Thomas McGuire

About Thomas McGuire

Tom McGuire grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, spending an occasional summer on Casco Bay, Maine. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, majoring in anthropology and history. Wanting a change of scenery and climate, he enrolled in the University of Arizona’s graduate anthropology program in 1971. Influenced by the teaching and writing of Keith Basso, McGuire took up an interest in the Native societies of the Greater Southwest, but pursued the developing literature in the economics and ecology of fishing communities. With the encouragement of Edward Spicer, Richard Henderson, and Robert Netting, he conducted dissertation fieldwork on Yaqui Indian farmers and fishermen, working out of Potam, Sonora, a community Spicer had studied in the 1940s. While finishing up the dissertation, he worked on several projects for the Arizona State Museum, conducting archival and oral history research on the Ft. Apache and Gila River Pima reservations.

Lively debates between the formalists and substantivists in economic anthropology in the 1970s (McGuire had earlier taken a class from Marshall Sahlins at Michigan, where Sahlins was lecturing from and putting the final touches on Stone Age Economics) propelled McGuire to the “Carnegie School” of behavioral decision-making. Herbert Simon’s notions of bounded rationality and satisficing seemed like a reasonable middle ground to the anthropological debate, so McGuire applied for a postdoctoral fellowship in social science and public policy at Carnegie-Mellon, where Simon’s influence was pervasive. After several frigid winters, McGuire drew upon the fellowship’s intern provision to return to the Southwest. He got an informal spot with the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Reclamation, at the time deeply involved with the planning of the Central Arizona Project’s delivery system to the Indian reservations and municipalities of southern Arizona.

McGuire then relocated to Tucson and joined the newly-reconstituted Bureau of Applied Research. He participated in one of BARA’s first externally funded projects, an assessment of the impacts of a proposed “planned community” of 100,000 non-Indians on the San Xavier Reservation near Tucson. During the 1980s, he held a joint appointment in the Water Resources Research Center at UA, participating in research on Indian water rights in Arizona and the West. Within BARA, he continued an interest in northwest Mexico, overseeing a study of fishing communities affected by the creation of a biosphere reserve in the upper Gulf of California. Most recently, McGuire has been heavily involved in studies of the oil and gas industry in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico. These projects are funded by the Minerals Management Service, the agency within the U. S. Department of the Interior which oversees the leasing of oil and natural gas properties in federal offshore waters. The current project, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Houston, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and LSU, seeks to better understand the cumulative impacts of the industry, as it developed in the lakes and marshes of southern Louisiana in the 1930s and moved offshore, “out of sight of land,” in the 1950s. Oral histories of those involved in this development form the primary source of information.

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Contact Information

Research Anthropologist
Telephone: 520-626-7638
Office: Geronimo 336 & Haury 316A


1979 Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Arizona.
1973 M.A., Anthropology, University of Arizona.
1971 A.B. with Distinction, Major: Anthropology; Minor: History and Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Disertation Title

Politics, Economic Dependence, and Ethnicity in the Yaqui Valley, Sonora