Jackson, Michael (Derek) 1940-

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JACKSON, Michael (Derek) 1940-

PERSONAL: Born 1940, in Nelson, New Zealand; married Pauline Harris (died 1983); children: one daughter. Education: University of Auckland, M.A. (with honors); Cambridge University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Institute for Anthropology, Copenhagen University, Frederiksholms Kanal 4, Copenhagen 1220, Denmark. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Anthropologist, poet, and writer. Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, senior lecturer of social anthropology and Maori studies, 1973—; Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark, professor of anthropology. Visiting professor at Australian National University and Indiana University, Bloomington.

AWARDS, HONORS: Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1976, for Latitudes of Exile: Poems, 1965-1975; New Zealand Book Award, 1981, for Wall; Katherine Mans-field fellowship, 1983; Montana Book Award, 1995, for Pieces of Music.



Latitudes of Exile: Poems, 1965-1975, John McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1976.

Wall, John McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1980.

Going On, John McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1985.

Duty Free: Selected Poems, 1965-1988, John McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1989.

Antipodes, Auckland University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 1996.


The Kuranko: Dimensions of Social Reality in a West African Society, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1977.

Allegories of the Wilderness: Ethics and Ambiguity in Kuranko Narratives ("African Systems of Thought" series), Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1982.

Barawa and the Ways Birds Fly in the Sky: An Ethnographic Novel ("Ethnographic Inquiry" series), Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1986.

Rainshadow: A Novel, John McIndoe (Dunedin, New Zealand), 1988.

Paths toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry ("African Systems of Thought" series), Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1989.

(Editor, with Ivan Karp) Personhood and Agency: The Experience of Self and Other in African Cultures: Papers Presented at a Symposium on African Folk Models and Their Application, Held at Uppsala University, August 23-30, 1987, Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden), 1990.

Pieces of Music (stories), Vintage (Auckland, New Zealand), 1994.

At Home in the World, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1995.

(Editor) Things as They Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1996.

The Blind Impress, Dunmore Press (Palmerston North, New Zealand), 1997.

Minima Ethnographica: Intersubjectivity and the Anthropological Project, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

The Politics of Storytelling: Violence, Transgression, and Intersubjectivity, Museum Tusculanum Press (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2002.

In Sierra Leone, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.

Existential Anthropology: Events, Exigencies, and Effects, Berghahn Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to journals, including Journal of the Polynesian Society, New Zealand Studies, and Man.

SIDELIGHTS: Michael Jackson is a poet, educator, and the author of many volumes that focus on his field of study: anthropology. Jackson lived with the Kuranko people in Sierra Leone, Africa, while on academic breaks during the 1970s and 1985; with the Warlpiri of Australia's Northern Territory from 1989 to 1991; and with the Kuku Yalangi of Cape York, Queensland, Australia, from 1993 to 1994.

Many of Jackson's academic books concentrate on one of these peoples, but in others, like Minima Ethnographica: Intersubjectivity and the Anthropological Project he blends his experiences to come to broad conclusions. In this volume, he studies relationships between people, nations, tribes, concepts, and objects. He notes that his goal is to "explore the dialectic of the particular and the universal as it makes its appearance in the personal life of the peoples among whom I have carried out fieldwork." Aleksandar Boskovic noted in Campos that "in doing so, he relies on the rich tradition in anthropology and in social sciences (Mauss, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, Geertz), but even more on a rich philosophical tradition of existentialism (Buber, Schutz, James, Dewey, G. H. Mead, Sartre)…. Hence, there is much more in this work than just outlining a theory of intersubjectivity—it could be read as a program (or even a manifesto) for a particular kind of anthropology. Given the book's rich and multi-layered philosophical premises, its reception will also depend to a great extent on whether the readers accept existential-phenomenological premises on which Jackson bases his theory."

