Top Influential Anthropologists Today
Considered the best of the sciences and humanities, modern anthropology necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. Among our list of top anthropologists today, you will find famous anthropologists of every race and gender, exploring complex problems with innovative solutions. These scholars are teachers, mentors, and practitioners who work every day to advance the field and help prepare the next generation of anthropologists.
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology (from Greek: ánthrōpos [human being] + logia [study]) is the study of human behavior throughout history, and that study may take a variety of approaches. Modern anthropology originated during the Age of Enlightenment, when the aim to understand of the universal history of mankind was analogous to the ultimate goal of enlightenment. Writings from previous centuries are considered proto-anthropological — without the structure of the formal discipline we know today.
Considered the best of the sciences and humanities, modern anthropology necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. This has given rise to multiple specializations within the field, including medical anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, socio-cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, forensic anthropology … the list goes on.
Whatever the approach, concentration or methods, the goal of anthropology is to better understand the full spectrum of the human experience and uncover some truths about where we’ve come from and where we are going. It examines the relationship between humans, their environment, their society, and their culture, in an effort to reduce conflict and promote cultural understanding.
About this Ranking
The anthropologists on this list are major contributors to the field. Among them you will see anthropologists of every race and gender, exploring complex problems with innovative solutions. These scholars are teachers, mentors, and practitioners who work every day, advancing the field and preparing the next generation of anthropologists.
In what follows, we look at influential anthropologists over the last decade. Based on our ranking methodology, these individuals have demonstrated significant academic impact on the discipline of anthropology within 2012–2020. Influence can be achieved through a variety of means. Some scholars have had revolutionary ideas, while others may have gained influence through popularity — but all are academicians, and most primarily work in anthropology.
Note: This isn’t simply a list of the most influential anthropologists alive today. Here we are focused on the number of citations and the web presence of scholars in the last ten years. We acknowledge that there are other famed anthropologists and highly influential scholars who simply haven’t been cited frequently or discussed widely in the last decade, whereas some new faces have been making a splash in the news, speaking at events, and publishing, publishing, publishing. Our machine learning algorithms are time-sensitive. To find some of the influential scholars you might be missing here, we encourage you to use our dynamic ranking system and check influence over the past 20 and 50 years.
Top Influential Anthropologists
Note: The links above take you to rankings that dynamically change as our AI learns new things!
1. Ulf Hannerz
Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology
Urban and Media Anthropology
Ulf Hannerz is an emeritus professor of social anthropology at Stockholm University, which is where he also earned his Ph.D. As an anthropologist, he has focused his research on urban and media anthropology. His research has taken him to locations in the United States, the Caribbean, and West Africa.
His current interests involve post-Cold War future facing scenarios with impacts on a global scale. He examines apocalyptic predictions as a product of culture and spread around the world by way of ubiquitous technology. He has written books such as World Watching: Streetcorners and Newsbeats on a Journey through Anthropology and Writing Future Worlds: An Anthropologist Explores Global Scenarios.
Hannerz served as chair of the International Advisory Board for the Institute of Social Anthropology’s Austrian Academy of Sciences from 2012–2016, and is still a member today. He was the editor of anthropology for the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2001. In 2010, he was awarded the Anders Retzius gold medal by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a former director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study.
2. Marshall Sahlins
University of Chicago
Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Social Sciences
Economic Anthropology, Historical Anthropology
Note: Since the publication of this ranking list, Professor Sahlins passed away, April 5, 2021.
Marshall Sahlins was the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Sahlins earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University.
An activist since the Vietnam War, Sahlins coined the phrase,
teach-in, an academic exercise inviting open discourse, barring any limitation on where the discussion may lead. His work explored the power of culture to shape ideas and beliefs, and the relationship between agency and structure. Sahlins is most famous for his notable contributions in the fields of economic and historical anthropology and he performed most of his research in Hawaiʻi and Fiji.
Sahlins began his trajectory toward becoming one of the world’s most famous anthropologists when he started writing and publishing scholarly works in the late-1950s. His works have included Moala: Culture and Nature on a Fijian Island, The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology, and Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa.
