March 30, 2007
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology at Amherst College, will give the 8th annual George and Mary Foster Lecture in Cultural Anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas on Monday, April 9. Gewertz will discuss “Excusing the Haves and Blaming the Have-Nots in Jared Diamond’s Histories.”

Gewertz argues that Diamond does not adequately consider the workings of world systems in either of his two popular books, Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse. As a result, she says, “Guns, Germs and Steel does not hold the ‘haves’ accountable for the choices they have had the power to make; while Collapse holds the ‘have- nots’ accountable for choices that are beyond their power.” Informed by her years of field work in Papua, New Guinea, Gewertz’s argument challenges important Western assumptions about how the world works.

A member of the Amherst faculty since 1977, Gewertz, with her collaborator, Frederick Errington of Trinity College, is the co-author most recently of Yali’s Question: Sugar, Culture, and History (2004). Gewertz and Errington collaborated on several books, including Cultural Alternatives and a Feminist Anthropology: An Analysis of Culturally Constructed Gender Interests in Papua New Guinea (1987), Articulating Change in the “Last Unknown” (1995), Twisted Histories, Altered Contexts: Representing the Chambri in a World System (1991) and Emerging Class in Papua New Guinea: The Telling of Difference (1999). Gewertz is also the author of numerous articles in books and journals, including American Ethnologist and American Anthropologist.

The Foster Lecture honors the contributions to anthropology and linguistics of anthropologists George McClelland Foster and Mary LeCron Foster, who were both associated for many years with the University of California at Berkeley, and were instrumental in the development of anthropology in the U.S. and abroad.