Boskovic wrote that in Minima Ethnographica Jackson "navigates through different theories and reminiscences of his fieldwork in a unique prose style, quite rare in anthropology." The book is organized into chapters such as "Returns," "Digressions," "Assays," and "Here/Now." Boskovic noted that Jackson is also the author of prize-winning poetry. "This makes it pleasant to read," continued the critic of the author's scholarly writing, "despite the complex arguments and numerous cross-references it presents. The book also resembles a kind of personal journey."

Jackson draws on his three years with the Warlpiri in At Home in the World, in which he makes a case for radical empiricism. He concentrates on the significance of place and follows the themes of the stories of archetypal ancestors as he reflects on the purpose of anthropological studies and the issues of identity and knowledge. In Existential Anthropology: Events, Exigencies, and Effects, Jackson studies topics that include 9/11, the war in Sierra Leone and its aftermath, the marginalization of indigenous Australians, new technologies, ritualization, language, the sociality of violence, the prose of suffering, and the discourse of human rights.

Latitudes of Exile: Poems, 1965-1975 is Jackson's first collection of poetry. The volume is organized by theme and contains poems that were previously published in New Zealand periodicals. The first ten poems are observations of Jackson's experiences in the Congo—later Zaire and now the Republic of the Congo—and Sierra Leone. The remaining poems are recollections of his childhood and adult life. A writer for Contemporary Poets wrote that the title poem "is less about any physical exile the poet might have described or celebrated in the first ten poems and more about the alienation of spirit that comes to the poet through a recognition of the commonplaces of inhumanity and the way in which these dislocate what we would wish to regard as natural human relationships." The writer noted that Jackson's prize-winning second collection, Wall, reflects his "stylistic evolution toward a more terse imagery, with short lines and staccato phrases giving emphasis to an idiomatic style and vernacular rhythms." These poems, like those in his first collection, are intensely personal, and it was with this volume that Jackson established himself as a poet of note.

Jackson and his family lived in France while he held the Katherine Mansfield writing fellowship, and soon after they returned to New Zealand, his wife, Pauline, died. Jackson writes in a preface to Going On that the poems of this volume are "a kind of logbook kept during the year before and six months after" her death. The Contemporary Poets writer remarked that "the volume records events and memories as a diary or logbook would, but the poems are seldom conventional acts of grieving, remembering, or exorcising, although grief is always immanent. The poems are intensely personal but often cryptic in their private references. Unlike many of Jackson's earlier love poems, these pieces do not readily include the reader in their discourse but rather allude to places and events that are part of a private memory."

Duty Free: Selected Poems, 1965-1988 borrows from previous collections and adds eleven new poems, all grouped by subject or theme. The poems of Antipodes are reflections by Jackson the anthropologist, as well as more autobiographical poems about family, separation, and life in New Zealand and the United States. Landfall contributor Andrew Johnston wrote that "the quiet confidence of Jackson's earlier poetry is here, the deceptive, musical ease with which lines fall and poems accumulate resonance, which so distinguished Wall."

Jackson's other creative works include Rainshadow, a work of prose fiction, and Pieces of Music. An entry on Jackson by Ronda Cooper from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature is posted at the Web site of the New Zealand Book Council Online. Cooper compared Pieces of Music to At Home in the World as being difficult to categorize, "a mix of fiction, anecdote, history, and notebook references, a glorious assemblage of interlinking details and fragments…. Jackson's achievement is to chal lenge our assumptions about knowledge itself, with warmth, intelligence, and compassion."

Johnston wrote that of all Jackson's recent work, At Home in the World "is the one that impressed me most. Jackson seems to have in abundance the anthropologist's equivalent of Keats's 'negative capability,' 'capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason.'" Johnston called Jackson "one of New Zealand's most original thinkers and most fluent poets."



Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

McGibbon, Ian, editor, Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, Oxford University Press (Auckland, New Zealand), 2000.


Campos, number 2, 2002, Aleksandar Boskovic, review of Minima Ethnographica: Intersubjectivity and the Anthropological Project, pp. 55-65.

Foreign Affairs, May-June, 2004, Nicolas van de Walle, review of In Sierra Leone.

Landfall, autumn, 1997, Andrew Johnston, review of Pieces of Music, At Home in the World, and Antipodes.*

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