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Caton, Steven (Charles) 1950-

CATON, Steven (Charles) 1950-


Born 1950. Education: University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1984.


Office—Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, William James Hall 320, 33 Kirkland St., Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]


Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, professor of anthropology. Has performed field work in Yemen and other countries in the Middle East.


"Peaks of Yemen I Summon": Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1990.

Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1999.

Yemen Chronicle, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), in press.


Field research in the Sana'a Basin of Yemen on water conservation.


Steven Caton's writings reflect his professional interest in the desert nation of Yemen, where he has studied the ritual uses of poetry, methods of mediation, and resource conservation issues. Caton's first book, "Peaks of Yemen I Summon": Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe explores the connections between oral poetry and politics in local Yemeni tradition. In his Times Literary Supplement review of the book, Pierre Cachia noted that Caton "is …much to be commended for the fieldwork he has done in North Yemen.… Readers have cause to be grateful to Caton for his precise documentation of literary activity in a relatively inaccessible part of the world."

Not surprisingly given his interest in the Middle East, Caton has made a close study of the American film Lawrence of Arabia. Caton's Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology offers a critique of the movie's view of colonialism, Arab "otherness," and ambivalence in morally compromising situations. Current Anthropology contributor Brian Keith Axel called Caton's study "insightful and far-reaching," adding that the author's analyses "elaborate a nuanced critique of visual representation, transnationalism, colonialism, Orientalism, racism, and heteronormativity." Keith concluded: "Caton's writing on this issue, reflecting critically on his own fieldwork in Yemen, is as courageous as it is insightful." In a review of the book for Biography magazine, Ellis Hanson observed: "Caton's largely political defense of the film is complemented with aesthetic and formal considerations of the sort that are all too rare in cultural studies of film.… Whatever his political qualms—and he is nothing if not a sensitive and conscientious soul—Caton is offering us an extended love letter to a film whose every frame has captivated him, perhaps even in spite of himself."



Biography, summer, 2000, Ellis Hanson, review of Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology, p. 560.

Current Anthropology, February, 2002, Brian Keith Axel, review of Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology, p. 197.

Film Quarterly, winter, 2000, Michael Bliss, review of Lawrence of Arabia: A Film's Anthropology, p. 58.

Journal of American Folklore, fall, 1992, Moira Killoran and Melissa Cefkin, review of "Peaks of Yemen I Summon": Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe, pp. 510-511.

Times Literary Supplement, December 27, 1991, Pierre Cachia, review of "Peaks of Yemen I Summon," p. 23.


Harvard University Anthropology Department Web site, (October 31, 2003)"Steve Caton."

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