Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead, to speak in Wichita

04/21/2013 5:20 PM

04/21/2013 5:21 PM

Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of famed anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, will be the featured speaker at Wichita State University on Monday and Tuesday.

Besides writing countless books and articles and pursuing a career in anthropology, Bateson has served on several national advisory boards including the National Center on Atmospheric Research and the National Science Foundation.

Prior to coming to Wichita, Bateson was interviewed over the phone this past Friday about the lectures she will be presenting in Wichita. She lives in New Hampshire and makes frequent trips into Boston to Cambridge University.

Bateson is a professor emeritus in anthropology and English at George Mason University. She is also a visiting scholar at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

Her talk on Monday night, she said, is titled “Earth Our Kin.”

“I am not a climate scientist, I am anthropologist,” Bateson said. “What interests me is the question of how and what people think about a problem like climate change, how they can centralize it and how they can change the way they think about it. It has to do with what anthropologists call ‘world views.’ How we look at the world. And, how we can cooperate with other nations. This is not something the United States can address by itself. It depends on rather urgent international cooperation. Which so far is not happening.”

Her talk on Tuesday examines the Abrahamic faiths – Judism, Christianity and Islam.

“I think it is very important for Americans to think about this at this time,” Bateson said. “We hear so much about the conflict between Jews and Muslim Arabs and conflicts between Islam and Western civilizations. It is important to find ways of understanding the relationship, not just in terms of when and where and what happened, but understanding the relationship between core beliefs.”

But she is also hoping her talks will spur discussion on the way in which much of U.S. society looks at the world.

“This is not irrelevant to what happened in Boston, because to a great extent we have come to treat our completion in an adversarial process as if that was the only way to get things done,” she said. “I am going to be talking about how a particular way of understanding Darwin got so embedded into our thinking. It is in our economics. It is in our language. When we want to solve a problem like finding a way to help people, cure people of cancer, we call it a war. When we want to alleviate poverty, we call it a war. Whether you are in a courtroom or in business, you think of yourself as winning versus loosing, rather than cooperating. If your language and attitude is modeled on combat and confrontation, the goals are not what influence people, it is the style of acting.”

Bateson is being brought to Wichita in honor of Earth Day. Her talks are sponsored by the Sally and David Jackman Lectures Series and the department of anthropology.

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