University of Rochester

Anthropologist Robert Foster Appointed Distinguished Professor

July 22, 2005

Robert J. Foster, professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester, has been named the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor. The professorship recognizes excellence in teaching and encourages development of cross-disciplinary instructional programs.

A member of the faculty since 1990, Foster focuses his research and writing on issues of nationalism, globalization, mass media, and mass consumption. His interests spring from his years of ethnographic and historical research in Papua New Guinea. He is the author of Materializing the Nation: Commodities, Consumption, and Media in Papua New Guinea (2002) and Social Reproduction and History in Melanesia: Mortuary Ritual, Gift Exchange, and Custom in the Tanga Islands (1995).

He also is the editor of Nation Making: Emergent Identities in Postcolonial Melanesia (1995) and the editor of an interdisciplinary series, Tracking Globalization, of monographs and edited volumes published by Indiana University Press. Support for his research has come from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Australian-American Educational Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Fosterís work in and about Papua New Guinea and his broader study of Melanesian societies and cultures began as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago where he earned his bachelorís degree in anthropology. He received his masterís degree in anthropology from Columbia University, a Diploma in Social Anthropology from Oxford University, and his doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Rochester, he taught in The College of the University of Chicago as a William Rainey Harper Postdoctoral Instructor.

He was a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University in 1991-92 and in 1995. In spring 2003, he was Professeur Invitť at the …coles des Hautes …tudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

At Rochester, Foster has been a finalist for the Student Associationís Professor of the Year Award in 1993 and was nominated several other times. Since 1996, he has been a member of the steering committee of the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. From 2001 to 2005, he was chair of the Department of Anthropology.

The Mercer Brugler professorship was established in 1979 to honor Mercer Brugler í25, chairman emeritus of the University Board of Trustees. Fosterís appointment as Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor continues for three years.