Gerald Murray, Ph.D.

Published: September 29th, 2013

Category: Faculty, People

Gerald Murray, Ph.D.

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Title : Professor Emeritus

Interests : Applied anthropology, anthropology of religion, linguistics, agroforestry, Caribbean and Latin America, Israel and Palestine

Programs : Cultural Anthropology

Personal Statement
I have done extended fieldwork in Haiti and the Dominican Republic , and have done applied contract assignments in 15 countries for 27 public and private agencies. I designed and directed an agroforestry project in Haiti that during a 20 year period facilitated trees to over a quarter of a million farm families. Recent applied research assignments include child slavery in Haiti and the D.R., potential conflicts surrounding planned dam construction that would flood out farming communities near the Panama Canal, and a month of fieldwork on the Gaza Strip among Hebrew-speaking farmers being shelled by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the turbulent weeks immediately preceding their planned expulsion and involuntary relocation by the Israeli government. I have written three books, 27 articles and book chapters, and 59 applied anthropological reports. I have studied fifteen languages (some extinct) and have interviewed and/or conversed in eight. My Ph.D. students, a heterogeneous crowd of stellar human beings, have done research in Haiti , the Dominican Republic , Barbados , Brazil , Zimbabwe , the Philippines , and the U.S. with a variety of NSF and Wenner-Gren funds.

In my view Cultural Anthropology at its best entails three logically sequenced intellectual operations: (1) fieldwork-based documentation; (2) cross-cultural comparison-and-contrast; (3) the search for causal explanations or interpretation within one or more intellectual paradigms. Fieldwork ideally entails both descriptive and quantitative methods. And it should be sensitive to the shifting, tentative, evolving character of any human system. Explanations are often hypothetical and “hard to prove”. But in my view a major mission of anthropology is the identification of the powerful causal forces which, often unbeknownst to the human actors themselves, govern the evolution of cultures and of individual human lives.

Applied Cultural Anthropology builds on these three operations but adds the assumptions that (1) not all human systems are functioning optimally – as seen in conditions of poverty, violence, slavery, environmental destruction; (2) systemic malfunctions and human suffering and abuse are due to a combination of identifiable internal and external factors; (3) these negative factors can often be either neutralized or at least mitigated with intelligent analysis and planning. Often. Not always. In some settings Anthropology entails the documentation of human ingenuity and creativity; in others it may entail the documentation of human stupidity and malice. Most human cultures, and most human lives, probably entail a sui generis combination of both tendencies.

Office
Grinter Hall, Room 331
PO 117305
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-7305

Phone Number : 352-392 3830 x302

Email: murray@ufl.edu

Webpage : http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/murray

 

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