University of Florida. Department of Anthropology Search this
42.27 Linear feet (85.5 document boxes, 1 oversize box, 4 record storage boxes, 90 computer disks, 19 cassette tapes, 1 7" sound reel, 3 vinyl records, and 1 map folder)
Boxes 88-91 (formerly designated off-site boxes 1-4) are stored off-site. Advanced notice must be given to view these materials.
New York (N.Y.)
Rio de Contas (Brazil)
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Marvin Harris. Harris was a prominent anthropologist, best known for developing the controversial paradigm of cultural materialism. He authored several important books in the field of anthropology and taught at Columbia University and The University of Florida. The papers include correspondence, research materials, his publications, unpublished manuscripts, conference papers, lectures, subject files, teaching files, computer files, and photographs.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains the professional papers of anthropologist Marvin Harris. The papers include correspondence, research materials, his publications, unpublished manuscripts, conference papers, lectures, subject files, teaching files, computer files, and photographs.
His research files document his ethnographic field work in Rio de Contas, Brazil, both for his dissertation and his racial categorization project; his research on forced labor in Mozambique; his videotape study in New York City households; and his India sacred cattle research. The collection also contains his research on food preferences and aversions, his files as a research consultant for the McKinsey Global Institute, and photos from his field work in Chimborazo, Ecuador and Arembepe, Brazil.
Over the course of his career, Harris also participated in several conferences and invited lectures. The collection contains some of the papers he presented as well as audio recordings of his lecture "Levi-Strauss and the Clam: An Open and Shut Case" and a recording of a radio interview. Also present in the collection are materials relating to conference sessions and symposiums that he organized, including the 1967 AAA session on Anthropology and War and his 1983 Wenner-Gren symposium on Food Preferences and Aversions.
Additional materials that may be of interest are materials documenting Harris' activism in the 1960s at Columbia University, which include his anti-Vietnam War activities, as well as his involvement in the student protests of 1968 at Columbia University. The collection also contains Harris' CIA, FBI, and Department of State records that he obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, photographs from Harris' service in the army in the 1940s, and photos taken in Brazil by Pierre Verger.
Harris corresponded with several prominent anthropologists, many of whom were Latin American specialists. Some of his noteworthy correspondents include Napoleon Chagnon, Derek Freeman, Morton Fried, Conrad Kottak, Sidney Mintz, Anthony Leeds, Claude Levi-Strauss, Darcy Ribeiro, Anisio Teixeira, Charles Wagley, and Karl Wittfogel. Also of special interest is his correspondence with leading figures in the Mozambique and Portuguese liberation movements, including Antonio Figuereido, Eduardo Mondlane, and General Humberto Delgado.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.
This collection is arranged in 10 series: (1) Correspondence, 1952-2001; (2) Research, 1949-1997; (3) Writings, 1955-2001; (4) Professional Activities, 1960-1999; (5) Name Subject Files, 1951-2001; (6) University, 1947-1999; (7) Biographical Files, 1954-1999; (8) Writings by Other People, 1961-2000; (9) Photographs, 1945-1996; (10) Computer Files, 1980-2000
Marvin Harris was a prominent anthropologist, best known for developing the controversial paradigm of cultural materialism. He authored several important books in the field of anthropology, most notably The Rise of Anthropological Theory (1968) and Cultural Materialism (1979) as well as books that reached a wider audience, such as Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches (1974) and Cannibals and Kings (1977).
Harris was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 18, 1927. After serving in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps (1945-47), he received his B.A. (1948) and Ph.D. (1953) from Columbia University. His first anthropology course was taught by Charles Wagley, who was influential in Harris' decision to become an anthropologist. Harris joined the faculty at Columbia University after earning his doctorate and served as chair of the Department of Anthropology from 1963 to 1966. In 1980, he left Columbia for a position as Graduate Research Professor at University of Florida, where he stayed until his retirement in 2000.
It was in The Rise of Anthropological Theory that Harris coined the phrase "cultural materialism," a subject he further elaborated on in Cultural Materialism. Cultural materialism, Harris explains, is a scientific research strategy "based on the simple premise that human social life is a response to the practical problems of earthly existence" (1979, xv). Harris applied the paradigm to explain various cultural patterns, such as food preferences and taboos, changes in U.S. family structure, and the collapse of Soviet and East European state socialism. One of his most controversial theories was that the Hindu prohibition of slaughtering and consuming cows in India arose because it was more economically beneficial to use cattle as draft animals than as meat. He challenged Napoleon Chagnon's views that Yanomami men were inherently more aggressive and violent by explaining that it was the pursuit of animal protein that was the cause of Yanomami warfare. Harris similarly argued that protein deficiency was the reason why the Aztecs practiced cannibalism.
