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.
Thomas M. Wilson, who was born and raised in New York City, has lived half his life here and half in Ireland. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and received his doctorate in anthropology from the City University of New York. He later earned a master’s in cinema studies from New York University.
Wilson, the author of three books, is an editor of 13 others. His most recent title is The Anthropology of Ireland, which he co-wrote with Hastings Donnan. Wilson is also an editor of two book series, titled National Identities and European Studies: An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History and Politics, and co-editor of a journal called Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. He is president-elect of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe and will serve as the group’s president from 2008-10. He and his wife, Anahid Ordjanian, live on Binghamton’s West Side with their 10-year-old son, Peter Wilson.
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.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. State department, is the largest U.S. international exchange program for students, scholars and professionals. It was established in 1946 and now awards roughly 6,000 grants annually, allowing Americans to study, teach and conduct research in more than 150 countries and bringing numerous foreign scholars to engage in similar activities in the United States.