Sahlins biography June 2023 update

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.

Sapir and Goldenweiser, White and Redfield

Investigating the biographies of Leslie White, Robert Redfield, Edward Sapir, and Alexander Goldenweiser. White studied with Goldenweiser in New York. Goldenweiser and Sapir were exact contemporaries in New York. White, Redfield, and Sapir were all at Chicago.

Also attaching image of the overlapping lives of Sapir and Goldenweiser. Born 4 years apart, they got their Ph.D.s within a year of each other, and died within a year of each other as well. Boas hoped they would both faculty at Columbia when he retired.

in 1925 Goldenweiser was teaching a course at the New School on ‘new evolutionism’. When you move past pat stereotypes of ‘particularist Boasian’ anthropology in the 1920s looks a lot different!

Copious Free Time: Evans-Pritchard Edition

Here are some pieces that I want to read but almost definitely will not get around to. Perhaps you will have better luck?

Sean Kingston has an amazing book on Evans-Pritchard entitled A Touch of Genius: The Life, Work, and Influence of Sir Edward Evans-PritchardIt is just part of SK’s new open access initiative so you will not have to pay the usual US$15,000 that the average SK hardback costs. I’ve skimmed through it. The book is an edited volume, but not an average dull one. It is a sort of group biography of Evans-Pritchard which featured numerous, short, incredibly detailed articles. Many of them are just collections of long quotes from E-P’s associates and friends remembering him. It also includes a high amount of new E-P images, including not just photos from his youth, but of his groceries. It really looks like an amazing postmodern collaborative biography. Highly recommended.

The 1970 volume Afro-American Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives has reflexive piece by Charles and Betty Lou Valentine on fieldwork called “making the scene, digging the action, and telling it like it is: anthropologists at work in a dark ghetto”. Charles was a white reformed Melanesianist, Betty Lou a Black American, and the article recounts raising their young child during fieldwork. This couple deserves more attention in the history of anthropology.

Bashkow and Shaffner’s obituary of Roy “Coyote Anthropology” Wagner in American Anthropologist is excellent and on an important figure (ok I read this one).

Mediastudies Press have an open access reprint of Irving Goffman’s dissertation, Communication and Conduct in an Island Community. 

Of Course Wikipedia has a list of foods named after people

Saleem Ali has a new book on aluminium: From Soil to Foil: Aluminium and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability. He’s an impressive guy, full of energy. 

Internet history books often don’t age well, but I think Ben Smith’s Traffic will be an exception. His ability to flood my socials is unprecedented. Also, he discusses what I think of as the ‘Savage Minds’ period in Internet History, so it is especially relevant to me.

That’s it for now! Take care.

Sahlin Biography May 2023 Update

As most of my friends and colleagues already know, the project I will take during my sabbatical in the (boreal) fall of 2023 is a biography of Marshall Sahlins. I’ll begin in the summer and since that time is almost upon my, I wanted to write the first of what I hope will be several updates about the project.

I’m excited to be working on a project of this importance and size — whether you liked Sahlins or not, he was a major force in anthropology for a long time and his story is a lens to tell the story of anthropology after World War II more generally.

I’m also horned to have the support of many people and institutions. I undertook this research after Marshall’s son Peter approached me about it at the memorial conference in Sahlins’s honor on 4 April 2022. It’s an honor and also quite intimidating as Peter is himself a very distinguished historian who knows more about Marshall’s life than I do! I am also very lucky to be conducting this research with the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as a Bordin/Gillette Fellowship from the University of Michigan.

The research for the book will be mostly library based, and I plan on doing work in the libraries and archives of the universities Sahlins was associated with: Michigan, Chicago, and Columbia. In addition to working in Hawai‘i through most of the 1970s, Sahlins was also a visiting professor at Mānoa in the 1980-1981 school year, and I’ve done a bit of work on his time here. Our department secretary still has his syllabi on hand!

I also plan to interview people who knew Sahlins, so if I reach out to you soon, don’t be surprised!

Finally, this research will take me to Fiji, where I hope to do some research in the library and archives to improve my extremely basic understanding of that country. Then I’d like to go to Moala, Sahlins’s fieldwork site, to see what sort of relationship people there have with him, his memory and influence, and his book Moala.

The one place I cannot get to at the moment is Paris. Sahlins’s two years in France were central to his intellectual development, but at the moment I don’t have the funds to visit the city and do the sort of in-situ interviewing and library research work I’d like to do. Perhaps I’ll apply for some funding later. Or… if anyone wants to fly me out for a talk… let me know!

