Fratkin, Elliot 1948–

views updated

Fratkin, Elliot 1948–

PERSONAL: Born June 22, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Ralph M. (an accountant) and Mildred L. (a homemaker) Fratkin; married Martha A. Nathan (a family physician), July 17, 1985; children: Leah Nathan. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1970; London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England, M.Phil., 1972; Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, Ph.D., 1987. Politics: "Born Democrat, lived as a Socialist, will die a Democrat." Religion: "Jewish atheist." Hobbies and other interests: "Working on old tractors and jeeps, playing bluegrass and old-time music (mandolin, guitar, banjo), watching my daughter jump horses."

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, Smith College, Wright Hall 107, Northampton, MA 01063. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Anthropologist, educator, and writer. University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Catonsville, instructor, 1979–85; University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya, research associate, 1985–86; Duke University, Durham, NC, visiting assistant professor, 1987–89; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, assistant professor, 1989–94; Smith College, Northampton, MA, assistant professor of anthropology, beginning 1994, then professor of anthropology. Also served as consultant to the World Bank Inspection Panel on the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline Project.

MEMBER: American Anthropological Association, Association for Africanist Anthropology, African Studies Association, National Organization for Women, Society for Economic Anthropology, Greenpeace, Greensboro Justice Fund.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow, University of Asmara, 2003; research grants from National Geographic Society, Social Science Research Council, and National Science Foundation.


Why Elephant Is an Old Woman: Animal Symbolism in Samburu, Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi (Nairobi, Kenya), 1974.

Herbal Medicine and Concepts of Disease in Samburu, Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi (Nairobi, Kenya), 1975.

Surviving Drought and Development, Westview (Boulder, CO), 1991.

(Editor, with Kathleen Galvin and Eric Abella Roth) African Pastoralist Systems: An Integrated Approach, Lynne Reinner Press (Boulder, CO), 1994.

Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya: Surviving Drought and Development in Africa's Arid Lands, Allyn and Bacon (Boston, MA), 1998, 2nd edition published as Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya: Studying Pastoralism, Drought and Development in Africa's Arid Lands, 2004.

(With Daniel G. Bates) Cultural Anthropology, Allyn and Bacon (Boston, MA), 1999.

(Editor, with Eric Abella Roth) As Pastoralists Settle: Social, Health, and Economic Consequences of the Pastoral Sedentarization in Marsabit District, Kenya, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers (New York, NY), 2004.

Served as associate editor of Human Ecology. Contributor to professional journals and periodicals, including American Anthropologist, Human Ecology, Natural History, and African Studies Review. Contributor to books, including Being Massai, edited by Thomas Spear and Richard Waller, James Curry Publishers, 1993.

SIDELIGHTS: Cultural anthropologist Elliot Fratkin has written extensively about his research interests, including the book Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya: Surviving Drought and Development in Africa's Arid Lands. According to Aneesa Kassam, writing in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, the author "examines the problems of social change and development among the Ariaal pastoralist." Noting that the book was written "for a … general readership," Kassam added that "the study raises some important questions for the future of pastoralism." Africa contributor Mario I. Aguilar commented: "This short book constitutes a first-class introduction to the world of pastoralism, in a cultural and wider perspective." Aguilar also recommended the book to "students interested not only in pastoralism but in wider issues of ecological and indeed developmental survival." Fratkin also served as a coeditor of and contributor to African Pastoralist Systems: An Integrated Approach, a collection of presentations from a 1991 American Anthropological Association meeting focusing on African pastoralists. Writing once again in Africa, Aguilar wrote that the author's own contribution to the book was among those that "deserve immense credit."

Fratkin told CA: "As a cultural anthropologist, I have been involved in a long-term study and friendship with Ariaal Rendille Camel pastoralists of Northern Kenya since 1974. I was adopted into a family of Maasaispeaking medicine-men (Loibonok) whom I continue to visit regularly. I have written a monograph on the Ariaal, which looks at their ecological adaptation to arid lands and their dealings with Christian missionaries and international development agencies, not all of which have been smooth.

"I am engaged in a long-term medical study of Ariaal and their changing lifestyle as they settle near growing towns of Kenya's north, a project with wife/collaborator/doctor Marty Nathan and demographer Eric Abella Roth."



Africa, fall, 1996, Mario I. Aguilar, review of African Pastoralist Systems: An Integrated Approach, p. 612; summer, 1998, Mario I. Aguilar, review of Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya: Surviving Drought and Development in Africa's Arid Lands, p. 440.

African Studies Review, April, 1999, review of Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya, p. 135.

American Ethnologist, August, 1997, Philip Cal Salzman, review of African Pastoralist Systems, p. 692.

Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 2000, Aneesa Kassam, review of Ariaal Pastoralists of Kenya, p. 568.


Eldis, (October 6, 2005), "Elliot Fratkin," profile of author's career.

Smith College Department of Anthropology Web site, (October 6, 2005), faculty profile of author.