Thayer Scudder

1999 Bronislaw Malinowski Award Recipient


malinowski_scudder.jpgOver the last 40 years Dr. Thayer Scudder has been at the forefront of applied anthropology. His work, beginning with the ecology of the Gwembe Tonga in the 1960's, followed by his longitudinal contributions to the understanding of cultural change and resettlement, and his more recent work teasing out the impact of structural readjustment on rural peoples worldwide, constitutes a rare and impressive achievement. Dr. Scudder has productively combined an extensive consulting career in environmental issues, resettlement impacts and regional development with significant academic contributions. His work encompasses the fields of river basin development, forced relocation, and refugee reintegration in diverse regions around the world including Africa, India, Nepal, Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia , the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the United States.

The scientific contributions Dr. Scudder has made have been no less impressive. His resettlement model, developed with Elizabeth Colson in 1982, is a benchmark and a standard against which other approaches are measured. This work established the field of resettlement studies as an important subfield and application of anthropology.

Dr. Scudder graduated cum laude in General Studies from Harvard College with a concentration in Anthropology and Biology in 1952. In 1953-54 he focused on African Studies and Comparative Religion at Yale University and later received his Ph.D., in Anthropology, from Harvard University in 1960. Directly after leaving Harvard, Dr. Scudder spent a year at the London School of Economics doing a postdoctorate in African Studies, Anthropology and Ecology. After holding positions with The Rhodes-Livingston Institute for Social Research in Northen Rhodesia 1956-57 and again in 1962-63 and a post at the American University in Cairo in 1961-62, Dr. Scudder joined the faculty at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. Here he has trained and influenced numerous students in anthropology, human ecology and regional planning.

Dr. Thayer Scudder's career stands as an example of how both theory and practice in anthropology is productive . In his academic and practical work, Dr. Scudder has illustrated the consequences of the resettlement of people in dam construction. And more importantly he has influenced national governments in making positive changes in policy for impacted people around the world. His more recent work showing the relationship of declining prices in international commodities to levels of violence, in communities undergoing economic downturns is a major achievement. Perhaps, a highlight of his work has been the development, along with Michael Horowitz and David Brokenshaw, of the Institute for Development Anthropology now known for developmental research in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Indeed Dr. Scudder, has through his lifetime continued to contribute to the understanding of dislocated peoples and has helped to protect local populations against development abuses. His recent work on the Okivambo ecological protection project is exemplary in this regard.

His contributions have not gone unnoticed. The American Anthropological Association has twice recognized his contributions. He was the first recipient of the Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology in 1984, and again in 1991 he was the recipient of the Edward J. Lehman Award for "forwarding the interests of anthropology by demonstrating the discipline's relevance for government, business and industry". He has numerous publications among which are his books, The Gwembe Tonga, 1962, Secondary Education and the Formation of an Elite, 1979, The Impacts of Forced Relocation On Navajos, 1982, For Prayer and Profit: the Changing Role of Beer in Gwembe District, 1988 African Experience with River Basin Development 1993, and numerous journal articles, book chapters and reports to international, national and regional entities.