Michael Horowitz

2006 Bronislaw Malinowski Award Recipient

malinowski_horowitz.jpgThe Society for Applied Anthropology is pleased to announce that Michael Horowitz has been selected as the recipient of the Bronislaw Malinowski Award for 2006.

The Malinowski Award, initiated by the SfAA in 1973, is a career achievement distinction presented each year to an outstanding social scientist. The award recognizes and honors a career dedicated to the goal of solving human problems through the application of concepts and tools from the social sciences. Prior awardees include Gunnar Myrdal, Margaret Clark, Everett C. Hughes, Sol Tax, Elizabeth Colson, Sir Raymond Firth, and recently, Carlos Velez-Ibañez, Pertti Pelto, and the late John Bennett.

In 1973 Congress rewrote the Foreign Assistance Act, shifting American foreign aid from capital intensive, urban-and industrial-based interventions to a focus that sought to make the rural poor its prime beneficiaries.  Sub-Saharan Africa, because of years of persistent drought, was felt to be worthy of the focus of US development attention, but who knew anything about the rural poor in the Francophone areas of the Sahel that had been the principal targets of drought and famine?  Other than a few Christian missionaries, only anthropologists had worked in these areas, and only three American anthropologists had worked in rural francophone Africa: Elliot Skinner, Peter Hammond, and me.  I accepted a position as social science advisor with USAID's West and Central Africa regional office, based in Abidjan.  My specific task was to refine and institutionalize "social soundness analysis" in the project design cycle.

"Development anthropology,"  which became a self-consciously applied term in the mid-1970s in part because of my work with USAID, is not a separate field or sub-discipline of anthropology.  It is social anthropology focused on planned and often imposed social and cultural change.  Its theoretical orientations are as broad as those for social anthropology, encompassing bioecology, critical theory, and political economy.

Having a vast geographic arena to work in (from Mauritania in the north to Chad in the east and Zaire in the south), precluded in-depth field research on my own part, but that was compensated for by the opportunity to visit literally dozens of pastoral and agricultural peoples throughout the area.  Since I had worked intensively in the Sahel in the immediate pre-drought period and was now observing behaviors in the immediate post-drought period, I was especially interested in understanding the adaptations that had occurred.  The notion of "adaptive strategies" was explored in a number of papers I wrote during that period, including "Sahelian Pastoral Adaptive Strategies Before and After Drought," and "Market Articulation of Pastoral Producers: The Question of Offtake."  In these and other papers I challenged the still-dominant (Herskovitsian) notion that pastoral practice could not be understood in terms of rational economic and ecological adaptations.  A claimed self-destructiveness in pastoral practice was most influentially and perniciously advocated by the bioethicist Garrett Hardin in his famous paper in Science on "The Tragedy of the Commons"  Because so much damage was done to pastoral peoples by actions that were Hardin-informed, I devoted a good deal of my scholarship to its falsification, demonstrating that, to the contrary, herders were in general good stewards of their lands, and the "overgrazing" was at least as characteristic of modern ranching, which is in private hands.  I also demonstrated that the coupling of "fragility" with "dryland ecosystems" was not supported by data, which affirmed, rather, the resilience of these systems.

The other principal contribution of my work on pastoral production systems was to demonstrate the economic importance of pastoral women as herd and natural resource managers.  The key publications here are "The Sociology of Pastoralism and African Livestock Development" (1979), "Pastoral Women and Change in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia" coauthored with Forouz Jowkar; "Research Priorities in Pastoral Studies: An Agenda for the 1980s,"  "On Listening to Herders: An Essay in Pastoral Demystification,"  "Idiology, Policy and Praxis in Pastoral Livestock Development" and "African Pastoralism and Poverty: Some Implications for Drought and Famine" coauthored with Peter D. Little.  My ideas on pastoralism may not yet be "mainstream," but they are hardly now at the margins.  It may be one of the few areas where anthropology has had a substantial positive impact on the well-being of small producers in the development world, less by recommending specific courses of action than by dissuading actions that threaten the viability of pastoral production systems on drylands.

Ted Scudder, David Brokensha, and I founded the Institute for Development Anthropology (IDA) in 1976, an independent research and consulting firm. The Institute advocated for justice for the world's poorest populations, educated donors on the importance of including anthropologists on research teams, helped those donors and anthropologists to connect, gave anthropologists real decision-making capacity unhindered by the interests of larger concerns, and created a situation where anthropologists could work with low overhead because the support staff was small,  well trained and based in upstate New York. IDA housed a highly specialized library of pertinent documents (now housed at the State University of New York at Binghamton). It  published a working paper series, a monograph series, and a scholarly journal.

In the early 80s, in partnership with Clark University, IDA was awarded the Cooperative Agreement on Settlement and Resource Systems Analysis, a grant from AID under which long-term anthropological research was carried out in Tunisia and in the Senegal River Basin.

The Senegal River Basin Monitoring Activity was a wonderful research instrument.  Our motivation in this as in most of our work was to facilitate through rigorous anthropological inquiry and advocacy the transformation of the rural poor majority from victims to beneficiaries of development.  The issues here were more complex than those involved with pastoralism, because in river-basin development each of the competing constituencies has legitimate arguments supporting hydropower generation, expanded irrigation, and maintenance of the pre-dam flood regime for recession cultivation, fisheries, herding, aquifer regeneration, afforestation, and biodiversity. 

