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About Kathleen Z. Young

Mission: Teaching - Education is the greatest gift; a life spent with students is a lucky life. I have been teaching at Western Washington University since the 1980s, classes of over four hundred students to small seminars where I help graduate students in archaeology, linguistics, applied, biological, and cultural anthropology build the theoretical scaffolding of a master’s thesis.
I consider the University classroom a special place, unlike any other. Undergraduate students in my various classes can expect to discuss sex and gender, death and dying, religion, violent trauma, war, human rights, and the development of philosophy and theory in a safe, respectful environment, with the expectation of privacy and decorum.
I sometimes use examples from my “little life” to show the relationship between theory and practice, “different ways of knowing,” and the practical applications of cultural anthropology. There is a saying from the 17th century that makes a worthy pedagogical mission statement for anthropologists, “to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”

Mission: Research - I have always pursed an interest in “what it means to be human,” particularly research essential to an understanding of violence and trauma in culture.
One of my first publications (1989), “The Imperishable Virginity of Saint Maria Goretti,” is about the rape of a young religious virgin girl, part of my own lived experience, and her fast track to sainthood because, in the words of my parish priest, “she chose death over rape.” My education at the University provided the skills to objectively analyze and articulate in writing what I could not speak about directly because of fear and shame.
I was writing a dissertation about immigration from islands off the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, when the tanks rolled into Croatia in 1991. My scholarship changed direction as I studied the war in Croatia and Bosnia, the mass rapes, war crimes, and the genocide in Bosnia. I attended trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and participated in conferences on war crimes and genocide. I was able to bring students with me to the ICTY and genocide conferences in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and to see them pursue their own careers in social justice and international criminal law.
Research informs my teaching and humble scholarship concerning what Ludwig Wittgenstein described as subjects more easily “passed over in silence.” My experience suggests the research itself provides the available light to continue with the mission.


Present Professor, Western Washington University Department of Anthropology

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  • Anthropology 301 Anthropological Theory
  • Anthropology 353 Sex and Gender Roles in Culture
  • Anthropology 456 War and Human Rights
  • Anthropology 490 Trauma and Recovery
  • Anthropology 501 The History Of And Development Of Anthropology


1995 Ph.D., Simon Fraser University ‐ Department of Anthropology

Contact Information

Anthropology Department, Western Washington University | Voice: (360) 650-4790

Articles (6)

Book Chapters (6)

Book Reviews (1)

Encyclopedia Entries (2)