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Bronisław Malinowski : biography

7 April 1884 - 16 May 1942

Bronisław Kasper Malinowski ( 1884–1942) was a Polish-bornBronisław Malinowski, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, Stanford University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8047-1707-9, p. 160. British anthropologist, one of the most important 20th-century anthropologists.Firth, Raymond. 1957. Man and Culture: An Evaluation of the Work of Bronislaw Malinowski. Routledge & Kegan Paul.Senft, Günter. 1997. Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski. in Verschueren, Ostman, Blommaert & Bulcaen (eds.) Handbook of Pragmatics Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Young, Michael. 2004 Malinowski : Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884-1920. Yale University Press. He has been also referred to as a sociologist and ethnographer.

From 1910, Malinowski studied exchange and economics at the London School of Economics under Seligman and Westermarck, analysing patterns of exchange in aboriginal Australia through ethnographic documents. In 1914 he was given a chance to travel to New Guinea accompanying anthropologist R. R. Marett, but as war broke out and Malinowski was an Austrian subject, and thereby an enemy of the British commonwealth, he was unable to travel back to England. The Australian government nonetheless provided him with permission and funds to undertake ethnographic work within their territories and Malinowski chose to go to the Trobriand Islands, in Melanesia where he stayed for several years, studying the indigenous culture. Upon his return to England after the war he published his main work Argonauts of the Western Pacific which established him as one of the most important anthropologists in Europe of that time. He took posts as lecturer and later as a chair in Anthropology at the LSE, attracting large numbers of students and exerting great influence on the development of British Social Anthropology. Among his students in this period were such prominent anthropologists as Raymond Firth, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Hortense Powdermaker, Edmund Leach and Meyer Fortes. From 1933 he visited several American universities and when the second World War broke out he decided to stay there, taking an appointment at Yale. Here he stayed the remainder of his life, also influencing a generation of American anthropologists.

His ethnography of the Trobriand Islands described the complex institution of the Kula ring, and became foundational for subsequent theories of reciprocity and exchange. He was also widely regarded as an eminent fieldworker and his texts regarding the anthropological field methods were foundational to early anthropology, for example coining the term participatory observation. His approach to social theory was a brand of functionalism emphasizing how social and cultural institutions serve basic human needs, a perspective opposed to Radcliffe-Brown's structural functionalism that emphasized the ways in which social institutions function in relation to society as a whole.

Life

Malinowski was born in Kraków, Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian province known as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, to an upper-middle-class family. His father was a professor, and his mother was the daughter of a landowning family. As a child he was frail, often suffering from ill health, yet he excelled academically. In 1908 he received a doctorate in philosophy from Kraków's Jagiellonian University, where he focused on mathematics and the physical sciences. While attending the university he became ill and, while recuperating, decided to be an anthropologist as a result of reading James Frazer's The Golden Bough. This book turned his interest to ethnology, which he pursued at the University of Leipzig, where he studied under economist Karl Bücher and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt. In 1910 he went to England, studying at the London School of Economics under C. G. Seligman and Edvard Westermarck.

In 1914 he traveled to Papua (in what would later become Papua New Guinea), where he conducted fieldwork at Mailu Island and then, more famously, in the Trobriand Islands. On his most famous trip to the area, he became stranded due to the outbreak of World War I. Malinowski was not allowed to return to Europe from the British-controlled region because, though Polish by ethnicity, his was a subject of Austria-Hungary. Australian authorities gave him the opportunity of conducting research in Melanesia, an opportunity he happily embraced. It was during this period that he conducted his fieldwork on the Kula ring and advanced the practice of participant observation, which remains the hallmark of ethnographic research today.Gaillard 2004 p. 139Senft 1997 p. 217

Living octopus

Living octopus

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