Terence "Terry" Sheldon Turner (1935-2015) was best known for his ethnographic work among the Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) people of the Amazon rainforest and his work as an activist for the Mebêngôkre and other communities. This collection documents his interest in the Mebêngôkre and his work as a human rights activist. It includes field notes, censuses, papers, notes, correspondence, news clippings, sound recordings, films, photographs, charts and diagrams, genealogy and kinship information, and computer discs.
Scope and Contents:
The Terence Turner papers contain materials related to his work as an anthropologist and human rights activist. Turner's primary focus of research was the Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) people of the Amazon rainforest. The collection contains field notes, censuses, papers and draft manuscripts, correspondence, notes, news clippings, sound recordings, films, photographs, charts and diagrams, genealogy and kinship information, and computer discs relating to that interest. His work in human rights is also well documented; the collection contains notes, papers, correspondence, and news clippings. A significant amount of the human rights material relates to the Yanomami controversy which arose when Turner and Leslie Sponsel sent the American Anthropological Association a memo warning of the furor that was likely to result from the publication of the book Darkness in El Dorado by Patrick Tierney. The human rights materials in the collection also include materials relating to the Mebêngôkre and their environmental protection protests and demonstrations. The film and video primarily relate to the Granada Television films for which he consulted and the films produced by the Kayapo with the help of the Kayapo Video Project. There are some materials relating to courses which he taught or took.
This collection is arranged in 7 series: (1) Research, 1952-2015; (2) Human rights, ethics, and activism, circa 1964-2015; (3) Papers, conferences, and courses, 1959-2013; (4) Correspondence and contacts, 1966-2008; (5) Computer files, 1983-2010; (6) Photographs, 1938-1942, 1952, 1962-2014; (7) Sound recordings, 1962, 1976-2003; and (8) Film and video, 1975-2008
Terence "Terry" Sheldon Turner (1935-2015) was best known for his ethnographic work with the Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) people of the Amazon rainforest and his work as an activist for the Mebêngôkre and other communities. He was born in Philadelphia and raised outside of Washington, DC. He earned his A.B. from Harvard University (1957) and M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley (1959), in Modern European History. His interest in how society functions brought him to the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University for his Ph.D. (1965), where his studies turned to Social Anthropology. His interests were still in Europe, but his advisor, David Maybury-Lewis, persuaded him to study the Mebêngôkre in Brazil (Moberg). Despite his initial intentions, Turner developed a lasting relationship with the Mebêngôkre, who gave him the name Wakampu. He worked with the community for more than 50 years, visiting them over 20 times.
Turner and his then wife, Joan Bamberger, lived with the Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) from 1962 to 1964 while conducting research for their dissertations. His initial studies were on socio-cultural change, social organization, political systems, dual organization, a comparison to other Gê tribes, and mythology. Joan studied Mebêngôkre material culture, as it related to both function and significance. Turner's interest in mythology and the ties between the structure and motifs of myths to social structure led him to spend a year (1966-1967) at the University of Paris where Claude Lévi-Strauss was working on a project involving comparisons of mythology and social structure of different Central Brazilian indigenous groups.
Turner taught at Cornell University from 1966 to 1968, at the University of Chicago from 1968 to 1999, and then returned to Cornell from 1999 to 2015 where his wife, Jane Fajans, was also a professor. While teaching at the University of Chicago, Turner developed an interest in Karl Marx and the applications of his theories to anthropology (Moberg). He stated in a Guggenheim grant application that "Another main line of theoretical effort has been my attempt to generalize Marx's concept of value to account for the forms of social value generated in such forms of 'social production', in particular those of the Kayapo and other primitive, classless societies" (Terence Turner papers). In an interview for an article in the Chicago Reader, he said that "The Kayapo didn't have an economic sphere. They didn't have commodity production. Production for them in an immediate sense is production of their lives, and of course then you realize–wow!–this is a society for which the complete human being through all stages of life, right up to death, is the supreme product. It's the most complex and demanding product, and the social order is the whole process of producing that product" (Moberg). His interest in Marx led him to study Piaget, Vygotsky, Leont'ev, and Zinchenko, who "provided analytically principled ways of connecting material activity with forms of consciousness" (Terence Turner papers).
Turner was interested in visual anthropology. He assisted in the production of three British documentaries on the Mebêngôkre people: the BBC's Face Values in 1976 and Granada Television's Disappearing World series episodes "The Kayapo" and "The Kayapo: Out of the Forest" in 1987 and 1989. He also assisted the Mebêngôkre in documenting their own culture. The Mebêngôkre had obtained video cameras in 1985 and Turner encouraged them to obtain more cameras from the Granada crew in return for access to the community in 1987 (Harms). In 1990, he created the Kayapo Video Project, which funded the purchase of cameras, education for the Mebêngôkre filmmakers in filming and editing, and preserving the original footage at the Kayapo Video Archive/Arquivo de Video Kaiapo at the Centro de Trabalho Indigenista. Turner stated in a 1996 request for funding that the purpose of the project was "to generate an extensive archive of videos about all aspects of Kayapo culture and ecological knowledge, and simultaneously build up a cadre of well-trained video camerapersons and video-editors capable of continuing video-making and using activities into the future. The videos will be produced (both shot and edited) by the Kayapo themselves. They will form the backbone of a larger project of Kayapo cultural preservation, provide visual tests for use in a projected Kayapo educational program, and also generate a unique audio-visual record of the ecological knowledge and technology of a major Amazonian culture" (Terence Turner papers).
