The History of The New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section

The Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences has its origins in the participation of anthropologists in the Academy at the end of the 19th century. In 1877 Erminnie A. Smith, an anthropologist and geologist, became the first woman to be elected a member. The Academy has a long history of serving as a forum for public discussion and debate about what it means to be human. The Section has been an innovative and progressive voice, drawing on knowledge about archeology, human biology, linguistics, and socio-cultural anthropology to contribute cutting edge perspectives on the human condition. Today, with funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and sponsorship from Berghahn Books, the Anthropology Section hosts free monthly programming that engages scholars, students, and a broader public in the exploration of a topical theme.

Membership in the Section consists of joining the Anthropology Section e-list, which is circulated at each Distinguished Lecture. Click here to join the e-list.

Today, a volunteer advisory board of New York area anthropologists plans each year’s events: lecture series, workshops and conferences. These events focus on contemporary issues and debates about humans and the societies in which they live.

Distinguished Lecturer Series Consortium

The collaboration between the New York Academy of Sciences, Anthropology Section, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and Berghahn Books are part of a larger effort to build a New York Anthropology Consortium to sponsor the Distinguished Lecturer series. A number of other Anthropology Departments in New York City have been invited to join the Consortium and it is anticipated that the series will move between member departments who share the goal of promoting public awareness of anthropology’s contributions to understanding contemporary social issues.

Sponsors and Supporters

The Anthropology Section has been able to continue its tradition of free public lectures with the generous support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Wenner-Gren has provided funding for travel, refreshments, and hotels, logistical support, and space for lectures. In the fall of 2018, Wenner-Gren was no longer able to host the Section’s increasingly large audiences. The lecture series moved to the Roosevelt House, the historic residence of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, located at 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. As the scope of programming became more ambitious, Berghahn Books joined in the sponsorship for the space (both in person and virtual. 

As of March 2020, we have moved all programming for the year 2020-21 to virtual platforms to ensure the health and safety of all of our audiences.

New York Academy of Science

The Anthropology Section is part of the New York Academy of Sciences, which was founded in 1817 and developed in response to growing public interest in the sciences and social sciences. The Anthropology Section preserves and treasures this heritage of science for the people in which scholars are part of a broader quest for knowledge. The New York Academy of Sciences provides a wide program of science lectures, conferences, and science education at its offices at 50 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007.

Advisory Board

The NYAS Anthropology Section Advisory Board are invited members drawn from anthropology’s different sub-fields and representing the various anthropological institutions in the New York area. The board meets monthly to organize each year’s program, to assess the success of events, and to share the work, via its committees, of shaping, publicizing, hosting and paying for its Distinguished Lecture Series and-other events such as workshops. The Chair and various committees maintain communication with both the New York Academy of Sciences and with the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Members of the Board are recruited by the Nominating Committee and then approved by the Board.


Rizvi Lahore - Uzma Rizvi

Uzma Z. Rizvi


Uzma Z. Rizvi’s research includes decolonizing archaeology, ancient urbanism, critical heritage studies, new materialism, and the postcolonial critique. A primary focus of her work critiques archaeological epistemologies and methodologies, and argues for a changed praxis based on decolonized principles and participatory ethics. Rizvi intentionally interweaves archaeology with cultural criticism, philosophy, critical theory, art and design.

Rizvi is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies at Pratt Institute.

Matt Reilly

Matthew Reilly


I am an historical archaeologist interested in race, class, colonialism, and capitalism in the Atlantic world. My research, which explores the spectrum of slavery and freedom, is primarily based on the Caribbean island of Barbados and the West African nation of Liberia.

Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Gender Studies, and International Studies at the City College of New York, CUNY.

Ryan Raaum

Ryan Raaum


Ryan Raaum's research is directed towards understanding the processes that created the current patterns of human and primate genetic diversity.

Raaum is an Associate Professor of Biological Anthropology at Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Board of Advisors

Anne-Marie Cantwell

Anne-Marie Cantwell

Anne-Marie Cantwell is an archaeologist who has worked on Native sites in the Midwest and coastal areas as well as with museum collections. She has published extensively on trade, ritual, urban archaeology, and mortuary practices. She is currently writing about colonialism in eastern North America.

Cantwell is Professor Emerita at Rutgers University-Newark.

Christine Hegel

Christine Hegel

My research interests include the phenomenology of work, informal economies, economic precarity, and value transformation. I also collaborate on projects that use design thinking and practices in social inquiry.

Hegel is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Western Connecticut State University. 

Danilyn Rutherford

Danilyn Rutherford

Danilyn Rutherford has taught at the University of Chicago and UC Santa Cruz. Her books include Raiding the Land of the Foreigners (Princeton, 2003), Laughing at Leviathan (Chicago, 2012), and Living in the Stone Age (Chicago, 2018). She is currently writing about belief, communication, and disability in the US.