Harris presented his theories beyond academic circles to a general audience by contributing a monthly column to Natural History Magazine. He also authored several popular books. In addition to Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches and Cannibals and Kings, Harris also wrote America Now (1981), Good to Eat (1985), and Our Kind (1989). Harris also authored and edited several editions of two college-level introductory textbooks: Culture, People, Nature (first published as Culture, Man, and Nature in 1971) and Cultural Anthropology (first published in 1983, later editions coauthored with Orna Johnson). According to Harris, the 1975 edition of Culture, People, Nature "was the first anthropology textbook to be written cover to cover in a gender-neutral mode of discourse" (12/3/93 letter from Harris to Deborah S. Rubin, "Furlow - [The Teaching of Anthropology]", Series 3. Writings, Marvin Harris Papers).
Although Harris is primarily known for his work as a theoretician, he also conducted ethnographic fieldwork throughout his career. Harris traveled to Rio de Contas, Brazil in 1950-51 to conduct research for his dissertation, "Minas Velhas: A Study of Urbanism in the Mountains of Eastern Brazil." This research was also the subject of his book Town and Country in Brazil (1958) and his chapter, "Race Relations in Minas Velhas, a Community in the Mountain Region of Central Brazil" in Race and Class in Rural Brazil (Charles Wagley, 1952). He continued his research in Brazil in 1953-54 while serving as a research advisor for the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro. As field leader of the Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program, Harris returned to Brazil in 1962 to study fishing villages in Arembepe. Prior to that, he also served as field leader for the program in Chimborazo, Ecuador in 1960.
In 1956-57, Harris conducted field research in Mozambique, at the time under Portuguese rule. He initially intended to study the influence of Portuguese rule on race relations, comparing the race relations in Brazil and Mozambique. He soon became aware, however, of the political brutalities that the Portuguese government was imposing on the people of Mozambique. Consequently, Harris decided to focus his research on labor exploitation in the colony. Antonio de Figueiredo, who later became an important figure in the Mozambique liberation movement, served as an informal assistant to Harris. Harris was also friends with Eduardo Mondlane, president of FRELIMO, the Mozambican Liberation Front. Because Harris was openly critical of the Portuguese government, he was forced to leave Mozambique before he completed his research. When he returned to the United States, Harris published Portugal's African "Wards" (1958), a critical evaluation of Portugal's colonialism. His publication was influential in eradicating the forced labor system in Mozambique a few years later.
Harris' activism extended to the social and political unrest at home during the 1960s. He was vice-chairman of Vietnam Facts, an organization of professors in the United States who were against the Vietnam War, and was one of the organizers of the Ad Hoc Teaching Committee on Vietnam. In 1967, he brought an academic focus to war by organizing a symposium on the subject with Morton Fried and Robert Murphy at the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) annual meeting. Together, they edited War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression (1968), a compilation of the papers presented at the conference. During the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University, Harris was one of the few faculty members that openly sided with the students. Harris criticized the actions of the university administrators in his article, "Big Busts on Morningside Heights" (1968).
Due to his experiences in Mozambique, Harris also began to think about the distinctions between emic and etic perspectives, which he discusses in his book, The Nature of Cultural Things (1964). During the 1960s-70s, Harris experimented with the use of video recordings as an etic approach to collecting ethnographic data. He collaborated with the Bronx State Hospital to videotape domestic life in two Puerto Rican and two African American families. He also videotaped and coded behavioral streams of two Caucasian and two African-American families in New York City for his NSF funded project, "Patterns of Authority and Subordination in Low-Income Urban Domiciles." In 1965 and 1992, Harris returned to Brazil to study racial categorizations and identifications, specifically the emic and etic differences in the perception of race. He published several papers on the subject, including "The Structural Significance of Brazilian Racial Categories" (1963), "Referential Ambiguity in the Calculus of Brazilian Racial Identity" (1970), and "Who are the Whites?" (1993).
