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Malinowski, Bronislaw (Kasper) 1884-1942

MALINOWSKI, Bronislaw (Kasper) 1884-1942

PERSONAL: Born April 7, 1884, in Krakow, Poland; immigrated to United States, 1939; died May 16, 1942, in New Haven, CT; married Elsie Rosaline Masson, 1919 (died 1935); married Anna Valetta Hayman-Joyce; children: Helena Wayne, two other daughters. Education: Attended University of Krakow.

CAREER: London School of Economics, London, England, professor of social anthropology, 1927-42. Lecturer, Cornell University, 1933; Phi Beta Kappa lecturer, Harvard University, 1936; visiting professor, Yale University, 1939-42.

MEMBER: Polish Academy of Science, Royal Academy of Science of the Netherlands.

AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary degree, Harvard University.

WRITINGS:

The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study, 1913.

Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 1922.

Crime and Custom in Savage Society, 1926.

Sex and Repression in Savage Society, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1927.

The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia: An Ethnographic Account of Courtship, Marriage, and Family Life among the Natives of the Trobriand Islands, Routledge (London, England), 1929, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1962.

Freedom and Civilization, 1944.

Magic, Science, and Religion, and Other Essays, 1948.

Sex, Culture, and Myth, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1962.

(With Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz) Listy do Bronislawa Malinowskiego, [Warsaw, Poland], 1981.

Malinowski among the Magi: The Natives of Mailu, Routledge (London, England), 1988.

A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1989.

The Early Writings of Bronislaw Malinowski, edited by Robert J. Thornton and Peter Skalnik, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Helena Wayne, editor, The Story of a Marriage: The Letters of Bronislaw Malinowski and Elsie Masson, Volume 1: 1916-1920, Volume 2: 1920-1935, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Michael W. Young) Malinowski's Kiriwina: Fieldwork Photography, 1915-1918, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Contributor to books, including The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1923; Culture, the Diffusion Controversy, Kegan Paul (London, England), 1928; and A Revaluation of Our Civilization, Argus Press (Albany, NY), 1944.

Author of introduction to Fijian Frontier, by Laura Thompson, American Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, 1940.

SIDELIGHTS: Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski pioneered the field of modern cultural anthropology by merging the disciplines of sociology and anthropology. His research into native cultures took him to the Trobriand Islands, off the coast of New Guinea, and Africa in the early twentieth century, and his writings focused on research methods rather than theory. He popularized ethnography, the act of participating in and observing a culture in order to understand it, and made the practice of keeping a research diary standard operating procedure for all socio-anthropologists after him. Along with American anthropologist Franz Boas, Malinowski is credited with transitioning anthropology away from a Victorian sensibility into the realm of modernity. Susan Hegeman, writing in Victorian Studies, noted that Malinowski's Argonauts of the Western Pacific, published in 1922, "serves as an epochal event—akin to the 1913 Paris premier of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring or the New York Armory Show" because it "put into monograph form the theory and practice of participant observation and [signaled] the beginning of functionalist theory" in anthropology. Not only that, wrote Hegeman, but Argonauts appeared the same year as James Joyce's Ulysses and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, making Malinowski the harbinger of "not only a significant seachange within his own discipline, but anthropology's parallel and equivalent to a fully developed literary modernism."

Malinowski was born in Poland and received his doctorate in mathematics and physics from the University of Krakow. He spent four years, beginning in 1914, in New Guinea studying the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands. His subsequent writings on their culture, most notably The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia: An Ethnographic Account of Courtship, Marriage, and Family Life among the Natives of the Trobriand Islands, secured his status as a foremost anthropologist both in Europe and the United States. It was a book that "shook the foundations of social science," commented a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, for its radical theories, particularly his assertion that the Oedipus Complex as described by Sigmund Freud did not appear to be native to all cultures, just Western ones. Malinowski served as a professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics for most of the 1930s, and when political tensions rose in pre-World War II Europe, he moved to the United States permanently and taught at various universities, including Yale and Harvard. He was influential as both a teacher and a researcher—Margaret Mead was a student—and he often incorporated the theories of psychoanalysis into his understanding of native cultures.

With the publication of The Early Writings of Bronislaw Malinowski in 1993, researchers got a rare glimpse into Malinowski's early theories, formed before he developed and practiced the concept of fieldwork. Most of the book's essays had never been published in English before, and the collection contradicts the notion common to anthropologists that Malinowski's ideas emerged fully formed from his research in New Guinea. Stanley R. Barrett, writing in Philosophy of the Social Sciences stated that "the popular image of Malinowski is that of the committed inductivist, whose ethnography seemed to have emerged from nowhere, the creation on the spot of a genius." But the book reveals, according to Barrett, "how deeply he had engaged in argumentation with the current thought of his times … and how much these ideas and themes … influenced his ethnographic inquiries when he did eventually get to the field." Barrett concluded that "The Early Writings of Bronislaw Malinowski forces us to do nothing less than re-evaluate our entire image of the Malinowskian research program, and for that reason it should be required reading."

In 1995 renewed interest in Malinowski's teachings led to the publication of the two-volume set The Story of a Marriage: The Letters of Bronislaw Malinowski and Elsie Masson. Covering the years of the couple's early relationship through Elsie's death in 1935, the volumes were edited by their youngest daughter, Helena Wayne. Malinowski shared much with his wife in his letters, including details about his work in Oceania and Africa, his personal quarrels with other notable intellectuals of the day, and the expected details of their family life. Several reviewers noted the careful editing and arrangement of the letters by Wayne, and Glenn Petersen, reviewing the book in Library Journal, credited the book for giving readers "a fuller portrait of this pioneer's outlook, feelings, and motivations."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd editon, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Malinowski between Two Worlds: The Polish Roots of an Anthropological Tradition, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Malinowski, Bronislaw, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1989.

Malinowski, Bronislaw, Malinowski among the Magi: The Natives of Mailu, Routledge (London, England), 1988.

Malinowski, Bronislaw, The Story of a Marriage: The Letters of Bronislaw Malinowski and Elsie Masson, Routledge (London, England), 1995.

Shack, William A., The Kula: A Bronislaw Malinowski Centennial Exhibition, Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology (Berkeley, CA), 1985.

Thornton, Robert J., and Peter Skalnik, editors, The Early Writings of Bronislaw Malinowski, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

World of Sociology, Volume 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

PERIODICALS

Choice, November, 1995, F. J. Hay, review of The Story of a Marriage, p. 505.

History of the Human Sciences, November, 2002, Paul Cocks, "The King and I: Bronislaw Malinowski, King of Sobhuza II of Swaziland, and the Vision of Culture Change in Africa," p. 25.

Journal of the Southwest, summer, 1998, Timothy Troy, "Professor Bronislaw Malinowski's Visit to Tucson," p. 129.

Library Journal, March 15, 1995, Glenn Petersen, review of The Story of a Marriage, p. 76.

Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1985, review of Sex and Repression in Savage Society, p. 8.

Philosophy of the Social Sciences, September, 1995, Stanley R. Barrett, review of The Early Writings of Bronislaw Malinowski, pp. 413-415.

Raritan, winter, 1999, Carlo Ginzburg, "Tusitala and His Polish Reader," p. 85.

Victorian Studies, spring, 1998, Susan Hegeman, "Franz Boas and Professional Anthropology: On Mapping the Borders of the 'Modern,'" p. 455.*

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