Participants

The tenured research director in anthropology at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Institut Jean Nicod - École Normale Supérieure in Paris, Scott Atran investigates and writes about the character of revolutionary violence, including transnational terrorism, in the making of human history and in the present geopolitical landscape. Concurrently a research professor at the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy and in the psychology department at the University of Michigan, he is also a senior research fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. Dr. Atran co-founded Oxford’s Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict as well as ARTIS Research and Risk Modeling, where he serves as director of research designed to improve understanding of the cognitive and behavioral factors related to politically-motivated violence. His writing for such major media as The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, and Psychology Today as well as for professional journals is informed by a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary approach to social, psychological, and cultural issues and extensive personal experience as a researcher in both the Arab and Israeli Middle East. In addition to his fieldwork on terrorism, which recently took him to the front-lines in Iraq to interview Kurdish Peshmerga and captured ISIS soldiers, he conducts on-going research related to the cognitive and emotional foundations of religious belief and practice, and he continues to do fieldwork in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States on universal and culturally-specific aspects of biological categorization and environmental reasoning and decision making. Dr. Atran is a graduate of Columbia College and received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 1984. Early in his career, he served as an assistant to the legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead at the American Museum of Natural History and was a visiting scholar at Cambridge University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Birzeit University on the West Bank. He worked for six years as a research scientist in the Laboratoire d’Ethnobiologie-Biogéographie in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. In 1986, he was appointed a CNSR research associate at the Centre de Rechereche en Epistémologie Appliquée at the École Polytechnique, a post he held until being named to his present directorship in 2002. A member of a special commission of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that prepared a report for former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on countering violent extremism, Dr. Atran has often briefed the White House, Congress, the UK Parliament, and other governments on issues related to terrorism operating across national boundaries, and he has been personally engaged in conflict negotiations in the Middle East. He was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General to help prepare ways to implement UN Resolution 220 on Youth, Peace and Security, based in part on his speech to the Security Council in April of 2015, which was the first time an anthropologist had been invited to address the UN’s most powerful body. An elected fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, Dr. Atran serves on the international advisory board of the Journal of Cognition and Culture and the editorial boards of the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Mind and Society, Dynamics of Asymmetric Warfare, Religion, Brain, and Behavior, Frontiers in Cultural Psychology, and Frontiers in Cognitive Psychology. He is the author of some 125 papers in academic journals in addition to his numerous articles for the popular press. His publications, in French and in English, include three edited volumes and nine other books. Among them are: Cognitive Foundations of Natural History (1993), In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2002), (with Douglas Medin) The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature (2008), and Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists, which was published in 2010 by HarperCollins and uses the lens of anthropology to survey cultural violence historically as well as provide a look deep inside contemporary terror groups, showing what terrorists think of themselves and revealing what lies behind the jihad phenomenon. Forthcoming from Princeton University Press is Dr. Atran’s latest book, Will to Fight: Facing the Islamic State Revolution.