Finally, I want to be clear from the beginning that I do not intend this book to be a hagiography. Sahlins loved competition and found it boring to be worshipped. Also, I live in Hawai‘i, where I’ve listened to a lot of voices that are critical of his work. My goal in writing this book is to reveal the complexity of his life and to see it from a variety of angles. If I present him as only a great sage or only a grumpy, obsolete dinosaur, then I will have failed. How well I succeed in this task is something that will only become clear as I move forward with this project. More soon.

CRAW (or other acronyms)

I am lucky to have a prosperous and happy life, so I feel like I have little to complain about. However, during the crush of mid-career responsibilities it is also easy to forget to take time to do the things you really value but which are not cherished, biography-long projects like teaching and parenting. For that reason I’ve developed a list of things that I try to do every day on top of my other commitments. At the end of the day I look back and say: Did I manage to do all of these things? If not, how many of them have I done? I’ve found just a bit of reflection goes a long way to making sure you feel grounded and not swept up (or away) by life.

Reading: Have I been reading? I have a reading goal of a book a week. Have I been finding time to put distractions aside and really focus on reading? I mean, reading a book reading.

Writing: I guess this counts as ‘research’. Keeping up with long-term, large-scale projects is hard when there are so many fires to put out in The Now. Have I carved out time each day to do some writing on something I care about?

Connecting: I realised recently that while I am surrounded by people I love and care for (as well as… other kinds of people) I don’t really have too many ‘friends’ in the sense of people who I enjoy spending time with Just Because. So now I try to make sure that I spend at least a little time a day with someone who I enjoy spending time with who isn’t in my immediate circle. This could be as simple as sending an email or having a chat on Discord. But social media doesn’t really count as connection.

Affairs: I took this from the French word ‘affaires’, which I remember from my high school French as meaning: ‘business’ or ‘things to do’ or ‘things I’m connected with’. By this I mean: All of the practical, non-scholarly things I can do to move the household along. This means going above and beyond just keeping things ticking over. There’s always a lot to do on this front, whether its financial, legal, or just replacing bits of the home that are tired before they actually break.

I originally tried a much more granular list of things to do but it became both unwieldy and depressing. I like this level of specificity as it separates the routine round of work from the stuff that it’s worth stepping back on spending time on. Unfortunately, when I dried to compress it down to an acronym, all I could come up with was ‘CRAW’, which is not very inviting. WRAC? ACRW? RACW? Regardless of which acronym I choose, I find I’ve had good results using this method to make sure that I feel like I’m making progress while also keeping up with things. Maybe this or something like it will help you organise your life as well?

Now I am 22

As of 1 January, my blog will be 22 years old. I have achieved this significant landmark by continuing to pay my hosting fees and then not blogging.

Seriously, though, earlier this year I tried to restart blogging by a series of weekly roundups of what I did. In the end, life proved too full for me to keep up even at that rate. I am glad that I have so much going on, but also want to resolve to record more of it here.

A number of things happened to me in 2022. I also happened to a number of things.

I resolved to read a book a week and was successful. You can see my 2022 list over Storygraph, the reading tracker app which is not owned by a large corporation. Here is what I read:

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Can a Liberal Be a Chief? Can a Chief Be a Liberal?: Some Thoughts on an Unfinished Business of Colonialism by Olúfémi Táíwò
  • Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back by Cory Doctorow, Rebecca Giblin
  • Coconut Colonialism: Workers and the Globalization of Samoa by Holger Droessler
  • Cooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment by Hiʻilei Julia HobartCooling the Tropics: Ice, Indigeneity, and Hawaiian Refreshment
  • Cooperation Without Submission: Indigenous Jurisdictions in Native Nation–US Engagements by Justin B. Richland
  • Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul – Australia’s Worst Military Disaster of World War II by Bruce Gamble
  • Edward Sapir: Linguist, Anthropologist, Humanist by Regna Darnell
  • Falcon by Helen Macdonald
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
  • Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science: The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations by Patrick L. SchmidtHarvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science: The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations
  • How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex by Samantha Cole
  • How to Give: An Ancient Guide to Giving and Receiving by Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  • In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua by Sophie Chao
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  • King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone by David Carey, John Edward Morris
  • Laura Nader: Letters to and from an Anthropologist by Laura NaderLaura Nader: Letters to and from an Anthropologist
  • Local Story: The Massie-Kahahawai Case and the Culture of History by John P. Rosa
  • Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route by Saidiya Hartman
  • Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli During the Renaissance by Edward Muir
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
  • Pasifika Black: Oceania, Anti-colonialism, and the African World by Quito Swan
  • Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot by Julian Dibbell
  • Polynesia, 900-1600 by Madi Williams
  • Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in San Francisco by Savannah Shange
  • Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
  • Reminiscences of a Life in the Islands by Helen Kapililani Sanborn Davis
  • Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth by Dána-Ain Davis
  • Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan
  • Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity by Adam B. Seligman, Robert P. Weller, Michael J.
  • Runaway: Gregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness by Anthony Chaney
  • Savages, Romans, and Despots: Thinking about Others from Montaigne to Herder by Robert Launay
  • Servant Mage by Kate Elliott
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
  • Something and Tonic: A History of the World’s Most Iconic Mixer by Nick Kokonas
  • Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World by Daniel Gross, Daniel Gross, Tyler Cowen, Tyler Cowen
  • Talmudic Images by Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
  • The Lost History of Western Civilization by Stanley KurtzThe Lost History of Western Civilization
  • The Mailbox Conspiracy: The Inside Story of the Greatest Corruption Case in Hawaii History by Alexander Silvert
  • The New Science of the Enchanted Universe: An Anthropology of Most of Humanity by Marshall Sahlins
  • The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg
  • The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore by Robert Simonson
  • The Pearl and the Flame: A Journey Into Jewish Wisdom and Ecological Thinking by Natan Margalit
  • The Promise of Progress: The Life and Work of Lewis Henry Morgan by Daniel Noah Moses
  • The Properties of Perpetual Light by Julian Aguon
  • The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor by Arthur Kleinman
  • Torah and Taro: Jewish Contributions to Hawaii by Mathew R. Sgan
  • Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 98, Part 2 by Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt
  • Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever by Robin Wigglesworth
  • True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier by Vernor Vinge
  • William Jones, Indian, cowboy, American scholar, and anthropologist in the field. By: Henry Milner Rideout by Henry Milner Rideout

Other things happened to me in the past year other than books. I interviewed people for the occasional podcasts I do over at New Books Network. I also really developed my history of anthropology site, Highly Accurate Pictures of Anthropologists. Tumblr is not a natural fit for me, but it is part of the non-evil Internet which has been around some time and which people are now becoming more interested in. Speaking of which, after a couple of attempts to try to engage Twitter, I’ve decided to throw my weight (and my content!) behind Mastodon, where you can find me posting relatively regularly. I also re-engaged Facebook, but that was mostly to keep my social networks charged for an upcoming project I’m working on.

More to say but rl is calling again. More soon….?

Bernard Cohn TOC

Bernard Cohn was an important anthropologist and historian of India. His 1987 volume An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays can be hard to find in digital. Luckily, it anthologizes many papers which are now available on JSTOR in easier to find formats. Here is my reconstructing the table of contents with links to these articles.

I. History and anthropology

An anthropologist among the historians: a field study
History and anthropology: the state of play
Anthropology and history in the 1980s: towards a rapprochement

II. India as a field of study

Networks and centres in the integration of Indian civilization
The pasts of an Indian village
Regions subjective and objective: their relation to the study of modern Indian history and society
Notes on the history of the study of Indian society and culture
Is there a new Indian history? society and social change under the Raj
African models and Indian histories
The census, social structure and objectification in South Asia

III. Untouchables

The changing status of a depressed caste
The changing traditions of a low caste
Madhopur revisited
Chamar family in a North Indian village: a structural contingent

IV. The British in Benares

The initial British impact on India: a case study of the Benares region
Structural change in Indian rural society 1596-1885
The British in Benares: a nineteenth century colonial society
From Indian status to British contract
Political systems in eighteenth-century India: the Benares region
The recruitment and training of British civil servants in India
Some notes on law and change in North India
Anthropological notes on law and disputes in North India

V. Representations of empire

Representing authority in Victorian India.

Life Last Week

via Wikimedia Commons

Happy new year everyone! Here are Things That Happened in the last week or so:

  • Celia Tichi is writing the history of the US through cocktails.
  • I’ve been using the phrase “freedom of speech is not freedom of reach” for some time now, but just discovered the article which originated the phrase.
  • Enjoyed Prey on Hulu. If you are into Indigenous Women then it’s your jam. If you are just an average fan of the Predator franchise, I think (to steal a phrase from a friend) if you go into it with medium expectations, then you will find them fulfilled.
  • I have a new interview up at New Books Network with Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt on the first volume of her two volume biography of Franz Boas.
  • My copy of Chokepoint Capitalism arrived from Kickstarter. It’s been a while since I read anything from Cory Doctorow, so I’m hoping I enjoy it as much as have enjoyed his other works.
  • I love funny, smart jazz songs and Elise Roth’s “Massachusetts” has that in spades. Not sure there’s a link to it on the open web, however.

There’s more to say but I’ll keep this short so I can get back to work… take care all!

Life Last Fortnight

PNG Independence Day in 1975, via the National Archive of Australia.

Time got away from me last week… here’s what I’ve been up to.

  • It is necessary to understand tea and (most importantly) have a preference about it when asked by someone who is serving it to you. Very important for dealing with our Five Eyes colleagues (I’m looking at you, Oz). So I thought this tea infographic would help. In fact, I can’t decipher it at all. My struggle to understand tea continues.
  • Is it just me or is the accent on words like ‘affluent’ and ‘rhetoric’ moving to the middle syllable and not the initial one?
  • When I was doing my Ph.D. fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, I had a very small amount of music. One of the CDs I had was a collection of Cole Porter’s greatest hits. It included a very hot cover of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Dinah Washington. I finally realized that I could look up the album it was from. Dinah Jams (a live set in from LA in 1954) is now one of my favorite albums.
  • A good overview of the California Ranch, the style of house I grew up in.
  • I recently became intrigued by the work of phenomenologist Gabor Csepregi. When I tried googling him, unfortunately, I could only get results on the olympic swimmer of the same name. It took me a while to realize that they were the same person! Csepregi’s personal story is incredible, including using his swimming powers to flee the Societ Bloc by crossing the Adriatic, discovering his long lost love, unexpectedly encountering his old coach at a local pool, and transforming from athlete to coach/phenomenologist to academic administrator. Amazing.
  • Congratulations to my colleague Jerry Jacka on his new article about Porgera in Cultural Anthropology! That’s a must read for me.
  • Happy birthday to Papua New Guinea, which celebrated independence day!
  • I really enjoyed “Wait For Your Laugh”, the documentary about singer and comedian Rose Marie. Not only was she a great talent, she has an incredible life story. Highly recommended if you grew up watching the Dick Van Dyke Show, or are interested in mob history.

That’s all for now. Take care!

Life Last Week

Via Marvel Strike Force
  • The latest character to be introduced in Marvel Strike Force, the mobile game I play daily, is a Navajo weaver member of the Spiderverse. Gladys Reichard would be tickled, once someone explained to her what the Spiderverse was.
  • I wrote a short remembrance of Alan Howard for a celebration in his honor — I hope he likes it.
  • I was interviewed by Jonathan Ritchie for his class at Deakin on the history of Papua New Guinea. It was great fun dusting off the part of my brain that holds all the memories of my First Contact research from ages and ages ago, and of course it’s always a pleasure to talk to Jonathan. It was only when we were in the green room for this talk that we realized how much our careers had paralleled each other. Jonathan Ritchie, man of action: keep going!
  • I am slogging through The Man Who Fell To Earth on ShowTime. I am a huge Chewitel Ejiofor fan and am amazed at how little I like this show. I would literally watch Ejiofor read a telephone book, but the show is so heavily overproduced that it distracts from the acting — it feels like every streaming service is doing a color-by-numbers book about how to produce Epic TV and ShowTime got the wrong book. Also, there is a whole take in there about what jazz is that jumps the shark and says things that I think are not true about jazz. But I could be wrong about that.
  • Over at The Conversation Tom Boellstorff says what we’ve all been thinking: The Metaverse is one of the oldest things in InternetLand, not one of the newest.
  • The Queens CUNY has an excellent history of its anthro department, including an account of The Matriarchy that ran the department for so long. A great story that deserves a wider hearing.
  • Stanford Anthropology’s annual newsletter for 2021-2022 has a feature on The New Guinea Sculpture Garden. It’s a wonderful little bit of Melanesia in Palo Alto and I hope it gets more attention.
  • G.T. Harris’s 1972 article Labour Supply and Economic Development in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea has a good overview of how order-making projects in PNG (and elsewhere? Everywhere?) fall apart which will ring true to many of us
  • I finished Runaway: Gregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness by Anthony Chaney. The book is difficult to summarize, but it spends very little time on environmentalist. It starts as an intellectual history of Bateson’s later years, with a strong focus on the broader intellectual context in which he was writing. Bateson drifts from view towards the end of the book, which is an account of the broader intellectual context of the period with. a strong focus on Bateson. Chaney is very sympathetic, perhaps too sympathetic, to Bateson, and does a good job showing how his experiences in WWII and the early Cold War gave him a lot of elective affinities with countercultural baby boomers. The book is really a unique creation of the author’s personal vision and always well-written — even superbly written at moments. I am not a big Bateson fan but Chaney has helped me appreciate Bateson more. I’d love to talk with him more about the book.
  • Listening this week: Cannonball Adderly, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy live.

That’s it for now. Have a great week!