Dr. William S. Abruzzi

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Muhlenberg College






I have been teaching at the college or university level for over 30 years, and I am still excited to enter the classroom and participate in a dialogue with my students. I delight in the discovery process, and I enjoy being a part of that process for others.  I take great pleasure in exposing students to new ideas and new ways of thinking about subjects, and I welcome the opportunity to prod and challenge students to think more rigorously and more critically about social issues.  I enjoy teaching anthropology because anthropology encompasses so many aspects of our species' existence, including our relation to other primates, our evolution from primate ancestors, the origin of agriculture, the evolution of ancient civilizations and the incredible diversity of peoples and societies which exist throughout the world today. The diverse subject matter of anthropology provides a unique opportunity to expand my students' horizons, to challenge parochial and ethnocentric theories about human behavior, and to induce students to think critically about a whole variety of social issues.  I take an unabashed scientific approach, showing students that even the most exotic human behaviors can be better understood when examined rationally and with a concern for accurate data collection.




Previous Teaching Positions:


Fort Hays Kansas State College, Hays, Kansas

State University of New York at Binghamton

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, WV

Penn State University, Abington Campus, Abington, PA

New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM



Research Interests:


My research interests are in human ecology, arid lands studies, ethnic relations, social science theory and methodology, and the anthropology of religion.  Most of my research has been in the American Southwest, but I have also conducted research in Africa and Sardinia.  My research focuses largely on the application of ecological and evolutionary theory to explain human social behavior and the evolution of human societies.

I have examined the effect of population pressure on the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Forest in the Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).  I have also published several articles and a book in which I apply ecological theory to explain historical developments associated with Mormon colonization of the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona.  In addition, I have examined the social and ecological consequences of overgrazing and the overexploitation of groundwater resources in the Little Colorado River Basin during the past 100 years. My most recent research focuses on issues related to population growth, on historical ethnic relations in New Mexico and on Native American ecology.  I am currently working on a book titled Competition and Exclusion that applies general ecological theory to explain historical ethnic relations in New Mexico.






1.  DAM THAT RIVER! Ecology and Mormon Settlement in the Little Colorado River Basin. University Press of  America. Lanham, MD. 1993.



Journal Editor


1.  FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies, Volume. 20. (2004)



Articles in Refereed Journals


1.  Population Pressure and Subsistence Strategies among the Mbuti Pygmies. Human Ecology 7:183-189. (1979)


2.  Ecological Theory and Ethnic Differentiation among Human Populations. Current Anthropology 23:13-31. (1982)






Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River

3.  Reply to F. Morin and H. Nevadomsky, 'On Ecological Theory and Ethnic Differentiation.' Current Anthropology 23:347. (1982)


4.  Water and Community Development in the Little Colorado River Basin, Human Ecology 12(2):241-269. (1985)

5.  Ecological Stability and Community Diversity during Mormon Colonization of the Little Colorado River Basin. Human Ecology 15:317-338. (1987)

6.  Ecology, Resource Redistribution and Mormon Settlement in Northeastern Arizona. American Anthropologist 91:642-655. (1989)

7.  The Social and Ecological Consequences of Early Cattle Ranching in Northeastern Arizona. Human Ecology 23:75-98 (1995)

8.  Ecological Theory and the Evolution of Complex Human Communities.  Advances in Human Ecology 5:111-156. (1996)


9.  Chief Seattle's Speech: A Critical Consideration. FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies 13: 52-60. (1997).


10.  The Myth of Chief Seattle. Human Ecology Review 7:72-75. (2000)


11.  Sociopolitical Implications of the Persistent Western Concern with Global Population Growth. FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies. (2002)


12.  Competitive Exclusion and Protohistoric Population Interactions in New Mexico. FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies 19. (2003)


13.  The Intersection of Genealogy, Politics and History in Genesis. FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies 20:83-95.  (2004)


14.  Ecology and Ethnic Interactions in New Mexico, 1700 - 1850. FORUM: of the Association for Arid Lands Studies 22:1-14. (2006)



Chapters in Books

1.  Flux Among the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Forest: An Ecological Interpretation. In Eric B. Ross, ed., Beyond the Myths of Culture: Explorations in Cultural Materialism. New York: Academic Press, pp. 331. (1980)

2.  The Impact of Environmental Productivity and Stability on Community Diversity during Mormon Colonization of the Little Colorado River Basin. In R. Borden, J. Jacobs, G. Young and J. Weisbaden, eds., Human Ecology: Research and Applications. College Park: Society for Human Ecology, pp. 105114. (1987)

3.  The Effect of Local Environmental Variation on the Development of Early Mormon Settlements in Northeastern Arizona. in E. Schultz, ed. Forum, vol. 8. Lubbock, TX: International Center for Arid and Semiarid Land Studies, pp. 65-75. (1992)





Hausa girls selling food in Zaria, Nigeria


4.  Ecological Concepts in Anthropological Human Ecology: Illustrations from Mormon  Settlement in Northeastern Arizona. in Scott Wright, Thomas Deitz, Richard Borden, Gerald Young and Gregory Guagnano, eds., Human Ecology: Crossing Boundaries. Society for Human Ecology: College Park, MD, pp. 255-271. (1993)


5.  Ecology and Mormon Settlement in Northeastern Arizona. In  D. Bates and S. Lees (eds.),  Case Studies in Human Ecology, pp. 365-391. New York: Plenum Press. (1996)


6.  Materialist versus Non-Materialist Explanations of Mbuti Pygmy Subsistence Behavior. In Serge Bahuchet, Daniel Bley, Bernard Brun, Nicole Licht & Helene Pagezy (eds.), L'Homme et la Foret Tropicale. Marseilles: University of Provence Press, pp. 301-309. (1999)



 Articles in Non-Refereed Journals


1.  Introducing Research Reports into Introduction to Physical Anthropology Courses. SACC Notes: Teaching Anthropology. Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges. Fall 1990: 4-8.


