The History of The New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section

Erminnie Smith

In 1877, Erminnie A. Smith, an anthropologist and geologist, became the first woman to be elected a member.

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. 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.

Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Emmitt Till, and many more. Their lives mattered and continue to matter.

As anthropologist and researchers, we call out these deaths as the consequences of 400 years of racial oppression upon which the United States has been built. This statement of the Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences serves as witness to police brutality, the systematic racism that surrounds us, and as protest, and a promise to struggle until social and economic justice is obtained.

We acknowledge anthropology’s racist and colonial past and present. Since the founding of the Anthropology Section, we have endeavored to ensure critiques of both the biologizing of race and against capitalism and US Imperialism. In this moment, we pledge to continue to center antiracist efforts in the sections’ programming, diversifying our leadership, and invigorate our commitment to social justice.

We stand with our local New York City community, and the global communities of which we are also a part, in shining a light on the world we have inherited and actively building a more just future. We understand that without justice there will be no peace. We must dismantle racism in ourselves and our institutions. We stand in solidarity with all those who seek to build a more just world.

Distinguished Lecturer Series

The Distinguished Lecturer Series is a collaboration between the New York Academy of Sciences, Anthropology Section, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and Berghahn Books. This series advances our shared 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

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.​

O. Hugo Benavides

Dr. O. Hugo Benavides is Professor of Anthropology, Latin American and Latino studies, and, International Political Economy and Development, at Fordham University, as well as, Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department. He also is the founding director of the Strategic Research Consortium on Global Studies and of the Liberal Arts Program at Fordham’s London Center at Kensington. His research has been supported by grants from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, National Science Foundation, Wenner Gren Foundation, Social Science Research Council and the Andrew R. Mellon Foundation. His initial interest in the past provided him an extensive archaeological practice excavating both Inca sites in the Andes and the Roman site of Pompeii in Italy. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner of 26 years and their three cats.

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. 

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.

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.

Veronica Davidov

Dr. Veronica Davidov holds a PhD in Anthropology and a Graduate Certificate in Culture and Media from New York University, and is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Monmouth University. She is an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on human-nature relations and the cultural, political, and economic processes involved in their formation and negotiation. She is particularly interested in how natural resources are constructed and contested in global and local arenas, and the moral ecologies and economies that emerge when nature becomes a commodity.

Dána-Ain Davis

Dána-Ain Davis is Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College and is also on the faculty of the PhD Programs in Anthropology and Critical Psychology at the Graduate Center. Presently, she is serving her second terms as the director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the Graduate Center. Davis’ work covers two broad domains: Black feminist ethnography and the dynamics of race and racism. She is the author or co-editor of five books. Her most recent book Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (2019) was published by NYU Press. Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (NYU Press 2019). The book received the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology; The Senior Book Prize from the Association of Feminist Anthropology; was named a Finalist for the 2020 PROSE Award in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology category, given by the Association of American Publishers.

Kadija Ferryman

Dr. Kadija Ferryman is a cultural anthropologist and bioethicist who studies the social, cultural, and ethical implications of health information technologies. Specifically, her research examines how genomics, digital medical records, artificial intelligence, and other technologies impact racial disparities in health. She is currently Industry Assistant Professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. As a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York, she led the Fairness in Precision Medicine research study, which examines the potential for bias and discrimination in predictive precision medicine.

Christine Hegel

Christine Hegel is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Western Connecticut State University. As a legal and economic anthropologist, her current research focuses on discard reclamation work, value transformation, and the uneven effects of capitalist modernity. As both an advocate and researcher, she examines the labor value, expertise, and legitimacy of canners (informal recyclers) in New York City amid the evolving failures and possibilities of municipal waste management and EPR systems. Her areas of interest also include research methods, participatory design, and design anthropology, and she co-authored the 2019 book Ethnography by Design: Scenographic Experiments in Field Work (Routledge).

