Ben Orlove                              

My research interests fall in three main areas:

On the Prime Meridian, with my children. Greenwich, England, August 2001

Anthropology, the field that I studied (B.A., Harvard, 1969; Ph.D., Berkeley, 1975), and in which I have conducted ethnographic, survey and archival work. Through the 1990s, I had concentrated in Latin America, especially in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Mexico. My book, Lines in the Water: Nature and Culture at Lake Titicaca, synthesizes my ongoing research in the Andes. More recently, I have carried out work in Africa, especially Zimbabwe and Uganda, and begun a study of three regions with glaciers, in Peru, northern Italy and the western US. My work in this area has expanded from political economy and cultural ecology to include topics of ideology, identity and representation.

My current research focuses on climate. My work in this area started with an interest in the human dimensions of inter-annual climate variability, especially the ways how people cope with El Niño events. I also study climate change, with particular attention to glacier retreat and to the concept of “adaptation”—a tremendously useful term that can benefit from attention from social scientists. I examine such topics as traditional forms of forecasting among peasant and indigenous people; the use of forecasts in modern societies; and the influence of globalization on current responses to climate variability and change. My edited books Weather, Climate and Culture and Darkening Peaks: Glacier Retreat, Science and Society present overviews of these areas. In addition to my faculty appointment in Davis, I am also an adjunct senior research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University. I work closely with other climate researchers at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, also at Columbia University.

Ecology is the central focus of the department (the Department of Environmental Science and Policy) in which I work. My work has focused on small-scale agriculture, fisheries, pastoralism and climate issues. I have also conducted research in protected areas established for the conservation of biodiversity. My teaching in this area includes courses on sustainable development and cultural ecology.

Writing is what anthropologists do all the time, from field notes and letters to lectures and memos to articles and books. I have branched out to non-academic writing, including a family memoir, In My Father's Study, and some reflections on field work in Peru, published in a collection of essays. I am working on another non-academic book, a second memoir, focused on family and places.


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