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Chico State

Anthropology Professor Selected for Prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award

Jesse Dizard stands on an open ridge in the foothills in front of a wooden pole with clothes and hats hanging from it.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Dizard

Jesse Dizard in the field

Jesse Dizard Will Teach Cultural Anthropology as a Visiting Professor at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan

California State University, Chico is pleased to announce that Jesse Dizard, professor of anthropology, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award for the 2021–22 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. One of the most widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world, the Fulbright will allow Dizard to travel to Irbid, Jordan, in fall 2021 to join Yarmouk University’s anthropology department as visiting professor.

“Yarmouk is one of the preeminent universities in the region, and I’ve always wanted travel to Jordan to study its geopolitical environment firsthand,” said Dizard. “The country has been suffering from a very serious water scarcity crisis, which is a subject I have studied extensively here in Northern California.”

Jordan has one of the most severe clean-water crises in the world. Already in an arid desert, the shortage has been exacerbated by drought, population growth, refugee influx, climate change, and inconsistent resource management efforts.

A professor at CSU, Chico since 2007, Dizard is interested in how natural resource management—or lack thereof—impacts individuals, subcultures and bureaucracies. Through Chico State’s Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA), he directed a trilogy of documentaries  (“Stolen Paradise,”“Treading Water,” and “Muerte Silenciosa”) about California’s water supply. Each of the three films has been nominated for a Northern California Emmy award. In total, Dizard has directed seven ethnographic documentary films and received four Emmy nominations, and has conducted fieldwork on five continents.

“I enjoy dropping into an unfamiliar culture and relearning how to function. I look forward to doing that in Jordan,” said Dizard. “Recent events have reminded us there is a serious disconnection between the mostly Christian western world and the predominantly Muslim Middle East. Anything I can do to build bridges between the orientations, I’m eager to do. Misunderstandings and unfamiliarity continue to do a great deal of harm.”

In addition to Jordan’s water crisis, its situation has become more dire overall due to several waves of refugees resulting from conflicts in the region—the latest from Syria. Many of the country’s refugee camps have operated for generations, which creates a unique subculture of stateless populations who lack professional and educational opportunities. They also are often last in line for access to clean water, which puts them at increased risk for malnutrition and disease, and exposes entire communities to significant public health risks.

“Effective cultural anthropology means making a sincere effort to see the world from the perspective of the people you are with. Once I’m on the ground in the region and get a feel for the political and cultural circumstances, I may consider producing an ALVA film,” said Dizard.

Dizard joins fellow Chico State anthropology professor Brian Brazeal in receiving a Fulbright Award for the upcoming year—a rare feat for a single department at any institution. They are two of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research abroad for the 2021–22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Fulbrighters engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. Upon returning to their home countries, institutions, labs, and classrooms, they share their stories and often become active supporters of international exchange, inviting international scholars to campus and encouraging colleagues and students to go abroad.

“To have two faculty members from the anthropology department at Chico State receive Fulbright scholarships in the same academic year is truly amazing. We are extremely proud of both Jesse and Brian,” said Georgia Fox, anthropology department chair at CSU, Chico. “Our students are extremally fortunate—they’ll benefit from the real-world experience both will bring back to Chico State.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings, and help people and nations work together toward common goals. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns.