President’s Message 2011–2012

Fountain and Spiral in the President’s GardenFountain and Spiral in the President’s GardenPhotograph by Jon LewisFountain and Spiral in the President’s GardenPhotograph by Jon Lewis

I write this message on the day that we welcomed thirteen new fellows to our campus, a September morning that began cool, grew warm, and now holds a promise of rain in the New Mexico skies. As we gathered over coffee in the “spiral garden,” I reflected with some wonder that during the most troublous economic times in recent memory, the programs that sustain our mission—to understand and communicate the human experience—have enjoyed such growth that this group numbers more than twice that of my own year as a resident scholar (2000–2001).

Many factors account for this increase: talented SAR personnel who have taken the lead in crafting new initiatives that speak to issues at once urgent in their timeliness and profound in their timelessness; trustees who see the School as an indispensable “safe haven” for research, reflection, conversation, and creativity in a turbulent world; donors who find in our 104-year history evidence of faithful stewardship of philanthropic resources; and, finally, a simple blend of hard work and good fortune.

Many things remain the same at 660 Garcia Street, of course. From formal colloquium discussions to informal exchanges over a game of billiards, artists and scholars engage in the exchange of ideas that have enriched human society for thousands of years. Year upon year, these exchanges ultimately find expression in particular forms—an essay, a painting, a monograph, a weaving. What sets SAR apart from our peers is the “peculiar alchemy” that transpires when exceptional people from widely different academic, artistic, and cultural roots meet in a single community.

Monthly Social Gathering for Artists, Scholars, and Staff in the BoardroomMonthly Social Gathering for Artists, Scholars, and Staff in the BoardroomMonthly Social Gathering for Artists, Scholars, and Staff in the Boardroom

This year, our 105th, finds our distinctive school of thought reaching toward full maturity. Founded decades ago, flagship programs like the Advanced Seminars, Resident Scholars, and Artist Fellows find new varieties of expression in the NSF Research Team Seminars, the Anne Ray Fellow and Interns program, new fellowships from the Luce and Campbell Foundations and the NEH, as well as the Indigenous Writer-in-Residence and Literary Arts Programs sponsored by the Lannan Foundation. NSF Team Seminars will address topics as diverse as biocultural approaches to understanding warfare among the Waorani of eastern Ecuador to the role of social networks in assisting with disaster recovery in Latin America. The Anne Ray programs bridge the scholarly and artistic programs of the School through faculty mentorship of interns who aspire to advanced study in museum and heritage studies, while the Luce fellowship provides long-term focus on Asia, this year devoted to environmental and health changes in Mongolia. And our emphasis on literary expression will see extraordinary writers like Alan Heathcock, Janice Gould, and Téa Obreht giving readings in the Boardroom in the year ahead.

2011–2012 Resident ScholarsDean Falk
2011–2012 Resident ScholarsDean Falk
Becoming IndianBreathing New Life Into the Evidence of Death
Becoming IndianBreathing New Life Into the Evidence of Death

Our research capacity has also grown stronger with appointments like that of Senior Scholar Dean Falk, whose new book, The Fossil Chronicles, reminds us that debates over human origins and evolutionary trajectories remain as lively today as they did a century ago. Our own faculty and affiliated researchers publish at remarkable rates given their other duties, and serve as additional sounding boards for our resident fellows.

This vitality is evident, too, in SAR Press’s forthcoming Advanced Seminar titles, with volumes like Dangerous Liaisons: Anthropologists and the National Security State looking at the vexing ethical and professional issues of “embedding” scholars within military and security enterprises, and Breathing New Life into the Evidence of Death offering fresh interpretive approaches in Bioarchaeology, to appear in coming months. The resident scholar series already has Circe Sturm’s eagerly awaited Becoming Indian: the Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the 21st Century to its credit, and we’ll see the eighth volume in our popular archaeology series appear in the form of Hisatsinom: Ancient Peoples in a Land without Water. James F. BrooksJames F. BrooksJames F. BrooksOur latest art book, Joyce Szabo’s Imprisoned Art, Complex Patronage, produced in partnership with the Autry National Center, looks at producers and consumers of early Kiowa Ledger Book drawings rendered by Howling Wolf and Zotom while the men were imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida.

As this first day of the new academic year wanes, we can look at the months and years ahead with real confidence that the course we’ve laid in recent years will yield even more excitement and “work that matters.”

—James F. Brooks, President & CEO

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