Peter M. Whiteley
Leslie White is known as one of the most important cultural theoreticians of the mid-twentieth century. However, his ethnography, on the Keresan pueblos, is generally treated as irrelevant to his general evolutionary theory and vice versa. This paper argues that White’s little-known work among the Hopi, where he led the 1932 Laboratory of Anthropology Field Training Course in Ethnology, reflects a more active conjunction of theory with ethnography. White’s analytical perspectives contain valuable insights for current problems in Hopi ethnology. His arguments, in some brief published paragraphs, in correspondence, and in his field records, provide a flexible, processual model of Hopi social structure in accord with his cultural evolutionism. In some important respects, White’s approach is more explanatorily adequate to the cultural reality than the conventional account established by two of his students in the field school, Fred Eggan and Mischa Titiev. White’s contribution to Hopi ethnology is of neglected importance and reveals a substantive dialog between his ethnography and his evolutionist theory.
This paper examines the public and private context of Morris Opler’s Cold War criticism that Betty Meggers’s and Leslie White’s theoretical perspective was laden with the ideas of crypto-Marxism. While White was significantly influenced by the Marxist tradition, Opler’s attacks went beyond the establishment of epistemological influences and entered the realm of McCarthyistic Red baiting. The climate of McCarthyism gave Opler the opportunity to strengthen his criticisms of Meggers’s and White’s attacks on psychological anthropology with a powerful political threat by linking their work with Stalinism and Marxism. The history of White and Opler’s relationship, and the correspondence of Meggers, Opler, White, and others indicate Opler’s criticisms were influenced by long-standing personal and professional quarrels with White.
COMMON ORIGINS/ “DIFFERENT” IDENTITIES IN TWO KAQCHIKEL MAYA TOWNS
Kaqchikel Maya residents of San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Santa Catarina Barahona (neighboring towns in Guatemala) tell the same origin story. This story is used to root historically their concepts of collective identity and community. However, residents in each town hold that those in the other town have no real claim to the story. Both towns can equally claim this origin story, but the debate between residents of these towns offers an opportunity to discuss how the meaning of place is related to the historical and ethnographic contexts of which that place’s residents are part. By weighing the story and residents’ explanations about why it is theirs against previous historical accounts, I show that Spanish colonialism, religious evangelism, economic competition, and development contributed to divisions between the towns and skewed their concepts of origin.
CULTURAL TRAITS: UNITS OF ANALYSIS IN EARLY TWENTIETH-CENTURY ANTHROPOLOGY
Lee Lyman and Michael J. O’Brien
The basic analytical unit used by E. B. Tylor, Franz Boas, Clark Wissler, A. L. Kroeber, and other early anthropologists interested in cultural transmission was the cultural trait. Most assumed that such traits were, at base, mental phenomena acquired through teaching and learning. The lack of an explicit theoretical concept of cultural trait meant that the units varied greatly in scale, generality, and inclusiveness among ethnographers. Efforts to resolve the difficulties of classification and scale were made but were largely unsuccessful. The history of the concept of cultural trait reveals not only the roots of modern theoretical difficulties with units of cultural transmission but also some of the properties that such a unit needs to have if it is to be analytically useful to theories of cultural evolution.
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