Sahlins, Marshall 1930–

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Sahlins, Marshall 1930–

(Marshall D. Sahlins, Marshall David Sahlins)

PERSONAL:

Surname rhymes with "Collins"; born December 27, 1930, in Chicago, IL; son of Paul A. (a physician) and Bertha Sahlins; married Barbara Vollen (a designer); children: Julie, Peter, Elaine. Education: University of Michigan, A.B., 1951, A.M., 1952; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1954.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Chicago, IL. Office—Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 5836-46 Greenwood Ave., Chicago, IL 60637.

CAREER:

Columbia University, New York, NY, lecturer in anthropology, 1955-57; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1957-74, began as assistant professor, became professor of anthropology; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, professor of anthropology, 1974—, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus. Fellow at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, CA, 1963-64.

MEMBER:

American Ethnological Society, American Anthropological Association, American Society for Ethnohistory, National Academy of Science, American Academy of Arts and Science.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Guggenheim fellow, 1967-68; British Academy fellow; Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland honorary fellow; Association of Social Anthropologists of Oceania honorary fellow; Laing Prize, University of Chicago Press, 1978, 1996; Free University of Brussels, Doctor Honoris Causa, 1985; Staley Prize, School of American Research, 1998; University of Paris X (Nanterre), Doctor Honoris Causa, 1999; University of Michigan, Doctor Honoris Causa, 2001; St. Andrews University, Doctor Honoris Causa, 2003; Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil), Doctor Honoris Causa, 2006.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

(Under name Marshall David Sahlins) Social Stratification in Polynesia: A Study of Adaptive Variation in Culture (monograph), University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1958.

(Under name Marshall David Sahlins) Moala: Culture and Nature on a Fijian Island, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1962.

Stone Age Economics, Aldine (Chicago, IL), 1972; reprinted Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.

Culture and Practical Reason, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.

The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1976.

Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1981.

Islands of History, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

(With Patrick V. Krich) Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii, two volumes, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

How "Natives" Think: About Captain Cook, for Example, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Culture in Practice: Selected Essays, Zone Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Waiting for Foucault, Still, Prickly Paradigm Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2004.

UNDER NAME MARSHALL D. SAHLINS

(Editor, with Elman R. Service) Thomas G. Harding and others, Evolution and Culture, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1960.

Tribesmen, Prentice-Hall (Tappan, NJ), 1967.

SIDELIGHTS:

Marshall Sahlins is a respected anthropologist whose specialty is the people and culture of the South Pacific. Some of his theories have prompted lively debate in the anthropological community, to the point where a peer, Gananath Obeyesekere of Princeton University, published a 1992 work that challenged Sahlins's views on the fate of James Cook, who landed in Hawaii in 1779. When the British sea captain first arrived on the island, argues Sahlins, the native Hawaiians welcomed him as the god Lono, bringer of peace and fertility; Cook was honored and revered. Cook left Hawaii by ship but returned a week later to repair a broken mast. This time, however, the period of worship had shifted to an emphasis on the warlike god Ku. The natives, this time, turned on Cook and killed him.

Obeyesekere's The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific, maintains that Sahlins was incorrect in casting the Hawaiians as people who could not distinguish a mortal man from a god. Obeyesekere "accused Sahlins of adopting a condescending view of the natives, of denying them a universal rationality on another culture, thereby distorting and denigrating Hawaiian culture and history," Adan Quan explained in an Antioch Review piece. Obeyesekere argues that the Hawaiians regarded Cook as a chief, whom they sought for an ally, and that the Briton was killed in a reenactment of a warlike ritual.

Obeyesekere's Apotheosis of Captain Cook then led to one of Sahlins's best-known books, a refutation titled How "Natives" Think: About Captain Cook, for Example. Sahlins cited Obeyesekere as a Sri Lankan who "is captive to Western concepts," as Keith Windschuttle from the National Review put it, "a man who cannot think outside this form of rationality and who imagines that radically different systems of classification … is evidence that different cultures order their perceptions in radically different ways."

Some reviews of How "Natives" Think reflected the idea of a scholarly sparring match between the two professors. "Academic blood sport at its finest!," declared Robert B. Edgerton in the National Review. Windschuttle called the argument "the most hotly contested debate in anthropology of recent times." "So who is right and who is wrong in this anthropological altercation?" asks History of Religions contributor Mary MacDonald. She answers: "Both contenders score points: Obeyesekere for showing how European myth models affect the thinking of ‘Europeans’ and ‘Natives’; Sahlins for challenging Obeyesekere's too easy insistence on an only practical rationality." MacDonald went on to characterize Sahlins's volume as a "careful and sharp retort in an ongoing debate between two brilliant and influential anthropologists." Beyond its value as part of an academic debate, MacDonald added, How "Natives" Think "is about doing anthropology. It challenges us to define what it means to be ‘native’ and what it means to observe ‘natives’ in a post-colonial world."

