Shweder, Richard A.
SHWEDER, Richard A.
Educator, cultural anthropologist, and writer. University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya, teacher, c. 1973; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, c. 1974—, currently professor of human development. Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, CA, fellow; Russell Sage Foundation visiting scholar; Wissenschaftskollege, Berlin, Germany, fellow, 1999-2000.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow). Society for Psychological Anthropology (former president), MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development.
John Guggenheim fellowship; American Association for the Advancement of Science Socio-Psychological Prize, for "Does the Concept of the Person Vary Cross-culturally?"
(Editor) Fallible Judgment in Behavioral Research ("New Directions for Methodology of Social and Behavioral Science" series, no. 4), Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 1980.
(Editor with Donald W. Fiske) Metatheory in Social Science: Pluralisms and Subjectivities, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.
Thinking through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.
(Editor with Richard Jessor and Anne Colby) Ethnography and Human Development: Context and Social Inquiry, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.
(Editor) Welcome to Middle Age! (And Other Cultural Fictions), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.
(Editor with Martha Minow and Hazel Rose Marcus) Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2002.
Why Do Men Barbecue?: Recipes for Cultural Psychology, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Guest coeditor of Daedalus, 2000.
Richard A. Shweder, a professor of human development at the University of Chicago, is the editor of several books on anthropology and human development, among them Ethnography and Human Development: Context and Social Inquiry and Welcome to Middle Age! (And Other Cultural Fictions). In addition to these editorships, Shweder has also collected his own writings as Thinking through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology and Why Do Men Barbecue?: Recipes for Cultural Psychology, the latter published in 2003. Reviewing Thinking through Cultures for the Religious Studies Review, Robert A. Segal praised Shweder's proposal that future study be channeled into the relativistic field of "cultural psychology," and noted that, "written with verve and panache, Shweder's book offers a stream of striking, sometimes brilliant vignettes" to support his argument.
In Welcome to Middle Age!, published in 1998, Shweder collects essays that focus on the years—between ages thirty and seventy—when humans begin to encounter physical decline, their authors focusing on the reaction to this period of life in cultures around the world. Unlike the United States, other cultures did not distinguish this time in life, but America's ageist beliefs, supported by its media and advertising campaigns, have spread the concept of "middle age" worldwide. As people live longer, and technology and medical advances offer hope of agelessness, even for Americans the concept is undergoing a transition, according to Shweder. Diana Olsberg, writing in the Australian Journal of Anthropology, noted that Welcome to Middle Age! "is a book we all should read regardless of our particular disciplinary field or research interest" because the volumes "gives us new insights into the ways in which human subjects are aged by culture" rather than biology. While R. Simpson questioned in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute why, "Having laid out some fascinating material, … the authors did not end the collection with a chapter, perhaps an entirely theoretical one, which would bring together the diverse themes presented and give some clue as to where the emergent field of life-course studies might go next," American Journal of Sociology contributor John Modell applauded the collection, stating that "The importance and face plausibility of [Shweder's] thesis … no less than the excellence of the individual essays, makes this a valuable volume."
In the eight essays collected in Why Do Men Barbecue? Shweder again explores the human condition and the factors that contribute to cultural differences in mental life: for example, while Western women do everything they can to look younger, women in India cannot wait to reach middle age. Shweder encourages his First World readership to reconsider cultural practices that range from the American tradition of children sleeping alone—a common practice only in the United States and Great Britain—to female circumcision in the Third World—women in some countries reportedly find a lack of circumcision to be offensive. He cites the danger of adopting a generalized attitude toward the social sciences and notes that if each culture has unique traditions, why should any one culture assume superiority? As an Economist contributor explained Shweder's premise, "In a world where people move frequently between countries and cultures, such deeply rooted assumptions pose problems" and "people in the West, like 19th-century missionaries, are tempted to impose their cultural assumptions on other countries, convinced that West is best." M. C. Duhig, reviewing Why Do Men Barbecue? in the Library Journal, recommended the book for students in "programs in anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, and cultural and gender studies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, March, 1987, James L. Peacock, review of Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion, p. 224; December, 1987, p. 956; June, 1992, p. 435; September, 1992, Dorothy Holland, review of Thinking through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology, p. 747; June, 1998, Ivan Brady, review of Ethnography and Human Development: Context and Meaning in Social Inquiry, p. 510; September, 1998, Marc J. Swartz, review of Ethnography and Human Development, p. 831.
American Ethnologist, May, 1993, Karen Watson-Gegeo, review of Cultural Psychology: Essays on Comparative Human Development, p. 393; November, 1994, p. 917; February, 1999, Bob W. White, review of Ethnography and Human Development, pp. 257-258.
American Journal of Sociology, May, 1993, Steve Derne, review of Thinking through Cultures, pp. 1482-1483; July, 1999, John Modell, review of Welcome to Middle Age! (And Other Cultural Fictions), p. 245.
Australian Journal of Anthropology, April, 2000, Diana Olsberg, review of Welcome to Middle Age!, p. 119.
Booklist, June 1, 1998, Eric Robbins, review of Welcome to Middle Age!, p. 1686.
Contemporary Psychology, May, 1986, pp. 347-348.
Contemporary Sociology, January, 1986, pp. 80-81; September, 1997, pp. 654-655.
Current Anthropology, February, 1991, Paul L. Harris, review of Cultural Psychology, p. 82.
Economist, April 19, 2003, review of WhyDoMen Barbecue?: Recipes for Cultural Psychology.
Ethnic and Racial Studies, July, 1992, Roland Littlewood, review of Thinking through Cultures, p. 471.
Human Development, March-April, 1998, pp. 134-144; May-June, 2000, Shelly Errington, "Is Middle Age a Fiction?," p. 191.
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, July, 1998, review of Ethnography and Human Development, p. 285.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March, 1998, Elizabeth Chin, review of Ethnography and Human Development, p. 151; September 9, 1999, R. Simpson, review of Welcome to Middle Age!, p. 509.
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, M. C. Duhig, review of Why Do Men Barbecue?, p. 118.
New York Times Book Review, March 10, 1985, p. 36.
Religious Studies Review, October, 1993, Robert A. Segal, review of Thinking through Cultures, p. 329.
University of Chicago Department of Psychology Web site,http://www.psychology.uchicago.edu/ (October 12, 2003).*
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