I like to think of myself as a generalist, interested in many academic and non-academic fields: documentary photography (visual anthropology – anthropology of visual communication and communication with visual media), agriculture and food, health beliefs, and symbolism. As with many anthropologists, my life is one where I practice anthropology every day – I like to observe people: how they behave; how they create their physical and cultural environments; and what they believe. In fact, since I have lived in several countries and immigrated to U.S. when I was a teenager, I have always obsessively observed how differences in customs, interactions, and physical spaces, translated into thematic templates of “countries” and their peoples.
Teaching anthropology, for me, is a passion and is as much sharing my knowledge and observations as it is learning from my students at USM/LAC, where I have been since 1998. Some courses that I have taught are: Cultural Anthropology; Health Illness and Culture; Ethnicity, Immigration and Identity; Deviance and Social Control; Family; Food, Culture and Eating. One of my favoritesis Fables Do Come True – Fairy Tales and National Character, which incorporates readings of fairy tales from different cultures and six films, also from different cultures. As one can imagine, there is much to discover and discuss, with such a rich tapestry of textual and visual material.
Though I majored in biology, as an undergraduate at Harvard College, I was also fascinated by Ethnobotany, studying with the inspiring Richard Schultes, and cultural anthropology, with primate ethologist, Irving Devore. It was in his class that I started on my first photo-documentary book, Rural Maine, published in 1972. There were several other books that incorporated both oral history and documentary photography, in the years to follow. At Boston University, where I earned my PhD in Medical Anthropology, I also maintained my interest in photography.
Fascinated by how we use plants, symbolically, spiritually, and practically, and becoming involved in organic farming, in local healthful food production initiatives, and in organizing farmers markets, I co-authored two well received books, The Complete Book of Everlastings, which focused on horticulture and ethno-historical uses of dried flowers, and Growing Herbs and Vegetables From Seed to Harvest, also documenting historical uses of domesticated plants and providing horticultural “how to” instructions for gardeners.
What do I do in my free time? I don’t really have much free time, where I don’t do what I already love doing for “work” and practice – a seeming continuum, by relishing my life in a small rural town of Sumner, Maine, where I have learned to garden and be outdoors, to build buildings, to repair machinery, to do community organizing, to become an integral part of the town government, and to contribute time to small non-profit community organizations.