Julian Murchison, a native Louisianan, came to Millsaps following graduate work at the University of Michigan and nearly two full years of ethnographic research in southern Tanzania. As a cultural anthropologist, Murchison specializes in the study of religion, healing, and African cultures. His primary research concerns the interrelationships between traditional healing, biomedicine, and Christianity in Tanzania.
Since he began teaching at Millsaps in 2001, he has taught a number of different courses including Religion, Society, and Culture, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Food and Eating, Cross-cultural Human Sexuality, and a Core 1 class examining American culture's fascination with serial killers. Murchison became interested in anthropology after living in Argentina for a year as an exchange student when he was 15.
"I didn't really know what the word 'anthropology' meant at the time, but I was completely captivated by the experience of moving to a new and very different cultural environment and trying to learn the language and how to operate in that cultural context," Murchison said.
His interest in Tanzania began when he first visited the country as an undergraduate exchange student at the University of Dar es Salaam. During his time there he learned to speak Swahili and developed close friendships and relationships with local citizens. These relationships blossomed into professional contacts that largely influenced Murchison's decision to do his dissertation fieldwork in southern Tanzania.
He has used his contacts and experience in Tanzania to form a summer study abroad program for Millsaps students. During the program, students live with families to gain an insight into everyday life and to practice their Swahili. The program considers the effects of agriculture, religion, government, history and the global economy on the daily lives of Tanzanians.
Murchison strongly believes that study abroad should be an essential part of most, if not all, good liberal arts experiences. "Studying abroad gives students a chance to travel somewhere that they might not ever get to go otherwise," says Murchison. "But, more importantly, it's a chance to take the knowledge and ideas acquired in the classroom outside of the classroom and see what it all means. The things that we read about in class truly come to life when we travel to a place to study them first hand."
In his spare time, Murchison enjoys playing and watching sports. An avid runner, he's currently training for the Boston Marathon and runs four to five times a week through the Fondren neighborhood near Millsaps.
Millsaps not only provided Murchison with a place to research and teach, it also brought him together with his wife, Sandra, an associate professor of art at Millsaps. "Sandra and I met at Millsaps during a catfish dinner in the Bowl," Murchison said. "I tease her about not paying much attention to me that first time that we met in the Bowl, but it was a wonderful stroke of luck that our paths crossed here at Millsaps."