After hearing of its efforts to support military research, Sahlin resigned from the National Academy of Sciences in protest. His principled approach to anthropology has earned him a devoted following, including, of course, the many promising new anthropologists whom he has mentored throughout his teaching career.
See our Interview with Marshall Sahlins
Academic Website (via Internet Archive)
3. Nancy Scheper-Hughes
University of California, Berkeley
Professor of Anthropology
Nancy Scheper-Hughes is a program director and professor for medical anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. She graduated from University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in social science and a Ph.D. in anthropology. She also served a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health, Laboratory of Human Development at Harvard University.
Her research has specialized in many areas, including, but not limited to: cultural forensic anthropology, human organ trafficking, invisible genocides, Pope Francis, violence, death squads, and epidemics. She won the Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology for her very first book, Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland. Her controversial work, Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil, was a shocking description of Brazilian mothers having to choose which of their children lives or dies, due to extreme poverty and their life of horrific suffering. Her work in medical anthropology is critical to the field.
Her work has extended beyond research. She has served in the Peace Corps and as a “boots on the ground” activist against nuclear weapons, for the mentally ill and for the rights of street children in Brazil, among other causes. She collaborated with colleagues to launch Organs Watch, an organization for the research and investigation of human organ trafficking worldwide.
4. David Graeber
London School of Economics
Professor of Anthropology
David Graeber is a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He earned his B.A. from the State University of New York at Purchase and his M.A. and Ph.D. from University of Chicago. From there, he spent twenty months conducting research in Madagascar on a Fulbright fellowship.
Graeber became a famous anthropologist for his work on anarchism. Graeber published notable works such as Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, and his major work, Debt: The First 5000 Years, in which he raises criticisms about the actual harm/benefit caused by the International Monetary Fund and their loans to struggling nations.
He was active in the Occupy Wall Street movement and is co-founder of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence. He has claimed to have suffered retaliation for his activism, both personally and professionally. In spite of his respected standing in the anthropological community, he was denied tenure by Yale University, sparking outrage throughout the field. More than 4,500 colleagues supported him by writing letters and signing petitions, but to no avail.
Graeber was a lecturer and reader for Goldsmith’s College at the University of London from 2002–2013. His role as intellectual provocateur has cemented his place as a figure representing millennial socialism. His unique mix of brilliance and recklessness promises to push the boundaries of anthropology in the future.
5. Marcia C. Inhorn
William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs
Marcia C. Inhorn is the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at Yale University. She earned her MPH and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a recognized expert in gender, fertility, and women’s health. Her research into the social impacts of infertility in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon made her the first anthropologist to conduct such a study in the Middle East.
She found the stigmatization of infertility for Egyptian women and the social pressures faced by childless women. She investigated the cultural and societal forces at work when assistive reproductive technologies became an option. She likewise studied these impacts in Lebanon, where male infertility is quite common. In Lebanon, the use of assistive reproductive technologies was not only acceptable, but a demonstration of masculinity.
She has written six books, including The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East, and Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion, and In Vitro Fertilization in Egypt, which was awarded the Diana Forsythe Prize for Outstanding Feminist Anthropological Research on Work, Science, and Technology.
She is an associate editor for the journal Global Public Health, and the founding editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.
See our Interview with Marcia C. Inhorn
6. Paul Rabinow
University of California, Berkeley
Professor of Anthropology
Anthropology of Reason
Paul Rabinow is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and director of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory (ARC). He earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago. He has also studied at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, France. He has held Fulbright fellowships at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro and the University of Iceland.
A recognized scholar on the works of Michel Foucault, and his “anthropology of reason,” Rabinow became a famous anthropologist for his willingness to, and propensity for, “tinkering” with current modes and methods of inquiry and seeking to invent and employ new methods.
A prolific author, Rabinow has published many critical works, such as Symbolic Domination: Cultural Form and Historical Change in Morocco, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment, and Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary.
