Samuel R. Cook received his B.A. from Radford University in 1988, and M.A. and Ph.D. from University of Arizona in 1992 and 1997 respectively. His research focuses broadly on community viability and environmental justice, with an emphasis on sustaining models of local and traditional ecological knowledge and seeking synergies thereof with Western science.
Cook’s publications include Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coalmining Communities in Appalachia(Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2000), a comparative study of political economies in the mountain South, which won the 2003 Mooney Award. He has also published frequently in Human Organization and Practicing Anthropology, as well as in several peer-reviewed anthropological and interdisciplinary journals. His professional service in the discipline of anthropology has included various positions on the board of the General Anthropology Division, (GAD) of the American Anthropological Association, including serving as president from 2012-14, and service on the review committee for that organization’s annual meetings from 2008-15. He is also on the editorial board for a number of professional journals, and served as co-editor with Luke Eric Lassiter for the journal Collaborative Anthropologies from 2008-13. Within SfAA Cook has occasionally served on review committee for annual meetings and as a manuscript reviewer for Human Organization and Practicing Anthropology.
Since 2000 Cook has served as Director for American Indian Studies at Virginia Tech, where he has worked collaboratively with Indigenous Nations in the state and region to develop a curriculum and engagement program that embraces those communities within the university’s Land Grant mission. In addition to piloting bridge programs for Native youth, he is currently working to establish a central matrix at the university for connecting tribal communities to university research, innovation, scholarship, and engagement. This includes a program for assisting tribes in securing grants for community social and economic development.
Cook’s applied work has ranged from working with grassroots organizations in Appalachia to confront mountaintop removal surface mining and to advance mitigation efforts in a post-coal context, consulting with tribes in the region seeking federal recognition as Indian nations, and working as an intermediary with descendants of enslaved peoples to reclaim heritage sites on Virginia Tech’s agricultural research farm. In the latter capacity Cook was asked to manage the farm’s historic district, which includes both precolonial and postbellum sites of global significance. From 2003-2006 he coordinated a collaborative project with community members to verify the location of the slave cemetery on the farm, over which descendants of the enslaved have assumed stewardship.
Most recently, Cook’s work with Virginia Indian nations has focused on issues of place-based and traditional ecological knowledge in a settler-colonial context. Through his graduate-level seminar on Indigenous Ecologies and Knowledge Systems, he established an Indigenous community garden on campus in cooperation with the Monacan Indian Nation, with the goal of establishing a wider zone on campus showcasing indigenous natural resource management (in addition to horticultural practices alone). Through this partnership with the Monacan Nation, he has established a safe pollen shed space for the propagation of Tutelo Strawberry Corn, which the Monacan Nation is working to repatriate. This project has also drawn participation from local master naturalists who devote time to removing invasive species from adjacent native forests, and planting native orchard crops, such as persimmon and paw paw. Working closely with the College of Agriculture and Lifesciences, Cook helped to advance the successful effort to secure an extension educator for the Pamunkey Tribe, where he is also consulting on community garden and Indigenous crop propagation programs.
Collaboration is the foundational principle for Cook’s theoretical and methodological path. He has been actively engaged with the dialogues concerning collaborative ethnography since the late 1990s, and through his involvement with the journal Collaborative Anthropologies since its inception (an original editorial board member, and invited by original editor, Luke Eric Lassiter to serve as co-editor shortly thereafter), he is dedicated to exploring ways to make anthropology meet community agendas first. From his perspective, a thoroughly collaborative project is an ideal that is rarely sustainable, but because of the struggle to strike a balance between community agendas and anthropological “authority,” the researcher has a responsibility to make continuous changes to maintain that balance.