SMU Anthropologist Caroline Brettell elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Noted SMU anthropologist Caroline Brettell joins actress Carol Burnett, musician John Legend, playwright Lynn Nottage, immunologist James Allison and other renowned leaders in various fields as a newly elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

By Kathleen Tibbetts
SMU News

Caroline Brettell
Prof. Caroline Brettell 

DALLAS (SMU) — Noted SMU anthropologist Caroline Brettell joins actress Carol Burnett, musician John Legend, playwright Lynn Nottage, immunologist James Allison and other renowned leaders in various fields as a newly elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The class of 2017 will be inducted at a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Brettell joins 228 new fellows and foreign honorary members — representing the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector — as a member of one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies.

“Caroline Brettell is an internationally recognized leader in the field of migration, and one of Dedman College’s most productive scholars,” said Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “I couldn’t be happier to see her win this well-deserved accolade.”

“I am surprised and deeply honored to receive such a recognition,” said Brettell, Ruth Collins Altshuler Professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the Interdisciplinary Institute in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “It is overwhelming to be in the company of Winston Churchill, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jonas Salk and the ‘mother’ of my own discipline, Margaret Mead. And I am thrilled to have my favorite pianist, André Watts, as a member of my class. I am truly grateful to join such a distinguished and remarkable group of members, past and present.”

Brettell’s research centers on ethnicity, migration and the immigrant experience. Much of her work has focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a new immigration gateway city, especially on how immigrants practice citizenship and civic engagement as they meld into existing economic, social and political structures. She has special expertise in cross-cultural perspectives on gender, the challenges specific to women immigrants, how the technology boom affects immigration, and how the U.S.-born children of immigrants construct their identities and a sense of belonging. An immigrant herself, Brettell was born in Canada and became a U.S. citizen in 1993.

She is the author or editor of nearly 20 books, most recently Gender and Migration (2016, Polity Press UK) and Identity and the Second Generation: How Children of Immigrants Find Their Space, co-edited with Faith G. Nibbs, Ph.D. ’11 (2016, Vanderbilt University Press). Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wenner Gren Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, among many others.

An SMU faculty member since 1988, Brettell has held the Dedman Family Distinguished Professorship and served as chair in the Department of Anthropology and as director of Women’s Studies in Dedman College. She served as president of the Faculty Senate and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees in 2001-02, and was dean ad interim of Dedman College from 2006-08. Brettell is a member of the American Anthropological Association, the American Ethnological Society, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, and the Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology, among others. She joins David Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in Dedman College (class of 2013), Scurlock University Professor of Human Values Charles Curran (class of 2010), and the late David J. Weber, founding director of the University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies (class of 2007) as the fourth SMU faculty member to be elected to the Academy.

“It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation.”

“In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honor of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton. “Through our projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides members with opportunities to make common cause and produce the useful knowledge for which the Academy’s 1780 charter calls.” 

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership of about 4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. The Academy’s work is advanced by these elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world. 

Members of the Academy’s 2017 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur Fellows; Fields Medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners.

Scientific leaders in the new class include:

  • Fields Medalist Maryam Mirzakhani, who has done path-breaking work on the geometry of Teichmüller spaces and hyperbolic Riemann surfaces
  • astrophysicist Gabriela Gonzalez, an expert in the field of gravitation wave physics
  • engineer Ann Lee, who works on the development of anti-cancer therapeutics
  • computer scientist Daniela Rus, who built some of the first Web crawling agents that were able to search for structured data inside documents
  • mathematician and Fields Medalist Manjul Bhargava, a leader in number theory
  • structural biologist Jaime Cate, who transformed the understanding of protein synthesis
  • ·neurologist Helen Mayberg, who utilizes a multidisciplinary neural systems approach to study depression and recovery
  • immunologist James Allison, whose research is being used to develop new strategies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and for immunotherapy of cancer
  • evolutionary plant biologist Pamela Soltis

Other social scientists in the new class include:

  • psychologist Michael Tomasello, a widely cited scholar of comparative studies of humans and great apes
  • economist Marc Melitz, who developed a new approach to the analysis of international trade
  • political scientist Janet Box-Steffensmeier, a scholar of American politics and methodology
  • attorney William Lee, a leading thinker and lawyer in the field of intellectual property

In the humanities and the arts, new members include:

  • philosopher Jonathan Lear, known for his work on Aristotle’s logical theory
  • historian Naomi Oreskes, who studies scientific debate and climate change
  • award-winning actress Carol Burnett
  • linguist John Rickford, who examines the history and structure of Creole languages
  • Lincoln Center artistic director and producer André Bishop
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, who writes about the lives of women of African descent
  • John Guy, curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Leaders in philanthropy, business, public affairs, public policy, and journalism include:

  • journalist Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning multimedia journalist Mark Trahant
  • David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma
  • Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer-songwriter and philanthropist John Legend
  • private equity and venture capitalist Gerald Chan
  • philanthropist and economist Marie-Josée Kravis
  • Boston Symphony Orchestra Managing Director Mark Volpe
  • Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green

The Academy elected 40 Foreign Honorary Members from 19 countries, including Australia, China, India, Nigeria, Japan and Uganda. They include:

  • scientist Ruth Arnon
  • chemist Clare Grey
  • Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • ·vaccinologist Rino Rappuoli
  • former Health Minister for China Zhu Chen
  • archaeologist and expert on animal mummies Salima Ikram
  • Israeli novelist David Grossman
  • award-winning actor and activist Sir Ian McKellen
  • president of the Foundation for Worldwide Cooperation and former prime minister of Italy Romano Prodi

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