During the 1980s, Harris was troubled by the rising popularity of postmodernist theory within anthropology. He believed that anthropology was a science and was concerned about the harmful consequences of postmodernist theory to the field. He organized a AAA session on postmodernism called "Anti-anti Science" in 1989 and participated in multiple conference sessions on the subject, including a 1993 session on "The Objectivity Crisis: Rethinking the Role of Science" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. "Anthropology and Postmodernism," a revised version of his AAAS paper was published as a chapter in Science, Materialism, and the Study of Culture (Martin F. Murphey and Maxine L. Margolis, 1995). Harris also criticized postmodernist theory in his final book, Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times (1999).
While Harris thought that postmodernism was moving anthropology further away from science, behavior scientists began to see the relevancy of cultural materialism in their own research. In 1986, Harris was invited to give an address at the annual conference of the Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA). His paper was titled, "Cultural Materialism and Behavior Analysis: Common Problems and Radical Solutions." He also participated in a symposium on "The Integration of Cultural Materialism and Behavior Analysis" at the 1991 ABA annual meeting.
From 1988-90, Harris served as president of the General Anthropology Division of AAA. In 1991, he was given the honor of presenting the Distinguished Lecture at the AAA annual meeting. His talk was titled, "Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the Collapse of Soviet and East European Communism." That same year, The Rise of Anthropological Theory was designated a Social Science Citation Classic.
Harris died at the age of 74 on October 25, 2001.
Margoline, Maxine L. and Conrad Phillip Kottak. "Marvin Harris (1927-2001)." American Anthropologist. 105(3) (2003): 685-688.
Curriculum Vitae. Series 7. Biographical Files. Marvin Harris papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism is Alive and Well and Won't Go Away Until Something Better Comes Along." In Assessing Anthropology,edited by Robert Borofsky, 62-76. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.
1927 -- Born August 18 in Brooklyn, New York
1945-1947 -- Served in U.S. Army Transportation Corps
1948 -- B.A. from Columbia College
1950-1951 -- Field research in Brazil
1953 -- Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University Field research in Brazil
1953-1954 -- Research Advisor, National Institute of Pedagogical Studies, Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian Ministry of Education
1953-1959 -- Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1956-1957 -- Field research in Mozambique
1959-1963 -- Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1960 -- Field leader of Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program in Chimborazo, Ecuador
1962 -- Field leader of Columbia-Cornell-Harvard-Illinois Summer Field Studies Program in Arembepe, Bahia, Brazil. NSF
1963-1980 -- Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1963-1966 -- Chair, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
1965 -- Field Research in Brazil
1965-1972 -- Video Tape Methodology and Etic Ethnography
1969-1974 -- Principle Investigator, Videotape Studies of Urban Domiciles
1968-1969 -- Visiting Distinguished Professor, Central Washington State College
1976 -- Field Research in India
1980-2000 -- Graduate Research Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
1983-1984 -- Consultant, United Nations Fund for Population Activities
1984 -- McMurrin Professor, University of Utah, Fall
1991-1992 -- Consultant, McKinsey and Company Global Institute
1991 -- Presented AAA Distinguished Lecture, "Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the Collapse of Soviet and East European Communism" The Rise of Anthropological Theory designated Social Science Citation Classic
1992 -- Field Research in Brazil
2001 -- Died October 25
1952 -- Harris, Marvin. "Race Relations in Minas Velhas." In Race and Class in Rural Brazil, edited by Charles Wagley, 51-55. Paris: UNESCO, 1952.
1956 -- Harris, Marvin. Town and Country in Brazil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956.
1958 -- Harris, Marvin, and Charles Wagley. Minorities in the New World. New York: Columbia University, 1958. Harris, Marvin. Portugal's African "Wards". New York: The American Committee on Africa, 1958.
1959 -- Harris, Marvin. "The Economy Has No Surplus?" American Anthropologist 51 (1959): 189-199. Harris, Marvin. "Labor Emigration Among the Mozambique Thonga: Cultural and Political Factors." Africa 29 (1959): 50-56.
1963 -- Harris, Marvin, and Conrad Kottack. "The Structural Significance of Brazilian Racial Categories." Sociologia 25 (1963): 203-209.
1964 -- Harris, Marvin. "Racial Identity in Brazil." Luso-Brazilian Review 1 (1964): 21-28. Harris, Marvin. The Nature of Cultural Things. New York: Random House, 1964. Harris, Marvin. Patterns of Race in the Americas. New York: Walker and Company, 1964.
