Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Fellow: Awarded 2019
Field of Study: Anthropology and Cultural Studies

Competition: US & Canada

Hugh Gusterson is Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University. Often communicating his findings to a wider public as well as academic colleagues, he has brought anthropological perspectives to bear on the intersection of war, military technology, ethics, and inequality.

Gusterson’s most recent book, Drone (MIT Press, 2016), is an exploration of drone warfare from the perspectives of drone operators, human rights activists, journalists, victims of drone attacks, and international lawyers. It won the 2017 Chicago-Kent College of Law/ Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize. However, the core focus of Gusterson’s work has been the political culture of nuclear weapons scientists and their critics, which he has been studying since the waning years of the cold war. This led to the books Nuclear Rites (University of California Press, 1996), which explored how scientists and engineers come to feel they have a vocation to work on nuclear weapons; and People of the Bomb (University of Minnesota Press, 2004), a wide-ranging collection of essays on the militarization of American culture in the nuclear age. He has also published four co-edited volumes.

With the Guggenheim Gusterson will complete a book tentatively titled Tinkering with Armageddon. Based on years of fieldwork at the two U.S. nuclear weapons labs as well as interviews with decision-makers in Washington DC, the book will analyze the complex process through which the U.S. decided, under President Clinton, to end nuclear testing and the ways in which, deprived of nuclear testing, the community of weapons scientists reinvented itself around simulation technologies that enabled it to advance its knowledge and apprentice a new generation of nuclear weapons scientists whose expertise is untethered from nuclear testing. At a moment when U.S.-Russian relations are at a historic nadir, the book will explore the implications of this shift for international security.

Gusterson, who received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, has also taught at MIT, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and George Mason University. He is a past president of the American Ethnological Society, and has served on the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association and the Council of the Society for the Social Studies of Science. He is a regular contributor to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which has published over sixty of his columns. His articles have also appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oakland Tribune, Science, Nature, Sapiens, and the Guardian. He is winner of George Washington University’s 2019 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for faculty scholarship.

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