Rappaport, Roy

views updated


RAPPAPORT, ROY (1926–1997), U.S. anthropologist. A native of New York City, Rappaport enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17, seeing combat duty with the Infantry in World War II, for which he received the Purple Heart. He earned his bachelor's degree in hotel administration from Cornell University in 1949; in 1951 he opened Avaloch Inn, near Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts. He then studied anthropology at Columbia University, receiving his doctorate in 1966.

Rappaport joined the faculty of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as an assistant professor in 1965, becoming associate professor in 1968 and professor of anthropology in 1972, eventually serving as chair of the department of anthropology. An internationally respected scholar, his work explored the relationship between religion, society, and ecology, and his many professional activities reflected these interests. His early work, Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People (1968), based on his fieldwork among the Maring people, established his reputation. Another notable work, Ecology, Meaning and Religion, was published in 1979. His last book, Holiness and Humanity: Ritual in the Making of a Religious Life, completed shortly before his death in 1997, was published in 1999; it is considered to represent the scope of his academic work, and it was described as a milestone in the anthropology of religion.

Rappaport served as a consultant for educational, anthropological, and environmental projects, including the National Academy of Sciences Task Force. He was a consultant to the state of Nevada and to Nye County concerning the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, and he advised the federal government regarding oil leasing on the outer continental shelf. He contributed numerous articles to academic journals, including American Anthropologist, Ethnology, Scientific American, and the Journal of the Polynesian Society. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Ethnological Society. Rappaport was president of the American Anthropological Association, and he served on several national committees on environmental issues.

[Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)]