Malinowski, Bronislaw Kaspar (18841942)
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Polish-British anthropologist, educated in Kraców, Leipzig (under e.g. Wilhelm Wundt) and at the London School of Economics (under e.g. Seligman and Westermarck). Malinowski was attracted to anthropology through the cultural psychology of Wundt, and through reading Frazer's The Golden Bough. In 1914, he travelled to New Guinea to do fieldwork, where he first did a small, six-month study of the Mailu, which he was not satisfied with. Later, he did fieldwork for two years in the Trobriand Islands (1915-16 and 1917-18). During the latter field study, Malinowski established an ideal for anthropological fieldwork that has remained one of the subject's most persistent features till today. Fieldwork, á la Malinowski, was long, demanded fluent knowledge of the local vernacular, and was based, methodologically, on what Malinowski called "participant observation". This was a principle, which stated the anthropologist should "immerse" himself as deeply as possible into the foreign culture, participating, as far as possible, in all everyday activities, while observing what was going on.

Malinowski published extensively on Trobriand culture, covering a wide range of topics, from economics to sexuality. His most famous volume, however, remains the first one he published, Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), where he describes the intricate trading systems of the Trobrianders (most spectacularly, the kula). The wealth of significant detail in Malinowski's writings conjurs up a total, logically interconnected lifeworld for the reader, thus demonstrating conclusively that the grand generalizations attempted by previous generations of anthropologists (evolutionists, diffusionists) were based on altogether insufficient empirical knowledge.

With Radcliffe-Brown, his companion and rival, Malinowski founded modern British anthropology. It is often said of the couple, that the first contributed the theory, the second, the method of the British School. Malinowski's own theoretical contribution was referred to as functionalism - as opposed to the structural functionalism of Radcliffe-Brown.

During the 1920's and early 30's, Radcliffe-Brown spent most of his time abroad and Malinowski dominated British anthropology, teaching nearly the entire first generation of modern British anthropologists. But when Radcliffe-Brown returned to Great Britain in 1937 and Malinowski left for the United States the year after, his influence was largely eclipsed, except at the London School of Economics, where his student Raymond Firth continued the functionalist tradition. While in the United States, Malinowski did field studies in Mexico and formed aquaintances with prominent American anthropologists, such as Edward Sapir. His stay was prolonged by the onset of the Second World War, and he died in the United States in 1942.

In 1967, Malinowski's private diaries from the field were published under the title, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term. The manuscript (which was never intended for publication) was personal, detailing, among other things, the author's sexual fantasies (in part inspired by Malinowski's interest in Freud), his frustration with the natives and his homesickness. It became the object of much soul searching and debate in anthropology, and, in the long run inspired the rethinking of fieldwork methods that came in the 1970's and 80's. Today, the diary seems rather innocent, though it may still be read with profit by prospective fieldworkers (who will undoubtedly have experiences similar to Malinowski's), as well as for its lyrical descriptive passages, and some rather sharp observations on methods.


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