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Researcher, author looks at change

Global warming is a hot topic of late, but to anthropology professor John Bodley, it’s been hot for years.

“I’ve been talking about global warming since the 1970s,” he said. “I started looking at how culture and global society create and affect global problems like poverty and global warming.”

As a cultural anthropologist, Bodley examines human survival, the process of growth and change in societies and the distribution of wealth and power. While much of his work centers around field research on indigenous cultures, Bodley’s recent area of interest is the social and ecological sustainability of the Pacific Northwest.

He began by examining the relationship between the size of a municipality and the amount of individual property ownership in the Palouse region. What he found was that the bigger the city, the more property is owned by a smaller group of people. This leads him to conclude that the growth process of a city is controlled by a few. 

“I am interested in the Pacific Northwest because that’s where I come from and I have a vested interest in this region,” he said. “I started studying the distribution of power in America because it has the power to shape what people do.” 

In addition to research, Bodley is a well-known textbook author with three internationally recognized texts.
“All five (of his) books are still in print and several have hit their fourth editions,” said William Andrefsky Jr., chair and professor of anthropology. “His first two books, ‘Victims of Progress’ (1975) and ‘Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems’ (1976), are classics.”

Ever a humble man, Bodley likes to think of his new title as a Regents professor as a positive reflection on others. 

“It’s nice for the department because now we have two (Timothy Kohler was named Regents professor in 2006),” he said. “It’s also good for the college, since not many people who receive these awards are in liberal arts!”

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