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Linfield to host annual anthropology lecture

Hugh GustersonHugh Gusterson, George Mason University professor of cultural studies and anthropology, will present “Can the Insurgent Speak?” on Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Pioneer Reading Room at Linfield College. His talk and various classroom visits with students are part of Linfield’s year-long project examining the “Legacies of War.”

The talk will examine the way the media represent Muslim and other insurgents, showing that media accounts often dehumanize and stereotype insurgents, while failing to help Americans understand the motives of insurgents. The talk will show striking continuities between American media portrayals of insurgents in the Vietnam War and in the contemporary Middle East. Who are the insurgents?

Gusterson’s approach is anchored in anthropology’s central concern with how “the cultural other” is represented and understood. Leaving unexamined such representations and assumptions about “the other” impoverishes national debate about how to most effectively deploy military power. Understanding the cultural other does not mean agreeing with their methods or goals, rather it means “be smart by knowing your enemy.”

Gusterson has been at the forefront of public engagement by anthropologists with the actions and policies of the U.S. defense establishment. He is best known as the author of “Nuclear Rites,” an ethnography of the nuclear weapons lab at Livermore, Calif.

Gusterson has a B.A. in history from Cambridge University, a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University. He was a professor at MIT from 1992-2006, when he moved to George Mason University. He has done fieldwork in the United States and Russia, where he studied the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists. He also writes about militarism and about science more generally, and has a strong interest in professional ethics. He is the author of “Nuclear Rites” and “People of the Bomb” and is co-editor of “Cultures of Insecurity,” “Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong” and “The Insecure American: How We Got Here and What We Should Do About It.” He has written for scholarly journals, numerous newspapers and magazines, and has a regular online column for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

The lecture is sponsored by the Linfield Department of Sociology and Anthropology. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Tom Love, Linfield professor of anthropology and environmental studies, at tlove@linfield.edu or 503-883-2504.