Rutherford is the President of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Marion Berghahn

Marion Berghahn

After having studied Romance Languages, Philosophy and English/American Studies at the universities of Hamburg, Paris, and Freiburg, I completed a PhD on the relationship of Black Americans to Africa, which introduced me to anthropology. I was fascinated and decided to pursue it further, which resulted in a dissertation on German-Jewish refugees in London. Through it I was introduced to the rich German- and Austrian-Jewish publishing traditions that were continued by refugees who had escaped Nazi persecution and fled to England and America. Encouraged by several of my interviewees who were in publishing, I decided to start my own publishing company with anthropology as one of my core lists.

Berghahn is the Publisher of Berghahn Books. 

Irina Carlota (Lotti) Silber

Irina Carlota Silber

Silber is the author of Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence, and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador (Rutgers 2011), and the Spanish language edition published by UCA Editores in El Salvador (2018). Areas of interest include gender and postwar, migration, medical anthropology, disability studies, childhood studies, and anthropology of Central America.

Silber is an Associate Professor at City College of New York of the City University of New York.

Nina Glick Schiller

Nina Glick Schiller

Nina Glick Schiller’s writings address transnational migration, cosmopolitanism, methodological nationalism, unequal capitalist development, and the ethnic lens. Her nine books include Migrants and City-Making: Dispossession, Displacement and Urban Regeneration; Nations Unbound; Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home; and Whose Cosmopolitanism? She co-edits Anthropology Theory.

Schiller is Professor Emeritus/ Research Associate at University of Manchester, UK/ Max Planck Institute Social Anthropology.

Omri Elisha

Omri Elisha [On leave]

Omri Elisha has studied issues of religion, ritual, American evangelicalism, secularism, and cosmology. He is the author of "Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches" (2011), and articles on topics such as Christian revivalism, spiritual warfare, and prophetic dance. His current research explores the influence of Western astrology on popular conceptions of temporality, spirituality, and the cosmos.

Elisha is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Queens College, CUNY.

Rachel Heiman

Rachel Heiman [On Leave]

Rachel Heiman (PhD Michigan 2004) is the author of Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb (UC Press, 2015) and co-author (with Carla Freeman and Mark Liechty) of The Global Middle Classes: Theorizing Through Ethnography (SAR Press, 2012).

Heiman is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at The New School.

Trinidad Rico

Trinidad Rico [Past Member]

My ethnographic research in critical heritage studies focuses on the study of heritage at risk, the vernacularization of heritage discourses and expertise, and heritage ethics. My current research project focuses on the study of preservation practices in the context of Muslim communities in the Arabian Peninsula.

Rico is an Associate Professor and the Director of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies, Department of Art History at Rutgers University.

Shahrina Chowdhury

Shahrina Chowdhury is a biological anthropologist and her research focuses on the behavioral ecology of non-human primates. She studies the impact of social, environmental and anthropogenic factors on stress physiology and behavior as well as the adaptive value of sociality in baboons in Ethiopia and South Africa.

Chowdhury is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brooklyn College, CUNY and Doctoral Faculty in Anthropology at Graduate Center, CUNY.

Antonio Lauria-Perricelli

Ph.D. New School for Social Research, M.A. Washington University in St. Louis. Areas of interest: the Greater Caribbean, Puerto Rico, imperialism, militarization, systems of domination and social transformation, histories of anthropology. Teaching: Gallatin School of Individualized Study NYU; Department of Anthropology, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, New School for Social Research; anthropology and social sciences at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras; Washington University in St. Louis. He worked at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, CUNY (1984-1995) as researcher, Director of Intercambio (CUNY-University of PR Academic Exchange Program), and co-director of the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program. Born in New York City, he lived in Puerto Rico between 1958 and 1982. Author of the prize-winning The Making of “The People of Puerto Rico,” and articles on Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the links between anthropology/social science, and power/policy.

Lauria-Perricelli is Part-Time Faculty at Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University and an Independent Scholar.

Bill Mitchell

William P. Mitchell

Bill Mitchell (PhD, U Pittsburgh) has published widely on Peruvian society, concerning political economy, peace and war, ecological systems, sociocultural evolution, migration, social and religious change, and Quechua religious pictographs. His book Voices from the Global Margin (U Texas Press) won the 2007 LASA Peru Flora Tristan Award.

Mitchell is an Emeritus Freed Foundation Professor of Anthropology at Monmouth University.

Kristina Baines

Kristina Baines

Kristina Baines is a sociocultural anthropologist with an applied medical/environmental focus. Her research interests include indigenous ecologies, health, and heritage in the context of global change, in addition to publicly engaged research and dissemination practices. Her first book, Embodying Ecological Heritage in a Maya Community: Health, Happiness and Identity (2016), outlines her framework for understanding health as linked to heritage practices through an ethnographic account of life in a Maya community in southern Belize.

She is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York (CUNY), Guttman Community College, affiliated faculty at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, Department of Community Health and Social Sciences and the Director of Anthropology for Cool Anthropology.​