Malinowski, Bronislaw Kaspar

(1884-1942)
A Polish anthropologist, born in Cracow, where he completed a doctorate in physics and mathematics. A chance reading of Frazer's The Golden Bough attracted him to social anthropology. Subsequently, in London, he completed a thesis on the Australian Aborigines. Between 1915 and 1918 he conducted fieldwork for periods amounting to nearly two years in the Trobriand Islands, New Guinea. Here he developed the now classical methods of intensive fieldwork, pitching his tent in the villages. He stressed the importance of learning the people's language and acquiring the ‘native’ point of view. In 1927 he was appointed to the first chair in social anthropology at the London School of Economics, where his seminars attracted and he supervised many now celebrated anthropologists.
Malinowski came to be identified with the theory of functionalism. All human culture could eventually be reduced to the satisfaction of basic needs . Rituals , kinship patterns, economic exchanges (including the famous kula ring ), were not to be explained in terms of their origins, but their current use. Previous theories which attempted to explain all customs and practices in terms of ‘survivals’ from some distant era were discredited. Malinowski's emphasis on the current significance alone of institutions meant the neglect of any historical context. He idealized the harmonious equilibrium of a given society. This ahistorical approach gave the impression that the Trobrianders were still locked in the Stone Age and without underlying conflicts which might generate change. The emphasis on intensive fieldwork with the indigenous people, ideally by-passing the secondary sources of colonial administrators, missionaries, and traders, carried the risk of ignoring the powerful interventions of external and colonial forces. Even the self-contained description of the Trobriand political structure neglected recent changes. Malinowski's posthumously published diary reveals the very visible presence of powerful White outsiders, whom he tried to eliminate both from his participant fieldwork, and from his final texts. His functionalist methodology brought lasting implications-despite the theory's flaws. Anthropologists were encouraged to examine a society holistically. Beliefs, rituals, kinship, political organization, and economic practices could no longer be studied each in isolation, but in terms of their interrelation.
Malinowski published several key monographs exploring different aspects of the Trobriands. Of these, Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), Crime and Custom in Savage Society(1926), Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927), The Sexual Life of Savages (1929), and Coral Gardens and their Magic (1935, 1948) are now classics of the discipline. His international fame brought visits and appointments in Africa and the United States. He was encouraged to pronounce on colonial policies, often in areas where he had no ethnographic knowledge. His functionalism did not foresee self-determination by the colonized. His A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (1967), often to the consternation of some of his early disciples, has been recognized as an important text for understanding the cross-cultural encounter between the anthropologist and others.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • MALINOWSKI, Bronislaw Kaspar — (1884 1942)    Polish born English ANTHROPOLOGIST who developed a method of field research of a qualitatively new kind. He lived for an extended period among the people he was studying, speaking their language, and participating in their… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Malinowski — Malinowski, Bronislaw Kaspar …   Dictionary of sociology

  • MALINOWSKI (B.) — Malinowski, plusieurs décennies après sa mort, reste l’un des maîtres à penser dont l’influence est encore la plus actuelle. L’interprétation fonctionnaliste a inspiré de nombreux chercheurs de l’anthropologie culturelle britannique et américaine …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Malinowski — [mä΄lə nôf′skē] Bronislaw (Kaspar) [brô′nə släf΄] 1884 1942; U.S. anthropologist, born in Poland …   English World dictionary

  • Малиновский Бронислав Каспер — (Malinowski, Bronislaw Kaspar) (1884 1942), англ, антрополог польского происх., первым в антропологии ввел практику полевых исследований. М. известный критик более ранних концепций социальной эволюции, основоположник этнографии и функционализма.… …   Народы и культуры

  • Μαλινόφσκι, Μπρόνισλαβ Κάσπαρ — (Bronislaw Kaspar Malinowski, Κρακοβία 1884 – Νιου Χέιβεν, Koνέκτικατ 1942). Βρετανός εθνολόγος και ανθρωπολόγος πολωνικής καταγωγής. Ήταν γιος του πολύ γνωστού στην εποχή του φιλόλογου Λουσιάν Μ. Η μητέρα του ήταν επίσης πολύ καλή γλωσολόγος.… …   Dictionary of Greek

  • Akademia Krakowska — Vorlage:Infobox Hochschule/Professoren fehlt Jagiellonen Universität Motto Plus ratio quam vis Gründung 12. Mai 1364 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Akademie Krakau — Vorlage:Infobox Hochschule/Professoren fehlt Jagiellonen Universität Motto Plus ratio quam vis Gründung 12. Mai 1364 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jagellonen-Universität — Vorlage:Infobox Hochschule/Professoren fehlt Jagiellonen Universität Motto Plus ratio quam vis Gründung 12. Mai 1364 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jagiellonen-Universität Krakau — Vorlage:Infobox Hochschule/Professoren fehlt Jagiellonen Universität Motto Plus ratio quam vis Gründung 12. Mai 1364 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.