His teaching career has taken him to the École Normale Supérieure and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. He is a co-founder of the French Cultural Studies program at University of California at Berkeley, the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, and the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory.
7. David Price
St. Martin’s University
Professor of Anthropology
David Price is a professor of anthropology at St. Martin’s University. He was born in 1960 and earned his B.A. from The Evergreen State College, an AM from University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from University of Florida.
Early in his career he studied in Egypt, Yemen, and Palestine, conducting research on the evolution of irrigation systems from modern to ancient times, before moving on to his current field. An expert in cultural anthropology and intellectual history, Price has written numerous books about the interactions between government/military/intelligence agencies and anthropologists. His analysis of the impacts of politics, culture, and ethical concerns on the work of anthropologists has advanced our understanding of those complex issues. He has written a book, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Persecution of Activist Anthropologist, about the experience of activist-anthropologists during the McCarthy era, as they combated efforts by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to stifle their work. He also wrote a book titled, Anthropological Intelligence: The Use and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War, in which he explored the efforts of anthropologists during World War II.
He is a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Network of Concerned Anthropologists and American Anthropological Association. He most recently published a new work, Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the National Security State.
8. Daniel Miller
University College London
Professor of Anthropology
Daniel Miller is a Professor of Anthropology at University College London. He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology and Archaeology from Cambridge University. He is the founder of University College of London’s digital anthropology program and the director of Why We Post: Global Social Media Impact Study, an international anthropological study of human social media usage. In so doing, he pioneered the study of digital anthropology, which investigates the experience of human/technology interactions. Why We Post generated a body of research that has been downloaded more than half a million times.
Miller is a critic of materialism, an ethos in which the material is valued more highly than the cultivation of relationships with other people. He has studied people’s relationships with their possessions in works such as A Theory of Shopping, which suggests that common purchases can be a window into a family’s domestic life. He has written other books in this area, including Consumption and Its Consequences and Stuff.
He is a fellow of the British Academy and a recipient of the Rivers Memorial Medal, granted by the Royal Anthropological Institute.
His current research project, funded by the European Research Council, is The Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing, which is expected to conclude in 2022.
9. Bruno Latour
Sciences Po Médialab, London School of Economics
Researcher, Centennial Professor
Actor Network Theory, Social Theory
Bruno Latour is an anthropologist, philosopher, and sociologist. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Tours. Soon after graduating, he became interested in anthropology, and set out on a study of race and decolonization in Ivory Coast.
He is best known for his work, Nous n’avons jamais ete modernes: Essais d’anthropologie symetrique (translated: We Have Never Been Modern). This theme, of challenging methods and findings of scientific inquiry, is revisited in his later work, Pandora’s Hope. His work in Science, Technology and Modernity has been provocative, to say the least.
Latour’s willingness to wade into controversy by questioning established norms and approaches in anthropological research has earned him more than a few detractors. He has faced harsh criticism of his work, and claims of a penchant for exaggeration, hyperbole and metaphors.
Even so, there can be no doubt of Latour’s impact on the field. In 2013 he was named the winner of the Holberg Prize for his intellectual disruption and work in interdisciplinary fields such as anthropology, history, philosophy, and others. He has taught at such esteemed institutions as École des Mines de Paris and Sciences Po Paris, influencing the next generation of anthropologists.
10. Christopher Hann
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Ethnography, History and Anthropology
Christopher Hann is one of the founding Directors of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and a well-known British social anthropologist. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Jesus College at Cambridge, before taking on his graduate studies at Corpus Christi College at Cambridge. As a graduate student, he focused his research on Eastern Europe, learning to speak and read Hungarian, and conducting field work in the Hungarian village of Tázlár.
Perhaps best known for his ethnographic work, Hann has also explored the connections between anthropology and history. His work has investigated Marxist-Leninist-Maoist socialism and the evolution of civil society. His anthro-historical work has examined anthropology through the lens of social issues, capitalism, wealth distribution and politics. He collaborated with Thomas Hylland Eriksen on “Overheating”, a globalization research project at the University of Oslo.
