Author and anthropologist Richard L. Currier writes about contemporary society, human sexuality, paleoanthropology, primate social behavior, ancient civilization, and the society and culture of the Greek Islands. He received his BA and PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley, and he conducted ethnographic field research for his doctorate on the Greek island of Ios, where he lived for fifteen months studying social interaction in traditional Greek island society. As Instructor in Anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, Assistant Professor and Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, and Visiting Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Dr. Currier taught courses in introductory physical and cultural anthropology; Mediterranean, Mesoamerican, and contemporary Latin American cultures; religion and culture; sexuality and culture; peasant societies; human evolution; primate social behavior; and world ethnography. A pioneer in the design and development of interactive learning technologies, Currier has won numerous awards for his work. He has published feature articles, columns, and book reviews in national publications and is the co-author of a ten-volume archeology series for young adults. He is the author of UNBOUND: How Eight Technologies Made Us Human, Transformed Society, and Brought Our World to the Brink and is currently working on his next book, THE DISHARMONIOUS SOCIETY: Human Nature in a Technological World.
In my own words:
I was born and raised in New York City and lived until age 17 in Washington Heights, at that time a predominantly Irish-Catholic but ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood in upper Manhattan.
Education in School and Life:
I graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1957. Although I had been accepted at NYU, Cornell, and City College of New York, I decided to postpone my formal education and instead to embark on an exploration of the "real world" that beckoned beyond the confines of academia.
In June of 1957 I hitchhiked from New York State across the Midwest, picking up Route 66 in St. Louis and travelling its length to Southern California. That fall, I picked fruit in Washington State until Thanksgiving, then drove a jalopy to Guadalajara, Mexico. In January of 1958 I took a job as a hired hand on a dairy farm in Vermont, and the following June drove to Oaxaca, Mexico; in the fall of 1958 I went to City College of New York until Christmas, then dropped out in January of 1959 to work on Wall Street in the import-export business. In the fall of 1959, I moved to Berkeley, California and after a semester at Diablo Valley Community College was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley in September of 1960.
At U.C. Berkeley, I began by studying oriental languages but eventually declared a major in anthropology, earning my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology in 1963. That summer, as an incoming graduate student, I participated in a summer field work program under the direction of Dr. George M. Foster—a pioneer in both applied anthropology and medical anthropology—and lived in the small village of Erongarícuaro, Michoacán, on the shores of Lake Pátzcuaro in Central Mexico. I returned to Erongarícuaro the following summer, to continue the study I had begun into the traditional folk medical beliefs and practices of the region. The results of this research were eventually published as "The Hot-Cold Syndrome and Symbolic Balance in Mexican and Spanish-American Folk Medicine," in Ethnology 5(3)251-263, 1966.
In graduate school at Berkeley I settled on World Ethnography as my primary area of emphasis, with mechanisms of culture change and patterns of human interaction as secondary interests. While Mediterranean cultures—and the Greek Islands in particular—became my main area of geographical interest, I remained active in the study of Mexican and other Spanish-American cultures. In graduate school I continued to pursue my interest in languages by earning four PhD qualifying languages: Spanish, French, Russian, and Modern Greek. In the fall of 1966, I settled with my wife and infant son on the small and relatively undeveloped Greek Island of Ios in the Southern Cyclades, where I undertook my PhD field research—a traditional ethnographic study of the island's society and culture—until the spring of 1968. My dissertation, entitled “Themes of Interaction in an Aegean Island Village,” was completed in 1973, and I received my doctorate in Social and Cultural Anthropology in 1974.