1965 -- Harris, Marvin. "The Myth of the Sacred Cow." In Man, Culture and Animals, edited by A. Vayda and A. Leeds, 217-228. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1965.
1966 -- Harris, Marvin. "The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle." Current Anthropology 7 (1966): 51-66. Harris, Marvin, and George Morren. "The Limitations of the Principle of Limited Possibilities." American Anthropologist 58 (1966): 122-127.
1967 -- Harris, Marvin, Morton Fried, and Robert Murphy, eds. "The Anthropology of War and Aggression." Special Supplement, Natural History (December 1967): 30-70.
1968 -- Harris, Marvin. "Big Bust on Morningside Heights." The Nation 206 (1968): 757-763. Harris, Marvin. The Rise of Anthropological Theory. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968. Harris, Marvin, Morton Fried, and Robert Murphy, eds. War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression. New York: Natural History Press, 1968.
1970 -- Harris, Marvin. "Referential Ambiguity in the Calculus of Brazilian Racial Identity." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26 (1970): 1-14.
1971 -- Harris, Marvin. Culture, Man and Nature: An Introduction to General Anthropology. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971.
1974 -- Harris, Marvin. Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture. New York: Random House, 1974.
1976 -- Harris, Marvin, and William Divale. "Population, Warfare, and the Male Supremacist Complex." American Anthropologist 78 (1976): 521-538.
1977 -- Harris, Marvin. Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Cultures. New York: Random House, 1977.
1979 -- Harris, Marvin. Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture. New York: Random House, 1979.
1981 -- Harris, Marvin. America Now: The Anthropology of a Changing Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981.
1982 -- Harris, Marvin, A. Vaidynathan, and K.N. Nair. "Bovine Sex and Species Ratios in India." Current Anthropology 23 (1982): 365-383.
1983 -- Harris, Marvin. Cultural Anthropology. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
1984 -- Harris, Marvin. "Animal Capture and Yanomamo Warfare: Retrospect and New Evidence." Journal of Anthropological Research 40 (1984): 183-201.
1985 -- Harris, Marvin. Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
1987 -- Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism: Alarums and Excursions." In Waymarks: The Notre Dame Inaugural Lectures in Anthropology, edited by Kenneth Morre, 107-126. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1987. Harris, Marvin, and Eric Ross, eds. Food and Evolution: Toward a Theory of Human Food Habits. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987. Harris, Marvin, and Eric Ross. Death, Sex and Fertility: Population Regulation in Preindustrial and Developing Societies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.
1988 -- Harris, Marvin. Why Nothing Works: The Anthropology of Daily Life. New York: Touchstone, 1988.
1989 -- Harris, Marvin. Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, and Where We're Going. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.
1991 -- Harris, Marvin. "Anthropology: Ships that Crash in the Night." In Perspectives on Social Science: The Colorado Lectures, edited by Richard Jessor, 70-114. Boulder, CO.: Westview, 1991. Harris, Marvin, Thomas Headland, and Kenneth Pike, eds. Emics and Etics: The Insider/Outsider Debate. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991. Harris, Marvin. "The Evolution of Human Gender Hierarchies: A Trial Formulation." In Sex and Gender Hierarchies, edited by Barbara Miller, 57-79. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
1992 -- Harris, Marvin. "Distinguished Lecture: Anthropology and the Theoretical and Paradigmatic Significance of the collapse of Soviet and East European Communism." American Anthropologist 94 (1992): 295-305.
1993 -- Harris, Marvin, Josildeth Gomes Consorte, Joseph Lang, and Bryan Byrne. "Who are the White? Imposed Census Categories and the Racial Demography of Brazil." Social Forces 72 (1993): 451-462.
1994 -- Harris, Marvin. "Cultural Materialism is Alive and Well and Won't Go Away Until Something Better Comes Along." In Assessing Anthropology, edited by Robert Borofsky, 62-76. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.
1995 -- Harris, Marvin. "Anthropology and Postmodernism." In Science, Materialism, and the Study of Culture, edited by Martin Murphy and Maxine Margolis, 62-77. Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1995.
1999 -- Harris, Marvin. Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1999.
More of Marvin Harris' correspondence can be found in the papers of William Duncan Strong. Researchers may also want to consult the Human Studies Film Archives, which holds video oral histories of Charles Wagley (HSFA 89.10.5) and Lambros Comitas (HSFA 89.10.20), both of whom discuss Harris in their interviews.
