The Lebanese-American Who Impacted The Anthropology Of Law

Laura Nader, born 1930, is none other than the sister of both U.S. activist and third-party candidate Ralph Nader and community advocate Shafeek Nader.

A renowned American anthropologist of Lebanese descent, Laura Nader has been a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California since 1960, the first woman to receive a tenure-track position in the department.

A native of Winsted, Connecticut, Dr. Laura Nader was profiled by Gamal Nkrumah (2005) in the weekly online news out of Egypt, commenting on her loyalties to her father who emigrated from Lebanon for political reasons.

“Nader is very much her father’s daughter,” he emphasized, praising her.

It was Laura’s elder brother who first suggested she read anthropology at university, leading her in that path.

She received a BA in Latin American Studies from Wells College in Aurora, NY, in 1952, and earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Radcliffe College at Harvard in 1961 under the mentorship of Clyde Kluckhohn.

Her education included fieldwork in a Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico, and later in the South of Lebanon.

One of Dr. Nader’s best-known contributions was in writing in 1969 the back-then highly controversial “Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from Studying Up.”

It ensued as a radical mind-shifting in the anthropology field.

The publication was dubbed “one of the first calls to anthropologists to think more about the ‘study of the colonizers rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless, the culture of affluence rather than the culture of poverty.”

Dr. Nader’s areas of interest include Law, Conflict, the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America, and the contemporary United States.

She has been involved in international conferences all around the world, determining the direction of the study of law in society.

Dr. Nader edited and published essays as well as authored several books on the anthropology of law, establishing herself as one of the most influential figures in the development of the field.

She has been a Visiting Professor at Yale, Stanford, and Harvard Law Schools. In the 1960s, she even taught a joint course at Boalt School of Law.

Among Dr. Nader’s several awards and accolades for her work are the Distinguished Lecture Award, which she received in 2000 from the American Anthropological Association and the CoGEA Award, which she received from the Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology in 2010.

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