Bronisław Malinowski

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Bronislaw Malinowski, c1930

Bronisław Malinowski (April 7, 1884 - May 16, 1942)[1][2] was a well known British sociocultural anthropologist.[3] He is most famous for his work on the Trobriand Islands, creating a formal ethnographic process, and for coming up with the idea of functionalism.

Early life[change | change source]

Malinowski was born in Kraków, Poland on April 7th, 1884.[1][2][3][4] He was raised in an aristocratic family.[1][3] His father, Lucjan, was a professor of philosophy at a Polish university and a linguist who worked on Polish folklore.[1][2][4] His mother, Jozefa, was also a linguist.[1] Most of Malinowksi’s early education was learned at home. He traveled around the Mediterranean region with his mother when he was a teenager.[1]

Academic career[change | change source]

In 1908, Malinowski received his PhD in physics and mathematics from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.[4][3][2][1] In 1910, Malinowski moved to England to study anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE).[4][3][2][1] At LSE, Malinowski was taught by Charles Seligman, a British physician and ethnologist who did fieldwork in New Guinea. He was also taught by Edward Westermarck, a Finnish philosopher and sociologist who studied exogamy and the incest taboo.[4][3][2] In 1916, Malinowski received a D.Sc. in anthropology from the University of London.[4][2][1]

Fieldwork[change | change source]

Malinowski began his fieldwork in 1914, when he traveled to New Guinea to study the Mailu.[3][2][1] His first ethnographic report on this fieldwork, The Native of the Mailu, was written in 1915.[2][1] Malinowski had trouble working with the Mailu because he could not speak their language and did not live with them, which limited his understanding of their culture.[3] Because of this, Malinowski started new fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands in 1915.

From 1915-1916 and 1917-1918, Malinowski did intense fieldwork on the Trobriand Islands, which helped him collect enough information to write multiple ethnographic reports.[4][2][1] His most famous work about the Trobriand Islands, written in 1922, was Argonauts of the Western Pacific. In this book, Malinowksi wrote about the Trobriand Kula Ring, a trade ring that enforced life-long relationships between neighboring groups.

Works[change | change source]

Malinowksi wrote many works about his fieldwork in the Western Pacific. These works include:[2]

  • The Ethnography of Malinowski: The Trobriand Islands 1915-18
  • Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922)
  • Magic, Science, and Religion (1925)
  • Crime and Custom in Savage Society (1926)
  • The Father in Primitive Psychology (1927)
  • Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927)
  • The Sexual Life of Savages in Northwestern Melanesia (1929)
  • Coral Gardens and Their Magic (1935)

Later career[change | change source]

Malinowski retired from fieldwork in 1918.[3] He lectured on ethnology at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 1921-1923 and was offered a full time position at the university in 1923. In 1927, Malinowksi was made the Chair of Social Anthropology.[4][3] During his time at LSE, Malinowksi taught many students who would later become well-known anthropologists themselves. These students included E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Ashley Montagu, Eslanda Goode Robeson, Godfrey Wilson, and Audrey Richards.[4] Malinowski continued to work at LSE until 1938, when he moved to the United States. While living in the United States, Malinowksi worked as a professor at Yale University until his death in 1942.[4]

Contributions to anthropology[change | change source]

Malinowksi made two major contributions to the field of anthropology. The first was his theory of functionalism[disambiguation needed].[1] Malinowksi claimed that culture groups needed to meet the individual needs of their people in order to function properly. These individual needs can range anywhere from food and shelter to the need for security and happiness. The Kula Ring is great example of the concept of functionalism. It uses gift-giving as a way to fulfill the need for political organization among the Trobriand people. People who received the best Kula gifts, red-shelled necklaces or white-shelled armbands, were given a higher social rank in Trobriand society.

His second major contribution was creating a formal ethnographic process. Malinowski believed that an anthropologist needed to live with the people that they were studying. He placed a strong emphasis on participant observation because it allowed anthropologists to learn local languages and customs, which would be helpful when writing up ethnographic reports.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 "Bronisław Malinowski | Polish-born British anthropologist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Murdock, George Peter (1943). "Bronislaw Malinowski". American Anthropologist. 45 (3): 441–451. doi:10.1525/aa.1943.45.3.02a00090. ISSN 0002-7294. JSTOR 663181.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 "Bronisław Malinowski". obo. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 Silverman, Sydel (2003-11-19). Totems and Teachers: Key Figures in the History of Anthropology. Rowman Altamira. ISBN 978-0-7591-1594-1.