2.  The Real Chief Seattle was Not a Spiritual Ecologist. The Skeptical Inquirer (March/April) 1999: 44-48.



Book Reviews in Refereed Journals



Hausa Farmers, northern Nigeria

1.  Review of Konrad Kottak, the Past in the Present: History, Ecology and Cultural Variation in Highland Madagascar. Human Ecology 12:330-336. (1984)


2.  Review of  Hal Rothman, Devil's Bargain: Tourism and the American WestHuman Ecology Review 7:77-78. (2001)



Internet Publications


1.  The Social and Ecological Consequences of Cattle Ranching in the Little Colorado River Basin, Arizona. Land Use History of North America, Colorado Plateau. (1999)

2.  Ecology and Mormon Colonization in the Little Colorado River Basin, Arizona. Land Use History of North America, Colorado Plateau. (2000)


Manuscripts in Progress

1.  COMPETITION AND EXCLUSION: Ecology and Historical Ethnic Interactions in New Mexico.


New Mexico is well known for its unique cultural diversity, containing as it does a distinct variety of Anglo, Hispanic and Native American communities. This diversity, however, has been inextricably associated with a long and enduring history of interethnic competition, conflict and violence. At the same time, the region has produced two extensive systems of ethnic interdependence and cooperation: the Pueblo-Apache trading system of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Spanish-Comanche alliance of the 18th and 19th centuries, which themselves appear to have been preceded by a developing Pueblo-Plains interdependence throughout the Protohistoric Period. This book-length manuscript applies general ecological theory to explain these diverse historical ethnic interactions in New Mexico.


2.   CONQUEST AND COLONIZATION: The Political Ecology of Colonial Expansion


This manuscript compares the history of four countries whose development involved the colonization by one ethnic population of a territory already occupied by another population through a process that resulted in: (1) the loss by the indigenous population of its land and other critical resources; and (2) the transformation of that population into a disenfranchised and impoverished minority in a country dominated and controlled by the immigrant population.  Following an overview of colonialism, most notably European colonialism during the past several centuries, the manuscript focuses on four case studies in which populations of European origin increasingly colonized territories outside of Europe and in the process displaced and disenfranchised the indigenous populations that had lived in those areas for centuries. The four countries include the United States, Australia, South Africa and Israel.


3.  FROM PALESTINE TO PROVENCE: The Cult of Mary Magdalene and the Bethany Saints in Southern France.


Several popular books have recently proposed the existence of a divine French lineage descending from the offspring of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. These books have based their claims, in part, on legends that have existed for several centuries, which claim that Mary Magdalene (plus Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, and others close to Jesus) migrated to the arid regions of southern France following the crucifixion of Jesus. While these stories are considered legends today, they were previously accepted as true. In fact, several churches and basilicas were constructed throughout Provence and consecrated by the Church to memorialize the life and work of these early Christian saints in this region, as well as to entomb their mortal remains. This paper examines the development of these legends and the construction of the various churches and basilicas in relation to the political economy of medieval France and the Church.




This manuscript examines the evolution of Plains Indian warfare as a consequence of the increasing competition that resulted from the overexploitation of a variable and dwindling resource (bison).



Other Interests:


I like to hike and backpack.  I particularly enjoy the sense of isolation I get when I am as far away from the congestion of daily life as I can be.  For this reason, I particularly enjoy hiking and backpacking out West, where it is possible to be completely isolated for several days at a time.  I have done numerous overnight backpacking trips into the Grand Canyon and other wilderness areas in the Southwest and throughout the Mountain West generally. 




In the bottom of the Grand Canyon

with my sons, Matt and Geof



Toroweap Point: a spectacular

view at the edge of the

Grand Canyon





My wife, Amy, and I also enjoy taking road trips into the remote regions of the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest Desert.  When we are out West, we love to travel as much as possible on dirt roads.






On the Road to Toroweap - 70 wonderful miles!






On the Road in Arizona




Driving in Utah's Canyonlands






Spectacular scenery along the way




Driving into the Canyons






It's the Journey, not the Destination





Crossing Wyoming






"Two drifters, off to see the world . . ."






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I am also a "biker". . .






It feels great to be on the open road "uncaged"

feeling the outdoors all around you!







Riding a bike is like riding a horse   .  .  .   only faster.







A Lot Faster ! ! !










Especially when I ride my newest bike ! !








Bikes I have owned






Taking a break from my research in New Mexico







These pictures were all taken about 30 miles from the house my wife and I own in southern New Mexico.  The mountains in the background of the upper-left picture are called the Organ Mountains.  They are about 9,000' elevation and are located about 10 miles from our home (about 40 miles from where the picture was taken).  One of the attractions of the Southwest is the incredible distances one can see and the sense of freedom and openness one feels just being there.










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When my time comes . . .




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Don't you hate people?


I don't hate people; I just feel better when they're not around.








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