Turner was also very involved in human rights work and activism for indigenous communities. He felt it was the responsibility of anthropologists to defend the rights of the people whom they studied. He was involved in "anthropological activism," assisting the Mebêngôkre and others in their fight to protect their rights and environment. This interest began when Turner investigated the movement of miners, loggers, and poachers onto Mebêngôkre lands for FUNAI (the Fundação Nacional do Índio) (Harms). There were widespread protests against these incursions by the Mebêngôkre beginning in the early 1970s, which resulted in the Mebêngôkre gaining land rights. Despite this success, conflicts between the Mebêngôkre and Brazilian nationals, as well as within the Mebêngôkre community, continued. Turner both observed and participated in many of these protests and documented the ways in which these actions affected Mebêngôkre society and culture. Two of the most important protests concerned the planned construction of a series of hydroelectric dams on the Xingú River. The first protest, at Altamira in 1989, successfully derailed the project. The success of this protest brought international attention to the Mebêngôkre, who sent representatives to Canada in 1992 to support the Cree, who were protesting the construction of a hydroelectric dam there. The Brazilian government redesigned their original plans for the series of dams on the Xingú River; when these plans were leaked in 2008, another protest ensued. Turner and his daughter, Vanessa, documented this protest.
Turner's commitment to human rights led to him becoming a founding member of the American Anthropological Association's Ethics Committee (1969-1972) and Committee for Human Rights (1992-1997), serving as president of Survival International, U.S.A., heading the Special Commission of the American Anthropological Association to Investigate the Situation of the Brazilian Yanomami (1990-1991), and receiving the Solon T. Kimball Award from the American Anthropological Association in 1998.
American Anthropological Association. "AAA Mourns the Loss of Dr. Terence Turner." Accessed June 22, 2022. https://www.americananthro.org/StayInformed/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=13188
Glaser, Linda B. "Anthropologist Terence Turner dies at 79." Cornell Chronicle, November 11, 2015.
Harms, William. "Terence Turner, anthropologist and human rights advocate for indigenous people, 1935-2015." UChicago News, November 17, 2015.
Moberg, David. "When Worlds Collide: Encounters with Anthropologist Terence Turner and other agents of modernity left the Kayapo of Brazil with something they'd never had before: power." Chicago Reader, October 2, 1997.
Survival International. "Terry Turner." Accessed June 22, 2022. https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10992
Terence Turner papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
1935 December 30 -- Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1957 -- A.B. from Harvard College in Modern European History, graduating cum Laude
1959 -- M.A. from the University of California, Berkley, in Modern European History
1961 -- Married Joan Bamberger on August 25
1962 -- Began work with Mebêngôkre (Kayapó)
1965 -- Ph.D. from Harvard University's Department of Social Relations in Social Anthropology Research associate at the Museo Nacional do Brasil
1966-1968 -- Visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Cornell University
1968-1982 -- Assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago
1969-1972 -- Member of the American Anthropological Association's Ethics Committee
1976 -- Advisor for the filming of Face Values with the BBC
1980 -- Married Jane Fajans on July 25
1981 -- Daughter Vanessa Fajans-Turner born on September 26
1982-1999 -- Professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago.
1984 -- Daughter Allison Fajans-Turner born on June 15
1987 -- Advisor for the filming of Disappearing World: The Kayapo with Granada Films
1989 -- Advisor for the filming of Disappearing World: The Kayapo: Out of the Forest with Granada Films
1990-1991 -- Chair of the American Anthropological Association's Special Commission to Investigate the Situation of the Brazilian Yanomami
1992-1997 -- Member of the American Anthropological Association's Committee for Human Rights
1998 -- Received Solon T. Kimball Award from the American Anthropological Association
1999-2004 -- Adjunct professor of anthropology at Cornell University.
2004-2015 -- Visiting professor of anthropology at Cornell University.
2015 November 7 -- Died in Ithaca, New York.
The archivist uses Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) or Mebêngôkre to refer to the Mebêngôkre people. However, Turner and other anthropologists whose work is included in the collection used other spelling variations (Mẽbêngôkre, Mebengokre, Megengokré, Kayapó, Kayapo, Kaiapó, Kaiapo, Cayapó, Cayapo, and Caiapo) which have not be altered in folder titles or descriptions.
The archivist uses Yanomami to refer to the Yanomami (Yanoama) people. Some folder titles or contents may use the Yanomamö spelling.
Materials related to the Mebêngôkre (Kayapó) in the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) can also be found in the William Lipkind papers and Photo Lot 79-1. Materials related to the Yanomami in the NAA can also be found in the Timothy Asch papers, the American Anthropological Association records, and Photo Lot 94-28. Materials related to the Yanomami in the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) can be found in the Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon films of the Yanomamo.
The Terence Turner papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Turner's wife, Jane Fajans, in 2020.
Audiovisual and digital materials are restricted. Please contact the archives for information on the availability of access copies.
Graded papers are restricted for 80 years from the date of their creation and grant applications are restricted for 30 years from the date of their creation. These restrictions are noted on the folder level.
Access to the Terence Turner papers requires and appointment.
Genetic microdifferentiation in human and other animal populations : proceedings of the international symposium held at Hyderabad, India, December 1983 / edited by Y. R. Ahuja, James V. Neel ; sponsored by Society of Biological Chemists (India), Hyderabad, Department of Genetics, Osmania University, Hyderabad
Evolutionary perspectives and the new genetics : proceedings of an international symposium honoring Dr. James V. Neel held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 17-18, 1985 / editors, Henry Gershowitz, Donald L. Rucknagel, Richard E. Tashian