MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The MIT Anthropology Program is dedicated to advanced research and publication in cultural anthropology; to undergraduate teaching that opens students to the fundamentals of cross-cultural understanding and social thought; and to graduate teaching in the history and social study of science and technology. Our undergraduate subjects cover a wide range, with special strengths in the study of the contemporary world and the social context of technology. The anthropology faculty maintains strong ties with other programs in the School of Engineering and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, including Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies, the Technology Policy Program, the History Faculty, and Science, Technology, and Society.

In 1999—2000, after hiring new faculty members in the previous two years, the Anthropology Program returned to an approximation of its previous strength, allowing it to function more easily as an academic unit and to offer a full complement of subjects. We look forward to further strengthening and consolidating our curriculum and to possible additional growth in the coming year.

In June of 2000 Professor James Howe completed his term as head of the Anthropology Program. He will be succeeded by Professor Susan Slyomovics, who was on leave in Morocco throughout 1999—2000.


The committees, boards, and task forces at MIT on which Anthropology Program members served this year include the Women’s Studies Steering Committee, the Gender Equity Committee, the Siegel Prize Committee, the Public Service Summer Fellowship Committee, and the steering committee of the doctoral program in the History and Social Study of Science and Technology (HSSST). Professor Jean Jackson headed the Humanities Overview Committee.

Professors Michael Fischer, Jackson, Howe, and Associate Professor Hugh Gusterson all play active roles in teaching, advising, and administration of the HSSST doctoral program, sponsored by the STS, History, and Anthropology Programs. Professor Arthur Steinberg continues as director of the Integrated Studies Program.

Outside of MIT, Professor Gusterson continues to serve on the Hanford History Advisory Committee, Professor Jackson on the advisory board of Cultural Survival and the editorial board of the Journal of Latin American Anthropology. Professor Slyomovics serves on seven boards. Professor Howe has been nominated to the board of Native Lands and is President of the non-profit organization, Eagle Light Caretakers.


A small sampling of presentation by members of the Anthropology Program faculty during 1999—2000 gives some sense of the wide range of their research interests as well as their shared viewpoint and focus. In August of 1999, Professor Howe ran a day-long workshop in Panama City for an organization of Indian scholars called Koskun Kalu in which he presented the principal methods and results of his study of their people’s history. In September Professor Gusterson gave a paper at the Center for International Security Studies of York University, Canada entitled "Clashes of Cultures: An Anthropologist Reads Samuel Huntington." Assistant Professor Christine Walley presented "’Culture’ and the Global Debates over Female Genital Surgeries," in a special panel at the meetings of the American Anthropological Association in November 1999. In May of 2000 Professor Jackson presented a paper called "Pain Voices" at the Houghton Mind/Brain/Behavior Colloquium on Pain and its Transformations at Harvard University. The same month Professor Slyomovics attended a conference in honor of Clifford Geertz in Sefrou, Morocco, presenting a paper entitled "Récits d’autorité et écrits autorisés: approaches ethnographiques des détenus politiques marocains."

Professor Jackson’s book, "Camp Pain": Talking with Chronic Pain Patients, was published this year by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Professor Slyomovics has two edited volumes in press, The Living Medina in the Maghrib, and Women and Power in the Middle East. Professor Gusterson’s book, Simulating Armageddon, is also in press. All program members have book projects at various stages of development, as well as a number of articles and book chapters published or forthcoming this year.


The achievement of three faculty members received notable recognition. Professor Slyomovics’ book, The Object of Memory, published in 1998, won two prestigious awards, the Chicago Folklore Prize and the Albert Hourani Book Award of the Middle Eastern Studies Association for the best book on the Middle East published that year. Professor Walley’s doctoral thesis was awarded the Dean’s Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of New York University. Professor Gusterson received a well-deserved promotion to the rank of tenured associate professor.

More information on the Anthropology Program can be found on the World Wide Web at

James Howe

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000