Fred R. Myers
Silver Professor of Anthropology; Professor of Anthropology; Acting Chair, East Asian Studies
Ph.D. 1976, M.A. 1972, Bryn Mawr, B.A. 1970, Amherst.
Rufus D. Smith Hall 25 Waverly Place New York, NY 10003
Areas of Research/Interest:
Indigenous people and politics, Aboriginal Australia; exchange theory and material culture; anthropology of art and contemporary artworlds; the production and circulation of culture; in identity and personhood; theories of value and practices of signification.
Fred Myers joined NYU as an Assistant Professor in 1982. He has served as chair of the Department of Anthropology for the last 12 years and has served as director of the Morse Academic Plan, the innovative general education program in the College of Arts and Science. In addition, he is known to be an inspiring teacher in all settings, from undergraduate survey courses to specialized graduate seminars. His research focuses on hunters and gatherers, and kinship relations, and he has contributed significantly to his field with multiple books, articles, and extensive field work. His most recent books are The Empire of Things: Regimes of Value and Material Culture and Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art. He was elected president of the American Ethnological Society and has received fellowships from, among others, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton. Professor Myers received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College, and his B.A. from Amherst College.
Silver Dialogues Essay
What might be particular now to a sociocultural anthropological approach to the study of human differences and similarities? If we must write about the classic ethnographies largely in the past tense, because – for example – Aboriginal Australians no longer live as “hunter-gatherers” nor Trobriander Islanders as isolated from the Papua New Guinean nation-state and the tourist economy, what might a contemporary undergraduate textbook look like? Does it make sense to focus on the different levels of sociopolitical integration (“band societies,” “tribal societies,” “chiefdoms,” and so on), when these formations are no longer themselves living or contemporary forms? What, then, are (or ought to be) the objects of ethnographic and anthropological study? Or, if anthropologists are only to represent the “local voice,” “the native’s point of view” as Bronislaw Malinowski famously wrote, with what authority can we engage or contest other social scientists, planners, or policy makers? Imagination and fruitful metaphor have been the attraction of much recent innovation, but in my view, anthropologists need also to sustain our place in social science, as an empirical social science, reinvigorating bases of validity and legitimacy for anthropological knowledge. Despite the contributions of critical cultural theory borrowed from the humanities, it would be a mistake to give the powerful discursive field of “science” over to others. Consequently, anthropologists face the difficulty of finding methodological grounding that can support persuasively and forcefully the imaginative frameworks whose value we may perceive. Read More...