Culture in Practice: Selected Essays is a collection of pieces written over the course of Sahlins's career, and in the opinion of Jay H. Bernstein, a reviewer for Library Journal, "these essays prove that there remain a few anthropologists unafraid to address core issues, in this case, the relationship between the individual and the culture." In the book's first part, the author looks at basic cultural domains such as food, apparel, and use of color through a lens of Marxist theory. In the second section, essays written criticizing the U.S. military action in Vietnam, following Sahlins's tour of the country, are reprinted. In the book's third part, which is also its "most challenging" section according to Bernstein, the author considers the function of history and anthropology, especially in regard to the understanding of tribal cultures and of the historical significance of violence and conquest. Reviewing the essay collection for the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Nigel Rapport advised: "Those looking for the signature erudition, polemic and wit—Sahlins's own incisive and mischievous penmanship—will not be disappointed."

In Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa, Sahlins suggests that war between the Fijian states of Rewa and Bau during the nineteenth century was as significant to Polynesian culture as the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta was to Western culture. His case is "provocatively" made, according to Thomas Figueira in Historian. Figueira further noted that as he makes his theoretical case, the author also "describes Fijian society, incorporating fascinating details about cult, redistribution, and outside interaction." Sahlins's lifetime of scholarship in the area brings considerable weight to his book. As Ivan Brady wrote in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute: "We have come to think differently about the Pacific and its history, not to mention history itself, as a result of his influence. More in the realm of the global academy than the global economy, Sahlins is none the less a Great Man of History in his own right, and the question by his own measure must now become: could (or would) we in the social sciences and the humanities (and the historiography that tags up in both directions) have reached the same overarching contributions to history and anthropology without him? I think not."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Anthropologist, March, 1994, Aletta Biersack, review of Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii, p. 194; September, 1996, Donald Pollock, review of How "Natives" Think: About Captain Cook, for Example, p. 683.

American Antiquity, July, 1994, Thomas Riley, review of Anahulu, p. 577A.

American Ethnologist, February, 1997, Jonathan Friedman, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 261.

American Historical Review, April, 1994, Judith Modell, review of Anahulu, p. 630.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, September, 1977, review of Culture and Practical Reason, p. 194.

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, June, 1994, Robert Kuhlken, review of Anahulu, p. 317.

Antioch Review, winter, 1996, Adan Quan, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 111.

Antiquity, June, 1993, Cyprian Broodbank, review of Anahulu, p. 446.

Australian Journal of Anthropology, April 1, 2006, "No Apology Necessary: Sahlins' Dialectic History of the Fijian Wars," p. 105.

Canadian Literature, spring, 1998, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 200.

Choice, December, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 655.

Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 1995, Mary Warner Marien, review of How "Natives" Think, p. B2.

Clio, September 22, 2006, "The Relation of Culture to History: A Review of Marshall Sahlins's Apologies to Thucydides and William Sewell's Logics of History," p. 59.

Commonweal, December 8, 1978, John Murray Cuddihy, review of Culture and Practical Reason, p. 792.

Contemporary Pacific, fall, 1996, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 460.

Current Anthropology, June, 1998, "The Sweetness of Salvation: Consumer Marketing and the Liberal-Bourgeois Theory of Needs," p. 323.

Far Eastern Economic Review, June 20, 1996, Neel Chowdhury, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 54.

Hispanic American Historical Review, November, 1996, Joseph F. Patrouch, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 763.

Historian, fall, 1998, review of Anahulu, p. 136; June 22, 2006, Thomas Figueira, review of Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa, p. 409.

History of Religions, February, 1997, Mary N. McDonald, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 275.

Journal of American History, March, 1996, Bruce Trigger, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 1564.

Journal of Pacific History, June, 1996, K.R. Howe, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 108.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, June, 1996, Jonathan Friedman, review of Anahulu, p. 383; March 1, 2002, Nigel Rapport, review of Culture in Practice: Selected Essays, p. 193; March 1, 2006, Ivan Brady, review of Apologies to Thucydides, p. 221.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 149.

Library Journal, August, 1992, Glenn Petersen, review of Anahulu, p. 126; April 15, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 85; December 1, 2000, Jay H. Bernstein, review of Culture in Practice, p. 152.

London Review of Books, September 7, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 6.

Michigan Quarterly Review, spring, 1996, Barbara Ryan, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 387.

National Review, May 15, 1995, Robert Edgerton, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 73; September 15, 1997, Keith Windschuttle, "Absolutely Relative," p. 28.

New Scientist, September 23, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 45.

New York Review of Books, November 30, 1995, Clifford Geertz, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 4.

New York Times, May 24, 1995, Richard Bernstein, review of How "Natives" Think, p. B2.

Pacific Affairs, summer, 1996, John Barker, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 297.

Philosophy of the Social Sciences, December, 1998, I.C. Jarvie, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 567.

Religious Studies Review, July, 1999, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 253.

Reviews in Anthropology, Volume 3, 1999, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 173.

Times Literary Supplement, January 19, 1973, review of Stone Age Economics, p. 67; January 13, 1978, review of The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology, p. 23; February 28, 1986, review of Islands of History, p. 224; February 5, 1993, George Milner, review of Anahulu, p. 25; June 8, 2001, T.M. Luhrmann, review of Culture in Practice, pp. 7-8.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), September 3, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 5.

Village Voice Literary Supplement, May, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 11; December, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 23.

William and Mary Quarterly, January, 1997, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 253.

Wilson Quarterly, summer, 1995, review of How "Natives" Think, p. 84.

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Sahlins, Marshall 1930–

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