An open reel video from the collection was transferred to the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA 2011.10.1). The video relates to Series 2: Research; Sub-series 2.6: Videotape Research--"[Macy's Santa Claus study]"
The papers of Marvin Harris were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by his daughter, Susan Harris.
Access to student records (consisting of graded materials and student recommendation letters), grant proposals sent to Harris for review by grant agencies, and part of his faculty recruitment files are restricted until 2081. Series 10. Computer Files are also restricted due to preservation concerns.
Photographs probably made by Ruth Bunzel during her fieldwork among the Quiche in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, in 1930-32. Images include Quiche individuals and families, a church (probably the Church of Santo Tomás), a procession and ceremony, and landscapes.
Ruth Leah Bunzel (1898-1990) started a career in anthropology after acquiring a secretarial job with Franz Boas at Columbia University in 1922. With support from Boas, Bunzel regularly traveled to the Southwest to study Zuni potters from 1924-1929. Studying under Boaz, she earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1929. Her papers on Zuni ceremonialism as well as creation myths, kachinas, and poetry were published in the 47th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. From 1930 to 1932 she studied the Highland Mayan village of Chichicastenango and later published Chichicastenango, A Guatemalan Village (1952). She also conducted fieldwork in the village of Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico, and published a comparative study of the two villages entitled "The Role of Alcoholism in Two Central American Communities" (1940).
Local Call Number(s):
NAA Photo Lot 2007-10
Location of Other Archival Materials:
The National Anthropological Archives holds the Ruth Lean Bunzel papers and drawings of Kachinas collected by Bunzel (MS 4609).
Correspondence between Bunzel and the BAE held in the National Anthropological Archives in MS 4846 and records of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
A photograph of Bunzel held in National Anthropological Archives Photo Lot 92-35.
A video oral history of Bunzel, created as part of the "History of Anthropology Series" produced by the University of Florida's Department of Anthropology, is held in the Human Studies Film Archive in HSFA 89.10.8.
Nitrate negatives are in cold storage and require advanced notice for viewing.
Photo Lot 2007-10, Ruth Leah Bunzel photographs of Quiche peoples of Guatemala, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The bulk of this collection documents the professional life of Ruth Leah Bunzel from the 1940s to 1970s. The collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, card files, artwork, and sound recordings.
Scope and Contents:
The bulk of this collection documents the professional life of Ruth Leah Bunzel from the 1940s to 1970s. The collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, card files, artwork, and sound recordings. A large portion of the collection is comprised of work from the Chinese project that Bunzel led as part of Columbia University Research in Contemporary Cultures [RCC]. The collection also contains her paper for the Bureau of Applied Social Research, "Interviewing in National Character Research" (in which she analyzes the methods used in RCC), as well as materials from two spin-offs of RCC--Studies in Soviet Culture and Studies in Contemporary Cultures. Bunzel's relationship with Columbia University is also represented in the collection through her notes as lecturer and adjunct professor at Columbia University, correspondence with her students, and her students' papers. Among her students was Ethel Cutler Freeman, whose letters and assignments can be found in the collection. There are also memos and other materials documenting the activities of the anthropology department and university, as well as their responses to the 1968 student uprising at Columbia. In addition, the collection contains notes from courses Bunzel took with Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict as a graduate student at Columbia.
Other items of significance are the drawings of Hopi and Zuni kachinas that Bunzel collected while in the field in the Southwest and a map of a Tewa village sketched in pencil. The collection does not contain any of her field notes from her work in the Southwest nor from her work in Guatemala or Mexico.
Although Bunzel's writings are not well represented in the collection, there are items of interest such as typescript copies of "Tentative Questionnaire for Handbook of Psychological Leads for Ethnological Field Workers: Economics," her handwritten reminiscence of Boas, and drafts of papers she presented at conferences. Also of interest are notes on her memories of the Abram Kardiner psychocultural seminars (in which she was an early participant), notes from various seminars, and two 1963 sound recordings from an Anthropology and World Affairs regional conference.
Among her notable correspondents in the collection are David F. Aberle, Franziska Boas, Steve Boggs, Paul Bohannan, Joseph Casagrande, Vincent Crapanzano, Harold Driver, Abe Edel, Raymond Fogelson,Morton H. Fried, Ethel Cutler Freeman, Alexander Lesser, Oscar Lewis, George Marcus, Catharine McClellan, Margaret Mead, Lita Fejos Osmundson, George Spindler, Leslie White, Helene Boas Yampolsky, and Mark Zborowski.
