Laura Nader (born 1930)
Is an American anthropologist. She has been a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley since 1960. She was the first woman to receive a tenure-track position in the department.
Early life and education
Nader is a native of Winsted, Connecticut. Her father Nathra owned a restaurant/store in Connecticut, which served as a place for many political discussions. Her mother, Rose, was a schoolteacher who had a strong interest in justice and would express her views in letters to the press. Her older deceased brother, Shafeek; her older sister, Claire and her younger brother, Ralph have all served in public interest careers. Gamal Nkrumah (2005) profiled Dr. Nader in the weekly online news out of Egypt and commented on her loyalties to her father who emigrated from Lebanon for political reasons, “Nader is very much her father's daughter. And it was her elder brother who first suggested she read anthropology at university."
She received a BA in Latin American Studies from Wells College in Aurora, NY in 1952. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Radcliffe College/Harvard in 1961 under the mentorship of Clyde Kluckhohn. Her education included fieldwork in a Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico, and later in South Lebanon.
Nader’s areas of interest include comparative ethnography of law and dispute resolution, conflict, comparative family organization, the anthropology of professional mindsets and ethnology of the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America and the contemporary United States. She was involved in conferences, determining the direction the study of law in society as a part of society and not insulated and isolated from other human institutions, should take as it developed. Nader edited and published essays from these conferences as well as authoring 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 taught a joint course at Boalt School of Law.
Some of her work focuses on conflict resolution in the Zapotec village she studied. Nader notes that people confront each other face to face on a personal scale. Judges strive to find solutions that are balanced rather than placing one hundred percent of the blame on one party. Nader believes this reflects the society, their economic system, hierarchal structure and any other institution or variable. In contrast, she finds that in the United States, conflict often escalates to polarized blame and violence. The group of people a person may need to confront may be large and impersonal and much more powerful than themselves. She concludes that the kinds of cases people bring to court, reflect areas of stress in the social structure of a community.