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Anthropologist wins Fulbright grant

By : Rachel Coker

Anthropologist Thomas M. Wilson, a specialist in borders, border regions and borderlands, will spend the spring semester in Canada on a Fulbright grant.

Wilson, a professor in his fifth year at Binghamton, has been awarded the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Borders are a hot topic in Europe and throughout the world,” he said. “But it wasn’t a particularly hot topic in this country, except for the U.S.-Mexico border and except in times of labor shortages or labor surpluses, until 9/11. Since 9/11, issues of terrorism, sovereignty and security are all-important to Americans. And now Canadians are just as concerned, in part because of reactions to the American initiatives.”

These changes, he noted, are having a dramatic impact on what was once a famously permeable border between two allies.

Wilson, who holds both Irish and American citizenship, has previously done field research focusing on the borders between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as Hungary and Romania. He’s also interested in the anthropology of European integration.

Wilson taught for 10 years at The Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland before joining Binghamton’s faculty. While there, he helped to found the Center for International Borders Research in Northern Ireland.

Now he hopes his Canadian project will lay the foundation for a similar research network to focus on the comparative study of borders, with an emphasis on the U.S.-Canada border. He’ll be speaking at universities in Toronto, Montreal and St. John’s and may make connections for the project then.

Wilson will also organize a 2008 conference on the U.S.-Canada border to be held in Binghamton.

Security and sovereignty in each country are key issues in border studies, as are commerce, citizenship and migration. Cultural issues of assimilation and integration of immigrants and of relationships across the border are also of interest to Wilson.

“What we’re hoping to do is have not only an emphasis on international borders, but also on state and provincial borders,” he said. “And as part of that, in our department, along with Charles Cobb and Nina Versaggi, we’ve been working on a project on ethno-historical and Native American borders in the New York-Pennsylvania region. Native American frontiers coincided with and were a force in the creation of state borders.”

Wilson, director of graduate studies in the Anthropology Department, will teach a graduate-level course in the anthropology of borders and frontiers when he returns to Binghamton. He may also develop an undergraduate class on the anthropology of Canada.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08