MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


The 1997-1998 year began on a sad note, with the death, on August 3, of Professor Martin Diskin, a founding member of the Program, and a beloved friend and compaÒero for many years. The memorial service for Professor Diskin , held in the Wong Auditorium on August 24, was attended by several hundred people from both within and outside the MIT community.

The small faculty of the Anthropology Program was reduced during 1997 by a leave of absence on the part of Associate Professor Hugh Gusterson, as well as by Professor Diskin's death. In January, however, we were joined by Professor Susan Slyomovics, who is the first holder of the title "GeneviËve McMillan-Reba Stewart Professor of the Study of Women in the Developing World." During her initial semester at MIT, Professor Slyomovics has already proved an active and spirited contributor to the life of the Program, as well as to the Institute as a whole.

The Program finished its second year as a department of cultural anthropology, with a curriculum emphasizing adaptations to the contemporary world and the cultural and social dilemmas it creates. Enrollments and concentrations continue to hold strong. In March of 1998, the Program reluctantly abandoned its shabby but familiar offices and teaching lab in Building 20 for spotless new quarters in Building 16.


Anthropology Program members served on a variety of MIT committees, boards, and task forces this year: the Committee on the First Year; the Eloranta Awards Committee; the Faculty Policy Committee; the MIT Faculty Newsletter Editorial Board,; the STS Steering, Admissions, and Search Committees; and the Women's Studies Steering Committee. In addition, Professor Jean Jackson is faculty advisor to the MIT Hippocratic Society,

Professors Michael Fischer, Hugh Gusterson, James How, and Jean Jackson all play active roles in teaching and administration in the Ph.D. Program in the Department of History and Social study of Science and Technology; Professor Fischer is Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society; Professor Steinberg is Director of the Integrated Studies Program; and Professor Jackson runs the seminar series, "Peoples and States: Ethnic Identity and Conflict," which is now in its ninth year

Professor Arthur Steinberg, in addition to teaching a Proseminar for the Technology and Policy Program, has initiated a new Freshman/Alumni Summer internship program: MIT freshman in the program take a one-semester subject to prepare them for summer internships in Boston-area firms; afterwards, they prepare written and oral reports on their observations and experiences.

Outside MIT, Professor Jackson has been named to the Advisory Board of Survival and to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Latin American Anthropology. Professor Slyomovics has been chosen for the Board of the American Friends Service Committee and CAFMENA, or the Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa. She has also been made editor, 1989-1992, of Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory.


In June of 1998, the University of Pennsylvania Press published an important new book by Professor Slyomovics, The Object of Memory: Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village. A volume entitled, The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning among the Kuna of Panama, includes four chapters, two photo essays, and numerous other photos by Professor Howe.

Program members all have book projects at various stages of development. A volume co-edited by Professor Gusterson, Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger, has been accepted by the University of Minnesota Press. Professor Howe's' A People Who Would Not Kneel (Smithsonian Press), is scheduled to appear in September 1998. A study of land reform and agrarian change in El Salvador, by Professor Diskin is currently being edited for publication.

Professor Gusterson's book, which was published last year, Nuclear Rites, has received wide attention, including numerous articles and reviews, radio interviews, and readings by Professor Gusterson. Professor Gusterson also co-edited a special issue of the SSRC-McArthur Newsletter on "Science, Technology, and International Security." He published two notes this year and has three articles in press, with five more submitted for publication.

Professor Howe was principal consultant for a major exhibition, "The Art of Being Kuna," which opened at the UCLA Fowler Museum in November 1997. The exhibition was moved to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in 1998, and will be moved to the Field Museum in 1999.

Representative of the wide range of talks given by program members are: "Symbols of Indianness: Contrast between Columbia's and Guatemala's Indigenous Rights Movements," read by Professor Jackson at the International Congress of Americanists, in Quito, Equador, July 1997; "Iraqnophobia: America's Racist Discourse on Nuclear Proliferation," presented by Professor Gusterson at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control in June 1998; and a talk by Professor Slyomovics in March 1998 at the Trinity College Symposium on "Borders/Partitions and Statism" entitled "The Borders of Memory: Palestinian Memorial Books."

More information about this department can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL: http//

James Howe

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98