These papers document Jon Breslar's fieldwork on Mayotte, Comoro Islands for his dissertation as well as his work developing a new housing policy for Mayotte. The collection contains his professional correspondence, field notes, research notes, his writings, writings by others, newspaper clippings, teaching materials for his Shimaore language course, photographs, maps, plant specimens, and sound recordings.
Scope and Content note:
These papers document Jon Breslar's fieldwork on Mayotte, Comoro Islands for his dissertation as well as his work developing a new housing policy for Mayotte. The collection contains his professional correspondence, notes, writings, research materials, photographs, maps, plant specimens, and sound recordings.
Among his correspondents in the collection are Georges and Genevieve Boulinier, Michael Lambek, Paul Ottino, and Alexander Spoehr. The collection also contains his correspondence relating to arrangements for his trip to Mayotte as well as his fieldwork progress reports sent to the Social Science Research Council, which funded his research.
A copy of Breslar's dissertation can be found in the collection along with his field notes; maps; sound recordings of ceremonies and interviews with informants; plant specimens used for medicine; photographic prints; and 35 mm slides. Materials relating to his work on the Mayotte housing project consist of his research notes, photographs, and the L'Habitat publications produced from the project.
Michael Lambek and Breslar both conducted fieldwork on Mayotte at around the same time and collaborated on two papers: "Death and Politics in Mayotte" (presented at the 1977 76th American Anthropological Association meeting) and "Funerals and Social Change in Mayotte" (1986). A draft of the first paper can be found filed with Lambek's correspondence while a copy of the second paper is under Series 4. Writings.
In addition to Breslar's writings, the collection contains monographs, articles, and theses on the Comoro Islands and Madagascar by other authors. Most of the writings are in French and English, but there are also photocopies and photographic prints of a manuscript in Arabic.
Other materials that may be of interest are Breslar's teaching materials for his course on Shimaore. While in Mayotte, Breslar became fluent in Shimaore and offered a course on the language.
Jon Haskell Breslar, a sociocultural and applied anthropologist, was born on June 22, 1949 in Ware, Massachusetts. He received a B.A. in Anthropology and French in 1971 from Franklin & Marshall College and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1981.
As a doctoral student, Breslar originally planned to study ethnic identities and relationships in the Lac Alaotra region of Northeast Madgascar. His plans came to a halt, however, when officials from the Malagasy Embassy informed him that westerners were no longer allowed to conduct long term ethnological research in Madagascar. As a result, he decided to carry out his research in Mayotte, Comoro Islands. From 1975 to 1976, Breslar conducted fieldwork in the villages of Sada and M'Zouazia, which led to his dissertation, "An Ethnography of the Mahorais (Mayotte, Comoro Islands)." He still had not completed his dissertation when, upon the invitation of the French government, he returned to Mayotte for four months from November, 1977 to February, 1978 to develop a new housing policy for the Mahorais as a contractor for Société Immobilière de Mayotte. He returned to Mayotte again in September, 1978 to January, 1982, this time with his family, to continue work on the project. A pilot study was conducted and published in a three-volume set, one of which was Breslar's L'Habitat Mahorais: Une Perspective Ethnologique (1979-1982). The project resulted in the construction of more durable housing using low-cost materials.
In 1983, he joined the US Agency for International Development (USAID). During the course of his career at USAID, he was assigned to Nepal, Mali, and Lebanon (where he served as director). He rose to the diplomatic rank of Minister Counselor and was a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award and the Administrator's Award for Distinguished Career Service.
Breslar passed away at the age of 56, from lung cancer, on September 3, 2005.
Lambek, Michael. "Jon Haskell Breslar." Anthropology News 47.2 (2006): 35.
1949 -- Born June 22 in Ware, Massachusetts
1971 -- Earns B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College in Anthropology and French
1975-1976 -- Conducts ethnological fieldwork in Mayotte, Comoro Islands.
1977-1978 -- Returns to Mayotte for four months to help develop new housing policy for the Mahorais as a contractor for Société Immobilière de Mayotte
1978-1982 -- Continues work on Mayotte housing project
1981 -- Earns Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh
1983 -- Joins USAID
1985-1989 -- Serves as USAID Rural Development Officer in Nepal
1989-1993 -- Serves as USAID Program Officer in Mali
1997 -- Visits Mayotte
2000-2002 -- Serves as Mission Director in Lebanon
2005 -- Dies on September 3 at the age of 56.
1981 -- Ph.D. dissertation. "An Ethnography of the Mahorais (Mayotte, Comoro Islands)." University of Pittsburgh.
1979 -- L'Habitat Mahorais: Une Perspective Ethnologique. Paris: Editions A.G.G.
1986 -- with Michael Lambek. "Funerals and Social Change in Mayotte." Madagascar: Society and History. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
Four 8mm film reels received with the papers of Jon Breslar have been transferred to the Human Studies Film Archives. The reels contain footage of a circumcision and other Mayotte rituals and ceremonies.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Jon Breslar's wife, Bonnie. A copy of Breslar's dissertation was obtained by his wife and added to the collection at a later date.
Jon H. Breslar papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The Jon Breslar Papers were processed with the support of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to Bonnie Breslar.
Funding for the digitization of portions of this collection was provided by the Arcadia Fund.