Professor Emeritus, Anthropology
Professor Melvyn Hammarberg is a cultural anthropologist who conducts research on American civilization with a particular focus on issues of individual identity and group cohesion. He is a student of American politics and has written The Indiana Voter: Historical Dynamics of Party Allegiance during the 1870s. This book makes clear that psychological identification with political parties as objects in voters’ perceptual environments is one of the most important features of the American political system, with roots that reach deep into the nation’s past.
Understanding this behavioral phenomena has drawn professor Hammarberg into a focused interest in psychological anthropology, and led to his work on psychological trauma and the human response to situations of extreme stress such as war and natural disasters. He has taught courses on the American war in Vietnam and developed the Penn Inventory for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a widely used instrument for measuring the strength of symptoms of PTSD. These symptomatic responses have a strong biological basis, implicating cognitive and physiological psychology.
Professor Hammarberg has also addressed issues of personal and social identity, which likewise include embodiment, linguistic expression, social action, and elements of material culture. These several different aspects of individual and group life—cultural, social, biological, psychological, linguistic and material—come together in professor Hammarberg’s teaching of twentieth century American civilization, the culture and conquest of the American West, native Indian peoples of North America, cultural values in modern America, and his courses on coping with threatened identity and identity and purpose.
His current research involves a theoretically-grounded psycho-ethnography of the Latter-day Saints, an American religious group now very active on the world stage. And as a consulting curator, his teaching about Native American Indian peoples has regularly involved use of the Museum collections, among the finest in the world.