In order to spur open publishing opportunities for archives, Alexander Street is contributing 10% of revenues from new purchases of our anthropology collections to an open archive fund, which will go toward building the Anthropology Commons. To kick-start this initiative, the Ruth Benedict Papers are now openly and freely available.
Arguably one of the most prolific and influential anthropologists of the 20th century, Margaret Mead undertook her first field expedition in 1925 and was still publishing as late as 1975, a few years before her death. Her first field expedition to Samoa, between 1925 and 1926, resulted in a trove of materials focusing on child-rearing practice and gender roles in Samoa, as well as the widely read and critiqued ethnography, "Coming of Age in Samoa". Mead returned to the field a few years later, conducting joint research with Reo Fortune in Papua New Guinea, between 1928 and 1929, and again between 1931 and 1932. Soon after, she published "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies". The Papers contain Mead's field notebooks, draft manuscripts and other materials leading to the publication of these two seminal ethnographies.
This playlist demonstrates how Victor Turner’s studies of rituals and ceremonies among the Ndembu unfolded through the full scholarly process. Beginning with field notes, Turner organized his observations around themes and indexed them. In a later stage of analysis, he pieced the field notes together in order to recreate chronological events and to analyze the temporal structure. He then integrated the same field notes in various iterations of lectures and draft book manuscripts. The playlist also includes photographs as part of his field documentation process, as well as correspondence from the field between Turner and Max Gluckman.
One of only four Western music scholars allowed into Afghanistan in the late 1960s, Mark Slobin's body of work is a comprehensive documentation of music, culture, language and society in the Afghan North. Completed less than a year before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent anti-musical Taliban takeover, the historical significance of this project lies not only in its comprehensive coverage of the musical landscape of the region, but in its "time capsule" nature. No further musical, and by extension cultural, studies have been undertaken since, given the region's volatile unrest. The collection includes field recordings along with field notes, photographs, film footage, and background text.
While conversations about climate change continue to develop on a global scale, its direct impact is already being felt across the low-lying islands of the Pacific. Communities in Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji and beyond are working to document, in real-time, the immediate impacts of rising sea levels and to develop community-based strategies for dealing with its disastrous effects. The videos in this playlist reveal the human side of climate change from local and ethnographic perspectives—lifestyle changes being forced upon entire nations that beg the question: What happens when low-lying coastal communities or independent countries (such as Kiribati or Tuvalu) disappear into the sea?
The videos in this playlist map onto commonly taught musical styles and traditions in basic undergraduate world music classes. Geographic coverage includes Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
One role of the ethnographer is to capture, document and preserve cultural, social and community events as they occur in real time. The films in this playlist are a testament to living traditions across the Pacific. From recordings of music and dance festivals and footage of the Fijian president’s funeral to rare documentation of Samoan gift-giving presentations, these records were captured by indigenous filmmakers and provide a unique window through which to view indigenous traditions through an indigenous lens.