Ferguson, R. Brian

R. Brian Ferguson is a Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University-Newark.  His fieldwork and Columbia University PhD dissertation was on social change, the sugar industry, and colonialism in Puerto Rico.  For four decades,  he has studied the factors and forces that lead to war.  A generalist, he develops ideas which are applicable across widely varying situations.  From the first, his work centered on investigation of historical interaction of expanding states and indigenous peoples in war and peace; and theoretical syntheses of causes, conditions, and consequences of war.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he developed three new research areas: global archaeological evidence on the origins of war; challenging neo-Darwinist claims that humans have inborn human propensities to violence; and combining anthropological and international relations theory for a holistic approach to so-called “ethnic war” and large-scale political violence.  All along, he published on issues of broad relevance, such as how anthropologists can promote peace, or an anthropological approach to the war in Iraq, or controversies about anthropological engagement with U.S. security agencies.  His current book project develops a new approach to human nature, war, and peace through examination of wild chimpanzee and bonobo behavior.  The book after that will be about politics and the genesis of gangsters in early 20th century New York City.  Ferguson has won two awards for teaching at Rutgers-Newark, and from 2002 to 2011 served as a Governor of the New York Academy of Sciences.  He is currently the Director of the Rutgers-Newark MA Program in Peace and Conflict Studies

Curriculum Vitae and List of Publications

Academic Conference Participation

  • January 2017 , discussant at the Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences presentation, “Reframing the Impacts of the Cold War CIA Fronts: How the CIA Shaped Social Science”
  • December 2016, presentation to Columbia University Seminar on Culture, Power, Boundaries, “The Origin of Gangsters in New York"
  • November 2016, presentation at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association, “Sugar in Canamelar, From Local Cultural Change to Industry-Centered Political Economy"
  • October 2016, Invited Speaker, William Patterson University, “War and Human Nature"
  • July 2016, inaugural presentation of the Think and Drink series, Robert’s Garden, Bushwick, “Human Nature and War"
  • April 2016, presentation for  the Calandra Italian American Institute conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Mafias: Realities and Representations of Organized Crime, “Searching for the Origins of Organized Crime in New York City"
  • Chapter in edited volume: “The Prehistory of War and Peace in Europe and the Near East,” in War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, ed. Douglas P. Fry (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 191-241.
  • Article: “Neil Lancelot Whitehead (1956–2012).” American Anthropologist Vol. 115 No. 1 (2013): 153-156.
  • Book: Ferguson, Brian, ed. State, Identity, and Violence (London and New York: Routledge, 2012).
Faculty Type: 
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Latin America and beyond
Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D. Anthropology, Columbia University, 1988
(973) 353-5837
Office Location: 
Hill Hall 619
Areas of Specialization: 
anthropology of war, political violence, identity-linked conflict, state-tribe interaction, culture and biology

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