Whitehead, Neil L(ancelot) 1956-

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WHITEHEAD, Neil L(ancelot) 1956-

PERSONAL: Born March 19, 1956, in London, England; immigrated to United States, 1993; son of Kenneth Lancelot and Irene Winifred (Dormer) Whitehead; married Theresa Margaret Murphy, June 7, 1986; children: Luke, Florence, Rose, Natalie. Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1977, M.A., 1978, D.Phil. (social anthropology), 1984, M.A., 1986.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, 1180 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Oxford University, Oxford, England, tutor, 1990-92; University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor of anthropology, 1993—. Laboratoire d'Anthroplogie Sociale, École des Hautes Etudes, Paris, France, visiting professor, 2003. Ethnohistory, editor, 1997-2007.

MEMBER: American Anthropological Association, Royal Anthropological Institute, Koningslijk Institute, Hakluyt Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: University of London fellow, 1979-80; École de Haute Etudes fellow, 1980-81; Guggenheim Foundation fellow, 1985-90; Royal Anthropological Institute fellow; John Henry Breasted Prize, American Historical Association, 1998; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 2001; Rasputin Award, University of Wisconsin—Madison Center for the Humanities, 2002, for Dark Shamans.


Lords of the Tiger Spirit: A History of the Caribs in Colonial Venezuela and Guyana, 1498-1820, Foris Publications (Providence, RI), 1988.

(Editor, with R. Brian Ferguson) War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, School of American Research Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1992.

(Editor, with Peter Hulme) Wild Majesty: Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day: An Anthology, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1992.

(Editor) Wolves from the Sea: Readings in the Anthropology of the Native Caribbean, KITLV Press (Leiden, Netherlands), 1995.

(Transcriber and author of annotations and introduction) Sir Walter Raleigh, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1997.

(Author of foreword) Elsa M. Redmond, editor, Chiefdoms and Chieftaincy in the Americas, International Congress of Americanists, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 1998.

(With Blair Whitehead) My Genes Made Me Do It!, Huntington House, 1999.

(Editor, with Laura Rival) Beyond the Visible and the Material: The Amerindianization of Society in the Work of Peter Rivìere, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Violent Death, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2002.

(Editor) Histories and Historicities in Amazonia University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2003.

Nineteenth-Century Travels, Explorations, and Empires: Writings from the Era of Imperial Consolidation, 1835-1910; South America, Chatto & Pickering (London, England), 2004.

(Editor, with Robin Wright) In Darkness and Secrecy: The Anthropology of Assault Sorcery and Witchcraft in Amazonia, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.

(Editor) Violence: Poetics, Performance, and Expression, SAR Press (Santa Fe, NM), 2004.

(Editor, with Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart) Terror and Violence: Anthropological Approaches, Pluto Press (London, England), 2005.

Cannibal Conqueror: Hans Staden and the Spectacle of Anthropophagy in Brazil, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Current Anthropology.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Cultures of Violence and the Violence of Culture, a nonfiction work addressing key aspects of human violence.

SIDELIGHTS: Anthropologist, editor, and author Neil L. Whitehead was born in England and attended Oxford University, where he served as a tutor. A professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Whitehead is the author of a number of books, among them Lords of the Tiger Spirit: A History of the Caribs in Colonial Venezuela and Guyana, 1498-1820, which was based on his doctoral thesis. Whitehead has also edited works about the indigenous people of eastern South America, including a group of people known as both the Caribs and the Karinyas. He also transcribed, introduced, and added notes to The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana, a work by sixteenth-century English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

In Lords of the Tiger Spirit Whitehead describes the Venezuelan and Guyanan Caribs who managed to maintain their independence from the colonizing forces of the Spanish, the Dutch, and other European powers. Journal of Historical Geography contributor Peter Wade explained that the author "traces in great detail the history of the Carib Indians (now called Karinya) of this area and their staunch resistance to colonial domination until they were finally brought under missionary control in the eighteenth century." Reviewing the book in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Stephanie Wood declared that it "makes an admirable stab at capturing an elusive history of a valiant people which should interest historians of indigenous peoples and colonial experiences of the entire hemisphere."

