Andrew Matthews, Professor

June 17, 2021

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How did you get involved in anthropology?

I went to the Yale School of Forestry because I was interested in how agriculture and forests were related. I initially intended to be an ecologist, but I ended up liking anthropology, so I graduated with a duel PhD in Forest Ecology and Anthropology.

My interest in ecology and anthropology is tied in my upbringing. I grew up in Italy with old peasant farmers and had an interest in their traditional ecological knowledge. I worked as an agricultural laborer and tree feller, but I wanted to acquire more practical knowledge and work in taking care of trees.

 

Why do you think anthropology is important? 

Anthropology allows you to be curious about everything, from poetry to history to climate change models. It’s a difficult discipline, but we can give answers to problems in a way other disciplines don’t. Anthropology is not focused as narrowly as other disciplines, which means we as anthropologists can bring together a multitude of topics that may not seem to go together but when combined, can create new and unique knowledge. For example, in Italy plant disease is a problem to the peasants but in the eyes of the government, climate change is the big issue of the day. You’d never find out that plant disease was a problem if you never asked the locals.

 

What brought you to UCSC?

If you want to do research, usually you end up as a professor. I like teaching and working with young people, I’ve enjoyed learning how to communicate the field in a way that excites people.