Our long-term field research in the middle Senegal valley demonstrated the economic and environmental, as well as the sociocultural benefits of the pre-dam flow for nearly a million small producers.  Most dam opponents base their case on grounds such as these, but high dams continue to be built.  Most development countries do suffer from inadequate and high-cost energy sources that depend on fossil fuel steam plants for their generation.  Our research team therefore included not only anthropologists, but also agronomists, hydrologists, and environmental engineers who reported to the anthropologists.  Our joint task was to propose a solution whereby hydropower, irrigation, and traditional cultivation could all be supported.  We determined that enough water could be stored in the reservoir upstream from the Manantali Dam, when added to the peak flows from the two undammed tributaries of the mainstream, to generate an "artifical flood" while still retaining impounded water sufficient to produce seventy-six megawatts of continuous power and allow for an increase in irrigation. The Senegal River Basin Monitoring Activity Synthesis Report, co-authored with Muneera Salem-Murdock, was also published in French and in Pulaar.

In a later year I found myself in Vietnam, teaching students and faculty of Can Tho University how to do household surveys in the Mekong delta, so that when the flow changes because of dams, there will be a baseline of data with which to compare.

B.A. Oberlin College, 1955, PhD Columbia University, 1959.  Taught at the State University of NY at Binghamton 1961-2004.

Kimball Award, 2000

Books and Monographs:

Environment and Society in the Lower Mekong Basin.  Pamela McElwee and Michael M Horowitz.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthropology for Oxfam America, 1999.

Community Consultation, Sustainable Development and the Inter-American Development Bank.  Norman Schwartz, Michael Horowitz, Susan Stonich, Conrad Kottak, and Sylvia Horowitz.  Inter-American Development Bank, Indigenous Peoples and Community Development Unit, Social Programs and Sustainable Development Department.  1995.

Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Vulernability in Pakistan.  Forouz Jowkar, Michael M Horowitz, et al.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthropology, 1995.

Les Barrages de la Controverse.  M. Salem-Murdock, M. Niasse, J. Magistro, M. Horowitz et al.  Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994.

Pastoral Women and Change in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.  Michael M Horowitz and Forouz Jowkar.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthro-pology for UNDP and UNIFEM, 1992.

Morne Paysan: Peasant Village in Martinque.  New ed.  Prospect Hts, IL: Waveland Press, 1992.

The Senegal River Basin Monitoring Activity Synthesis Report.  Michael M Horowitz and Muneera Salem-Murdock.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthro-pology, 1990.  Also published in French (1990), Les Gens, La Terre, L’Eau: L’Economie Sociale du Developpement dans le Bassin du Fleuve Senegal, Paris, Editions L’Harmattan and in Pulaar (1991) translations.

Anthropology and Rural Development in North Africa and the Middle East.  Muneera Salem-Murdock and Michael M Horowitz, eds.  Boulder, CO: Westview, 1990.

Lands at Risk in the Third World: Local-Level Perspectives.  Peter D. Little and Michael M Horowitz, eds.  Boulder, CO: Westview, 1987.

Anthropology and Rural Development in West Africa.  Michael M Horowitz and Thomas M. Painter, eds.  Boulder, CO: Westview, 1986.

Niger: A Social and Institutional Profile.  Michael M Horowitz, et al.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthropology, 1983.

Social and Institutional Aspects of Oman.  Robin Brown, Michael M Horowitz, and Muneera Salem-Murdock.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthropology, 1982.

Sudan: Introduction of Forestry in Grazing Systems.  Michael M Horowitz and Kamal H. Badi.  Forestry for Local Community Development Programme:  Rome: Food and Agri-culture Organisation of the United Nations, 1981.

The Sociology of Pastoralism and African Livestock Development.  Project Evaluation Discussion Paper No. 6.  Michael M Horowitz.  Washington, DC: AID, 1979.

The Anthropology of Rural Development in the Sahel.  David W. Brokensha, Michael M Horowitz, and Thayer Scudder.  Binghamton, NY: Institute for Development Anthropology, 1977.  (French edition, 1978, L’Anthropologie du Développement Rural au Sahel).

Problems and Prospects for Development in the Yemen Arab Republic: The Contributions of the Social Sciences.  Richard Tutwiler, Muneera Salem-Murdock, and Michael M Horowitz.  Binghamton, NY: IDA, 1977.

Colloquium on the Effects of Drought on the Productive Strategies of Sudano-Sahelian Herders and Farmers: Implications for Development.  Michael M Horowitz, ed.  Binghamton, NY: IDA, 1976.  (In French as Colloque sur les Conséquences de la Sécheresse sur les Stratégies Productives des Eleveurs et Fermiers Soudano-Sahéliens: Suggestions pour le Développement, 1977.)

Manga of Niger.  New Haven: HRAFLEX Books, 1972.  Three volumes.

Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean.  Michael M Horowitz, ed.  New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1971.


Gestion d’un fleuve africain.  Producer, writer, senior anthropological advisor.  An Institute for Development Anthropology Production, 1992.

Large Dams and Small People: Management of an African River.  Producer, director, writer, senior anthropological advisor.  An Institute for Development Anthropology Production, 1993.  Awarded screenings at Rencontres Medias Nord-Sud, Geneva, March 1993; WSKG Public Television, January 1994; Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, May 1996; Society of Wetland Scientists, June 1996.

Computerized research and teaching collection of 2500 color photographs.