With Peter Hulme, Whitehead edited the 1992 work Wild Majesty: Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day, a collection of writings by European and American explorers and anthropologists. The writings included range from excerpts of explorer Christopher Columbus's journal penned in 1492 and 1493 to the observations of anthropologist Jose Barreiro in 1990. In between, a reader can find musings from seventeenth-century missionary Raymond Breton and Victorian-era birdwatcher Frederick Ober. In addition, Whitehead also edited War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, together with R. Brian Ferguson. This 1992 volume is a collection of articles by various anthropologists who argue that tribal conflicts have been greatly exacerbated by the influence of nationalism. According to Science contributor Bruce M. Knauft, topics in Warinthe Tribal Zone include discussions of the ancient Roman Empire, the West African slave trade, the Iroquois Confederacy in North America, and the impact of colonization on the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Knauft observed that "the editors tend to attribute all tribal warfare to the subsequent transformative effect of economic and political encroachment by Western and other states." Knauft continued that "as the book's best chapters amply demonstrate, the conflict dynamics of indigenous-state interaction need to be teased apart historically without sweeping either indigenous conflict patterns or the momentous and often horrendous effects of state political economies under the rug."

In Wolves from the Sea: Readings in the Anthropology of the Native Caribbean Whitehead assembles essays focusing on how previous anthropologists have categorized the Caribs and Arawaks, both indigenous people of the Caribbean islands. These categorizations often depict the Caribs as bloodthirsty cannibals, while they also state that the Arawaks are much more tractable. Although explorers and scholars created these labels centuries ago, they survive in some ways to this day. "In terms of clarifying Island Carib ethnicity, this book achieves mixed results," judged Peter O'B. Harris in the Hispanic American Historical Review. Harris also noted: "Despite the stress on ethnicity, the book is not addressed to Caribbean peoples of Amerindian descent," yet added that "in terms of defining Island Carib research strategy, however, this book makes a much-needed and major contribution." Reviewing Wolves from the Sea in American Ethnologist, Richard Price asserted that the authors "make clear that archaeologists, linguists, and ethnologists will need to collaborate closely and bring to bear their sharpest critical tools to piece together, out of diverse traces left by the Caribbean past, the larger interpretive puzzle" of Carib and Arawak history and anthropology, concluding that "this lively collection helps clear the path and provides numerous useful beacons."

Sir Walter Raleigh's The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana was first published in 1596. Whitehead provides the introduction, transcription, and notes for an updated version of the text, publishing his edition of Raleigh's work in 1997. The Discoverie features Raleigh's accounts of his encounters with indigenous South American tribal leaders—people he termed "kings," the explorer's descriptions of the search for gold, and his accounts of "monster" sightings. While researching in preparation for updating Raleigh's text, Whitehead visited the regions Raleigh describes in The Discoverie. He incorporates these experiences as well as the writings of sixteenth-century authors contemporary to Raleigh, thereby providing additional perspectives on the famed explorer's text.

Whitehead told CA: "I am currently writing up research on the cultural practice of collective violence. Research to date has involved both the ethnographic study of a cult of ritual violence and the historical study of tribal warfare. I intend to use this ethnographic experience, in conjunction with a close examination of secondary literature on the cultural meaning of violence, and a global comparison of ethnographic case-studies to write a book-length work, Cultures of Violence and the Violence of Culture. This work will address key aspects of human violence that have often been ignored, principally how violence may be an expression of fundamental cultural practice and a sanctioned means of collective communication and exchange, such that the 'enemy' becomes integral to cultural identity. By offering a new framework for understanding the genesis and dynamics of ethnic violence and its burgeoning challenge to national and individual security it is hoped that anthropological debate will be stimulated and policy better informed with regard to the causes and development of collective conflict."



American Anthropologist, July, 1996, p. 615.

American Ethnologist, February, 1996, p. 187.

Australian Journal of Anthropology, August, 2004, Zeljko Jokic, review of Dark Shamans: Knaìma and the Poetics of Violent Death, p. 250.

Current Anthropology, April, 1996, pp. 339-341.

Hispanic American Historical Review, August, 1990, pp. 498-499; August, 1996, pp. 552-554.

Journal of Historical Geography, October, 1990, pp. 481-482.

Science, May 21, 1993, pp. 1184, 1186.


Isthmus Online,http://www.thedailypage.com (February 20, 2005), "Dark Sorcery" (interview with Whitehead).

University of Wisconsin Alumni Online,http://www.uwalumni.com/ (fall, 2003), "Kanaima as Unintended Consequence" (interview with Whitehead).

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Whitehead, Neil L(ancelot) 1956-

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