During the academic year 1968-1969, I was appointed Acting Instructor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, where I taught upper-division undergraduate courses in Contemporary Latin American Cultures, Mediterranean Cultures, Peasant Societies, and Introduction to Anthropology. In the fall of 1969, I was appointed Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where I taught Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Physical Anthropology, World Ethnography, Religion and Culture, Sexuality and Culture, and Mesoamerican Cultures. At Minnesota, I served as Curator of the Human Relations Area Files: Outline of World Cultures, supervised a Master's Degree program in Primate Behavior, organized a conference on anthropological writing and publishing for the American Anthropological Association, and in 1975-76 conceived, funded, organized, and co-chaired a major conference on the future of anthropology, "The Spring Hill Conference on American Cultural & Social Anthropology, Past and Future – A Conversation Between the Generations." From 1971 to 1977 I served as Research Associate and Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota while devoting most of my time to writing and research. In the fall of 1977, I was appointed Visiting Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, where I taught Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Physical Anthropology, World Ethnography, Religion and Culture, Sexuality and Culture, Human Evolution, Primate Social Behavior, and and experimental course entitled "The Disharmonious Society: Human Nature in a Technological World."
Professional Writing and Editing:
My interest in writing began at the Bronx High School of Science, where I contributed to the school's literary magazine and in my senior year won First Prize in the New York University Prose Writer's Contest—a full scholarship to N.Y.U.—for a short story, "Miracle at the Falls." At Berkeley, I co-founded and wrote extensively for the alternative publication SPIDER Magazine, excerpts from which were published in Esquire in September of 1966. During my years as a professor at the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York, I co-authored ten books for young readers on the archeology of the Holy Land, published as The Lerner Archeology Series, Lerner Publications, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1973-1975) and wrote feature articles, columns, and book reviews for Horizon, The Chronicle of Higher Education, High Technology, and Human Behavior, including a cover story entitled “Sociobiology: The New Heresy.” In 1983, I became interested in the emerging technology of interactive multimedia, and in the fall of that year I published a feature article for High Techhnology Magazine entitled "Interactive Videodisc Learning Systems" which launched me into a new career designing and developing interactive learning technologies for adult learners and medical doctors. Finally, in January of 2012, I decided to terminate my consulting practice in interactive learning technologies and to write the numerous books on anthropological subjects which had been percolating in my mind since leaving academia. The first of these books,
Interactive Multimedia Learning Technology:
In the years following graduate school, I grew increasingly frustrated as anthropology turned its attention away from the great panorama of world ethnography and focused on increasingly narrow specialties. Along with most other social scientists of the day, anthropologists shied away from the controversial subject of "human nature" and regarded the study of biological factors in human behavior as dangerous and politically incorrect. Finally, after 16 years of teaching and research in anthropology, I felt that academic anthropology had become an intellectual dead end for me, and in 1979 I set out to find a new career that offered greater intellectual freedom. Eventually, I stumbled across the emerging technology of interactive new media, and in 1983 I wrote a feature article for High Technology entitled “Interactive Videodisc Learning Systems,” which opened the door to a long and rewarding career as a designer and developer of interactive multimedia learning programs. Starting as a Project Manager at Courseware, Inc., I soon became Department Head in Instructional Software at the California State University Consortium. From there I transitioned to the private sector, serving as Manager of Software Development for Baxter-Travenol, Inc., Vice President of Production for Intelligent Images, Inc., Founder and President of Vortex Interactive, Inc., Director of Instructional Systems Design at GE Capital I-Sim, Director of Instructional Systems Development at Medsn, Inc., and lastly, an independent consultant (see my LinkedIn profile for details).
Anthropological Writing and Research:
Now, in the last phase of professional life, I have returned to my roots to pursue my original goals as a writer and anthropologist. For the past 30 years, I have been planning numerousbooks and articles—many of them stemming from my original views as an anthropologist and others derived from my subsequent experiences in the "real world"—that explore subjects of scientific significance that have been neglected or avoided by anthropology as a whole. In particular, my original education and abiding interest in world ethnography has given me a perspective shared by few other anthropologists. Combining the study of primate social behavior with the entire spectrum of known human societies and cultures reveals a picture of human nature that has unique power in analyzing human behavior. It is from this point of view that I have embarked upon my next great adventure as an anthropologist and author.