Megan Hicks

Megan Hicks is an interdisciplinary Archaeologist and Assistant Professor at Hunter College, CUNY. Her work focuses on understanding the impacts of colonialism and capitalism on ecologies and communities. Her research methods include excavation, zooarcheology, community engagement, primary archival investigation, mapping, and activism. She is a project leader in Mývatnssveit, Northern Iceland where she has worked to document shifting household ecologies in the context of Danish colonial markets and formative capitalism in a prominent rural community. This has involved unearthing the long histories of animal husbandry, fishing, hunting, and land management in an area of critical arctic biodiversity.

Louise Lamphere

Louise Lamphere’s interests include Native North America, feminist anthropology, women and work, urban anthropology, immigration, and medical anthropology. Her first major publication was Woman, Culture and Society co-edited with Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo (1974). In addition to books on working women and edited collections on post-1965 immigration, her most recent book is a co-authored biography of three Navajo women: Weaving Women's Lives: Three Generations in a Navajo Family, (2007).

Lamphere is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emerita at the University of New Mexico and Past President of the American Anthropological Association.

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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.

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.

Stephanie Rupp

Dr. Stephanie Rupp’s research focuses on networks in the Congo River basin, examining the ways that ecological and economic, social and political systems are entangled. Sustaining ethnographic and oral historical research in southeastern Cameroon for over 25 years, her current work examines the contexts of the emergence of HIV-1M in southeastern Cameroon at the turn of the nineteenth century, as well as contemporary experiences with the global HIV/AIDS pandemic that returned to the forest in the 1990s. As a faculty member at Lehman College, CUNY, Dr. Rupp teaches a broad range of courses including a course that investigates the historical, cultural, and political place of guns in society.

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.

Nina Glick Schiller

Nina Glick Schiller

Nina Glick Schiller is Emeritus Professor, University of Manchester, UK and the University of New Hampshire, USA. She serves as a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and Visiting Scholar at CUNY Graduate Center, Anthropology. Glick Schiller is Co-Editor of Anthropological Theory and Founding Editor of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. She received her doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University and was awarded Honorary Doctorates by Erasmus University, Netherlands and Malmo University, Sweden. Her writings address the relationships between migrants and city making, dispossession and displacement, transnationality of cities and migrants, cosmopolitan sociability, methodological nationalism, urban restructuring, categories of epidemic risk, and the critique of the ethnic lens.

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.


Rachel Daniell [2020]

Rachel Daniell is a researcher, writer, and interdisciplinary scholar interested in temporality, spatiality, data-driven storytelling, and critical cartography as they intersect with human rights and historical memory. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and MS in Data Analytics and Visualization from Pratt Institute with an Advanced Certificate in Spatial Analysis and Design. She works with human rights organizations in the nonprofit sector as well as in university-based research and teaching. She is passionately interested in the ways we collect and structure information and the impact this can have on the visibility of human rights violations, understandings of underrepresented histories, and imaginaries for potential futures.

Rachel was a Fellow at the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section in Spring 2020.

John Doe

Software Engineer

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Miriam Laytner

Miriam Laytner is a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is interested in the intersections of science, faith, and the understanding of climate change. Her interest in climate change stems from six years as a scuba instructor and hiking guide across North America, Australia, and the Caribbean. She holds an MA in oral history from Columbia University, an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, and a BA in History from Barnard College.

Miriam Laytner is serving as the Oral History and Documentation Fellow at New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section for 2020-2021. She is developing a digital oral history archive that will highlight the work of current and former NYAS members, fostering intradisciplinary discussions and connections across the four fields: cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical anthropology.

Anna Sergeeva

Anna Sergeeva is a Masters in Library and Information Science student at the Pratt Institute School of Information. She works and plays with language as a medium.

Anna is serving as the Digital Projects Fellow at New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section for 2020-2021. Her work with the Section is focused on implementing digital initiatives in support of the Section's mission and virtual programming, including the launch of a new aesthetic identity and web presence.