Philip Carl Salzman is Professor of Anthropology, McGill University.
As a sociocultural anthropologist, I had the good fortune to carry out ethnographic field research for 26 months among nomadic tribes and settled cultivators in Iranian Baluchistan during the period 1967-76 (see photo, right). My findings have been reported in Black Tents of Baluchistan (Smithsonian, 2000; winner of the Premio internazionale Pitré-Salomone Marino), and have contributed to a more general treatment of pastoral nomads and tribes, discussed in Pastoralists: Equality, Hierarchy, and the State (Westview, 2004). My interests in nomadic peoples led me to organize the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, and to found the international journal, Nomadic Peoples (currently published by Berghahn), for which the IUAES granted me their “Gold Award.” Arising from Commission activities were a number of volumes for which I served as editor or co-editor: When Nomads Settle: Processes of Sedentarization as Adaptation and Response (Bergin/Praeger, 1980), The Future of Pastoral Peoples (IDRC, 1981), Change and Development in Nomadic and Pastoral Societies (Brill, 1981), Contemporary Nomadic and Pastoral Peoples I & II (Studies in Third World Societies, 1982), Nomadic Peoples in a Changing World (IUO, 1990), and The Anthropology of Tribal and Peasant Pastoral Societies (Ibis, 1996).
My pedagogical books include The Anthropology of Real Life: Events in Human Experience (Waveland, 1999), Understanding Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theory (Waveland, 2001), and Thinking Anthropologically: A Practical Guide for Students, P. C. Salzman and P. Rice, eds. (Prentice-Hall, 1st Edition 2003, 2nd Edition 2007).
Concerned with the increasingly dire events in the Middle East, and drawing on my appreciation of tribal organization, I have tried in Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Humanity, 2008) to explain what appear to be structural problems underlying the seemingly endless conflicts and counterproductive movements in the contemporary Middle East. At the same time, in Postcolonial Theory and the Arab-Israel Conflict, P. C. Salzman and D. R. Divine, eds. (Routledge, 2008), my collaborators and I have tried to demonstrate that alternative, postcolonial explanations of current problems in the Middle East are ill-conceived and unfounded.
My current research, “Reconciling Freedom and Equality,” is a cross-cultural study of the compatibilities and incompatibilities, the balances and imbalances of freedom and equality in societies of the Middle East and around the world. I intend to bring to the ideas of political philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin the ethnographic evidence by means of which they can be enriched and assessed. My objective is to sketch out realistic assumptions about the benefits and costs of various social policies.