Growing up in Oregon during the height of the controversy over old-growth forests and their most well-known inhabitant, the northern spotted owl, I witnessed first-hand the often adverse effect of conservation efforts on local people. I wanted to preserve parts of our forests for their beauty and other benefits, but I also saw the other side of the debate as people lost their jobs, their homes, their families, and even took their lives during the controversy. These experiences and my thoughts about the timber crisis caused me to question my environmental beliefs and the approach to conservation and development that often overlooks or ignores the people impacted by these projects.
After receiving a B.S. in Earth Systems from Stanford University in 1995 and working in the fields of international conservation, education, and technology development in the U.S. and abroad, I returned to graduate school in the PhD. program in Environmental Anthropology at the University of Washington in the fall of 2002 in order to address my concerns about conservation and development both in the Pacific Northwest and in Latin America.
Currently, I am pursuing two research projects in the Pacific Northwest which explore the human dimensions of conservation and development projects. Last summer, I began ethnographic research in a former logging town in Oregon which is currently struggling with issues related to community and economic development. In the paper I will present at the SfAA meetings in Dallas, I examine the development processes underway in the community and begin to explore the inclusions and exclusions of people, projects, and places from these development initiatives. In a separate project which my advisor Dr. Eugene Hunn and I have undertaken in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, a division of the U.S. Forest Service, I am part of a team exploring the formation of judgments about riparian management on Federal lands in Central Washington. Literature from political ecology, the anthropology of place, the social construction of nature, and environmental history informs my work.
Spicer Winner 2004
Jim Thrasher holds Masters degrees in cultural anthropology and epidemiology and is currently a PhD student in the Department of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health. His general professional interest is in bridging the methodological and theoretical divide between anthropology and public health. To this end, he teaches a course which helps graduate students from throughout the School of Public Health use anthropological theory, concepts, and methods to frame their understanding of and attempts to address public health issues. In his dissertation, Jim draws from anthropological and sociological theories of late modernity, consumption, identity, and globalization to conceptualize the workings of tobacco prevention messages that focus on the deceitful practices of the tobacco industry. This research begins with a focus on how these messages resonate among “high-risk” US youth with weak attachments to the primary socialization mechanisms in US society and/or who are predisposed to distrust corporations. Then, through qualitative research and analysis, Jim illuminates areas of caution and opportunities for synergy when attempting to translate industry-focused tobacco prevention messages to Mexico, given pre-existing values, expectations, and identity concerns among Mexican youth. This research agenda explicitly builds anthropological perspectives into Jim’s experiences working in health communication both at the CDC and as a member of the interdisciplinary team evaluating the national, mass-media truth® campaign. His research also reflects his commitment to engaging with some of the nefarious consequences of contemporary globalization processes. He hopes that this research trajectory will inform future public health efforts that are focused on consumption practices.