He was named a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 2008 and was awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute. Most recently, the organization granted him the Huxley Memorial Medal.
He has several published works, including Turkish Region: State, Market and Social Identities on the East Black Sea Coast, Postsocialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Practices in Eurasia, and Galicia: A Multicultured Land.
11. Tom Boellstorff
University of California, Irvine
Professor of Anthropology
Anthropology of Sexuality
Tom Boellstorff is a University of California at Irvine-based anthropologist famous and respected for his work on the anthropology of sexuality, globalization, linguistics and more. He earned bachelor’s degrees in music and linguistics and his Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University, where he went on to teach.
Boellstorff has been active in both LGBT activism and research, serving in roles with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Institute for Community Health Outreach. He has held chair for the Association for Queer Anthropology and is a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies.
His research into LGBT issues has taken him from Indonesia to virtual worlds, including a study that took place within the online virtual reality game Second Life. His work was recognized with the Ruth Benedict Prize, awarded by the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, and is co-editor of a Princeton book series titled, Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology.
His work in Second Life yielded a book, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. His research articles have been published in American Anthropologist, the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, and the Annual Review of Anthropology.
See our Interview with Tom Boellstorf
12. Thomas Hylland Eriksen
University of Oslo
Professor of Social Anthropology
Thomas Hylland Eriksen is a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. He is a scholar of identity politics, cultural dynamics, the global response to accelerating change and crisis, and the Creole world. He has published numerous works, including Common Denominators: Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Politics of Compromise in Mauritius, Fredrik Barth: An Intellectual Biography, and Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change. He has also published many research articles showcasing his work, including, Confessions of a Useful Idiot (Or why Culture Should be Brought Back In), The Internet, the “Laws of Media” and Identity Politics, and Mind the Gap: Flexibility, Epistemology and the Rhetoric of New Work. At times a minor figure in Norwegian party politics, he has been a vocal critic of the emergence of Nationalism in Norway’s public discourse.
From 2012–2016, Eriksen served as the president of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. He received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council in 2011, and used those funds to direct research on major areas of crises in globalization initiatives. He is an External Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society, and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
13. Bill Maurer
University of California, Irvine
Dean of the School of Social Sciences
Bill Maurer is the dean of the School of Social Sciences for the University of California at Irvine, the founding director of the Institute for Money Technology and Financial Inclusion, and a scholar of legal and economic anthropology. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.
His research has focused on a somewhat niche subfield, the anthropology of finance. In this area, Maurer became a famous anthropologist by studying finance and economics through the lens of human anthropology, with explorations of off-shore institutions in the Caribbean, Islamic finance, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain.
Maurer’s work has received four major National Science Foundation research grants, funding studies into international finance and digital currencies. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is the associate editor of the Journal of Cultural Economy.
He has written four books and numerous scholarly articles, including Recharting the Caribbean: Land, Law, and Citizenship in the British Virgin Islands and How Would You Like to Pay? How Technology is Changing the Future of Money. One of his books, Mutual Life, Limited: Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason, was honored in 2005 with the prestigious Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing.
See our Interview with Bill Maurer
14. Genevieve Bell
Australian National University
Florence Violet McKenzie Chair and Distinguished Professor
Culture and Technology
Genevieve Bell is the Florence Violet McKenzie Chair and Distinguished Professor for the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, a Senior Fellow at Intel, Director of the Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Institute (3A Institute) at Australian National University, and the first SRI International Engelbert Distinguished Fellow. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. She went on to earn an additional Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
She is very well known for her work in technology, and her research into how humans interact with technology has been widely recognized. She was named one of the Top 25 Women in Technology to Watch, one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business and to Elle Magazine’s list of influential women in technology.
Bell has explored the social and cultural implications inherent with the growing ubiquity of technology. Her work in this field has taken her to leadership and consulting roles from the United States to Australia. Her current role as Director of the 3A Institute has focused the collective energies of scientists, engineers and technologists to solve technological problems.
Most recently, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition for her outstanding contributions.
15. Paul Kockelman
Professor of Anthropology
Paul Kockelman is the editor of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology, and a professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is known as one of the last great system-builders in the field.
