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bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays

bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essaysBronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays -If the Trobriand islanders did it, or had it, it must be assumed to be a necessary thing for them to do or to have.The project initiated by Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown underwent a crisis in the 1970s.These approaches were rejected by the leaders of the next generation, Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown.My dear aunt, Hilda Kuper, who first interested me in anthropology, was a student of Bronislaw Malinowski.Here the next cohort of social anthropologists was formed.Research students who came into the discipline in the 1960s were influenced by structuralism and by the Marxist ideas of the period.The argument was made that anthropology and colonial rule developed a symbiotic relationship.In 1930, Isaac Schapera taught for a year at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.Afterwards, he recalled, ‘a number of West African students in the audience violently attacked me, all my fellow workers in that field, and indeed the whole of anthropology.A university like Cambridge is an efficient engine of acculturation.The charge was that anthropologists stigmatized Africans as primitive, sided with traditional rulers against the educated urban population, and generally did what they could to prop up colonial rule. Taking a lead from the writings of Edward Said, radical academics now denounced anthropology as an expression of the colonial mind-set that regarded colonial peoples as objects and constructed false and mystifying differences.He, no doubt had his reasons, never entirely clear to me.The important things to bear in mind were that one had to remain healthy and on good terms with the authorities, and keep duplicates of field notes, sending copies home as often as possible. The veterans boasted that they had gone into the field without any guidance or, at best, with risible and conflicting pieces of advice on matters of etiquette.V Initially very little funding was available to send people into the field.Anyway, young, heedless, and rather hard-up, I took it on, interviewed the more cooperative of the elders and organized a seminar series at which several of them were persuaded to reminisce. Some senior colleagues were cautious, even furtive, readier to purvey unreliable anecdotes about their contemporaries than to talk openly about themselves. Yet I was not prepared for the reactions that publication provoked.Radcliffe-Brown was Rivers’s first student in anthropology, and he was casting his arguments in the form of a critique of Rivers twenty years after his teacher had died.As the first students went out into the field and returned, new findings were discussed, fresh problems raised.Ten years after its first publication it was reissued by Routledge.Most of the first cohort of Malinowski’s students wrote their dissertations from secondary sources, recasting ethnographic reports on a region in a functionalist mode, as Malinowski himself had done with his study of the family among the Australian Aborigines.Thus their sorcery, condemned by the missionary and the administrator, was shown to be a conservative force supporting their political and legal system.bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essaysThe first generation of Malinowski’s students were mature people, often with professional qualifications, some with experience in colonial government.His students included Max Gluckman, Ellen Hellman, Hilda (Beemer) Kuper and Eileen (Jensen) Krige.Above all, the functionalist school was shaped, in ways that are only now perhaps becoming fully apparent, by the African colonial system. Siegfried Nadel delivered a lecture on applied anthropology in London in 1955.They were prepared to stand up to Malinowski, and he enjoyed provoking them.Here and there I had touched on matters that were still controversial.Radcliffe-Brown introduced the sociological theory of Émile Durkheim.Nevertheless new recruits who had passed through the initiation ceremony of fieldwork were made to feel that they were members of the clan.In the early 1970s, when my book appeared, the professors were all retiring.II I fetched up in King’s College, Cambridge, in 1962, at the age of twenty, as a research student in social anthropology.Not so a nagging trio of nit-pickers, Meyer Fortes, Siegfried Nadel, and a Dutchman, Sjoerd Hofstra, whom Malinowski derisively dubbed the Mandarins.The department itself impressed a very specific academic identity on the new recruit.These convictions were inculcated with a minimum of direct instruction. We also all imbibed the faith that field research in the Malinowskian manner – by participant observation – would yield a more accurate view of another way of life than any other method. We put nervous questions to the faculty but were told that there was no fixed procedure, nothing that could be taught.Preparing the third edition I had recognised that my book was turning into something of an obituary notice.Hardly had I begun to get my bearings than Isaac Schapera invited me to write an account of modern British social anthropology.A third revision, with a more upbeat conclusion, appeared a decade later.Malinowski pioneered new methods of field research.Bronislaw Malinowski worked in Melanesia, about which Rivers had written his masterpiece, and he once boasted that if Rivers had been the Rider Haggard of anthropology, he would be its Conrad.I had not for a moment contemplated such a project.They went to Africa rather than Melanesia, and the discipline now began to focus on new issues – politics and law especially.After the Second World War they were appointed to the chairs in the various old and new departments in Britain and the Commonwealth, and they controlled the field for the next two decades. bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays In retrospect I can see that the emotional reaction had something to do with the fact that the book was published at a moment of transition in British social anthropology.