January 30, 2008
08-017

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Renowned Explorer Speaks About Vanishing Cultures

VALDOSTA - National Geographic Society Explorer-In-Residence, Wade Davis, will visit campus Feb. 13 to share universal truths he has gleaned from 25 years of world travels to remote and often forgotten societies. The Presidential Lecture Series presentation, sure to be accompanied by exquisite photographs and equally colorful tales, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building’s Whitehead Auditorium.

The writer, photographer, filmmaker and author of 11 books will speak specifically about his latest book, “Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures.” The book, which was published in 2002, explores the practices and beliefs of indigenous cultures that have remained largely untouched by the forces of modernization. The passionate anthropologist insists that the world can benefit from the knowledge and outlook of such cultures, and that the demise of indigenous peoples will diminish all societies.

"It is my hope that these photographs and stories will provide a moving and visceral sense of the wondrous diversity and character of. . .the sum of all thoughts, beliefs, myths, and intuitions made manifest today by the myriad cultures of the world,” Davis, who received the $125,000 Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2002, wrote in the book.

Dr. Matthew Richard, associate professor of Cultural Anthropology at VSU, said humans are enriched through the sharing of cultural practices and knowledge. A world reduced to a single culture, Richard said, faces a similar danger that species with little genetic variability experience - the inability to adapt. Davis’ lecture will address these dangers and suggest means to embrace diverse cultures.

“Those of us in anthropology fully understand how cultural homogenization is a spiritual catastrophe. As human variation disappears, our understanding of the human condition contracts. In short, we lose perspective on what is possible to do and to be as a human being,” said Richard. “Davis' most recent book, "Light at the Edge of the World" is about this continuing tragedy.”

Described by ABC’s “20/20” as a real life Indiana Jones, Davis’ expeditions have been the subject of about 600 media reports and accounts, including three episodes of the “X-files” television series. Continuing his association with the screen, Davis plans to be a character in an upcoming MacGillivray Freeman IMAX film, “Water Planet: a Grand Canyon Adventure,” which will appear in the spring of 2008.

Davis, who received a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from Harvard University, has spoken to more than 120 universities about his passion to celebrate the wonder and diversity of humanity. "Light at the Edge of the World" is available online at Amazon.com for about $15.

VSU’s Office of the President and College of the Arts & Sciences is sponsoring Davis’s lecture. For more information about the Presidential Lecture Series or Davis’s presentation, please call the College of the Arts & Sciences at (229) 333-5699.