His work in linguistic anthropology has yielded significant insights into Qʼeqchiʼ, an ancient language of the Maya people of Guatemala, as well as his ethnographic work. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Agent, Person, Subject, Self: A Theory of Ontology, Interaction, and Infrastructure, The Chicken and the Quetzal: Incommensurate Ontologies and Portable Values in Guatemala’s Cloud Forest, and most recently, Kinds of Value: An Experiment in Modal Anthropology.
He has also written numerous articles, such as Meeting the Universe Two-Thirds of the Way (Witchful Thinking), Being Multiversed in the Multiverse, and The Role of Mas (Spanish Más) in Q’eqchi’: Comparison and Degree in a Mayan Language.
He has made substantial contributions to the frameworks underlying anthropological research and scholarship, exposing new areas of inquiry and challenging preconceived notions of human and ethnographic history. As the editor of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, he has provided thought leadership in the field since his appointment in 2016.
16. William M. Bass, III
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
William M. Bass is a forensic anthropologist, famous for his work on the study of human decomposition. He earned his B.A. from the University of Virginia, his MS from the University of Kentucky, and his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.
He founded the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research, also known as “The Body Farm”. The Body Farm is a facility where researchers can study the decomposition of the human body under a variety of conditions. This research helps law enforcement and scientists to better understand time and manner of death, based on a better understanding of how the decomposition process works under a given set of conditions.
His research has yielded some surprising results as well, such as when he found that the maggots that fed on the bodies of recreational drug users could be distinguished from others, and that the bodies of cancer victims had a scent that was distinct from that of other bodies.
A retired professor from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Bass continues to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with identifying and understanding human remains. He has also written a number of works of fiction under a pseudonym, including Cut To the Bone, The Breaking Point, The Devil’s Bones, and others. He collaborated with Jon Jefferson to write a book about his life and work, titled, Death’s Acre.
17. Marilyn Strathern
University of Cambridge
Marilyn Strathern was born in 1941 in North Wales. She attended Crofton Lane Primary School and Bromley High School before moving on to study Archaeology and Anthropology at Girton College. She earned her Ph.D. from Girton College in 1968.
Strathern has spent her career working with the people of Papua New Guinea. Her approach to feminist anthropology has yielded important scholarship, including Self-Interest and the Social Good: Some Implications of Hagen Gender Imagery and Dealing with Inequality: Analysing Gender Relations in Melanesia and Beyond. Her work on reproductive technology opened up new lines of inquiry into the female experience and how procreation impacts society.
Aside from her feminist scholarship she has also devoted time to the understanding of kinship bonds and community, in works such as Kinship, law and the unexpected: Relatives are always a surprise, and After nature: English kinship in the late twentieth century.
She was named a Fellow of the British Academy in 1997, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001 and Mistress of Girton College in 1998. She is also a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has been awarded the Viking Fund Medal, the Huxley Medal and the 30th Anniversary Independence Medal of Papua New Guinea.
18. Philippe Descola
Collège de France
Ethnology, Social Anthropology
Philippe Descola is chair of anthropology at the Collège de France, most well-known for his research regarding the Achuar, an Amazonian community that was one of the last to be contacted by the outside world. He lived with and researched with the Achuar in Ecuador from 1976 to 1978.
He is a highly-sought lecturer, and has delivered many notable lectures including the Munro Lecture at Edinburgh, the Victor Goldschmidt Lecture at Heidelberg, the Clifford Geertz Memorial Lecture at Princeton, and the Radcliffe-Brown Lecture at the British Academy.
He has served as chair of the Société des Américanistes since 2002. He is an honorary fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and has received numerous prestigious honors. In 1997, he was named a Knight of the French Order of Academic Palms, in 2010 an Officer of the French Legion of Honor, and in 2016, he was named a Commander in the French Legion of Honor.
His work has also been recognized with several impressive prizes. In 2004, he was awarded the French National Order of Merit. In 2012, the French National Centre for Scientific Research awarded him their Gold Medal, and in 2014, he won the International Cosmos Prize.
19. Didier Fassin
Institute for Advanced Study
James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science
Didier Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science for the Institute for Advanced Study, the Chair of Public Health at the College de France, and holds Direction of Studies role in Political and Moral Anthropology at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He earned his MD from Pierre and Marie Curie University, an M.A. from the University of Paris, and a Ph.D. from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
His career began in the medical field, during which time he served as an infectious disease specialist. He moved on to an anthropological approach, studying health inequities in Africa.
Fassin is founder of Iris, the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences and has served as a member of the Scientific Council of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research and the Scientific Council of the City of Paris.
His work has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards, including the Chevalier des Palmes Academiques, the Douglass Prize for the Best Book in the Anthropology of Europe, and the Research Prize of the French Red Cross Foundation. He continues his work to drive policy development and scholarship regarding immigration, social justice, and asylum.
20. Montgomery McFate
U.S. Naval War College
Chair of Strategic Research
Cultural Anthropology, Military Anthropology
Montgomery McFate is the Minerva Chair of Strategic Research at the U.S. Naval War College. She earned her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, a Ph.D. from Yale University, and a JD from Harvard Law School.
After September 11, 2001, she determined that her mission in life was to try to infuse military decision making with the necessary background anthropological and cultural knowledge needed to make appropriate decisions. Over the course of her career, she has worked as a defense consultant for the Office of Naval Research, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Rand Corporation.
McFate’s path to becoming a famous anthropologist has not been without controversy, however. Some feel that a collaboration between anthropologists studying a people, and military officials wishing to take action on or with those people, represents a breach of trust. McFate contends that this need not be the case, and that ethical practice of anthropology could yield important insights that could potentially prevent unintended cultural clashes. Her work with the Human Terrain System, a military initiative employing psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and others to provide insights to inform military policy, has been condemned by the American Anthropological Association, which feels that it is an unethical use of their expertise.
21. Hugh Gusterson
University of British Columbia
Anthropology of Science
Hugh Gusterson is an anthropologist and professor at the University of British Columbia. He formerly held the position of Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University. He earned a B.A. from Cambridge University, an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
His research has focused on the anthropology of science through the lens of international security and nuclear culture. He has been active in advocacy for the protection of the role of anthropologists as a founder of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists. His initial research efforts focused on nuclear weapons culture and most recently has focused on counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as teenage alcohol consumption.
He has published numerous works, including Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War, People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex, and Drone Remote Control Warfare.
His articles have been featured in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, American Scientist, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Sapiens. He is currently the President-Elect of the American Ethnological Society and serves on the American Association of Anthropology’s Task Force on Engagement with Israel/Palestine.
He is currently conducting research under a National Science Foundation grant, investigating the ethnographic history of the polygraph, studying the practical application of polygraph tests.
22. Michael Taussig
Michael Taussig is a professor at Columbia University. He earned a medical degree from the University of Sydney and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the London School of Economics.
He has published research in the area of medical anthropology and is known for his work with the idea of commodity fetishism. In his book, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism, he promotes the study of people living on the fringes of the economy, such as indigenous peoples, as a way of creating contrast with traditionally studied populations.
Much of his work is filtered through the lens of the work of Walter Benjamin. Mimesis and Alterity is one such work, exploring the phenomena of mimesis (assimilation) and alterity (opposition). His research involved the study of the Cuna, an indigenous people in Panama.
His other notable works include: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing, Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative, and Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of Limpieza in Colombia.
Taussig was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2007 received the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. In 2011, he published I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own.
23. Arthur Kleinman
Arthur Kleinman is a medical anthropologist and the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University. Kleinman is also the Professor of Medical Anthropology in Global Health and Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He earned his AB and MD from Stanford University and an M.A. in social anthropology from Harvard University. He completed his internship at the Yale School of Medicine, before completing his psychiatric residency in Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. He ranks among famous anthropologists for his contributions to both medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry, as well as global health, social medicine, and medical humanities.