Arranged into 9 series: (1) Correspondence, 1957-1977; (2) Research in Contemporary Cultures, 1947-1954; (3) Columbia University, 1925-1941 & 1956-1969; (4) Writings and Projects, 1929-1968 [Bulk 1960-1968]; (5) Associations, Conferences, & Seminars, 1940-1973; (6) Writings by Others, 1921-1979; (7) Card Files; (8) Artwork; (9) Sound Recordings, 1963
Ruth Leah Bunzel was born on April 18, 1898 in New York City. Known as "Bunny" by her friends, she attended Barnard College where she received her B.A. in European History in 1918. With no thought of continuing her education, she acquired a job in 1922 as secretary and editorial assistant to Franz Boas at Columbia University. Esther Goldfrank, who had resigned as Boas's secretary to study anthropology at Columbia, was a friend of one of Bunzel's sisters.
By 1924 Bunzel, herself, was considering a career in anthropology and wanted to observe an anthropologist at work in the field. Since Boas traveled to Europe every summer, Bunzel decided to spend her vacation that year in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico as a secretary to Ruth Benedict, who would be collecting Zuni mythology. When she informed Boas of her plan, Boas encouraged her to work on her own research rather than spending her time on secretarial work. He suggested that she study art, specifically potters and their pottery. Elsie Clews Parsons objected to Bunzel (who lacked formal training) conducting her own research in Zuni and threatened to withdraw her financial support of Benedict's mythology project. With Boas's firm backing, Parsons eventually relented and Bunzel was allowed to go to Zuni.
That summer, Bunzel arrived in Zuni with papier maché pots she had made for her informants to paint designs on. She observed the potters at work and also made pottery alongside them. After five weeks she felt she had gathered enough information on the Zuni and moved on to study Hopi, San Ildefonso, and Acoma potters. The results of her research would later produce her dissertation, The Pueblo Potter, A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art, published in 1929.
When she returned to New York, she began work on a draft of The Pueblo Potter and in 1925 resigned as Boas's secretary to become his student at Columbia University. Although she completed her doctoral work and dissertation in 1927, she was not awarded her PhD until 1929 when the The Pueblo Potter was published. (At the time, the university did not confer doctorates until a student's dissertation had been published.) The Pueblo Potter, a landmark work, was the first anthropological study of art and the individual in culture.
From 1924 to 1929 Bunzel spent several summers and winters in Zuni. Parsons, who had initially opposed her first trip, sponsored Bunzel's second trip, this time to study ceremonialism, and other trips and projects. Bunzel's papers on Zuni ceremonialism as well as creation myths, kachinas, and poetry were published in the 47th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1932). Flora Zuni and her family, with whom Bunzel lived when she was in the field, formally adopted her and initiated her into their clan, the Beaver clan. They gave her the Zuni name Maiatitsa, which means "blue bird," a reference to the blue smock that Bunzel often wore while making pottery. Bunzel's second Zuni name, Tsatitsa, was given to her by her primary informant and former governor of the pueblo, Nick Tumaka. After a decade long absence, Bunzel returned to Zuni for her last time in 1939 to study child development.
Having studied the Southwest, Bunzel felt it was natural to also study Mexico. During her interview for a Guggenheim Fellowship, however, the chairman of the foundation persuaded her to study Guatemala, instead, as no American anthropologist had done much work in the area. As a result, from 1930 to 1932 she studied the Highland Mayan village of Santo Tomas Chichicastenango. Her work there resulted in Chichicastenango, A Guatemalan Village, published in 1952. From 1936 to 1937 she also did fieldwork in the village of Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico. Her 1940 article "The Role of Alcoholism in Two Central American Communities" was a comparative study of Chichicastenango and Chamula.
During World War II, Bunzel worked in England for the U.S. Government Office of War Information from 1942 to 1945. Having spent some time in Spain during the late 1930s improving her Spanish, she translated broadcasts for Spain as well as incoming broadcasts.
When she returned to New York after the war, she became involved in the Columbia University Research in Contemporary Cultures project [RCC]. Directed by Ruth Benedict and funded by the Office of Naval Research, RCC was composed of research groups, each studying a different culture. From 1947 to 1951, Bunzel led the group studying China, which involved interviewing Chinese immigrants in New York City. The project produced several papers, including her unpublished manuscripts, Explorations in Chinese Culture and An Anthropological Approach to Chinese Communism, which she co-authored with John Hast Weakland.
