Steve Caton is a specialist on Arabic and the Middle East, with an emphasis on Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. His earliest work was in anthropological linguistics and poetics which culminated in his first book, Peaks of Yemen I Summon (University of California Press, 1990), an ethnography of Arabic, oral poetry and political culture of a Yemeni highland tribe. Anthropological linguistics continues to be one of Caton’s main disciplinary interests, and is the focus of a combined graduate and undergraduate course on the subject every other year.
During the course of fieldwork for that research, a dispute broke out in the village in which he was living, and the event became the subject of Caton’s third book, Yemen Chronicle (Hill & Wang, 2005). It explores issues of event, time, and memory in his field research and ethnographic writing, which he now addresses in more theoretical work that engages anthropologists, historians and philosophers.
He is currently collaborating with a colleague, anthropologist Ben Orlov (University of California, Davis), on an article reviewing anthropological work on problems of water use and sustainability and is beginning new fieldwork in the Gulf with another colleague, architect Nader Ardalan, on burgeoning cities and their impacts on the environment (including water sustainability). Caton foresees research on water sustainability to take up most of his future research and writing in anthropology.