From 1961–1978, Kleinman conducted research in China and Taiwan studying mental illness and examining public health aspects of mental illness and social suffering. He was appointed as the Victor and William Fung director of Harvard University’s Asia Center from 2008–2016.
He has authored hundreds of articles and several books about this work, including Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture, The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition, What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life Amidst Uncertainty and Danger, and Rethinking Psychiatry. His most recent book, The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, gives a first hand account of the practical, emotional and moral aspects of caretaking.
A Distinguished Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Kleinman continues to publish articles in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other journals on topics such as global mental health, the search for wisdom, and on culture, bereavement and psychiatry. Current research projects include the study of eldercare for dementia across Asian settings, a study examining trust within the doctor-patient relationship in China, and social technologies for aging and eldercare in China. He is the founder of the journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and served as editor for a decade. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
See our Interview with Arthur Kleinman
24. Jean-Jacques Hublin
Professor of Anthropology
Evolutionary Anthropology, Paleoanthropology
Jean-Jacques Hublin is a paleoanthropologist, president of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution, and a professor of anthropology at Leiden University, Max Planck Society, and the University of Leipzig. He is also founder and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Department of Human Evolution.
Originally from Algeria, Hublin studied geology and paleontology at Pierre and Marie Curie University, where he earned his doctorate. He went on to earn a state doctorate at the University of Bordeaux.
In addition to his numerous teaching positions, including those at Stanford University, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley, Hublin has also served in a number of leadership positions. He is the former deputy director for Prehistoric Archaeology, Biological Anthropology and Paleoenvironmental Sciences for the French National Center for Scientific Research. He founded the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution, and is still president.
He has conducted extensive research into the anthropology of Neandertals, with a particular focus on evolution, demographic fluctuations, the origin of Homo sapiens and the eventual fate of Neandertals. He has written numerous works regarding his anthropological study, including “Earliest evidence of modern human life history in North African early Home sapiens”.
25. Louise Lamphere
University of New Mexico
Feminist Anthropology, Urban Anthropology
Louise Lamphere is a feminist anthropologist and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her research interests have included feminist anthropology, gender, de-industrialization, and urban anthropology. She has published extensively on Native American issues, such as kinship and cooperation, and on issues such as working mothers, immigration and women’s lives and remains active in her advocacy on behalf of feminist causes.
Lamphere started as an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968. Louise Lamphere was surprisingly denied tenure in 1974 which lead to a landmark class action suit charging Brown University of sex discrimination, noting her tenure denial but also the larger patterns of discrimination of women at the university. Lamphere won the case which served as a catalyst for a series of actions that reformed policies around sex discrimination and affirmative action at Brown University. It is notable that Brown later awarded Lamphere an honorary LHD for her courage in standing up for fairness and equity.
Her published works include Sunbelt Working Mothers: Reconciling Family and Factory, Newcomers in the Workplace: Immigrants and the Restructuring of the U.S. Economy, and Situated Lives: Gender and Culture in Everyday Life. Lamphere’s first major publication, Women, Culture, and Society, co-edited along with Michelle- Zimbalist Rosaldo, has sold over 60,000 copies and is still a widely cited text in feminist anthropology. In 2005, she led a team to study the impacts of managed Medicaid programs in New Mexico, which was later published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
Lamphere has served as President-elect (1999–99) and President (1999–2001) of the American Anthropological Association. She won the Franz Boas Award from the American Anthropological Association for Exemplary Service to Anthropology in 2013 and the Bronislaw Malinoswki Award from the Society of Applied Anthropology in 2017.
See our Interview with Louise Lamphere
Honorable Mentions in Anthropology
- Talal Asad, City University of New York
- Maurice Bloch, London School of Economics
- Jane Ellen Buikstra, Arizona State University
- John Comaroff, Harvard University
- Jon M. Erlandson, University of Oregon
- Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen
- Faye Harrison, University of Illinois
- Don Kalb, University of Bergen
- Clark Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University
- Barbara Rylko-Bauer, Michigan State University
- Merrill Singer, University of Connecticut