Steve Caton is a Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.

Moderator: Mark Williams

More about the presenter, Professor Steve Caton: Since the beginning of his career, Caton has been a specialist of Arabic and the Middle East, with an emphasis on Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. In 2001 when Caton returned to Yemen for the first time in twenty years after his fieldwork on oral poetry, he was shocked to see how dire the water situation had become and wondered what he, a social anthropologist, could do about it. This represented a significant departure from his earlier interests and has required a good deal of re-education in the fields of environmentalism, political ecology, hydrology and science studies. In 2005-2006, with a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation, Harvard University’s Center for the Environment, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Caton and a Yemeni colleague, Abdou Ali Othman, trained four Yemeni researches in anthropological field methods to join them in ethnographic research on water problems in the Sana’a Basin. Some of the results of that research are being edited for publication. Caton’s ethnographic contribution had to do with international experts and their agencies, as these affect the circulation of knowledge about water use and policies stemming from them in countries like Yemen. Caton foresees research on water sustainability to take up most of his future research and writing in anthropology, and is planning to teach a course on the anthropology of water sustainability in the near future.