus relevant in the context of the discipline of anthropology and for obvious policy and planning formulation.

The University of Calcutta will be the host organisation. However, a number of other universities and organisations have kindly agreed to cooperate. We have free discussions with the Minister in Charge, Department of Municipal Affairs and Urban Development, Government of West Bengal and the Ministry of Urban Development has kindly agreed to collaborate. It is needless to mention that the Commission on Urban Anthropology and the Commission of Human Rights of the IUAES will be supporting the organisation of this Inter-Congress.

Time: 12 -15 December 2004

Last Date of Submission of Session Proposals: 1 March 2004

Last Date of Submission of Abstracts: 1 May 2004

Information regarding the registration charge, travel arrangements, accommodation and tour programmes will be notified shortly. Every effort will be made to organise visits to the colourful cultural life and rich flora and fauna of the region including the Himalayan Mountains and forests.

Secretariat: calcuttaintercongress@rediffmail.com
The IUAES Calcutta Inter-Congress website is: http://www.iuaesintercongresscalcutta-2004.com/

Contact person: Prof. Buddhadeb Chaudhuri, M.Sc, Ph.D. P.R.S,
Dr. Ambedkar Chair Professor in Anthropology, Calcutta University,

Coordinator, Human Rights Department Calcutta University,
B-3, Rochdale Housing, 15C Jubilee Park, Calcutta-700033, India

Phone: 91-33-24717233; Office: 91-33-24741528; Fax: 91-33-24810981
E-mail: chau@cal2.vsnl.net.in; buddhadebchaudhuri@hotmail.com; buddhac@rediffmail.com

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2. The 15th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, at Florence, 5-12 July, 2003

by Alexander Lopasic

The 15th World Congress had a particular emphasis on physical aspects of human cultures and dealt with issues like nutrition, sources of energy and environment including a number of sessions on these subjects. The long-established Commissions on Aging, Nutrition, Wildlife Conservation, Human Ecology, Medical Anthropology, Cultural Heritage, Nomadic Peoples, Urban Anthropology, Visual Anthropology, Urgent Anthropology, Indigenous Knowledge and Human Rights were well represented.

The choice of Florence had an interesting background not only because of the building of the Congress related to Florentine’s glorious past, but also as a place where Italian Anthropological Science was really born. The building, known as Palazzo Non Finito, connected with the 15th century’s plot by the patrician family of Pozzi against the all-powerful Medicis, was actually, never finished and, therefore, received that unusual name. Eventually, the building became the home of the National Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, containing a remarkable collection made by Italian travellers and anthropologists in many parts of the world.

It includes collections from Africa, the main Italian interest, and also collections from North India, Indonesia and South America. The actual founder of the museum and its first director, Paolo Montegazza, was, at the same time appointed to the first Professorship in Anthropological Science in Italy. Certainly a good place for recalling the beginnings and reflecting the future of our discipline.

Between 9 and 12 July, the Congress moved to the Palazzo dei Congressi where a number of plenary sessions took place, of which I would particularly mention the first lecture, in which Professor P. Tobias, veteran anthropologist and Prof. Emeritus from Witwatersrand University, discussed the revolutionary changes in the understanding of human origins and evolution. We now have powerful evidence that the human race originated in Africa and not in Asia as it was believed for a long time. It was from Africa that some of the humans moved to two other continents, Europe and Asia.

However, many unresolved issues remain, so e.g. how to classify hominids, the cognitive spoken language beginnings, or the nature of modern human society, just to mention a few. Phillip Tobias’s lecture was a good introduction to four very important introductory lectures on human evolution, human behaviour and the role of energy. In short, the organizers of the Congress with Prof. B. Chiarelli as an attentive host and successful organizer of the Inter-Congress in 1995, made us aware that humanity is facing a new era with problems of unprecedented rate of growth, deterioration of environment, climatic changes and increased pollution. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the Conflict in the Near East and the SARS epidemic influenced the number of participants. Still, the message of the Congress remains clear and loud.

Of the sessions which I attended, a word or two should be said about the Session on Ethnic Identities and Ethnic Interaction competently and flexibly chaired by Prof. Nicolaos Xirotiris and his colleague Kally Simotopoulos from the University of Thrace at Komotini. The issue of ethnic identities has always influenced the welfare of humanity and it is, therefore, an important subject dealing with collective human behaviour under the influence of nature-nurture interaction. The Session included papers like the Khasi community in Bangladesh, construction of ethnic identity in the United Arab Emirates, a series of papers on different Chinese ethnic groups, the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Britain and Canada and even a Negro community in Montenegro. The Session also included a number of papers from Israel on the question of the ethnic identity of different Jewish immigrants and their relationship to Palestinians and other ethnic groups in present-day Israel. Further, the Session included a group of Mexican anthropologists talking about the practical application of anthropology on different projects related to the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society of Mexico, their successes as well as their failures. The last part of the Session on ethnic identities was dedicated to ‘Chiefdom as a universal political form’, chaired by Prof. Petr Skalnik from the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic who discussed the role of chiefdom as a universal political form, known in different cultures and across different historical periods.

In conclusion, two more sessions should be mentioned, Visual Anthropology organized by veteran film-maker Rolf Husmann from Göttingen, emphasizing the role of communication and films in present-day societies, and ‘Language dynamics and linguistic diversity in anthropological perspective’ organized by Anita Sujoldjic and Vesna Muhvic from the University of Zagreb. It was a very large Session with numerous papers on many European languages, including Canadian French, Afrikaans, Chinese and Maya. The Session made us very much aware of the role of language in both culture and the building of ethnic identity.

My last paragraph, however, is related to a happy and a sad occasion of saying good-by to Prof. Eric Sunderland, our most successful Secretary-General for twenty years and President for another five, who with his unfailing professionalism, nearly proverbial tact and wisdom helped in guiding the Anthropological Organization in not always easy times. Thank you Eric and God bless!

In the contest for the next World-Congress between China and Australia, China won and so the next World-Congress is going to be in Kunming in Southern China in 2008. Hope to see you there!

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3. IUAES Membership

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©IUAES/Peter J.M. Nas