Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Carling Malouf: Anthropologist with a Sociology Problem

Over on the Neuroanthropology blog  Shama zaidi asked this question in a comment :

“if an indian scholar [from India] were to try and do a study of the mating customs of middle america what would that be called?” 

I assume the middle class of America is the target here.   The answer is that in today’s climate the research could be called either Sociology or Anthropology.  Neither is currently distinguished all that well.  In today’s American social sciences the big difference is qualitative vs quantitative research, not Anthropology vs Sociology.  

There was a time when Anthropology and Sociology were clearly distinguished, as Shama states:  Anthropology studied the “undeveloped unwashed millions of the third world”  and similar “studies of people in the civilized developed world was called Sociology.” 

However, in America I suspect that that hard separation only lasted for a few years, circa 1945-1965.  Before WW2 there were a few Anthropological studies done on American culture.  The classic one is Mead’s And Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America (1942).  That book was, of course, a war effort.

Over on Savage Minds Rex posted an Alfred Kroeber lecture from 1958 that discussed Anthropology and Sociology; the last paragraph was:

Now, maturity has stolen upon us… The times, and utilitarianism, have caught up with us, and we find ourselves classified and assigned to the social sciences. It is a dimmer atmosphere, with the smog of Jargon sometimes hanging heavy. Generalizations no longer suffice; we are taught to worship Abstraction; sharp sensory outlines have melted into vagueness.  As our daily bread, we invent hypotheses in order to test them, as we are told is the constant practice of the high tribe of physicists. If at times some of you, like myself, feel ill at ease in the house of social science, do not wonder; we are changelings therein; our true paternity lies elsewhere

Basically, Kroeber’s complaint was that Anthropology, to him a romantic natural history endeavor, was being forced into the pigeon hole of 20th century modernist hard line social science, and all the hard and fast categories associated with it.  Being one of the last 19th century romantics, of course he wouldn’t like it.

Into this mid century mind set change came Carling Malouf (1916-2006), an energetic researcher.  Malouf had gotten an MA in Anthropology from the U Utah around 1941.  He then went into the Army and worked in various military camps in the western US as an induction officer.  Near Turlock CA he was a “camp sociologist” studying the characteristics of soldiers who did not fit into the confines of military life.  Basically, the army had a concentration camp of misfits who did not conform to military life (see Santos here).  Malouf’s job was to study soldiers from a social science perspective; there was a psychologist doing research too.

After the war, maybe 1948, Malouf wrote a two volume report on American soldiers, based on his war experience and data, and submitted it to Columbia U for a PhD Dissertation in Anthropology.  The work was rejected, apparently by Mead, because it was Sociology, not Anthropology.  Malouf had to go back and do an archaeological study to get his PhD (which took several more years.)

Poor Malouf had stumbled into the heart of modernism where most everything was black and white.  Grey was not allowed, except by special permission.  To do Anthropology you had to study the Others; to do Sociology you had to study US or Europe.  Horace Minor’s satirical essay on the Nacerima (American spelled back words) was allowed only because it was satire. (At the time few took it seriously; it became the most popular essay ever published in American Anthropologist).

The hard and fast separation between Anthropology and Sociology only lasted in those weird  years, 1945-1965, when American culture was at its cultural “high” point, and also at its most culturally intolerant point.  If Malouf had submitted his work just a few years earlier, say 1939, or waited until the late 1960s, it likely would have been accepted as Anthropology.  Categories are not constant; they wax and wane in hardness or softness or bluriness.  Today, we live in a world of blured categories, and it will get stablized here for a few more years as Romanticism climaxes.  

Malouf was one of the last Boasians.  He used to say that he had published in all four fields of Anthropology.  No one can say that today.  Below you’ll see that he did, including a physical anthro study based on his WWII work. 

Malouf was an American Anthropologist.

Selected essays of Carling Malouf

Gosiute Peyotism , American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1942), pp. 93-103.

Thoughts on Utah Archaeology , American Antiquity, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Jan., 1944), pp. 319-328.

Observations on the participation of Arizona's racial and cultural groups in World War II, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume 5, Issue 4, pages 491–496, December 1947.

Kutenai Calendar Records: A Study of Indian Record Keeping, by Carling Malouf &Thain White, The Montana Magazine of History, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring, 1953), pp. 34-39.

The cultural connections between the prehistoric inhabitants of the Upper Missouri and Columbia River systems. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology, Columbia university, 1956.

1 comment:

  1. I was one of the fortunate students who had Professor Malouf at the University of Montana as my teacher and adviser. He had a kind and warm heart and took care of his students as if they were his own children. When I met him as a freshman as an anthropology major, he immediately encouraged me to go on to do graduate study and to get a Ph.D! In this way, he somehow determined my life and career and in fact I did received a Ph.D., although not in US. but in Europe. I would say about 80% of what I am now has been shaped by him. Thank you Professor Malouf.