Here’s a quick update regarding my work on the Marshall Sahlins biography up to 1 June 2023.
I spent most of May not actually writing the biography, but preparing to write it. As I may have mentioned earlier, I spent the spring semester writing grants to conduct research on the biography and received two. The first is a small travel grant from the University of Michigan that will pay for me to consult the libraries there. The second and much larger grant from Wenner-Gren foundation will allow me to do library research at the University of Chicago and Columbia, and also to visit Moala. I’m excited to receive this funding as it will really make the research for the book possible.
In the meantime I have spent some time reading up on background history, including the history of Russia and Ukraine, as well as some background reading on the leftist traditions that Sahlins would have encountered (see, inter alia, the Russian Revolution). I’ve also done some research on the history of the west side of Chicago, where Sahlins grew up. It’s amazing how much information is on the Internet when you know where to look. There are even yearbooks of the Lewis Institute, where his father studied to get American education credentials. The have lovely art nouveau illustrations from (I imagine) the students.
Now that it is June and the summer is officially under way for me, I will begin doing interviews with people who knew Sahlins. I’m planning to start with some of his older students who will expertise that I hope will guide me. I will spend about half go July in Papua New Guinea, looking for new research projects there for after the book is finished. Then in August I’ll begin interviewing in earnest.
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