What’s Up in the World? - Weekly Digest 02/07/2016 Written by Harriet Lane-Tobin

Silence, sound, medical science, and Orange is the New Black. This week's digest looks at solidarity, war, spectrums, and understanding - showing the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of humanity and popular culture. 

Post Brexit passing and amongst the rising, but historically grounded, racial tension in Britain, Maya Goodfellow’s Guardian article details and critiques the move toward a symbolic form of solidarity. Goodfellow discusses this in relation to the new surge of people wearing safety pins as a sign of solidarity with migrants and people of colour. Goodfellow terms this as “silent politics” which can have little or no effect if it is not paired with physical action. Moreover, to create any kind of change ‘we’ must be completely understanding of how ‘we’ got here. Embracing and understanding the whole historical picture.

Photograph: Jeff Blackler/Rex/Shutterstock

Photograph: Jeff Blackler/Rex/Shutterstock


Alex Ross’s New Yorker article details the power of music, but not in the way one would usually expect. Whilst it is unquestionable the healing and therapeutic value of music, here Ross shows a different effect: how something which can be seeing as healing can also add to the horrific.  Arguing that to fully understand its ability to alter humanity is to “renounce the fiction of music’s innocence,” and that, “to discard that illusion is not to diminish music’s importance; rather, it lets us register the uncanny power of the medium” (Ross 2016).  Something seen as relatively everyday can cause more harm than the objects and mediums constructed to do so.

However I would argue that whilst the negatives of the popular, and pop culture, are often highlighted, there are positives to be gleaned too. Molly Bearman’s piece on Sapiens praises the way tv shows such as Orange is the New Black and Faking It are encouraging viewers, and anthropologists at large, to rethink what it means to be male or female in a modern context, both visually and biologically. “When cultural knowledge and social acceptance of different biologies become normalized, along with new scientific categories to accommodate them, it helps us all—forensic anthropology and society at large—to better understand ourselves” (Bearman 2016)

Quality of care versus what is the most cost effective course of action. Kim Thiboldeaux’s Huffington Post article explores the ethnical disconnect in medicine as it focuses its sense on cost rather than compassion. Thiboldeaux details this issue in relation to cancer care and the “pathways” that are being used in relation to reach this goals. For me this raises a key issue as it turns medicine into a consumer based systems and in someways patients become depersonalised and turned into commodities. “The patient is viewed through the myopic lens of biology and not the wider lens of humanity”  ( Thiboldeaux 2016).