Michael Agar received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology from the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. An honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellow, NIH Career Award recipient, and former Fulbright Senior Specialist, he is professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park, with adjunct appointments in Speech Communication and Comparative Literature, as well as an associate at Antropocaos at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. He was recently appointed Distinguished Scholar at the International Institute of Qualitative Methods at the University of Alberta and Research Professor in Biology at the University of New Mexico.
He works independently as Ethknoworks LLC in northern New Mexico with the self-appointed title of "Chief Paradigm Mechanic." Ethknoworks centers on research, writing and consultation around issues in ethnography, language, complexity theory, and the organization from both theoretical and practical points of view. Kurt Lewin provides the motto: There is nothing as practical as a good theory.
He has also worked with the Redfish Group in Santa Fe (www.redfish.com), particularly around the application of a blend of ethnography and computer visualization called "OrgViz," short for "making the organization visible.
His past appointments include research positions with public health agencies in Kentucky and New York as well as university positions at the Universities of Hawaii, Houston, and California in the U.S., and visits with the Universities of Mysore in India, Surrey in the U.K., and Vienna and the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.
Publications include articles in journals from the fields of anthropology, linguistics, folklore and oral history, sociology, organization research, psychology, psychiatry, public policy, artificial intelligence, complexity, intercultural communication, and the substance use and transportation fields. He has also written for general magazines like Smithsonian and The New Mexico Mercury and done op-ed pieces for various newspapers. His books include Ripping and Running, The Professional Stranger, Angel Dust, Speaking of Ethnography, Independents Declared, and Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. A recent book, a policy critique based on his decades in the drug field, is Dope Double Agent: The Naked Emperor on Drugs. The Lively Science: Remodeling Human Social Research is an accessible description of the historical roots and modern logic of a style of human social research closer to intentionality and lived experience of the human subjects who are the point of it all. It was just published in both print and e-versions in late May, 2013, and is available on most internet booksellers. Copies of the first chapter of the latter two books are downloadable on his web page.
In 2006 he finished work as principal investigator on a seven year NIH project to explain illicit drug epidemics. He also conducts introductory and advanced workshops on qualitative research and complexity theory and consults on the use of those methods in diverse project applications. For several years the use of complexity theory to reformulate social service organizations occupied his time and interest. Projects now underway include water policy in New Mexico, artificial intelligence applications to intercultural communication, and agent based modeling of clinical practice. He serves as co-investigator on an ongoing project funded by the ESRC at Surrey University called "Constructed Complexities." This year he is Visiting International Fellow at that university and Visiting Fellow for the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Programs. He is currently developing water governance projects with colleagues in Puebla, Mexico. He is a member of several editorial boards and has served on numerous research advisory committees. In 2004 he was presented with the Leadership Award in Qualitative Inquiry by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology.
Mike Agar died on May 20, 2017, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.