As a sociocultural anthropologist I strive to provide students with an appreciation for applied anthropology by focusing on ways that anthropological theories and methods may be used to understand and help solve contemporary problems. I am especially interested in ways that globalization affects people who live on the margins of the modern world. At right is a photo of my family and I having a post-modern moment as my brother chauffeurs us around Portland, OR in search of cookie cutters and gold sprinkles.
I have been teaching in anthropology and environmental studies since 1986. Courses that I teach at Ithaca College include Introduction to Anthropology, Environmental Anthropology, Ethnographic Methods, Modern Africa, and Applied Anthropology. In all of my classes I stress the value of anthropology as an applied social science. While I draw heavily on examples from across the discipline, I also draw on my own research projects as examples of how anthropological theories and methods can be applied toward helping to mitigate social problems.
My primary research is in southern Africa. My research field site has primarily been in the rural, mountainous Mokhotlong District of Lesotho, where I carried out research from 1987 through the mid 1990s. This research explored how centralized government and integration into the global economy affects the lives of Basotho (ethnic Sotho people who live in Lesotho) who live in this rugged and isolated area of the Maluti Mountains, where many try to farm and raise livestock in an environment ill-suited to these survival strategies. Recently I collaborated with Catholic Relief Services, Lesotho and the University of South Florida Department of Anthropology to understand and mitigate some of the impacts of HIV and AIDS in rural Lesotho. Our efforts aimed at establishing culturally specific intervention strategies targeting food insecurity through non-intensive agriculture. A primary focus was to empower people to take control over their own lives in order to reduce motivations for engaging in behaviors that increase the risk of contracting HIV. Lesotho's HIV/AIDS infection rate is the 3rd highest in the world and the pandemic is affecting virtually every aspect of life there. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Lesotho does not have the resources to deal with the problem. Innovative, community based approaches that promote education, behavioral modification, good nutrition and sustainable poverty reduction have the potential to combat the spread of HIV, prolong the lives of infected individuals, and to ease the burden on families caring for an afflicted member. More recently I am collaborating with scholars in the New Frontiers in Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development cluster at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to formulate a research plan to examine the affects of nutrition on childhood development and household security. The study will take place at a clinic in Bloemfontein and my area of interest is on how the strength or weaknesses of a family's social networks affects their nutritional and economic security.
One of the largest construction projects in sub-Saharan Africa is the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which involves building a series of dams along the Senqu River (which becomes the Orange River when it enters South Africa). Captured water is sold to South Africa for agricultural and industrial uses while the flow of water over turbines generates electricity for Lesotho. While the program arguably does have its benefits, it has its critics as well. LHWP will ultimately lead to forced relocation for some 30,000 Basotho and flood vast amounts of arable and pasture lands.
During the Spring of 2003 I began volunteer work and research with Sudanese refugees in Phoenix, Arizona. As a result of the civil war that continues in Sudan, these "Lost Boys" have been dislocated, brutalized, and many have had their families murdered by marauding agents of the government. This war is a result of the government of Sudan trying to eliminate any group that might pose a threat to their dominance. Thus, it pits the Arab Muslims of northern Sudan, who control the government, against Animists, Christians and African Muslims in the southern and western parts of Sudan. This work led to my becoming involved with the AZ Lost Boys Center (AZLBC), where I served as a cultural adviser, mentor, and eventually an elected member of the board of directors. When I arrived at Ithaca College I reached out to the substantial Lost Boys community in the Syracuse area and have served as a Senior Advisor for the Central New York Lost Boys Foundation. Along with the AZLBC I was given approximately 17,000 digitized life history files from Pinudo Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, which were generated when Lost Boys first fled their homes in the late 1980s. Each file contains a photograph and personal history for the refugee, and may contain valuable information for reuniting them with loved ones. I worked closely with AZLBC to make these files available to the individuals that each one represents. During Fall of 2010 we launched Lost Boys Reunited, aweb based search facility that enables Lost Boys around the world to determine if their files are in the database, and provides them with means to gain access to their file if it is. In Ithaca I have served as a member of the steering committees for the Samaritan Resettlement Center for refugees and the Immigrant Rights Coalition. I also serve my academic discipline as an elected board member and program editor for the Association for Africanist Anthropologists. From 2005 to 2008 I was an elected Steering Committee memberfor the AIDS and Anthropology Research Group (AARG), and am currently Chair for AARG. As Chair I am helping to revamp our web page and our newsletter in order to make them more professionally relevant to researchers and policy makers. On several occasions I have provided motivated students with research and service opportunities in Ithaca's minority, immigrant and refugee communities.
My earliest research was an outgrowth of my interests in environmental anthropology. In 1985 I explored ways that acid rain affected the lives of people who lived in Big Moose, NY, an area that is highly impacted. Most residents initially denied that there was a problem only to later confide in me fears about potential health threats. Also of great concern to residents was the possibility that acid rain would degrade the environment to the point that the tourism based economy would be in jeopardy. Local folks had developed a body of folklore that attributed changes that they were witnessing in the environment to causes other than acid rain. I continue to have strong interests in environmental anthorpology and am proud to be an affiliated faculty member with Ithaca College's Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences.