Jan English-Lueck

Jan English-LueckProfessor, Anthropology


What research questions currently preoccupy you?

How has Silicon Valley changed in the last fifteen years? How have new technologies, forms of work, and forms of self-management and presentation altered the experience of living in Silicon Valley? How have new technologies, forms of work, and forms of self-management and presentation shaped identities in Silicon Valley? How does deep diversity, particularly deep medical plurality, shape everyday choices in Silicon Valley, as a local manifestation of global flows?

What personal factors contributed to your research?

I was, along with Chuck Darrah, and James Freeman, co-founder of the Silicon Valley Cultures project in 1992. I have continued to draw on a body of ethnographic work, and contribute to it, especially as an applied anthropologist. As a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future, and long-time science fiction geek, I am eager to see how everyday people shape the future.

What has been most challenging in your research?

The best anthropology is comparative, and cross-cultural site visits to other Silicon places are important sources of information. Time and funding for international work is particularly challenging.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?

As a professor, students, both undergraduate and graduate, make research fun and engaging. Local research allows students to participate and get hands-on experience.

A hidden (research) talent:

Even as a graduate student, one of my professors, John Platt, was part of the Club of Rome, the group of scientists that produced Limits to Growth. While the trend at the time was to mine the knowledge of experts to anticipate the future, more than ever we need to understand how everyday people shape our cultural options through their choices, actions and values.

One book that changed your life (or research) & why:

Although I was first in my family to go to the university, we still loved books. My mother checked out Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture, when I was a teenager. Cultural relativism, and the ability to see patterns in everyday life, were revelations to me.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

Each month I read Archeology from cover to cover. Although I am a cultural anthropologist, I started out with my hands in the dirt, and I try to keep that part of me alive.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

If you don’t ask, people cannot say “yes!”

RSCA Accomplishments

2014 Corporate Care Reimagined: Farms to Firms to Families, with Miriam Lueck Avery. EPIC 2014 (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry) Proceedings. American Anthropological Association, National Association of Practicing Anthropologists.
Presenter and Session Organizer: “Incorporating Care in Silicon Valley.” In Invited Session, “The Work of Care,” Caring at Work American Anthropological Association. Denver, CO. November 19, 2015.