I’ve always had varying interests and loved learning people’s stories. After writing a book about women’s issues in Morocco, I decided my next big research project would involve agriculture. I have done some research in Maryland and Utah, and I had the opportunity to study development and farming issues on College faculty trips to India and China. That project is still percolating.
I’ve always had varying interests and loved learning people’s stories.”
I started recording my parents’ life stories of growing up after the Great Depression in rural America. My parents are unique individuals, and yet their stories are the stories of many people from poor, rural Southern towns moving into the middle class at that time. It brings the anthropological question about the relationship between individuals and culture to the fore. Society creates character slots to which people are assigned, and people improvise on their script to shape a unique story.
Contributions to the world
Anthropologists have the ability to look holistically at human existence and problems. Having several interests has been helpful for me as an anthropologist, and anthropology has allowed me to pursue several interests. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Lessons for students
We encourage our students to be multidisciplinary, to have many interests, and to pursue multiple possibilities. One of the things I value about my story is the meandering. I want my students to see their lives—and not just college—that way. Hopefully, they are going to meander from fascination to fascination forever.