Early in her career, Bunzel was a lecturer at Barnard College (1929-1930) and at Columbia University (1933-1935, 1937-1940). It was not until 1953 that she was hired as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia. Although the university's official appointment card lists Bunzel as having retired in 1966, she continued to teach at Columbia University after her retirement.
On January 14, 1990, Bunzel passed away at the age of 91.
Babcock, Barbara A. and Nancy Parezo. "Ruth Bunzel." Daughters of the Desert. University of New Mexico. 1988.
Fawcett, David M. and Teri McLuhan. "Ruth Leah Bunzel." Women Anthropologists: Selected Biographies. Ed. Ute Gacs, et al. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
1898 -- Born April 18 in New York, New York
1918 -- Earns B.A. from Barnard College in European History
1922-1924 -- Secretary and editorial assistant to Franz Boas
1924 -- First trip to Zuni, New Mexico
1925 -- Enrolls in Columbia University's graduate program in anthropology
1925-1929 -- Spends summers and winters conducting fieldwork among the Zuni
1927-1928 -- Studies at University of Chicago
1928-1943 -- Executive Committee Board of AAA
1929 -- Studies at the National University of Mexico Publication of dissertation, The Pueblo Potter, A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art Receives Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University
1929-1930 -- Lecturer at Barnard College
1930-1932 -- Fieldwork in Chichicastenango, Guatemala
1933-1935 -- Lecturer, General Studies and Summer Session, Columbia University
1936-1937 -- Lecturer, General Studies and Summer Session, Columbia University
1939 -- Fieldwork in Zuni studying child development
1942-1945 -- Social Scientist U.S. Government Office of War Information, Propoganda Analysis
1947-1951 -- Director of Chinese Project of Columbia University Research in Contemporary Cultures
1951-1952 -- Works on Bureau of Applied Social Research project on techniques of interviewing
1953 -- Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
1955 -- Research Associate, Institute of Intercultural Studies
1962 -- Teaching-consultant, Columbia University School of Nursing
1969-1987 -- Senior Research Associate, Columbia University
1974-1976 -- Chair, Section H, AAAS
1990 -- Dies January 14 in New York City at the age of 91
1929 -- The Pueblo Potter, A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art. New York: Columbia University Press.
1932 -- "Zuni Ritual Poetry." Ibid. "Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism." 47th Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution. Washington: Government Printing Office. "Zuni Creation Myths." Ibid. "Zuni Katchinas." Ibid.
1933 -- Zuni Texts. Publications of the American Ethnological Society, Vol. 15. New York: G.E. Stechert and Company.
1938 -- "Zuni Grammar." Handbook of American Indian Languages, Vol. 3. New York: Columbia University Press. "The Economic Organization of Primitive People." Ibid. "Primitive Art." General Anthropology. Boston: D.C. Heath .
1940 -- "The Role of Alcoholism in Two Central American Communities." Psychiatry, Vol 33, pp. 361-387.
1950 -- Explorations in Chinese Culture. Research in Contemporary Cultures, Columbia University. (unpublished report)
1952 -- Chichicastenango, A Guatemalan Village. Publications of the American Ethnological Society, Vol 22. Locust Valley, New York: J. J. Auigustin. with John Weakland. An Anthropological Approach to Chinese Communism. Research in Contemporary Cultures, Columbia University. (unpublished report)
1960 -- edited with Margaret Mead. The Golden Age of American Anthropology. New York: George Braziller.
1966 -- "May Mandelbaum Edel 1909-1964." American Anthropologist, Vol 68, No. 4, pp. 986-989.
1976 -- "Chamula and Chichicastenango: A Reexamination." Cross-Cultural Approaches to the Study of Alcohol. The Hague: Mouton.
Other materials relating to Ruth Bunzel at the National Anthropological Archives include kachina drawings in MS 4609; correspondence with the Bureau of American Ethnology in MS 4846 and the Records of the Bureau of American Ethnology; and a photograph of Bunzel in Photographic Lot 92-35. The Human Studies Film Archive has a video oral history of Bunzel (HSFA 89.10.8) which was created as part of the "History of Anthropology Series" produced by the University of Florida's Department of Anthropology.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Columbia University's Department of Anthropology.
Materials with student grades were separated and have been restricted. Most of the restricted materials are not open for access until 2030.
Processed with the support of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant.