Bohannan, Paul 1920–2007

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Bohannan, Paul 1920–2007

(Paul James Bohannan)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 5, 1920, in Lincoln, NE; died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, July 13, 2007, in Visalia, CA. Anthropologist, sociologist, educator, and author. Bohannan began his career as an explorer of culture in Nigeria and ended it as a scholarly interpreter of culture in America. In the early 1950s he and his wife lived among the Tiv of Nigeria. For nearly five years they recorded, in both writings and more than a thousand photographs, a vanishing way of life among a tribe that had rarely been studied before. The anthropologist then spent another year among the Wanga of Kenya before leaving Africa. Bohannan taught anthropology at Oxford University, where he had earlier studied as a Rhodes scholar, then at Princeton University. In the 1960s and early seventies he taught at Northwestern University, He moved to California in 1976, teaching first at the University of California in Santa Barbara and later at the University of Southern California, where he retired in 1987. Whereas Bohannan had studied a wide range of living habits and social customs in Africa, in America he focused mainly on the phenomenon of divorce among the middle class, which he likened to an "industry" that supported such a huge number of lawyers, judges, investigators, family counselors, and others that it virtually rivaled the automotive industry in scope. During a career that spanned nearly forty years and a twenty-year retirement, Bohannan wrote or edited more than thirty books, often in collaboration with his wife, Laura Bohannan, prior to their own divorce in 1975. His writings include The Tiv of Nigeria (1953) and The Tiv: An African People from 1949 to 1953 (2000), which features restored photographs from his original field research, Love, Sex, and Being Human: A Book about the Human Condition for Young People (1969), All the Happy Families: Exploring the Varieties of Family Life (1985), and We, the Alien: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1992).



Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2007, p. B6.