‘Strong personal bonds developed between us and with Malinowski,’ Hortense Powdermaker recalled, ‘it was a sort of family with the usual ambivalences.As late as 1939 there only some twenty professional social anthropologists in the British Commonwealth, and almost all had been regular participants in the famous seminar.The couvade was no longer a laughable eccentricity but a social mechanism for the public assumption of the father’s duties towards the child.Theories were stretched, questioned, vindicated and, occasionally, relinquished, though seldom by Malinowski himself.There was a similar migration to London from the anthropology department at Sydney that had been established by Radcliffe-Brown.The discipline was a new one, but it was rather traditionalist, with its taboos, its myths and rituals, and its rivalrous chiefs.Nevertheless, I was astonished by the emotional response of some of the older generation.A series of case studies appeared that hit upon some confidential report, or cited rash promises made by academics in pursuit of funding, and denounced social anthropologists as spies and partners in colonial oppression.Historians have dug into the archives and found surprises there. Yet as anthropologists these particular natives knew very well that their academic work was shaped, among other things, by personal background, friendships and rivalries, career structures and institutions, and the politics of the times.We all got to know one another, and I came to know some of the elders very well, over many years – Meyer Fortes, Isaac Schapera, Audrey Richards, Mary Douglas and Ernest Gellner were personal friends.In general, Fortes directed the Africanists, with the help of his lieutenant, Jack Goody, while anybody travelling East of Suez worked with Leach.From Manchester, Max Gluckman engaged me in a furious correspondence.They accused us of playing into the hands of reactionary administrators and of lending the sanction of science to a policy meant to “keep the African down”.’ By the 1960s these sentiments were widely shared among African intellectuals.The atmosphere was in the European tradition: a master and his students, some in accord and others in opposition.’ A second cadre of students, who joined the seminar in the 1930s, were generally younger, and less inclined to challenge Malinowski, but they were more likely to have had an undergraduate training in the field, usually in South Africa or Australia.The Africanists were expected to work in the tradition of Radcliffe-Brown. They were also, somewhat confusingly, introduced to the structuralist anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss, to which Leach was increasingly committed.They took note of changing fashions in American cultural anthropology, which was going through a transformation of its own. Others went into new sub-fields, notably medical anthropology, visual anthropology and cognitive anthropology. ’ conservatives grumbled, but, inexorably, the discourse of social anthropology was transformed in the last decades of the 20 century.A different social anthropology emerged in the post-colonial world.III I missed the big bang of the late 1960s – I spent those years in Botswana and Uganda.The dean of the profession, Sir Raymond Firth, made it clear that he was not amused. bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays But the department of social anthropology presented special problems for the newcomer. There were only perhaps a dozen research students, of whom four or five would be away in the field at any one time. They were Big Men in the opposing factions of British social anthropology, the party of Malinowski and the party of Radcliffe-Brown.Surprisingly quickly, what had been a radical, fringe enterprise became mainstream.It was only after two decades that Lady Firth could draw me aside and tell me, ‘Raymond has forgiven you’.(The rest of the world was divided up as convenient.) But this initial choice entailed an intellectual orientation as well.Pre-nuptial licence, also frowned upon by Europeans, was described as supporting marriage institutions and allowing for sex selection.The new research student had to join one camp or the other.As a participant observer, I was perhaps too close to the natives to keep them always in their proper perspective, although I have done my best.The participants in the seminar felt that they were engaged in a sort of game, Audrey Richards recalled, in which the aim was to discover ‘the necessity of the custom or institution under discussion to the individual, the group or the society’.Rivers was the leading British anthropologist in the early 20 century. Theoretically he drew on the evolutionism of the Victorians and later from the German geographical school.Together the two founding fathers established what amounted to a new tradition of intellectual enquiry, which came loosely to be called ‘functionalist anthropology’, or simply ‘British social anthropology’.Within a couple of terms it would turn out a fledging Fortesian Africanist or structuralist South Asianist, armed with some ideas but above all with strong loyalties.Since then three excellent biographies have appeared, of Malinowski, Edmund Leach and Mary Douglas, alongside a number of memoirs and interviews. Now, forty years after the book was first published I have undertaken a thorough revision, so radical that I was tempted to issue it under yet another title, but instead simply changed the sub-title (for the fourth time, as a matter of fact). What really matters is to be found in what they left behind: the books and papers and intellectual arguments that testify to what those men and women made of the world they lived in.Malinowski was a founding ancestor of the tribe, and I was used to hearing the pros and cons of his personality and his ideas, and those of A. Radcliffe-Brown, his great rival, being thrashed out by people who had studied under them.In 1931 Malinowski and the International African Institute launched a research fellowship programme funded by a Rockefeller family foundation.And no longer a specifically British or even Franco-British enterprise, the very nature of social anthropology changed fundamentally. IV Between 19 Malinowski’s seminar met weekly in term time at the London School of Economics.The students of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown took up the research fellowships and university posts that now became available.All of them went on to study with Malinowski and became professional anthropologists.Even in the early 1960s, when I was inducted into the tribe, British social anthropology was still a small community: there were seven departments and perhaps a hundred university teachers.Young fogeys in the Oxford faction of social anthropology were even more splenetic.And yet, of course, the directives were in their way explicit enough, perhaps all the more powerful for being purveyed through indirection and, especially, by way of personal anecdote. bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays These approaches were rejected by the leaders of the next generation, Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. bronislaw malinowski a scientific theory of culture and other essays




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