The lesser known legacy in Sir Raymond's biography
Patrick Laviolette (New Europe College / UCL)
Paper short abstract:
As a preliminary intellectual biography, this paper provides an introductory study into R. Firth's early research, as it initially related to Maori issues. It demonstrates the use of archival and other techniques as well as collaboration in creating an archaeology of anthropology's contemporary past
Paper long abstract:
A significant interest in the biographic description of anthropologists is currently taking place. As a newly developing self-conscious genre, the intellectual biography is becoming central to the way in which the discipline writes its own history. This paper not only provides an introductory study into the work of Professor Sir Raymond Firth as it initially related (through his MA and PhD research) to Maori and economic issues, but also demonstrates the use of archival techniques and collaborative work in creating an archaeology of anthropology's contemporary past. In seeing the lesser known and largely disregarded (not to say discarded) elements of Firth's papers as a poorly investigated type of biographical and material culture, I suggest that such interdisciplinary approaches are essential in conducting an 'archaeology of us'. Despite several Festschrifts, there is as yet no lengthy intellectual biography of this internationally acclaimed economic anthropologist. Firth was 'born and bred' in Aotearoa/NZ, but migrated to the UK in 1924, after obtaining 'free passage' to Europe for earning the highest recommendation possible for his economics Masters thesis on the Kauri gum industry of the Northland region. By tracing the early career path and initial written output of one of the longest lived and most influential ethnographers/ethnologists in the discipline's legacy, this paper contributes to expanding the biographical genre - both regarding antipodean academic history, as well as in terms of dealing with international migration, the movement of ideas and social anthropology's diasporic intellectual landscapes.
Writing the history of anthropology in a global era [History of Anthropology Network]